Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Who's on first" in Miami?

The news coming out of the Miami Dolphins’ camp reminds me of that Abbott and Costello comedy routine “Who’s on first?” It seems like everyone in “charge” has a different idea of what’s going wrong—let alone what to do to resuscitate the beached ‘Fins. General manager Jeff Ireland has taken heat over the years for failed free agent signings and draft picks (Reggie Bush may be an exception), but he's just one cog in a rusty machine. Perhaps he can't be entirely blamed for his stupidity in asking Dez Bryant in a pre-draft “interview” if his mother was a “prostitute.” Could he have learned such pick-ups moves from his former boss, Bill Parcells, who had a tendency to forget a long-time star’s name once he decided his time up? Dolphins’ All-Pros Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor found this out the hard way: “You can’t make someone respect you” Taylor is quoted as saying—meaning Parcells and his stooge. More than a few free agents who visited Miami made a bee-line back to the airport after encountering owner Stephen Ross' boys.

After Parcells left, the Dolphin organization’s fig leaf of respectability revealed very small gonads, and everyone is now laughing. Peyton Manning’s snub should not have come as a surprise, but the coaching carrousel is more of more interest. When Jim Harbaugh and Jeff Fisher declined invitations, the ‘Fins hired Joe Philbin. Ever heard of Sherman Lewis? He was the titular offensive coordinator for the Packers during the Mike Holmgren years. Remember how people said that he was NFL head coaching material, like many of Holmgren’s underlings? It never happened. The problem was that Lewis took credit where none was justified: He didn’t call the plays—Holmgren did. When Holmgren went to Seattle, Ron Wolfe didn’t trust Lewis with the head coaching position, but he did bring in former Packers defensive coordinator and Eagles head coach Ray Rhodes. This time Lewis called the offensive plays; although I was personally surprised when Wolfe fired both at the end of the season, Lewis’ reputation was in tatters and his career advancement in the NFL at an end. And now Philbin—who was the clipboard holder while Mike McCarthy called the plays—is somehow expected to perform the same offensive feats that he allegedly had something to do with in Green Bay. And even now he is not expected to call the offensive plays; that is Mike Sherman’s job. And why shouldn’t it be? Sure he’s been fired from two head coaching jobs, but Sherman is the “elder statesman” on the staff, expected to cover for any of Philbin’s deficiencies.

Now that brings us to the intriguing story out of the owner’s meeting that suggests that Dolphin’s owner Ross doesn’t have a clue about what he’s talking about half the time, and the other half he is—as John Clayton suggested—throwing his coaches under the bus by blaming them for not ensnaring top free agents into Ross and Ireland’s web of deceit. Last week, Ross bizarrely called an irate season ticket holder to explain why the Dolphins’ management wasn’t as dysfunctional as he believed. In the matter of Matt Flynn, the early line was that Ross wouldn’t pay Flynn, but Ross now claimed that if his coaches really wanted Flynn, he would have done all in his power to insure that he signed on the dotted line. This seemed to suggest that Ross was passing the blame for the debacle on Philbin. Naturally, many observers—and more than a few in Seattle—saw this as a suggestion that Philbin really wasn’t as high on Flynn’s skills as first expected.

But it seems that Ross, Ireland and perhaps Mike Sherman are not on the same page with Philbin; interest in Ryan Tannehill is almost certainly being driven by Sherman, his former coach. Philbin, refusing to play the expendable who will fall on the sword for Ross and Ireland, told the Miami Herald that he pushed hard to convince Flynn to sign with the Dolphins. “I think we made an aggressive push. We got him in here relatively quickly. Again, we had a great meeting. Matt and I had some conversations, a number of conversations prior to his arrival to Miami. We had some subsequent ones after.” This doesn’t quite jibe with Ross’ account, does it? Do these two even talk, or is Ireland the translator who doesn’t quite understand what he is hearing? The clearly miffed Philbin went on “He'd (Flynn) probably be able to give you better answer as to why he chose to go elsewhere. All I know is when we were together the visit was excellent. I thought he got along very well with our offensive staff. He and I obviously have a relationship together.”

However, it probably wasn’t as tough a decision for Flynn as might be imagined, and money probably had little to do with it. When Flynn said it was “awesome” in Seattle, he wasn’t just talking about the lovely weather here, but the fact that owner, general manager and coach seem to be operating in unison and to a common purpose—unlike Miami, where the “team” seems to be pulled in four different directions. After signing with the Seahawks, Flynn admitted that he respected his former coach, but there had to be more for him. Could he trust Philbin to have his back against the bizarre machinations emanating out of the front office and owner’s mansion? Flynn could trust Seahawks GM John Schneider, who even after two years out of Green Bay still had his eye on him. After all, it was Ron Wolfe who supported Brett Favre against the doubts of Holmgren, and Ted Thompson would hold his ground in support of Aaron Rodgers when Favre decided to unretired. If he chose Miami, how could Flynn be certain that anyone in de facto power had his best interests in mind? Did he suspect that Sherman’s eye was wandering to “his” quarterback?

"But when it came down to it, I just felt more comfortable up in Seattle. I felt like it was a better opportunity for me.” Looking at the situation in Miami, it shouldn’t be that hard to take Flynn at his word.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The media's distorted reporting of Trayvon Martin case both shameful and shameless

I’m sure everyone has heard by now about the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in a gated community in Sanford, Florida. My initial reaction to the story that a “white man” who was patrolling the community had shot an unarmed black “youth”— who was heard to be crying for help in pathetic manner—was the same as most people: revulsion about the results of racial profiling, prejudice and the gun culture. There were white women who lived in the community being interviewed on various television shows, clearly in sympathy with the victim. Martin’s family and supporters claimed that the police—who said that the shooter, George Zimmerman, was acting in self-defense—were suppressing evidence of cold-blooded murder. Photos distributed to the media showed a sullen-looking Zimmerman dressed in prison jumpsuit orange, while the victim appeared to be an innocent, fresh-faced child. Thousands of white and black residents gathered to denounce the shooting, and people started wearing “hoodies” like the victim was wearing as a show of solidarity—even the Miami Heat players posed in hoodies—and the usual publicity-seeking suspects appeared to put in their half-pence. Even President Obama weighed-in, claiming that if he had a son, he would be like Martin. Anyone who said that Zimmerman was anything but a racist murderer was accused of being his “ally” rather than a supporter—implying that they “approved” of the shooting. Zimmerman’s story that he was attacked by Martin was vehemently denied; after all, how could a mere “kid” break an adult male’s nose?

I am neither Zimmerman’s “ally” nor “supporter.” I don’t know the man, and neither do the people demonizing him; although he had one arrest for allegedly striking a police officer, he seems to have had a good job and a stable existence. I do strongly believe that resorting to lethal action should be avoided at all costs, but I also support the truth and despise hypocrisy—and the more I look into this, I see less truth and more hypocrisy coming from the Martin camp and the media. When I saw the photos of the two principle players, I knew there was another dynamic at play. Zimmerman was not “white,” at least not as commonly understood. His father is white, but his mother is Latino, and he could easily pass as a “Mexican” in most people’s eyes; it would be like calling the mixed-race Obama “white.” This is why it is so easy for “real” white people to gang-up with blacks in this matter, because there is a tacit understanding that Zimmerman really wasn’t one of them, and Latinos are the current scapegoat of the day. That was the first thing that struck me as not quite right about this case. I also questioned what I regarded as propaganda images the media was providing the public which seemed to designed to maximize the evil man-angelic kid contrast; Martin was in fact 17-years-old and 6’3” (six inches taller than Zimmerman), while the photos of him the media has released are of a youth much younger and shorter. When I mentioned it in a post on another website, someone directed me to a webpage that showed a different contrast: A smiling Zimmerman dressed in a suit and tie, and Trayvon Martin no longer the angelic youth, but shirtless with pulled-down shorts, a smug facial expression, and showing the viewer gang-style hand signals. My “suspicion” is that the family was asked to provide photos of Martin to the media, but the more recent examples they could supply showed not an innocent “boy,” but someone caught-up in at least the symbolism of gang culture. The best they could do was find five-year-old pictures that did not tell a truthful story of what Martin had become.

There are other things that call into question the innocent, angelic image of Martin. It is true he had no juvenile arrest record, but a lot of youths who have had encounters with the police do not have “official” police records—merely released to a parent who kicks the offender in the ass for embarrassing them when they get a call at work to pick-up their kid. But while we know that Zimmerman worked as a forensic loan review analyst at a mortgage company, what we know of Martin for certain is open to question, a lot of questions that his supporters either don’t want to answer or deny the reality of outright. He was in the midst of a 10-day suspension from school; we don’t know why for absolute certainty, because his parents had his school records sealed. Unless he was something less than a model student, why would they do this? Initially Martin’s parents claimed that their son had been suspended for “tardiness.” This was obviously not true, although it might have been part of a pattern of misbehavior. Others claimed on various Internet postings that Martin had been in trouble for marijuana use and assaulting a basketball coach. On Martin’s now deleted twitter account—where his “handle” was “NO_LIMIT_NIGGA,” which doesn’t exactly sound like someone who wanted to be an airline pilot, let alone a constructive member of society—he was congratulated for trying to assault a bus driver just a few days before the shooting. After the shooting a friend tweeted “DOG I KNOW YU WHOOPED HIS ASS DOE.” On Martin’s Facebook page, at least one friend in a photo greets him with gang signs, and in other posts the urban “lingo” implies that Martin was a marijuana dealer. This is confirmed by the discovery of traces of marijuana that were found in a plastic bag in his school pack, which in fact seems to be the reason for his suspension—contradicting the second “explanation” provided by Martin’s father, “unauthorized entry” on school property. It seems that the further you dig, the more that has to be hidden to maintain the story arch; school records sealed or not, people still talk: Martin had been suspended from school on at least two other occasion, in one case for suspected theft.

But that still leaves us with what exactly happened that night. What is known precisely is that Zimmerman, who was volunteer watch captain in the gated community where he lived, saw Martin walking about, and thought he acted “suspiciously,” peering at each house he passed. What the media doesn’t understand is that Zimmerman had a reason to be suspicious: He had never seen Martin before, and in fact Martin had only just arrived to stay in his father’s girlfriend’s home to sit out his suspension from school. The question of why his mother did not want him in her house where he had been living has not been answered with any specificity. There had also been several robberies in the neighborhood recently; if Zimmerman was paranoid, that goes with the “job.” Anyone who has done security guard work knows the feeling that loiterers who just won’t go away are there to cause “trouble” for them. Zimmerman called the police to report a “suspicious” person on the grounds, and was told by the dispatcher not to follow Martin, but to wait until the police arrived. Apparently Zimmerman did not follow this advice; what the media has told us is that the white female witnesses who have been making the talk show circuit testified to an altercation and shouts, and heard a single shot. One of the witnesses said she saw Zimmerman standing over the victim, and was upset that he didn’t administer CPR. Martin’s girlfriend says that he phoned her to say that someone was following him, which tells us nothing but has been used to “prove” his innocence of any no-good.

But these “witnesses” seem to be playing to the hype. What about Zimmerman’s story? He admits that he followed Martin, but when Martin suddenly disappeared, he got out of his vehicle to look for him; when he could not find him, he was in the process of returning to his vehicle when Martin approached him from behind. Zimmerman said that Martin asked him if he had a "problem," and Zimmerman said no. But at 6'3" Martin likely appeared intimidating and threatening, and Zimmerman reached for his cell phone to call the police--and not his gun. Martin was alleged to have said "Now you have one" and struck Zimmerman in the face. That Zimmerman was attacked by Martin seems to be confirmed by the account given by a witness who would only give his name as “John” and refused to photographed, apparently for fear he would be a target of Martin’s “supporters”—a scenario given bizarre credence by the “New Black Panther Party,” which has issued a “Wanted: Dead or Alive” call for the “capture” of Zimmerman (who also seems to have gone into hiding). This witness says that he saw a man in a red sweater (Zimmerman) on the ground being beaten on by a person who was on top of him, the one wearing a “hoodie.” He says it was the man in red who was looking at him and crying “Help, help, help.” This “John” stated that he warned the person who was engaged in the assault that he was going to call 9-1-1 if he didn’t stop. He does state that soon afterward he looked out a window of his dwelling and saw that the person who had been beating on the man in red was now lying on the ground, and appeared to be dead. When police arrived they likely talked to this witness, and noting the grass stains on Zimmerman’s clothes and the bloody condition of his face—his nose was broken—it wasn’t a stretch to believe that he had acted in “self-defense.” The police did confiscate Zimmerman’s weapon, however.

Martin’s supporters point out that he was unarmed, and they do have a “point.” But the demonization of Zimmerman seems to fly in the face of the knowable facts. No one seems to want to know what those facts are, so that they can use the incident to make a social “statement.” Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have made their speeches, the president has weighed-in; frankly, I don’t think he’d be so quick to adopt Martin as his “son” if he knew he wasn’t that sweet-faced kid anymore, but a borderline small-time criminal. When I first saw that the picture of Miami Heat players wearing hoodies in support, I thought it was a group photo of the players involved in the Xavier-Cincinnati BrawlBall incident earlier this season. Do these people really need a lesson in urban “culture?” The wearing of “hoodies” as a deliberate clothing accessory (as well as the pants pulled down your buttocks) has anti-social implications usually associated with gang culture. Frankly, having grown-up in the Seventies I can see now that the “pimp” look showed far more “style” than these classless fashion idiots.

So what have we learned here—or rather, what should we have learned here? First of all, we know—contrary to the media portrayal—that Martin and his friends were no strangers to violence, in fact it was part of their “culture.” We know that criminal activity (drug dealing) was not unknown to Martin. Accepting the fact that shooting a person who is not armed should be the last resort in the face of an assault by said person, the evidence points to the fact that instead of confronting Zimmerman and explaining to him why he was there, Martin chose to physically assault Zimmerman per the dictates of a culture that glorifies violence. Remember that his friend “knows” that Martin is the kind of person who would “whoop” someone like Zimmerman. The testimony of the white women going around in support of Martin simply cannot be trusted in this matter. Of course there is the famous 9-1-1 call that has been used to claim that Martin was heard screaming “help” and Zimmerman using a racial slur; in fact CNN has gone out of its way to employ “experts” to isolate words which they construe to be slurs (anyone who has tried to decipher the closing chant in the Beatles’ “Revolution #9” knows that you can hear whatever you want in it). There can be heard a high-pitched scream, but this cannot be assumed to be Martin, because he wasn’t a “child,” but less than a year away from being an official adult. In fact, Martin's father initially denied that the scream was made by his son, but has since claimed he was misunderstood. As already noted, "John,” who was closest to the “action,” states that it was Zimmerman who screamed to him for help.

So the evidence, if dispassionately examined, would seem to confirm Zimmerman’s story. This tragedy would not have occurred if Zimmerman had simply let things be, but it is wrong for Martin’s supporters to claim that Zimmerman was the “aggressor.” Martin could have simply ignored Zimmerman and gone to the home he was staying in, and allowed Zimmerman to see that at least he was in the neighborhood for a legitimate reason. The more likely scenario is that Martin felt some displeasure that he was being followed, whether he was up to no good or not. Playing a “game” with his pursuer, he deliberately hid himself; when he saw his chance, he ambushed Zimmerman. He was certainly “big” enough to believe he could “take” Zimmerman, and seemed to have the upper hand until Zimmerman pulled out his gun. I don’t believe that one should assume that Zimmerman intended to kill Martin; unlike police who empty their magazines at human targets, Zimmerman fired once, clearly in a moment of feverish “self-defense.”

This case should be decided by due process, not mass hysteria. Such was the case in the worst mass slaying in Indianapolis history, which occurred on the evening of the first day of June, 2006. According to police, two black men armed with an assault rifle and handgun arrived at the house in which dwelled a “Mexican” family. At that time two adults and three children aged 11, 8 and 5 were in the house. The two men forced their way into the house, after which witnesses said that the lights in the house were turned off. Shortly thereafter, two more Latino adults arrived; when they entered the house, one of them was heard to cry out to another person still outside to stay outside. She was seen to be forcibly pulled back into the house. Shots were then heard, and a cry “Not my baby.” After the shooting was over, the two men who had entered the house were seen leaving. When police arrived at the house what they found were seven bodies, all face down, either on the floor—or in the case of the children, on a bed. They were all shot execution style. Shreds of skin and brain were splattered on the floor and walls.

Apparently one of the shooters had a run-in with the another person who lived in the house (but who wasn’t present at the time of the slayings), and jumped at the chance to seek “payback” against the "Mexicans" when told by a friend that there was drugs and money stashed in the house. When they found nothing, the man with the assault rifle went “crazy.” Afterwards, there was no denunciation of the crime by local black leaders, and no Latino activists promised retaliation, and there was hardly any national media attention after the first few hours. But the murderers were found, put on trial, convicted and sentenced to multiple prison terms they are unlikely to live out (at the trial it was admitted that the "friend" who provided the "motive" for the "robbery" had lied). Was it coincidence that this slaying occurred just when anti-Latino immigrant rhetoric was ratcheting-up again? I think not.

But the Indianapolis case bears not the slightest resemblance to the Sanford case—especially in that in the absence of any real evidence of intent to harm by Zimmerman, it is being tried by the court of public opinion, with the media as judge, prosecutor and jury. The media has gone so far in the demon/angel imagery that it would be almost impossible for it do an about-face now and report the truth; to admit to gross error would mean a severe blow to media credibility. From my perspective, the media has already suffered a serious loss of credibility, not just in the way they have reported this story, but the way it has deliberately used propaganda techniques (such as the use of old photographs) to distort reality. The media supporting a mob reaction that is even less interested in an embarrassing truth is both shameful and shameless.

Was Flynn's non-signing Mike Sherman's call?

It isn’t surprising that Mike Salk would jump on that thin reed which is the alleged comment by Miami Dolphin’s owner Stephen Ross to a fan, claiming that if his “coach” really wanted Matt Flynn, the team would have signed him (but only at Ross’ price). But one name left out in the Matt Flynn/Miami equation: Mike Sherman. Who is Mike Sherman? He is the new offensive coordinator of the Dolphins. He used to coach the Packers, but he was already gone when Flynn was drafted. Sherman was also the coach at Texas A&M until he was fired after last season; A&M was regarded as a top-ten team in the preseason, but finished 6-6 before Sherman was released.

And guess who was Sherman's quarterback at A&M? Ryan Tannehill. You want to know why Tannehill’s “stock” has risen so far out of proportion? Because Miami is drafting 8th, and as some people were reporting at the combine, the Dolphins seemed to be more interested in Tannehill (who wasn’t even at the combine) than in Flynn. When the owner says the Dolphins are drafting a quarterback, the question must be asked whose opinion actually mattered most—Joe Philbin’s or Sherman’s? Is Tannehill Sherman’s “guy?”—and he didn’t want him competing with Flynn? If Miami does draft Tannehill early, then that question is answered.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"Super Bowl or Bust" doesn't mean "busting" opposing players, NFL rules

People are questioning the severity of the NFL’s penalties on the New Orleans Saints’ for their “bounty” system, which included a one-year suspension of coach Sean Payton without pay, and the loss of draft picks. But there were good reasons for it. The effort to take out specific opposing players by keying on particular parts of the body that are the most vulnerable to injury, like head, knees or ankles was directly opposed to the league’s emphasis on player safety. Injuries to these parts of the body happen in a matter of course, but there is a difference between hitting random parts of the body and intentionally targeting specific parts, particularly when you throw in a monetary motive to do so.

But I think more than the denials and false statements made by the Saints’ organization during the initial investigation, the NFL was conscious of the fact that the most egregious examples of the “bounty” occurred during the 2009 season, when the Saints won the Super Bowl. The NFL could not take away their Super Bowl trophy, but they could send the message that a team should think twice if it thought it could “cheat” its way to a Super Bowl by intentionally seriously injuring a player. The targeting of Brett Favre’s ankle in the 2009 NFC title game was the injury that ultimately ended his career for good. Favre’s ankle reportedly did not respond well to surgery and rehab, which explained why he had to be “convinced” by a special trip by teammates and extra money to return for the 2010 season. His reduced mobility because the ankle injury he suffered against the Saints was almost certainly the reason for the Vikings reduction in offensive production that year and 6-10 finish.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Give Salk a pacifier

I’m not going to let Mike Salk of the local ESPN radio affiliate make me depressed, just because he has been acting like a big baby ever since he heard the news that Matt Flynn was signed by the Seattle Seahawks; somebody please give him a pacifier. John Clayton was probably referring to people like him on Monday when he said that some fans needed to get a grip on reality. Salk was never able to understand that Robert Griffin III—who, frankly, was a virtual unknown until midway through the 2011 season—could only be had for far more than what the Redskins eventually “paid” for him, given the Seahawks’ inferior draft position. Because RG3 has not started an NFL game, it was more than a reach for the Seahawks to trade away countless draft picks based merely on expectations and hope; that is what you are getting with Flynn for much less.

And that was before Salk became inexplicably enamored with Russell Wilson. I’m a Badgers fan, so I have nothing against Wilson, although the hype didn’t quite translate into that unbeaten season that many Wisconsin fans (and even some “experts”) thought was sure to happen; I hope he finds a home in the NFL and does well, but I don’t see him as anything but a solid career back-up who might be fortunate to start for a bad team with nothing to lose. But Salk quickly forgot about Wilson when Peyton Manning became available; Salk wasn’t as dewy-eyed as Brock Huard on Peyton Manning, but he was equally gulled into the fantasy that Manning could actually find Seattle on a map, let alone be bothered to travel here.

Although at one point Salk granted that he would accept John Schneider’s judgment that Flynn was a viable candidate for the Seahawks future quarterbacking needs, merely the possibility of it seems to make him physically ill. This malady is the cause his latest obsession: Alex Smith, who at this writing remains unsigned. Smith is not even as good as David Garrard, who the Miami Dolphins just signed (I’m sure Miami sports writers who made excuses for why the Dolphins whiffed on Flynn are doing cartwheels over that acquisition). Smith’s only significant improvement last season over his previous years was his reduction in interceptions; if he had the number that was more typical of past history—14 instead of 5—last year would have not have been noticeably better than his previous years. The 49ers are also not likely to repeat their success in 2012 if Smith returns; the 2011 season was clearly an anomaly. The 49ers were 11th in points scored but 26th in total offense, with the 29th-ranked passing game. However, the 49ers were 2nd in points allowed and 4th in yards allowed. The total offense and defense numbers would suggest an 8-8 team, but the 49ers had five fourth quarter comebacks during the regular season, which accounts for their 13-3 record. In these five games, Smith threw only 4 TD passes, with a rating of 84.3, less than his 90.7 for the season. The difference was that the 49ers led the NFL in takeaway/giveaway ratio, at plus-28. The 49ers victory over the Saints in the playoffs came largely from this factor; the Saints nearly won the game despite committing five turnovers.

The new reality that Salk and others like him (who increasingly seem to be motivated by petty personal considerations) must get a grip on is that Matt Flynn is the quarterback that Schneider believes has greater potential than the options that the team had a realistic opportunity to pursue. We have seen what his potential could be, and it is extraordinarily high; we just have to see a reasonable facsimile of it over the course of an entire season. We already know what Tarvaris Jackson’s ceiling is—you can hit your head on it—and the rest of the free-agent crop have already reached their “potential,” none of whom promises to advance the Seahawks’ cause. Schneider did imply that Pete Carroll, still soft on Jackson, needed convincing; Flynn was persuaded to engage in a private workout to satisfy his “questions” about him before committing to a contract. And even then Carroll felt such loyalty to Jackson (and no doubt to his offensive coordinator’s judgment, which stands to take a hit) that during his conference call session could not refrain from leaving many fans who heard him with a frustrated feeling, insisting that T-Jack is “well ahead” of Flynn, although he expects that Flynn to “try” to take “his” job.

My feeling is that Jackson had more than his share of opportunities, and he didn’t perform appreciably better than in previous years despite knowing Darrell Bevell’s system, and essentially being coddled all season by Carroll. In order for Jackson to improve means that his decision making and judgment must improve—and that’s not something that can be taught; it has to come both from experience and instinct, and he has not demonstrated that experience has improved his play. But putting away these issues aside for a moment, the show of due diligence by the coaching staff in feeling out Flynn’s football acumen in person—and given the modest price involved—should be enough to calm the doubters. Danny O’Neil and Hugh Millen seem to at least have modified their prior opinions about Flynn. Some other people might also give Flynn such a benefit.

As an aside, I found a conversation with Flynn’s former offensive coordinator at LSU, Dave Crowton, on KJR informative. It was Crowton’s opinion that because of injuries to his ankle and shoulder, his game film did not show Flynn in the best possible light— in part accounting for his drop in the draft. Crowton also dismissed criticisms of Flynn’s physical attributes that are used to suggest limitations in the plays he is capable of making. Doing some research, I discovered that Flynn, after three years studying the offensive scheme that produced JaMarcus Russell, had to learn a new one when the former BYU coach was hired by LSU as OC his senior year. Although Crowton’s system came under criticism in subsequent years, with Flynn at quarterback LSU averaged nearly 40 points per game on the way to a national championship; in subsequent years there was a notable drop-off in offensive production until Crowton was “released” by LSU in 2010.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Miracles happen, even for Seattle sports

According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on Sunday morning, the Miami Dolphins were engaged in a “full-court press” to sign free agent quarterback Matt Flynn, although Alex Smith, who remains unsigned by the 49ers pending the conclusion of the increasingly tiresome Peyton Manning merry-go-round, also paid a visit to the team. It was news that should have gladdened the hearts of Tarvaris Jackson supporters, hot on the heels of reports on Saturday that the only thing that Seattle offered Flynn during his stay here was the “promise” that he would have the “opportunity” to “compete” with Jackson for the starting quarterback job; no serious contract offer was discussed. Some people (like me) might find such an “offer” insulting; if the Seahawks were not going to pay him, they could have done the next best thing by telling him (at least privately) that the starting job was his to lose. If Flynn was signed, I don’t believe that Seahawks fans would have tolerated anything less. It is for that reason that the Seahawks initially low-balled Flynn, because after the organization bloated T-Jack into something that most of us do not recognize; they couldn’t back down and admit that they had their doubts about T-Jack. To suggest that Flynn and his two starts had demonstrated superior fundamentals and intangibles compared to T-Jack would be a deflating suggestion. Going after Peyton Manning—no matter how much in the realm of fantasy—at least had the advantage of the tacit acknowledgement that there was at least one quarterback on the market that the organization could save face with.

So while the Seahawks played small ball with Flynn, I imagined that the Jackson apologists who portrayed Flynn as little more than a pee-wee leaguer (like Danny O’Neil, Eric Williams and Hugh Millen)--if they had their way--would have trouble all season wiping that egg off their faces. Their credibility already shot, these guys would need to explain why they belittled Flynn while harboring relentless excuses for T-Jack. I understand that they regard T-Jack as an “underdog” who only needed the loving care and self-esteem support he didn’t receive from Chilly. T-Jack was actually forced on Childress by management, and it showed. I remember the first game I saw T-Jack, a late season game against the Packers in his rookie season and Mike McCarthy’s first year as coach; the Packers won the game on a late field goal, 9-7. I remember thinking that the Vikings couldn’t be serious about this guy; he looked like a soccer player who got his “game” mixed-up. Favre--a year removed from his season “best” 29 interceptions--was playing defensively for his new coach, yet the Packers couldn’t give away this game even if they just stood there like statues. Chilly just stood there with a look on his face that said “Why me?”

In 2009, Vikings’ DT Pat Williams said “I talk to Tarvaris all the time (and) tell him you have to put in the time. This ain’t college no more. This is the NFL. You have to put in more time than you are used to putting in. If you are putting in four hours, you have to put in eight. You have to put in more time than what he’s doing.” Whether or not it would improve his skills if he did so is another matter. The Vikings were so tired of his shtick that if Favre hadn’t arrived in 2009, most Vikings fans assumed that Sage Rosenfels would be the starter that year. After Favre’s final injury in 2010, Jackson’s 46.3 QB rating performance in his first start of the season against the Giants (a “home” game in Detroit) signaled the end of the Viking’s patience with him; third-stringer Joe Webb played out the rest of the season, leading the team to a victory over the Eagles in Philadelphia. That is not to say that there are one or two people who remain delusional about T-Jack’s “up-side”—such as offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.

Look, I am perfectly willing to grant that T-Jack, after six years of practice, can function as a quarterback in the NFl. He may even “shock” some people with an occasional competent performance that can’t be entirely credited to the defense or playmakers. He can come into a game and tread water if he has good players around him; but Seattle was arguably a better team than Cincinnati from top to bottom, and a rookie quarterback with only above-average skills took his team to the play-offs, and T-Jack did not. I’m amused by Eric Williams suggesting that T-Jack’s play might improve if he had better blocking; one of the criticisms of T-Jack is that he stands around in the pocket forever in indecision. The question then is, how much time does he need? Should the NFL pass a rule stating that for certain quarterbacks, linemen have to wait five seconds before they are allowed to rush the quarterback?

So it was inconceivable in my mind that the Seahawks would not be serious about Flynn, for if so then we could probably expect the following scenario: Another year of relative mediocrity, perhaps not even as “good” as last year’s team if Carroll and Schneider can’t pull more rabbits out of their hats if they can’t adequately replace the players they are losing. By mediocre I mean just bad enough to have fans asking WTF were they thinking, and just “good” enough to play themselves out of the running for Barkley or Landry Jones. It is also useful to note that if history is any judge, the Seahawks may never draft a quality quarterback (like Favre instead of McGwire); Zorn and Krieg were undrafted free agents, and Hasselbeck was acquired in a trade with Green Bay. At least they can go on what has worked in the past?

All I could say was that I tried my best; I grew-up a Packer fan, and I was just trying to help-out your silly team. The Packers have had only two losing seasons in the past 20; that expectation of winning is something that Flynn would bring to the Seahawks. Guys like O’Neil and Eric Williams—they would foist continuing mediocrity on the team for political reasons. Oh, and one other thing: Millen’s career NFL line proves that he knows what a good quarterback is:

W-L 7-18, 22 TDs, 35 INTs, 73.5 QB rating.

T-Jack IS a better quarterback—than Millen was.

But was it really hopeless? Scouring the Internet for updates all day Sunday, I came across the curious story that not only did Smith visit South Florida, but so did ex-Jaguar David Garrard, he of the bulging disk that no one was interested in after he was cut before the start of last season. I thought to myself "I understand Smith getting an invite, as a way to push Flynn into signing a contract he might not like. But Garrard?" Was there a message here, that Miami knew it was about to get stiffed again? Somebody was desperate, and it wasn't necessarily Flynn. Could it be that Seattle's interest in Flynn was more than cosmetic, as the notoriously wrong O'Neil repeatedly insisted? Flynn's father was quoted as saying that Flynn's desire was to sign with Miami, but he did suggest that his son got along fine with Pete Carroll, and Seattle was still a possibility. More tellingly, Miami sports commentators were worried that the Dolphins were going to find a way to "screw-up" the Flynn deal.

And then, a miracle: Matt Flynn has agreed to a 3-year, $26 million contract to play for the Seahawks. Far less than the Kevin Kolb deal, but it was enough to convince Flynn that the Seahawks did not intend for him to be an expensive back-up, a tacit expectation that he would be, as it stands now, the team's best option at quarterback. There are people who still insist that we haven't seen enough to warrant high expectations, based on a "meaningless" game against Detroit. It continuously frustrates me when sob-brothers like Mike Salk say that game was "meaningless." The Packers didn't "need" to win it, but McCarthy did intend it to mean something by giving Aaron Rodgers the responsibility of calling the plays in the first half, and Rodgers didn't want to look like a fool doing it; Flynn not only demonstrated his ability to handle complex plays, but to have the gonads to use his own judgment and change plays at the line of scrimmage. The game certainly meant something to the Lions, who played all their starters from first to last. It certainly meant something to Stafford, who played to win right to the end. And, in the end, it meant everything to Flynn to play well.

If the Detroit game represented Flynn's "upside," then that was at least as good as the top half of the current starting quarterback line-up--and certainly better than anything we've seen from a Seahawks' quarterback in a long time. It certainly is better than what his critics "see," who whine about his "experience" without taking note of his polished fundamentals. My own expectation is that Flynn will immediately demonstrate the on-field leadership and skills that will make this team better than it was before. According to Flynn's father, the Seahawks' saw the light that others did not want to see: "They (Miami) had a difference in evaluation as to his value." For me, I was not a Seahawks fan before, but with Flynn given the opportunity to display his gifts close-up, I can't wait to see how the 2012 season transpires for this team.

There will, of course, be speculation on how this deal came down, particularly because the “experts”—such as the local sports writers—were completely blind-sided by Flynn’s signing with the allegedly lukewarm Seahawks, due mainly to their personal prejudices against Flynn. If indeed the Seahawks did not initially offer Flynn a contract, Carroll and Schneider may have simply made the smart move by not alienating Flynn with a completely unacceptable deal, waiting to see what the Dolphins were offering. The Flynn camp seemed to feel that the Dolphins were so convinced that he would do anything to play for his old coach, that they were trying to take advantage of him by making a low-ball offer. This might have confirmed for Flynn that Miami was just as dysfunctional an organization as the Jets and the Redskins, and the Carroll/Schneider team had their act together. After the signing, Carroll released a statement which not surprisingly attempted to avoid upsetting T-Jack’s sensitivities, although frankly he should by now be honest about his limitations. As ESPN’s Adam Schefter implied, the reality is that the Seahawk’s monetary commitment only makes sense if they intend to tailor the offense to best take advantage of Flynn’s skills.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Worshipping false gods

Since Peyton Manning was released by the Indianapolis Colts, the Seattle sports media has predictably gone batshit crazy over the possibility, however slight, that Manning may land in Seattle. The problem, of course, is that so did half of the rest of the league. All these teams would have their own arguments justifying why they are Manning’s best option. Phil Sims told some gullible local sports personality (I think it was Brock Huard) that Seattle would be one of the top-three potential destinations for Manning. The problem with such predictions is that last week the Washington Redskins were in that mix, and this week we learn that the Redskins’ phone calls are not being returned by Manning’s representatives; Manning actually did the Redskins a favor by sparing them the foolish move, allowing them to essentially trade for Robert Griffin III (which, of course, makes Salk unhappy). If Manning does give Seattle the time of day, it is because he has doubts about his capacity to compete for a full season, and Seattle is just the kind of town that will faun over his every eye-blink and marvel at every pass regardless of where it lands; they want people to see that when they look at Manning’s career stat line, they can proudly say that the Great Peyton Manning played (however badly) for the Seahawks. Of course, the local pundits are saying that the real reason they want Manning here is to win a Super Bowl, but listening to Brock, one receives the impression that Manning’s mere presence will be the highlight of his life. After all, what else is going on in the Seattle sports’ scene other than easily forgettable mediocrity?

Being a Brett Favre supporter, I also can’t help but detect the scent of mendacity in the reporting on Manning. At this point in his career, Favre was also attending “spring training,” in fact criticizing Antonio Freeman one year for not reporting. And now with the new labor agreement, Manning has all spring to himself, and no one will accuse him of being “selfish.” From my perspective, the Packers in the end treated Favre more shabbily that the Colts treated Manning; remember that the Ted Thompson didn’t think that Favre was “done”—he just wanted his guy in as quarterback. When Favre got over his frustration with Packer management, he announced he wanted to play; the Packers didn’t want him back, but they refused to give him his release, because they wanted to avoid the embarrassment of him signing with a division rival. So they traded him to a team—much like Seattle is now—desperate for a “quick fix.” The difference is that Favre had no choice if he still wanted to play.

I also wonder what kind of fit Manning will be here. Let’s not kid ourselves: There will be red carpets laid out all over town, the mayor and every local swell-head will be jostling to be photographed with him, and his own already swelled-up head will swell even more. I suppose that one would think that since Manning and me are alumni from the same school that it would be a matter of some pride that I walked the same halls as this football “genius.” Not one bit, and not because I’m a Big Ten guy. All I know is that Tennessee did achieve the pinnacle of the college football world that everyone had been predicting with this genius at quarterback until the year after he left. Maybe it was because it wasn’t all about Peyton anymore, but the team. There were other things that bothered me that don’t seem to bother other people. Stat padding always seemed important him; take for instance the infamous run-un with offensive lineman Jeff on the sideline, who merely suggested that they could call a running play close to the goal line instead of throwing three straight incomplete passes and settling for a field goal. The coddling of Manning by the media and his “suitors” also seems to be a bit unseemly; perhaps Colts owner Jim Irsay was simply tired of it. Poor Peyton can’t play in cold weather, like Brett Favre, who spent 19 years playing in football weather—not temperature-controlled environments or 70 degree weather like Dan Marino. There is no doubt in my mind that Manning benefited tremendously not having to playing in less than “ideal” playing conditions—either in college or the NFL.

It is also disturbing to me that Manning would leave a trail of destructiveness in the two cities that he has taken an interest in. Why is he entertaining Denver? Is it because he is altruistic, because he really likes Tim Tebow and thinks he can “mentor” him—or does he think that Tebow is his easiest footstool? It must be the latter, because the latest rumor is that Denver will trade Tebow if they sign Manning. The same for Arizona; the team is ready to cut Kevin Kolb if Manning chooses to sign there. And for what? The hope the Manning still has sufficient arm strength, and that he can survive the first big hit? Sure, Manning is a “genius,” but if his body doesn’t obey his mind, these teams might discover that more is less.

In all honesty, Seattle’s best option at this point is signing Matt Flynn; but frankly, if the Seahawks don’t do so, I will relish the spectacle of yet another blown opportunity (like when the Seahawks thought that Dan McGwire was a better quarterback prospect than Favre in 1991) by this snake-bit team. It deserves nothing less. It seems that many local commentators, like Salk, Bob and Groz, and Ian Furness, are desperately trying to convince themselves that Flynn is a mediocrity. They are assisted in this by the local print journalists like Danny O’Neil and Eric Williams, who in the past have been notoriously ill-informed as to the intentions of the current Seahawks’ management in regard to personnel. Of course no one is going to express too much interest in Flynn, because the league would have regarded it as illegal tampering. The talk that if Seahawks really wanted Flynn they would have traded for him last year holds no water, because it doesn’t take into account that the Packers had no interest in trading him, in light of the potential of Aaron Rodgers suffering an injury—and most fantasy football “experts” regarded Flynn as a top-five fantasy pick at quarterback if he had to replace Rodgers.

I also take exception to the comparisons to Kevin Kolb, as do many non-local observers. I downloaded the complete telecast of the Packers-Lions game, and have watched it several times; maybe the local “experts” need to do the same. Flynn demonstrated all of the qualities you want to see in a quarterback: Cool and unflinching in adversity, toughness, making plays with defenders in his face, making smart decisions (the TD pass to Nelson on the “free” play), throwing precise deep balls (the 40-yarder to Jones on third down late), nonplused by the prospect of being challenged by a 5,000-yard passer, and leading a game-winning drive in the final minutes. And, oh yes, setting team records for single-game passing yards and TD passes. Flynn passed—in Brock words—the “Eye Test.” I’ve heard people (like Damon Huard) say that this doesn’t matter because it was a “meaningless” game. Do you think this was a “meaningless” game to Flynn? To the Lions, judging from their body language, this was also far from a “meaningless” game—this was a grudge match. The Seahawks would simply be foolish not to seriously consider him.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Buchanan fired from MSNBC: What took them so long?

It’s been some years ago since I last watched “The McLaughlin Group” political roundtable on PBS. I recall that one of the regular panelists was Pat Buchanan. I was instinctively put-off by his arrogance and his habit of putting people he had only a superficial knowledge of in tidy little boxes from which there was no escape. Buchanan had written books with decidedly provocative titles, like “State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America” and “The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization,” but because he seemed “affable” to his white co-workers, his manifest bigotry was accepted as an “eccentricity.” Even left-wing radio personality Stephanie Miller referred to him as her “daddy.”

But there had to come a point where his liberal and moderate colleagues had to say to themselves that by silently tolerating his thinly-disguised white supremacist leanings, they were now being perceived to be consenting to it. I had thought that Buchanan had finally crossed the line of propriety when one day, completely out of context with what the “Group” was discussing at the moment, he blurted out “Hispanics are out to destroy this country.” His virulent tone was obviously discomfiting; the other panelists seemed unable to formulate a response to this declaration, merely looking on in mute bewilderment.

But Buchanan didn’t get kicked-off "McLaughlin," and somehow he landed another position as a regular “contributor” on the left-leaning MSNBC. Again, Buchanan seemed to receive a free pass from his white colleagues, only occasionally taken to task for his bigoted commentary if in the presence of a token minority. Buchanan’s hate was becoming “mainstream,” and along with his fellow right-wing ideologues over at Fox News, hate speech, paranoia, divisiveness and xenophobia was becoming “acceptable,” part and parcel with a political climate in which civil discourse and compromise was fast becoming an anachronism.

But there had to come a time when people finally realized that Buchanan had can gone too far, his white supremacist rants no longer confined to a sound bite which could be covered up or accused of being "taken out of context," but out there in the open for everyone to digest in his latest book. Although its subject matter and tone was little different from the aforementioned titles, “Suicide of a Superpower” for some reason disturbed a few people. Like Arizona state senator Russell Pearce, Buchanan has proven incapable of putting aside his hate to find some accommodation, even if only as a concept, for the potentiality that the groups he disparages also have the pursuit of the American Dream in mind, and have no desire to disrupt the current institutions. Instead, his notion of white privilege only grows more desperate and paranoid. Like many white supremacists, Buchanan fears that there will be a reckoning for the centuries of the white majority controlling what racial minorities can or cannot do; what he doesn’t understand, and never will, that the future can only be insured if one puts aside hate and decides that one needs to work with the “others” in order to achieve a constructive purpose. The voters in Pearce’s district made one small step in that direction when they decided that they didn’t share his blind hatred for “Mexicans,” and voted to recall him. MSNBC chose to suspend Buchanan indefinitely, before announcing that he was fired a month ago.

Unfortunately for the civilized world, Buchanan’s words survive and thrive in same universe as “The Turner Diaries,” used by Timothy McVeigh as a “guide book” to initiative a race Holocaust. “When the faith dies,” he opines in the preface of “Suicide,” “the culture dies, the civilization dies, the people die. That is the progression. And as the faith that gave birth to the West is dying in the West, peoples of European descent from the steppes of Russia to the coast of California have begun to die out, as the Third World treks north to claim the estate. The last decade provided corroborating if not conclusive proof that we are in the Indian summer of our civilization.” Note the word “north.” Buchanan, who we have already noted believes that Latinos are “out to destroy this country,” suggests here that Latino immigrants possess a "master plan" to effect the conquest of America. But you want to know something? They don't. They are just like everyone else--they just want to live. Nor is Mexico ((technically) a “Third World” country, and its culture is just as dominated by European influences as the United States’. The prevailing “Spanish” culture is also no less “Western” than Italian, Russian and German “culture.” Buchanan’s blind hatred of people “different” from him is such that it is impossible for him to recognize that they have more in common than different.

What exactly is the world that Buchanan believes himself occupying? Buchanan in his paranoid vision believes that Barack Obama is engaged in “a long and successful campaign to expel Christianity from the public square, diminish its presence in our public life, and reduce its role to that of just another religion.” Anyone with a modicum of brain activity should come to conclusion that Obama has not supported or opposed religion in any substantive way, which is his duty under the Constitution’s dictum of separation of church and state—i.e. not promoting one religion over another. What seems to be the real issue with “Christians” like Buchanan is that Obama has not done enough to dispel the on-going myth by many on the paranoid Right that he is not, in fact, a “Muslim.” And of course being a “Muslim” also means that he is an “enemy” of Anglo-America and its Christian “traditions.” Otherwise, Buchanan has absolutely no point whatever.

Buchanan’s principle concern, not surprisingly, is the “specter” of “his” country going over to the “barbarians”—that is to say anyone who doesn’t share his skin color. “The white population will begin to shrink and, should present birth rates persist, slowly disappear. Hispanics already comprise 42 percent of New Mexico’s population, 37 percent of California’s, 38 percent of Texas’s, and over half the population of Arizona under the age of twenty.” Buchanan considers “Mexicans” the gravest threat to “domestic tranquility,” despite the fact that it is the anti-immigrant fanatics who have completely ignored the symbiotic relationship that the U.S. has had with Mexican laborers for over a century and have themselves upset the “tranquility” by avoiding discussion of their own refusal to honestly discuss domestic failings, instead using the “Mexicans” as scapegoats. Buchanan fears that “Ethnically, linguistically, and culturally” the country will turn into an extension of Mexico. He muses “Will this Mexican nation within a nation advance the goals of the Constitution…Or has our passivity in the face of this invasion imperiled our union?” The only people “imperiling” the union are those who actively endorse discrimination, intolerance and division; these are all actively pursued by the Right, and are the actual cause of this “disunion.” The Right always talks about the need for “assimilation” on their terms, yet everything they say and do suggests that they fear and detest assimilation—because it implies that they must treat those not like themselves as equal partners. Buchanan himself clearly opposes this concept.

Like many of his stripe, Buchanan hypocritically intones the name of Martin Luther King and his “content of character” dictum. The problem is that he again is being, well, a hypocrite; after expressing fear of a non-white America (absurd on its face) and denigrating minorities at every opportunity, he has the absolute gall to criticize racial minorities for making whites aware of their own character flaws. After all, it isn’t racial minorities who have acceptance issues; it is whites who are the ones who have a difficult time with this. Interestingly, Buchanan criticizes the minority journalist organizations for demanding higher representation in the field: “Jim Crow is back. Only the color of the beneficiaries and the color of the victims have been reversed.” What Buchanan and his self-serving ilk are really saying is that they want the white perspective to completely control the message, which of course it has done effectively in regard to the immigration issue—and they want to keep it that way. For Buchanan it is perhaps a bit more personal; he finds it almost impossible to function in an environment where he is forced to converse on equal terms with people he feels “superior” to and has nothing but contempt for their right to call him out on his small-minded bigotry. Buchanan, not surprisingly, derides non-racist whites as fools who will “discover what it is like to ride in the back of the bus.” Buchanan’s hypocrisy reaches an even more pungent stench when he derides what he calls the “diversity cult”; once more, while he attacks minorities for allegedly not desiring “assimilation,” he fears assimilation and desires to impede it in the hopes to head-off a non-white “takeover.” He is, of course, wrong in his belief that in some distant future minorities will control the course of the country; corporate barons are in de facto control of political discourse now, and will continue to do so for the indefinite future.

Buchanan also opined in his execrable tome that the founding fathers did not envision a country where the Constitution and the Bill of Rights applied to every man and woman in this country, regardless of social or economic status. The founding fathers were still living in a time when social mobility was limited to privileged “elites,” where prejudice against “inferiors”—to include non-Anglo Europeans—based largely upon ignorance and chauvinism. We live a different world today, where opportunity has expanded beyond the domain of white men, and the concept of equality has expanded in like fashion. But Buchanan prefers to place himself in a time and place where ignorance and chauvinism is the accepted practice. Even more despicably, what Buchanan chooses not to understand is that the civil rights laws of the 1960s did not impose “new” rights alien to the Constitution; what they did was force states which chose to ignore or deliberately deny the “inalienable rights” of certain groups to respect those rights.

Buchanan is also concerned about crime, mainly minority crime. To help him understand it, he relies on “rational” racists like Heather MacDonald to bolster his idea that minorities are sending this country to a fiery hell. Many commentators seemed to be mesmerized by MacDonald’s data in justifying her fixation on alleged minority criminality. But when one examines New York City crime statistics that are quoted, we find a few interesting tidbits that do not completely follow MacDonald's line. For example, NYPD crime statistical reports show that the arrest rates of Latinos in every crime category had up to a 20 percent higher arrest rate than their actual percentage as crime perpetrators in 2010--meaning that Latinos were targeted more by the police. Latino crime rates overall in fact are no higher than their percentage of the population; while Latinos accounted for 23 percent of shooting suspects, this was actually less than their percentage of the population (27 percent). Although blacks and Latinos account for 90 percent of homicide suspects, they also account for 90 percent of homicide victims—which hardly justifies white fear of being victims. It is useful to note that 54 percent of the population of NYC is black and Latino--which might suggest that this is not as statistically significant if given other factors, such as the median income of blacks in NYC being 60 percent that of whites, while that median income of Latinos is 55 percent that of whites. It might also be suggested that the fact that blacks in NYC have three times the (official) unemployment rate of whites, while Latinos have 2 ½ times the rate currently has fostered some variety of social dysfunction.

The NYPD has also recently been under fire for fudging crime statistics; if this benefited white crime reporting—thus creating an even larger “gap”—it wouldn’t surprise me in the least. MacDonald (who is frequently used as an “expert” by Fox News and CNN), has also suggested that the disproportionate arrest, conviction and incarceration rates of blacks for drug crimes despite similar usage rates by whites is due to “a heartfelt effort to protect the overwhelmingly black victims of crack, not to penalize them.” In 2001, the Sentencing Project concluded that in regard to drug offenses, black youths were 48 times more likely a than white youths to be imprisoned—despite drug use proportionate with their percentage of the population. MacDonald also promotes the myth of illegal immigrants and violent crime, giving Buchanan the cover to announce “Those promoting open borders and unchecked immigration rate cheap scab labor and ethnic votes over the daily threats of migrant rapists, murderers, child molesters and terrorists.”

One solution to the race “problem” as Buchanan envisions it is for the Republican Party to engage in a strategy to position itself as the “white party.” Of course, many people think it already is, but what Buchanan is talking about is ALL white people, as a "counterbalance" against the "colored" menace that aims rob and plunder once they are allowed to seize power. This is just another example of the hypocrisy of whites who accuse minorities of not wanting to be “American.” People like Buchanan do not regard racial minorities as “real” Americans, but interlopers that must be crushed: “Why should Republicans be ashamed to represent the progeny of the men who founded, built, and defended America since her birth as a nation?”

Not everyone in this country, of course, is the "progeny" of the original colonists--and that includes most white Americans. Charles Hirschman, a professor at the University of Washington, observed that since the vast majority of Americans are descended from immigrants who came to the country after the 1800s, “Most Americans have acquired a sense of historical continuity from America’s founding, but this is primarily the result of socialization and education, not descent.” This begs the question as to why it is necessary for Buchanan to make distinctions about who is or isn’t “American” simply based on race. The reason, of course, is that Buchanan is less “American” than he is your typical hooded night-rider. This country prided itself on being a “melting pot”; Buchanan considers this an “audacious experiment” that wishes to “transform a Western Christian republic into an egalitarian democracy made up of all the tribes, races, creeds, and cultures of planet Earth.” Isn’t that what makes this country the greatest on Earth? Not according to this white supremacist: “They have dethroned our God, purged our cradle faith from public life, and repudiated the Judeo-Christian moral code by which previous generations sought to live.” To force whites to live by the creeds they allegedly hold so dear only leads to white anger as a “legitimate response to racial injustices done to white people.” This is neo-Nazi propaganda that has no basis in reality, but it feeds into the idea of white “privilege.”

Buchanan, incredibly, finds segregation an “American” institution: “Back then, black and white lived apart, went to different schools and churches, played on different playgrounds, and went to different restaurants, bars, theaters, and soda fountains. But we shared a country and a culture. We were one nation. We were Americans.” What??? What Buchanan is really saying is that blacks lived off to the side, not getting in the way of whites occupying every role in the national life. There was no “sharing” of the vital life of the nation, and whites didn’t treat blacks (or anyone else not white) as “part” of “one” nation; they were merely groups to be controlled and marginalized.

Buchanan has other fascinating commentary on his resume, including anti-Semitism. The reality is that Buchanan and others like him are not “Americans” or "patriots," and do not believe in the universality, tolerance and belief in the individual this country stands for. Buchanan believes that no one but white Americans have any “right” to enjoy the “privileges” that this country offers solely on the fact that the founders were white. In effect he does not grant anyone who is not white a shared humanity, as if they are of a different species—even a subhuman species. This is why Buchanan’s time has long been up; why the mainstream media continues to regard him with any credibility is a continuing mystery.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Media and advertisers OK with Limbaugh's racial comments?

There was a recent dust-up caused by Rush Limbaugh, who suggested that a Georgetown University law student, Sandra Fluke, was condoning activities that made one a “slut” and “prostitute” after telling a congressional committee that they should pass a law requiring health insurance companies to pay for women’s contraceptives. She suggested that a student could be forced to pay $1,000 a year in contraceptives out of their own pocket, which frankly does suggest a rather busy “love” life—and a bit self-serving too. All in the service, of course, of that politicized concept of “women’s health.” Limbaugh’s admittedly poor use of terms caused several companies to pull their advertisements off his show, probably for their own self-serving reasons. It was “welcome” insofar as Limbaugh was forced to acknowledge the fact that his views have a cost that might hurt him personally, rather than those he slanders on a regular basis (publicity strumpet/lawyer Gloria Allred is already offering her "services" to any offended party to "assist" in that regard--although frankly, these two professional bigots turn my stomach in equal measure).

However, I can’t help but detect more than a little hypocrisy concerning this episode. For example, it is rarely spoken of where men acquire venereal diseases, and the vagina is infamous for being the repository of various unhealthy organisms, regardless of the level of sexual activity. So should condoms also be paid for by health insurance? If you think that is funny, then why should no one look askance at health insurance companies being made to pay for what is, after all, a voluntary activity? Frankly this all ties into the bizarre when it comes to the politicization of women’s health. Breast cancer receives more research funding than any other cancer, yet it is also one of the more treatable. The aftermath of the episode involving the breast cancer foundation Komen with Planned Parenthood, in which Komen was attacked for “politicizing” abortion after it temporarily withdrew donations for the abortion mill, is instructive (naturally, it doesn’t matter that it is a naïve person who does not suspect that Planned Parenthood is engaging in “creative” bookmaking to illegally divert funds to its principle operation). Since the defense of abortion requires a great deal of hot air, breast cancer advocates have been (temporarily) singed and gone into hiding to recover, allowing heart disease--which is in fact the leading killer of women--to be the next women’s health “crisis.” Of course it is also the leading killer of men, but hold on a second: The latest propaganda is that heart disease is even “worse” in women than in men, supposedly because its symptoms are more “insidious.” The women’s health propagandists ignore the fact that the reason for this is that women do not normally engage in strenuous work, activities and stresses that bring on effects of heart disease to more rapid result.

But it isn’t really the women’s health angle that disturbed me about the Limbaugh episode. The real hypocrisy is yet another example of the double-standards that the media and society engages in. The media and advertisers have expressed next to zero concern about zingers like these from Limbaugh:

“Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?”

“Look, let me put it to you this way: the NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it.”

“The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies.”

“They’re 12 percent of the population. Who the hell cares?”

“Take that bone out of your nose and call me back.”

“You just gotta be who you are, and I think it's time to get rid of this whole National Basketball Association. Call it the TBA, the Thug Basketball Association, and stop calling them teams. Call 'em gangs.”

“Let's assume you're right. So, David Paterson (former NY governor) will become the massa who gets to appoint whoever gets to take Massa's place. So, for the first time in his life, Paterson's gonna be a massa. Interesting, interesting.”

“Seems that the NAALCP (sic), which is—which equals racism. Forget calling them the NAACP. They are now the R-A-C-I-S-M. NAACP equals racism. And they're all applauding her [Sherrod] when she's talking about racism.”

Limbaugh has repeatedly referred to Barack Obama as a “racist” while calling him a “Halfrican-American” and “Barack the Magic Negro.” And: “Obama is more African in his roots than he is American…behaving like an African colonial despot.”

Other Obamaisms:

“Obama's America, white kids getting beat up on school buses now. I mean, you put your kids on a school bus, you expect safety. But in Obama's America, the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering ‘Yay! Right on, right on, right on, right on.’"

Obama’s economic plan will cause “rioting in the streets now! And there's going to be more rioting in the streets because that's part of the program here. And next up there are going to be race riots, I guarantee it. Race riots are part of the plan that this regime has. That's next.”

And two "unsubstantiated" quotes that were strangely, vehemently, denied (because they are certainly no worse than the previous quotes) coming from the depraved mind of Limbaugh:

“I mean, let’s face it, we didn’t have slavery in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing. Quite the opposite: slavery built the South. I’m not saying we should bring it back; I’m just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark.”

“You know who deserves a posthumous Medal of Honor? James Earl Ray (killer of MLK Jr.). We miss you, James. Godspeed.”

Not unnaturally, Limbaugh has no love for “brown” people either:

“You’re a foreigner. You shut your mouth or you get out.”

Defending Newt Gingrich for calling Spanish a “ghetto” language: “In my mind, there's nothing wrong with it. I don't instinctively know what's wrong with it. There is a language of the ghetto. There is a language of the barrio. And it's not good.”

“Let the unskilled jobs that take absolutely no knowledge whatsoever to do — let stupid and unskilled Mexicans do that work.”

Actually, that latter is what passes for a back-handed “compliment” from Limbaugh.

The only time that Limbaugh was actually “punished” for a racially-insensitive comment was in 2003, when he suggested that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb benefited from the desire by the media that he do well, to prove that blacks could play the position just as well as whites. Obviously he was suggesting that McNabb’s success with the Eagles was a media creation and not justified by the “facts.” Limbaugh’s fellow panelists on “Sunday Countdown” said nothing, probably unsure if he had actually said anything amiss or even if they disagreed with him. ESPN eventually convinced Limbaugh to “resign” in order to avoid the possibility of further such embarrassing episodes. Interestingly, Limbaugh recently “defended” McNabb from charges that he wasn’t “black” enough, odd considering that Limbaugh doesn’t consider McNabb “white” enough to avoid being called inferior. But what is really disturbing about all of this was actually rather minor compared to the other pronouncements noted here. Why are not people more offended by those blatantly racist verbal bombs? Why are advertisers not more so? Is it because they are only 12 percent of the population, and to quote Limbaugh, “Who the hell cares?” Or white people also believe them? The media, on the other hand, being full of righteous white women supplied their own soap boxes, make sure you all know all about their “problems.”

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Intent to injure a sign of weakness, not strength

The 2009 NFC championship game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints has until recently been best remembered as the night that Brett Favre once more broke the heart of fans by throwing a critical interception with victory and a Super Bowl berth seemingly in hand. People seemed to forget that Favre spent a good portion of the game being hit by what appeared to be heat-seeking missiles in human form—repeatedly bouncing off the turf when not being used as an earth-moving landscaping device. It was true that the Vikings offensive line was built for the run and not pass blocking, but it wasn’t bad enough for Saints’ pass rushers, who always seemed to have need to “finish” what they sought out to do even after the play was well over at the back end. The Saints were flagged for two late hits, but they could have easily been tagged for a half-dozen more.

A particularly egregious non-call was the high-low hit by Bobby McCray and Remi Ayodele, in which it appeared the intent was to leave Favre squirming on the ground in two separate pieces. McCray aimed for Favre’s ankles, and succeeded in sending the crippled quarterback temporarily to the sidelines. It was a clear attempt not merely to hurt but to severely injure, and why the officials chose to overlook it was just another indication of the extent to which the Saints were receiving the “home cooking” recipe, and they seemed confident that they could get away with questionable conduct at will; after the game, McCray was fined $20,000 by the league, but this paled in comparison to the $83,000 he was paid for being on a Super Bowl-winning team. But even after The Interception, the game was not technically over, but the officials apparently wanted to go home sooner than later, judging by the blown calls in overtime that repeatedly gave New Orleans new life.

After the game, Favre’s ankle and thigh were not sights for virgin eyes; it was obvious that he had been running on adrenaline after his ankle injury. But a new investigation by the NFL reveals that Favre was the victim of a “bounty” paid to any Saints player who inflicted serious enough injury to knock him out of the game. Kurt Warner may have been another victim of this slush fund set-up by Saints’ defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and paid into by players to the tune of $50,000. Out of this fund went payments of $1,000 or more to players who with malice caused “cart-offs”—knocking an opposing player out of a game. It is alleged by the NFL that Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma offered $10,000 of his own money as an inducement to knocking Favre out of the championship. Since Roger Goodell is putting a premium on player safety, the Saints’ bounty system strayed far beyond acceptable conduct. Sean Payton was aware of the bounty, as was the owner of the Saints who warned Payton to stop the “program.” Instead, it continued into 2011, with Vikings running back Adrian Peterson accusing Saints’ players of deliberately targeting his injured ankle.

Favre, for some reason, has not expressed any concern over the scheme, although Warner was “disappointed” by the results of the investigation. Heavy fines and other punishment is certain to follow. But no punishment can erase the memory of how Minnesota on paper delivered a thorough beating on the Saints, but were undone in part by five turnovers, and how in retrospect it was the undeserving team that was granted the “right” to play Indianapolis in the Super Bowl. The Saints defense did in the end accomplish their “mission,” battering Favre just enough to make him put aside ideas about running for yardage on the Vikings final offensive play before a potential game-winning field goal attempt, and throw a clearly ill-advised pass across his body that did not have enough “lift.” But the game should now be remembered as how the Saints, unable to win the game fairly, resorted to the lowest of the low tactics. As one may recall from the film “North Dallas Forty,” when offensive lineman Jo Bob was repeatedly burned by the defensive lineman Weeks, he teamed-up with O.W. to take a shot at Weeks’ knees, leaving him crippled on the ground. Some may say that this is part of the game; but would there be a game at all if every players’ “mission” was to seriously injure his opponent? That’s not “competition”—it’s acknowledging your own weakness.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Is Ron Paul a Kremlin mole?

If you don’t have a “premium” cable subscription, your viewing options can be frustratingly limited, especially if you are not “entertained” by self-righteous cops, cops who “tweak” the law to catch law-breakers, cops who are completely reliant on technology instead of brain power, people with paranormal powers helping the cops, “reality” TV shows, more “reality” TV shows, movies about people racing around in cars all day, movies about annoying affluent people whose problems merely annoy—that is to say, anything with a right-of-center “sensibility” that turns viewers’ minds into mush. Gone are the days when our heroes were forced to rely on their wits and common sense, without the aid of cell phones, computers and GPS systems. My television heroes, like Joe Mannix, were constantly lied to, beat-up, shot at, drugged and car-wrecked in the quest for truth and justice, always getting back on their feet with a wisecrack and renewed determination--after a spell of thoughtful contemplation--about the matter at hand.

Anyways, on the far side of the cable channel spectrum where humans seldom explore there lies unexpected entries worthy of a brief curiosity. I discovered one of these peculiarities the other morning. Its handle was “RT Network.” I watched two of its news programs, “Capital Account” and “The Alyona Show,” hosted by the usual eye-candy types (helpful because of the low-rent production values). At first it seemed like the content was standard left-wing fare, even more so than MSNBC; there were rants against big banks, outrage over austerity measures in Europe, rage against violations of privacy rights, and ridicule of nut-job Republican presidential candidates. However, I began to detect something else: derision directed at Barack Obama, U.S. foreign policy, claims that U.S. military drones were deliberately targeting Pakistani aid workers and funeral processions, “conversations" with scruffy-looking bloggers who looked like they were sleeping in the rain, non-usual suspect “experts” who had to have their credentials listed on the side so they would be taken seriously.

Official U.S. policy views tended to be absent. Instead, we hear spokespeople for the Syrian government claiming that the West was funding anti-government “terrorists,” a story about how Vladimir Putin’s opponents were setting-up protests against a fraudulent election when there was no fraud at all (because the election hadn’t taken place yet), and a bizarre story claiming that dissident Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya had been killed on the order of her two political allies based in London who just happen to be wanted opponents of the Russian regime—based solely on the claim from the man currently charged with the crime that the journalist had gotten into an “argument” with the pair; there was no discussion about whether it was possible that it had been “suggested” that he make such a claim for leniency. Over all the tone of much of the reporting was oddly conspiratorial; World War III, for example, is due to begin this Spring (or is being pushed back to Summer?), thanks to the Israelis. RT claims to tell you what the “mainstream” media is not telling you, and to a certain extent it does provide some useful information about what lies behind the lies. But the tone is unrelievedly critical of everything American, and Western in general.

So what is the RT Network? It used to be called “Russia Today,” although the only thing it tells you about Russia is what the Russian government wants you to know, which is as little as possible outside cultural concerns. Criticism of Putin, the Russian government, and social concerns is either non-existent or attacked as anti-Russian bias. RT received some notoriety during the Georgian conflict when its reporting resembled German propaganda justifying the invasion of Poland in 1939 (and probably the Russian invasion of Poland in 1939 as well); reporters “on the ground” frequently found civilians who had been “persuaded” to say that the U.S. was to blame for the war. The programming is not surprisingly funded primarily by the Russian government, and its propaganda machine has found its way in numerous countries. Thom Hartmann, of all people, has been allotted a block of time by RT for his own “progressive” show; Thom claims that he has not been pressured to insert a pro-Russian slant, but given his typical MO of addressing the numerous defects in the U.S. body politic, and “debating” the issues with the usual talking points, one suspects that his show fits right in with RT’s intent of making the U.S. look as dysfunctional as possible—at least compared to Russia where “democracy” is largely a sham, an inconvenience Putin’s de facto two-fisted dictatorship has to endure now every six years. You are never likely to get the truth about what’s really go on in Russia watching this network. I mean, how can they tell you with a straight face that a shift in the presidency from Putin to Putin’s stooge Medvedev and back again means a change in policy, foreign or domestic? Medvedev didn’t sneeze unless Putin told him he could.

So how does Ron Paul fit into all of this? One would believe that Paul’s libertarian ideology would be in direct conflict with the Russian idea of governance. Yet Paul is virtually the only American politician that RT treats as something other than a buffoon. One recent segment was entitled “Ron Paul shows ugly truth about Obama,” in which finds Aryola Minkovski raving on (which would be much tougher take if she wasn’t a looker) like one of those LaRouche groupies—taking a break from calling Dick Cheney the spawn of Satan—with their offensive posters of Obama with a Hitler moustache. The other day, some roving reporter was asking people who claimed to be Paul supporters if they would be upset if their man dropped out of the presidential primary race and endorsed one of the other candidates. Like, who cares? RT does. So why do the Russians like Paul? Because to him, there is nothing right about this country. What’s not to like about that? He may be a Republican technically, but no one wants to be associated too closely to him or his crackpot ideas--or his Tea Party son, for that matter.

Of course, we can’t blame the Russians too much for finding Paul’s ideas suitable for their anti-American (and anti-West in general) propaganda campaign; many U.S. liberals and disenfranchised types also find his anti-war and pro-pot harangues right up their fundaments. The problem is that Paul has his own “ugly truth” that makes mush of RT’s tolerance and anti-racist stance. Take these “hilarious” one-liners, all (or almost all) under the by-line of “Ron Paul” on the pages of his various newsletters over the years, as uncovered by James Kirchick in his 2008 piece in The New Republic:

"Racial Violence Will Fill Our Cities" as "mostly black welfare recipients will feel justified in stealing from mostly white 'haves.' "

"I think we can assume that 95 percent of the black men in that city (Washington) are semi-criminal or entirely criminal."

“I think when people take money from you (as in taxes) and give it to somebody else (as in social programs), that's the equivalent of stealing from you. I don't want to take any of your money.”

"Order was only restored in L.A. (during the Rodney King riot) when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks."

“Opinion polls consistently show that only about 5 percent of blacks have sensible political opinions.”

“If you have ever been robbed by a black teen-aged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be.”

In a 1990 newsletter which warned of “The Coming Race War,” readers were urged “If you live in a major city, and can leave, do so. If not, but you can have a rural retreat, for investment and refuge, buy it.” You need to do this because, as a 1991 newsletter observed, “Animals Take Over the D.C. Zoo.” In a 1992 clarification, “I’ve urged everyone in my family to know how to use a gun in self defense. For the animals are coming.” Paul has never acknowledged these comments, let alone apologized for them; he’s too busy accusing his Republican opponents of being racists.

Paul’s version of “libertarianism,” meanwhile, is based on the anti-government, pro-militia, anti-civil rights beliefs of neo-Confederates and Southern apologists. In 1992, Paul wrote that “the right of secession should be ingrained in a free society” and “there is nothing wrong with loosely banding together small units of government. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, we too should consider it.” Must have been another part missed by his Russian admirers. As Kirchick noted, “What they (the newsletters) reveal are decades worth of obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews, and gays. In short, they suggest that Ron Paul is not the plain-speaking antiwar activist his supporters believe they are backing--but rather a member in good standing of some of the oldest and ugliest traditions in American politics.”

It is perhaps useful to keep this in mind if for some reason you encounter the RT network. Despite revealing that which the mainstream media prefers not to indulge in for fear of offending its corporate masters, its intentions are not meant to be constructive or to educate an uninformed public: It is to undermine public confidence in the American system, and at the same serving the interests of the Russian government against its own people.

No more guilt, no more truth

At the 84th Academy Awards this past Sunday, Octavia Spencer won for Best Supporting Actress for her role in “The Help,” based on the novel of the same name written by Kathryn Stockett. The film received generally favorable reviews, which is not surprising since it is yet another “feel good” movie for white viewers, like “Mississippi Burning,” “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Glory,” where white viewers are allowed to avoid addressing the social realities of the times, by being provided the comfort of a virtuous white protagonist to identify with ,who “rights” the wrongs. People don’t like to be discomfited by things like guilt. Unfortunately, truth gets in the way of revisionist history. Despite what this film may suggest, white women were not particularly high profile members of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, and the “sanctity” of white womanhood was a useful excuse for the thousands of lynchings and murders for 100 years after the Civil War; among these were 14-year-old Emmitt Till, savagely maimed and beaten to death, allegedly for “whistling” at a white woman. It has been my observation that white women so inclined are really no different, or less culpable, than white men in the level and consistency of their racial bigotry.

This movie also has that feminist “sensibility” of making light of the racism experienced by black men, portraying them as “cruel” when not absent altogether, according to one group that panned the film. The Association of Black Women Historians also criticized the film because “Despite efforts to market the book and the film as a progressive story of triumph over racial injustice” it in fact “distorts, ignores, and trivializes the experiences of black domestic workers…The Association finds it unacceptable for either this book or this film to strip black women’s lives of historical accuracy for the sake of entertainment.” Now, I don’t really have a horse in this particular race; some black individuals have “issues” just as some white people do. I was composing the previous paragraph on the bus, and when I got off at my stop, some tough-guy, gangster-type deliberately threw out his elbow to jab me in the arm, and it amused his girlfriend. Why? Because, I suppose, “Mexicans” are fair game, thanks to the imagery supplied by the media like the Seattle Times and various local television news, a one-way conversation in which the affected parties are given no opportunity for redress. Nevertheless, I understand something that blacks with “issues” do not: Condoning racial bigotry against one group as “acceptable” in principle eventually makes it “acceptable” to practice against you.

But back to the topic at hand. The images we typically receive in the entertainment media are either yet another Tyler Perry movie about the angst of affluent black women, the "feeling good about feeling bad" melodrama, or movies like “The Help,” the kind of patronizing mendacity that would easily find a home on the Lifetime Channel. Here we have a story about a southern white female who one day decides to feel "guilty" about being part of a society that degrades blacks, and as atonement she decides that the black maids isn't so far beneath her station to converse with in normal human terms. She wants to be a writer, and using the maids’ “stories” as fodder (in a surprising “twist,” Stockett was sued by a maid who claimed she was used by Stockett as her “source” without permission or compensation). In the end, the white woman (with the help of—you guessed it—a northern white female editor) publishes her book, and the maids are fired from their jobs for their participation, but the white woman generously gives the maids a small stipend to tide them over hard times. The white woman then escapes to New York to avoid participating in the really hard work ahead in implementing civil rights laws.

So what is this story really about? It is about a white female who “empowers” herself to overcome guilt, to achieve a moral “victory” over ignorance. But the black people are still black, and there is the consolation of knowing that if the social pressure gets too hot, you are still white, and you abandon your pretenses, and all will be well again. But the guilt of belonging to a racist society is gone, because despite the fact that you have the good fortune of living in a world of white "privilege," within the confines of your mind you have satisfied yourself that you do not personally hate. But you've done nothing to change the wider culture that maintains your status, nor do you wish to. You are a fraud, and made a lot of money off that fraud.

The problem with this particular film is that guilt cannot be washed away simply on personal whim; the ugly truth remains. In the mid1960s, James Baldwin wrote an essay about white "guilt" and history. "The guilt remains, more deeply rooted, more securely lodged, than the oldest of old trees; and it can be unutterably exhausting to deal with people who, with a really dazzling ingenuity, a tireless agility, are perpetually defending themselves against charges which one has not made. One does not have to make them. The record is there for all to read. It resounds all over the world. It might as well be written in the sky. One wishes that Americans, white Americans, would read, for their own sakes, this record, and stop defending themselves against it. Only then will they be enabled to change their lives. The fact that Americans, white Americans, have not yet been able to do this- to face their history, to change their lives-hideously menaces this country. Indeed, it menaces the entire world." In other words, those who forget history are bound to repeat it. And deeds speak louder than words in a novel, or film script.

People will say that the world has changed, and to a certain extent it has. White America accepts blacks insofar as they can entertain them, like the gladiators of ancient Rome who were nevertheless tied to a subservient social strata (how it accepts Latinos can best be “explained” by Pat Buchanan).We even have a black president, who serves as a "beacon" for American tolerance--but nevertheless is a figure viewed with suspicion and fear by many, kept on a leash so that he will not change the culture of white privilege. That is one picture; another picture is that white women, like the protagonist in this film, have the lowest unemployment rates and the highest college enrollment, while black men have the highest unemployment rates (probably double the "official" rate), and there are more black men in jail than in college. We may "debate" the reasons for this, but there is no mistaking that it has come to be "accepted." Heck, even Oprah accepts it, even rejoices in it; she still doesn't realize that white people still have their hands on all the levers (just look at her audience).

Sometimes the friend you don't know is better than the one you know

Last week I "misplaced" my Sony notebook computer. Before I purchased a netbook, I lugged this machine around everywhere in a backpack. As I get older, and the end is closer to the beginning, time seems much too precious to waste. Whenever I travel on a bus, I am conscious of the fact that I am wasting time, so being able to consume the time with something useful like word processing helps to negate this wastage. Now, I'm not yet so completely insensible that I'd actually forget that I had taken the thing with me, but sometimes life throws you that knucklehead ball. For example, that morning I was waiting for a bus that zoomed right passed me, stopping at the crossing street fifty feet further. When I caught up to the bus I demanded to know why the driver had not stopped at the designated point; he claimed there wasn't enough room for the "tail" of the bus to get out of traffic, which was frankly a lie. He thought to "cheat" because I wasn't someone whose sensitivities he needn't concern himself with. I asked him if he would have stopped if I was standing at the corner; he claimed he would, but that was a lie too. So I sat there stewing. My trip was only ten minutes in duration, so I had not the time to let off all the steam when I evacuated the bus. I had other business to take care of, like my laundry. After awhile it occurred to me that I had not taken my laptop with me to the Laundromat, as I usually did. I must have left it home, right?

When I returned, I assumed I would find it, but could not find it anywhere. My heart sank right through the floor. I retraced my steps from the last point I remembered I definitely had it on my person. I concluded I had left it on the bus, and I was definitely up shit creek. The next day I would go to the Metro lost and found, but I knew it was hopeless. When I arrived, I described my missing possession to the man behind the counter, who said nothing as he examined his computer, and without got up and walked into a back room, and returned with my backpack, with the laptop still inside. I was dumbfounded with relief—and disbelief. Was it still possible that there were honest people in this world?

I confess that as I’ve grown older, I’ve become cynical on some subjects and radicalized on others, but there was a time in my younger days when I was absurdly naïve and trusting. One day I fancied that Los Angeles would be a stimulating location for a new start in life. I bought a ticket on a Greyhound bus, pocketed my life savings of about a $1,000 and off I was in search of an exciting new life. It was a 2,000 mile trip, mostly unmemorable and tiring, except when during a stop in Salt Lake City; while I was admiring the gardening on the grounds of the Mormon temple compound I was accosted by a comely female who tried to convert me to Mormonism, without success since I had to be back on the bus in 10 minutes. When I returned, I found myself seated next to a new partner, who told me he was from Los Angeles, and would be glad to help me find a place to stay, and maybe even a job; he was such a fine fellow that I showed him my roll of bills. My new friend informed me that he had just left Texas, where he and his brother were helping to tidy-up a acquaintance’s abode by moving some of his more expensive belongings into the bed of their pick-up truck, after he had gone out. That is until the police arrived after a neighbor reported the goings-on, and they were obliged to high-tail it through a few yards and over a few fences, leaving the truck behind.

Now, I’m certain that most people would be wary of “assistance” from a character of this sort, but I didn’t know anyone in L.A., and this guy seemed most willing and surprisingly friendly, given that even my name was a matter of indifference to him. When we arrived in L.A., we sat in someone’s front lawn at noon and smoked a joint as if that was a natural thing to do, and this had absolutely nothing to do with making uncomplicated my new friend’s aptitude for stealing things that were not his—like of all my money while I was dozing off. When I discovered my deprived situation, it didn’t matter if I was in a haze or a daze; I walked aimlessly about for about twelve hours around town trying to concentrate my mind on the most proficient and painless way of doing myself in. I finally collapsed late that evening in an abandoned school house full of broken glass; I fell into unconsciousness before I could consider their uses.

By the time I awoke at the dewy break of dawn, sunshiny with birds chirping and all that other garbage, I had forgotten the previous day’s tribulation and was ready to start afresh. What was that lyric from the song Me and Bobbie McGee? “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” I thought that being a beach bum in Santa Monica would be fun, until some kids started throwing mini firecrackers at me while I trying to sleep on the ledge of a lifeguard shack. Someplace down the beach was an open restroom, where I hid in a stall until company arrived around 2 am. I won’t describe the activity that occurred in the adjoining room with the sink, because this is a PG story; thus ended my career as a beach bum.

A couple days later someone who ascertained my impoverished situation while I was discreetly scanning the garbage cans outside a McDonald’s suggested that he had a place for me to stay for awhile; I found myself in house in North Hollywood run by some Christian brotherhood of the fundamentalist variety. I won’t say that it was difficult to abide by their rules, but I sensed right-off that I wasn’t going to “fit-in.” One day we went on a tour of the local churches; by evening I was ready to go home, but the “brothers” were not. The next stop on the itinerary had one of those rituals where you stand, sit and kneel every five minutes; it was fortunate that I was on my knees when sleep overcame me, because everyone around thought this pathetic sinner was deeply in prayer, and ought not be disturbed. The next day it was more of the same. I decided that I couldn’t fake it anymore; while we were waiting outside another church, I decided to take a look around, and kept on going. In a way, I haven’t stopped.