St. Louis Police Oppose Non Violent Protest By Football Players

The controversy over the decision not to indict Darren Wilson extended to football this weekend when five of the St. Louis Rams plays entered the stadium with their hands raised. This was in reference to the eye witnesses who testified before the grand jury that Michael Brown had his hands raised, attempting to surrender, when he was shot to death. These players were engaging in their right to freedom of expression in a peaceful manner.

While I can understand that the police would not be happy to see this, I am disturbed by their reaction. ESPN reports:

The St. Louis Police Officers Association called for the players involved to be disciplined and for the Rams and the NFL to deliver a “very public apology,” its statement read in part.

“I know that there are those that will say that these players are simply exercising their First Amendment rights,” SLPOA business manager Jeff Roorda said in the statement. “Well, I’ve got news for people who think that way: Cops have First Amendment rights too, and we plan to exercise ours. I’d remind the NFL and their players that it is not the violent thugs burning down buildings that buy their advertiser’s products. It’s cops and the good people of St. Louis and other NFL towns that do. Somebody needs to throw a flag on this play. If it’s not the NFL and the Rams, then it’ll be cops and their supporters.”

It is understandable for anyone to be upset violent protests but this was a totally peaceful expression of their views. The SLPOA has the idea of the First Amendment totally backwards if they think that the First Amendment was designed for the police to try to shut down protests. I haven’t heard such a confused interpretation of the First Amendment since Sarah Palin expressed the belief it was to protect her from questioning by the media.

While I don’t condone those who are violent, I am also disturbed by the implicit idea of separating the good (you can almost hear white) people of St. Louis and other NFL towns from those (black) people who are protesting, not all of whom are protesting violently. Those football players certainly were engaged in non-violent protest.

The SLPOA took  advantage of unfair nature of the grand jury proceedings to falsely claim that this exonerated Wilson:

“SLPOA Business Manager Jeff Roorda said, “now that the evidence is in and Officer Wilson’s account has been verified by physical and ballistic evidence as well as eye-witness testimony, which led the grand jury to conclude that no probable cause existed that Wilson engaged in any wrongdoing, it is unthinkable that hometown athletes would so publicly perpetuate a narrative that has been disproven over-and-over again.”

The argument that there was probable cause to indict Wilson, despite the ruling of the grand jury, was never disproven. Both physical evidence and eye witnesses contradict Wilson’s statement. As I discussed here and here, the grand jury proceedings were highly irregular, with the prosecutor essentially acting as the defense, leading the grand jury to come to a decision not to indict. There were also irregularities in the collection of evidence after the shooting.

It is shocking that it has suddenly become controversial in this country to insist that a police officer who shot an unarmed person, who some eye witnesses say was trying to surrender, should have to face cross examination when giving his testimony. There is an incestuous relationship between the police and prosecutor’s office with the prosecutor seeing the police on his side, desiring to protect them. Grand juries are generally used to present the case for indictment, not to present the defense case. Why is it that conservatives who generally distrust the government are suddenly showing complete trust when an unarmed black kid is killed, despite clear abuses of the system by the prosecutor? There is certainly room for disagreement about Wilson’s guilt based upon the evidence presented, both supporting and contradicting Wilson,  but this should be dealt with under normal trial rules, with an adversarial proceeding including  cross examination of the witnesses, not a sham proceeding rigged to exonerate Wilson.

It is only understandable that people will be driven to protest considering the irregularities in this case. This includes football players, who also have the right to freedom of expression. Fortunately the NFL understood this and Brian McCarthy, the NFL’s VP of communications, responded to the SLPOA with this statement, declining to initiate disciplinary action against the players:  “We respect and understand the concerns of all individuals who have expressed views on this tragic situation.”

Please Share

Keith Olbermann Returning To Television

After losing jobs at MSNBC and Current, Keith Olbermann has a new television job. He will return in October as a studio host for Turner during their coverage of post season baseball. Before developing fame as a political commentator, Olbermann had  been one of the original hosts of ESPN’s Sportscenter and is considered to be knowledgeable about baseball.

Olbermann has had difficulty difficulty getting along with management, regardless of where he is. Fortunately for him, show business is an area where people will continue to take a risk on celebrities like him if they think he can draw in viewers.

Please Share

Down To Three

The Final Four is down to three. No, not basketball where Michigan and Louisville play for the National Championship in about an hour, but the final four Democratic Senators who opposed marriage equality in a recent post. Tim Johnson of South Dakota has announced that his views have evolved and he now supports gay marriage rights:

“After lengthy consideration, my views have evolved sufficiently to support marriage equality legislation,” Johnson said in a statement released through his office. “This position doesn’t require any religious denomination to alter any of its tenets; it simply forbids government from discrimination regarding who can marry whom.”

Johnson’s decision comes in the wake of several other Democratic senators who have switched in favor of gay marriage. Just three red-state holdouts remain: Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.).

 

Please Share

All But Four Democratic Senators Support Gay Marriage Rights

The Final Four is about to begin play, but The Week reports on another final four. We are down to just four Democratic Senators who oppose marriage equality: Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Tim Johnson of South Dakota. Geography clearly plays a huge role here.

Despite the views of these four, there are now 53 Senators supporting marriage equality (including two Republicans, Rob Portman of Ohio and Mark Kirk of Illinois).  This represents a marked change as Senators bravely follow along with the changing views of the nation.

As for the other Final Four: Go Blue!

Please Share

Bonus Quote of the Day

“President Obama filled out his NCAA tournament bracket. He picked Florida, Indiana, Louisville, and Ohio State to go to the Final Four. Crazy that it’s been four months since the election, and he still needs Florida and Ohio to win.” –Jimmy Fallon

Please Share

Football and Polls Favorable For Obama Victory

The Alabama-LSU game is getting more hype today, but the Oh0 State-Illinois game was far more important for the future of this nation. That is because a correlation has been found between winning football games and how voters feel about voting for the incumbent:

What exactly is it that makes voters reward a challenger or punish an incumbent?  Do they care about the unemployment rate, GDP, or inflation, or is it how those variables are moving? Are voters motivated by position papers or a candidate’s personal history?  Is the electorate responding to slick TV ads or how the candidates performed in the debates?

It may be something else altogether. Recent research has revealed that voter irrationality may be more arbitrary than we think. And in a razor-thin election just enough irrationality can make all the difference. Just how irrational are voters? It is statistically possible that the outcome of a handful of college football games in the right battleground states could determine the race for the White House.

Economists Andrew Healy, Neil Malhotra, and Cecilia Mo make this argument in a fascinating article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. They examined whether the outcomes of college football games on the eve of elections for presidents, senators, and governors affected the choices voters made. They found that a win by the local team, in the week before an election, raises the vote going to the incumbent by around 1.5 percentage points. When it comes to the 20 highest attendance teams—big athletic programs like the University of Michigan, Oklahoma, and Southern Cal—a victory on the eve of an election pushes the vote for the incumbent up by 3 percentage points. That’s a lot of votes, certainly more than the margin of victory in a tight race. And these results aren’t based on just a handful of games or political seasons; the data were taken from 62 big-time college teams from 1964 to 2008.

The good news, we suppose, is that sports really can cheer us up and make the world seem like a brighter place. The sports fan is left happier and more satisfied all around, not just on the gridiron. When you are feeling upbeat and happy, you feel more satisfied with the status quo in general. And feeling satisfied with the status quo makes you more likely to vote for the incumbent politician, even if that’s totally irrational.

The study’s authors control for economic, demographic, and political factors, so the results are much more sophisticated than just a raw correlation. They also did a deeper analysis that took into account people’s expectations. It turns out that surprise wins are especially potent, raising local support for incumbent politicians by around 2.5 percentage points.

Alabama and Louisiana will go to Romney regardless of the score of a football game, but Obama has such a narrow lead in Ohio that we’ll take any benefits from Ohio State beating Illinois. Michigan is probably safe for Obama, but it doesn’t hurt that Michigan won today (despite Denard Robinson still being out after the injury suffered during the Nebraska game). Florida came back to beat Missouri, possibly delivering another swing state. Virginia beat North Carolina State, helping in the southeast swing state where Obama’s chances were already better. Miami beat Virginia Tech on Thursday, providing mixed results. Colorado was no match for Stanford so Obama better clinch reelection without waiting for the results from the western states just to be safe.

Going to more serious predictors. Obama maintains a lead in Ohio and  smaller leads in Florida and Virginia. Karl Rove says that Sandy has helped Obama. Is he preparing the spin for a loss by Romney? Authoritarian war-monger Rudy Giuliani calls on Obama to resign in a fiery speech which sounded much better in the original German. This looks like a faux issue which only those already believing the right wing alternate reality believe. A more objective view, and consideration of the facts, shows that this attempt to Swift Boat Obama has failed. Despite the attempts by the right wing to twist the facts, Condoleeza Rice  has defended the actions of the Obama Administration regarding  the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

Please Share

Three Strikes Against Romney’s Lie About Obama And Small Business

Lacking legitimate arguments against Obama from the right, Mitt Romney and other conservatives have concentrated on fabricating attacks against Obama for views he does not actually hold. The latest attacks, based upon twisting a comment from Obama to give it a quite different meaning, is beginning to backfire against Romney. While Obama  spoke about the benefits to businessmen from government infrastructure they did not build, such as the roads and bridges, Republicans twisted this into a ridiculous statement that businessmen did not build the businesses which they created. Conservatives, who believe a Randian fantasy about the economy and are often ignorant of how a market economy actually works, have been easily fooled into believing the claims from the right.

Obama’s statement should actually not be controversial at all. It is such common sense that people receive some benefits from others that even Mitt Romney expressed a similar view talking to Olympians in 2002:

“You Olympians, however, know you didn’t get here solely on your own power,” said Romney, who on Friday will attend the Opening Ceremonies of this year’s Summer Olympics. “For most of you, loving parents, sisters or brothers, encouraged your hopes, coaches guided, communities built venues in order to organize competitions. All Olympians stand on the shoulders of those who lifted them. We’ve already cheered the Olympians, let’s also cheer the parents, coaches, and communities. All right! [pumps fist].”

This no more reduces respect for the accomplishments of the Olympians than Obama’s statement shows any lack of respect for the accomplishments of creators of small businesses.

The second embarrassment for Romney is that the businessman in an ad promoting the attack on Obama turned out to have received government assistance even beyond government roads and bridges:

HE GOT HELP. In the Mitt Romney campaign web and television ads that received national attention last week, a blunt Jack Gilchrist of Gilchrist Metal Fabricating in Hudson tells President Barack Obama that he, his father and his son _ and not the government _ built his company.

But as it turns out, Gilchrist did receive some government help for his business, albeit a long time ago.

In 1999, Gilchrist Metal received $800,000 in tax-exempt revenue bonds issued by the New Hampshire Business Finance Authority “to set up a second manufacturing plant and purchase equipment to produce high definition television broadcasting equipment,” according to a New Hampshire Union Leader report at the time.

The federal government allocates to each state a certain amount of tax-exempt bonding capacity each year for business and housing loans.

Because the bond buyers do not pay federal taxes on the interest, the interest rate for the borrower is typically lower than that of standard bank financing.

Last year, Gilchrist Metal also received two U.S. Navy sub-contracts totaling about $83,000 and a smaller, $5,600 Coast Guard contract in 2008, according to a government web site that tracks spending.

The Romney camp released a web ad featuring Jack Gilchrist last Thursday after Obama had said a week earlier that “if you were successful, you didn’t get there on your own” and added, “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.”

Finally, even Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post, who has previously taken the Romney line even when his own newspaper showed that he was wrong, has finally done some fact checking on this Romney lie:

The biggest problem with Romney’s ad is that it leaves out just enough chunks of Obama’s words — such as a reference to “roads and bridges”— so that it sounds like Obama is attacking individual initiative. The ad deceivingly cuts away from Obama speaking in order to make it seem as if the sentences follow one another, when in fact eight sentences are snipped away.

Suddenly, the word “that” appears as if it is referring to a business, rather than (apparently) to roads and bridges…

Romney, however, descends into silly season when he extrapolates Obama’s quote and says that means Obama believes Steve Jobs did not build Apple Computers.

Here’s what Obama said when Jobs passed away earlier this year: “By building one of the planet’s most successful companies from his garage, he exemplified the spirit of American ingenuity. By making computers personal and putting the Internet in our pockets, he made the information revolution not only accessible, but intuitive and fun.”

That sounds like Obama believes that Jobs really did build his company. He did not mention the roads to Cupertino.

Please Share

Penn State’s Penalties

Being too busy until his evening to post means that by now everyone who is interested has read about the NCAA’s sanctions against Penn State. Yesterday’s post on the topic does sort of require a follow-up so I will briefly summarize.  Penn State is being fined $60 million. This money, along with an additional $13 million due to penalties from the Big Ten Conference, are to be used for “external programs preventing child sexual abuse or assisting victims and may not be used to fund such programs at the university.”

Penn State will also be on probation for five years and will not allowed to participate in bowl games or the Big Ten Championship game for four years. This, along with a loss in scholarships, will probably keep Penn State from rebuilding as a football power for many years. It is also questionable if that was possible even without sanctions due to the stigma now surrounding the school.

I question the meaning of vacating games already played, but Penn State has vacated all their victories from 1998. As a consequence, Joe Paterno will no longer be listed as the coach with the most wins in college football.

There are questions as to the benefits of penalizing the current students, the region which will be hurt economically, and the University after those involved might all be in prison or dead. While a legitimate question, it is hard to justify any lesser sanctions for such an egregious failure to monitor the integrity of the football program when other schools have received significant sanctions for far less serious offenses

Please Share

We Were Penn State: After Unprecedented Scandal Penn State May Not Recover For Years, If Ever

Joe Paterno’s statue is down and the NCAA is reportedly on the verge of handing down unprecedented sanctions against Penn State. We are dealing with an unprecedented failure of leadership at Penn State as University officials showed far more concern with covering up the scandal than they did for those abused by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.  There has been speculation that the penalties, to be announced at 9 a.m. tomorrow, might  include the “death penalty” which would prevent the school from playing football for one or more seasons. ESPN says they won’t get the death penalty, but the penalties “are considered to be so harsh that the death penalty may have been preferable.” The death penalty might not have been an option according to an AP report:

The last time the NCAA shut down a football program with the so-called ”death penalty” was in the 1980s, when SMU was forced to drop the sport because of extra benefits violations. After the NCAA suspended the SMU program for a year, the school decided not to play in 1988, either, as it tried to regroup.

Current NCAA rules limit the penalty to colleges already on probation that commit another major violation. But NCAA leaders have indicated in recent months they are willing to use harsher penalties for the worst offenses. That includes postseason and TV bans, which haven’t been used extensively since the 1980s.

”This is completely different than an impermissible benefits scandal like (what) happened at SMU, or anything else we’ve dealt with. This is as systemic a cultural problem as it is a football problem. There have been people that said this wasn’t a football scandal,” Emmert told PBS. ”Well, it was more than a football scandal, much more than a football scandal. It was that but much more. And we’ll have to figure out exactly what the right penalties are. I don’t know that past precedent makes particularly good sense in this case, because it’s really an unprecedented problem.”

USA Today quotes former NCAA investigators as saying that “Penn State is eligible for the death penalty even though it is not a so-called repeat violator because all punitive options are on the table in cases involving major rules violations.”

It is likely that the penalties will prevent Penn State from attending bowl games for one or more years. Ohio State is ineligible for bowl participation next year, leaving Wisconsin with a pretty open road to represent the Leader’s Division in the Big Ten’s second championship game next year.

Even without the impending sanctions, it is questionable if Penn State could recover from a scandal of this magnitude in the near future to become a major football power again. The stigma will probably keep away many potential recruits, and might also impact hiring of coaching staffs. Sanctions which might keep Penn State out of bowls, off of television, and limit recruiting will make rebuilding even more difficult. It also doesn’t help Penn State that they do not have a football tradition to fall back upon beyond the now tainted Paterno years. I do not think that there will be much happiness in Happy Valley for years to come, and there will be strong economic repercussions beyond the loss of a winning football team for the region.

Please Share

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who (and Jenna) News; Green Lantern Gay; Spider-Man; Kathryn Joosten Dies; The Doctor and Captain America

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkP8W4D2k68&feature=player_embedded

Above is the Doctor Who mini-episode, Good as Gold.

Pictures have been spread on line of filming for season seven of Doctor Who. Unconfirmed but apparently reliable reports claim Jenna-Louise Coleman’s character will be named Clara. Steven Moffat has said in a recent interview that he hasn’t completed the script for the Christmas episode which Jenna’s character first appears in. Presumably the reports of filming are of episodes from later in the season.

Steven Moffat  continues to object to Elementary copying his idea of a television show based upon a modern day version of Sherlock Holmes.

A remake of Room at the Top has been sitting on the BBC’s shelf for a while but perhaps now that Jeanna-Louise Coleman has become a major actress throughout space and time there are finally plans for BBC4 to air the show. Jenna plans Susan Brown in the dramatization of the novel. Apparently the release has been delayed due to contractual problems.

DC comics are relaunching the concept of an Earth 2 with the original versions of its super heroes, but with some changes. Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, will be gay. I wonder if the new origin story will include a scene where Mitt Romney pins Alan Scott down and tries to cut off his ring.

Above is a new trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man

A common storyline in science fiction has time travelers change the past. I09 considers the question as to how we know whether our own past has been changed.

Kathryn Joosten, who has died at least three times  on television (Mrs. Landingham on West Wing and Mrs. McCluskey on Desperate Housewives and on Scrubs) actually died on June 2 of lung cancer.

Please Share