Friday, February 28, 2014

Downsizing the giant:
The Hagel-Obama defense budget and what it means



ON MONDAY, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel finally dropped the ax on his own agency and delivered a sea change for the United States military, one he had promised, or threatened, for nearly a year. “Today I am announcing the key decisions I have recommended to the President for the Defense Department’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget and beyond.

“These recommendations will adapt and reshape our defense enterprise so that we can continue protecting this nation’s security in an era of unprecedented uncertainty and change. As we end our combat mission in Afghanistan, this will be the first budget to fully reflect the transition DoD is making for after 13 years of war — the longest conflict in our nation’s history.”

It was a frank admission of something we should already know, and have been led to believe: the armed forces of the United States, paragon of a sometimes lethal efficiency, has become both a victim of that efficiency and a victim of the wider, asymmetrically bad domestic economy.

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Back in the days, a certain visible muscularity was more necessary by our armed forces; a relative military and technological primitivism meant doing more with more: big armies, vast armadas, overwhelming firepower that could be as overwhelming for our side (logistically and economically) as it was for the enemy to fight.

Now, though, with better training, lighter aircraft and more powerful weapons; with the hindsight of generations of tragic wartime experience; and with an emerging economic reality that makes juggernauts unsustainable, the United States has a military that’s more dynamic, more technologically endowed and more financially strapped — a military that may be about to do more with less. A lot less.

“This budget helps us to remain the world’s finest military — modern, capable and ready — even while transitioning to a smaller, more affordable force over time,” Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said Monday.

Under the terms of the 2011 Budget Control Act, (sequestration), Congress approved a budget that required a reduction in force of Army personnel from 522,000 to about 420,000; and a cut in Marines’ numbers from 190,000 to about 175,000 — all by 2019.

The new Pentagon budget could pare as many as 90,000 soldiers from the branches of the U.S. military, dropping the force to about 440,000 — a figure that would be the lowest active force since before World War II. Hagel’s proposal will be part of President Obama’s official budget, which hits the stores on Tuesday calling for about $496 billion in core defense spending.

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WE ARE repositioning to focus on the strategic challenges and opportunities that will define our future: new technologies, new centers of power, and a world that is growing more volatile, more unpredictable, and in some instances more threatening to the United States,” Hagel said at the Pentagon.

But that thunderclap shouldn’t have been such a surprise. Hagel said almost exactly the same thing last July at the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Louisville, Ky. “We have to prepare our institution for whatever comes,” he said.

“To that end,” he said in Louisville, “these cuts are forcing us to make tough but necessary decisions to prioritize missions and capabilities around our core responsibility, which is the security of our country.” And back in December, Hagel announced a plan to slash 20 percent of the Pentagon's headquarters budgets, a move expected to save $1 billion over five years.

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But we really got a heads-up about this embrace-the-new thinking earlier than that. President Obama got the point across with humor and wit in October 2012, in his third presidential debate with Mitt Romney, at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.

Indulging his inner hawk, Romney said “our Navy is older — excuse me — our Navy is smaller now than any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We're now down to 285. We're headed down to the — to the low 200s if we go through with sequestration. That's unacceptable to me. I want to make sure that we have the ships that are required by our Navy.

“Our Air Force is older and smaller than any time since it was founded in 1947. We've changed for the first time since FDR. We — since FDR we had the — we've always had the strategy of saying we could fight in two conflicts at once. Now we're changing to one conflict. Look, this, in my view, is the highest responsibility of the president of the United States, which is to maintain the safety of the American people.”

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OBAMA PUSHED back on this convincingly, schooling Mitt from the perspective of the commander in chief in modern times. “I think Governor Romney maybe hasn't spent enough time looking at how our military works. You — you mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets — because the nature of our military's changed.

“We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines. And so the question is not a game of Battleship where we're counting ships. It's, it's [about] what are our capabilities?”

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Putin, Russia and repurposing the past


IT WAS FRANKLY unbelievable. After all the comic preliminaries — the ridicule for stray dogs on the stadium grounds, the snarky comments about creature comforts and hotel toilets that spied on their users with cameras — The Sochi Winter Olympic Games were a glittering, $51 billion success.

The opening ceremony at Fisht Olympic Stadium was a phantasmagorical journey through 1,000 years of Russian history, a greatest-hits collection of Russian world figures — Sikorsky! Dostoevsky! Kandinsky! Nabokov! Eisenstein! — and a chance to rethink everything we thought we knew about Russia.

This voyage through the looking glass was brought to you by Vladimir Putin, the Russian president we were for 17 days invited to see as a proud leader and nation builder ready to advance the interests of his republic on the global stage. The awe-inspiring grandeur of the opening ceremony was poetically bookended by the final medal count: Russia led all nations with more gold medals, and more medals overall, than anyone else.

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But the world was brought back to the other reality while the games were still going on. On Saturday, after days of deadly fighting in Kiev, the parliament of Ukraine, Russia’s direct neighbor to the west and a former piece of the Soviet Union, voted to oust President Viktor Yanukovich, appointing Oleksandr Turchynov as the new interim president.

“We have to return to the family of European countries,” Turchynov said, repudiating Putin and his hopes of building a New Soviet Union, with Ukraine resuming its historical orbit around the Moscow sun.

Putin’s Sochi Kum Ba Yah apparently faded from memory as of Wednesday. That’s when the Russian president ordered military exercises in western Russia, according to The Associated Press.

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IN A TELEVISED statement from Moscow, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the exercise is intended to “check the troops' readiness for action in crisis situations that threaten the nation's military security,” The AP reported.

Citing other statements by Russian news agencies, AP reported that Shoigu said the maneuvers would involve some 150,000 troops, 880 tanks, 90 aircraft and 80 navy ships.

It’s strangely ironic that during the Sochi Games, Putin enjoyed his defining triumph and faced what could be his defining challenge almost simultaneously. This first-blush, saber-rattling response to Ukraine’s independence is mostly meant for domestic and regional consumption.

How Putin really, finally responds to this situation will confirm or disprove, in front of the world, just how ready he is to accept the ways “Greater Russia” can be a concept based as much on perspective and vision as one based on geography and power.

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It’s guts-ball time for Putin. Everyone in the world is watching. The triumph of Sochi raised the stakes. The Russian president dropped $51 billion to host the most expensive games in Olympic history; the result, a winner across the board, has burnished and elevated Russia’s reputation, and Putin’s own.

Events in Ukraine have raised the stakes even more. It’s more than mildly interesting that the Sochi Games and the flashpoint of unrest in Kiev happened at about the same time. It’s also notable that what just happened in Ukraine has the virtue of being both organic to the people in the Kiev streets and legislatively ratified by the Ukrainian parliament.

That fact undercuts the rationale for Putin entertaining a military strike for the purpose of Restoring Order, or any similar nostrums, despite the military exercises just announced.

Order already was restored to Ukraine over the weekend, by the Ukrainian people. To undertake a straight-up military operation would compromise Putin politically, isolating Russia even further from wider economic integration, something that Russia wants and Ukraine desperately needs. And days after an undisputed cultural victory on its own soil, a Russian military adventure would compromise Putin imagistically — and after the global spectacle of Sochi, optics matter more than you might think.

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IT’S TIME for Putin to resist the temptation to surrender to nationalistic reflexes, and change the world’s longstanding presumption of Russian antagonism (something he started in Sochi). The time’s come for Putin to play the geopolitical cards he’s been dealt — by the dynamics of populism and by historical fact — and realize that the casino he’s playing in is not his own. Not anymore.

During the Sochi Games, a tumblr called Pride Propaganda brilliantly pushed back on the rise of homophobic attitudes and actions in Russia by appropriating some vintage Soviet propaganda posters — depicting various Young Pioneers in different walks of life, muscular nuclear families marching in lockstep into the future ... only these images are awash in the rainbow motif long connected with the global pride movement. It was a smart, uplifting, memorably incisive way of artists repurposing the Russian past in a bold reach for the future.

It falls to Vladimir Putin to do exactly the same thing. Never mind the short-term show of force on the Russian border: The way is there, the door is open for him to start transforming his historically fractious and expansionist region of the world and our perception of it, to be the world leader he envisions himself to be by pursuing the best way of repurposing the past: Not attempting to revisit it.

Image credits: Putin: Sergei Guneyev for TIME. Poster: Pride Propaganda (Tumblr). 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Ukraine, Putin, Obama and the art of watchful waiting



ON WEDNESDAY, protests by Ukrainians outraged at the government’s deliverance of their economic future to Russia escalated into waves of fighting in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, bloody clashes that were almost apocalyptic in their imagery.

What a difference three or four days can make. On Saturday, the Ukrainian parliament voted to remove President Viktor Yanukovich, who bolted from the capital, bound for parts unknown. The Ukrainian parliament appointed Oleksandr Turchynov as Ukraine's new interim president. BBC News reported that, after his appointment, Turchynov pledged to institute a "government of the people,” saying "we have to return to the family of European countries,” an implicit statement of an intention to return to the orbit of the European Union, and away from Moscow.

“We are ready for a dialogue with Russia ... on a new, fair, equal and neighborly basis, acknowledging and taking into account Ukraine's European choice,” he said.

The parliament also freed from prison former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a Yanukovich political foe. Sky News reported that Tymoshenko said she was “sure” Ukraine will join the European Union “and this will change everything.”

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Yanukovich’s overthrow — amid days of violence in which 88 people were killed and parts of Kiev’s Independence Square became an operatic inferno — was an unalloyed repudiation of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his hopes of effectively building a New Soviet Union, one with Ukraine as a crown jewel satellite. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Ukraine's opposition “had in effect seized power in Kiev, refused to disarm and continued to place its bets on violence,” BBC reported.

The collapse of Yanukovich was symbolized in comic fashion on Saturday. People arrived by the hundreds at Mezhygirya, the president’s abandoned private estate outside Kiev, to stroll around the grounds and take photos of the loot amassed at this Xanadu by the Dnepr River: His private zoo fat with ostriches, peacocks and deer. Sparkling waterfalls and an 18-hole golf course. A tennis court and bowling alley. An underground shooting range. Extensive private gardens. A car park with a 1950 Rolls-Royce and a 1963 Chevrolet Impala.

If only Yanukovich had been as democratic in wielding his presidential authority as he was in picking his cars.

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AS TURCHYNOV considers what’s next, and as Ukraine readies for new elections (now set for May), the United States will wait on tenterhooks for a more final resolution along with everyone else. But for now, President Obama’s gradualist approach to the situation in Kiev has turned out to be the right one. Once again, just like in Syria, the president resisted the reflex among conservatives — Arizona Sen. John McCain among them — to immediately start ratcheting up the tension with sanctions or threats of use of military force.

McCain, remember, was the one who just days ago condemned the president, even as he quickly called for targeted sanctions against Ukraine — the kind of thing that was likely to hurt the very people already being hurt by the Ukrainian government.

“This is the most naive president in history,” McCain said Thursday on Phoenix radio station KFYI, as reported by Politico. “The naiveté of Barack Obama and [Secretary of State] John Kerry is stunning ... This thing could easily spiral out of control into a major international crisis. The first thing we need to do is impose sanctions on those people who are in leadership positions,” McCain said.

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The senator had company. Niall Ferguson, drawn Wilkinson Sword flashing in the sun as usual, weighed in on Friday, in The Wall Street Journal. Lamenting what he called the U.S.’ “geopolitical taper,” Ferguson said that what was then the first blush of a deal for a coalition government in Ukraine “may or may not spell the end of the crisis. In any case, the negotiations were conducted without concern for Mr. Obama.”


The Journal, elsewhere in full scathing mode, took Obama to task in a Friday editorial: “As for the U.S., it's no coincidence that Mr. Putin asserted himself in Ukraine not long after Mr. Obama retreated in humiliating fashion from his "red line" in Syria. As always in history, such timidity invites the aggression it purports to prevent. If this American President won't even bomb Damascus airfields to stop the use of chemical weapons, why would Mr. Putin think Mr. Obama would do anything for eastern Europe?”

Saturday, February 22, 2014

MSNBC and the shock of the new



PUSHING ITS own envelope again, MSNBC is set to roll out two new dayside programs next week: “The Reid Report,” to be hosted by TheGrio.com managing editor Joy Reid; and “Ronan Farrow Daily,” with journalist, activist and lawyer Ronan Farrow (son of Mia), both start on Monday in the latest shift of the viewing schedule of the network that reshuffles its programming identity more reliably than any other cable news property.

But thanks to a prospective major merger, and accusations of union busting at an MSNBC production company, MSNBC’s generally progressive hosts face something that both jeopardizes the network’s populist “Lean Forward” identity, and calls out their core progressive convictions.

In a relative instant, MSNBC is transmitter of, and subject to, the shock of the new.

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It all started in December, as a story that managed to fly under the media radar, and, for obvious reasons, off the radar of MSNBC.

In a Dec. 18 story in Salon, an official of the AFL-CIO called on MSNBC show hosts Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell, Ed Schultz and Al Sharpton to speak out about alleged union busting at Peacock Productions, a production arm of MSNBC (the company co-produces the “Lockup” prison documentary series that remains a big part of MSNBC’s weekend lineup).

“These hosts have a particular responsibility,” AFL-CIO organizing director Elizabeth Bunn told Salon’s Josh Eidelson. “They have respect and they have clout that producers alone don’t have, and they’re part of the larger progressive movement.”

Bunn said the show hosts were “uniquely positioned to hear the stories of what their parent company is doing to workers, and broadcast that to the larger American public.”

Bunn said NBC, MSNBC’s parent company, was “guilty of hypocrisy and guilty of exploiting its workforce,” adding that “one would hope than an employer whose mission is to communicate accurately would behave more responsibly.”

WGA-E organizing director Justin Molito told Eidelson that Peacock directed “a textbook anti-union campaign that you would see at companies like Wal-Mart.” Some workers at Peacock decided to take independent action, putting them at odds with the company they work for.

Bunn told Salon that the AFL-CIO was “prepared to escalate the pressure on these hosts” as well as on NBC. Eidelson reported Dec. 18 that “[t]he only MSNBC host to respond to any of Salon’s inquiries on the issue has been Ed Schultz, who when asked about the campaign Dec. 10 emailed, ‘Moveon.org has never been an ally of Ed Schultz, why should I help you with a story? Give me a reason.’”

That was last year. Now, fast forward to Thursday.

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ON THAT DAY the revolving doors at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, NBC’s headquarters, were quietly besieged when leaders of the Writers Guild America-East and renegade producers from Peacock Productions, arrived carrying boxes of petitions ... for Hayes, Maddow, O’Donnell, Sharpton and Schultz. The petitions call on them to use the bully pulpits of their programs to weigh in, on the air, about another uncomfortable situation right at their high-profile doorstep.

When Comcast announced plans to buy Time Warner Cable on Feb. 13, for $45.2 billion in stock, it was a thunderclap in the business world, one that fully declared Comcast’s intention to dominate in the cable space like no company ever had before. The deal proposes to combine the country’s two biggest U.S. cable companies into one inescapable media behemoth.

“This leaves Comcast as the sole king of the cable hill,” said Richard Greenfield, an analyst with BTIG LLC, to Bloomberg. “This is a game changer for Comcast.”

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Based in Philadelphia, Comcast has had a voracious appetite, making $65.6 billion of acquisitions over the past 10 years, this according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Last March, Comcast acquired from General Electric the rest of NBCUniversal that Comcast didn’t already own (by way of the controlling stake it acquired from GE in January 2011) for $16.7 billion. NBCUniversal is the parent company of MSNBC and NBC.

Bloomberg reported that the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable nuptials could face up to a year of scrutiny, but would “probably will end in approval after regulators secure pledges the combined company won’t harm Internet users.”

Richard M., a Huffington Post Super User, isn’t hopeful: “Every time there is a large merger like this we see 1000's of people who are put out of work, and we see increases in the costs so that the company can get their expenditures back as quickly as possible. These deals NEVER work out well for the consumer.”

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SUSAN CRAWFORD, John A. Reilly visiting professor in intellectual property at Harvard Law School and a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, doesn’t look forward to that outcome either. In a blistering op-ed piece at Bloomberg, she explained the sum of many fears:

“The reason this deal is scary is that for the vast majority of businesses in 19 of the 20 largest metropolitan areas in the country, their only choice for a high-capacity wired connection will be Comcast. Comcast, in turn, has its own built-in conflicts of interest: It will be serving the interests of its shareholders by keeping investments in its network as low as possible -- in particular, making no move to provide the world-class fiber-optic connections that are now standard and cheap in other countries -- and extracting as much rent as it can, in all kinds of ways.”

“If all of this sounds technical, try this: We're all the people of Fort Lee, New Jersey, trying to get on the George Washington Bridge. There's a bully narrowing our access to the world whose interests aren't aligned with ours. ... Let's be clear: This is old-school monopolistic behavior.”

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All of which creates a problem for the progressive show hosts of a progressive, forward-leaning news network — a problem that’s more than purely imagistic.

The two-front war now under way against the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger and alleged anti-union activities at an MSNBC entity puts these hosts in a quandary. Every one of their programs has been part of the network’s emerging identity as a progressive bulwark, an identity fully established in its coverage of the 2012 presidential campaign.

Now these five hosts, the face of MSNBC, confront nothing less than a test of their core beliefs — where the hearts really are, not just their public identities. Scott Jones, commenting at HuffPost, cut to the chase: “The fact that these very well paid corporate television hosts have been placed between this rock and a hard place will expose the true courage of their beliefs. Let's see how they stand up to it.”

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THERE’S no schadenfreude joy to be found in the dilemma of these show hosts, and others under the MSNBC banner, including Farrow, whose new show airs starting Monday at 1 p.m. eastern, and Reid, whose program starts an hour after that. In some ways, their possible conflicts of interest are nothing new, and they’re certain to happen again.

As media companies get larger, as their technologies get more diversified, and as content — information — furthers its hold on a public that gets that information in more ways than ever before, we can expect crises of media gigantism, and what happens when the progressive tendencies of the newsroom are forced to contend with their fiscally conservative, risk-averse opposite number in the boardroom.

When journalists and newsgatherers at one network call out governors or officials for anti-union behavior, it’s easy to see how those journalists might have a problem with one of its production partners accused of doing the same thing — and another problem with not being able to report about that on the air.

And when one company owns not just the pipes but a disproportionate amount of the content that runs through those pipes, it’s easy to see how labor groups, civil libertarians and the public at large might have ... issues with how a bigger, more muscular version of that company could do business in a nation that’s more and more wired by fewer and fewer companies all the time.

Image credits: MSNBC logo, The Ed Show promo: © 2014 MSNBC. Comcast logo: © 2014 Comcast. Pre- and post-buyout charts: The Huffington Post via Imgur. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Christiegate: The road to Subpoena Boulevard



THE LEGAL traffic jam building around the office of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in Trenton, N.J., is as big as the ones convened on the access lanes to the George Washington Bridge for four days last September. With new summonses, new statements and new disclosures from the press in the case of the busiest bridge in the world being used for political purposes, all roads to and from Christie’s office are being diverted to the newly-widened access lanes of Subpoena Boulevard.

It’s gettin’ so you can’t even keep up. In the last week, The Star-Ledger, The Bergen Record, The Wall Street Journal and MSNBC have reported on the latest chapters of the Christie saga: 18 fresh subpoenas were issued to several figures in the GWB scandal by the New Jersey legislature. A legislative committee passed motions to compel former Christie aides Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien to respond to earlier subpoenas.

Philip Kwon, the Port Authority deputy general counsel, is under close scrutiny for his possible role in this mess. And, thanks to Steve Kornacki of MSNBC, a new report documents, through emails and texts, the fact that David Wildstein, a now-former top Christie aide at the Port Authority, and a Port Authority police lieutenant named Chip Michaels, were on the scene when the lanes were shut down in Fort Lee, N.J., presumably maneuvering their way around the traffic nightmare they helped to engineer.

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Last weekend, Kornacki reported how, in a 7:28 a.m. email on Sept. 9, the first day of the GWB traffic farrago, Wildstein told bridge manager Robert Durando that he was “going to take a ride with chip and see how it looks.”

For those of you trying to keep score at home, all this elevates the appearance, if not the likelihood, of a conspiracy, of a toweringly cynical manipulation of a public resource, planned and orchestrated and monitored by functionaries of the state, for political purposes.

But as Christiegate grows, what’s clear, clearer now than before, is just how far Chris Christie will go to maintain his grip not just on power as New Jersey’s governor, but also on the perception of power beyond his current office, including his unlikely bid for the 2016 Republican nomination. His mindset, or at least his public persona, seems to be some weird cross of detachment and engagement, of an internal conviction that he will rise above the waters that are rising around him. He is lately a man with a lot to do.

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BESIDES HIS day gig of riding the beast of a $500 billion state economy, Christie has the additional responsibility of being the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, a position that requires trips around the country, in the eternal fundraising quest that the job entails. All this and widening scandals too.

But Christie has adopted a full-steam-ahead strategy, acting like nothing much has happened at all in the last three months, as if subpoenas and state inquiries were just a speed bump on a possible road to the nomination, instead of a sinkhole for those ambitions. This despite cratering opinion poll numbers within his state, and equally dispiriting survey results from around the country.

From all outward appearances, this is a man who knows no reverse gear. In a masterful piece of journalism in The New Republic, Alec MacGillis tells us why.

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MacGillis, a TNR senior editor, writes in detail about the governor’s longer back story, in a breakdown of personal and political history that more fully explains Christie’s upbringing and personality and, among other things, why Christiegate is a better descriptor of the current implosion of the governor’s fortunes than Bridgegate ever was.

MacGillis explains that, to make sense of Chris Christie, you have to make sense of the environment that made him possible. Once you do that, it’s easy to see how in some ways his current iteration wasn’t so much possible as it was inevitable.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Jordan Davis and Florida’s war on young black males



WE’VE BEEN here before, again. A white man with a gun. An unarmed black male teenager. The wrong words. A drawn weapon. Shots fired. A child dead on the ground. Outrage and tears. A trial. A verdict. More outrage at a system that works preferentially, when it works at all.

On Saturday, after 31 hours of deliberations, a Florida jury reached a verdict on four of the five charges in the trial of Michael Dunn, a 47-year-old Floridian accused of shooting Jordan Russell Davis to death in a Jacksonville convenience store parking lot on Nov. 23th, 2012, for the crime of playing hiphop music too loud.

Davis and friends had arrived to buy gum and cigarettes; Dunn pulled up so his fiancée could buy wine and chips. Dunn had issues with the volume of the music coming from the teens' Dodge Durango SUV. He asked them to turn it down. Dunn claimed Davis threatened him, and said he saw what he thought was the barrel of a gun coming from the Durango.

And then Dunn, subconsciously secure in the conviction that might makes right, took matters into his own hands, firing 10 shots from a 9mm into a car full of kids.

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On four of the charges, the jury ruled that Dunn, who said he was in fear for his life, was guilty of attempted second-degree murder because he fired at the Durango, filled with Davis and other teenage occupants. But the jury couldn’t reach a decision on one of the charges to determine if Dunn’s killing shot — the one that ended Davis’ life at the age of 18 — constituted first degree murder, second degree murder or manslaughter. Thus deadlocked, the judge declared a mistrial on the one count that mattered.

The jury could have waited until Monday to announce its verdict, but they came back on Saturday, at the low end of the news cycle, when maybe no one was paying as much attention. Or maybe they hoped to avoid the unhappy prospect of announcing a verdict any closer to Sunday, what would have been Davis’ 19th birthday.

Whatever the reason, whatever the timing, the Davis verdict has reopened the wound that never heals in this nation, the wound of violence against young black Americans on the strength of a suspicion, and nothing more. And it reawakens the interminable debate over Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, and that law’s ancillary permissions of other avenues to deadly force, and the ways the Sunshine State has declared war on the young black American male.

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ASSISTANT STATE Attorney Erin Wolfson told USA Today that each of the three attempted-murder counts carries a 20-year minimum mandatory sentence. Jackelyn Barnard, spokeswoman for the State Attorney's Office, told USA Today that the sentences must run consecutively. Another sentence of 15 years is also possible, for the act of shooting at the SUV.

“You are looking basically at life in prison,” Dunn defense attorney Cory Strolla told CNN, when asked to speculate on his client’s time behind bars. “At 47 years old, that's a life sentence regardless of count one.”

Dunn and his defense team went to great pains not to invoke (or even mention) Florida’s infamous “stand your ground” law, the work of a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association that was signed into law by then Gov. Jeb Bush, the same Jeb Bush pulling his chin over making a run for the White House. (You shudder to think of Bush making this legacy of his time as governor something he’d work to bestow on the whole country as president.)

But the parallels to “stand your ground” were there just the same. Davis’ killing, after all, bears the eerie echoes of the slaying of Trayvon Martin, the teenager shot to death in February 2012 by the cypher George Zimmerman, in Sanford, due south of Jacksonville. And Strolla did make a point of claiming that Dunn fired in self-defense, the crux and pivot point of the “stand your ground” statute.

The question is, self-defense from what?

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Was this a cultural thing, was Dunn defending himself from rap music and its culture? Because that was on trial too. Dunn’s actions were apparently precipitated by his distaste for what he called “rap crap.” It wouldn’t be the first time that rap and hiphop culture have been indicted by implication, in the mainstream media if not in a court of law. To go by the media’s shorthand characterization of this case as either the “loud music” or “thug music” trial, if Davis and friends had been listening to “Nessun dorma” or “Okie From Muskogee,” everything would have been all right.

Strolla, Dunn’s attorney, tried to take the high low ground. “[T]his was not a “black-and-white issue,” he told USA Today, but “a subculture thug issue. And again, it doesn't go to race. It goes to how people behave and respond to situations.”

But maybe this was a racial thing. Dunn’s jailhouse letters, circulated in the media but not entered into evidence for the prosecution at trial, paint a nasty, suggestive picture of Dunn’s state of mind.

While in jail, he wrote this to an unidentified recipient:

I just got off the phone with you and we were talking about how racist the blacks are up here. The more time I am exposed to these people the more prejudiced against them I become. I suppose the white folks who live here are pretty much anti-black, at least the ones who have been exposed to them.

In another letter dated July 12 he wrote:

The jail is full of blacks and they ALL act like thugs. I think the legal system is scared of a backlash any time there is a white-on-black incident, but don’t get excited when it’s black on black or even black on white. This may sound a bit radical but if more people would arm themselves and kill these ***** idiots when they’re threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their behavior.

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BUT THE most poisonous aspect of the outcome is the tally of the charges for which Dunn’s been convicted. Guilty on three counts of attempted murder; guilty on the charge of firing into an occupied vehicle.

But on the principal count — the charge of taking someone’s life — the jury bailed, laying the groundwork for a mistrial despite having the options of convicting on lesser charges of second-degree murder or manslaughter.

There was no conviction for the most serious matter in this case. The verdict on Saturday confirmed the idea that, for all intents and purposes, Jordan Davis did not exist. This, as surely as the Trayvon Martin verdict, is what amounts to a declaration of war.

The unfortunate instructional narrative for black families with children has become pre-emptively proscriptive, and utterly corrosive: The quasi-executions murders of Davis and Martin mean that black children, especially black males, are the ones whose behavior is presumptively suspicious, if not presumptively criminal. Act like this, don't act like that. You must watch how you behave at all times. You are presumed guilty until proven innocent.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates, writing post-verdict on Saturday in The Atlantic, summoned rage and a blistering candor he could barely contain: “I insist that the irrelevance of black life has been drilled into this country since its infancy ... I insist that racism must be properly understood as an Intelligence, as a sentience, as a default setting [to] which, likely to the end of our days, we shall unerringly return.”

In a statement it broke our hearts to watch, Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis, struggled on Saturday to speak, to say what we all know had to be said: “We will continue to stand and we will continue to wait for justice for Jordan.”

Dunn’s sentencing is set for March 24. We’ll have a better handle then on whether justice for Jordan Davis is possible, or if Florida continues its sorry, tragic slide further and further back into the judicial swamps. Til’ then, we stand and wait and try to hold back the tears. We, all of us, got robbed again. Another young man is gone. And if we start crying now, we might never, ever stop.

Image credits: Jordan Davis: RIP Jordan Davis Facebook page. Dunn: Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office booking photo. Jordan Davis: via vebidoo.com.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

‘Full faith and credit’:
House folds on debt-ceiling limit


BY A VOTE of 221-201, the House of Representatives voted Tuesday to pass a clean debt ceiling bill, a measure approved with no encumbrances, no conditions, no partisan jiu-jitsu to avoid paying the bills the United States has already rung up. Twenty-eight Republicans joined 193 Democrats in voting yes.

From here, the measure, which increases the current debt ceiling of $17 trillion before a looming default at month’s end, moves to the Democratic-controlled Senate, where passage is expected. “We'll let the Democrats put the votes up. We'll put a minimum number of votes up to get it passed," said House Speaker John Boehner, pragmatic in defeat, and maybe liberated as well. “We'll let his party give him the debt ceiling increase that he wants.”

In the short term, it’s evidence of compromise from a Congress not known for being compromise-friendly. And it restores, for a hot minute, the possibility that bipartisanship is possible. But for Pantone Warm Red C conservatives, the bill’s advance represents a bitter surrender to President Obama, and it puts Boehner in the crosshairs of those howling for a deeper fiscal tilt to the right — and a change of leadership in the House.

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Ben Jacobs of The Daily Beast breaks it down:

“President Obama had long signalled his opposition to signing a debt limit increase with any conditions attached while House Republicans have long sought to use the once relatively routine procedural vote as political leverage.

“Early Tuesday morning though, Boehner realized only a clean bill would pass as there was no way that the Speaker could get 218 votes out of the GOP caucus to support any increase and he had no carrots to dangle that could lure over conservative Democrats to support a debt limit with a rider attached.

“Many members of House leadership and committee chairs broke with Boehner in opposing the bill, including James Lankford, the no. 4 Republican in the House and former GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, the chair of the House Budget Committee. The 27 Republicans who joined Boehner in supporting the bill ended up comprising a ragtag crew of moderates, the retiring and loyalist committee chairs.”

◊ ◊ ◊


MICHAEL TOMASKY, also of The Beast, wrote earlier in the day, sensing the Republican caucus would cave, and put a wider, more historical spin on things, saying “this whole, sorry hostage-taking episode in American politics is presumably over. It's a major admission of failure by Boehner and [House Majority Leader] Eric Cantor, and of course yet another sign that they have very little control over their caucus.”

“I’m glad that Republican leaders finally bowed to reality and put families and the economy before the Tea Party," Washington state Democratic Sen. Patty Murray said in a statement. "The era of economic hostage-taking, ransom demands, and manufactured crises should finally be behind us, and we now have an opportunity to refocus on the real challenges workers and families face every day.”

But a note of caution might be advised, before declaring that these proceedings are closed. Yes, it’s a welcome breath of fresh legislative sanity coming from Capitol Hill. But the naysayers are just now starting to push back.

◊ ◊ ◊

At Red State, Daniel Horowitz sounded the alarm that’ll no doubt set the tone for conservative reactions to come:

“If you really oppose raising the debt ceiling and appreciate the long-term damage from Boehner’s policy, why not call for a new leadership election immediately? There is no middle ground. If you really opposed this deal, it is simply egregious that the sitting Republican leader would pass it with Democrat support. This is the seventh time Boehner has done so over the past year. It only takes about 50 members to call for a leadership election. Now is the time to put up or shut up.”

Heritage Action for America called the vote “irresponsible.” Club for Growth called it “a joke.” And predictably, on talk radio, the reaction was less than enthusiastic. Right-wing Rottweiler Mark Levin went nuts: “The Speaker must be replaced with a true conservative who Obama will fear, who can speak to the American people ...”



Whether this single vote represents a wholesale shift in Republican tactics remains to be seen. For a GOP-led House addicted to brinkmanship and placating a Tea Party wing eager to make quid pro quo the animating principle of its legislative philosophy, Tuesday’s vote may just be a lull in the partisanship we’ve gotten accustomed to.

The Obama White House is still pressing for progress on raising the minimum wage, and for restoring the unemployment benefits that at least 1.7 million Americans were counting on, ‘til they were cut off by Congress on Dec. 28. The House may well be girding its loins for those fights to come.

◊ ◊ ◊

BUT TEAM Obama has the advantage of having been here before. In December 2011, the president signed a two-month extension of the 2 percent payroll tax cut, and extended unemployment benefits and authorized maintaining the current reimbursement Medicare rate — this after House Republicans folded joining congressional Democrats and the Senate in approving the measure in a voice vote.

In January 2013, speaking in refreshingly pragmatic terms, Republican presumptive theoretician-in-chief Newt Gingrich had little use for holding the debt ceiling hostage. “They’ve got to find, in the House, a totally new strategy. Everybody’s now talking about, ‘Oh, here comes the debt ceiling,’” Gingrich said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I think that’s, frankly, a dead loser. Because in the end, you know it’s gonna happen. The whole national financial system is going to come in to Washington and on television, and say: ‘Oh my God, this will be a gigantic heart attack, the entire economy of the world will collapse. You guys will be held responsible.’ And they’ll cave.”

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman, synecdoche



“There are millions of people in the world, and none of those people is an extra. They're all leads of their own stories..."

“Death comes faster than you think.”

                             -- from “Synecdoche, New York,” by Charlie Kaufman



THEY’LL DIM the lights on Broadway tonight at 7:45 p.m. eastern time. Philip Seymour Hoffman, three-time Tony nominee, Golden Globe recipient and Oscar-winning actor, will be remembered by the theatrical community he never abandoned even after the siren of Hollywood beckoned years earlier.

On stage and screen, Hoffman, who died Sunday in lower Manhattan at the heartbreakingly young age of 46, announced himself as a man unafraid to reckon with the world view of the outsider, the misfit by design or by circumstance, the weathervane of personal weather conditions that indicate the joy and pain of being a human being.

He took on the role of the brittle alcoholic James Tyrone in O’Neill’s “Long Day's Journey Into Night.” He inhabited either of the lead roles in “True West,” Sam Shepard's study of two combustible brothers. And a few seasons back, back on Broadway, Hoffman took on the challenge of portraying that enduring theatrical outsider, Willy Loman, in Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.”

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That was part of a life in the theater. In the movies, Hoffman took on roles that were no less risky, adventurous — and mysterious, by way of the characters and what he brought to them. In “Twister,” he played Dusty, a goofball tornado chaser with a love of rock and roll. In “Moneyball,” Hoffman portrayed Art Howe, the Oakland Athletics manager who grapples uncomfortably with changes in baseball, the game he loves.

His portrayal of the late rock critic Lester Bangs in “Almost Famous” was and remains deeply meaningful. Bangs’ phone conversation with Cameron Crowe (played by Patrick Fugit) on the tyranny and emptiness of coolness resonates today for anyone who’s ever felt like they were on the outside looking in. “The only currency in this world is what you share with someone when you’re uncool,” Hoffman said, as Lester Bangs — and as himself.

And in “Capote,” the film for which he won the Oscar in 2006, Hoffman pulled off the kind of existential transformation that audiences live for (and other actors would kill for). In an interview, the veteran director Mike Nichols talked with Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly, and tried to capture the mystery of Hoffman’s essence in that film: “What he does is completely mysterious, you never understand it or find it out. ... he became Truman Capote even though he’s five times the size of the little twerp. He became Truman Capote. He’s like Meryl Streep — nobody knows how the f— they do what they do.”

◊ ◊ ◊

LIKE GUIDO Anselmi in Fellin’s “8½,” Caden Cotard, Hoffman’s theater director character in Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York,” finds his dream of a theatrical magnum opus becomes unwieldy, the city he constructs for its performance growing larger and larger, the challenges of realizing his masterpiece consuming him to a point where fiction and reality fuse.

Hoffman was long considered an actor’s actor, years before the film’s release in 2008; that dimension of the Cotard character as accidental victim of his own ambition was probably something Hoffman could certainly relate to. But Cotard’s acute sense of mortality and human frailty certainly, fatally dovetailed with Hoffman’s own.



TMZ reported that sources told the publication in December that “he had started injecting himself with heroin and couldn’t kick it. Hoffman said he would kick it for a few days and then fall off the wagon.

“We’re told he went back to AA in a desperate attempt to clean up ... but much to his great frustration it didn’t work. ... At one point someone asked him how bad his problem was, and he responded, ‘If I don't stop I know I'm gonna die.’ ”

◊ ◊ ◊

Now, of course, we’re faced with the final information all too easily available in an information age, the stuff of forensics and law enforcement sources: how authorities found Hoffman in his apartment in the West Village; how he’s said to have made multiple cash withdrawals totaling $1,200 from a downtown ATM a day before he died; how an NYPD search of a Mott Street apartment has led to multiple narcotic-related arrests in the case of his death.

Which, it goes without saying, isn’t the Philip Seymour Hoffman we want to remember.

Cameron Crowe, who directed Hoffman in “Almost Famous,” bore proper witness to that singular talent in his blog, The Uncool, when he recounted how the actor transformed a pivotal scene in Crowe’s autobiographical 2000 film, with Hoffman (as Lester Bangs) talking by phone to Fugit (playing Crowe) — a scene that cut through to the humanity underneath:

“My original take on this scene was a loud, late-night pronouncement from Lester Bangs. A call to arms. In Phil’s hands it became something different. A scene about quiet truths shared between two guys, both at the crossroads, both hurting, and both up too late. It became the soul of the movie. In between takes, Hoffman spoke to no one. He listened only to his headset, only to the words of Lester himself. (His Walkman was filled with rare Lester interviews.) When the scene was over, I realized that Hoffman had pulled off a magic trick. He’d leapt over the words and the script, and gone hunting for the soul and compassion of the private Lester, the one only a few of us had ever met. Suddenly the portrait was complete. The crew and I will always be grateful for that front row seat to his genius.”



Ian McKellen posted this on Facebook on Sunday: “He was without doubt one of the most accomplished screen actors of our time, with so many more performances waiting to enchant us with.

“What I will remember most is his Konstantin in Chekov's "The Seagull" in a starry revival in New York's Central Park (2001). Meryl Streep was his mother, although he looked old enough to be her younger brother, a self-obsessed lonely boy, longing for success, trying to make his own way in an alien world.

“The open-air venue was not conducive to the delicacy and intimacy of the play, yet Hoffman amazingly shrank the space between him and the audience and made us feel we were spying on his insides.

“His work on film survives his death, the only consolation in our grief and regret.”

◊ ◊ ◊

SINCE ALL this took place, since Hoffman died, they’ve come out of the woodwork: the relentless moralists and finger-waggers eager to call him a junky and a drug casualty and to cast blame, the judgmental cretins all too happy to regale us with the Moral of the Story, concentrating on the floor of the forest without so much as a glance at the sequoias.

This is, with many of the performances he electrified, his legacy: Philip Seymour Hoffman was panoramic in his emotional range, but finally, ultimately, he spoke to us individually and personally. He lived both the pain of his life, and the pain of this life, a covert agent investigating the darker places, the shadows we, all of us, like to think we’re immune to.

He was that singular that captures and embodies the plural, the one that symbolizes the all. His struggle with chemical demons mirrors our collective struggles with the various demons to be found in the intrinsic toxicity of the modern world. By this fact, there is no cheap postmortem judgment of the man that holds water. He was our synecdoche. His battles with life’s velocity, his demons are, to one degree or another, our very own.

Image credits: Hoffman top: Credit tk. Hoffman in “Death of a Salesman: Brigitte Lacombe. Still from “Capote”: © 2005 United Artists/Sony Pictures Classics. Almost Famous” poster: © 2000 DreamWorks Pictures/Columbia Pictures. Hoffman double exposure: Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin for The New York Times.

Super Bowl XLVIII: The ad you didn’t get to see


IT’S THE ritual within the ritual: Every Super Bowl, we’re witness to the latest parade of ads meant to move us to laugh, cry and feel, but mostly to buy the products promoted made by the companies that paid the millions of dollars to get the ads on the air.

This year was no different. Super Bowl XLVIII brought us the Go Daddy ad with Danica Patrick in a musclebound body suit; the obligatory Budweiser ad starring the Clydesdales in 60 seconds of unalloyed Americana; a Coca-Cola ad that revisited the “I’d like the teach the world to sing” theme, but with a demographic twist that suits life in today’s United States; and Bob Dylan in a Chrysler ad that trumpets the virtues of the American car on the American road. Much of the usual fare we expect from companies that can afford the $4 million it cost for a 30-second ad during the game.

But before this year’s Super Bowl ad orgy fades from the immediate memory, a mention is due about the one that got away, the one you missed, the one that speaks to the national character more than any other that day.

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The National Congress of American Indians produced a profoundly compelling 2-minute ad meant to address the ongoing dispute between the indigenous American community and Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington National Football League team, over the team’s longstanding obscenity of a name, the Washington Redskins.

Unfortunately, the group didn’t have the $16 million it would have cost to get the ad on the Fox network for Sunday’s game (assuming, of course, the network had the courage to run the ad in the first place). It remains a powerful, evocative indictment of Snyder’s intransigence on the issue.

Snyder has repeatedly refused to change the name of the team. In December, the team released a statement pushing back against the team name detractors: “[W]e strongly disagree based on what we are hearing from Native Americans and based on the generations of pride and heritage that our name represents."

In a classic case of the blind leading the blind — one image-deficient organization enlisted to help out another — the Washington team has reached out to Republican consultants for advice on navigating the team name controversy, ThinkProgress reported on Jan. 31.

◊ ◊ ◊


EMAILS OBTAINED by ThinkProgress show that “the team consulted Republican messaging guru Frank Luntz, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, and former Republican governor and senator George Allen,” Travis Waldron reported.

The issue has clearly been in Snyder’s in-box, even if he’s ignored it. The new protest ad can be expected to ratchet up the pressure.

It’s on the Films for Action website, and on You Tube. And the Change the Mascot website offers people a chance to contact Snyder, the team owner, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell — by Twitter and by phone.

All in all, an opportunity to be moved by the only Super Bowl ad that mattered, the ad you didn’t get to see on Sunday, for all the wrong reasons.

Image credits: Indian woman, NCAI logo: © 2014 National Congress of American Indians. Snyder: Associated Press. Thanks to my man James Ainsworth for the tip on this one.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The immovable unstoppable:
Seahawks win Super Bowl XLVIII



Nothing is stronger than an idea whose time has come.
                                         -- Victor Hugo


“How Ya Like Me Now?”
                                         -- song by The Heavy



NEVER, EVER BET against Eli the Oracle Ape. There are oddsmakers wrestling with the temptation to jump from hotel room windows in Las Vegas right now, sorry for not having taken that advice, or something similar from the forecasters of our own species.

Eli, of the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, predicted on Thursday that the Seattle Seahawks would prevail in Sunday night’s Super Bowl XLVIII, defeating the Denver Broncos. The Associated Press reported that the simian Nostradamus “ran into an enclosure Thursday morning and swiftly knocked down a papier-mache helmet bearing the Seahawks logo, signaling his pick.”

"He made his pick without any hesitation," said Erica Hansen of the zoo staff. Make of it what you will, but Eli had accurately selected the winner of the Super Bowl for six straight years. "He's better than the Vegas odds-makers," Hansen told The AP.

◊ ◊ ◊

The sports book of Eli is now seven for seven. In a Super Bowl that wasn’t as much a game as it was a drive-by, the Seahawks humiliated the Broncos 43-8 at MetLlife Stadium, in front of more than 110 million people watching on television, many of whom contributed some of the estimated $10 billion in wagers through private hands around the world.

“No Super Bowl underdog had a bigger margin of victory than the Seahawks, who became the fourth team to win the game by 35 or more points,” Bloomberg reported. “The odds that Seattle would win by between 34 and 38 points were 100 to 1.”

◊ ◊ ◊

Sunday was one of those nights the phrase “in history” was built for. The most prolific offense in NFL history was schooled by the fifth-youngest team in NFL history, a team whose quarterback is the shortest in Super Bowl history among active players, and whose coach, Pete Carroll, is the third-oldest coach in the league. The game was the third-coldest Super Bowl in history; the Broncos’ loss was the fifth in the franchise’s history, the most for any NFL team ever. And according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Seahawks had possession of the ball longer than any team in the history of the Super Bowl: 59 minutes and 48 seconds, out of a 60-minute game (not really, folks, I made that part up. It just seemed that way).

And nobody saw this coming, at least those whose job it is to know these things. With one exception, the Chicago Tribune sportswriters called it for the Broncos. Four out of five of the San Jose Mercury News sports scribes went for Denver too. The puppies at Animal Planet’s 2014 PuppyCam Super Bowl said Denver would win, as did the pups in the similar dash-for-the-dish event on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.”

Maybe the most aggressively categorical prediction of a Denver win came from The Denver Post’s Woody Paige, dean of Colorado sportswriters. In a pre-game column, Paige enumerated “XLVIII reasons Broncos will win Super Bowl XLVIII.” Have a look if you want to see just how wrong a learned man can be.

◊ ◊ ◊

YOU CAN look at Seattle’s victory in a lot of ways. Some will say it was the triumph of the law of averages, but that thoroughly ignores the deep, hard work required to even get to the Super Bowl, much less win the game so resoundingly. The Associated Press said look to the math: “Statistical history favors the tightest defenses in the Super Bowl over the most prolific offenses,” AP reported before the game, in a nod to Seattle’s league-leading defense. Nate Silver, the number-cruncher who correctly predicted the outcome of the 2012 presidential election (which wasn’t that hard to do, frankly), also said the Seahawks would win.

And at the CBS affiliate in Philadelphia (channel 3), Prediction Machine’s Predictalator got granular and ran a pre-game simulation of 50,000 Super Bowl scenarios, and came up with the most likely expected score: Seahawks 24, Broncos 21. Seattle won in 54.8 percent of the simulations, the station reported.

This predicted victory of numbers and history over passion and fan juju is a more data-driven way of saying what Seahawks fans had taken as a truth unrevealed all season long: the Seahawks would be there at the end, the last team standing. The team had done the hard work, season after season. They put the pieces together, and they prepared. The law of averages favors the above average. It was their turn, for all the right reasons.

◊ ◊ ◊

Why’d the hierophants of the sports world get it so wrong? Mostly, they weren’t paying attention. It’s ironic that, in an age of digital communication and a shrinking nation, Seattle as a city is still perceived as “out there,” on the fringes, at the periphery, thanks in no small part to its status as a secondary media market (relative to New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco).

But also, their bets on the game’s outcome were so much dynastic wishful thinking. The assumption was that Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning would be the field general he’s been before; that he’d join his brother, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, to form the only Super Bowl-winning sibling QB combination in NFL history; that the Seahawks would freeze up in this appearance in the national spotlight, performance anxiety taking over; and that the most potent offense in the history of the league would convincingly do what a great offense does.

Well, heads was tails on Sunday night. For Seattle, the Super Bowl win is at least a temporary vindication, an unassailable loft into the stratosphere of the national consciousness. Winning the Super Bowl returns the Vince Lombardi Trophy back to the western half of the United States for the first time since 1999 (when the Broncos last won it all) — a bit of comfort for anyone who gets tired of East Coast-centric weather forecasters whose bodies block out the states west of the Mississippi River while they routinely report on the weather conditions east of the Mississippi River.

On Sunday at MetLife Stadium, the unstoppable force and the immovable object were pretty much the same thing. As a result, the national referents for your Emerald City (Boeing, Starbucks, Nirvana. End of story.) have grown by one. Eli — along with Pancake the prognosticating pig at the Fort Worth Zoo, Fred the Psychic Bunny, Teddy Bear the Porcupine, and Hugh, a manatee at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida — sets up shop in Vegas.

And from now on, it won’t be so hard for pro football fans to find Seattle on an NFL championship-winner’s map anymore.

Image credits: Super Bowl XLVIII images: © 2014 NBC/NFL. Seattle Seahawks logo: © 2014 Seattle Seahawks. Eli: AP/Hogle Zoo. 12th Man flag on Space Needle: KING5.
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