Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Speaking of Wossamotta U. . . .


The long leg of the law

Click photo for video

If LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson can keep a felony conviction off his record, I think I've found a future profession for the young alleged curb-stomper.

Omaha cop.

It falls under
"If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." Become an Omaha cop, Jordan, and you can kick the s*** out of people, then get a "Get Out of Jail Free" card!

The beauty of America is that, in one place, you can have the city prosecutor making a similar argument for the Long Leg of the Law as defense attorneys made on behalf of felony battery suspects in another. Is this a great, morally relativistic country, or what?

Omaha World-Herald takes it from here:

A tape of an Omaha police arrest has raised questions about excessive force. But authorities say the tape doesn't depict the whole story — and a review by the city prosecutor ended with no charges against the officers.

The tape, shown Tuesday on public access TV, shows police using force while taking Robert A. Wagner, 35, into custody outside Creighton University Medical Center shortly after Wagner's cousin was shot and killed on May 29. At one point, a female officer kicks Wagner repeatedly as he lies on the ground.

But authorities note that the tape doesn't show what happened before the arrest. Wagner is accused of pushing one officer and punching another, said Omaha City Prosecutor Marty Conboy.

Wagner is charged with felony assault of an officer in connection with the incident. A pretrial hearing in the case was scheduled for Wednesday morning, but was postponed. Wagner declined to comment.

Conboy said the officers involved in the incident will not face criminal charges.

The tape shows a female officer kicking Wagner three times in the right shoulder or head area. Conboy said it also shows what looks like Wagner taking a swing as he enters into the view of the hospital's security camera.

"The problem with this video is you don't see everything that was going on before," Conboy said.

AND THE PROBLEM with the LSU bar-brawl videos is that none of them show the first punch, either. But the Baton Rouge and Omaha videos do show the one relevant thing -- a curb stomp of someone helpless on the ground.

A criminal-justice professor told Omaha's
KETV television that's all he needed to see:
A [University of Nebraska at Omaha] professor, known for his expertise in police matters, says what happened during an arrest caught on surveillance tape should never have happened.

The video comes from the parking lot of Creighton University Medical Center early on the morning of May 29. Police reports allege the man in the video, Robert Wagner, punched an officer off camera. On camera, nine officers surround Wagner, and while he is one the ground, one officer kicks near his head several times.

The Omaha police department took the surveillance to the city prosecutor who found no criminal wrongdoing and as of Wednesday night there was no complaint filed by the suspect.

Dr. Sam Walker, a UNO professor and an advocate for police accountability, said he was troubled when he saw the video.

“The initial reaction was obviously just shocked,” said Walker. “The female officer kicking the guy three times, she should be fired.”

Walker said there is no legitimate reason for any officer to do that.

City prosecutor Marty Conboy watched the video and said there is nothing criminal about it.

“Whether it's appropriate or not, I can't comment,” said Conboy. “Whether it's criminally intended assault, it does not appear to be gratuitous or something she does intentionally.”

“She didn't do it accidentally,” argued Walker. “She didn't stumble, so I think he was wrong on that.”
WHETHER it's football, a bar brawl or an arrest, there's one simple rule: You don't kick a man when he's down.

If you're too stupid -- or too gangsta -- to understand that, the criminal-justice system needs to kneecap you. But good. Right now.

That's because the police force has the same room for thugs as the football team at Wossamotta U. -- none.

El socialismo, sí! Darwinismo social, no!

I remember standing in line at the local Sears service center years ago, out in the industrial hell of southwest Omaha, waiting to get a certain part for our lawnmower or something.

The line was long, the service slow. Competence seemed negligible. The vibe was not one of "How do we improve the customer experience today?"

Finally, one guy closer to the front of the line had had enough. I know I had had enough, and this guy had been standing in line longer than me.

"This is worse than Russia!" he erupted. I mean, he screamed that. And then he stormed out the door, part not in hand.

Mind you, this was when the Cold War still raged. When "Russia" meant the Soviet Union. Land of communism . . . and craptastic workmanship.

IN THE NEWS today, we learn that American babies are more likely to die than those in 40 other countries -- most all of which Republicans deride for their allegedly inferior pinko "socialized medicine."

But their babies are alive. Too many of our fine, capitalistic progeny aren't.

From My Health News Daily:
Babies in the United States have a higher risk of dying during their first month of life than do babies born in 40 other countries, according to a new report.

Some of the countries that outrank the United States in terms of newborn death risk are South Korea, Cuba, Malaysia, Lithuania, Poland and Israel, according to the study.

Researchers at the World Health Organization estimated the number of newborn deaths and newborn mortality rates of more than 200 countries over the last 20 years.

The results show that, while newborn mortality rates have decreased globally over that period, progress to lower these rates has been slow, the researchers said.

In 2009, an estimated 3.3 million babies died during their first four weeks of life, compared with 4.6 million in 1990, the report found. About 41 percent of all deaths of children under 5 occur in the first month (the neonatal period). Progress to reduce newborn deaths has been particularly slow in countries in Africa, the researchers said.

A BANANA REPUBLIC, if you ask me, is one where "family values" politicians yell and scream about the genocide of abortion -- which it is -- but are perfectly content to let babies croak once they exit the womb unmolested. Particularly poor babies, who most depend on the ebbing Medicaid kindness of federal and state lawmakers.

In other words, "This is worse than Cuba!"

I guess there are worse things in the world than socialism . . . like whatever the hell it is the United States does now.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Simply '70s: He hates these cans!

Note: Some language NSFW . . . or for kids

In 1979, Navin Johnson's adoptive father explained the whole deal about the difference between s*** and Shinola to him . . . but sadly neglected to mete out any pearls of wisdom concerning snipers.

Or his "special purpose."

Them things happen.
Particularly in The Jerk.

May Steve Martin live 100 years.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Twitterian Paradox

"Follow me and I follow you"?

Uh, not exactly.

And not only because of the hypocrisy of it all will I not follow back @followmeback on the Twitters. I will not follow back @followmeback because I'm allergic to spam.

You follow me?


From the "you can't make this s*** up" department, we have the Tea Party Patriots' poetry corner:


Monday, August 29, 2011

The biggest loser (with the biggest megaphone)

I wonder how many "dittoheads" were listening to the latest from Rush Limbaugh as they mucked out their flooded houses?

Or made arrangements for the funeral of a loved one lost to "overhyped" Hurricane Irene?

Or sat in a sweltering, darkened house with a battery-powered radio?

From Business Insider:
"I'll guarantee you Obama was hoping this was going to be a disaster as another excuse for his failing economy," he said. "If he's out there blaming tsunamis, if he's blaming earthquakes, and whatever natural disasters there are, this one was made to order, but it just didn't measure up."

I guess this was just Vermont's warning from God about Bernie Sanders.

Anybody got a 6-cent stamp?

Is it too late to send off for my groovy Motown fun fan kit?

For $2, it's a steal!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Just a little Category 2 hurricane

For more than 108 years, the Markham-Albertson-Stinson Cottage has stood watch over Old Nags Head, N.C., as in this picture from last year.

Did I say "has stood watch"?

I'm sorry, I meant had stood watch.

It had survived all manner of hurricanes, squalls and nor'easters since 1903. Three families had whole worlds wrapped in its weathered timbers.

It could not survive "just" a piddly Category 2 hurricane named Irene this weekend. Eventually, worlds cease to be, except in blessed memory.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

But Five-0 does

“I think that we need to all take a deep breath and relax. This is college students acting like college students on both sides. I don’t buy into the word ‘victim’ at all.”
-- Lewis Unglesby
Jordan Jefferson's
defense attorney

For the record -- though I am loathe to admit it nowadays -- I am an LSU graduate.

You know, F*** Bed Check and Let's Go Get in a Bar Fight U.

I also will admit to spending my share of time in barrooms while an undergraduate -- and the drinking age was 18 back then.

And I want you to know that I am officially pissed off -- but good -- at Lewis Unglesby's lame-ass defense of the guy who may be trading in No. 9 for a much longer set of digits and a starring role in The Longest Yard 3.

It's the defense of low expectations . . . of "but everybody's doing it, Ma!" It's the same kind of non-existent expectations that historically has made my alma mater a nationwide academic also-ran and has made my home state a nationwide embarrassment.

EVERYBODY gets in bar fights and (allegedly) curb-stomps some guy.

Nobody invests in higher education -- that's for eggheads. Harvard and Stanford are just jealous of our football team.

Everybody in government's a crook. But at least ours are more entertaining, you stick-in-the-mud Yankee sissies.

Help! I've fallen and I can't get up! Give me some money, America!

As one scholarly former LSU football coach once observed in the heat of battle, "F*** that s***!"

AS I NOTED, I spent more than my fair share of time at Murphy's, the Bayou, the Cotton Club, the Spanish Moon and God knows where else. Oh, the Tiger Lair in the LSU Union . . . can't forget that Friday-afternoon favorite. (And yes, LSU had an on-campus watering hole back in the day. I'll bet you're so shocked.)

Likewise, I will stipulate that I am well familiar with jocularity, falling on my ass, puking in the bushes on the Quadrangle and bed spins. I hate bed spins.

Despite my best attempts at undergrad alcoholism and bar-hopping, however, not once did I ever engage in a bar fight. And any head I may have kicked probably was the result of drunkenly stumbling over a passed-out classmate.

I don't know. Maybe I just never got the hang of college, or of "acting like college students."

Then again, maybe counselor Unglesby is either full of crap or knows his potential jurors all too well. Probably both.

Friday, August 26, 2011

3 Chords & the Truth: Tunes for a stormy day

I grew up during a heyday for hurricanes on the Gulf Coast.

The first I actually remember was Hilda in 1964. What sticks in my mind was my confusion as to whom this Hilda person was and why she was in the news. I pictured in my mind a middle-aged lady who had been in a bad car wreck.

I am not making this up. At any rate, I was soon to learn otherwise.

WHEN YOU'RE a little kid, hurricanes meant one thing: You got to camp inside. Quilts on the living room floor. Hurricane lamps. Candles. Battery radios. No lights. Picnic food at home.

Too, you got to stay up way late. Hilda, and Betsy the next year, were nighttime hurricanes. And who the hell could sleep through all the howling and banging outside?

What we needed then -- but didn't have then -- was 3 Chords & the Truth, and lots of tasty storm tunes, on the transistor radio. An iPod also would have been nice in the mid-'60s, but back then that would have been an unmistakable sign of an alien invasion.

ANYWAY, you guessed it . . . not that you really had to guess. This week's episode of the Big Show features a great big heapin' helpin' of songs to hunker down with if you happen to be on the East Coast of the United States.

If you're not, enjoy anyway. Then save the show for when you need it, all right?

It's kind of like having a hurricane party on an MP3 file, only you're not too liquored up to save your own butt if the occasion presents itself. In other words, make the best of the situation . . . but be careful out there.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there (and stay put, for cryin' out loud). Aloha.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Where have all the grown-ups gone?

This video is up here because I needed to cleanse my mental palate.

You see, I just read the police report about the football riot at LSU. The one that fanboy enablers dismiss as just another "bar fight" and has Tiger quarterback Jordan Jefferson and three others in such legal hot water.

You may read the initial police report here. I don't intend to spend any more time -- at least in this missive -- on a mob of wannabe London rioters who were so stupid as to break team curfew, head to a bar, yank a guy out of his pickup, beat him senseless and do it all while "wearing official LSU Football shirts."

Who'll notice? What's the worst that could happen?

NO, FORGET that and forget them. One is hopeful Five-0 will remember well enough for the lot of us.

Remember the video above, the story of something good that descended upon Baton Rouge for more than half a century. Someone who came to WAFB television in 1960 and really built something over the next 30 years, and did it unpretentiously while, to my knowledge, not causing any mass mayhem at local barrooms while wearing Channel 9 swag.

Another grown-up has left the scene in my hometown, and in American journalism. Another grown-up from "the greatest generation" has departed America and moved to a better neighborhood, one where the streets really are paved with gold.

There will be no more Newsline 9, News-Scene or Channel 9 News for Carlton Cremeens to anchor or orchestrate. There will be no more talent for him to find, hire and develop. There will be no more insistence on stellar writing. (Turn on your local TV news tonight. I dare you.)

And there will be damned few mid-market TV anchors who can, for example, hold his own with someone like Walker Percy and then get the interview published in The Southern Review.

Another grown-up gone. Now we return you to our regularly scheduled bar brawl.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Terrible grace vs. just terrible

This week, you can't open the sports section without reading about the star-crossed relationships of 20-year-old college students and 50-something coaches.

In Baton Rouge, among the stately oaks and broad magnolias, police hauled in four LSU football players Tuesday for questioning about a bar brawl that left four men battered and bruised -- one of them with cracked vertebrae. Two of the players, including Tiger starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson, weren't even old enough to have a legal beer at the time.

The cops say somebody's going to face charges -- maybe even felony battery charges. The question now is who. Jefferson?

Some substitute who throws better punches than blocks? Some other among the 20 or so Tigers at the appropriately named bar -- Shady's -- Thursday night?

Po-po ain't done questioning the thirsty Tigers yet, according to
The Advocate:

The names of the men injured in the fight were not released. However, White said, the man who was knocked unconscious and suffered contusions to his head, nose and hands is a Marine.

White said four LSU football players implicated in the incident gave their statements to police Tuesday at State Police headquarters and gave investigators the names of at least a dozen witnesses.

The four players — senior quarterback Jordan Jefferson, 20; freshman wide receiver Jarvis Landry, 18; sophomore offensive tackle Chris Davenport, 21; and sophomore linebacker Josh Johns, 21 — met with police for about two hours, the chief said.

“They were quite gracious,” White said of the players. “They gave their statements willingly.”

Police spokesman Sgt. Don Stone said investigators will interview the witnesses the football players told them about.

“It’s possible we will talk to more football players,” he said. “Names were mentioned today (Tuesday).”

Stone said interviewing the additional witnesses could extend the police investigation five, possibly 10 days.

“This investigation is far from over,” he said. “We are still on a fact-finding mission.”

However, Stone added, based on facts investigators already have gathered, “there is a good chance that when the investigation is over arrests will be made” and that people could be booked with simple battery and second-degree battery.

Second-degree battery is a felony offense that carries a maximum five-year prison sentence upon conviction while simple battery is a misdemeanor.

LSU'S COACH, Les Miles, says he'll take action beyond extra running for the team as the situation sorts itself out. He won't say what, because LSU football coaches have their priorities -- like not tipping off No. 3 Oregon (Sept. 3, Cowboys Stadium) about personnel or the game plan.

The cynical among us are tempted to just chalk this up as "college sports today." Another typical day in the big-money, big-entitlement, BMOC world of 20-year-old jocks and their 50-something coaches.

Tempted. Tempted until another story presents itself -- one of a 50-something coach and her 20-year-old son.

This one comes out of Knoxville, Tenn., just a few hundred miles northeast of the underage beer and parking-lot brawls of Baton Rouge. Torn from the pages of
The Washington Post, it's Sally Jenkins' account of a women's basketball program, a devastating diagnosis, terrible grace and the unshakable bond between a mother and a son.

YOU WANT to know why Pat Summitt, leader of the Lady Vols the past 37 years, has won more games than any coach of either sex, anywhere? Here's a clue:

Last Thursday, Summitt, Barnett, and her 20-year-old son Tyler, who is a junior at the University of Tennessee, met with Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and Athletic Director Joan Cronan to inform them of her condition. Barnett warned Summitt that contractually school administrators had the right to remove her as head coach immediately. Instead, Cheek and Cronan listened to Summitt’s disclosure with tears streaming down their faces.

“You are now and will always be our coach,” Cheek told her. With the blessing of her university, she will continue to work for as long as she is able.

“Life is an unknown and none of us has a crystal ball,” Cronan says. “But I do have a record to go on. I know what Pat stands for: excellence, strength, honesty, and courage.”

To Barnett, Pat’s fight is characteristic; her determination to keep working, and also to act as a spokeswoman for Alzheimer’s, is not incompatible with the values she has always preached as a coach.

“If you go back to her speeches, and her discussions with players through the years, you see several things,” Barnett says. “One is absolute dedication. Two is an unwillingness ever to give up. And three is an absolute commitment to honesty. And in this challenge that she’s facing, she is displaying the exact traits that she’s always taught. . . .Pat is going to run this race to the very end.”


It wasn’t until August that the reality of her condition hit home. “There was a pretty long denial period,” Tyler says. “At first she was like, ‘I’m fine.’ ”

When the blow finally fell, it was heavy. Summitt had always been the caregiver: Friends, family and former players struggling physically or emotionally have always come to her house for comfort, a hot meal and soothing advice in that honeyed southern voice. “I want to go see Pat,” is a common refrain. It wasn’t easy to reverse the role, and to admit that she would need care.

In September 2006, not long after the death of her father, she separated from R.B. Summitt, her husband of 26 years. Some months later, she found herself immobilized by physical pain, and was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Summitt rarely betrayed in public the toll of that disease, but there were occasions, before it was successfully controlled by medication, when her son had to help her put her socks on.

In between those traumas she suffered a shoulder separation — from fighting a raccoon — and was hospitalized twice, once for cellulitis, and once for dehydration and exhaustion. Still, for all of that, she managed to lead the Lady Vols to consecutive national championships in 2007 and 2008.

Through it all, there has always been a sense of centeredness in Summitt. She is like a marble pillar, ramrod straight, that seems to have stood for a thousand years, while everything around it falls.

“Everyone has always wanted to know what Pat’s really like,” DeMoss said. “The word I’ve always used is ‘resolve.’ Pat has more resolve than any one I’ve ever known. She has a deep, deep inner strength.”

But now she will need a different kind of counterintuitive strength. Surrender and acceptance have never come naturally to her, nor has admitting vulnerability. She has trouble even uttering the word Alzheimer’s. But she’s learning.

“We sat down and had a good talk, and realized that the only reason we even made it this far, was that we had each other,” Tyler says. “It started with her father passing away, and then the divorce, and the arthritis, and then the Alzheimer’s, and each of those things, I don’t know how anyone could go through them alone. So we figured out that as much as we wanted to be Superman and Wonder Woman, and take care of things alone, we needed each other.”

MEANTIME, down on the bayou, the LSU players' high-powered yet pro-bono attorney, Nathan Fisher, says his clients are "scared to death" and that they "cried in this meeting -- they are scared to death."

Did you get the picture that they're scared to death? Do you get the picture that I'm strangely unmoved, considering?

Would that Pat Summitt might have the sad satisfaction of knowing why she's facing a sentence impervious to the best efforts of the best lawyer money can't buy. Or, thus far, to the best efforts of the best doctors that money can.

And would that a 20-year-old kid at the University of Tennessee had nothing worse to worry about than the prospect of a jail time and the wasting of a collegiate football career.

Lord, have mercy.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Help! Help! They're being repressed!

I am one of those Catholics who believes in God, not cultural self-identification.

I believe that God exercises a "preferential option for the poor." I believe that's in the Bible -- somewhere toward the back.

I believe that how we govern ourselves, and how our governing structures implement a basic vision of social justice, is a direct reflection on a democracy's citizenry, which grants consent to its agents.

I believe that God does not sleep, that nations come under judgment and that we are in big, big trouble.

I ALSO BELIEVE that Louisiana -- my home state -- is working hard to sink from mere banana republicanism to fascistic banana republicanism, and that this stinking turd some self-righteous collegiate twerp left on the opinion pages of LSU's student newspaper is Exhibit A. From the soiled July 28 edition of my old stomping grounds, The Daily Reveille:
Obama and the Democrats love to paint a picture of the "poor" as innocent people "just trying to stretch every dollar as far as it will go."

I wonder how many Democrats have ever been to a Third World country to see what poor really means. For two weeks I stayed with a family in Costa Rica who had no air conditioning, no hot water, no washer or dryer, and the roof of the house was raised above the walls so that air could circulate in and out. And yet they washed all my clothes, gave me meals every day and never complained about it.

There are definitely some Americans who are truly needy, but it would be ridiculous to think the 47 percent of Americans not paying federal income tax are eating food out of dumpsters.

It's sickening to hear Obama and the Democrats portray the poor as blameless people in dire need of government help when our poor live lives of luxury in comparison to the poor of other countries.

It isn't the rich who are paying less than their fair share in taxes. To the contrary, they're paying much more than everyone else. It's America's poor who get free health care and new SUVs who aren't sharing the sacrifice.

And if we don't start taxing the rich, Obama wants to withhold Social Security checks. How about the government withholds welfare checks from the "poor" instead of Social Security to those who have actually paid their fair share?

It's about time the so-called poor Americans share the sacrifice and pay their fair share of taxes.

BACK IN MY DAY, the "f*** the poor" crowd complained about "welfare Cadillacs" and ghetto dwellers buying bottles of Mad Dog and Colt 45 tall boys with food stamps. Now, apparently, it's "free health care" and "new SUVs" that are the problem.

My assumption, though, is that the faces behind the stereotype are still brown ones.

What I don't understand is why the smug Reveille columnist, Austin Casey, didn't aim lower for whom he considers real poor people. Why not starving Somalians instead of Costa Rican peasants?

That could have made him feel even better -- or worse, depending -- about how rich America's poor are in the grand scheme of things. After all, it doesn't look quite so bad that the richest 1 percent of Americans controls 40 percent of its wealth and takes home a fourth of its annual income if we get to put quotation marks around our poor.

Sorry, make that "poor."

OF COURSE, the whole construct of inequality in the United States is unique to "socialists" like . . . well, me. I actually give a rat's ass about stuff like this. Austin Casey and the rest of Tea Party America don't.

When Austin Casey encountered the poor of Costa Rica, they sheltered him, fed him and wished him well. When Austin Casey encounters the poor -- sorry, "poor" -- of America, he pouts, stamps his feet and screams "Help! Help! I'm being repressed!"

Tea Party America is not the land of e pluribus unum -- out of many, one. Instead, it is the land of ad te sorbet -- it sucks to be you.

Jesus has an opinion on that. It's in the Bible -- somewhere toward the back.

Friday, August 19, 2011

3 Chords & the Truth: Save the DJs!

I wasn't serious. I didn't mean it.

Back in 2001, as producer of another music show long before 3 Chords & the Truth, I let the computers take over.

The "organic" hosts didn't show up, so I let the computer do it. See, there was this text-to-speech demo on the Internet . . . and with a little creative writing, and a little editing. . . .

It was a joke! I swear to God. I didn't think that. . . .

I mean, why the hell would you want to get rid of perfectly competent people who . . . for going to all the trouble of hiring people to write a disc-jockey script for a computer program to follow . . . so you . . .
can fire disc jockeys?

THIS IS America, dammit. We don't have to make sense.

We don't have to employ actual humans anymore, either. We at the Big Show are nervous this week.

A non-human DJ will take to the airwaves next week in San Antonio, Texas, in what may mark another step on the path that puts flesh-and-blood radio personalities out of a job.

The DJ is an artificial intelligence program called Denise, who was built by Guile 3D Studio to serve as a virtual assistant to answer phone calls, check email, conduct Web searches and make appointments, among other tasks.

Dominique Garcia, a radio personality in San Antonio, purchased Denise for $200 and programmed the AI to serve as a DJ. Denise will hit the airwaves on Aug. 24 from 1 to 4 p.m. CST on KROV.

"A lot of radio DJs are pretty upset with me because it does work," Garcia told me.

LinkFor now, Denise requires human assistance to write the script for Denise's talk breaks and slot the voice track into the playlist.

For the most part, the script writer tells Denise exactly what to say, though "she" has the capability to tell jokes when asked, provide the weather forecast and look up things on the Internet. She can't, however, fill airspace by herself.

"That technology does not yet exist in the AI world," Garcia said. "It is not as sophisticated as that; that's the ideal situation."

I AM in trouble, Hoss.

Gotta prove I can do this here show better than my Dell running a $200 bit of software.

Gotta get the ratings up here on 3 Chords & the Truth.

Gotta be upbeat. Bright. Peppy, hip, happening and now.

I HAVE TO ENTERTAIN, DAMMIT!!!!!!!!!!! Make people love me. Make them . . . love . . . me.

And that's why this week's edition of the Big Show is going to be the hippest, upbeatest, happiest, high-energy episode of 3 Chords & the Truth you ever did hear. Dammit.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there . . . please? Aloha.

Music festivals, we may have a problem


Another outdoor concert, another thunderstorm, another stage collapse, another five people dead. The deaths at the Pukkelpop festival in Belgium late Thursday come as the death toll in Saturday's stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair rose to six.

The latest bad news comes from

The death toll from a fierce thunderstorm that mangled tents and downed trees and scaffolding at an open-air music festival in Belgium has risen to five, officials said Friday.

Hasselt Mayor Hilde Claes said that two more people died overnight. About 40 were injured, 11 of them seriously, she said.

Chicago-based band Smith Westerns was on stage when the structure collapsed around them, NBC station WMAQ reported. None of the band members were injured but their equipment was destroyed.

Organizers canceled the annual Pukkelpop festival near Hasselt, 50 miles east of Brussels. Buses and trains were pressed into service to transfer the 60,000 festivalgoers home.

The brief but violent thunderstorm on Thursday evening tore down concert tents, several trees and main stage scaffolding. Panicked concertgoers ran through fields of mud looking for shelter.
DO YOU think there might be a pattern here?

Do you think that the typical design of the typical outdoor stage might be inherently unstable and prone to collapse during weather not atypical for spring and summer -- outdoor-concert season?

Let's review. And note that I've probably missed some incidents from the past couple of years.

August 13, 2011. Indianapolis, Ind.

August 7, 2011. Tulsa, Okla.

July 17, 2011. Ottawa, Ontario.

July 6, 2010. Concho, Okla.

Aug. 1, 2009. Camrose, Alberta.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Miami Vice 77, America's Future 0

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The good news is the United States has all the money it needs to slash the national debt.

It has all the money it needs to maintain critical social services, too.

And to stimulate a sick economy.

It has all the cash necessary for rebuilding our crumbling national infrastructure.

We also have all the money we need to help poor children and their families.

The bad news is that we'd rather spend it all on s*** like this instead of stuff like that:

A University of Miami booster, incarcerated for his role in a $930 million Ponzi scheme, has told Yahoo! Sports he provided thousands of impermissible benefits to at least 72 athletes from 2002 through 2010.

In 100 hours of jailhouse interviews during Yahoo! Sports’ 11-month investigation, Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro described a sustained, eight-year run of rampant NCAA rule-breaking, some of it with the knowledge or direct participation of at least seven coaches from the Miami football and basketball programs. At a cost that Shapiro estimates in the millions of dollars, he said his benefits to athletes included but were not limited to cash, prostitutes, entertainment in his multimillion-dollar homes and yacht, paid trips to high-end restaurants and nightclubs, jewelry, bounties for on-field play (including bounties for injuring opposing players), travel and, on one occasion, an abortion.

Also among the revelations were damning details of Shapiro’s co-ownership of a sports agency – Axcess Sports & Entertainment – for nearly his entire tenure as a Hurricanes booster. The same agency that signed two first-round picks from Miami, Vince Wilfork and Jon Beason, and recruited dozens of others while Shapiro was allegedly providing cash and benefits to players. In interviews with federal prosecutors, Shapiro said many of those same players were also being funneled cash and benefits by his partner at Axcess, then-NFL agent and current UFL commissioner Michael Huyghue. Shapiro said he also made payments on behalf of Axcess, including a $50,000 lump sum to Wilfork, as a recruiting tool for the agency.
ALSO, there's this to consider:
While there may not be many boosters with such an over-the-top story, Shapiro knows he wasn’t the only fan doling out the under-the-table money. Maybe most damning for the sport is the fact that while he took care of current players, he says Miami coaches never asked him to buy a football recruit. Mainly because they felt it was fruitless.

“Miami is not the school where payouts are made to prospective student athletes,” Shapiro said. “Miami is a private institution, it’s in a transient city. We didn’t have the money to pay recruits. There is so much more money in big public universities. In the SEC, the money is an endless river.

“If Miami relied on cash payoffs for players to come to Miami, they’d be out of business. They’d lose every bidding war.

SO, YOU SEE the problem isn't, per the Republican Party, that poor little rich people couldn't possibly afford to be "job creators" any longer if they had to pay a tax rate commensurate with Joe Six-Pack's.

No, the problem is that the priorities of well-to-do Americans are, too often, completely f***ed up. Come to think of it, so are ours.

We get the leadership we deserve, and we get the society we tolerate. Boosters, hookers, football gods, rogue "collegiate" athletic programs and all the rest.

A banana republic . . . if you can afford it

We're high for a poor country, in terms of inequality, and we're a rich country. We're about the same level of inequality as China. And, of course, China, half the population are rural peasants who are not part of the modern world.

And if we were to compare us with African countries, dictators in different places, you know, taking a lot of the wealth from normal people, we would be among the top half of the African countries of inequality. So, the U.S. really has reached an extraordinary level of income inequality.

-- Richard Freeman,
Harvard economist