Saturday, March 31, 2012

If this offends anyone, I apologize


By Bob Gaydos
The B.S. meter, already recalibrated to measure record-level intensity since the Republican primary season began, reached new highs this past week thanks in large part to a TV personality who has been spewing hot air for decades and some professional football folks who are the reigning champion gas bags of the NFL. We’ll start with Geraldo Rivera (photo), but don’t worry, we’ll get to the New York Jets.
One of the most insulting and depressing developments of our Spin Age Society is the ascension of the non-apology apology. You hear it all the time now, from politicians, performers, athletes, commentators. The basic outline goes like this: “If I hurt or offended anyone with my remarks about (fill in the blank), I apologize. That was not my intent.”
That is pure bull and anyone who hears it knows it. Yet we let people get away with it all the time. What the “apologist” is really saying is: “If I hurt or offended anyone with my remarks, too bad, live with it. I am issuing this apology only because my advisers tell me it will soften the overwhelmingly negative reaction to my (a. hateful; b. bigoted; c. insensitive; d. ignorant; e. provocative; f. untrue; g. self-serving …) statements. I am not sorry for what I said, only for the reaction to it. I hope this puts an end to all this nonsense so I can continue to go about doing what I always do.”
Rivera weighed in on the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin by blaming the black teenager at least partially for his own death because he wore a hoodie. "I'll bet you money, if he didn't have that hoodie on, that nutty neighborhood watch guy wouldn't have responded in that violent and aggressive way," Rivera said on his Fox News TV show.
When his own son told him he was ashamed of what Dad had said, Rivera “apologized.” On Twitter: "Heard petition demands my apology to Trayvon's parents. Save effort: I deeply apologize for any hurt I caused-that is not my goal or intent.” He later sent an e-mail to the Politico web site: "I apologize to anyone offended by what one prominent black conservative called my ‘very practical and potentially life-saving campaign urging black and Hispanic parents not to let their children go around wearing hoodies.’ "
He added that he had been told his remarks "obscured the main point that someone shot and killed an unarmed teenager,” and explained that his comments were part of his “crusade to warn minority families of the danger to their young sons inherent in ‘gangsta’ style clothing; like hoodies.”
A day later, after a torrent of negative Tweets to his Tweet and more grief from his family, Rivera added : "[M]y own family and friends believe [that] I have obscured or diverted attention from the principal fact, which is that an unarmed 17-year-old was shot dead by a man who was never seriously investigated by local police. And if that is true, I apologize."
If that is true? Apparently his news sense disappeared along with his common sense when he joined Fox.
Note that at no time does Rivera ever simply say, “I’m sorry. What I said was terribly insensitive.” Nor does he ever seem to recognize the racism at the center of his “crusade.’’ Talk about forgetting your roots. He should go back to calling himself Gerry Rivers.
* * *
OK, before we get to the Jets, the more egregious football B.S. (because it involved potential physical harm to people) issued forth from one of the few head coaches in the NFL who can go toe-to-toe with Rex Ryan in smugness -- Sean Payton, head coach of the ironically named New Orleans Saints. Payton was recently suspended for a year, without pay, for allowing a bounty system to exist, wherein defensive players on his team could win cash bonuses up to $1,500 for knocking a star player from the opposing team out of the game.
A lot of macho type talking heads and fans, whose careers and health were not on the line, said this was no big deal, that it went on all the time in the NFL. Commissioner Roger Goodell thought otherwise. He saw a sharp rise in concussions and a string of lawsuits from ex-players charging that the league was not concerned with the safety if its players. And here the Saints were targeting some of the league’s best players for injury. Talk about self-destructive.
Well, Payton and the Saints lied to Goodell about the bounties and when he caught them, he leveled the boom. Payton is the first head coach to be suspended for a year. When his punishment was announced, he said: “As the head coach, anything that happens within the framework of your team and your program you're responsible for. And that's a lesson I've learned." … It's easy to get carried away in regards to a certain side of the ball, or more involved offensively or defensively, and that's something I regret."
Huh? He regrets paying too much attention to the offense over the defense? Not that he might have ended the career of MVP Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay if one of the Saints defensive linemen (or two) hit him just right?
Payton never admitted lying to Goodell, but did say, “You're disappointed, you're disappointed in yourself that it got to this point."
You’re disappointed? For what, that you got caught? How about, “I’m disappointed in myself and I’m sorry for my actions”?
* * *
OK, now the Jets. Really, compared to the first two, this is the least important offense in the scheme of things, but it is a so typically, insultingly Jet-like offense it can’t be ignored.
If you just got back from Mars, let me tell you that the Jets hired Tim Tebow, rock star, Christian athlete icon, to be their “backup” quarterback to Mark Sanchez, their three-year starter. In a week in which the pope was visiting Mexico and Cuba, Tebow (who seems to be pathologically “excited” to be a Jet) far eclipsed the pontiff in media coverage in the U.S.
The irritating thing with the Jets -- and that includes their owner, Woody Johnson, general manager Mike Tannenbaum and coach Rex Ryan -- is that they always say stuff that all their fans know is bull. For example, that getting Tebow was a “football decision” not a business-driven PR stunt to combat the coverage of their co-tenant New York Giants who just won their second Super Bowl title in four years.
Or that Sanchez, who wasn’t told about Tebow until he was signed, is fine with finding out he will be sharing game duties with a “backup quarterback“ who has guaranteed snaps in every game. Or that Tebow, who always talks of himself as a starting quarterback, is even considered to be a good quarterback by NFL standards. Or that the Jets actually have “a vision” on how to play offense with two quarterbacks (but with only a guaranteed scheme for Tebow) when Ryan is a defensive specialist who didn’t even know that his star wide receiver took himself out of the team’s most important game last year -- against the Giants.
The sports commentators politely called all this B.S. from the Jets “disingenuous.” But heck, I doubt Ryan can even spell it, much less be it. I prefer the more accurate: “Liar, liar, pants on fire.” That can be their next HBO special.
And by the way, don’t expect Johnson, Ryan or Tannenbaum to say, “I’m sorry” to fans when this Spin Age tactic implodes. Of course, Johnson, as owner, will “regret” having to let Ryan and Tannenbaum go. They, of course, will say, “You’re disappointed when things don’t work out.”
Gentlemen, you have no idea.
bobgaydos.blogspot.com

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hey, look: Marijuana, LSD, booze and sex


By Bob Gaydos
As Mitt Romney “root canals his way to the Republican nomination,” in the words of Time’s Joe Klein, I find it refreshing to look at some off-beat news stories that have nothing (so far as I can tell) to do with politics:

“LSD may help alcoholics stay off booze”
My immediate reaction to this headline I spotted on the web was, “No kidding.” Then it was, “Are you kidding me?” Followed by, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
It seems a couple of PhD’s from Harvard and the Norwegian University of Science went through data from old research on whether LSD could be effective in combating alcoholism and published an article in the Journal of Psychopharmacology saying, in essence, maybe. They said alcoholics given regular treatments of LSD were less likely to drink than those not given the hallucinogen, but the results seemed to be good for only three months. They suggested exploring weekly or monthly LSD treatments to counter this.
The story on the study noted that the reported success may have to do with the fact that LSD changes perception, with some patients saying they “felt they were given a new lease on life” and resolving not to drink. That’s what traditional recovery programs work for without the use of drugs.
The two authors of the scientific article wrote, “It is puzzling why this treatment approach has been largely overlooked.”
Geez, I don’t know. I’m not a PhD or anything, but maybe it has to do with the fact that when alcoholics drink to avoid the troubles of this world, they don’t want to be transported to a make-believe universe in order to escape. Or maybe that some people don’t think being on a steady LSD trip is a suitable alternative to addiction.
But hey, if you’re hung up on using LSD because of all that bad press it got years ago, the authors say other psychedelics might also work. They suggested mescaline, for one. No one noted whether any of the data was from personal experience.

Pat Robertson says marijuana should be legalized
This story struck my fancy not so much for the message as the messenger. Pat Robertson? Really?
Really.
The 81-year-old religious broadcaster (photo), founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, evangelical host of “The 700 Club,” said on his TV show recently: “I just think it’s shocking how many of these young people wind up in prison and they get turned into hardcore criminals because they had a possession of a very small amount of a controlled substance. The whole thing is crazy. We’ve said, ‘Well, we’re conservatives, we’re tough on crime.’ That’s baloney.”
He also told The New York Times, “I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol. If people can go into a liquor store and buy a bottle of alcohol and drink it at home legally, then why do we say that the use of this other substance is somehow criminal?”
Robertson said he’s never used marijuana and won’t crusade for legalization, but thinks the nation’s “war on drugs” has been a huge failure, costing taxpayers billons of dollars.
There has not been any rush to follow Robertson from other conservative political or religious groups, but he does have a sizable, loyal following, so he could influence future discussion on legalization of pot
Personally, I think Robertson on many occasions has been loopy. He seems stone cold sober on this one.

$2 million bail set for ’Madam Mom’
Wow, a real juicy sex story right here in the Hudson Valley. Anna Gristina, 44, of Monroe, was charged with one -- note than, one -- count of prostitution for allegedly running a high-end call-girl business on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. This has weird written all over it.
Start with the fact that Manhattan prosecutors appear to have come after the mother of four because she allegedly bragged, while under secret surveillance, of having police and wealthy clients protecting her and subsequently refused to give those name to prosecutors. They filed the one charge against her and a judge set $2 million bail, apparently assuming she had millions squirreled away to help her flee, even though he assigned her a court-appointed lawyer because she is indigent.
It goes on. Her real lawyer, who handles what he and she say are legitimate business dealings, offered to put up his $2.5 million Manhattan condo for her bail, because he says she’s penniless. She also apparently rescues pigs, who roam her Monroe property.
Now, somewhere buried in all this, I assume, is evidence of someone being hurt by something she has done, but I’m not finding it. If she indeed is running a call-girl business, matching willing females with willing and wealthy clients, she would be an entrepreneur in Nevada. You know, state’s rights and all that. This is not a sex slave ring story. Yes, Uncle Sam might want his cut of the action and, I would assume, if her alleged business were legal in New York, Gristina would pay her taxes or face the penalty. It’s only tax evasion now, if true, because a crime is alleged. A victimless crime. And because the prosecutors didn’t get to parade some big shots before the cameras.

Keep your nose out of our business
One for our fans of foreign news. In Egypt, al Nour, a conservative Islamist political party, expelled its parliamentarian, Anwar el-Balkimy, because he’d had a nose job. Some party members saw this as a sinful act. And you thought running against Rick Santorum was tough.
* * *
Comments on any of these stories are welcome and encouraged.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Bounty system could kill the NFL


By Bob Gaydos
So, I’m sitting around waiting for Peyton Manning to pick a new football team and hoping it’s anywhere but in the same division as his baby brother (who has delivered two Super Bowl championships to us Giants fans), and I can’t help but wonder why so many of those supposed sports “experts” -- from local newspaper columnists to national newspaper columnists, radio talk show hosts, TV talking heads and call-in fans -- don’t seem to grasp the significance of the other big story in football today. That would be the New Orleans Saints front office and coaching staff putting out hits on the best players on opposing teams.
To read or hear much of the commentary since the story broke, a non-fan might be led to wonder why some people -- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for one -- were making such a big deal over it. Isn’t football a violent sport by definition? Don’t players sign up to play knowing this? Haven’t professionals always prided themselves on hitting hard and making quarterbacks or running backs or receivers a little gun shy? Hasn’t it always been an unspoken code that if you know a player on the other team is injured, you try to aggravate that injury? Isn’t putting a bounty on knocking an opponent out of the game pretty much more of the same?
Yes, yes, yes, yes … and no.
The whole point of the Saints’ bounty system (and they have admitted to it) was to pay their defensive players a bonus ($1,000 or more) if they knocked the star player on the other team out of the game. Wheeled off on a cart, preferably. About 20 players reportedly participated for a pool of money that reached $50,000. This is a league of supposedly college-educated (or at least college-attended) athletes who have a union to supposedly protect their health and well-being, both physical and financial. Their financial well-being depends on two things: 1. the continued success of the National Football League as a whole; 2. their ability to continue playing football without injury.
Until recently, when former players started suing the league for serious physical ailments (many concussion-related) long after they stopped playing, the NFL has not paid much attention to the physical well-being of its players. Hard-hitting produced big TV ratings. The NFL is worth billions today and many players have made millions because of the success of the league as a whole.
But think about it. What happens if Peyton Manning -- four-time league MVP and widely regarded as one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history and playing for the first time after four surgeries to repair nerves in his neck -- takes the field as quarterback for, say, the Miami Dolphins (sorry, Jets fans) and the defensive coach of their opponent has offered a $5,000 bonus to the guy who knocks Manning out of the game. Maybe another grand if he can’t walk off. For starters, that should be conspiracy to commit a crime and the crime itself, battery.
What if a coach playing against Peyton’s brother’s team has a bounty on Eli -- the comeback kid and double Super Bowl MVP? Or maybe on his favorite receivers, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks? And hey, what about that kid from Stanford the Colts plan to sign to replace Peyton at quarterback -- Andrew Luck. How about two grand to welcome him to the NFL and maybe land on the injured cannot play list. Go down the list of stars in the league. Who would not be a target of a bounty? The Saints admitted targeting Brett Favre (future Hall of Famer) and Kurt Warner (potential Hall of Famer).
The macho pro football players who say this is no big deal are either defensive players, who have no fear of anyone targeting them, offensive players who are not game-changing stars and, thus, also not targets, or too dumb to realize that any business -- and pro football is very big business -- that knowingly allows its employees to seek to do harm to its most valuable assets and be rewarded by their teams for it, is on the road to self-destruction. What is a league without its stars?
This is, of course, to say nothing of the moral and ethical arguments that so many players, fans and commentators seem to think shouldn’t matter to the NFL. Is any behavior in the name of competitive edge to be considered acceptable? Would bounties be accepted in other businesses? Would it be OK, for example, for a copy editor from the New York Post, thinking about a bounty offered by his sports editor, to casually wander into the offices of the New York Daily News and slam a stapler down hard on Mike Lupica’s hands, making it impossible for the award-winning columnist to write?
Well, some might say, Lupica didn’t sign up to be physically attacked for his opinions, just verbally abused. But don’t ask me to believe any NFL star is OK knowing he’s playing a game in which some of his fellow union members are trying to intentionally injure him, and maybe affect his future earnings and physical health. (By the way, of the players who commented on the bounty, Eli Manning was sensible enough to say it had no place in professional football.)
As for the nonsense, that the defensive players aren’t trying to do permanent harm to opponents, it is na├»ve and delusional to think that any player spurred on by the thought of getting an illegal bonus for knocking, say, Tom Brady out of a game can somehow gauge his hit to be just enough to do less than permanent damage. Look at how many concussions were reported this year since the league got serious about penalizing unnecessarily rough hits or hits on defenseless players.
Whatever many players and fans think, the NFL cannot allow this kind of “incentive” to continue. It is a road to retribution and ruin. Goodell, who is looking to carve a legacy as the commissioner who created an entertaining, highly competitive and profitable enterprise must deliver major penalties to put an end to this practice now. The Saints defensive coach who instituted the bounties should be banned from the NFL for life. The head coach, who knew about it, should be suspended for half the season. The general manager, who also knew about it, should be find $1 million and be fired by the team owner. The player (Jonathan Vilma) who offered his own bounty of $10,000 to anyone who knocked Favre out of a playoff game, should be suspended for six games and fined $250,000.
If Goodell comes down hard on the Saints, others will not follow their lead and the NFL will continue to prosper as an entertaining, competitive league that offers exciting athleticism and controlled mayhem every week. If he goes soft, some star player is inevitably going to be seriously injured by a nobody trying to make a name for himself and grab a couple of grand under the table. That’s mayhem dangerously out-of-control.


bobgaydos.blogspot.com

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mitt wins, Olympia quits!


By Bob Gaydos
Having managed to insult and offend, in no particular order, women, immigrants, gays, union members, middle-class workers, college students and John F. Kennedy, the Republican presidential primary circus left Michigan and Arizona behind this week as it trudged on its dreary way with its sights set on Ohio and Tennessee and, ultimately, New York.
Don’t say you haven’t been warned.
After a scare in which it seemed for a while that he would actually lose the state in which he was born and his father served as governor, Mitt Romney barely prevailed in Michigan. Enough GOP voters there held their noses and voted for the I-can’t help-reminding-you-I’m-rich Romney rather than the God-is-on-my-side Satan-fighter Rick Santorum. Newt Gingrich continued to eat the furniture, but nobody paid much attention and Ron Paul was still a man without a century.
It’s enough to make a sensible, savvy, lifetime Republican politician proclaim, “Enough! I quit!”
Which is precisely what 33-year veteran Maine Senator Olympia Snowe (photo) did while her fellow Republicans were still voting in Michigan and Arizona. One of the very few voices of Republican bipartisanship in Congress, Snowe said in a press release: “Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term. So at this stage of my tenure in public service, I have concluded that I am not prepared to commit myself to an additional six years in the Senate.”
True, that statement does not specifically target her own party, but as one of the few remaining Republican moderates in Congress, she knows full well the dangerous turn towards the cliff that her party has taken. Snowe was the only Republican in the Senate to vote in favor of President Obama’s health care reform plan. Her vote helped get it out of committee to the floor for a vote. But she was the subject of such intense pressure and threats from the vocal rightwing fringe that has dominated the GOP of late, she voted against the plan on its final vote. That doesn’t mean she forgot what happened.
I have felt for some time that moderate Republicans -- the kind once referred to in New York as Rockefeller Republicans -- were in need of a new party. They have let the no-taxes-ever loonies usurp their party, its platform and its principles, forgoing the “compassionate conservatism” it once promoted for one that chastises the poor and rewards the rich, that emphasizes prayer and denigrates education, that discourages contraception and rails at food stamps, that celebrates only its narrow version of marriage, wants everyone who speaks a language other than English to go back where they came from and, far too often, acts as if it wishes women like Snowe would know their proper place in society. Which would not be in the U.S. Senate or in a military uniform, or probably not even doing scientific research in a major university for that matter.
There really is no place in today’s Republican Party for the likes of Snowe or her Maine Senate colleague, Susan Collins, also a Republican.
It’s time for a third party of disgruntled centrists from both parties -- Democrats have their partisan zealots as well -- that, unlike the Libertarians who idolize Ron Paul, could actually govern in the 21st century.
Indeed, as I was trying to focus my own thoughts on this issue, I discovered that Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine had already gotten there. In his Daily Intel blog commenting on Snowe’s retirement, he noted the specific nature of her statement. In particular, this: “As I enter a new chapter, I see a vital need for the political center in order for our democracy to flourish and to find solutions that unite rather than divide us. It is time for change in the way we govern, and I believe there are unique opportunities to build support for that change from outside the United States Senate. I intend to help give voice to my fellow citizens who believe, as I do, that we must return to an era of civility in government driven by a common purpose to fulfill the promise that is unique to America.”
Chait speculates Snow may be thinking of joining Americans Elect, a third party claiming many disaffected Republicans and Democrats, dedicated to avoiding partisanship and offering a civil form of governing, probably slightly more conservative than Obama’s. The party’s rules go so far as to require its presidential and vice presidential candidates to come from different parties.
Too idealistic, too wacky to succeed? Once upon a time, that’s what they said about the men who created a new party made up of those tired of the rabid pro- and anti-slavery rhetoric that dominated the day. That Republican Party has now badly lost its way. Snowe, and others who agree with her, should let the tea partiers and evangelists and assorted know-nothings do with the GOP as they will. Start a new party. And don’t make your constituents hold their noses to vote.

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