Thursday, October 21, 2010

Static and Noise

NFL Violence. I've been pretty quiet about this issue--pending suspensions for particularly violent hits in games--because I don't know what to think about it. On the one hand, getting a debilitating brain injury is sort of the thing I would think as a society we would want to generally avoid, even if it's in a competitive game that encourages it. In addition, I've heard plenty of respected former players basically saying "We did a lot of violent shit back in the day, like clotheslines and horsecollars, but we never saw this." On the other hand--they did do a lot of things that are no longer allowed, so something is always going to seem "too violent," since there's nothing more violent to compare it to. It seems like the ruling is an overreaction; the paralyzing hit at Rutgers, three very hard hits in one weekend, and a general respect for treating concussions with more medical precision all coalesced at once. There's also a lot of conspiracy theories that have a grain of truth--for example, rules are bent to favor the offense, since quarterbacks and wide receivers sell lots of jerseys. (And, of course, everyone in Pittsburgh knows it's to knock the awesome Steeler defense down a few notches.) I am leaning towards just letting the players play football--they signed up for it and are getting paid crazy money to basically get hit for four hours every Sunday afternoon, so one has to expect a certain level of risk. But I also don't think this is a fundamental shift in how the NFL game will be played--rules change every year, after all, and the game is still fundamentally the same.

Cameron 2012! I'm sure any UK readers may disagree, but what David Cameron is doing over there is exactly the sort of thing we should be doing here. He's basically paring government down to the bone and causing a fundamental shift in the role of the government. And--lest you think he's a cold-hearted right-wing nutjob--the military and many other conservative causes are bearing the brunt of it, too. Basically, everyone is getting a little bit of the axe. Compare this to, say, the 1994 Republican congress, who promised to do exactly that and proceed to do absolutely none of it. Time magazine even had a cover with a cleaver on it and the ominous headline "This Time, It's Serious." But it really wasn't. Sure, bits and pieces got sliced off, but any time anyone touched anything popular--or had a small, vocal interest group protecting it--the GOP backed off. Now, Cameron's plan hasn't been finalized, and we haven't seen exactly how he handles the political pressure of doing something so fundamentally unpopular so quickly, so the entire thing may go to shit. But early reports seem to indicate that his coalition can pull it off. And with the support of the Liberal Democrats--the American equivalent of Berkeley Democrats and Greens--it seems almost unreal. Also props to France's Nicolas Sarkozy who is holding out for much-needed pension reform, such as increasing the retirement age. There have been sporadic days of strikes but it seems to have blown up into a full-scale city-wide strike in Paris. Not to be overly dramatic, but Sarkozy's success will determine whether France wants to be a modern, relevant nation or if it wants to mire itself in a stagnant culture; society simply cannot handle the demographic and actuarial problems it has dug itself. I am less optimistic about France than I am about the United Kingdom.

Party Time. It's election time, which means stupid stuff is said by stupid people who should know better. Such as Markos Moulitsas (The Daily Kos) and otherwise-respected debate moderator Gwen Ifill wailing on Sarah Palin for tweeting "We Can't Party Like It's 1773 Yet!" to her supporters. Because, you see, Sarah Palin is stupid and she thought the American Revolution was in 1773 instead of 1776. Absolutely nothing happened in 1773, you stupid girl Alaskan! Except, you know, the Boston Tea Party, to which she was clearly referring in the context of the statement. I'm no fan of Palin, but it's this sort of knee-jerk reaction that makes tea party supports defensive about elitists who automatically assume they're knuckle-dragging book-burners.

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