Eclectic commentary from a progressive voice in the red state

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Football Causes Brain Damage

If you need on more reason to hate the National Football League for its laser-like focus on money over anything else, add the corporatist-protected league’s fight over CTE. But there is plenty of blame to pass around, including parents and kids who yearn to thrive under the Friday night lights.

PBS Frontline’s most recent report, released today, on the high incidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in former professional football players, points out the longer one plays football and gets his head banged, the higher the odds of developing CTE. It’s not Frontline’s first foray into this issue. It’s “League of Denial” was a groundbreaking work on the way the NFL resisted the truth about brain trauma.

We revere the football hero. We did in New Orleans when I was growing up in the 1960s. The football stars got passes on academic work from the coach who, where I went to school, also taught Latin (yes, Latin!), chemistry and other courses. In the long run, of course, going light on the academics wasn’t helpful — just as it isn’t helpful in colleges and universities where it still happens today.

This problem of glorifying sports isn’t new. It’s as old as the first Olympics. But what is new is the knowledge about the consequences of misplaced priorities. And with this knowledge there is responsibility. For those of us who don’t buy into the football, Friday Night Lights culture, one thing we can do is speak out against it; and, we can reject those school district expenditures for the millions-and-millions dollars stadium for high school football.

It may not be much, but it’s a start.

CBS Insults smart People

I normally don’t comment on popular culture and entertainment. Perhaps I should do so more in light of my evolving perception that we’re entering an era of “bread and circuses.” What I mean is that the corporatist plutocrats who have hijacked our republic are using sports, entertainment and hot-button social issues to distract us from the real issues of the day — climate change, continual war, the elimination of America’s middle class and the growing gap between the rich and poor.

I admit that I like to be entertained. But I am selective in my TV habits and don’t care about any pro sports team (that’s a whole other topic). But I am a long-time fan of “The Big Bang Theory” because it makes being smart and educated legitimate if not heroic. That’s why I am disappointed and angry at the way “The First Pitch Insufficiency” ended. The Howard Wolowitz character, an MIT-trained engineer, was invited to throw out the first pitch at a major league baseball game. But, after much training, can’t get the ball close to home plate. His solution was to deliver the ball from the pitcher’s mound to the plate on a prototype Mars rover.

But, the character’s attempt to glorify science —a laudable plot point — goes awry when the rover’s glacial pace to home become the joke. It was an insult to NASA, to the character and the character’s education at a premier institution. It also reflects an anti-intellectualism to which I had, until now, thought the show was an antidote.

The American people deserve better and CBS needs to tell Chuck Lorre to do better.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

More Propaganda and Lapdog Journalism

The Amarillo Globe-News published another piece of city propaganda about downtown development on Sunday. We’ve heard the song before, of course. You know, the deal is just around the corner.

Look, the reality is that Wallace Bajjali has not delivered in years. The last project that they completed was a development in Sugarland; but, remember, David Wallace was mayor of that little Houston suburb, so no telling what kinds of things went on behind the scenes. The fact is that Wallace Bajjali hasn’t delivered a full project on its own in Kingswood, Joplin and Amarillo.

And, the City Commission/Council hasn’t done well, either. First, they promised the Globe-News Center would be privately funded and then taxpayers had to pony up $1.8 million. Then, as a poster on the Amarillo Globe-News website pointed out, the City Commission/Council promised no taxpayer dollars would be spent on this “public-private partnership,” but the city has spent millions, including almost $1 million in “pursuit” cost reimbursement to Wallace Bajjali. All the while, the city has cynically embarked on a disinformation campaign in alliance with the Amarillo Globe-News, which has an ongoing role as the city’s lapdog. And while not recognizing journalistic ethics if it bit the paper on the ass, the Amarillo Globe-News continues to pump out PR for the City Commission/Council while the daily rag’s publisher remains a member of the city’s Local Government Corp.

While much of the media are focused on the November elections, Amarillo has a municipal election coming up in May 2015. Perhaps it’s time for a revolution with credible candidates coming forward with the agenda of ending this downtown debacle. Because, folks, there are only two ways to stop this stupidity: a change in leadership or a lawsuit.

I can hope.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

I keep criticizing politician and others in the policy debates over health care that medicine doesn’t belong in a free market model. I’ve argued this for years and so has one of the foremost health economists in the nation — and a very long time ago. Here is a quote from his obit in the New York Times.

“A new language is infecting the culture of American medicine,” Dr. Rashi Fein, a health economist who died in Boston Sept. 8, wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1982. “It is the language of the marketplace, of the tradesman, and of the cost accountant. It is a language that depersonalizes both patients and physicians and describes medical care as just another commodity. It is a language that is dangerous.”