CATEGORY: ScienceTechnology

Rosetta: why aren’t we more amazed by the most amazing achievement in space travel history?

European Space Agency lands a washing machine on a rock 317 million miles away and moving at 83,000 mph. Oh the MATH!

I am in awe of today’s landing of a spacecraft on a comet and spent much of the day jumping up and down and emailing friends.

None of them understood my excitement, even when I explained it’s all about the math involved. So I tried this, “Hey, guys, it’s like you had to make a THOUSAND-foot putt going up and over a mountain, across a green full of bumps and undulations, on a windy day during an earthquake, and the ball fell into the cup with its final rotation.”

They sort of got that, but my example wasn’t very accurate, because what the European Space Agency did was in fact much harder. The comet is tiny, about 2.5 miles in diameter or about the size of midtown Manhattan. It’s 310 million miles away and is moving through space at 80,000 mph. The spacecraft is even tinier, about the size of a washing machine and had to travel 6.4 billion miles in ten years to reach the comet. Continue reading

In the NFL, cheating pays

We Americans are an inconsistent lot, and nowhere is that more exposed than in our views on cheating. Sometimes we hold our heroes to the letter of the law, and excoriate them when they break the rules. Other times we just shrug it away, e.g., Ronald Reagan in the debates and later with Contra-Iran or Bill Clinton with his philandering bordering on sexual predation.

Nowhere are our conflicted views more visible than in sports. (That’s not really surprising. We use sports as a laboratory to examine the most critical issues in society—gay equality, equal pay for equal work, violence against women, marijuana legalization, etc.) Sometimes we publicly humiliate sports heroes for cheating and come after them with flaming faggots and pitchforks like a mob storming the castle, e.g., A-Rod, Pete Rose, Sammy Sosa, etc. Other times, we just sort of shrug and wink, e.g., Maradona, Roger Clemens, Gaylord Perry, and Manny Ramirez.

More often than not, though, we come down on the side of cheaters. Continue reading


Big 10 makes good on threat: moves football to DIII

In 2013, Jim Delaney, commissioner of the Big 10 (which of course has fourteen teams, which says plenty about the tenuous link between academic integrity and athletics) said that if the O’Bannon lawsuit prevailed, the Big 10 would consider moving to Division III.

Several alternatives to a ‘pay for play’ model exist, such as the Division III model, which does not offer any athletics-based grants-in-aid, and, among others, a need-based financial model. These alternatives would, in my view, be more consistent with The Big Ten’s philosophy that the educational and lifetime economic benefits associated with a university education are the appropriate quid pro quo for its student athletes.

On August 8, a judge ruled against the Big 10 in the O’Bannon case.

Now, one month later, it appears Delaney wasn’t kidding. Continue reading

By Otherwise Posted in Sports
Jesus Tebow

Johnny Manziel: he’s the new Tim Tebow

Johnny Football is probably a bigger douchebag than St. Timmy, but they’re more alike than they are different.

I’m going to miss Tim Tebow.

He was a blogger’s dream.

First, his situation represented an unambiguous wrong, the perfect high horse upon which to climb. He was given an opportunity he did not deserve because of racial and religious bias. Period. No ifs, ands or buts. If he’d been the same white quarterback, only not as overtly religious, he’d have been drafted in the umpteenth round like A.J. McCarron, who has similar stats to Tebow. If he’d been the same religious quarterback with mediocre skills, only not white, he would never have been drafted in the first place. There was no need for nuance when writing about the Tebow situation because there was no nuance involved. WYSIWYG. Some poor schmuck had his opportunity to play in the NFL taken away because of religious zealotry run amok.  Continue reading

Mark Jackson needs self-awareness counseling

Fired Golden State head coach preaches the virtues of paying your dues, even though he never paid any himself.

Mark Jackson, until recently coach of the Golden State Warriors, was fired for clashing with, well, just about everyone in Golden State who wasn’t as evangelically zealous as himself.

That included one of his bosses, board member Jerry West, a highly rated former assistant who’s now a head coach, Michael Malone, and two of his assistants this past season, Brian “White Mamba” Scalabrine and Darren Erman. Jackson tried to fire Scalabrine in front of the team and did fire Erman, who promptly was hired by the Celtics. In a recent radio interview, Jackson makes it clear why Scalabrine and Erman simply had to go: They weren’t willing to pay their dues. Continue reading

Is Charlie Strong a Satanist?

Seven reasons Charlie Strong should not be coach at Texas

Red McCombs, a noted football expert, is right. Strong doesn’t, you know, “belong.” Also, he’s a socialist fascist Satanist.

Charlie Strong

Charlie Strong and his white wife.

This week Texas AD Steve Patterson stunned college athletics by announcing the hire of Charlie Strong as coach at the University of Texas, replacing legend Mack Brown. Most pundits had argued the influential boosters of the Texas program would not allow a candidate of color to be named to the position. Now one of those, “megabooster” Red McCombs, has come forward criticizing the hire.

Despite Strong’s record as a coach, 37-15, three bowl wins in four years and two top 15 finishes in the polls, McCombs said that “Charlie” would be a fine position coach or coordinator, but was simply not up to the Texas job.

Here are the top seven reasons Charlie Strong should not be coach at Texas. Continue reading

CATEGORY: EnvironmentNature

Global warming debate is a waste of time

Climate disruption is a result of human nature, and human nature isn’t going to change.

Here’s what I learned visiting St. Eustatius. The debate over global warming is a waste of time.

St. Eustatius is a tiny Caribbean Island. In its day, the place was a big deal, one of the world’s busiest trading ports with 3500 ships a year. It’s best known for being the first place to acknowledge U.S. sovereignty, but it also played a key role in the Revolution. Most of the guns used by the Continental Army came through Statia, as it’s now known. Continue reading

CATEGORY: Education

Should teachers be paid more? No.

Recently, I made same comment to my fellow Scrogues and got some, ummm, disagreement.

They then trotted out arguments about it being teachers that are entrusted with our most precious resource, our children, that the value they provide is incalculable, that it was kindly Miss McCutcheon in second grade that germinated my love of poetry with her passionate reading of Dr. Seuss. To quote Jimi Hendrix, “Blah blah, woof woof.”

The value argument is absurd on its face. First of all, relatively few professions are remunerated on value—perhaps professional athletes, some entertainers, commission-based salesmen, and arguably CEO’s whose pay package is tied to stock options. The reason is that to pay someone based on value creation, it’s first necessary that it be possible to calculate value. Sorry, but that’s how it works.

Calculating the value of instruction to hundreds of children that will pay off at some undetermined point in the future is simply impossible. It would require an ability to estimate what value each child will provide to society over his or her lifetime, what that value would have been without the contribution of each particular teacher absent the effects of parents, friends, and other teachers, and the ability to discount that back to the present. Even were it possible, I suspect most teachers would be wary about signing up for that pay program, because they wouldn’t want to see their annual bonus docked because Little Johnny will grow up to be meth dealer in twelve years.

Come on, folks, everybody thinks they’re paid under their true value, from CEO’s that make fifty mil a year (really, I know a couple) to garbage collectors.

Now that we’ve dismissed that silly value argument and made poor Miss McCutcheon cry, let’s talk about how most jobs are really remunerated, supply and demand. Teachers don’t like it that they are paid according to the laws of economics. Welcome to the club. People love economics when it comes out in their favor, and hate it when it doesn’t. The same folks who go to WalMart are the ones who see their jobs being outsourced. Wall Street tycoons who piously talk about the free market are the first to grovel and beg for government hand-outs when things go south.  People don’t like economics because the market is ruthlessly rational. It may not be fair, but it’s rational.

It’s a bit like global warming. It doesn’t matter if you believe in it or not, it’s still getting warmer. It doesn’t matter if you believe in supply and demand or not, that’s still the way most of the world, including labor markets, works.  Even centrally planned economies are subject to the laws of supply and demand—that’s why gray markets exist.

Now labor markets aren’t completely pure for a variety of reasons—unions, restrictions on immigration, Hay systems, licensing boards, racism, etc, etc.  but for all intents and purposes we can think of the job market facing an average person entering the job market as being subject to the laws of economics, specifically supply and demand.

The way that works is this.  The demand for how many of each profession is determined by the economy. For example, in the U.S., we have jobs for 8,374,910 educators, trainers and librarians. We have jobs for 641,020 lawyers, 3,456,000 computer scientists, and 61,140 tax preparers. These are the number of current people in those jobs at current wages. (The math gets very complicated very fast, and this simplified version is close enough.)

The wages for each profession is determined by how much the economy needs to pay to get  a supply of 641,020 qualified people to be lawyers. For example, 641,020 people are able and willing to be lawyers. For $130,880, they will undergo the years of training necessary, face the uncertainty of the profession, and do boring work.

People are willing to work as social workers for $44,200 per year and as teachers for $51,120. People will be sales reps for $68,580 and computer programmers for $80,200. If nobody is willing to be a social worker and the economy needs more, it will raise the wages until it gets the number it needs. If it needs fewer, it will lower the wages until some leave the profession and go do other jobs.

So why don’t teachers get paid more? Simply put, because 8,374,910 people, exactly what the economy needs, are willing to do it for $51,120 each. Could we as a society decide to pay them $60,000 each? Of  course we could, but why would we? It’s a bit like if a washing machine repairman fixed your dryer for $200, but because dry clothes are important to you, you insisted on giving him or her $500. And the same for the grocer, doctor, hair dresser, etc. Would any rational person do that? Of course not. Remember, at the end of the day, teacher salaries don’t come from some magical pot of money in the sky, but from people’s taxes, and most people don’t want to pay any more than they have to.

The real question is why so many people are willing to be teachers for $51,120. I admit, I don’t get it. I tried a little college teaching and hated it. Yes, it has low barriers to entry, the hours are good,  it has a certain shabby chic status and job security, but it’s tedious, you spend your time around unhappy peers who bitch all the time, and you don’t make any money.  I went into business, which had no job security, but paid well and was interesting. Still some people find teaching a desirable job, 8,374,910 to be exact, and as long as they do and are willing to do it for $51,120, then that’s what they’ll get paid.

They’re not alone. As a rule, jobs that people want to do (teacher, writer, pastry chef, antiques store owner, diving instructor) always pay less than jobs people don’t want to do (tax preparer, salesperson, etc.) It’s not necessary that teachers like their work (although I think they do. Two of the people who weighed in have told me they love teaching.) It means that as long as they like it better than their alternatives, they will be willing to work for less to do it.

When I made this point, my fellow Scrogues stopped hurling insults and picked up stones.  One comment was especially interesting. A teacher explained why she taught instead of other professions. She said

I REALLY hated the 2 months I worked in higher ed tech sales after the company I worked for shut the training department I led.  Cold-calling made me feel unclean.  I was lucky they didn’t cut my salary for those 2 months from what I had been making as head of training to commission only.

Exactly. That’s exactly my point. And as long as people like to teach, or at least like it more than they like selling, sales reps will always make $68,580 and teachers will always make $51,120.

Don’t get pissed at me. Go throw eggs at the home of an economics professor.

P.S. What could dedicated, competent, passionate teachers do to raise their wages? It’s simple really. De-unionize and embrace standardized testing. That would create a market between various school systems for the best teachers, and while average wages might stay the same, you’d see wages shoot up for the best. Indeed, top suburban school systems already pay more than their rural and inner city counterparts, but it’s still within a relatively narrow band. If teachers could prove their abilities, e.g., with their students test scores before and after they got them, then they’d get paid. But I haven’t heard any teachers arguing for this.

Next post: Message to Adjuncts: Administrators aren’t the enemy, tenured professors are.

Replace Brady with Tebow before it’s too late

Last night, for the first time this year, the Patriots played without Tim Tebow. For the first time this year, they lost. No, they didn’t lose. They got pounded, 40-9. Humilated. Embarrassed. Noogied. Brady and Mallet were awful, exactly as the S&R sports desk predicted would happen.

Remember, you read it here first, Brady is at the peak of his value, but his best days are past. The Patriots should sell him now, since GM’s in the NFL are always willing to overpay for over-the-hill quarterbacks (Favre, Palmer, Manning) and the Pats could probably get an entire team for Brady, who has the third highest QBR of all time.  Think about it–New England could get a top receiver or two, shore up their porous secondary, AND have three draft picks left over.

Let Timmy play! He’s a winner. There’s no doubt at all, none, that the Patriots would have won last night had he played.

S&R Honors Elmore Leonard

SRHonors_LeonardElmore Leonard is dead at the age of eighty seven.

Ten years ago, I sold my first crime novel to Otto Penzler, founder of Mysterious Press and a doyen of New York publishers. Otto discovered James Elroy, among others. Otto, my then-agent and I met for a quick celebratory toast, which turned into a drunk of epic proportions that ended with me feeling my way down Sixth Avenue at 4 a.m., hand over hand against the plate glass windows. I was so thoroughly and uncompromisingly soused that I missed a breakfast meeting with a CEO (actually, I made the meeting but he told me I was drunk, which was true, and walked out. At least it was at the legendary Algonquin, although these days writers stay at the Carlisle).

That missed breakfast probably cost me a great deal of money, but I didn’t care at the time because I was certain I was on my way to massive riches as an author and getting stupid drunk seemed like a very authorly thing to do. I didn’t get rich writing, but I still don’t regret the evening, because I got to spend eight hours listening to Otto spin stories about famous authors—Sue Grafton, Patricia Cornwall, Larry Block, and of course, his friend Dutch, whom the world knows as Elmore Leonard. By then there were four of us, since the bartender had locked the bar, pulled an ashtray out from under the bar, and was pouring for free.

One of the Dutch Leonard stories I remember was this:

Otto once said to Leonard, “You know, what’s so great about your stuff is that you get the dialogue just right. Your Hispanic gangbangers sound just like Hispanic gangbangers.”

Leonard replied, “How do you know? Do you know a lot of Hispanic gangbangers?”

Otto thought for a moment and shook his head.

Leonard smiled and said, “Me neither.”

Elmore Leonard’s characters sounded like they should sound, and acted like they should act. They didn’t charge recklessly into blazing guns or make noble dying speeches or concoct brilliant schemes that required impeccable timing. They said “Oh shit” when it was time to say “Oh shit.”

They were true–average people at best, since he believed criminals were in the main not rocket scientists. They found themselves between a rock and hard place because their bad decisions had put them there. Still we cared for them, for Chili and Jackie and John. Jackie Brown (Rum Punch) is a stewardess reduced to smuggling to make ends meet, a once beautiful woman who’s slowly sliding down the ladder. We may never have been beautiful or climbed the ladder in the first place, but Leonard shows us just enough to make us understand that had we done so, this could be happening to us. It’s magic stuff, that, to make readers identify with imperfect characters with whom they have little in common.

That’s not the only magic Leonard pulls off. Humor is the high wire act of writing. Few try it because it’s almost impossible to do. Leonard was a master. In Get Shorty, Chili Palmer goes to Hollywood to recover a script. There ends up being a tug of war over the script between various parties. At one level it’s a crime story—somebody took it, who’s got it? At another level it’s a gentle and poignant reminder that even second rate hoods like Chili have dreams, too. But at its core, the book is really a sly sendup of the movie business, even though the movie business was “berry, berry good” to Dutch. Nineteen of his stories and books were made into movies. Even as we try to follow the twisting plot and hope Chili pulls it out, it’s impossible not to also laugh out loud as the faux tough guys of Hollywood try to out-tough the real tough guys from Miami. (Also, as I remember, the script in question keeps getting passed around, people fight over it, but no one actually ever reads it.)

But Leonard will mostly be remembered as a stylist, which is especially ironic since he worked very hard to avoid what is usually considered style. He often spoke about writing out the parts people skip and once said something to the effect, “Whenever I find myself admiring one of my sentences, I immediately go back and rewrite it.” Not many writers have the discipline to do that. Most of us, whether we admit it or not, write prose to be admired. We want people (really others writers or very pretty young women) to point out our great lines and ooh and aah over them. And as a result, we fail at what we set out to do—tell the story.

Leonard believed that writing should be invisible, that if the writing made the reader think about the writer rather than the story, he’d failed. He wasn’t the only great writer of the ’50s and early ’60s to write invisibly. There were Charles Williford and John D. MacDonald and others I probably don’t know. Perhaps it came from writing for magazines, which Kurt Vonnegut has pointed out were the TV channels of the day. But Leonard did it so well for so long that we will probably always associate spare prose, stories carried mostly by dialogue, and clumsy characters who bumble into situations so absurd that they weave a drunken line between comedy and tragedy as “Elmore Leonard” territory.

That’s it, really. I could write about his private life, and for some reason us readers are fascinated with the lives of writers, but I probably know a hundred authors and not a single one leads a fascinating life. Leonard didn’t. He had a day job for awhile, was married several times, had some substance issues, and lived in a posh suburb north of Detroit. The truth is, except for Beryl Markham, authors are pretty boring people. They sit in a room all day and make stuff up. Nothing exciting about that.

Until someone gets it right, like Dutch did, and you open the book. Then the excitement starts.

Jesus Tebow

Eight reasons the Patriots will dump Brady, start Tebow

The coach of the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick, is a football genius. His secret is simple: value. He sells overvalued older players, like Richard Seymour, who are on the downside of their careers, and buys undervalued players, e.g., Randy Moss, whom others have discarded. Sometimes, as in the cases of Seymour and reciever Wes Welker, the separation is painful, with the player feeling unloved and underrespected, and grumbling his way out of town. Doesn’t matter. Belichick is deaf to sentiment. When it comes time to make player decisions, he is Big Blue, an unemotional super-computer, computing all the odds and deciding who can best help his team win.

Which  is why you can expect Belichick to trade Tom Brady and start Tim Tebow.

Here’s why.

1. Brady is overvalued. Brady has been a solid quarterback for the Patriots. However, he’s on the downside of his career. His QBR (passer rating) dropped from 106 to 99 last year, and plummeted to 85 in the playoffs. His rushing yards were down, as were his touchdowns and completion percentage. Tebow is undervalued. New England doesn’t need to worry about other teams trying to poach him.

2. Old vs. young. Brady is old. He just turned 36. He’s increasingly injury prone. After missing almost the entire 2008 season, he now has problems with a knee injured in this preseason. Tebow is a young stud, in superb shape, who like all football players has had injuries, but not missed games because of it. In college, Tebow broke his right thumb and played the entire game. He is a warrior, he could probably break his left (throwing) arm and his accuracy would be the same.

3. Tebow was a better college player than Brady. When Brady was at Michigan and that team won a national championship, it did so with Brady on the bench behind journeyman Brian Griese. Tebow won a national championship AND a Heisman.

4. Tebow is a winner. Since New England got caught illegally taping competitor practices, New England has not won a Super Bowl under Brady. Tebow won at Denver, and would have won at New York if allowed to play. During this preseason, he’s led New England to two victories despite predictions they’d struggle after the loss of key team members in the off season. In the first game, Tebow threw for 55 yards and rushed for 31, and in the second, he completed a pass in only seven attempts, despite playing with the second team, for only a one yard loss. He also rushed for 32 yards, an astounding 8 yard per carry average.

5. Tebow is a leader, Brady is not.  Tebow is famous for his leadership qualities. At Florida, Tebow mentored Aaron Hernandez and kept him eligible for all four years. Indeed, at Florida, Hernandez only committed assault and an alleged shooting. Under Brady’s mentoring at New England, Hernandez is believed to have committed three murders.  Brady is not respected by his teammates. Randy Moss once said Brady had hair like a girl. In the macho world of football, being compared to a girl is not a compliment.

6. Tebow is a better athlete. He’s shorter, but weighs almost ten pounds more. Also, at the NFL combine he ran the 40 yard dash in 4.7, nearly as fast as the top defensive tackle prospects, while Brady only managed 5.2 at his combine tryout.

7. It will be easier to replace Brady with a popular player. As we saw with Brett Favre, it’s always tough to replace an older player who’s become a fan favorite. The replacement comes in under a barrage of criticism, with their every move being picked apart and critiqued. Tebow is wildly popular and would be immediately accepted by a significant portion of the fan base. Were he to struggle, which he won’t, his fans have shown a willingness to look past performance and facts and focus on the big picture.

8. Tebow is a better role model. Tebow is a practicing Christian. Brady is Catholic. Tebow is a virgin. Brady has had a child out of wedlock (with actress Bridget Moynahan). Brady is married to a foreigner. American girls apparently just aren’t good enough for Tom Brady.

CATEGORY: Baby Boomers

How will history remember Baby Boomers?

CATEGORY: Baby BoomersThe generation that fought World War II is, thanks to Tom Brokaw, now known as “The Greatest Generation.”

If his great grandson writes a book about Baby Boomers, what would the title of that book be? How will our generation be remembered?

Perhaps history will term us “The Kindest Generation,” for we certainly cared more for social causes than had previous generations. We tackled and for the most part were successful in improving the positions of the less powerful—blacks, women, gays, and the handicapped. It’s not clear exactly why we took on these challenges. Perhaps it was because we enjoyed an unprecedented era of prosperity and simply had the resources to do so. Or maybe it was just time. Every issue has its day, e.g., improvements in rights for black people seem to move in hundred year increments. Maybe our generation was just in the right time and place for a little kindness.

Maybe we’ll go down as “The Coolest Generation.” Certainly generations before us had “cool,” but it was typically confined to small subsets of the population, e.g., musicians and artists. We were the first generation to democratize cool. During the jazz era, there were many in the population who wouldn’t be caught dead listening to that “negro music.” But there’s no Baby Boomer that doesn’t listen to rock and roll, and probably none that doesn’t own a pair of jeans or think of themselves as “with it.” Surely no generation has tried to hang on to cool for as long as we have, at least in terms of paying exorbitant tickets prices to see ancient rockers rasp and creak their way across the stage. We’ve also spent our fair share on trying to keep ourselves looking cool through cosmetic surgery and pharmaceutical attempts to cheat the aging process. Of course, the Pharmacological Generation has a ring to it, too.

Of course, history may see our insistence on hanging on to our own fashions and culture and refusing to age as something that makes us “The Self-Centered Generation.” It’s amusing to see covers of Time magazine calling current young people the “Me” generation. Really? The only reason we think they’re the “me” generation is because they aren’t all about “us.” How dare they want their own music on commercials? Who do they think they are? Certainly our belief that we deserve everything we want is pervasive (“Eat, Love, Pray” anyone?). (Indeed, the idea that we get to name ourselves is a little self-centered to begin with.)

Perhaps we’ll go down as “The Silliest Generation.” And not silly in a good way of “joyful and carefree,” but silly in a bad way of “naïve and trivial.” After all, it’s hard to imagine anything sillier and more trivial than thinking that a few mass demonstrations would end war, or that a concert or two would solve world hunger, or stop economic forces like mechanization of farms in their tracks. We were the generation that thought that massive, intractable problems could be solved in a weekend with a party, like Live Aid or Farm Aid, etc. If they can’t, like climate change or the growing prosperity gap, why we simply pretend they don’t exist. “La, la, la, la—I can’t hear you.”

It’s possible we’ll be seen as “The Fractured Generation,” at least here in the U.S. It’s hard to remember a generation with more passionate factions and less interest in compromise. Although that’s one where our perspective may be skewed. History, after all, is written by the winners. There may well have been such factions at every point in history, and looking back we don’t see it. I doubt it though. I suspect that the echo chamber created by the internet and partisan media are creating groups more insular and intractable than any we’ve seen, at least for a century or two.

I’d guess the best we can hope for is to be remembered as “The Well-intended Generation.” No, we didn’t solve poverty, hunger, war, but we cared about them enough to buy the tee-shirts. We didn’t stop racism, but we did slap people who use the “n-word” and force race-mongers to use euphemisms. We didn’t defeat Hitler, or communism, or theocratic rule, but we certainly annoyed those states that espouse centrally-planned economies and assassinated the dictators that dared mock us. So we did something. In our own kind, cool, superficial, confused, self-centered way, we tried. We really did.


Or maybe we should just go with the “Wasted Opportunity Generation.”

CATEGORY: Racism in Sports

Time to give Riley Cooper a break

Riley Cooper is the Philadelphia Eagles football player who on June 9 at a Kenny Chesney concert said “I will jump that fence and fight every nigger here.” Someone got it on video and it went viral. Cooper has apologized profusely, but the criticism has been unrelenting. Now he has left his team to seek counseling. It’s not clear if he’ll ever be able to return.

I’m usually the first one to call out racism, especially southern racism. Cooper is from Florida so he fits the meme. You’d think I’d be the first to excoriate him. You’d think I’d be dancing because right now Cooper is being pilloried–he’s being shunned by his teammates (70% of the NFL is black) and criticized by every talking head. Even Chesney, a country music star, has piled on.

But I am not calling for Cooper’s head. I feel sorry for him. And I think we should give him a break for three reasons.

1. He used a word. He didn’t murder someone for racial reasons like George Zimmerman. Jesus, he isn’t even accused of murdering someone period. Remember Ray Lewis? He was indicted for murder, but somehow that was no biggie. There was no outrage. None of his teammates went on the air saying they didn’t trust him.  Advertisers didn’t shun him. The media didn’t pile on. Look, I think the “n-word” is a terrible thing. I am all for punishing people who use it, and particularly those who use it in a nasty way like Cooper did. But at the end of the day, it’s just a word.

If the NFL can make room for murderers, for drug dealers (Sam Hurd,) rapists and a man who tortured dogs, surely it is thick skinned enough to handle the “n-word.”

2. He took responsibility. He didn’t say, “I was drunk,” although he was. He didn’t try to blame the person who took the video or the security guard or argue he was simply standing his ground or say it was a different time or accuse people of being too sensitive or go on Rush Limbaugh and whine about reverse racism. He didn’t laugh it off like Kerry Collins did when he did essentially the same thing a few years ago. Instead he came out, faced the cameras and here’s what he said:

“I am so ashamed and disgusted with myself. I want to apologize. I have been offensive. I have apologized to my coach, to Jeffrey Lurie, to Howie Roseman and to my teammates. I owe an apology to the fans and to this community. I am so ashamed, but there are no excuses. What I did was wrong and I will accept the consequences.”

He also apologized to his parents, because he said they raised him better than that.

3. And my final reason to give Cooper a break is because I understand. And I’m deeply ashamed to admit, so ashamed that I didn’t want to write this post.

When I was 19, a bar girl in Africa started ragging me. I called her a “black bitch.” You got it. When I got mad and drunk and my inhibitions went down, I went straight to race and sex.

I was horrified. I had marched against racism in the South during days when the other side had bricks. Later, I’d gotten maced because of it. I supported women’s rights. I was in Peace Corps for goodness sake. Peace Corp are to the socially righteous as Jesuits are to Catholics. We weren’t racists and sexists, I thought. But when push came to shove, we were. Or at least I was.

I could see the words floating through the air and wished with everything I had that I could grab them and stuff them back in my mouth. I had opened a door into my heart, and instead of the good person I expected to see there, was an ugly little nasty toad of a bigot. I will guarantee you that Cooper is nauseated with what he found behind the door.

But I learned from it. What I learned that we all have some racism deep down inside, even politically correct liberals like me. I learned that it can be very deep and hidden and you can not even know it’s there. I learned that knowing it’s there is a good thing, because years later when I was in charge of hiring and promoting people of color and a different sex than myself, I learned to watch myself and others for inadverdent stereotyping. I learned, and I think I became much better for it.

I know I am still a racist and a sexist, and while no longer homophobic, I’m still a little too quick to stereotype gays or roll my eyes. I try to correct for it, but I don’t tell myself it’s not there. And if you look back at the dozens of kids of color and women and gays I hired, mentored, and promoted, I think some of them will tell you I was a positive influence in their lives. I did some good, even if I’m not as good as I’d like.

Look, I don’t know Cooper. He may be an asshole of the first order. But I do know what it’s like to disappoint yourself in such a profound way that you lie in the dark because you’re just too embarrassed to come outside and face the world.

Hey, it’s fine for us as a society to be pissed off about Zimmerman, but let’s not take our national self-disgust out on Riley Cooper.

I know how he feels. And it’s worse than you can know.

Bromances, homances, blowmances – summer frivolity for everyone!

Or, Bromancing the Stone, and other bad puns…

It started with “bromance,” the idea of being in love (non-sexual, mind you) with someone of the same sex. Then it became “Flomance,” being in love with an obnoxious television character named “Flo” of course. Now I just read “throwmance,” used by Jon Greenberg to describe NFL quarterback Jay Cutler’s habit of only throwing to one receiver per season (formerly Earl Bennett, now Brandon Marshall). Where will this end?

Here, hopefully.

Here it is, a little more summer frivolity—the Mance Dictionary.

  • Doughmance—what young college graduates dream of but will never see because of student loans
  • Blowmance—a love for a particular sexual practice
  • VanGoghmance—a love of Impressionist painters
  • Fromance—a love of hairstyles of the sixties and seventies
  • Nomance—see T’eo, Manti
  • Pomance—love of the poor and downtrodden
  • Homance—see Grant, Hugh
  • Toemance—see Ryan, Rex
  • Whoamance—the GOP’s love of the filibuster to block anything proposed by the Dems
  • Joemance—an inexplicable attraction to vice presidents
  • Promance—the desire of a young athlete to one day drive a Maybach and date a hot starlet

OK, OK, we all know you can do better. Fomance (Moses “Fo, Fo and Fo” Malone is too old school for this crew), but Lowmance, Glowmance, and Growmance are all still out there, as are any number of clever homonyms I haven’t even thought of, like Breauxmance (fraternal love between two Cajun men).

Have at it.

By Otherwise Posted in Funny

Dee Liner: It’s not bad enough that Bama can outplay Auburn – are they now outpaying them as well?

Dee Liner, a four star defensive lineman who will be attending Alabama in the fall, has created a firestorm by posting a pic on Instagram of him holding a huge wad of cash and saying his struggles are over with.

No one knows how Mr. Liner got his money, and frankly, no one should care, even if the obvious suspicion proves to be true. Under the table payments to players like Terrelle Pryor, Reggie Bush, etc, etc. have always gone on and always will. In the old days, it was boosters stuffing hundred dollar bills into the chain link fence at games in Texas. Now it’s loaner cars, cheap apartments and free tattoos. As long as there are rich boosters with no morals and poor kids with talent, there will be a transfer of funds. The NCAA can assign a full time enforcement person to every kid in America and it won’t matter. One thing we should know by now from trying to stop cocaine, illegal immigration and prostitution, and that’s economics always wins. Period.

Not only that, but the players being paid are right. They’re risking their health and their futures, and are expected to enter into a binding commitment to do so for free. The school, meanwhile, has no commitment. It can yank a scholarship any time it chooses and there’s an awful good chance that the coach that promised them he’d work with them for the next four years will be on the first bus out of town if another school offers more money. (Ask University of Florida, who let Urban Meyer out of his contract because of health reasons, only to see him jump at a bigger payday in a soft conference.)

No, the real outrage is because most suspect that Mr. Liner reneged on a deal with Auburn. Most outraged are the fans from Auburn, a school Mr. Liner had promised to attend until he changed his mind in January.

As anyone who follows southern football knows, lots of schools can defeat Auburn on the football field, but few can compete with them in, ahem, “player acquisition.”  Only a few years ago, it was Auburn who ended up with Cam Newton, whose father called various schools trying to auction him off.  Indeed, other SEC schools have a long-standing joke about the Plainsmen/War Eagles/Tigers (when you are Auburn, it helps to have a few aliases handy.) It goes: “If they’re winning, they’re cheating.”

But now Auburn’s lost a player and suddenly that player shows up with fistfuls of cash.

Life’s just not fair, I guess.

By Otherwise Posted in Sports
Trayvon / Zimmerman

Zimmerman verdict: Fox News is absolutely right for a change

Fox News has started beating the drum and asking why everyone is so upset over Zimmerman when there are so many blacks killed by blacks every day?

And they’re absolutely right, although of course they’re right for the wrong reasons. They’re trying to distract the discussion from the sordid facts that white men routinely kill black kids and get away with it and always have, and that non-coastal Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and the rest of the old South think that’s the way it should be.

Still, a broken clock is right twice a day, and this is Fox’s nanosecond of correctness. It is heinous that we liberals can get so up in arms over Trayvon Martin and not over the 1500 other young black boys between the ages of 15 and 19 that die every year from guns. (For more nauseating stats, follow the link. You get the idea.)

Wait, liberals say, we do get outraged over it. Look at all the programs we’ve started and the efforts we’ve made.

No, we don’t. We get saddened by it. We were outraged over Zimmerman. There’s a difference and there are reasons for it.

First, of course, is that the issue with the  Zimmerman trial isn’t really about Trayvon Martin. Not really. The issue that has us outraged is that a white man murdering a black kid isn’t considered a crime in the Old South and that half the white people in this country are OK with that.

Second, of course, is the truth that Trayvon was a young black male. Many people fear young males, particularly black males. For many there’s a little nagging feeling somewhere in the back of the mind that black teenagers that get killed are probably gang-bangers, and well, what can you say? Zimmerman’s defense certainly used the “he-was-black-and-wore-a-hoodie-so-he-deserved-it” defense.

But three dozen of the black kids killed by guns each year are under the age of 9. Unless you’re a full blown psychopath, it’s impossible to believe, no matter how racist and paranoid you might be, that a five year-old “deserves” it. Many of the teens have nothing to do with guns or gangs either, like 15 year-old Hadiya Pendleton, an honor student killed in Chicago last year. And while I can’t find stats, I suspect very, very few of those kids were killed by “white hispanic” guys. Most, like Hadiya, were killed by young black males.

We liberals squirm when we say that. We use the passive voice, “children are killed by bullets,” as if bullets simply materialize out of the air, and children fall onto the sidewalk with the tops of their heads blown off. We try to deflect the conversation.

We blame guns. Well, guns are clearly part of the problem. But that horse has left the barn. We’re simply not going to get guns off the streets. There are 300 million of them out there and gun laws have had about as much effect as sweeping back the tide.

We blame environmental factors–poverty, lack of opportunity, drugs, lead in the air, lack of appropriate after-school activities, etc. Probably all of these play a part and probably we’re not doing enough to address them.

However, it’s young black males that are pulling the triggers, and we don’t really like to say that. Just as those in the Pew poll somehow have convinced themselves that the Zimmerman trial was not about race and are thus disingenuous about the real problem, we are equally so in the other direction.

I’ve written before about the need for fat people to stop making excuses and take responsibility. I think it’s time we liberals did the same thing here. Yes it’s guns and environmental factors, but the ones pulling the triggers are young black males. At some point, they and the communities they live in have to find a way to stop the carnage, just like all the underclasses that have come before them in America have done.

Today, Ted Nugent used the black-on-black violence argument and the now standard right wing meme of trashing the memory of Trayvon Martin. It’s hard for anyone with decency or intelligence to listen to this and get past the base motives to listen to the argument, but this is one case where we should.

There are 1500 George Zimmermans out there, and not all of them are “hispanic whites.”

CATEGORY: AmericanCulture

People are stupid

They are you know, and that’s not just me foot-stomping and getting mad at the car in front of me who just sat through a green light texting.

Years ago I was having a conversation with a dim, dangerous man named Troy. I’d ended up as Troy’s supervisor on the construction project, because I was smarter, and Troy didn’t like it because he was older. Troy was quick to anger and carried a knife, so most discussions with him were best handled delicately.

Troy said, “You think I’m stupid!”

“No!” I lied as sincerely as I could.

“Well let me tell you something smart-boy, they gave me an IQ test in the Army and I scored 86. How about that!”

Obviously Troy didn’t know that IQ tests aren’t on a 100 point scale or that 86 is not too far above the handicapped line. And I sure as hell wasn’t going to tell him. Not just because he carried a knife, but because you can’t tell people they’re stupid. They can’t help it, and they won’t believe you anyway.

Which is too bad. The world might be a better place if people knew they were stupid.

The problem arises because we have too many of them. At one level, this is a good thing. To the extent the economy is efficient and roles are allocated fairly, it’s good that there’s somebody there to pick up the garbage, although they seem to be too busy going to GOP conventions to do much good with the trash.

They’re  also becoming louder and more strident.  Basically, if you’ve ever tried to have a serous conversation with anyone with an IQ below 120 it was a challenge, and if you’ve ever tried to reason with anyone of average IQ or below, 100, it felt like you’d caught your balls in a bear trap–excruciating pain that wouldn’t end, even when you tried to extricate yourself.

But like the poor, the stupid will always be with us.

Yesterday, Ryan Braun admitted (sort of) that he was a drug cheat. This took many people, like his friend Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay quarterback, by surprise. Indeed, Rodgers had offered to bet his salary of $4.5 mil that Braun was innocent when he was accused a few years ago and managed to get the case thrown out on a technicality. The point is, only a fool would would’ve believed Braun two years ago. The evidence was simply overwhelming–little guy puts up unbelievable numbers and has urine sample that is full of synthetic testosterone but gets off because the collector couldn’t get it mailed and puts it in a fridge overnight. Refrigeration causes synthetic testosterone? Sheesh, the pharma companies are wasting their money with all that fancy lab equipment when all they need to do is pee in a bottle and put it beside the milk overnight.  There are some players about whom it’s legitimate to wonder, but we’ll never be sure because they never tested positive. There are others who never tested positive, like Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa about whom there is no doubt, and only the truly stupid would ever beleive otherwise. Luckily for them, there are 150 million fools out there to buy their stories.

This morning, Pew asked a thousand folks or so if they thought justice had been served in the Zimmerman case. 61% of Republicans and 80% of Tea Party members thought justice had been served. Really. There have been numerous studies that prove that conservative and religious people are quantitatively stupider than liberal and non-religious people. This site has gleefully reported those. Mostly we admit, to get under the skin of our conservative and religious friends.

However, stupidity is more than a joke. It has consequences, like a dead kid and his murderer being treated as a hero.

CATEGORY: EnvironmentNature

Six snake stories

It’s the dog days of summer, the time when it becomes hard to blog. Dedicated and serious bloggers push through it and write brilliant, meaty pieces on the new constitution or nuanced and warm offerings about choral singing and fly fishing or whimsical asides about larping. The less dedicated among us stare at the list of blog topics we intend to tackle, heavy duty pieces about entitlements or the positive role of corporations in politics, then turn away and go back to playing poker on our cellphones.

Better something than nothing, I figure, so today’s blog is about snakes, inspired by the comment thread on Booth’s recent post on fly fishing.

I don’t like snakes, but I don’t dislike them either. We have snakes here on our farm in Indiana and when I see one, I walk around it. Occasionally we’ll have to shoo an aggressive black snake away from the garage with a broom, and I suppose if we found a copperhead or rattler too close to the house I’d probably kill it, but for the most part they go their way and we go ours.

However, I’ve lived much of my life in places where there were snakes, poisonous ones, and have accumulated some stories. Growing up in south Georgia it was massive diamondbacks, huge snakes as thick as your arm that would stretch across the narrow, sandy roads as they sunned themselves. In West Africa, it was mostly cobras and green mambas. In Louisiana, it was water moccasins and in Australia tiger snakes.

1973—West Africa I

Peace Corps training was based in Kenema, where we were housed in a low cinder-block dorm, just a long row of concrete cubicles, each with a cot and a door that was nothing more than a thin piece of cloth on a string. We were playing cards when someone stuck their head in the door and yelled “Snake charmer.” Three of us jumped up and flip flopped across the compound to the street where the snake charmer was performing in front of a crowd of about thirty people.

Snake charmers traveled from village to village performing for tips. They wore black, pajama-like outfits and fluffy headdresses made from black-dyed rags. They carried their snakes in burlap sacks. There was no anti-venin available so locals were terrified of snakes and snake charmers. Snake charmers could handle snakes with impunity because they had “medicine,” what we would call black magic. In other words, they were evil men who’d made a bargain with the devil. If a snake charmer loaded his writhing sacks onto a local jitney bus, called a lorry, everyone else got off. If he came to a village and needed a place to sleep, he got not a room but a house, and afterwards the medicine man performed elaborate rites before anyone would sleep in it again.

This snake charmer was a scraggly man, with brown teeth and the faint odor of palm wine. His act consisted of pulling a snake from a bag, throwing it on the ground so that it faced the crowd, who immediately jumped backwards and screamed, “Wayah!” He’d then reach out, snag it by the tail and return it to the bag. We got there just in time for the spitting cobra. He reached into the bag, pulled the snake out, and threw it to the ground. It took off toward the crowd, who immediately bolted, except for me. I stood where I was and grinned at the snake. Behind me people screamed, “Wayah! Wayah!”

The snake crawled toward me. When it got about eighteen inches away, it rose and hooded, its head level with my bare knees. It swayed back and forth, deciding. The snake charmer looked at me as if I was crazy, then reached out and grabbed the snake by its tail, tugging it back and dropping it into the sack. He tied the top. We stood, legs akimbo and hands on hips, staring at each other. I am sure he was wondering, “Who is this smart ass ruining my act?” I was thinking that these snakes had to be defanged. With exactly the same hubris as a thousand white men in Africa before me, I refused to yield to silly native superstition. Instead of shorts and sandals, I should’ve worn starched khakis and a pith helmet.

After a moment he turned and walked back. Grunting, he lifted his biggest sack, and untied it. He walked over to me. By now I stood on my own little island because the crowd had retreated six feet or so behind me. Looking at me appraisingly, he untied the sack and dumped a cranky, fat Gaboon viper with a head the size of my fist into the dust. It crawled a few inches, felt the heat from my bare foot and coiled into striking position. The snake charmer watched me. I looked at him and smiled.

The crowd was going crazy behind me. Children buried their heads into their parents’ legs and wept. Adults slapped each others’ shoulders and whispered. Wayah! Wayah! The snake charmer looked back and forth from the snake to me. Finally, apparently resigning himself to the reality that I was now part of the act, he shook his head, reached down and grabbed the snake behind the jaws.

Another Volunteer snapped pictures like a photographer at a fashion shoot, racing around, kneeling, turning his camera sideways. Klick, klick, klick, klick. My fans cheered me on. The “wayah’s” of surprise morphed into “wayah’s” of encouragement. Wayah! Wayah! Wayah! The snake charmer hung the heavy snake around my neck and released his hands. He hugged me. He smiled for the camera. I smiled for the camera. The viper smiled for the camera. Klick. Wayah! Klick.

Then came the money shot. The charmer grabbed the snake, held it between us, flipped it over, pried its jaws open and using a small stick raised up a fang fully an inch long. A crystal drop of poison glistened on its tip. I stared at that hypodermic-sharp fang that had been less than an inch from my carotid artery and felt the blood rush down from my head. I felt my knees soften and struggled to hold myself upright. The world went silent. I no longer heard the klicks or the cheers. I couldn’t stop looking at that fang. My tongue was made of dust.

And then I did the single bravest thing I have ever done in my life: I smiled, waved to the crowd and calmly walked back to the dorm.

1973—West Africa II

After training we did visits in the villages of Volunteers who’d been there awhile. In Joe’s village, I went to the latrine. When I came out, I looked down and there, perfectly parallel between my two feet in their plastic sandals, was a short, flat arrow-shaped snake. I didn’t move. Nor did he. We remained like that for what seemed like a very long time. Finally, he slowly turned, his flickering tongue almost touching my bare foot, and crawled away.

Back inside the house, we looked up the snake in Joe’s book. It was a death adder—the same snake that killed Cleopatra.

“Why didn’t you kill it?” asked Joe.

I shook my head. “You kill it. Me and that snake had a deal. I wouldn’t kill it and it wouldn’t kill me. A deal is a deal.”

1974—West Africa

Since it was always warm in West Africa, some Volunteers slept on waterbeds they’d brought from home. Ray was sitting in his living room one day when out of the corner of his eye he saw a small black cobra slide around the corner and into his bedroom. Without thinking he jumped up and yelled, “Kalii!” which means snake. Instantly every adult male in the village poured through his front door, each with a machete. Ray tried to yell stop, but before he could get the words out his mouth a stream of pinkish water poured through the doorway. Inside his bedroom, the dead cobra lay in pieces on his shredded water bed.


We were laying pipe through the Atchafalaya Basin. My job was to follow the excavator digging the ditch in a small aluminum boat. Once or twice a day I’d fuel the machine or lubricate something, but mostly I sat in the boat and watched, there more for safety than for anything else. Every day I’d wash my boat, prepare lunch for the operator of the machine, read and in the middle of the day when it got hot, slip into the bayou for a swim.

This drove the operator and the supervisor crazy, because they rightly thought swimming alone by yourself in a deep black-water bayou with snakes, strong current and the occasional alligator was unsafe. The supervisor would try to talk me out of it by telling me stories like the old urban legend where a man jumps into a river and comes out with fifty snakes hanging on him. I’d just laugh and say that was nonsense, that snakes couldn’t open their mouths underwater or they’d drown.

One day we were sitting on the tracks of the machine and a cottonmouth swam by. A cottonmouth is a very bulky snake and swims very high in the water. Instead of its head poking out of the water at an angle like most water snakes, they form a sort of “S,” almost like a camel’s neck with the top of its head parallel to the surface. This one held a fish in its mouth. The supervisor looked at me, but didn’t say anything. I never swam alone in the bayou again.


Australia has 6 or 7 of the ten most poisonous snakes in the world, depending on how you count. (You’d think it would be straightforward, but it’s not. Some snakes have very toxic venom, like the sea snake, but have small fangs and rarely bite. Some have venom that is less toxic, like the tai pan, but are quick to bite and inject larger amounts, and whose bites are often fatal.)

A friend was burnt out from work. Another friend offered the use of his country retreat near Melbourne. The first friend went down at night and settled in. The next morning he got up, took his coffee out to the back veranda, and there sunning themselves on the stone path leading into the garden, were half a dozen fat black tiger snakes. Tiger snakes are very poisonous, very agro, and very dangerous. He took his coffee, slowly retreated into the house and went out to the front to sit and have his coffee, where there, laying on the welcome mat was another tiger snake. He quickly packed and left.


The other day I was running along Woodall Road and I saw a black snake, actually a Southern Black Racer, dart across the road. I stopped to look at it. It was about three feet long, as thin as a ribbon, and like most Racers, aggressive as all get out. This one coiled up in the leaves, hissed at me and then put his tail up against a dry leaf and began shaking it furiously. It was a pretty good imitation of a rattlesnake. I’m a believer in evolution, but it’s still amazing that behavior this specific could occur through natural selection.


Chris Froome is winning like Lance Armstrong won

Tomorrow, barring the pavement opening up and swallowing him, Chris Froome of the Sky Team will win the Tour de France. And for the next “ten years” we’ll all wonder if he did so without the help of drugs.

There are many reasons to suspect Froome, which we’ve discussed before, but a recent interview with Jonathan Vaughters, boss of a rival team, brings up another–it’s not just that he’s winning but HOW he’s winning.

Froome’s winning margin is likely to be over five minutes, 5:03 to be exact, and it would be 5:23 had he not had a time penalty for blatantly cheating by taking on food when he was not allowed to, a blunder he tried to fob off on a teammate.

That’s a huge margin.

In 1989 and 1990, before synthetic EPO became prevalent in cycling, Greg Lemond won the race by 8 seconds and by 2 minutes and 16 seconds. Between 1991 and 2005, the “doping era” which included the wins of admitted dopers Riis, Ulrich, Pantani and Armstrong, the average winnng margin was 5 minutes and 1 second. While few would argue that cycling has been clean since, most would argue it’s certainly been clean-er, and once again we’ve seen winning margins come down.  The winning margin from 2006 through 2012 was 1 minute 40 seconds. (Indeed, if you exclude the performance of Froome’s Sky teammate, Bradley Wiggins last year, the recent wins have been even narrower, 1’23”.)

Number of stage wins by a Tour winner shows a similar pattern. During the doping era, the Tour winner averaged winning 2.4 stages. Since, it’s been one stage win per year.

So where are we? Froome is going to win by 5’03” and will have won 3 stages when he arrives in Paris.  During the dirty years, the typical winner won by 5’01” and won 2.4 stages.  During recent years, the winner has won by 1’40” seconds and has won 1 stage.  The last cyclist  to win by more than five minutes? Lance Armstrong in 2004. The last Tour winner to win more than two stages? Lance Armstrong.

In other words, Froome is winning like winners won in the dirty days. In fact, he’s winning EXACTLY like Armstrong won. Armstrong’s winning marging during his seven wins was 5’23” and his average number of stage wins was 3, the same numbers as Froome to the second.

Does this prove he’s dirty? No, but it certainly makes it OK to ask the question.