Sunday, November 15, 2015

World of Sports vs. The Real World

Clay Travis, a sports writer and analyst for Fox Sports is inexplicably still covering a story that is no longer connected to sports.   It seems that Travis has made it his goal to undermine the University of Missouri protesters (who he has publicly described as “idiots”)  by any narrative possible, and his bosses at FOX Sports have approved his use of their platform to carry out his own personal vendetta.

Travis calls the student protest a “charade” and an “absurd satire.”   He can’t seem to keep his narrative straight, alternating between calling the students “delicate flower children” but then portraying them as media-savvy professional activists, proactively stomping on the First Amendment.

Among these various juvenile and ill-informed assertions, Travis seems primarily angry that students would demand accountability from a public University President for things that happen at the University:
"Why Wolfe? Because presumably it is now the university president's job to make sure that no one ever says anything offensive to anyone on campus via spoken or written word, or poop hate symbols."

In fact, Travis seems to give Wolfe a free pass, since he wasn't a racist himself:
Enter President Wolfe, an aloof middle-aged white man who is the perfect villain for a campus crusade against racism. Even if, you know, he isn't racist or involved in any of the actions on campus that people are protesting.

While no rational person would think it was Wolfe’s job to personally ensure that the campus was safe for students of all races, Wolfe was ultimately responsible for setting campus policy and making sure it was carried out.  Under his watch,  students experienced numerous instances of non-concern and inaction in response to many documented occurrences of racism. In fact, Wolfe told a bunch of African-American students that systematic (he probably meant “systemic”) oppression was all in their heads:  "It's— systematic oppression is because you don't believe that you have the equal opportunity for success."

More incredibly, Travis questions whether any of the most recent incidents even occurred:
"What if there's actually zero basis for the strike in the first place? What if these alleged incidents never happened and the media just accepted them without asking any questions at all? The entire protest is based on three things, none of which have been independently verified, a poop-swastika, an off-campus racial slur, and an on campus racial slur.

While it may be fair to examine the credibility of Mizzou's student body president Payton Head (after he recanted his claims that the KKK were present on campus), are we to seriously believe that all of the people (including at least one professor) encountering racism at Mizzou are lying?  Even after the university released photos of the swastika, Clay Travis moved the goalposts by saying that the evidence (which he originally claimed didn't exist) is not enough, since we don't know the mental state of the perpetrator.

This isn’t just about a poop swastika, or about the most recent three incidents.  Yet Travis dismisses all the experiences of all the African-American students as lies because he’s incapable of seeing beyond those three things, true or not.

Clay Travis originally rose to fame in the sports world when he went on a 50-day "pudding strike" because he couldn't get NFL Sunday Ticket in the Virgin Islands (an effort which ultimately failed, btw).  He has spent the last ten years of his career ranting and raving about sports on the internet (albeit somewhat successfully, if not controversially). This guy needs to take a deep breath and step away from the keyboard.  I've read a bit of his sports coverage, a lot of which is blowhard nonsense-- a fair bit of it tinged with right-wing arrogance, which should come as no surprise.   But racism in the real world is a lot more complicated than the sports world.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Terrorism Rocks Paris: The Latest

Terrorist attacks have swept through Paris tonight, with over 120 killed and 200 seriously injured.   It has been difficult to find a comprehensive timeline/account of the separate attacks, but putting together disparate reports from the BBC, the Mirror, the Telegraph (all U.K.), MSNBC, the New York Times and the Irish Times, we have the following:

9pm: In the 10th arrondissement, customers at the Carillon bar and restaurant (on rue Alibert) heard what they assumed were the sounds of firecrackers. Witnesses said a man then appeared and began firing at patrons before heading across the street to the Petit Cambodge restaurant and shooting at patrons there. 14 people reportedly were killed; 11 seriously wounded

Minutes later, a shooting was reported at the nearby Canal St Martin. Reports said a car was left riddled with bullets and a motorbike abandoned on the ground.

Within the hour, gun shots were also fired at La Casa Nostra pizzeria on rue de la Fontaine au Roi (near the Place de la Republique square in the 10th arrondissement).  at least 4 were killed.

In the 11th arrondissement, two gunman opened fire on diners at La Belle Equipe cafe on Rue de Charonne, resulting in at least 18 people killed and 14 injured.  "It lasted at least three minutes," one witness said. "Then they got back in their car and headed towards Charonne station."

Sometime between 9:30-9:50 pm:  Two explosions were heard near the Stade de France, where Francois Hollande was watching France play Germany in an international football match.  Hollande was rushed to safety, and amazingly, the match continued to its conclusion.  French police later confirmed two suicide attacks took place outside two stadium gates and one bombing near a McDonald's.  Spectators were unaware of the full extent of the incident until they exited the stadium at the conclusion of the match.  At least four people were believed to have died in these attacks.

Around 10 pm:  Four gunmen opened fire on cafes outside the Bataclan theater (Boulevard Voltaire, just south of the 10th arrondissement), then stormed the concert hall.  Between 60 and 100 people were initially held hostage.  Just before midnight, security forces closed in-- the attackers then threw explosives at the hostages.  The siege ended when three of the gunmen blew themselves up with suicide belts and the fourth was shot dead. a An official characterized the scene inside the theater as "carnage", with over 100 people reported killed.

During the theater attack (around 11pm), President Francois Hollande placed the whole of France under a state of emergency and announced that the country’s borders had been closed.

After 2 am local time, French police announced that they believed all of the attackers involved in the shootings and bombings in Paris were dead.  According to police sources, a total of eight terrorists have been killed: four killed inside the Bataclan theater, three outside the stadium and one shot near a restaurant  in the 10th arrondissement. There are conflicting reports on this last attacker-- with some saying that he blew himself up a short distance away from the Place de la Republique on Boulevard Voltaire   The second shooter seen at Rue de Charonne is unaccounted for.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Black Lies Matter

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson recently told Fox News:  “Lying, I believe, is a grave sin and there’s just no way that I would be sitting here lying . . .  like this.”  Well, a lot of folks have been looking into Carson's honestly and have good reason to doubt it.

Ben Carson, who was a junior at Detroit's Southwestern High school in 1968 when Dr. Martin Luther King was killed, told the Wall St. Journal last month that he sheltered some white students from attacks by fellow black student in the school's biology lab.   The problem is that his story couldn’t be confirmed in interviews with a half-dozen of Carson’s classmates or his high school physics teacher. The students all remembered the riot-- but none recalled hearing about white students hiding in the biology lab, and Carson couldn’t remember any names of those he sheltered.

Carson’s campaign manager, Barry Bennett, addressed the controversy by saying there was no evidence that any aspect of Mr. Carson’s biography wasn’t true.

Carson also claimed in his autobiography that he was recognized for his honesty in  incident in his Yale psychology class.  According to Carson, his professor told the students in the Perceptions 301 class that their final exam papers had been accidentally burned, requiring all 150 students to retake it.  When the students saw that the new exam was tougher, all the students but Carson walked out.  Carson recalled:  “The professor came toward me. With her was a photographer for the Yale Daily News who paused and snapped my picture,”  The teacher allegedly told Carson that the exam burning incident was a hoax.  The professor told Carson that he wanted to see who was the most honest student in the class,  and handed him a $10 bill.

No photo identifying Mr. Carson as a student ever ran, according to the Yale Daily News archives, and Yale Librarian Claryn Spies has publicly stated there was no psychology course by that name or class number during any of Mr. Carson’s years at Yale.

Carson has also claimed  when living in poverty, he lashed out in anger and violence at others until a religious transformation at age 14.  Reporters conducting interviews in his former Detroit neighborhood have been unable to verify Carson’s stories of violence, including attempting to stab a boy in the stomach.  Nobody who knew Carson as a youth recalled any such trouble.  Most of Carson’s former friends and neighbors remember him much as he is today-- soft-spoken and studious.

Carson has also repeatedly asserted that he turned down a scholarship offer from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.   In fact, West Point does not offer scholarships-- attendance at the academy is free to those who are accepted.  Carson's spokesperson later revised that claim, saying that Carson was offered a “nomination” to West Point without ever having applied.

Carson has also claimed that, as a young doctor, he had a gun stuck in his ribs at a Popeye’s restaurant in Baltimore near Johns Hopkins University.  The Baltimore Police Department later said it couldn’t find a report matching the incident Carson described.

During the campaign, Carson has continually maintained that he “didn’t have an involvement” with Mannatech Inc., a marketing company that has been embroiled in controversy over deceptive trade practices.   From 2004 until early 2014 however, Carson made videos and spoke at numerous company events promoting Mannatech and its products.   Mannatech's website has recently been cleansed of any mention of the candidate and all videos featuring the GOP candidate have been removed.

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