Monday, September 16, 2019

Local TV station falls for long debunked vaping myth

Bless their hearts. In the grips of hysteria over recent health problems caused by idiots doing what idiots do, NBC 15's Cassie Fambro has rushed to press with a fearful warning about a myth that was thoroughly debunked years ago. It's the dreaded 'Popcorn Lung Disease!'

I can't bring myself to link to the story--I have a policy against publishing or promoting known falsehoods. What I will do is set the record straight with a little help from a real pulmonary expert. The text below is excerpted from a piece that ran in the Daily Caller four years ago.

"[A]ccording to Dr. Michael Siegel, professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at Boston University School of Public Health, the Harvard study has several “glaring omissions,” and the level of diacetyl exposure from vaping compared with smoking differs by “orders of magnitude.”

Siegel, who has spent 25 years in the field of tobacco control, points out the study published in the journal “Environmental Health Perspectives” didn’t even mention that regular cigarettes contain diacetyl, and in far greater amounts than any e-liquids.

Looking at the numbers, Siegel found “daily exposure to diacetyl from smoking is therefore 750 times higher, on average than exposure to diacetyl from vaping.” Vapers are, on average, exposed to a daily dose of nine micrograms of diacetyl, compared with 6,718 micrograms for smokers.

But the evidence gets worse for sensationalist headline writers and anti-vaping activists. “The ‘worst’ e-cigarette tested produces diacetyl exposure that is 85 times lower than that of the ‘worst’ cigarette tested,” says Siegel. The e-cigarette liquid with the highest level of diacetyl in the Harvard study exposed vapers to just 239 micrograms against 20,340 micrograms for heavy smokers.

Bronchiolitis obliterans is known as “popcorn lung” because it was identified in workers who inhaled the artificial butter flavor used to make microwavable popcorn. Some cases of popcorn lung have been so damaging that patients have required a lung transplant.

But vapers have little reason to worry about the relatively trivial levels of diacetyl in e-cigarettes compared to tobacco cigarettes.

Not only is the risk of diacetyl exposure far lower for vapers than for smokers, but according to Critical Reviews in Toxicology, “smoking has not been shown to be a risk factor for bronchiolitis (popcorn lung).”

“There’s a lot of effort out there to demonize electronic cigarettes and a lot of research attempting to identify the risk, which is fine, we need to know what the risks are, but the reporting of the research I think has been very biased.
“What this really does is undermine the public’s appreciation of how severe the risks of smoking is. What it’s basically telling ex-smokers who’ve quit, using e-cigarettes, is you might as well go back to smoking.”


“I think the media is reporting what is being presented to them. What we’re seeing is not the media going wild, what we’re seeing is the anti-smoking movement misrepresenting the data to the media.

“The [study’s] authors and the groups that are putting out this information are responsible for the way the results are portrayed to the public and the way that the results are interpreted. We’ve seen multiple examples of perfectly valid data that are just completely distorted.”

This is a fairly common problem. Members of the media know next to nothing about vaping so they reach out to purported 'experts,' who usually turn out to be sycophants for groups who demand nothing short of complete nicotine abstinence.

The British Government is years ahead of its U.S. counterpart.

The popcorn lung myth comes up a lot. So often, that there is a satirical twitter account named for it The American Popcorn Lung Association.

Perhaps the biggest problem is that media types rarely reach out to vapers, many of whom have stories to tell about how vaping allowed them to finally stop smoking tobacco. Like your beloved blogger, who is now more than two years tobacco free.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Tua Tagovailoa has become a better quarterback than Jalen Hurts

Some Tide Fans may strongly disagree with this conclusion. I fully expect to get some flack for expressing it. Oh, well. How many other fanbases can even have this discussion?  You, dear readers, and discussions like this one are the reason why the CFB media hate Alabama football. So... onwards.

The September 14, 2019 game against Gamecocks in Columbia, South Carolina has convinced me. Allow me to try and convince you that

Tua > Jalen

In the 2018 season, Jalen Hurts swallowed his pride and accepted his role as the backup quarterback to the sensational and immensely talented Tua Tagovailoa. Even after leading the 2017 team to the national championship game against Georgia, Hurts became the more-than-capable backup in a quarterback depth chart unequaled in college football.

Hurts' greatest weakness: An all-to-quick willingness to pull the ball down and run when the target receiver in a pass play was covered. If the receiver wasn't open or blew his route, Hurts used his God-given athletic talent to make something happen on the ground. Prior to the 2018 Championship Game, no one had fielded the defensive talent and coaching acumen to take away Hurts' first receiver and limit his scrambling. Georgia and Saban disciple Kirby Smart brought that in the first half.

Master Nick Saban inserted Tua Tagovailoa in the second half. Georgia had no answer for Tua's different skill set and the rest is football history.

Tagovailoa brings a similar-but-distinct talent to the quarterback position. He has a great arm, he's pinpoint accurate and he's a formidable ball carrier. Tua also has an uncanny ability to read defenses at the line of scrimmage and check into the right play before the ball is snapped. Jalen can read defenses, but not like Tua can.

Prior to the 2018 SEC Championship game, no one could stop Tua. Again Georgia and Smart brought skills and abilities what no one else had. Again Master Saban shapeshifted, swapped in Jalen for Tua and...

For the second time in two seasons, Georgia had no good answer for a backup quarterback coming in and snatching a sure win away from them. Just like the Championship Game the previous January, the entry of the backup signal caller completely changed the texture and flow of the game and just like last time, Alabama snatched the glory from Georgia at the very end.

This time though, Alabama ran into a Clemson defense that had the athleticism and coaching talent to show Tua one thing in the pre-snap formation and  drop or shift into something different. Tua simply couldn't adapt quickly enough. His greatest weakness was an inability to check down into a receiver rotation and get the ball to the guy who's open.

Take away what he thought he was being given and Tua played the 2019 Championship Game almost like a lost child. Inserting Jalen didn't help--Clemson had seen this trick played twice before and wasn't falling for it. Alabama got whipped in their only loss of the 2018 season. It is what it is, aight?

Something has changed though,  y'all.  In the first three games of the 2019 season, Tua has shown that he has begun conquering that weakness.  In fact, he may already have done so and is now honing himself into a breathtakingly dangerous quarterback.  He has learned that when the defense takes something away, it must give up something else. Tua has learned how to quickly find out what has been given up, and put the ball where the defense doesn't want it to be.

South Carolina s a talented and well coached team. So was Duke (New Mexico State was a tackle-duumy scrimmage). Tua carved those defenses up with pre-snap reads, methodical check-downs and his ever present pinpoint accuracy.

Honestly, Tua has become a better, faster, stronger AJ McCarron. McCarron is a gifted pre-snap reader and receiver checker-downer. He won two BCS Championships and shredded Alabama passing records. The only things he lacked was sprinter run speed and a fleet of 4-6 elite receivers. Tua has all of that and McCarron's ability to find the right guy at the right time. He's in the process of re-shredding MCcarron's records.

Against Duke on a neutral field and South Carolina on the road, Tua is 54-67 for 780 yards and nine touchdowns. For all three games to date, he is 70-91 for 1,002 yards and 11 TDs. His completion percentage is 77%, he has a QB Rating of 213.4, he has yet to throw a single interception and he has a touchdown pass for every eight times he drops back to throw. These numbers are obscene.

Like all Tide faithful, I hold a special place in my heart for Jalen Hurts. His willingness to give it all for Alabama in unquestionable. His sense of being a team player exemplifies what Nick Saban hopes every one of his pupils develops. He demonstrates the kind of selflessness and humility that every parent wants their kids to show in everything they do. When asked to be a leader, Jalen is a leader. When asked to be a clipboard carrier, Jalen is the best clipboard carrier ever. He is 100% awesome and we are blessed to have had him on our championship teams. I wish him the very best at Oklahoma.

The Sooners are perfectly suited to a man of his talent, experience and character. He will leave Norman a better place for having him, just as he left Tuscaloosa with the gratitude of the Bama Nation. However, Jalen is still being Jalen and the best thing he has going for him at Oklahoma is that he won't have to face many defenses built by Saban or his pupils between now and the Holiday Season.

 I honestly hope Bama doesn't have to face him in the 2019 playoffs, should both the Tide and Sooners make it that far this year. He is a dangerous man with the ball in his hands. If that game happens though, Oklahoma will look at the aftermath and say, "we wish we had gotten Tua when we had the chance to recruit him because Tua's even better than Jalen."

Facebook wants you to know that the Babylon Bee might be a humor site

Babylon Bee is a hilarious humor website with a conservative tilt. It's like the Onion, which kinda leans left. But Facebook wants you to know this. As if you're too stupid to figure this out by yourself.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Uh oh: University of Alabama goes Big Brother on the Student Section at Bryant-Denny

The University is harnessing technology to solve the ancient problem of the deserted student section at Bryant-Denny, and it's gaining some national media attention.

The tailgate version: Students can download an app to their smart phone. They earn loyalty points for attending home games, and pick up a few extra points by staying until the fourth quarter.

This is a tough choice when Bama routinely smashes non-conference (and quite a few conference) opponents at home. It's September. It's hot. There are post-game parties at fraternity and sorority houses and the game outcome is not in doubt. "Let's go, man."

The team looks up in the stands and their fellow students have something better to do than watch their own fellow students work their asses off.

To be honest, this is not a new problem. Coach Bryant complained about it. So did Perkins, Curry, Stallings, Dubose and Franchione (it's questionable if Shula complained about anything). It's not limited to Alabama, either. At least people show up for Alabama football. Anyone see Vol fans at Tennessee's Neyland Stadium last week? MIA, y'all.

But Nick Saban is not happy about it:

"I think it enhances the value of our program if our stadium is full and people stay for 60 minutes in the game, aight," Saban told 247Sports. "So, from my standpoint, I always want to see the stadium full and I want to see people stay for 60 minutes in the game. We expect our players to compete for 60 minutes in the game. I'm not satisfied with the way some of our players competed in the fourth quarter, the second-team guys and all that. I mean, I'd like to see them get supported just like some of the people that are fun to watch, alright.
"So, I would love for the students to be there for the whole game, and I know we've tried to enhance with some of the things that we're doing to try to get them to do that. But that's a choice and decision they've got to make. But all these things affect the program, aight, because people come and we have recruits and here, and they want to see a full house and all that."
This won't mean much today because Alabama is visiting Columbia for a date with the South Carolina Gamecocks (see TideFans' preview here).

My idea has been floated many times--Put this message on the app: "Got Tickets? Use'em or lose'em." It never gains traction. There are hordes of Alabama fans who would love to use those tickets.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Mobile Harbor Dredging Project gets nod, providing good news for the area's economy

It's official: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has final go ahead to deepen and widen critical navigational choke-points along the Mobile Ship Channel. The Corps announced it yesterday:

The Corps announced Monday that Maj. Gen. Diana Holland, Commander of the South Atlantic Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, had signed the Record of Decision for the Mobile Harbor General Reevaluation Report (GRR) with Integrated Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS).
The GRR/SEIS presents a project that is estimated to cost $387.8 million dollars; Judith Adams, the Alabama State Port Authority’s vice president for marketing, said that may not include several million dollars of incidental costs for things such as relocation of navigational aids. The plan calls for easing some bends, creating a wide section to serve as a passing zone, extending a turning basin and deepening the channel by 5 feet to a nominal depth of 50 feet. Altogether, that work will involve moving 24 million cubic yards of material.
The lion’s share of the project, roughly three-quarters, will be paid for with federal funds. A bond issue expended to be in the range of $150 million will pay for the state’s portion of the project, Adams, said. That bond issue, in turn, will be paid off with an earmarked portion of the state gas tax increase approved earlier this year.

The project has a whopping 3.1 Benefit-to-Cost Ratio, meaning that the approximately $400 million project is expected to produce about $1.2 billion in economic benefits in National Economic Development terms. In local, state and regional terms the beneficial impact is even greater. The IBCR Analytics' ROME Model predicts a 1.3 to 1.5 multiplier, meaning that the project is expected to produce about $1.7 billion over its 50-year project life.

The project is not without legitimate controversy. The story linked above mentions the potentially harmful effects on marine life and a potential lost opportunity to aid in the renourishment of sand-starved Dauphin Island. The Sand Island Beneficial Use Area (SIBUA) dredge material disposal site is expected to help in this regard, but until Congress acts the Corps is both limited by both federal statute and its own regulations to use the least cost disposal method that reasonably considers other methods (See Engineering Regulation 1105-2-100).

The Harbor Project is a fine example of how to conduct a public infrastructure investment study. In approximately five years and for the tidy sum of about $8 million, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Alabama State Port Authority took this project from concept to conclusion. Transparently. The Corps even agreed to extend the public comment period twice to allow the public to ask  questions, provide additional input and understand the project.

Compare this to the 22-year, $60 million effort that produced an over-sized, over-engineered and over-priced Mobile River Bridge and Bayway project that went down in flames last month. The Harbor Project will produce an estimated $1.7 billion in economic development. The bridge project had a net negative estimated impact and would have sucked all of that benefit away.

Officials refused my repeated and public requests for deadline extension and never addressed any of the public concerns over the feasibility of the project. No wonder it failed so spectacularly.

ALDOT and the Federal Highway Administration need to have a sit-down with USACE and ASPA and get a clue on how to get schtuff done.

The project has also gotten the attention of a few wild-eyed conspiracy theorists. These poor souls are surprising a few people and embarrassing a lot more by airing suspicions of a plan to effect a foreign takeover of the Port of Mobile. The nefarious plan was to have crooked politicos let mysterious foreign companies buy up all the the port facilities and detonate or otherwise destroy the George C. Wallace Tunnel on I-10 and the Bankhead Tunnel on US-90/98 through downtown Mobile. This would let the terrorists, the Russians, the Chinese (or all of them) deftly move in with their secret super ships and take over America, or something.

This of course, was all going to be paid for with the tolls on a new high rise bridge over the Mobile River and a new Bayway over the Delta and that's what the proposed toll was all about, you see. Why else would they need such a big bridge? Why else a new Bayway? You can't get those secret super ships in the port if the bridge and the Bayway are too short, right? Right! And the tunnels have to go because they're too shallow for the secret super ships. It all makes perfect sense to anyone with their foil hats aligned properly.

Finally, with all good conspiracy yarns come the belief that anyone offering contrary evidence must be in on the deal. Denying that there is a plan is itself evidence that there is a plan, you see.

As the old saying goes, "a lie will travel halfway around the world before the truth even gets her boots on."

Monday, September 9, 2019

I am NOT coming to your Fall Wedding

Not only am I not coming, you’re not even getting a gift. In fact, I’ll hack your on-line registry and mark everything on your wish list as “already have.”

Ladies, this is football season. College football season lasts approximately 100 days, which is less than one-third of the calendar year. You can have a Christmas wedding. You can have a Summer wedding. You can even have a Mardi Gras wedding. You can get married in any of the other nine months out of the year (and that number of months is significant for a reason).

My lovely wife of nearly 33 years wanted to have a fall wedding. Shortly after I proposed (and she wisely accepted), the conversation went something like this:

Me: “So, Honey. When do you think you’d like to schedule the wedding?”
Her: “I want a fall wedding. The weather is cool and dry, the colors are great. So, sometime in October or November.”
Me: “No.”
Her: “But I am the bride. I am paying for this and I get to pick the date.”
Me: “Not no. but Hell no.”
Her: “This is not right. You will marry me on the date I select, or it’s not happening.”
Me: “Honey, I love you. I really do. But it’s time we started seeing other people.”
Her: “I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS %$#&^!!! You and your friends are &^#Q&$!!!”
Me: “Yes, we are. And we’re watching college football all day on whatever Saturday you have in mind.”
Her After much wailing, gnashing of teeth and thing-throwing: “[sigh]  Ok. When is a good weekend, Mister Football?
Me: “The First Saturday in December is probably good.”
So, we got married on the First Saturday in December, 1986 and we were in total wedded bliss until… 1992.

That’s when the Southeastern Conference expanded to 12 members with two divisions and created the world's first major college football conference championship game. They scheduled the annual SEC Championship Game for ... the First Saturday in December.

I was horrified.

So, the conversation in November 1992 went something like this:
Me: “Um, do you think we could reschedule our Anniversary? Because Alabama is playing Florida in the first ever SEC Championship Game.”
Her: Not no, but Hell no.”
There are some battles that are not worth fighting.

The lesson here is that in 1986, the first Saturday in December was probably a good date to schedule a “fall” wedding. It is no longer.

Gentlemen, grow some balls. Be the Man of the House® or something. If you allow your future bride to schedule a wedding during football season, you are probably one of those pantsless dudes driving around with “House Divided” vanity tags on the front of your vehicle.

And your vehicle is probably a Toyota Prius, Chevy Volt or some other such “sensible” nonsense.

Guys drive cars. Men drive trucks and they proudly display their team’s logos on the front bumper, back window or tag frame. She’s marrying you. She is not entering into some sort of truce that allows her to decorate your schtuff with her team’s colors and logo.

Grow some cajones, and don’t let the bride-to-be ruin a perfectly good football Saturday.

That is all.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

VIDEO: Nick Saban rants (a little) about the Tide's 2019 strength of schedule

This exchange was inevitable. The college football media elite have been yammering about the weakness of the 2019 schedule almost since the final whistle of the 2019 College Football Playoff Championship Game.

A reporter was stupid bold enough to ask Coach Nick Saban what he thought the team got out of playing "this level of competition." Saban's response was predictable and quite mild considering his usual attitude towards stupid bold questions. Video is under 2:00 so watch it all.

I wrote about this about a month before the season started.

"Look, all Alabama can do is play the teams that sign up to show up," I said. "Everyone else? Shut up."

Bama opens the SEC schedule on the road this Saturday at South Carolina. It's not Alabama's nor Nick Saban's fault that Will Muschamp's Gamecocks are 1-1 and lost to North Carolina to start the season.

It's not our fault that Ole Miss, Texas A&M (away), Tennessee and Arkansas are weak SEC members, either.  Look, Tennessee used to be Bama's biggest rival. They just haven't kept up and after sending them a promising new coach, we can't be expected to do anything about else it.

LSU is never a slouch. Mississippi State at home is a late season tough-out.  Auburn beat Alabama the last time they had us at home.

Alabama has sucked the air out of a lot of SEC programs and probably a couple of ACC and Big 12 programs, too. That they can't adjust is not our cross to bear.

It is true that the NCAA's move to a 12-game schedule has created this situation of Power Five conference teams playing weak sisters in non-conference matchups.  That's a lesson in college football economics that no one wants to hear.

The best idea is the one Coach Saban talks about in the video, but that idea costs big boy programs a lot of lost revenue. No one wants to risk a loss that might cost money and a playoff berth, so no one seriously contemplates his idea.

The system is flawed but that's just not Alabama's fault. Sign up, show up and suit up, or shut up.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

People are dying because they're stupid. Not because they're vaping flavored nic juice

Vaping is a smart, cost-effective and relatively safe way to quit smoking tobacco. But it's not idiot proof.

Vaping is not new. Vapers in the U.K and the U.S. have been reducing tobacco harm through the use of electronic cigarettes since 2007. By early 2009 the technology had gone global. 

It's a technology that has been helping tobacco smokers quit polluting their bodies and shortening their lives. Vaping is a zero pharmaceutical and combustion-free tobacco harm reduction technology.  

The fact that a small number of people are now doing stupid stuff with it should not surprise you and it shouldn't stop smokers from considering it.

I started using e-cigs in June 2013. I quit burning tobacco completely in August 2017. No expensive psychosomatic drugs necessary. No sticky, itchy patches. No nasty tasting gum that fouls dental work. Just deliciously flavored and very satisfying clouds of vapor.

For about the cost of a carton of premium cigarettes, I can buy a very powerful electronic device and enough juice to last me the same week that the smokes did. At the end of the week, all I need to replace is the juice and maybe the small heating element. This coil is the small part that uses heat (not burning) to convert the water soluble liquid into a gaseous cloud. The cloud contains only USP grade nicotine, USP grade glycerin, USP grade glycol and FDA approved flavoring. That's it.

Vaping is not new, but idiots have been around since forever. Given enough time, idiots always find a way to take something useful to the rest of us and turn it into something that becomes a threat to themselves and others around them. 

These people aren't getting sick or dying because they're vaping. This is happening to them because they're stupid.

In those studies, officials in Illinois and Wisconsin detailed 53 cases they've investigated, 28 in Wisconsin and 25 in Illinois. They described the vaping history of 41 patients where complete information was available. 
About 80% of those patients had used products containing THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, and 61% used nicotine products. Some 7% used cannabidiol, or CBD, products. 
Most of the patients were male, with an average age of 19, and all were previously healthy. They were sick for several days prior to being hospitalized, with respiratory symptoms being most common, followed by fever, fatigue, weight loss and gastrointestinal symptoms. 
In some of these cases, officials said, patients either used only THC products or only nicotine. Patients reported using 14 different brands of THC products and 13 brands of nicotine products in a wide range of flavors. It's possible patients did not accurately report which kinds of products they had vaped.
So... there are less than 100 cases of severe reactions to vaping, 80% of which were vaping the active ingredient in marijuana and another 7% using CBD. To top it all off, it's possible that the people who got sick had no idea what they were inhaling.

There are tens of millions of vapers in the U.S. There are hundreds of millions globally. Yet a tiny portion of people have tried to use this life-saving technology to do something stupid.

Charles Darwin had a theory about such organisms, didn't he?

Please feel free to share this royalty free meme wherever you want. Scroll below it to read a few other ways people are being stupid with e-cigs.

Super low resistance atomizers represent a threat to the user and the people around him. People who insist on build resistances below 0.25Ω are asking for trouble. Today's high tech batteries are capable of delivering a fearsome amount of electrical current. That current can result in a fire that destroys the device and often results in the battery going into a rapid thermal event and possible explosion. Ultra low resistance requires high electrical current that may exceed the battery's ability to deliver it. When that happens, BOOM.

Mistreatment or misuse of Lithium chemistry batteries is a cause for concern. The batteries are found in cell phones, tablets, laptop computers, power tools, children's toys and e-cigs. They're not dangerous if they're used properly. They create a safety hazard if they're removed from the device they're meant to be used in and handled carelessly or ignorantly.

Almost all of the human injuries and property damage caused by the dreaded "exploding vape pen" were caused by idiots failing to use or charge the batteries in a safe manner. I would be willing to bet that the frequency of these "explosions" is statistically no greater than the frequency of similar events with other devices such as cell phones and power tools.

Electronic devices with lithium type batteries that simply explode or catch fire all by themselves are exceedingly rare. There are billions of such devices in use today and chances are near 100% that you're reading this text on a device powered by a Lithium battery.

If 1/100th of 1% of those devices are just plain faulty, that makes 100 out of every million of them a handheld time bomb. Don't you know it, 100 exploding e-cigs will make the evening news because the TV station is running ads for Chantix.

Friday, September 6, 2019

The mass shooting in Alabama that the country never heard about

If you don't live on the Gulf Coast, chances are you never heard about a violent incident last weekend.

One week ago tonight, a mass shooting occurred in Mobile, Alabama's Ladd-Peebles Stadium. A 17-year old shot nine people, critically injuring several of them. The victims were all between the ages of 15 and 18 and were at the stadium just to see a high school football game. Thankfully, all of the victims survived and police have the alleged shooter in custody.

The local media grimly and responsibly covered the story.

The national media ignored it.

WALA, WKRG, WPMI and all led their morning news with accounts of the crime along with statements from Mobile Police Chief Lawrence Battiste and the Mobile County Public School System.

ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News didn't have a peep about it on their morning broadcasts. A few major dailies like the NY Times and Washington Post mentioned it well 'below the fold' on their websites. The usually reliably hysterical Drudge Report was silent.

So, why the hush-hush, mainstream media? Why wasn't there at least 24 hours of gun-grabbers and leftwing nutballs bashing the NRA, trashing Mitch McConnell and railing against President Donald Trump for promoting the evil of the Second Amendment?

Could it be because the alleged shooter wasn't a mentally ill white guy? Wasn't it because this storyline doesn't fit the narrative of the blatant race-baiting culture of today's mass media?

Of course it was.

The alleged shooter is 17-year old Deangelo Parnell. Police say it was this troubled young black male who shot and wounded nine other black teens, thankfully killing none.

He is being charged with nine counts of attempted murder. Although he is only 17, he is being charged as an adult and is being held at Mobile County Metro Jail on $540,000 bond ($60,000 per count).

If Parnell had been a sick middle-aged white guy dealing attempted murder with an AR-15, we would still be hearing all about it. Beto O'Rourke would be at Ladd-Peebles dropping F-bombs. David Hogg would be at University Hospital talking about how this was his eighth time surviving gun nuts attempts to rub him out. There would be daily marches through the streets of Mobile, demanding immediate confiscation of guns from lawful U.S. citizens.

But since Parnell is a black youth and his victims look just like him, his alleged crime ranks only as a screen-crawl footnote. He just becomes another perpetrator of a crime trend that has become a national epidemic. Homicide is the leading cause of death for black males between the ages 15-34, says the CDC. We see it in Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington DC. Now, we're seeing it in South Alabama.

That is ho-hum stuff to the national media. It's boring. People change channels when talking heads use CDC statistics and talk about hard subjects like black-on-black crime. Baltimore is a shithole for a reason, but the media won't talk about it. They think it hurts ratings and that is a real tragedy.

A white guy shooting a lot of people--some of whom are different from him--is something the media uses to divide us. A black guy shooting a lot of people--almost all of whom look like him--is something that the media can't bring themselves to talk about. There's no lever in the Parnell story to pry Americans apart.

The U.S. needs to have a national conversation about the root causes of violence in our communities. We need to talk about why a very small percentage of people contemplate hurting innocents and taking lives.

The U.S. also needs to have a national conversation about how much we let the national news media and popular culture influence our views of one another.

The fact that the national news ignored the shooting in Mobile tells you that they really don't care about your problems until your problems become something they can use against you.

The media needs us at each other's throats. They need us divided, angry, anxious and scared of each other.  That sells cars, legal services and Botox treatments.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Finally: Alabama 2019 Season Preview

The Alabama Crimson Tide wants to build a bridge between last year's almost perfect season and another National Championship (sorry, that was irresistible).

Nick Saban wants to do that by going back to the style of football he used to rebuild the Tide program into a perennial SEC and national powerhouse. He wants more power football. More physical defense. Always reliable special teams.

Yes, please!

Saban's brief experiment with "a more explosive offense" was productive--Bama won two SEC championships and three straight appearances in the National Championship game.  Bama has beaten Georgia and Clemson more than once each with that style of football, but almost all of the wins were high scoring slugfests. The two losses to Clemson were games played on Clemson's terms, not Alabama's.

Coach says "no more" to basketball-on-turf.

For 2019, the ground-oriented pro-style scheme is back. We still have the best QB in the nation in Tua Tagovailoa. We still have the nation's best receivers in Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle and Henry Ruggs III. Tyrell Shavers also returns, and DeVonta Smith (who has to sit out a suspension Saturday) is also back.

Behind Tua is a fleet of bowling balls for running backs: Najee Harris, Brian Robinson, (both sitting one half today), and redshirt Senior De’Marquise Lockridge are all beasts. Athletic scatsters Chadarius Townsend and freshman sensation Keilan Robinson can move chains in a hurry.

The offensive line was the weakest link in the 2018 squad, and that weak spot wasn't exploited until Bama met their physical equals-or-betters in the post season. It will be a question mark again in 2019. Bama is loaded with very young four and five star talent. The key will be to get the best five guys at their best positions and pray that they can play together as a unit all season long. Think about the 2011-2012 teams that won back-to-back titles, and you'll visualize what can happen.

Saban's teams have never had bad defenses. Chuck Oliver, Jesse Palmer and other talking heads pointing to the scores of Bama's games against Clemson and Georgia are missing the fact that the offense had problems staying on the field, converting third downs and scoring in the red zone. Consider: In the second half against Clemson, Bama had three trips in the red zone and scored zero points. If we see the offensive throwback to 2011-2012, we'll see the throwback to every Saban defense ever fielded.

Saban's 3-4 over under defensive strategy is built to take away or punish plays in the middle and make quarterbacks beat physical, fast and well-coached backfields outside. Outside plays are always longer, and always longer is always harder. Always harder means less likely. It's smart defense and it usually wins championships.

Up front, graduation sent a lot of talent to the NFL but the beastly beast Raekwon Davis is back. He'll have a lot of talent with him in the trenches but it will feature a ton of very young talent. Fortunately, the kinds of skills a Saban defense needs up front are talents that come from the womb. Expect to see a lot of new faces and expect to see a lot of enthusiasm and athleticism. Expect penalties, too.

Behind the line, Bama is again loaded with talent. Expected stud Terrell Lewis is finally ready and healthy to make noise at linebacker (he sits out one half today, too), but Dylan Moses is out for the year with a knee injury. Christopher Allen and Anfernee Jennings are back, though.

Saban's defenses always feature the nation's best corners and safeties. Expect no less in 2019. Coach was a defensive back in his playing days. As an assistant coach, he always tutored DB's and he is the DB position coach at Bama. Trevon Diggs. Patrick Surtain. Shyheim Carter. Jared Mayden and Jeffery Carter. All of these guys will play on Sundays in a few years. In fact, man-for-man, the Tide has what could be Saban's deepest and most talented secondary ever.

Note this: The 2019 secondary was hand-picked and personally built to frustrate the Jake Fromms, Trevor Lawrences and yes... even the Jalen Hurts that Bama is likely to face should we be so fortunate to see an SEC Title and Playoff berth.

Special teams... Can we please just see progress, if not perfection?

This is one of the most talented teams in Alabama history. Honestly, we haven't seen this depth and quality at least since 2011-2012, and an argument can be credibly made that we haven't seen it since the NCAA clamped down on scholarship limits to keep Coach Paul W.  Bryant from stockpiling all the best dudes.

On the other hand, this is also a very young team. With youth expect mistakes, and with mistakes, a loss is not unforeseeable. This may not be the year we mount the 18th trophy. But the talent is there and if Bama makes the title game healthy, they'll be the odds on favorite to win it all.

Roll Tide