Grandiose Predictions for the 2014 NFL Season
The first week of the 2014 NFL season is in the books and already things are looking rather insane. There were tons of injuries and upsets, horrible decisions by players both on and off the field, bizarre PR, and everything else that comes along with a game where grown men dress up in costumes and bang into each other over and over on a multimillion dollar field. It’s early yet, obviously, but still it’s hard for those of us who have waited more than seven months to not get itchy with excitement for whatever weird new crap might come to pass.
With just this tip of the iceberg in mind, here are some predictions I’ve brought back from the astral realm for football fans this fall.
1. Peyton Manning will retire from football and become a full-time actor
Because he just doesn’t make enough money as a professional quarterback, PFM has used his resurgence as the league’s dominant ball-tosser to parlay his way into a bevy of gigs shilling for major corporations like Papa John’s and Nationwide Insurance. Dude isn’t getting any younger and those paychecks hocking pizza are going to seem more and more sweet—particularly after the Broncos fail once again to point-blast their way into a Super Bowl ring. As far as actors go,he’s certainly no Blake Griffin, but we’re in for a long ride through the twilight years with Peyton as he sluts out to any bidder dying to use his pretty bread-eating face as the spokesboy of their trash.
2. The Redskins will try to change their name to the Washington Terrorists
After years of explaining to minorities why they shouldn’t be offended by the use of a racial slur for a team name, the billionaire owner of our nation’s capital’s professional football team will finally break. A press conference will be called in which the confidential new identity of the team, long under design by team officials, will be revealed. The Redskins will become the Terrorists. Players will be required to wear white robes, grow long beards, and carry automatic weapons and defaced US flags. Only then, finally having done something that actually offends regular-ass honky white people, will the team be brought under sanction by the league. Following the sale of the team to slightly more reasonable owners, the team will settle on the “Washington Donkeys.”
Why People of Color in NYC Still Don’t Trust the Cops
On July 17, New York City police officers surrounded Eric Garner, an overweight, asthmatic black man, near his home on Staten Island. According to Garner’s neighborhood pal Ramsey Orta, the cops were hassling Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, because they thought he was involved in a street scuffle. The police’s version of the incident is that they approached Garner for selling individual cigarettes—“loosies”—which is illegal because the government doesn’t collect taxes on those sales.
As captured on video by Orta, Garner complained about routine NYPD harassment and was subsequently placed in a choke hold by a plainclothes officer named Daniel Pantaleo. With his head being smashed against the ground and the cops holding him down, Garner cried out, “I can’t breathe!” nine times—you can watch the video on YouTube yourself and count—to no avail. He was pronounced dead at a hospital an hour later, and the video quickly went viral. It bears a horrifying resemblance to the climactic scene of Radio Raheem getting murdered by the NYPD in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing—Lee even created his own mash-up of the two scenes after Garner’s death.
Almost immediately, cries rang out that Garner was a casualty of “broken windows” policing. That’s the theory that says going after minor quality-of-life offenses like graffiti, subway panhandling, and illegal cigarette sales helps discourage serious crimes like rape and murder. It’s the brainchild of criminologist George Kelling, who co-authored a 1982 Atlantic article that remains a sort of manual for modern policing in America. Broken windows was popularized by William Bratton, the NYPD commissioner in the 90s under Mayor Rudy Giuliani who has taken up his old post under the new mayor, Bill de Blasio. The mythology holds that it was the chief factor in the city’s incredible turnaround since the high-crime 70s and 80s—though many criminologists disagree.
Getting Drunk at America’s Finest Chain Restaurants
Perhaps it’s my advancing age, my predilection for playing the sourpuss, or merely my growing disinterest in ceremony of any sort, but I’d rather eat in the shit end of a strip mall than get gussied up for a night on the town in the kind of genericly chic hotspots that now litter America’s cities. The lamentations of my colleagues as far afield as London over the insidious creeping dread of gentrification are now as familiar to journalism as Beyonce think-pieces, pointless aggregation of Daily Show clips, and Oxford commas.
We’ve bitched about gentrification’s florid fare and prentitious air of exclusion, but what’s the alternative? The aggressive gourmet flatulence of trendy urban neighborhoods makes me long for the affordable, bland, but comforting chain restaurants of my youth. I’m talking about the kind of place where the ads implore you to “let your hair down,” “unwind,” and “be family.”
Those sentiments seem trite, but are actually what we crave the most, especially here in America. We want to belong, we want to be accepted, and we want to get drunk on cheap liquor. Those aren’t virtues anymore when fancy gastropubs charge $17 for a burger and $8 for a pint of beer. We are being robbed of the one thing that makes us American: our love of inexpensive, generic bullshit.
The first Denny’s in Manhattan opened last week, and features a $300 version of their popular Grand Slam meal that comes with a bottle of Dom Perignon. We can’t even pray at the altar of the classic American diner without being reminded of what we don’t have. Are well-heeled day traders in Manhattan going to pop in for bacon and eggs, with a side of champagne? What’s next, a Happy Meal that comes with an XBox?
Reveling in popular culture, while also suckling at the sweet, sparkling teat of opulance is de rigueur these days. Restaurants sell gussied up versions of comfort food and charge through the nose for it. But what about just having normal comfort food? Can’t I just pleasure myself on top of a greasy plate of “grub” while knocking back a few discounted Happy Hour beverages? Thatbeautiful disaster exists solely in the safe, sanitized vortex of the suburban chain restaurant.
An Iraqi Painter Moved to America for a Better Life and Got Robbed Anyway
It’s not often you see a look of total devastation on someone’s face, but that was the expression Bassim Al-Shaker wore when I met him at a bar in downtown Phoenix on Tuesday night. Escaping threats for his life, the Iraqi-born painter fled to Phoenix in July of last year, eventually obtaining refugee status and becoming a permanent citizen earlier this year.
But Bassim woke up Monday morning to discover the door to his downtown studio smashed. Ten paintings were stolen August 18, as well as a couch and some power tools, from Bassim’s studio on Fourth Street and McKinley. Bassim was using the studio space rent-free before the whole block is to be demolished at the end of the year.
Formerly a barber in Baghdad, Bassim was once blindfolded, spat on, and beaten by loyalists of Iraq’s Mahdi Army militia, who left the painter so battered he spent the next two weeks in the hospital. But what had Bassim done to attract their violence? He had drawn sketches of the Venus de Milo as part of an entrance exam at Baghdad University’s College of Fine Arts.
Yeah, that’s right. Some tasteful nude sketches almost got this guy killed.
5 Links Between Higher Education and the Prison Industry
The worlds of academia and incarceration are closer than you may think.
This Week in Teens: Michael Brown Is Dead and Now We Know Who Killed Him
Have you read Nietzsche? Teens love the guy. I’m not super well versed in the German philosopher’s books, but I have read a few graphic tees with his picture on them, and from what I’ve picked up, the gist is that everything is inherently meaningless. So it goes with This Week in Teens, in which our only respite from the constant suffering around us is the comforting knowledge that life doesn’t have a purpose.
–America invented teenagers and apparently reserves the right to kill them, too. The biggest news this week—teen or otherwise—has been the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri. Police were quick to defend the act, while witnesses say that Brown didn’t do anything to provoke police, and was shot multiple times “until he just dropped down to the ground and his face just smacks the concrete.” Protests over the killing were countered by a militarized police force, complete with SWAT gear and armored vehicles. The incident has been covered from every angle: how Ferguson is America’s latest racial hotspot; how this represents a sort of Chekhov’s (military-grade machine) gun and the inevitable conclusion of post-9/11 defense spending; how eight unarmed teens are still at large; and how white people in suburban St. Louis don’t give a shit.
It took a bunch of protests for Ferguson police to name Darren Wilson as the officer who killed Michael Brown, which they finally did Friday morning. Police also released a report saying that Brown was a suspect in a “strong-arm robbery” of a box of Swisher Sweets cigars, and that Wilson was responding to the crime when Brown was killed. Whether Brown actually shoplifted is unknown at this point, not that it would in any way justify his death. All that’s clear is that we’re in a pretty terrible place right now, and there is no obvious path for things to get much better.
I Went Undercover in America’s Toughest Prison
Everyone knows the US imprisons more people than any other country in the world. What they might not know is that, as an American citizen, you’re more likely to be jailed than if you were Chinese, Russian or North Korean; that, with 2.3 million inmates, there are currently the same amount of people imprisoned in the States as the combined populations of Estonia and Cyprus; and that once Americans are sent to jail, they tend to keep going back.
According to a recent study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics—a US Department of Justice agency—within six months of release 28 percent of inmates get rearrested for a new crime. After three years, the figure rises to 68 percent. By the end of five years, it’s an alarming 77 percent. But terrible recidivism rates have been a constant in the Land of the Free. The Pew Research Center issued its own report on the problem in 2011; the conclusion was bleak. Too many criminal offenders emerge from prison ready to offend again, and more than four out of 10 adult offenders in America return to prison within three years of their release. For too many Americans, the prison door keeps revolving.
How do we try to change whatever it was that brought someone into trouble with the law? And if that proves impossible, what is the best way that society can protect itself? I wanted to find out. I also wanted to see how much of what I knew—or thought I knew—about jail turned out to be true. So I wrote to corrections departments worldwide asking for access.
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Is Already Terrifying
The Iraq War sank Hillary Clinton when she ran for president in 2008. The former first lady and then-US Senator’s refusal to call her vote authorizing the invasion a mistake made her seem just enough like a George W. Bush clone to alienate liberal Democrats and hand some guy named Barack Obama their party’s nomination. But she doesn’t seem to have taken the rejection to heart, and may have actually become even more prone to saber-rattling since.
In a recent interview with the The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, the former Secretary of State talked Syria, Israel, Iraq, and the Obama Doctrine—if that’s really what we’re calling it now. In addition to all but admitting she is ready to run for the most powerful office on planet Earth two years from now, Clinton sounded a nostalgic tone for the bellicose American rhetoric of the Cold War, defended Israel’s latest brutal assault on Gaza, and knocked Obama for not meddling in foreign conflicts more often.
“Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle,” Clinton said, offering her most aggressive criticism yet of Obama’s famously (some would say toxically) “pragmatic” approach to the world. “You know, we did a good job in containing the Soviet Union, but we made a lot of mistakes, we supported really nasty guys, we did some things that we are not particularly proud of, from Latin America to Southeast Asia, but we did have a kind of overarching framework about what we were trying to do that did lead to the defeat of the Soviet Union and the collapse of Communism. That was our objective. We achieved it.”
Reporting from Ferguson, the St. Louis Suburb That Has Become America’s Latest Racial Hotspot
Last night, I walked out of the Target in Ferguson, Missouri, to find my car behind police tape. Cops in riot gear were extending their security perimeter around West Florissant Avenue, where protests over the death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown turned into looting and riots Sunday night and clashes with police on Monday.
“You better hurry up and go get it,” a man in a group parked near me said. The cops let me retrieve my vehicle after a stern warning (complete with a rifle being waved around) to go left and not right when I reached the edge of the lot. Five minutes later I heard four tear gas canister volleys. Ten seconds after that a 20-something black man in a caravan of Ferguson residents came over.
“We going,” he said. “You coming?”
What followed was a raucous four-hour stretch marked by smoked out streets and rage. By midnight, West Florissant was littered with rocks, broken glass, spent tear gas canisters and pepper balls. As we approached the police line from the north, cops were flying everywhere and people were honking and and screaming. After hearing the canisters fly, people were angry enough to run stoplights, ignore cop cars and speed across town to make it to ground zero and figure out what was happening.
Brown, as you may have heard, was killed Saturday by a St. Louis County police officer. One protestor told me his death was the “spark that lit the fire,” one that’s been long smoldering in this St. Louis suburb, where relations between residents and police aren’t so hot. The details surrounding the 18-year-old’s death have been the subject of much contention, but whether Brown was shot between seven and ten times, as his cousin Sabrina Webb and many others claimed Monday, or whether it was less than that doesn’t really matter here. Nor does the fact that police maintain Brown struggled with the as-of-yet unnamed officer. What is gnawing at emotions and bubbling up at protests where many chanted “black power” Monday is the fact that Brown was unarmed and was apparently approached by the officer for jaywalking.
"They thought he was somebody else," Webb told me after pleading through a bullhorn that protestors not resort to the looting that resulted in damage to several businesses Sunday night. "It was racial profiling."
Looks Like Weed Legalization Will Be on the November Ballot in DC
Forbes just put out a list of the coolest cities in the US, and against all odds, DC won the top spot. The honor may be more deserved come November, when residents of the District will decide whether to join Colorado and Washington in legalizing marijuana.
The DC Board of Elections certified a ballot initiative Tuesday by the DC Cannabis Campaign to legalize marijuana for personal use. Ballot Initiative 71 would legalize possession of up to two ounces of marijuana outside the home, allow DC residents to grow up to three plants in their homes, and restrict use to residents 21 and over.
The campaign submitted roughly 56,000 petition signatures to get the initiative on the ballot, more than twice the threshold number of 22,000. Organizers were expecting a challenge from the board of elections, and there was palpable relief in the room when the board announced about 27,000 of those signatures had been deemed valid.
Now that the initiative is officially on the ballot, the biggest hurdle for the campaign may be over. A Washington Post poll earlier this year found that 63 percent of District residents supported legalization, compared with 34 percent who were opposed.