Thursday, November 27, 2014

Darren Wilson’s story hasn’t changed since August 9th

One of the easiest ways to tell if someone is not being honest about his/her involvement in a crime is whether they are consistent in recounting events. As indicated in this WaPo story, OFC Wilson has never changed his story. Not once.

Wilson gave his first and so far only interview Tuesday to ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, saying that he didn’t think he could have handled the confrontation with Brown any differently.

“Everybody says that [his story] was so rehearsed and he was so prepped,” Thompson said. “But the way Darren tells the story has not changed from the minute the shooting occurred. He could probably tell it in his sleep if he had to.”

“If I could, I’d show you my notes from one hour after it happened,” Kloeppel said, referring to an interview Wilson did at Ferguson police headquarters Aug. 9. “Same story.”

As anyone not living on Mars since August knows, OFC Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown after a confrontation on a street in Ferguson, MO. Wlson, white, killed Brown, black, in an episode that took all of 90 seconds.

There are no video or audio recordings of the incident, and notoriously unreliable eyewitness accounts varied. However, some of those eyewitnesses changed their testimony as the saga unfolded between the fateful August afternoon and Monday night’s announcement that a St. Louis County grand jury declined to indict Wilson.

Sifting through the evidence released by the prosecutor—all of which was presented to the grand jury—it becomes clear that even if DA Bob McColluch had gotten the proverbial “ham sandwich” indicted, a jury trial would never have resulted in a conviction beyond reasonable doubt.

The golden thread in that conclusion is that Wilson’s story never changed. You can see it in the interview with St. Louis County Police detectives. You can see it in his grand jury testimony, and you can see it in Wilson’s interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC.

The fact that Mr. Wilson’s story has never wavered during the four month saga is not an indication that he is innocent of wrongdoing. But it is a powerful indication that he remembers every detail of the incident that led to the tragic death of an 18-year old.

If you’re lying, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll cross up some of the details over the passage of time. That’s why interrogators use multiple interviews—all recorded—to go over the minute details of what could be a crime. If you tell the same story, over and over and over again, police and prosecutors have little reason to believe that you are being untruthful. If even small details are changed during the course of these multiple interviews, it causes investigators to dig deeper, probe more thoroughly, and use inconsistencies to build a case for probable cause.

The forensic evidence associated with this incident supports Wilson’s account of events and discredits eyewitness accounts. The multiple autopsies show the same. Brown refused a lawful order from a sworn officer. He then initiated a violent confrontation with Wilson, in which he struggled for the officer’s sidearm. He was shot in the hand at close range and tried to flee. As Wilson exited his vehicle to give pursuit, Brown turned and tried to bull rush the policeman. Wilson fired multiple shots, nearly emptying his magazine, and fatally wounded Brown. It was tragic. It was unnecessary. But it was Brown’s fault, not Wilson’s, that he is now dead and buried and Wilson walks as a free man.

We have confidence in this conclusion based on the simple fact that from the hours after the incident until the interview on ABC, Wilson’s story has not changed. Not one bit.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Enough about the SEC scheduling FCS “cupcakes,” already

clip_image001Kirk Herbstreit et al went after Southeastern Conference schools for scheduling FCS teams last Saturday on ESPN Gameday. As Herbstreit put it, it’s “the worst thing that goes on in college football.” His cohorts Desmond Howard and Chris Fowler dutifully nodded along.

Only Lee Corso(!) dissented with a voice of logic and reason. When you have Lee Corso on your side… well…

Look, enough already. The SEC schools that scheduled FCS opponents this late in the season did so for two simple reasons: Economics, and finance. Optics be damned—optics don’t pay the bills. Let’s face some cold hard facts, shall we?

No major school wants to give up a home game. Ever.

Home games are too important to the home team program, the community and the fans. To even play a home-away rotation with another major school means both teams lose a home game every other year. It's simply not in anyone's financial interest to do so, especially this late in the season.

It is however, in the financial interest of schools like WCU, who collected a hefty paycheck that they will use to further develop what appears to be a up-and-coming program. And so, we eschew a late season non-conference matchup. We maximize home game revenues, the opponent is better off financially, and everybody is set.

This is what some people in the media fail to wrap their heads around: It’s a voluntary exchange. When you look at things from a center-left point of view, voluntary exchanges are bad things. How can these dupes hope to do well by society by making their own damned decisions that work towards their own damned interests?

It’s not about doing well by society. It’s about the bottom line for the schools involved, the community involved and the fans.

The University of Alabama is a good institutional citizen of Tuscaloosa and the entire state. It's just not in their interest to agree to play a major non-conference opponent if that opponent insists on a home-away rotation. It’s fine to schedule an early season game at a neutral location, like Alabama has endeavored to do since Mike Dubose clapped his way into oblivion.

Also, any prospective major non-conference, late-in-the-season opponent faces the same financial calculus that UA does. Why should they not maximize home game revenues by scheduling cupcakes? Giving up millions (potentially) to assuage the politically correct talking heads is bad economics, bad finance and frankly, it steps close to a breach of fiduciary trust.

The community where these games take place spend enormous resources in providing security, traffic control, first responder capability and God knows what else. They do so in the knowledge that the economic impact of such events is tremendous to the local economy and vastly exceeds the costs.

That’s as true in Tuscaloosa as it is in Tallahassee, Columbus, Norman, Lincoln and Ann Arbor.

And what happens if (when?) the SEC goes to a nine-game conference schedule? Well, every SEC team gives up at least one home game per year, and all the revenue and impact associated with it. That means even more patsies scheduled as non-con opponents.

People, beware of the Law of Unintended Consequences. It always—always—comes back and bites you in the ass.

A similar example exists here in Mobile. Every late winter/early spring, the City of Mobile expends tremendous resources to provide security and first responder services during the annual Mardi Gras celebration. That runs for weeks, and the total public attendance for the carnival season dwarfs the attendance at any home game played in any SEC venue.

If the City of Mobile told the carnival crewes to go find their own security, first responder and other services, Mardi Gras in Mobile would cease to exist. That impact would be devastating. The impacts and economic devastation go up by an order of magnitude in New Orleans.

No one wants to see any of that take place, especially if the only reason to do so is to keep people like Kirk, Desmond and Chris happy. And let’s be honest, here. That would be the only reason to penalize schools and/or force major conference schools to eschew these kinds of matchups. They don’t care about (or they’re ignorant of) the economic and financial realities of college football. All they care about are the politically correct optics of bitching about big boys playing little boys.

There’s another angle to this, brought up by my friend TIDE-HSV over on the forum. When lesser schools are on the field with bigger schools, the incentive to make up the gap in talent is dangerous.

The  targeting rules are also running into the Law of Unintended Consequences. If you can't lead with your head or target an opponent from the shoulders up, then a lesser opponent has little choice but to go low. How many people got helped off of the field in the Alabama – Western Carolina game? You need two hands to count them, and they were all starters.The rules in place now could actually cause more injuries rather than fewer, although those injuries are much less life-threatening than head/neck injuries.

That's another thing that these politically correct talking heads completely miss. The argument for avoiding scheduling vastly inferior opponents because of increased injury risk is much more convincing than the one of optics made by the talking heads. That argument also plays right into their politically correct narrative that football is too violent and that it needs to be more thoroughly regulated.

"Well," they could say, "if you want fewer injuries, then don't allow little boys to play on the same field with big boys because the little boys have to find some way to compensate for the lack of speed, size and talent. The only way to avoid that is to keep big boys playing big boys and little boys playing little boys."

They don't make that argument because it makes too much sense.

But, when was the last time an argument was made by the mainstream media that made sense?

Western Carolina Head Coach Mark Speir made a lot of sense Saturday night. "Guys get an education and we battled our butts off, playing games like this.It sends people who wouldn't have an opportunity to go to college and have great memories. Then a guy like Troy sets a record. You tell me that ain't special. I'll get off my soapbox."

You know what’s special about college football and scheduling during the regular season? I’ll yell it at ya: It’s about the voluntary exchange. That’s something that people in the media don’t understand or simply can’t stand.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Video: A Nazi U-Boat and her victim in the Gulf of Mexico

Immediately after Nazi Germany declared war on the United States in December 1941, Hitler began a submarine naval campaign to strangle Allied shipping and prevent the flow of oil, Aluminum and other key commodities from Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard ports to the theaters of conflict in Europe and the Pacific.

From early 1942 through 1943, German U-Boats terrified the East and Gulf Coasts.At least 56 ships were sunk along the Gulf Coast, while only one German U-Boat was sunk by the US Navy and US Coast Guard in the Gulf.

CNN had a report from a couple of weeks ago (that, sadly, this history buff missed):

Silent and shadowy, two hulks lie under the Gulf of Mexico's warm waters, unmoved since their deadly encounter 72 years ago during World War II.

Now, the future has come to take a closer look.

From July 6 to 14, the 211-foot research ship Exploration Vessel Nautilus conducted dives to the final resting places of the American steamer SS Robert E. Lee and the German U-boat U-166, about 45 miles south of the Mississippi River delta.

The Robert E. Lee was torpedoed by the U-166 while ferrying victims of other U-boat attacks from Trinidad to New Orleans. The sub succumbed to depth charges fired from an escort ship. These doomed ships are now separated by only two miles of seabed.

I touched on the terror campaign conducted by the Deutsche Kriegsmarine U-Boat campaign in this post, during coverage of the BP Macondo Oil Spill in 2010. A great many of the ships sunk were oil tankers, ill-equipped to deal with a torpedo amidships.

The point of that post was to explain that tar balls washing up on such pristine beaches as those found from Dauphin Island, Alabama to Apalachicola, Florida are not unusual, and this has been true for decades.

When my father was a boy during WWII, he and his father could see the glow of burning, sinking ships on the horizon at night, and columns of black smoke during daytime hours. In fact, the Gulf and Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway systems were built to prevent or blunt attacks on shipping between Gulf and Atlantic Coast ports, with no regard to their economic viability. Shipping between coastal ports in the US was deemed a matter of national security. For all intents and purposes, a relatively shallow draft vessel or barge shipment can travel from Brownsville, Texas to the Manasquan River in New Jersey, virtually unmolested by submarine-based attacks.

In July 1942, a passenger ship converted into a civilian transport vessel, the Robert E. Lee, was torpedoed and sunk by U-166 during the height of Operation Paukenschlag (Operation Drumbeat). At the time, there were at least a dozen German U-Boats prowling in the Gulf of Mexico, and potentially many dozens more prowling the East Coast from Maine to Miami.

When the US finally managed to organize a legitimate coastal shipping defense system in 1943, which included airplanes armed with torpedoes, PT-type boats armed with depth charges and coastal batteries, the carnage dropped off significantly and Germany moved its focus back to the central and northern Atlantic Ocean.

But not before the US got its pound of flesh by sinking U-166.

Today, both sites—located within two miles of each other—are designated as graveyards and are not subject to marine archaeological investigations or salvage.  

Click the image to watch the haunting minute or so of imagery.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

On why Soccer isn’t more popular in the US, Kareem skyhooks it

1758742ADB_DNA023133068Few understand sports in the United States like NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul Jabbar. The legendary big man played for 20 years in one of the world’s most physically demanding professional sports leagues. He was a member of six NBA championship teams and earned NBA Most Valuable Player awards six times as well.

His signature shot—the Skyhook—was a deadly hook shot for which there was no defense. The 7’2” giant would put up an uncannily accurate, yet graceful shot while everyone else watched helplessly.

When a legend like this weighs in on a sports topic, his gravitas makes his opinion worth considering and in explaining why soccer hasn’t wildfired through America like it has in the rest of the world, he nails it:

Finally, soccer doesn’t fully express the American ethos as powerfully as our other popular sports. We are a country of pioneers, explorers, and contrarians who only need someone to say it can’t be done to fire us up to prove otherwise. As a result, we like to see extraordinary effort rewarded. The low scoring in soccer frustrates this American impulse. We also celebrate rugged individualism, the democratic ideal that anybody from any background can become a sports hero. We like to see heroes rise, buoyed by their teammates, but still expressing their own supreme individual skills. Certainly soccer has its celebrated stars, from Pele to Beckham, but those skills seem muted on TV where we’re often looking at small figures on a large field and therefore these feats appear less impressive than they really are. In football, basketball, baseball, and hockey, team effort is rewarded with points and individual greatness is as instant and immediate as a one-handed snagged football pass, a three-pointer from the corner, stealing home base, or a [slap]-shot of the puck into the goal.

Read the whole thing here. He’s absolutely right.

I am no “soccer hater.” All of my kids have played the sport, and two of them were on teams that won league championships. I am familiar with the rules of the game. And when any team wearing the red white and blue steps onto a field of competition, I’m right there chanting “USA! USA!”

But like a large percentage of Americans, I am altogether unimpressed with the game at the professional level. It’s therefore not hatred of soccer that explains its relative lack of popularity in this country. It’s antipathy. We just don’t care, and we don’t care for the reasons Kareem articulates so well in his op-ed at Time.

This line of thought tends to escape the talking heads on sports radio and television. They can’t seem to understand why so many Americans are uninterested in a sport that is loved elsewhere on the planet.

In her typically sarcastic, provocative manner, Anne Coulter explains the antipathy more harshly. But I think she nails a snarky skyhook with this:

You can't use your hands in soccer. (Thus eliminating the danger of having to catch a fly ball.) What sets man apart from the lesser beasts, besides a soul, is that we have opposable thumbs. Our hands can hold things. Here's a great idea: Let's create a game where you're not allowed to use them!

Not only are you not able to use your hands, doing so results in a penalty. Do it inside “the box” and it results in a penalty kick, pitting a representative of the offended team against the goalkeeper in a one-on-one situation. Now that’s something Americans can take a modicum of interest in.

Many disinterested Americans don’t care about soccer because of this aspect of the game, and it’s probably sub-conscious. We built this country using our hands, and we’ve defended it using our hands. I’m typing this post with my hands. You get the idea.

While that’s probably part of the issue, I think the driving force in American antipathy towards soccer is best captured in the quote from Kareem’s essay, wherein he describes us as “pioneers, explorers, and contrarians who only need someone to say it can’t be done to fire us up to prove otherwise.”

In all of the other sports that we love so much in this country, it is the chance for individual achievement—combined with the risk of individual failure—that captivates us and makes us watch on television and sell-out stadiums. We like to see teamwork, but we like to see teams of exceptional individuals who are taking exceptional risks in displaying their exceptional talents. That’s excitement for Americans.

That’s missing in Soccer.

Being told otherwise by talking heads and those who hail from the left of the political spectrum isn’t going to change the fabric of America. We like what we like because of who we are. Pointy-headed elites telling us what we should like isn’t going to move the needle very much;, the rest of the world be damned.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Is Alabama taking a new direction with the incoming QB’s?

clip_image001Last winter, I expressed some exasperation over the game plans for Alabama’s final two games of the 2013 season. I just couldn’t believe that an Alabama team known for smashmouth football would attempt to outscore two programs using a basketball-on-grass strategy when both of those two opponents were designed to play basketball on grass.

Then came the puzzling and controversial hire of Lane Kiffen to replace Coach Nuss at the offensive coordinator slot. Kiffin, known for pro-style and West Coast type offenses is a heckuva coach and a good playcaller. He’s also a proficient recruiter and a salesman who could sell to other salesmen.

Which is why the recruitment and ultimate commitments of Jacob Coker and Blake Barnett are so curious. As CapstoneReport’s ITK points out, this signals that the Tide’s traditional offense is in for more than just a tweak or two here and there:

Think you have Alabama’s offense figured out? Think again.

Yesterday Alabama received a commitment from one of the top three dual threat quarterbacks in the country, Blake Barnett of Corona Santiago, California. Barnett, like the incoming transfer Jacob Coker, presents a different skill-set from other quarterbacks in Nick Saban’s arsenal while at Alabama.

While it’s doubtful Alabama’s new offense will stoop to bush-league tactics like the HUNH, football’s version of the cheap shot punch (then run away as fast as you can), it appears Bama is intent on standing in front of you, punching you in the mouth, then kicking you with very, very quick feet.

The emphasized statement is important. Like ITK (and probably most Bama fans), I pray that we don’t go to the trick offenses run by Auburn, Oklahoma and Oregon. We’re not geared for that, and it would take a disastrous few years to get geared for it. Just ask Rich Rodriguez how things work out when you take a team geared for downhill running and try to put in a spread-type offense.

It’s just not Alabama football. It’s not what the team is currently designed to do, and it’s not something most Bama fans would recognize as “our brand.”

More speed on the offense is never a bad thing. Nor is it a bad thing to have a QB who can turn a busted play into a first down or a TD. It is a bad thing to fundamentally rewrite the playbook and completely change strategies when you’ve been recruiting for years with the goal in mind of playing the game a certain way.

In the game of football, and especially in the SEC, the winners are usually the teams that control the ball, dominate the clock and own the line of scrimmage. Play trickster football against smashmouth football and nine times out of ten, the team with the smashmouth strategy wins.

You wanna get some additional speed to augment the physicality of your traditional brand of football, fine. But if you don’t dance with the one who brung ya, ya ain’t gonne get much time on the big dance floor.


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