Thursday, December 30, 2010

NFL ruling on Favre the correct one

The NFL finally handed down its ruling on the Brett Favre-Jenn Sterger saga, and it was the correct one: A $50,000 fine for Favre for “unnecessarily” extending the investigation by not being fully cooperative or “candid.” Despite the Favre-haters and Sterger’s lawyer complaints, the NFL went out of its way to find sufficient evidence against Favre to justify the investigation and penalize him for embarrassing the league. But in the end, it found nothing. The voicemails he admitted to, but these only rose to the level of “harassment” to the truly paranoid. The reality was that no one came forward to make a legitimate claim of sexual or workplace harassment; apparently this included the massage therapists whose contact information the New York Jets provided investigators. The league found that Favre had no questionable contact with Sterger within the workplace environment, only outside of it; thus it fell within the realm of a private matter between two private persons.

There are many in the media who tow the politically-correct line and insist that this was a case of “harassment,” but these people continue to ignore the testimony not only of at least one of Sterger’s friends who claimed that Sterger received “naked pics” from many people (suggesting that Sterger made little effort to discourage this), but Sterger’s own comments to Deadspin: She kept them because they were “fun to laugh at” amongst friends. Allison Torres, furthermore, testified that it was her impression that Sterger was not “offended” by Favre’s attentions, and in fact did not deter him. This isn’t hearsay; Torres claimed to have been there when at least one of these contacts occurred. There were other factors, such as the fact that Sterger waited years and then only mentioned it for personal notoriety before events got out-of-hand; and then there was the suggestion that extortion was involved. Although the final report "officially" states that investigators could find no "wrongdoing" by Sterger, the back story could not have been completely ignored, and almost certainly factored in the league’s decision. It also appears that Favre’s lack of “cooperation” paid-off for him in the end; despite the use of FBI electronic forensic techniques, it could not be proven that the infamous pics came from Favre. In the final “analysis,” the NFL decided that this was a matter of personal morality in which neither side was innocent. Favre’s judge and jury is ultimately his own family, not the league or the media. As for Sterger, she must come to grips with the fact that her desire for notoriety did not pay-off in the end.

Many in the media remained mired in hypocrisy; the Fox Sports website story also offers a link to Sterger’s semi-clothed Maxim pics. Doug Gottlieb made a not very well thought-out comparison of Favre to Allen Iverson. Jemele Hill at ESPN wanted to make a racial double-standard point, although she would have been better off discussing Fox News’ Tucker Carlson stating that because he is “Christian,” he believes that Michael Vick should have been executed over his dog-fighting conviction; it is sometimes hard to differentiate right-wing “Christians” and the Muslim “terrorists” they decry. Kevin Seifert stated his belief that even though Favre got off easy, people will always remember Favre for this episode; perhaps that is his wish, but for most of us, Sterger will be an unpleasant anecdote that only the media will try to keep alive. My impression is that much of the anti-Favre talk is derived from envy and self-obsession. Everyone in the media thinks that they are superstars—but mainly in their own minds. The real superstars will always be the players who are their meal tickets. Favre didn’t ask for the media’s attention—he earned it, because he is one of the most popular football players to ever play the game. For almost 20 years, Favre played like the sandlot kid; it is true that this tendency made him unpredictable on the field, but that love/hate relationship with fans made him impossible ignore. He is certainly less easy to ignore than his media deriders.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Findings of first federally-funded female-on-male violence study unlikely to change current policy

The University of Washington School of Social Work is sponsoring a “project” that targets men “who are concerned or have mixed feelings about their behavior toward their partner.” It’s all voluntary, of course, but one suspects that the people who actually volunteer for this are not the ones who need the “help” that the project seeks to dispense. I already mentioned the ads for this project feature a Latino man, probably based on the “macho” stereotype, or perhaps an admission that they place more importance on “family” than other groups and thus would feel more guilty. But what if these volunteers report that their spouse or partner frequently verbally assaults or throws things, hits or kicks them, and they feel they must use physical means to make them stop? What should he do if he doesn’t want to do this? This, of course, is not what these “studies” and “projects” want to deal with, because that implies that the woman is committing domestic violence; they might be forced to deal with a reality that they choose not to acknowledge. If there is any “advice” at all, it is simply about what the male is doing something “wrong” to elicit such a reaction from his spouse. It is always his fault; such “projects” as these have no use for volunteers who will not “recognize” that they are solely at fault.

One may recall this year that former Brady Bunch actor Barry Williams was the object of ridicule and parody after he filed for a restraining order against his live-in partner after she had stolen money, hit, kicked and tried to stab him. Comedian Phil Hartman also spoke of domestic abuse from his wife, which no one took seriously until he was killed in a murder-suicide. The Department of Justice has never taken female-on-male violence seriously, refusing to fund anything but male-on-female domestic violence studies. In fact it was only recently that a federally-funded study by the National Institute of Mental Health examining the issue of female-on-male violence was conducted—indicative of the fact that violence by women is considered to be an “anomaly” and due to “mental and emotional health” issues, as if men do not have them. The study, by Denise Hines and Emily Douglas, examined the evidence and concluded that:

“1. Assumptions about the circumstances of individuals who sustain Intimate Partner Violence should be tested so that we have empirical data on their experiences, which can then inform the provision of services.

2. Given the serious level of the IPV that these men sustain, it is necessary to educate practitioners, researchers, and the public about men sustaining Intimate Terrorism, their experiences, and their barriers to leaving.

3. All of the men in this study indicated that they had sought help of some form, and a previous article using this sample showed barriers to receiving help, particularly from domestic violence hotlines, domestic violence agencies, and the police. These barriers included being turned away, ridiculed, accused of being a batterer, and arrested (Douglas & Hines, 2009). Because of the very serious nature of their victimization, it is important to educate and train frontline domestic violence workers about the existence of men victims and their needs.

4. Finally, it is important for all who work in the field of IPV, whether practitioner or researcher, to realize and acknowledge that both men and women can perpetrate even the most severe forms of IPV, and both men and women can be victimized by severe forms of IPV. Serious violence and controlling behaviors demand our attention, regardless of the gender of the perpetrator or victim.”

The study debunked the usual mythology that women only act in self-defense, or since men are bigger they don’t get hurt, or they can just take a long-walk outside, and when they come back everything will be fine, or they have so much money they can just move-out. The researchers only spoke to men who had actively sought help; 90 percent said that they had suffered “severe” physical abuse in the past year, and 50 percent claimed to have suffered life-threatening physical abuse. 67 percent also reported that their abusers falsely accused them of domestic violence, 40 percent filed restraining orders under false pretenses, and 50 percent claimed that the male abused his children. The claim that men can “control” women is rather considerably off-set by the fact that women almost unilaterally have access to the power of state and government resources to “control” men—often based on false or exaggerated claims.

Nevertheless, the fact that the NIMH conducted this study and not the Justice Department makes clear that female-on-male violence is considered a mental health issue and not a crime. One-third of all domestic partner murders are female-on-male, yet according to sociologist Murray Straus, “There is a tremendous effort to suppress and deny” this and other realities of domestic violence. A Capital News Service story this past week notes that female advocates completely deny this reality, even to ignore or criticize studies that do not support their ideology. Michaele Cohen of the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence, thinks that “Every 15 seconds a woman is battered” sounds “right,” but rejects the idea that men may be abused in any significant numbers,merely because men don’t “come forward” as often—ignoring the fact that men have far fewer resources and services available to them than do women; yet at the same time she accepts numbers that are basically estimates that include women who have not “come forward.” Cohen also states that female-on-male violence is not the “same,” and should only be taken into “context”—both myths that NIMH study debunked. Sociologist Richard Gelles was not surprised by the reliance of women’s advocates in nonscientific data: “People cherry-pick their numbers for advocacy issues. This is what advocates do, and that’s not sad. What is sad is policymakers don’t create evidence-based policy.”

A study by the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire noted that while males were more prone to violence than females insofar as crime statistics seem to indicate, the difference in the approval of violence between the genders is not significant in some interesting instances. Although the study did try to put politically-correct spins on some of its conclusions, the fact that boys were more likely to be “socialized” in violence than girls makes “only” a 10 percent differences in violence approval far from insignificant. In one survey used for the study, men were more likely to say that they were “spanked or hit a lot” as children by their parents than women were. Men also reported that they had seen violent acts more often than women as children, and were much more likely to be told to hit back if hit. Another survey used by the study revealed this fascinating tidbit: Both men and women were twice as likely to say that it is “OK” for a wife to slap her husband’s face than vice-versa. This may say more than we want known about this issue.

Just how dangerous is police work?

There is a just-released report by The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund that states that 160 federal, state and local law enforcement officers have died in 2010, up from 117 in 2009. “A more brazen, cold-blooded criminal element is on the prowl in America, and they don’t think twice about killing a cop,” is to blame for this increase. Actually, 2009 was an anomaly; in 2007, 179 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty. The NLEOMF takes meticulous care in defining what “line of duty” is to reach as high a number as possible; accidents, drowning, airplane accidents, falls, “job-related illnesses,” and heat exhaustion are all included in these numbers. Two-thirds of law-enforcement fatalities are not due to gun fire from “a brazen, cold-blooded element” that stalks the streets in search of police to kill (in fact, these only account for a fraction of gun-related fatalities), and the greatest number of fatalities is vehicle-related. In regard to the 2007 numbers, The Officer Down Memorial Fund breakdown interestingly lists deaths by vehicular assault and vehicular pursuit as separate from, and considerably fewer than, what is quizzically termed “automobile accidents.”

According to the 2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about 900,000 police officers and detectives nationwide, with another 120,000 federal law enforcement officers. Police have used such incidents as the ones we have seen recently in Seattle and Lakewood to give the impression that officers work in a war zone and are in constant danger--thus providing cover for the reality that they are more often a danger to those who are not in search of confrontation with police; the same week a completely innocent Native American woodcarver John T. Williams was gunned-down, four other people were killed by police, two of them after being repeatedly Tasered. Law enforcement agencies are required to report all deaths from deadly force to federal agencies, but estimates of 200 a year are clearly, and deliberately, inaccurate. One suspects that these numbers only reflect those that are not subject to questions of "justification.”

Is police work really that dangerous in real terms, especially since police work is by definition confrontational? Let’s makes some comparisons to other lines of work, courtesy the most recent Bureau of Labor statistics. Fisherman: 200 fatalities per 100,000. Loggers: 62 per 100,000. Airline pilots: 57 per 100,000. Farmers and ranchers: 36 per 100,000. Roofers: 35 per 100,000. No one denies that police work is dangerous, because not everyone reacts the same way to threats or uses of force, but the fact is the overall death rate of 3.3 fatalities per 100,000 for all workers is twice that of law enforcement officers. This can be explained by the fact that police spend the vast majority of their time just driving around (or sitting around) and occasionally pulling someone over for minor traffic violations; for all but a “brazen, crazed” few, the knowledge that a police officer carries a gun and can use it virtually at whim is sufficient to maintain an officer’s safety.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Vikings playing a season within a season, and other thoughts

Is Brett Favre “selfish” to want to finish out the season on the field? Consider something that all the pundits have not: The Vikings are currently playing a season within a season—Les Frazier’s season. Frazier is coaching for a job next year. He needs to win—now. That’s why he said from the beginning that Favre was his starting quarterback. He remembered Tavaris Jackson throwing balls ten yards out-of-bounds—during practice. He knows that Joe Webb isn’t ready.* He’s not one of those “nattering nabobs of negativity”—about the only useful thing that ever came out of Rush Limbaugh’s mouth—who say the season is over and Favre should just disappear and good riddance. Frazier knows that TJ wasn’t his best chance to win now, or Webb. It’s Favre. If Favre is upright and his head is right, he will play, not just for his “legacy”—didn’t we see him jumping up and down like a kid after throwing that TD pass against the Bears?—but for his coach. Now, is that “selfish?”

The Favre Era is coming to a close, so I have to move on, which means back to the Packers where I belong. I’m happy as hell that the Seattle Seahawks are not my team. You should have seen the incredulity of people in the break room where I work who watched Matt Hasselbeck daintily tippy-toe into the end zone early in the Tampa Bay game, while Buccaneer players just stood and observed the pitiful sight; they didn’t even try to tackle or even touch him. And then old Matt just fell flat on the ground, with a hip injury, or something. And in came Charlie Whitehurst. Last week, fans were chanting his name; if this had been a home game, they’d be chanting for I don’t know who, because I don’t even think the Seahawks have a third-string quarterback.

Anyways, last week I mentioned that I was impressed by Packer back-up quarterback Matt Flynn’s performance against the New England Patriots; he apparently has another admirer—Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers had his first 400-yard regular season game against the New York Giants (Favre can thank Eli Manning for practically clinching the league lead in interceptions this year), although neither Favre or Rodgers between them have matched the Packer single game and single season yardage records set by Lynn Dickey (another piece of trivia: Norm Van Brocklin's NFL record 554 yards passing in one game is 59 years old and counting). In post-game comments, Rodgers joked that he was playing for his job after he observed what Flynn did against the Patriots. It’s hard to judge by one game, but the genius Bill Belichick’s team nearly suffered a startling loss to a mere back-up making his first NFL start. Rodgers, we can presume, was only partly joking; he has been subject to injury in the past, and Flynn seems prepared to step right into his shoes. The Seahawks might think about trading Whitehurst to Green Bay for Flynn, but I’m sure Packer management isn’t quite as dumb as the Seahawks are.

*Post-game comment: Did the fact that the Vikings beat the Eagles with Webb as quarterback mean I'm wrong? No, it just means that the Vikings were playing like it was Tuesday, and the Eagles still thought it was Sunday.

Such is my life

I recall how in all those Peanuts TV specials, Charlie Brown never got any respect. When he went trick or treating, all he got was a lousy rock. When he tried to kick the game-winning field goal, Lucy would lift the football up, and when he’d miss it everyone would blame him instead of Lucy. I think I know how he felt. For example, I’m in a bank; the teller gives me a twenty dollar bill with a million crinkles; she must have thought I was either blind or brain-damaged. At K-Mart the cashier gives me a nickel for change—that is I think it is nickel, except that it looks like it was run over by a train, several times; other times they try to sneak in those Canadian coins that vending machines won't take. I go to a book store in downtown Seattle. When I walk in nothing seems peculiar—except when I leave, all of a sudden there’s a security guard standing at the door. I go into a donut shop. All the donuts in sight look healthy, but the proprietor reaches in the back and deliberately gives me the shriveled-up midget of the litter. This happens to me all the time.

Then there are the police, rent-a-cops, Metro bus drivers, old white dinosaurs, young Republicans, white people with kids, white women with issues, black women with issues (well, any women with issues) and people who like hearing their car flatulate. At McDonalds, the cashier asks the manager if it is “OK” to give the customer (me) a five dollar bill that is nearly torn in half as change; the manager say it’s “OK.” I tell the cashier that I will not accept that bill if she tries to fob it off to me. I’m learning.

Sometimes, a proprietor doesn’t even bother to serve me. I go into another donut shop, in the University District. There’s a street person sitting there, but no one behind the counter. I wait. I wait some more. Maybe someone didn’t hear the door chime. I walk out and come back in; the door chimes, and still no one appears. I do the chime routine again. Finally some Southeast Asian type comes out; there’s television blaring in the backroom. He gives me this turd-on-his-shoe look and asks me “What do you need?” Real contemptuous like. Taken aback, I say “What do you mean ‘What do I need?’ I don’t NEED anything here.” He’s saying something else with a sneer, and I tell him I’m going to tell everyone I know about his crummy place. He says “good, good” but since he barely speaks English, he probably didn’t understand what I was implying.

I go to a Kent Safeway’s deli bar for some Chinese food. The guy starts ladling some General Tsao from the bottom of the bowl, which is mostly greasy sludge. I tell the ladler to stop what he’s doing and ladle it from the top, where all the meat is. Instead of taking a large spoonful, he just picks tiny pieces off the top. When he’s done, I’m looking at greasy, sludgy soup. He actually thinks I’m going to pay for it. Right in front of other customers I tell him I’m not going to be treated like garbage—my money is as good as the white guys behind me; he can take this shit and shove it back up his you-know-what. I can always go to this mom-and-pop place where “mom” treats me like she is, even though I think I’m older than she is.

It’s 3 AM and I walking to a bus stop to catch the red-eye to work. I observe some guy wandering in the middle of the street. Is he drunk? No, he just wants to mug me and run to a getaway in a car where his buddy is waiting in the shadows. It wasn’t even a real mugging, I was just the subject of a gang “training” program. All the guy took was my airport ID badge that I had on a neck cord; I think he thought I had an I-Pod on the cord. He didn’t take my wallet or my netbook. The real injustice occurred when I reported the theft to the ID Access office. They didn’t believe my story; if it was “lost” rather than stolen I would have to pay a $250 replacement fee. I stood my ground and lost two weeks’ pay in the interim; this is when the real thievery occurred. What made it even worse was that the gang-banger was more honorable and respectful than the ID access office employees, since he had mailed in my badge (without return address, of course) and I was not informed of this until 10 days later. C’est la vi if you are a "little brown one" in this country.

I walk into the same Kent Safeway I mentioned before, and someone who I can tell by her outfit is a manager looks at me with disturbed look. She calls for someone over the intercom; I’ll call him “Joe” to protect the guilty. I take a cart and head to the produce area; “Joe to produce.” I go to get some chips; “Joe to the snack aisle.” I go to the freezer section. “Joe to the freezer section.” Then I’m off to the deli section. “Joe to deli, please.” “Joe” finally caught-up to me while I was inspecting the salad section; he was some big, burly black guy pretending he was doing something with a clipboard. He was standing next to me shoulder to shoulder, which seemed kind of odd and uncomfortable; I didn't even know the man. I looked at him and said out loud “You must be the security guy.” His cover blown, I made my way to the check-out counter, and even though there were only three people waiting in the aisle with ten items between us, the manager gestured to the person in front me who had one item to the next counter. I decided to join them. The supervisor asked me how my day was; I said “Since I came in here, terrible.” I “accidentally” dropped one of the pennies I gave her on the ground, and watched her pick it up. “Sorry about that” I said, but I wasn’t really sorry.

I really kind of had a shitty Christmas, somewhat alleviated by family assistance. I’ve worked four Christmases in a row (and Thanksgivings and New Year’s Days). You’d think that the company would lighten things up a bit. The OPs people have a Christmas tree and decorations, and they probably had a party too; but their office people, so they always have time for that (and it is my opinion nothing intelligible goes on in there anyways). But the cart runners and cleaners who work for the vendor across the hall not only have a tree, but set-up a Christmas buffet, and know I damn well every other company at the airport did something similar. I’m not saying our new station manager is a skinflint and not much into troop morale (but he is into all these new regulations that didn’t seem necessary before), but if the only Christmas “cheer” that could be afforded was one small slice of pumpkin pie (which I didn’t avail myself to, because I was outside all day)—well, I’m just saying. I’m mean, who reads this anyways?

Oh well. At least Charlie Brown had two girls who had a crush on him—Peppermint Patty and her half-blind friend Marcie, who always called her “sir” but who at least knew that Snoopy was a dog and not a “funny-nosed kid.” Naturally, it was the unattainable Little Red-Haired Girl that Charlie was in love with, not these two losers (PP got a D- in every class), but who else would have him? Maybe not even either of them, to listen to some people into revisionist history. I came across a Yahoo question-and-answer webpage in which there was a discussion on the matter of whether Peppermint Patty and Marcie were in fact “lesbians.” One person actually declared that Charles Schulz had intended to make them lesbian characters, but thought it too risqué to be too open about it. This is entirely bogus; Schulz was too “square” to contemplate that. Peppermint Patty with her freckles, split ends and big nose was always extremely self-conscience and hated being compared to “pretty” girls, and being called “sir” merely high-lighted her self-image issues. Unlike Patty, however, Marcie was less inhibited in stating that she “loved” Charlie. So all of this is just talk from people who are imposing their own politics on characters they otherwise have no knowledge of; but then again, it would be interesting to speculate that it would just be Charlie Brown’s bum luck to have the affections of two females who decided they wanted to be lesbians instead.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Discovery of Green River victim a time to re-evaluate Reichert's resume

A few days ago the headlines in the local newspapers announced the discovery of the remains of Rebecca Marrero, who disappeared in 1982. The discovery managed to get Green River killer Gary Ridgway back in the news, and by default Dave Reichert. Reichert, of course, was the self-proclaimed “lead” detective on the Green River case, and to hear him and the media talk, solely responsible for bringing the serial killer to justice. Reichert, who later became King County Sheriff and thus less active in this pursuit, used his sudden fame to a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Reichert can use all the helpful publicity he can get these days; his image as a “law and order” type, chasing down WTO protesters while the cameras are rolling, has been sufficient to titillate Eastside residents, but on the wider scale, even fellow Republicans see him as little more than another chalk mark on the party blackboard. Reichert has “great hair” of course, but underneath it is a rather surprising lack of comprehension of basic issues of public concern, repeatedly exposed by rambling, incomprehensible speeches in Congress. Reichert was once considered a possible candidate for governor, before he opened his mind; but even state Republican leaders knew that it’s a lot harder to fool people statewide than in right-wing 8th District’s Bellevue, Suburbia and rural areas.

Reichert isn’t as extreme as many of his Republican colleagues, but on the other hand he isn’t the “independent” he touted himself as when he tried to ride Barack Obama’s coat-tails in the 2008 election. In Congress he either votes against major legislation (the stimulus package, health care reform) or crosses party lines on “safe” issues like extending unemployment insurance when passage is a foregone conclusion. For this incoming Congress and its new Republican majority, one suspects that Reichert will be under more pressure to tow the anti-Obama line.

However, whenever anyone is on the verge of passing-out during one of his speeches or reading his legislative record, Reichert can be counted on to bring-up, ad nauseam, his “fame” as the hero of the Green River saga. In debates and interviews, Reichert can’t help but mention his connection to the case even when not asked. He was once asked why he is against abortion. “I have a great respect for life. I’ve seen a lot of death in career, worked Green River, seen lots of dead bodies.” And your point is??? Everyone likes a good crime story—except if it is a made-for-TV movie like Lifetime Channel’s “The Capture of the Green River Killer,” based (very loosely) on Reichert’s book “Chasing the Devil;” typical for Lifetime, it featured cheap fictionalized emotional detours intermixed with Reichert’s self-serving view of the proceedings, and received mostly bad reviews. Reichert’s book itself is mostly political propaganda, propping himself up while blaming others for the failure to capture Ridgway during the height of his murderous activities.

During the 2004 state primaries, few Republicans politicians supported Reichert’s run to replace the retiring Jennifer Dunn; just hearing him mish-mash the issues was enough. But Reichert had name recognition, the “great” hair, and a largely undeserved reputation. He went on to defeat his Democratic opponent Dave Ross, a man who made a career of examining the issues of the day and clearly superior intellectually than Reichert. But, as an ex-Republican politician was quoted in a 2006 Post-Intelligencer story said, the voters in the 8th District went with the “rock star.”

So we are left with the lingering question: “Is the basis for Dave Reichert’s stature a fraud?” The reason why one would dare pose such a question is why it took so long to nab Gary Ridgway when he was a tagged as a suspect a year into his killing spree. Today, law enforcement claims that they didn’t have the proper “technology” at the time, although that didn’t stop the apprehension of other serial killers like Ted Bundy. Perhaps a more significant issue was one that detective Frank Atchley brought up in the P-I story: Reichert "actually was more of an impediment to the investigation. He was probably the worst detective I've ever worked with.” It has been pointed out that Atchley did have an ax to grind with Reichert, who as sheriff denied Atchley promotion; Reichert, however, was no doubt aware of Atchley’ criticisms, and was perhaps being vindictive himself.

One thing that doesn’t seem to be mentioned in his book (or the movie) is that Reichert’s fellow detectives were frustrated by his refusal to take seriously the possibility that Ridgway should be a suspect at all. In his book, Reichert admits that most of the members of the Green River task force had strong suspicions of Ridgway; he just neglects to say that he wasn’t one of them. Although Ridgway passed a lie detector test, detectives other than Reichert didn’t place much credence in it; given Ridgway’s obvious substandard intellect (he had an IQ of 82), he probably didn’t understand the questions that were asked. Reichert, on the other hand, was fixated on a cab driver named Melvyn Foster. Reichert had received “positive” ratings for his work on the case, but those ratings were based on his ability to bond with victim’s families and their pain, not for his investigative abilities; he would blame a television news helicopter for foiling a stakeout in 1982, but in fact Reichert had wasted three days after the discovery of Debra Bonner’s body (the second to be found), before attempting the stakeout—too late to catch Ridgway dumping the body of Opal Mills. However, he was the perfect law enforcement “PR” man for grieving families while the murders were continuing--and a trait that suggests why Reichert targeted Foster and not Ridgway; Foster apparently offended Reichert’s sensitivities, since he was described as “ornery” and uncooperative in questioning. Ridgway, on the other hand, was “cooperative” and just seemed like a dumb nobody who was completely harmless—at least to Reichert. The original task force wasted considerable effort on Foster because of Reichert’s stubbornness, and eventually the force was disbanded since it had spent considerable manpower and funds with little to show for it.

Why should have Ridgway been the primary suspect? There are apparently at least two police reports that detail complaints from prostitutes that Ridgway either used choke-holds or tried to strangle them. A Port of Seattle police report in 1982 found Ridgway and a woman parked in a pick-up truck adjacent to a baseball field; the remains of the woman would be found only yards away. One detective, Matt Haney, noted that in 1983, another victim boarded a pick-up truck, which happened to catch the attention of her boyfriend, who followed the truck until he lost it at a stop light. The next day, he and his girlfriend’s father searched the area for the pick-up—and found it in Ridgway’s drive way. The woman, Maria Malvar, was never seen again. Her body was one of only four that were found with Ridgway’s “cooperation” after he pleaded guilty in exchange for avoiding a death sentence. Ridgway claims to have killed two-dozen other women beyond the current count—for a total of 71—although he hasn’t proved particularly helpful in finding their bodies. Reichert’s much ballyhooed “interview” with post-capture Ridgway was as justly criticized for its transparent grandstanding as it was for the lack of insight it elicited.

And this is the basis for Reichert’s notoriety, enough to convince just enough right-wing Eastside voters that he wasn’t just an empty suit with “great hair.” If people really looked at the facts, he would have been fortunate to be elected dog catcher.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Has Boeing learned its lesson? Probably not

Last month, an electrical fire on board a Boeing 787 Dreamliner marked yet another of the ongoing problems with the aircraft, which can be directly tied to Boeing’s foolish effort to “globalize” its construction to keep costs down and make the sales success of the plane a “global” concern. Boeing, which received $3 billion in tax breaks just to keep a few thousand jobs tied to the plane local, now sees delays and cost overruns because of the incompetence of, and quibbling between, its disparate partners, and the shortsightedness of Boeing executives to see how such a failure would make adequate quality control virtually impossible on such a complicated project. Fifteen different companies in seven different countries were subcontracted to “build” the plane. Subcontractors in Japan warned Boeing that they were being asked to build parts that were not of correct specifications, while in Italy, parts seemed to be built according to an every man for himself “specification.”

A shortage of fasteners, fasteners not riveted flush, flight guidance software incomplete, wings not safely fastened to the fuselage, problems with the Rolls-Royce engine, condensation inside the plane, and the electrical fire only compounded the endless shortages and delays of delivery of parts from all over the globe. It is as if Boeing is trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle with pieces from multiple puzzles. Assemblers in Everett are nevertheless busy—with 100,000 mistakes requiring rework on 20 planes that are nowhere near ready to fly. The result of this incompetence is that the first delivery of the first plane—originally slated for May, 2008, is now guestimated for possibly next summer—three years and $12 billion behind schedule. Boeing has had to write-off the first three Dreamliners “completed” as unsellable, and Air India is demanding $1 billion in write-offs due to the delay in deliveries.

The question now is, has Boeing learned anything from this catastrophe? The correct lesson is that keeping construction, quality control and jobs in-country actually saves money; an airplane isn’t a T-shirt and sneakers made in a sweat shop on the cheap. One suspects, however, that this is just a speed-bump in the quest for unfettered “globalism.”

Goodbye Mr. Smith, and good riddance

Sports media personality Stephen A. Smith quit his morning job as a Fox Sports radio host “voluntarily” as of his show on December 23. He claimed that the 3:30 AM wake-up calls interfered with his day job as an NBA “analyst.” He had been “excused” from at least two jobs at ESPN, supposedly because they were “going in a different direction”—perhaps an acknowledgement that Smith’s all attitude and no analysis approach to sports commentary was a little thin and grating; he looks and sounds like someone more at home on some cable TV comedy. His radio show was opposite ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning, and it was no competition.

The only reason I am even bothering to mention Smith is because I happened to catch a few snippets of this last airing of his latest gig while surfing the radio dial on my way to work; during those snippets, he managed to draw my extreme ire by taking one last cheap shot at Brett Favre. Smith couldn’t be happier that Favre was finally dragging his be-hind off the field for all time, asserting that the “selfish” Favre had thrown the Vikings under the bus and destroyed their season all by himself. A lot of people have a Favre-hate complex, but this was going too far. At the beginning of the season, people did point out the team’s flaws—its offensive line, its secondary, the inability of the defense to force turnovers—and looking at the tougher schedule, observed that the offense would have to play near flawless ball and score 30 points a game to repeat last year's performance. Many did not expect this to happen; predictions ranged from an 8-8 record to 11-5; everyone picked Green Bay to win the NFC North.

Now, was Favre more “selfish” that Sydney Rice? Favre wanted to play the whole season if he was coming back, and he had his ankle surgery with that in mind. Rice, who was a key element in the Vikings offensive success last year, was injured the same NFL championship game at New Orleans as Favre. But he ignored doctors’ recommendations and decided to “rest” his injured hip; when “rest” was not healing the injury, Rice decided to undertake surgery—just before the season was about to start. He ended-up missing half the season; his presence would likely have made the difference in several close games early in the year, and winning has a way of being infectious. Many of the problems with the passing game that followed—Bryant McKinnie, the interceptions, defenses neutralizing Percy Harvin’s play-making skills, exposing Bernard Berrian again, the revolving door of new receivers—could be attributed to the sudden disappearance of the key component of the receiving corps. Would Tavaris Jackson have done any better? We saw that he could save himself a few interceptions with Rice in the line-up; we also saw the terrible TJ who was relieved three times in his first start of the season, and put on injured reserve for turf toe the remainder of the year.

So good riddance to Mr. Smith and his “attitude”—the NBA is a better fit for it anyways.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In public transportation, the more you pay, the less you get

The current state of the economy and falling revenue has hit state and local public services hard. For myself, I observe this disturbance most personally in the public transportation sector. King County Metro, for example, has only become a more expensive option to automobiles while the quality of service has decreased. For low-income people who depend on public transportation, two-way bus fare can consume 10 percent of a day’s take-home pay. And what do you get for it? Since buses have been taken out of service, less dependable on-time arrivals and scheduled buses not arriving at all—leading to more crowded buses, and drivers with bad attitudes because of proposed pay cuts, lay-offs and fewer breaks; the attitudes of some drivers are so bad that Metro felt the need to post contact information for riders who feel they have been discriminated against.

One day at the airport, I walked outside to my usual bus stop on my way home—and it was gone. Without any warning or public comment, Metro had decided it wasn’t going have a bus stop at the terminal, and it was going to force people who needed to go to Kent and Auburn walk another 200 yards to the nearest stop on the street. Three routes that serviced Seattle and Renton were cut altogether. People who still wanted to go to Seattle had the option of taking the more expensive light rail service, but for those headed to other neighborhoods, the stops are so few and far between that many have to transfer to buses and pay additional expenses. If that isn’t bad enough, Metro has become so desperate in its seeking of additional cash that it accepted an inflammatory advertisement to be posted on the side of some buses with this catchy slogan: “Israeli War Crimes: Your Tax Dollars at Work” underneath a picture of Palestinian children looking at a demolished building; the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign may not be aware of this, but many of us have been paying attention to the situation in the Middle East, and apparently a lot longer than they have.

I haven’t had to avail myself to other public services (except one occasion, when I was told there was no assistance available for "able-bodied single males") but they are as in bad or worse shape. In a last minute stop gap measure the Washington legislature cut $700 million from the budget, the largest chunk from education and health care services; this, of course, is on top of similar cuts from previous years. Next year, the governor and legislature have to deal with a projected deficit of $4.6 billion over the next two years. Tax increases? Forget it. An initiative passed this year requires a 2/3 majority to raise taxes, and this on top of rejection of the modest income tax on the wealthy. Are people in this state this short-sighted? Are Republicans backwater fools? Well, yes. And they have the hypocritical media like the Seattle Times to help steer them stupid.

Failure of Dream Act proves that race bigotry is still strong

Barack Obama will have achieved two major victories this week—the signing off on the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and the START treaty. He will have satisfied one constituency and strengthened his international standing. But Obama and Senate majority leader Harry Reid have failed utterly to even provide a token show for a constituency it owes a debt of gratitude for holding on to key seats in the West that allowed the Democrats to retain control of the Senate. Incredibly, five Democrats joined 36 Republicans to vote against cloture on the Dream Act—in effect killing it. Thus it was for Republicans and conservative Democrats a question of who was more offensive to themselves and the extreme-right constituency they take their marching orders from: Openly gay people in the military, or “Mexicans.” It makes perfect sense. Many scandals in the recent past have involved Republican congressmen who hid behind extreme-right views while they were propositioning male pages, staff members and undercover police in bathroom stalls. Why be ashamed of natural predilections because of societal prudery? On the other hand, since the Republican Party is the unofficial “white people’s party,” alienating “little brown ones” with racist talk is immaterial when it is such a useful tactic to motivate the “base.” For other minority groups who join in the anti-Latino scapegoating, it is useful to note that Republicans and their base always have time to expectorate the most inflammatory falsehoods against Obama, and people believe them; is it easier because he is black?

The “historic” Senate vote that repealed the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in regard to gays in the service had to be done to lift any vestiges of officially sanctioned bigotry (unofficially is another matter). Sexual harassment policies might need to be expanded beyond the sensitivities of female soldiers, to make room for the tender sensitivities of male soldiers who might be offended if they sense they may be an object of unwanted attention that insinuates upon their manhood. Everyone knows that gays serve in the military now, so it won’t take long for people to get used to the idea. But the vote against cloture for the Dream Act indicates that it is much more problematic to be identified as “Mexican”in this country.

Opponents of the bill, which has been floating around since 2001, assert that it is nothing more or less than an “amnesty” that it will allow a hoard of millions permanent residency. The fact is that the Dream Act is frustratingly modest and limited in its aims. The act would allow children of illegal immigrants who were 16 years of age or younger when they were brought into the country, and had lived in the country for at least five years the opportunity to apply for residency status, if they qualify in certain other respects: they must be a high school graduate or obtain a GED certificate; they must also demonstrate "good moral character,"a vague definition depending upon who’s making that determination. If these “requirements” are met, then a person would receive a six-year “conditional status.” Within these six years, they must either attend college or serve in the military for a minimum of two years, and naturally they must not have a criminal record, providing that ICE hasn’t already labeled them “criminals” just for breathing.States are also allowed to make their own rules about who qualifies for in-state tuition. Thus the “amnesty” would effect only a small percentage of children of illegal immigrants, perhaps no more than 7,000 to 13,000 a year according to government estimates. At that rate, it would take 100 years for a “hoard” of 1,000,000 to wreak devastation upon the country with their education and military service.

But even this was far too much for the racists and bigots in the U.S. Senate. I’m not going to mince words about these despicable people. They—and the racist constituency they pander to—are every bit as I see them. Even this extraordinarily narrow and limited bill that targeted only the best and brightest was simply too much for them; I can’t even give them the “out” of political cynicism. Harry Reid owed his re-election to Latino voters, yet he could not convince (and perhaps didn’t even try to) five recalcitrant Democrats (and one who abstained) to join three upright Republicans who voted yes. Even Mary Landrieu, who lost her re-election bid, could not bring herself to vote yes, even in response to the ugly racism of her opponent’s campaign.

The current Dream Act legislation was greatly watered-down since it was first conceived in 2001, and has been subject to a great deal of misrepresentation by both lawmakers and the media. Complaints by Republicans in the U.S. Senate echo that of typical nativist organizations, like the innocuous-sounding “Americans for Legal Immigration Pac.” Just to show you that black militants and white supremacists can find “commonality” against a “common enemy,” an article opposed to the Dream Act by William Gheen (founder of ALIP), appeared on the website Blackvoices, a black-oriented news and entertainment website. Under a blog announcement of the “Dream Act Nightmare,” Gheen’s post, “Dream Act Amnesty Means Destruction of America,” Republican talking points and white supremacist rhetoric reach their intersection:

“First of all, the Dream Act Amnesty will turn millions of current illegal aliens into legalized workers, students, and voters. This means that millions of innocent American citizens will be displaced and replaced. Please picture yourself or your children and grandchildren not getting a job, not getting into the college of their choice or college at all, and your votes being counteracted by millions of illegal alien voters.” Perhaps the person who thought this was important for the black audience to know forgot about the anti-affirmative action fervor based on the claim that blacks are taking white students' spots. ”Dream Act Amnesty would also qualify most illegal aliens for in-state tuition subsidies and affirmative action programs, which would force US taxpayer to replace their own children in the limited seats in our colleges at taxpayer expense!” This line is highlighted, suggesting to black readers that the “Mexicans” are stealing their seats. Allowing oneself to be used to justify bigotry against another group tends only to justify similar actions against themselves later.

“Second, the Dream Act Amnesty is not for children and will not be limited to just a few million illegal aliens. The supporters of the Dream Act Amnesty have made it clear that passage of this friendly sounding legislation is just a lever to gain the full Amnesty for 12-20 million illegal aliens in America today! In fact, once they legalize the Dream Act Amnesty recipients, politically stopping full Amnesty will become almost impossible. Once the full Comprehensive Amnesty becomes law, there will be no reasonable expectation of future enforcement of America's existing immigration and border laws.” This is all either blatant falsehood or gross exaggeration, as I have already pointed out, given the severe limitations of the Act. But what is truth to a hate-mongerer?

“Not only can millions of illegal aliens making false unverifiable claims be instantly immune to deportation, but any illegal immigrants caught by Homeland Security can claim they qualify for Dream Amnesty, if it is passed based on 'Prima facie' evidence. Simply put, any apprehended illegal can claim they are under 30, brought here as kids, and planning on attending college so deportation will be waived, and if nobody rebuts their claims, since Homeland Security plans to keep applicants confidential, good luck checking on their work and so much for open government!” Again falsity run amuck. Given the current state of due process (or lack thereof), it is hardly likely that a person over 18 and not in school or the military will not find it extraordinarily difficult to convince an immigration court judge that they meet Dream Act qualifications before being deported; after all, even carrying a birth certificate that indicates native-born status is not necessarily sufficient “proof” to keep you from being deported.

“The existing hijacked American government has shown illegal aliens that they can engage in an extensive pattern of criminal acts to the detriment of American citizens and get away with it. Our nation currently has no immigration or border enforcement credibility.” I would agree with the lack of “credibility”—given the fact, as I just mentioned, that even U.S. citizens who are carrying their birth certificates can be arbitrarily deported if they speak with an accent.

Meanwhile, Ms. Anchor Baby herself, Michelle Malkin, displayed her usual ignorance concerning access to public services requirements, referring to “ already-rampant immigration benefit fraud.” But then she reveals the right’s real fear: “ The so-called DREAM Act would create an official path to Democrat voter registration for an estimated 2 million, college-age illegal aliens. Look past the public relations-savvy stories of “undocumented” valedictorians left out in the cold. This is not about protecting “children.” It’s about preserving electoral power through cap-and-gown amnesty.” It seems as if the right is realizing that there is a cost for demonizing a whole group at the ballot box, and the only solution they can come-up with voter suppression.

The reasons why we have an immigration problem south of the border in the first place are legion. This country has never had an intelligible immigration policy with Mexico. The border was considered so impervious to control that the 1924 immigration quota law did not even bother to address immigration from Latin America. Laborers came and went as needed, and there seemed to be no need to establish a coherent work visa program. During times of economic stress, “Mexicans” were simply gathered-up and shipped out of the country, regardless of their status; during the Great Depression, hundreds of thousands of “Mexicans” who were U.S. citizens were “expatriated” in this way. Despite the fact that farmers and orchard growers frequently complain of the difficulty in getting “native” workers, the current work visa program seems designed to prevent them from employing “Mexicans,”and for clearly prejudicial reasons. Instead of addressing legitimate labor needs, as the “native” population gets older, current immigration policy seems to have a clear anti-Latino element. The dysfunctional relationship between the U.S. and Mexico has also had its effect; despite the U.S.-funded “war on drugs” in Mexico since 2006 that has led to nearly 30,000 killings and even more corrupt officialdom, people fleeing from drug violence have almost no chance to be granted asylum in this country, unlike asylum seekers from other parts of the globe. A Village Voice Media story, part of a series after the Arizona racial profiling law was passed, noted that one asylum seeker “was separated from her family and placed in a detention center for more than a year while she waited for her day in immigration court. When a judge finally heard the case, her claim for asylum was denied and she was ordered back to Mexico. The evidence—that cops working for a drug cartel had beaten Sarah, killed her uncle, abducted her father, and raped her mother because her father (a policeman) fought against their illegal activities—was moot. Sarah did not meet the U.S. government's standard for asylum.” When one recalls the refusal of this country to grant asylum to the Jewish victims of Nazi terror during World War II, perhaps this is not so surprising.

People simply seeking a better life are simply treated like common criminals; the U.S. Border Patrol has instituted a program called “Operation Streamline” which critics have called arbitrary, inhumane and a violation of due process. Since even legal immigrants can be deported after being convicted of a crime, the function of this “operation” is to insure that as many people caught crossing the border as possible are sent before a kangaroo court, where they are given the “sweet deal” of only three days in jail before being deported if they “cooperate” and plead guilty to whatever crime is handy at the moment, regardless if an actual crime was committed; in this way, these people will never have the opportunity to enter the country legally, because they have a “criminal record.”

So much of the rhetoric in the immigration debate has been deliberate fallacy. In Arizona, Russell Pearce and other supporters of SB 1070 blamed “Mexicans” for “high unemployment and record foreclosures.” Accusations that illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes, crowd hospitals, schools and prisons are wildly exaggerated when not categorically false. Many of these accusations are the work of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a nativist hate group, but treated by the media and Congress as an “authority.” The claim by FAIR that illegal immigrants cost the average household $1,117 a year, and “most” pay no taxes, is not only wildly false and irresponsible, but refuses to take into account the economic befits for the country from immigrant labor, not just from additional tax revenue, but lower prices which allows Americans to save more money for other purposes.

Contrary to the anti-immigrant and anti-Dream Act faction, most economists assert that federal and local governments have a legitimate interest in educating all children, even if some are illegal, because if they stay, and educated adult contributes materially in the form of more taxes and greater productivity. Complaints about the costs of immigrant children are short-sighted, according to Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney writing for the Brookings Institute. "Both the immigrant children and children of U.S.-born citizens are expensive when they are young because of the costs of investing in children's education and health. Those expenses, however, are paid back through taxes received over a lifetime of work.” The problem with this country and its increasing failure to adequately fund education (especially at the higher levels) is that people refuse to see education as what it is: not as a cost but as an investment in the country’s future, in the same way as business investment.

However, reason has no chance when confronted by nativist and xenophobic “populist” appeals, which turns alleged supporters of immigration reform like Sen. Lindsey Graham, into quivering moral cowards. Graham, who was helping craft a reform bill, suddenly turned tail when the flap over SB 1070 brought attention back to the issue; now he wants to have hearings about a Constitutional amendment banning the native-born citizenship clause in the cases of immigrant children born in this country.

Thus it may come as a surprise that Daniel Griswold of the right-wing Cato Institute criticized a recent study from the Heritage Foundation for making wildly unsubstantiated and contextless claims of how each "low-skilled household costs federal taxpayers $22,000 a year. Spread out over 50 years of expected work, the lifetime cost of such a family balloons to $1.1 million” Such claims do not only refuse take into account tax collections and contributions to the economy and price stability, but they make extreme assumptions about “cost.” The figures they cite may be true as they apply to all residents as an average, but to simply state that illegal immigrants have the same access, or know how to take advantage of the ones they do, is simply ludicrous—particularly in light of the welfare reform act of 1996, which made it even more difficult for even citizens to qualify for public aid; that act also limited immigrant access to food stamps and Medicaid, employing a higher means-test for them.

According to Griswold, “Increased immigration has also been blamed for crowded roads, hospitals, public schools, and prisons. In all four of those cases, the negative impact of immigration has been exaggerated.” For example, he notes that immigration has played a secondary role in population growth nationally and at a more local level. “Nationally, net international migration accounts for 43 percent of America's annual population growth, with natural growth still accounting for a majority of the growth. On a local level, an analysis of U.S. Census data shows that, for a typical U.S. county, net international migration accounted for 28 percent of population growth between 2000 and 2006. Natural growth from births over deaths accounted for 38 percent of growth on a county level and migration from other counties 34 percent.7 One-third of U.S. counties actually lost population between 2000 and 2006 as birthrates continue to fall and Americans migrate internally to the most economically dynamic metropolitan areas. If local roads seem more crowded, it is not typically immigration but natural growth and internal migration that are mostly responsible.”

In regard to alleged impact on public schools, “low-skilled immigrants cannot be singled out for blame. Enrollment in the public school system has actually been declining relative to the size of America's overall population. The share of our population in K-12 public schools has fallen sharply in recent decades, from 22 percent of the U.S. population in 1970 to 16 percent today. As with roads, overcrowding in certain school districts is more likely to be driven by new births and internal migration than by newly arrived immigrants.”

Despite the over-heated racist propaganda of Pat Buchanan, Lou Dobbs, Michelle Malkin and the boys at Fox News, the image of immigrant crime appears to be mostly the work of fear-inducers and the media. “As for crime and the inmate population, again, immigration is not the major driver. Indeed, the violent crime rate in the United States has actually been trending down in recent years as immigration has been increasing. After rising steadily from the 1960s through the early 1990s, the rate of violent crime in the United States dropped from 758 offenses per 100,000 population in 1991 to 469 offenses in 2005,” Griswold noted. "Even as the undocumented population has doubled since 1994, the violent crime rate in the United States has declined 34.2 percent and the property crime rate has fallen 26.4 percent."

In fact, “Immigrants are less likely to be jailed than are their native-born counterparts with similar education and ethnic background…for every ethnic group without exception, incarceration rates among young men are lowest for immigrants, even those who are least educated…All the available evidence contradicts the misplaced fear that allowing additional low-skilled immigrants to enter the United States will somehow increase crime and incarceration rates.” One study shows that 50 percent of illegal immigrants are in jail not for violent or property crimes, but simply for being undocumented. Of course, stereotyping continues unabated; the recent ad for a University of Washington “study” portrays a Latino man as the “typical” wife abuser.

Running cargo at the airport, I’ve seen more “cargo” that is the human remains of an infant with a Spanish name than I care to stomach; the accusation that immigrants take advantage of the health care system is another shibboleth. “As for hospitals, especially emergency rooms, the presence of uninsured, low-skilled workers in a particular area does impose additional costs on hospitals in the form of uncompensated care. There is no evidence, however, that illegal immigration is the principal cause of such costs nationwide. Indeed, low-skilled immigrants tend to underuse health care because they are typically young and relatively healthy.” Griswold goes on to say that “A recent report from the Rand Corporation found that immigrants to the United States use relatively few health services. The report estimates that all levels of government in the United States spend $1.1 billion a year on health care for undocumented workers aged 18 to 64. That compares to a total of $88 billion in government funds spent on health care for all adults in the same age group. In other words, while illegal immigrants account for about 5 percent of the workforce, they account for 1.2 percent of spending on public health care for all working-age Americans.”

Costs to state and local governments tend to be more burdensome than they are on the federal level, but again these costs must be weighed against other factors, and not just taxes they pay (in the state of Washington, the principle individual tax is the sales tax, which does not “discriminate” between residency status). Costs must also be weighed against “the equally real and positive effect of immigration on the overall economy. Low-skilled immigrants allow important sectors of the U.S. economy, such as retail, cleaning, food preparation, construction, and other services, to expand to meet the needs of their customers,” according to Griswold.“They help the economy produce a wider array of more affordably priced goods and services, raising the real wages of most Americans. By filling gaps in the U.S. labor market, such immigrants create investment opportunities and employment for native-born Americans. Immigrants are also consumers, increasing demand for American-made goods and services.” Recent studies by the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Texas comptroller of public accounts similarly concluded that contrary to popular belief fueled by political rhetoric, costs to localities are usually dwarfed by net benefits.

The demonization of Latinos has taken a hit recently by those not swayed by its arguments. Recent incidents which fueled the rhetoric have been questioned. One may recall that after Arizona rancher Rob Krentz was found shot to death down on his ranch near the Mexican border, anti-Latino immigrant fanatic Tom Tancredo immediately announced his conviction that the killer was an illegal alien, without any evidence to support that conclusion. Pearce, in keeping with his longtime anti-Latino extremism, used the unsubstantiated accusation to promote SB 1070 in the state and the national news media. Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever even released a mug shot of a “fierce-looking Mexican” who was a “person of interest” to fan the racist fire. But the crime in fact remains unsolved, and now law enforcement suspects that the killer was an American. Not long afterwards, Pinal County deputy Louis Puroll was all over CNN and other networks being feted as a “hero,” talking about how he had been grazed with a bullet after an encounter with drug smugglers armed in AK-47s. An investigation by the Phoenix New-Times examined Puroll’s claim and found the evidence for the alleged encounter lacking; Puroll may have in fact wounded himself.

Meanwhile, after they had been acquitted of all charges by a Shenandoah, PA jury, Derrick M. Donchak, and Brandon J. Piekarsky were convicted by a federal jury of civil rights violations in the beating death of Luis Eduardo Ramirez Zavala. The trial of Shenandoah police on obstruction and conspiracy charges remains; Shenandoah police chief Matthew Nestor is being held without bail, because he is"clearly, unequivocally a serious danger to witnesses in this case" according to the judge. Nestor is also a defendant in a civil suit that alleged that in 2006 his officers beat to death a Latino teenager, and then staged a suicide inside a holding cell.Although an autopsy by the county coroner made a determination of suicide, this was based on the coroner’s acceptance of Nestor's claim that the victim’s bruises had come during the arrest process. A second autopsy, however, revealed that the victim "suffered extensive, massive injuries consistent with a profound beating.” Unlike crimes when the victims are white females, stories like this never make prime time.

According to an attorney for the family of the deceased, Shenandoah police "acted as feudal warlords in this coal town community that people were afraid of. I would not suggest they were not abusive to everyone and anyone, but I would say the pattern certainly starts to appear that minorities took the thrust of their abuse." According to the victim’ father, U.S.-born of Puerto Rican descent, "A big group of Spanish people moved into Shenandoah, and they didn't know how to react to that. Were they fair to us? No. They're fair to their own kind. The outsider always had to pay."

Despite these speed bumps, hate continues unabated. Retired Vanderbilt professor Virginia Deane Abernethy, who calls herself an “ethnic separatist”—just another unconvincing euphemism for “racist”—and is an anti-immigrant fanatic, recently wrote a “review” for a violence-laden white-nationalist novel entitled White Apocalypse, calling it "an emotionally compelling account of whites as historical victims of non-whites — just the sort of thing we need to motivate a renaissance among our people."The “semi-fictional” novel (sold on Amazon) claims that whites were the original inhabitants of North and South America, but were slaughtered by incoming Amerindians—a ludicrous (as well as undisturbed by facts) theory given what whites and their superior technology and diseases wrought on Native Americans when they arrived. But then again, lies and deception has always been the mainstay of the maintenance of racist propaganda.

And what of Obama? Is this how he repays Latino voters, particularly those of Mexican heritage, by failing in even to get this extremely limited “reform” passed? After all this time when he allowed ICE raids of such excess that paled in comparison in just two years to the whole of the Bush administration—and this is how the Republicans “repaid” him? Instead of easing the atmosphere of hate, Obama’s administration made certain that illegal immigration was on cable news headlines. The repeal of Don’t ask, don’t tell time was coming. It was really an absurd rule, and after all is said and done, people will forget about this and move on. Race hate is much stronger than sexual orientation prejudice, and the failure of the so-called “Dream Act” proved this.

Gino's whining doesn't change the reality

Heading into the game against Florida State in which the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team sought to surpass the men’s record of 88 straight wins set by UCLA, UConn coach Gino Auriemma complained that no one outside media boosters for women’s basketball (mainly former players) showed much interest for, naturally, sexist reasons. Men are having a “heart attack” because the women might break a men’s record. "All the women are happy as hell and they can't wait to come in here and ask questions. All the guys that loved women's basketball are all excited, and all the miserable bastards that follow men's basketball and don't want us to break the record are all here because they're pissed.”

With all due respect to Gino, we are still talking apples and oranges. It is highly unlikely that this UConn team could put-up much competition for more than a few minutes against that UCLA team. Everyone knows that, except maybe him. One suspects that Gino is really whining about perceived lack of “respect” for himself, not women’s basketball in general. At any rate, it is clear that there is a relative dearth of parity in women’s basketball. Everyone wants to play for a winner, and in women’s NCAA basketball, for the past two decades that means two places: UConn and Tennessee. How do you explain the level of “competition” when during its streak UConn played 29 ranked teams, and only two were single-digit victories? Heading into the Florida State game, outside the Baylor game which featured one of few top players not playing for UConn (Brittney Griner of roundhouse-right fame), UConn won its games by an average score of 89-43. They can’t help but run-up the score: even UConn’s subs are high school All-Americans. In the men’s game, you see second-division teams beating top-ten ranked teams, and in the last year’s title game, a little school like Butler would have beaten invincible Duke save for all the fouls that were not called.

UConn’s success thus in a way mocks the women’s game. How can you believe in its credibility when one or two teams glean most of the best talent from an already thin pool? This past season in the WNBA was its least competitive, with most of the teams having losing records; the Seattle Storm won the championship this past summer, but most people here have already forgotten about it, if they had cared at all.

Did UConn win number 89 last night? I must confess that I have no idea, nor do I care.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A quarterback controversy I'd like to see

Near the end of the post-game radio show after another ugly loss at home by the Seattle Seahawks, a local KJR sports commentator (Jason Puckett, I believe)—who sneeringly referred to Brett “Fa-vray” after his career-best 446-yard performance in an overtime win against the Arizona Cardinals—noted that the Sunday night game coming-up next, Green Bay at New England, would have been a lot more watchable if Aaron Rodgers was playing, and sneered that instead we would see “that Matt Flynn.”

Frankly, I doubt any of those egotistical beer-bellies on KJR remember this (or even confess that they were “surprised” after the game), but Flynn—who unfortunately was the over-blown JaMarcus Russell’s back-up for two years in college—was the starting quarterback for the LSU team that won the 2007 national championship (although it was a matter of some dispute because of the their two-losses). Flynn’s drafting in the seventh round now appears to be a steal. His 40 of 66 for 433 yards and 3 TDs in the past two games suggests that he may in fact be as talented as Rodgers; the fact that he acquitted himself remarkably in his first NFL start in a near-upset win over the NFL’s supposedly best team and best coach on their home field at least deserves worthy mention. As I noted last week, outside of new-guy mistakes in his first meaningful action against Detroit, Flynn played as if he belonged on the field after an ineffective Rodgers was knocked-out of the game. Against the invincible Patriots, only some unfortunate plays—like a reserve offensive lineman returning a kick-off 70 yards, an interception returned for a touchdown, the settling for a field goal after reaching the one-yard line in the fourth quarter, and finally Mike McCarthy’s typical bone-head clock management at the end when the Packers were in the redzone poised to score the winning touchdown—prevented this game from being an embarrassing defeat for the Patriots.

These denigrations of Favre and Flynn are, of course, emanations from the Aaron Rodgers Fan Club contingent in the football media, although being a Rodgers “fan” often appears to go-hand-in-hand with being a Favre-hater. I’ve been a Packer fan all through the ugly, bad and good years (mostly in that order), but I have not forgiven the current management of the team for its treatment of Favre after the 2007 season. Why did Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy believe that they could be so brazen in their efforts to push Favre out and Rodgers in and not alienate a large contingent of Packer fans? It all came down to one game, and it wasn’t the overtime loss to the Giants in the 2008 NFC championship game. Packer fans might recall with bemusement that Rodgers had a habit of relieving Favre in a game, and before you could say “quarterback controversy,” he would sustain a season-ending injury; when Rodgers did finally get the starting gig in 2008, my first thought was how many plays into the season it would take before Rodgers was knocked-out with another broken bone. One of the few times that Rodgers actually survived to play another day as Favre’s understudy was probably the most important game he has ever played. In week 13 of the 2007 season, the “showdown” game between Green Bay and Dallas when both teams were tied with 10-1 records, Favre was knocked-out in the second quarter. In came Rodgers, and he not only survived to the end, but put-in a respectable performance (much like Flynn); although the Packers never led in the game, Rodgers impressed many viewers by forcing Dallas to play four quarters.

If Rodgers had played poorly and the game was an embarrassing blow-out, it would have been highly unlikely that Packer management would have had the gonads to gamble with alienating Packer fans by alienating Favre in order to shoe-horn Rodgers in. I frankly still have my doubts about Rodgers’ ability to stay healthy—in which case the Packers still have their man Flynn.

Friday, December 17, 2010

FBI anti-terrorist "stings" bring flashback to COINTELPRO days

In his book “War at Home,” Brian Glick discussed the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program—“COINTELPRO”—a program during the 1960s that “secretly instructed its field offices to propose schemes to ‘expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize’ specific individuals and groups.” Nor were these activities merely a rogue operation within the bureau: “Close coordination with local police and prosecutors was strongly encouraged. Other recommended collaborators included friendly news media, business and foundation executives, and university, church, and trade union officials, as well as such "patriotic" organizations as the American Legion.” The principle target of COINTELPRO operations were militant black groups like the Black Panthers, and the early morning murder by Chicago police of Panther leader Fred Hampton while he was apparently asleep was almost certainly one these operations. But any left-leaning organization could be a target, whether “radical” Chicanos, “New Left” white students or “socialist” political parties. Agents under J. Edgar Hoover’s direction infiltrated these groups, planting seeds of distrust within and among “leftist” groups, while the FBI’s law enforcement cohorts supplied the “muscle,” officially sanctioned assassinations and deliberately perjured testimony before juries. Various means were used by the FBI to make these attacks “acceptable” to the mainstream public, often by putting out forged, faked or misleading information to the media. During congressional hearings in the 1970s, the FBI admitted to about 2,500 of these operations, but there were thousands more of a highly irregular and highly illegal nature that they didn’t admit to.

Although the FBI did investigate a few high profile civil rights murders when white victims were involved (such as the Neshoba County, Mississippi murder of three civil rights workers in 1964), the FBI was more likely to employ white supremacists. “Under the cover of being even-handed and going after violent right-wing groups, the FBI actually gave covert aid to the Ku Klux Klan, Minutemen, Nazis, and other racist vigilantes. These groups received substantial funds, information, and protection-and suffered only token FBI harassment-so long as they directed their violence against COINTELPRO targets," writes Glick. "They were not subjected to serious disruption unless they breached this tacit understanding and attacked established business and political leaders." It is also useful to point out that during the 1990s and 2000s, when domestic terrorists like the Unabomber, Timothy McVeigh, the Anthrax letter sender and Joe Stark—all white—flew completely under the FBI’s radar, white supremacists involved in killings and harassment were also not surprisingly not brought to justice by the FBI, but through the efforts of civil rights organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Today, the FBI, having repeated failures to uncover real terrorist acts like 9-11 and the shoe bomber, have returned to the old ways of the 1960s, if not necessarily the same tactics. It still targets the “usual” suspects per white paranoia, often by merely surfing the internet for crackpots and people with vaguely “anti-American” sentiments, meaning minorities unhappy with the state of society. Once a suitable “suspect” has been identified, he or his “cell” is infiltrated, given misleading information, provided phony material and then after an arrest the media is given a suitably propagandized cover story. Thus the Miami 7 and Jose Padilla were essentially framed by the FBI; the 7 were merely a pseudo-religious organization that frightened the neighbors, with strange ideas but no substance, while Padilla was tortured for years without charge until federal prosecutors were essentially forced to abandon their original rationale for arresting him, and invented a charge based largely on law enforcement testimony that one suspects was perjured or “enhanced.”

More recently, the FBI appears to be even more brazen in its attempts to manufacture minority “terrorists.” The charging of a 19-year-old Somali, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, and 21-year-old Antonio Martinez on terrorism charges suggests FBI invention. Neither appears to have had the means, the contacts or more to the point the desire to go beyond their angry bluster without this “intervention.” Undercover FBI agents found these youths easy marks for entrapment. It was the agents—not the suspects—who from first to last established first the idea, then the time, place and material; what the evidence suggests is that the suspects were merely along for the ride. Without FBI involvement, even the potential for a crime occurring at all is barely debatable. In a recent USA Today cover story, it was noted that even the FBI’s most inflammatory evidence against Martinez—an alleged conversation with an agent in which he expressed the desire to go “operational” but needed the training—was oddly not recorded, due to “technical difficulties.”

Like its predecessor in the 1960s, the FBI is engaging in racial-targeting, in keeping with prevailing stereotypes and paranoia; it is also taking advantage of the media’s refusal to examine the culture behind discontent both domestically and internationally. But unlike the COINTELPRO operations, today the FBI—while not engaged in assassinating “militants” or undermining liberal organizations (the corporate media does that just fine)—is perhaps engaging in something much more sinister: instead of stopping “terrorists,” it is creating them for public consumption, a ruse to “prove” that they are engaging in effective counter-terrorism. While the hardcore terrorists keep tight-knit company with only those operatives they know, the FBI is entrapping susceptible young men and teenagers who left to their own devices would simply be guilty of nothing more than having bad attitudes and bravado.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A judge's decision does not trump commerce clause

As some may have heard, in Virginia U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson parted ways with other judges in his interpretation of the commerce clause in the U.S. Constitution, finding that the provision in “ObamaCare” that mandates “individual responsibility” in paying health care costs starting in 2014 violates the clause. The clause authorizes Congress “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with Indian Tribes.” Vaguely worded indeed, and is clearly subject to wide interpretation; nevertheless, it is the legal foundation of the authority of the federal government to regulate commerce. Those on the right, like Hudson, might quote the Tenth Amendment, which states that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” One may note, however, that the amendment says nothing about “commerce.”

Hudson’s interpretation is thus somewhat tortured; the argument that only states have the right to require citizens to purchase health insurance or pay a “fine” and not the federal government is not technically supported by the Constitution. Nor does any state constitution explicitly infer that it has the authority to force anyone to purchase auto insurance if you own a car, or be issued a hefty traffic ticket if you do not; yet they do. As a commercial enterprise, there is essentially no difference between auto and health insurance. A person can choose to have a car or not—and they can also choose to live, or not. Nobody chooses to get into a car wreck that may cost a $100,000 in repair and health care costs—nor does anybody chooses to become ill and face a $100,000 in medical bills. But that can happen, and someone has to foot the bill.

One of the more absurd and irresponsible arguments against even a token deduction in exchange for health coverage can be heard on Fox News, where those guys and gals who sit in a bar talking Wall Street mused that anybody without insurance can simply go into an emergency room and get emergency care right away; you can’t get preventative care that would have saved the system a few thousand dollars, but it’s only money. Isn’t our system grand? Of course, only public hospitals are required by law to treat indigent patients, and you have to be so sick that you might not survive the night to get care. What if you can’t pay subsequent astronomical medical bills? Not to worry: People who have insurance are going to “pay for it” out of the goodness of their hearts. Isn’t this a great country? Who needs health care reform? Who cares about skyrocketing costs?

Not surprisingly, Sarah Palin weighed in, calling for “true free market and patient-centered reform.” We heard that from Republicans all through 2009, and I’m still waiting for a right-winger to explain to me what the hell they’re talking about.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Palin" and "progress" not synonymous

Who is playing who—the media or Sarah Palin? I used to think it was the media; now I’m not so sure. The fascination with Palin continues unabated with the latest TIME magazine cover story which muses about “Palin in Progress.” One might be forgiven for wondering why an editor might think “Palin” and “Progress” are synonymous; for anyone to waste time on the question at all on this wastrel is probably not a useful occupation of one’s time anyways.

There are those people who take politics seriously (in reality a minority) who have formed their own opinion of Palin, based upon her various curious pronouncements that the media has provided her a forum to expectorate, and who seem to fall into two oppositional camps: those who believe that her frequently incendiary and incomprehensible remarks are either “beneficial” for the country to hear—or have the potential to be a truly destructive force; the "populist" senatorial candidate Greg Stillson in the Stephen King novel "The Dead Zone" comes to mind. Those are not the people TIME is trying to reach, but those who haven’t been paying attention. Why “grace” another cover with Palin’s pudgy mug? She “graciously” allowed the magazine an “exclusive” interview; well, not really an interview, but an exchange of e-mails that may have been answered by one of Palin’s filters. The appreciative TIME reporter Jay Newton-Small thus salivates all over Palin, revealing such amazing “revelations” as the overcomeness of Palin when she discovered that posting on her Facebook page something she heard over at Fox News about “death panels” in Obama’s health care reform plan could excite a great many dimwitted (my word) people. There was no such thing as “death” panels in Obama’s plan, although there may be within private health insurance companies; I once overheard an older man refer to Group Health as “Group Death.” All the flack that the “off-hand” remark excited nearly brought down the health care reform agenda (according to TIME), and gave Palin the idea that any “incendiary and inaccurate” remark she made gave her power to persuade small, bigoted minds at will (TIME didn’t say that). Palin “was surprised by her post's galvanizing power. With just a few keystrokes, she discovered, she could ruin White House press secretary Robert Gibbs' day, or as she puts it, ‘I find it a great way to communicate with people directly without the media filter’"—just her’s.

The fact that Palin appears to have only a vague familiarity about the things she talks about is of little import either to her “fans” or the media. TIME claims that Palin has a “sixth sense” about detecting an opponent’s “weak spot,” although this is more along the lines of the juvenile “low blow” than anything substantive. It doesn’t take a “sixth sense” to expose Palin’s weak spots, but like the media in general, TIME simply fears to examine them, because it has long abandoned hard news since it began pandering to a gender agenda two decades ago. Palin repeatedly disparages the “blamestream” and “lamestream” media, but these appellations are only appropriate when examining the weakling media’s utter failure to examine more deeply Palin’s rather empty-shelled and checkered political career. Palin’s arrogant, impulsive, self-obsessed, vindictive, thin-skinned demeanor tells us more than she wishes—or the media wishes us to know. A largely ignored Vanity Fair story a few months ago revealed a vicious personality behind closed doors, the kind of personality within which shapes “policy” not based upon logic but cupidity, rashness and the desire to be contrary; Palin’s complaints about “good old boys” merely denotes her contempt of anyone who stands in her way or engages in intelligent—i.e. confusing—discussion.

TIME describes Palin as a “demanding taskmaster,” and she has had a dozen or so staffers abandon their posts in the past year. The reality is more likely that Palin’s dislike of hard work and taking personal responsibility means that being insufficiently compensatory for her laziness with annoying details will not be tolerated. TIME also claims that Palin was once a “moderate” but has turned “steadily to the right” since 2008. Huh? Didn’t anyone at TIME listen to her campaign speeches in 2008? Palin was brought in by John McCain not just to attract disgruntled Hillary supporters like Harriet Christian, but because he needed her to shore-up the Republican extreme-right base, which would backfire on him when “centrist” voters took a good look at Palin. This was a person who excited listeners to shout “kill him,” as in Obama. TIME tells us that Palin “shrewdly anticipated the Tea Party’s rise.” Once more, the mainstream media simply has it wrong: Palin merely rode the wave. After all, how could Palin know that the billionaire Koch brothers would take a declaration from a right-wing blowhard on CNBC and behind the scenes fabricate a “movement” almost immediately after Obama took office, with a bucketful of pre-packaged propaganda lines already at hand? How come a British newspaper had to tell us this?

TIME reminds us that that Palin favored “mamma grizzlies” in her 2010 endorsements, most of whom failed because they were as erratic and extremist in their rhetoric as Palin. Nevertheless, TIME thinks Palin is “poised” to take over Washington D.C. (along with her potty-mouthed daughters) from the “good old boys” as she allegedly did in Alaska; Nancy Gibbs, one of those angry Hillary Clinton supporters, gives us that tiresome whine about “a woman being allowed to vote for a woman for president.” Does that mean just anybody—like Palin? Palin is in many ways like Hillary. Democrats did not really trust her, because of her support of Bush’s war and questions about her temperament (later exposed in the book “Game Change”), but the media kept shoving her on us, so she was the “frontrunner” by default because Democrats felt they had no alternative—until Obama’s arrival on the scene; he was at the time simply more compatible for the liberal base to digest. At the same time, Hillary’s positive ratings tended to be rather less impressive than her negative ratings. Not surprisingly, one of the more fascinating aspects about the Palin “phenomenon” is the fact that, as we see in the TIME article, there has been very little serious critiquing of Palin’s actual “stature.”

A recent Gallup poll showed that more people had a negative view of Palin than positive, yet the media continues to inflate her “importance” and “popularity.” Take for instance her endorsement of Tea Party candidate Joe Miller in her home state of Alaska. Palin and incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski were not best friends, the latter having criticized Palin for “abandoning” the Alaskan people after she abruptly resigned with 18 month left in her term as governor. When Miller won the GOP primary, it was declared far and wide that this was proof of Palin’s ability to sway the masses to her bidding. A few months later, Murkowski easily won as a write-in candidate. What happened? Not so much talk about that. Here’s a thought: As the poll indicated, most people are not as impressed by Palin as the media is. There may be a core of right-wing fanatics who get-off on her simple-minded slogans that often have a stincture of violence, but while she may be “popular” within a more expanded segment, that doesn’t mean she is either trusted or respected. Alaskans may initially have been amused by Palin’s endorsement of Miller, particularly given her “celebrity” as someone from a state generally ignored as a backwater. But do Alaskans respect Palin? It’s a fair question. Palin’s approval ratings continue to plummet despite media efforts to prop her up, and so it is in Alaska. A January 2010 poll showed Alaskans were evenly split on their opinion of Palin, and another in April showed an unfavorable rating of 52 percent. And why not? A few days after her resignation as governor in which she initially refused to offer illumination, she had this to say about why she quit:

"Especially when all these lawmakers are lining up for office. Their desire would be to clobber the administration left and right so that they can position themselves for office. I'm not going to put Alaskans through that."

You can just smell the hypocrisy through and through, but what does this say about Palin’s personality? She always attacks the “good old boy” network. Why? Because she can’t handle adversity? She doesn’t like people standing in her way? Why did she transfer to five different colleges in five years? Is Palin, despite her tough talk, actually weak and a coward? Bullies are, after all, noted cowards. They talk big, and like to push people around (Palin had a reputation for that in Alaska), but run away at the first sign of something bigger than themselves. Her statement, due to its mendacity, clearly implies that it is not Alaskans she is concerned about, but herself; after all, at the time she had already accumulated $500,000 in legal bills fighting Troopergate, and Alaska was small potatoes when multi-dollars for speaking engagements were flashed before her eyes. She was a “star” who couldn’t be bothered with facing her demons—kind of like Lindsay Lohan.

Perhaps no person in the history of world has done less to inspire such endless adulation. Her Wiki page describes her as an “American politician, author, speaker, and political news commentator.” That might all be true technically-speaking, but it’s a hell of lot less impressive or substantive than it sounds. Since “resigning” from the governorship of Alaska, she has made $13 million—from speeches that are mainly a collection of nasty zingers and sound bites culled from the vaults of Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck and that ilk (occasionally aided by notes written on her hands), and ghost-written books of simplistic platitudes and right-wing propaganda that TIME hilariously puts on the same bookshelf as Thomas Jefferson’s writings. Her sole “talent,” if truth be known, is being a white woman with an attitude for a media that is looking for one. I’m no fan of Hillary Clinton, but Clinton has ten-times the smarts and is actually performing a function (Secretary of State) that requires a reasonable amount of competence, common sense, hard work, and commitment. And, of course, you must not desert the field when the going gets too “tough.”

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The streak and season over, now Favre can look back with no regrets

“The Streak” is over.

No, not the streaking fad of the mid 1970s, but Brett Favre’s consecutive games as starting quarterback. 297 straight games is an even more remarkable achievement given the fact that the average length of a NFL career is 3 ½ years. There were countless occasions when Favre could have taken a game off, if he was a lesser competitor with average talent. What it finally took to take down the streak was a combination of injuries of the ankle, elbow, chin, foot and finally a sprained shoulder. At 41, Favre’s body was simply too old or nimble enough to recover fast enough to compensate for a porous offensive line that was exposed during the NFC Championship game last season; against the Bills, offensive lineman Bryant McKinnie barely sniffed at rookie linebacker Arthur Moates, who charged on Favre from behind like a raging bull in delivering the “knock out” blow. As early as October, pundits were debating whether Favre would even last to Halloween, but then again these “debates” have been occurring for near 20 years; fooling the naysayers for as long as he did probably gave him as much satisfaction as it did me. At the end of it all, Trent Dilfer and Merill Hoge at ESPN gave Favre his just due, although a giggly Linda Cohn yucked it up with Moates; but at Fox, blowhards like Jimmy Johnson, Alex Marvez, Howie Long and Troy Aikman merely reaffirmed their small-minded irrationality by pumping-up Tavaris Jackson--who gave us a blast from the past with a typical boo-bird worthy performance against the Giants, which ended the Vikings playoff hopes. I would hope that Favre is healthy enough to play at least in the final game of the season, and play well enough to end this lost season on a positive note.

There has been a great deal of talk about how Brett Favre's “legacy” has been tarnished by his refusal to just lay down and go away. This kind of talk has been around since at least the time he decided he was tired of the Packers demanding an “answer” before he was mentally ready to play in 2008. He was coming off one of his best years, after a loss in overtime in the NFC Championship game against the eventual Super Bowl winning Giants. There was a natural assumption that coming so close he would return, but the Packer management had other ideas. They, like many pundits, thought that Favre was the problem, not the solution. Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy and company thought that if Aaron Rodgers was the quarterback, the Packers would have been in the Super Bowl. They may have been in right in one respect: Favre was clearly not the same after injuring his shoulder in week 12 against Dallas, but then again, this is assumption, not fact. The Packers went from 13-3 to 6-10 in Rodgers first full-time starting gig, and this past Sunday against a 2-10 Detroit team, he was again strangely ineffective before being knocked out late in the first half. His back-up, Matt Flynn, actually looked better, and if he had managed to complete his end zone pass in the final minute for a comeback win, the pundits might not be bemoaning the Packers’ chances without Rodgers. Meanwhile his coach, McCarthy, likes to throw red flags, but the real red flag might be the over-rating of his coaching ability. In the end, what may be his most notable “accomplishment” in the record books is the fact he decided that the Packers’ greatest player would no longer be the team’s quarterback after he led them one step from the Super Bowl. If I were McCarthy, I wouldn’t want that to be my “legacy.”

But back to Favre’s “legacy.” He had to play this year, to find out if the Vikings could make the next jump which they would not have done for certain with TJ, given the tougher schedule. As he stated in the post game press conference after the Giants game, now that the streak and season are definitively over, he need not look back with the regret of not knowing. And how could his "legacy" be hurt by becoming the first QB to reach 10,000 pass attempts, 70,000 yards and 500 TD passes? 18 straight seasons with 300 completions and 3,000 yards speak volumes as to the quality of his play. That is a legacy any QB would love to have. Only one Super Bowl victory, but that is still one more than the vast majority of NFL quarterbacks.

Meanwhile, one person who clearly is unhappy with Favre ending his streak dictated by health issues rather than hers is Jenn Sterger. Sterger is out of a job and her reputation as a collector of sleaze guarantees she will likely never get a respectable job in the sports media. It should be clear enough that her sole occupation these days is revenge fantasies and hope for a large pay day through either courtroom extortion or tabloid media. Sterger’s lawyer is demanding that the NFL punish Favre with suspension before the season is over, or else she will sue Favre. With all the testimony as to her character the NFL has on Sterger via former friend Allison Torres, I’m sure that Roger Goodell is in no mood to be pushed by a person of this nature; I have already discussed the evidence into Sterger’s “character” on several occasions here, so I won’t rehash them again. But what is remarkable here is Sterger’s insistence on her “victimization” which is strictly a media creation—particularly among the anti-Favre contingent—that David Carr of the New York Times described as “drive-by, cash-and-carry journalism” that “respectable” news media would not touch, unless, of course, somebody else (like Deadspin) jumped in first. The fact is that Sterger is a victim of her own devices; regardless of what one concludes from Favre’s own actions, Sterger could have prevented a “third party” from supplying Deadspin with material that would turn out to be shameful and embarrassing not just for Favre and his family, but Sterger herself for keeping them for years (because they were “fun to laugh at among friends”). It is rather ironic now that what started out to be her desire to gain notoriety at the expense of Favre, she now wants to blame him for the backfiring of this quest. If Sterger is smart—and there is no evidence of that yet—she will seek a modest payout to hold her over until she can get an honest job where no one knows who she is; if she does decide to sue, one can only imagine all the former friends coming out of the woodwork with stories about how they had a good time laughing at all the “naked pics” from “celebrities and star athletes” Sterger claims not to have solicited.