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On the Double-Standard of Objectivity and Perfection November 7, 2015

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It is funny how random memories from days of long past can creep into one’s conscious mind and thus catch one off guard.  One memory that keeps cropping up from time to time dates back to the early Spring semester of my freshman year in college, when I attended a lecture on a course I took on mass media (my misguided and regretful major at that time).  In that lecture, the instructor tried to rationalize away the idea that the mainstream media was liberal-leftist in its bias and hidden ideology/agenda.  He did so by pointing out that news itself is about change (a fair enough point, to be sure), and since change for change’s sake is a driving force for many liberals these days, it left us to surmise that being in the news business would naturally incline towards the leftist ideology.

But then the instructor added something else, too, that human objectivity is an unattainable ideal.  This is the key point on which to focus.  One of the conservatives’ justified gripes against many in the so-called mainstream media is that they are not objective, that their liberal bias shows not only in how they report the stories, but also which stories they report and which stories they deem unworthy of their time by not reporting.  A recent example is the case of the impudent black student in South Carolina whose flagrant disobedience led her to be dragged to the floor and out of the classroom by the school’s security officer.  Fanning the flames of hysteria, the MSM acted like this was a national scandal, and the federal government, (the DOJ in this case) in yet another case of poking its tentacles into a place where it has no business venturing, has said it will conduct a civil rights investigation about the matter.  Seriously?

Yet when a black high school student body-slammed his high school’s principal, we hear hardly a word about it from the MSM.

Yes, it is natural for humans to have our biases.  Indeed, it is part of our nature.  But as rational creatures, we have the potential to overcome them when duty calls for us to do so.  That said, being imperfect beings, despite being made in the image of the Creator, we often fall short of such an ideal.  Nevertheless, the aforementioned double-standard is obvious enough for rational people to see through biases and recognize that these two stories at least deserve equal time so as to allow for an optimally-informed citizenry.  If having such a well-informed citizenry is NOT the goal, then the very usefulness of the journalism profession within the MSM is to be seriously called into question.

Since we acknowledge that pure objectivity is often an unattainable, if not worthy ideal, can we also acknowledge, given the facts of these cases, that ideological bias pre-screens which stories even get reported?

An even deeper systemic problem is the double-standard regarding perfection itself.  To acknowledge the we as human are naturally biased is tantamount to the acknowledgement that we are imperfect beings.  Five and a half millennia of recorded history chronicles all these imperfections of man, and such an incredibly long span of time (from the perspective of mankind in general, not of a geologist!) attests that these imperfections are not going away any time soon.  Not in this life, at least.

Yet that does not prevent many journalists in the MSM and elsewhere from nevertheless clinging to the foolish belief (demonstrated to be foolish by more than 5,000 years of human experience) that mankind is somehow perfectible.  Their naïve yet dangerous idea is that all they need to do to be rewarded in their gigantic leap of faith is to “point the way” to the betterment of man.  Invariably, their way to a more enlightened, perfected species is through more and more government-sponsored indoctrination, government intervention, and control.

Such dangerous, authoritarian ideas naturally attract a coalition of other groups and individuals who see a government increased in magnitude, strength, and centrality to our lives as a way of begetting their own parochial agendas, from political feminists (is there any other kind?) to race hustlers, to environmental activists.

The overall point is, the lack of objectivity one can discern from stories printed in the New York Times to the flagrant malpractice on display by the CNBC crew at the most recent Republican primary debate is at once part of a double-standard that liberal sycophants all too readily rationalize, while at the same time ignore a far more systemic problem.  Yes, it is all well and good to acknowledge that we cannot expect perfect objectivity from reporters at that level of journalism.  But can they at least try?  The fact that they seem not to suggests an ideological filtering of those who enter this profession in the first place.  Is it any wonder that former basketball coach Bobby Knight had such disdain for the profession?  That is to say, folks go into the MSM already with an agenda, and leave objectivity at the front door, never to reclaim it.

Even more disturbing?  Their own lack of clarity of thought will lead them to quickly point out that they themselves are flawed when it comes to objectivity (or lack thereof), yet turn around and cling to the faith of the perfectibility of man.

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College Football Awards Week 6 October 13, 2015

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CharlieStrongRRS2015

Texas head coach Charlie Strong celebrates with his team after their incredible upset over rival Oklahoma. Judging by the photo, it seems as though he might have won back the locker room. Photo from the Dallas Morning News.

(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 6] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES Wish I were him: Kyle Whittingham, Utah

Glad I’m not him: Steve Sarkesian, USC

Lucky guy: Butch Jones, Tennessee

Poor guy: Mark Richt, Georgia

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Gary Patterson, TCU

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Matt Campbell of Toledo

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

Desperately seeking … anything:  Steve Spurrier, South Carolina

TEAMS Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Baylor (defeated Kansas 66-7)

Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Oklahoma (see below)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Troy (lost to Mississippi State 45-17)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Texas (see below)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Michigan (see below)

Dang, they’re good: Baylor

Dang, they’re bad:  Miami, Ohio

Can’t Stand Prosperity:  USC

Did the season start? Miami, Fla.

Can the season end?  South Carolina

Can the season never endUtah

GAMES

Play this again:  Texas 24, No. 10 Oklahoma 17

Play this again, too:  Tennessee 38, No. 19 Georgia 31

Never play this again: No. 3 Baylor 66, Kansas 7

What? No. 18 Michigan 38, No. 13 Northwestern 0

HuhWashington 17, No. 17 USC 12

Are you kidding me?  Tennessee 38, No. 19 Georgia 31

Oh – my – GodTexas 24, No. 10 Oklahoma 17

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 6, pre-week 7)

Ticket to die for:  No. 7 Michigan State @ No. 12 Michigan

Also:  No. 10 Alabama @ No. 9 Texas A&M

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: No. 13 Ole Miss @ Memphis

Best non-Power Five matchup: Akron @ Bowling Green

Upset alert: Louisville @ No. 11 Florida State

Must win: USC @ No. 14 Notre Dame

Offensive explosion: West Virginia @ No. 2 Baylor

Defensive struggle: Vanderbilt @ South Carolina

Great game no one is talking about:  No. 17 Iowa @ No. 20 Northwestern

Intriguing coaching matchup:  Jim Mora of UCLA vs David Shaw of Stanford

Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 3 TCU @ Iowa State

Why are they playing? Louisiana Tech @ Mississippi State

Plenty of good seats remaining: Georgia State @ Ball State

They shoot horses, don’t they?  Troy @ Mississippi State

Week 5 Take-aways:

What a weekend of upsets and near-upsets.  One obvious near-miss:  Gary Patterson’s TCU almost got upset on the road to Bill Snyder’s Kansas State.  You just know that the old man was not going to roll over for the vaunted Horned Frogs.  In the end, the near-miss cost the Frogs one spot in the rankings, as they are down to No. 3 from the No. 2 spot.

Similarly, Alabama took a while to get going at home against Arkansas.  Eventually the Tide decided to start playing football, but they were down to the under-performing Hogs for too long of a time in regulation to be taken seriously as a contending team.

Now the upsets:  we all knew that Northwestern was a legitimate team.  Most of us thought that the Wildcats playing the Michigan Wolverines would be the game of the week.  That turned out, in the end, not to be the case.  Jim Harbaugh seems to be building the Wolverrines to become stronger by the week.

Then there was the upset of the USC Trojans, at home, against Chris Petersen’s scrappy Washington Huskies.  We were all hoping for a good game, but certainly did not foresee the the embarrassment at home for the Men of Troy – though the subsequent news of Steve Sarkesian’s major alcohol problem certainly explains USC’s volatile performance this season.  Let us all wish a complete, sober recover for Sark as he embarks on a rehab program.

Or what about Tennessee?  The poor Vols were unable to “close the deal,” blowing leads to both Oklahoma and to Florida, leading to heartbreaking losses in so doing.  This time around, however, they had to play from behind, and upset the heavily-favored Georgia Bulldogs in so doing.  So much for Georgia’s national championship hopes this year.

But let us not fool ourselves.  The biggest upset of the week came in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.  All of us, even the team’s fans, had given the Texas Longhorns up for dead, especially after the devastating loss to TCU the previous week.  Coach Charlie Strong seemed to have lost the locker room, and he was strategically flailing in terms of not having an offensive or defensive identity.

Perhaps the rival Oklahoma Sooners were just naïve enough to take the bait.  The Horns looked like an entirely different team this past Saturday than they did for the entire season leading up to this fateful day.  Texas drew first blood late in the first quarter, and, mirabile dictu, did not relinquish the lead for the rest of the game.  Moreover, Strong somehow regained his identity, effectively playing a run-oriented, ball-control offense that left OU’s defense sucking wind by late in the 4th quarter.  It was just enough to hold on and to upset their heavily-favored rival.  It also likely saved Coach Strong’s bacon for the rest of the year.  Hook ‘em!

Swing Music’s 80th Birthday August 23, 2015

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Goodman_at_Palomar1935Eighty years ago this past Friday, on Aug. 21, 1935, the Swing Era was born.  The energy that was released along with its birth was propelled musical revolutions and helped define the high-points of American popular music since that one evening eight decades ago, and it all began one night with Benny Goodman and his Orchestra performing at the Palomar Ballroom at 2nd Street and Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles.  Ironically, they had no idea that they were about to make history.

The night started out disappointingly.  His first segment of the show was tepid at best, playing the safe, “sweet” stuff that pacified his conservative Middle American audiences that made up most of his cross-country tour.  During the break of that segment, Benny decided that if they were going to go down, they were going to go down swinging – figuratively and literally!  To the rest of the band’s delight, he called for the hot stuff – specifically the Fletcher Henderson arrangements.  When they reconvened on the bandstand to start the next segment of that evening’s concert, they immediately kicked things off with “King Porter Stomp.”

The fans in attendance immediately recognized the tune, and it created an instant (and positive) sensation!  He and his band quickly followed up with “Sometimes I’m Happy”, followed then by “Sugar Foot Stomp”.  With each number, the fans were hollering for more.  Every tune the band played during the rest of the night resulted in all sorts of Lindy-Hopping and Jitterbugging.  The atmosphere for the remainder of the night was electric; the sensation that was created that evening made Benny Goodman an overnight superstar, and the Swing Era was officially born.

What explains all of this?  How could a bandleader and his men, who had to endure disappointment after disappointment during a grueling cross-country tour in the summer of 1935, finally find this unexpected pot of gold at the rainbow’s end?

Two major factors explain this, factors that Goodman never took into consideration at the beginning of that fateful night.

One was a radio show hosted by disc jockey Al Jarvis, entitled the Make-Believe Ballroom (a title later borrowed by Charlie Barnet for his hit 1936 tune, with the Modernaires on vocals).  This show was based on playing records over the radio – a novel idea at the time.  Jarvis built up Benny’s audience playing records, specifically, Fletcher Henderson’s choice arrangements.

The other, even bigger factor, was that Benny Goodman actually enjoyed a national audience through his weekly “Let’s Dance” radio show out of New York City.  The show had three different bands, one built for three different music genres.  One segment was filled by Kel Murray (actual name:  Murray Kelner), who provided the “sweet” music, strings and all.  Another segment was filled by Xavier Cugat, who provided the Latin music, and Benny Goodman’s band capped things off with the Swing.  The “Let’s Dance” show, brought to a nationwide audience courtesy of the National Biscuit Company (you might have heard of them by their abbreviated moniker of Nabisco), helped build Goodman’s fan base all over the country, although in uneven concentrations.

As mentioned earlier, many of his Middle America audiences preferred the sedate stuff.  When Benny and his band tried to push the proverbial envelope with hot swing arrangements, they often received negative push-back.  One particular low point came in Denver when the audience demanded their money back.

Things started to look up a bit on the West Coast, however.  His Oakland, Calif., concert was very positively received, as was a subsequent concert at Pismo Beach.  But after all the disappointments the band experienced, they took these two high points as flukes, thinking that such success could in no way be sustained.  Better to play it safe, survive, and get the rest of the tour over with.

What Benny failed to consider was that the aforementioned “Let’s Dance” show had built up a nationwide audience for his band, and that fans were particularly concentrated on the West Coast.  Hence, the fans were hungry for the good stuff when they were finally able to see the King-of-Swing-to-be in person.  Hence, moreover, their consternation when Goodman and his band started off the evening playing the safe, sweet numbers that they thought would ensure their survival.

It turned out in hindsight the band’s unexpected, earlier successes at Oakland and Pismo Beach were not flukes.  All it took was Goodman to have the intestinal fortitude to play the hot, swinging songs that he and his band were built to play….that and a highly receptive audience that he did not even realize he had until he already decided to play the Fletcher Henderson arrangements.

Needless to say, his concert the following night was just as successful, and we can be grateful 80 years later that somebody on August 22, 1935, had the foresight to record an aircheck of the concert for posterity.

palomarballroom

The legendary Palomar Ballroom, the birthplace of Swing (or, at least is era) is sadly no more, and has not been for a long time.  It burned down in 1939.  Today, a Von’s grocery store occupies the spot where, 80 years ago this weekend, the greatest era of American popular music was born.

College Football Awards Week 11 November 11, 2014

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ASU_NotreDame2014(Note: All rankings are current AP [week 11] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Todd Graham, Arizona State

Glad I’m not him: Mark Dantonio, Michigan State (hon. mention: Brian Kelly, Notre Dame)
Lucky guy: Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

Poor guy: Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Tony Levine, Houston

Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Doc Holliday, Marshall

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Desperately seeking … anything: Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 11 Ole Miss (defeated Presbyterian 48-0)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Penn State (defeated Indiana 13-7)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Kentucky (lost to No. 20 Georgia 63-31)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t: Wake Forest (lost to No. 21 Clemson 34-20)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did: Marshall (defeated Southern Miss 63-17)

Dang, they’re good: TCU
Dang, they’re bad: Iowa State

You know, they’re not so bad: Louisville
Can’t Stand Prosperity: Michigan State

Did the season start? West Virginia

Can the season end? Buffalo
Can the season never end? Ohio State

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 3 Auburn 35, No. 3 Ole Miss 31

Play this again, too: No. 24 Duke 51, Pittsburgh 48
Never play this again: Marshall 63, Southern Miss 17

What? Texas 33, No. 23 West Virginia 16

Huh? No. 9 Arizona State 55, No. 10 Notre Dame 31
Are you kidding me? No. 14 Ohio State 49, No. 8 Michigan State 37

Oh – my – God: Texas A&M 41, No. 3 Auburn 38

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 11, pre-week 12)
Ticket to die for: No. 1 Mississippi State @ No. 5 Alabama

Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: Temple @ Penn State

Best non-Power Five matchup: East Carolina @ Cincinnati

Upset alert: No. 16 LSU @ Arkansas

Must win: South Carolina @ Florida

Offensive explosion: Missouri @ Texas A&M

Defensive struggle: Virginia Tech @ No. 22 Duke

Great game no one is talking about: No. 14 Ohio State @ Minnesota

Intriguing coaching matchup: Mark Stoops of Kentucky vs. Butch Jones of Tennessee

Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 6 TCU @ Kansas

Why are they playing? Georgia Southern @ Navy

Plenty of good seats remaining: Troy @ Idaho

They shoot horses, don’t they?  No. 12 Michigan State @ Maryland

 

Week 11 Random Thoughts:

  • So many good games took place from 19:00 or later on the 8th of November. Start with Louisville at Boston College, which should not have been interesting on paper, but was, unfortunately, due to the Cardinals’ inability to get it together for the first half (they did in the second). Then again, the Cards have always had their troubles with BC!  But then came TCU vs. Kansas State. Bill Snyder has put together an excellent team for this year, and the Wildcats being well-coached shows on the field (especially against Auburn early on in the season). But even a good time like KSU was no match for Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs, who are making every statement they can in order to vie for the playoffs.

Or, look at Ohio State vs. Michigan State. After the Buckeyes laid an egg at home to a mediocre Virginia Tech squad, everybody was skeptical as to how good a team they truly were. Leave it to Urban Meyer to coach his talented bunch up to be more than a match for Mark Dantonio’s Spartans.

But it turned out the most important game, and the one with the biggest national title implications was the Alabama-LSU game. In typical fashion, it was a defensive struggle, and just to make things even more exciting / to heighten the already high degree of urgency even further, the game went into overtime. The Crimson Tide still have a brutal slate of games ahead, but their win is certain a step in the right direction for them

  • As I have noted before, Notre Dame is overrated. To be sure, I also noted (in other article) that they are enigmatic. But the overrated question mark remained; lurking, hidden, just waiting for the right opportunity to emerge. Thanks be to Todd Graham and the Arizona State Sun Devils to confirm that which us skeptics felt all along. After all, to have the Irish be among the final four, thus displacing a far-more deserving second SEC team in the process, would have been a travesty beyond words: a travesty, thankfully, that will be pre-empted before it even began.

College Football Week 5 Awards September 29, 2013

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(Note:  All rankings are current AP [week 5] unless otherwise noted.)

COACHES
Wish I were him: Mark Richt, Georgia

Glad I’m not him: Les Miles, LSU

Lucky guy: Steve Spurrier, South Carolina

Poor guy: Rich Rodriguez, Arizona

Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Butch Jones, Tennessee
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Tony Levine, Houston

Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

Desperately seeking … anything:  Lane Kiffin, USC

TEAMS
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 15 Miami [FL] (defeated South Florida 49-21)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Tennessee (defeated South Alabama 31-24)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Wake Forest (lost to No. 3 Clemson 56-7)

Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t:  Troy (lost to Duke 38-31)

Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did:  Northern Illinois (defeated Purdue 55-24)

Dang, they’re good: Georgia
Dang, they’re bad:  Louisiana Tech
Can’t Stand Prosperity:  Oklahoma State

Did the season start?  Purdue
Can the season end?  Wake Forest
Can the season never endOhio State

GAMES
Play this again:  No. 9 Georgia 44, No. 6 LSU 41

Never play this again: No. 3 Clemson 56, Wake Forest 7

What? Tennessee 31, South Alabama 24

HuhArizona State 62, USC 41

Are you kidding me?  Northern Illinois 55, Purdue 24
Oh – my – GodWest Virginia 30, No. 11 Oklahoma State 21

Told you so:  No. 12 South Carolina 28, Central Florida 25

NEXT WEEK

(rankings are current AP (post-week 5, pre-week 6)
Ticket to die for:  No. 15 Washington @ No. 5 Stanford

Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: Army @ Boston College

Best non-Big Six matchup: BYU @ Utah State

Upset alert: Kansas State @ No. 21 Oklahoma State

Must win: No. 10 LSU @ Mississippi State

Offensive explosion: No. 4 Ohio State @ No. 15 Northwestern

Defensive struggle: Air Force @ Navy
Great game no one is talking about: No. 24 Ole Miss @ Auburn

Intriguing coaching matchup: Pat Fitzgerald of Northwestern vs. Urban Meyer of Ohio State

Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 2 Oregon @ Colorado

Why are they playing? Georgia State @ No. 1 Alabama

Plenty of good seats remaining: Florida International @ Southern Miss

They shoot horses, don’t they?  No. 7 Louisville @ Temple

Week 5 in Review:

Last week had so many horrible, “body bag” matchups that we were all better off just firing that week’s worth of games into the Sun, never to hear from it again, and good riddance! This week was different.  First off, there was one of the games of the year in LSU @ Georgia, which did live up to its billing.  Even the noon games, normally throw-aways, were intriguing. South Carolina v@ UCF was surprisingly competitive.  Ditto with Oklahoma State @ West Virginia, and the results of that game were positively shocking. The evening games were also very entertaining, what with Arkansas giving Texas A&M a solid game, and Wisconsin doing the same at Ohio State.

Meanwhile, out on the west coast, a real offensive explosion took place between USC and Arizona State, and ironically, the 62-41 result in favor of the Sun Devils resulted in some much bigger fireworks after the game.  As soon as the Trojans got back to Los Angeles, USC athletics director Pat Haden literally pulled head coach Lane Kiffin aside on the tarmac to inform him that his services will not be needed for the remainder of the season. Yes, Kiffin’s overall record in four seasons was 28-15, which is not terrible, but it’s not up to USC standards, either.  Moreover, he lost 7 of the past 11 games, was 3-2 this year, and lost both of his conference games thus far.  Things clearly were headed in a negative direction.  Yes, the NCAA had unduly hamstrung the Trojans’ program with restricted scholarships all because somebody not affiliated with the program had given Reggie Bush’s parents a sweetheart deal on a house in San Diego.  Still, after four years, one would expect some meaningful progress to be made from the undue setback, and unimaginative offensive play-calling, combined with inept execution is most certainly not a reflection of progress! Ed Orgeron, the defensive coordinator, (and formed Ole Miss head coach) has been named the interim head coach.  Who says the SEC is geographically insular?

ETC.:

West Virginia’s upset win at home over ranked Oklahoma State could probably save Dana Holgersen’s job after his ignominious loss to Maryland the previous week.  Louisville, meanwhile, remains a formidable team, but the only problem is, their temporary conference home (American) is so weak that every other game is a “body-bag” game.  Take the upcoming week’s game at Temple, for example.  South Florida and Memphis do not do the Cardinals’ strength of schedule any favors, either.  On a positive note, the Oct. 18 game against Central Florida could turn out to be a dandy of a game, folks!