Friday, May 08, 2015

Friday afternoon link dump

A hodgepodge of items I've bookmarked over the past few days that might be of interest.

Deadspin: Peter King's Credulity is a Character Flaw
Peter King almost certainly does not think depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and/or attention disorders are “character flaws.” If Peter King thought that, he would be undermining his professional utility, which is that he does not think at all. He’s not a journalist or commentator so much as he’s a macro that imports spreadsheet data into a weekly Microsoft Word form letter. NFL front-office types input their talking points, and the macro sorts them, dutifully, and with no less agnosticism than that of your common pop-up toaster. The talking points about actual football ability—wingspan, agility, speed, arm strength—go over here, in the Upside bin. Off-field stuff gets sorted into two bins. The appealing stuff, the stuff that makes a personnel decision look good (charisma, performative Christianity, an engineering degree, a wardrobe full of flannel shirts) goes into Intangibles; the unappealing stuff, the stuff that works as a defense of passing on a talented non-quarterback (weed, arrests, mental illness) goes over here, in Character Concerns. What King accidentally illuminated, here, is not an unenlightened personal attitude toward the mentally ill, but the underlying framework and purpose of NFL character scouting.

King was writing about the "character flaws" of  defensive end Randy Gregory in that column. Gregory was considered, perhaps, a top 5 pick before stories about his marijuana use began to spread.  Many of us fans, operating under Matt Taibbi's "always draft the weed guy" theory lobbied hard for the Saints to pick Gregory last weekend.  But that didn't happen.  Now Gregory and his "character flaws" which, on Earth, are probably just personality quirks, is a Dallas Cowboy.

The Cowboys also announced this week that they have signed LSU tackle La'el Collins whose draft day was ruined by a murder investigation which, the circumstances strongly suggested, he was never actually a suspect in. After the draft, the Saints didn't lift a finger to bring him in.  This year, at training camp, when Sean Payton distributes his annual motivational T-Shirts, the slogan will be "RISK AVERSE."

King will probably want one too. Although maybe his career strategy of parroting the party line isn't is safe as it used to be.  King's rote plugging in of talking points could easily be produced by a robot with today's technology. The NFL already owns its own network. It's a wonder they haven't begun to staff it with its own Kingbots yet.

WWLTV: Landrieu: I warned Serpas about funding problems

In this interview, the mayor seems to say former police chief Ronal Serpas should have known the job was gonna suck before Mitch hired him to do it. It's very strange. 
"I brought him in," Landrieu said, "and I was really clear with him. And I said, 'Let me explain where you are coming to. This is not the New Orleans that you left. We're in a cataclysmic downfall. Not only are you not going to have everything you need, you're not going to have most of what you need.' "

Once Serpas settled in as top cop, a string of email correspondence between him and Landrieu's top advisors shows increasing alarm over the dwindling number of officers.

When Serpas took the job, he inherited 1,540 cops. But after a two-year hiring freeze, plus unchecked attrition, troop strength decreased every year Landrieu has been in office. Manpower now stands at 1,144.

In some emails, Serpas' warnings were very specific. He issued red flags about "critical vacancies" in the sex crimes unit, which was blasted in an Inspector General's report last year showing a lack of follow-up in more than 1,000 sex crimes and child abuse complaints.

He warned about slower response times, which also was the subject of a critical OIG report last year.
The story also gets into the back and forth between the Mayor and Serpas over how many cops the city should have, even as Landrieu insists that Serpas shouldn't have even been asking for help. Again.. it's very strange. 
Landrieu recalled the "academic debate" over the appropriate size of the NOPD. But he said he that because of the city's sprawling footprint and year-round tourist population, he ultimately settled on an "aspirational" troop strength of 1,600.

In the emails, Serpas stated that his data-crunching projected an ideal police force of 1,575.

The NOPD is far behind those numbers, but Landrieu stood behind his budget decisions.

"I was fully aware of Chief Serpas' thoughts. He was operating at my direction, as do all of the other department heads, in terms of do the best you with the limited amount of money that you have," he said. "And it was ultimately my decision that I made with great clarity. I wish we wouldn't have had to make the decision. That's like asking me, 'Which one of your children do you want to lose in a difficult circumstance when there's only one life vest?' "
In any case, those "aspirational" troop strength estimates are probably too high in the first place.  See Owen Courreges' columns at Uptown Messenger for more on this. We don't need that many cops.  But this is not something people want to hear.  So we're aggressively pushing in the wrong direction.

Anyway, Landrieu doesn't want to hear it.  He's the "quarterback" and shouldn't have to put up with all this stuff. This whole interview is very strange.
"We can argue until the cows come home, but once a decision is made, we've all got to get on the same team. That's how the Saints win the Super Bowl. You don't have the running back trying to tackle the quarterback. That's what's happening in this situation. That's got to stop."
Speaking of police and politics,

Wall Street Journal: U.S. Split Along Racial Lines on Backlash Against Police, Poll Finds
When asked to explain recent events in Baltimore and other cities that have seen confrontations between police and members of the African-American community, blacks and whites viewed the situation differently.

Asked to choose between two possible explanations for recent events, 60% of blacks said they reflected “long-standing frustrations about police mistreatment of African Americans.” Some 27% of black respondents said the disturbances were caused by people who used protests over an African American man dying in police custody  “as an excused to engage in looting and violence.”

But among whites, the balance of opinion flipped: 58% said people were seizing an excuse to loot, while 32% said the events reflected long-standing frustrations with police.
In this year of widespread protest over police violence, it's important not to underestimate the effect of white conservative backlash on national politics.
More generally, Republicans everywhere may be tempted to exploit the reflexive support for police officers among white citizens that is beginning to exhibit itself everywhere black protests arise. As John Judis observed at National Journal this week, the likely election of Dan Donovan--the prosecutor who appeared to work hard to avoid any grand jury indictment of the cops who killed Eric Garner--to Congress in Staten Island next Tuesday may signal a new era of racial backlash, battening on conservative anxieties already aroused by the years of attacks on Obama and manufactured fears of his supposed mania for “redistribution.”

If there is a supply of backlash voters, there will certainly be a demand, if only among the crowded GOP presidential field where the candidates will soon run out of ways to demonstrate their True Conservatism. The more historically minded of them may realize that St. Ronald Reagan himself built his California political career on a foundation of backlash to rioters, albeit student radicals more than African-Americans per se.
No doubt there will be more fuel for this fire as the 2016 election cycle approaches. One possible flashpoint could be in New Orleans where, though a series of absurdities, we've managed to reopen the Danziger case. In any case, it's bound to get uglier.

Finally, author Rick Perlstein is currently writing some of the best American political history this side of Robert Caro's Years of Lyndon Johnson series.  Perlstein's focus is the rise of the conservative movement in the latter half of the 20th Century.  His latest book, The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan is all about the backlash politics of the 1970s.  Here is a pretty good interview with Perlstein conducted this week on Maryland public radio.

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