Thursday Morning Open Thread


Despite the 22F temperature, the biting wind, the unexpectedly heavy light pollution from passing traffic, and the clouds scudding in at great speed, Spousal Unit & I saw at least half a dozen bright Geminid meteors flash across the sky, so we’re satisfied with our expedition.

Apart from resolutely staying positive, what’s on the agenda for the day?


Strong contender (in a year full of them) for Best Internet Protest of the Year, as reported by David Roth at Deadspin

On Wednesday, a number of prominent Native American activists began tweeting a statement purporting to announce that Washington’s NFL team would, next season, be changing its name to the Washington RedHawks…

If you were scrolling through Twitter with your mind in energy-saver mode, which is really the only safe way to do it, this looked like more than just an attempt to hustle a hashtag. It looked for all the world like news, albeit of the unlikeliest kind. Not just in the sense that it was good news, although there’s obviously that, but in the sense that it was being covered everywhere.

Or, more accurately, it was being “covered” “everywhere.” There were what appeared to be links to what appeared to be stories from what appeared to be major sports publications—the Washington Post, Bleacher Report, ESPN, and Sports Illustrated—that reported, in a rough simulacrum of those venues’ house styles, various angles on the story. The team issued no such statement, and the stories were all fakes that appeared on rather shockingly artful spoofs of each of those publications’ pages. Each of the hoax pages had been registered last month, through the French web registrar Gandi SAS by a registrant named Mark Jones. There is a field for “registrant organization” on Gandi’s form, but Jones left it blank…

The ghoulish bile-baiting tone of most Fake Sports News was nowhere to be found in these stories, each of which told the story of a team belatedly doing the right thing at the end of another lost season and of Native American activists belatedly seeing their advocacy turn into a hard-won reality. More than that, these stories told the story well, with quotes from all the appropriate corners…

It is so easy to admire the technical deftness and general craftsmanship behind the RedHawks hoax that it’s worth taking a moment to consider how slashing the satirical intent is, here. It emerges gradually as you click across the various spoof sites, as the realization builds that all this decency and equanimity just sounds wrong coming from the people it’s coming from. There is no more devastating assessment of how Daniel Snyder has handled his team’s shameful name than imagining him saying, as he’s “quoted” in the Sports Illustrated spoof: “[The RedHawks] is a symbol of everything we stand for: strength, courage, pride, and respect—the same values we know guide Native Americans and which are embedded throughout their rich history as the original Americans.” It’s all the more so when you realize that this is an exact quote from an actual statement that Snyder made in 2013, in defense of continuing to call his team the Redskins

Open Thread: Is Putin Not As Omniscient As He (We) Would Like to Pretend?

Hope this clip plays correctly, because (Russian expat & smart journalist) Julia Ioffe’s theories about Russia are… not quite the same as those we usually tell ourselves. She says Russia’s success at interfering in America’s last election has led to “a certain amount of buyer’s remorse”; that Putin is “really a short-term thinker”, and that the Russia government’s penchant for “three-dimensional chess” most closely resembles the social mechanisms of a bunch of teenage boys. Cutting corners because you feel you *have* to cheat is not how a powerful, secure oligarch / nation behaves…

Here’s an August Icarus backgrounder NYMag just reposted — “How Bryan Fogel Accidentally Documented the Russian Olympic Doping Scandal”:

When director Bryan Fogel set out to make his jaw-dropping, absolutely insane doping documentary, Icarus, he didn’t know that he’d walk away with exclusive footage of what may go down as the biggest scandal in the history of sport. He was an amateur cyclist and second-time filmmaker in Los Angeles with a harebrained idea to try out doping himself, and do it on camera — kind of like Super Size Me of performance-enhancing drugs. He got his PEDs from an American doctor (they’re the same drugs used in controversial men’s anti-aging regimens), but had to look elsewhere for a scientist with a questionable moral compass who’d coach him in how to dope and get away with it. Fate brought him to a jolly, mustachioed guy in Russia with a penchant for shirtless Skype sessions. A guy who happened to be Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov. What Fogel didn’t know when he went to Moscow to trail his new friend around with a camera was that he’d wind up inside Russia’s national “anti-doping” laboratory, which was really a front for Russia’s state-run program to juice its Olympic athletes — with alleged ties to Vladimir Putin — of which Rodchenkov happened to be the chief architect.
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Friday Morning Open Thread: Thank (Murphy the Trickster) God It’s Finally Friday


Happy nice news!

Apart from bracing ourselves for the inevitable Friday news dump, what’s on the agenda for the day?


There’s been a lot of public tone-deafness this week, but Young Prince Jared will not be outdone. per Vanity Fair:

2017 has not been the year many of us hoped for. Yet the holiday season—a time for giving thanks, and sharing bounties, and passing around joy—is upon us all anyway, Kushners included, and some semblance of normalcy must be kept. For Kushner Cos., that means continuing an annual tradition of sending around company-branded swag to its usual group of real-estate developers, bankers, and business acquaintances. Three years ago, the company gift was a black, Kushner Cos.-branded hooded sweatshirt with white piping; two years ago, a similarly branded black vest; last year, a pair of headphones. This year, according to a person who has seen the gift, Kushner Cos. sent its friends a white bathrobe embossed with its logo on the right shoulder.

A full-length branded bathrobe would be, in any year, an unusually intimate corporate gift to send around. But in late 2017, as several recipients have noted, a bathrobe comes loaded with suggestive connotations. The bathrobe figures prominently in several women’s accounts of alleged sexual harassment by both Harvey Weinstein and Charlie Rose. Images of Trump in a robe of his own proliferated online earlier this year after Sean Spicer, responding to a New York Times story depicting the president wandering the East Wing in a bathrobe, denied that he even owned one. It has become a symbol, fairly or not, of something unseemly—hardly something that anyone wants to be reminded of as they unwrap presents around the menorah or tree.

“There are plenty of people who have gotten [the robes] who are shocked,” one person who saw the robes and spoke with others who received them told me. “Lots of rich white guys can’t believe it, given what’s going on in the world, with harassment and misuse of bathrobes. It’s the most tone-deaf holiday gift of all time.”

“Custom holiday gifts are ordered many months ahead of time—long before bathrobes were in the news,” Christine Taylor, a Kushner Cos. spokeswoman, said. “So not tone deaf at all, just a thoughtful holiday gift.“

“Sometimes a robe is just a robe,” she added…

Yeah, like you’ve never felt the urge to just slop around the house Oval Office, too exhausted even to dress properly. Poor lad is just depressed, is all. And can you blame him! [/snark]

Tuesday Morning Open Thread: Speaking of Marathons…

(Drew Sheneman via

Been sitting on this, but it feels like we can use a little positive feminism right now. From the NYTimes, “How the ‘Shalane Flanagan Effect’ Works”:

When Shalane Flanagan won the New York City Marathon [November 5th], her victory was about more than just an athletic achievement. Of course, it’s a remarkable one: She’s the first American woman to win in 40 years, and she did so in a blistering 2 hours 26 minutes.

But perhaps Flanagan’s bigger accomplishment lies in nurturing and promoting the rising talent around her, a rare quality in the cutthroat world of elite sports. Every single one of her training partners — 11 women in total — has made it to the Olympics while training with her, an extraordinary feat. Call it the Shalane Effect: You serve as a rocket booster for the careers of the women who work alongside you, while catapulting forward yourself…

Here’s how it worked until Flanagan burst onto the scene. After college, promising female distance athletes would generally embark on aggressive training until they broke down. Few of them developed the staying power required to dominate the global stage. And they didn’t have much of a community to support them; domestic women’s distance running was fractious and atrophied. In 2000, for example, only one American woman qualified for the Olympic marathon, after training alone in her Anchorage home on a treadmill.

But things changed after 2009, when Flanagan joined Jerry Schumacher’s fledgling running group in Portland, Ore., called the Bowerman Track Club. She was the team’s lone woman, and worked with him to create something new: a team of professional female distance runners who would train together and push one another to striking collective success. They were coached by a man and surrounded mostly by male runners, but over time Flanagan and her teammates outperformed the men in the national and global arenas.

Instead of being threatened by her teammates’ growing accomplishments, Flanagan embraced them, and brought in more women, elevating them to her level until they become the most formidable group of distance athletes in the nation. National championships, world championships, Olympics: They became some of the best runners in the world…

To be sure, Flanagan’s unapologetic competitiveness is not universally popular, but she is respected for it. Flanagan boldly acknowledged the work she put into her marathon training and was unabashed about wanting to win before the race. Her victory in New York involved fist-pumping and profanity-laced affirmations as she crossed the finish line in front of millions of viewers.

We usually see competitive women, particularly athletically excellent women, only in one of two ways: either competing to defeat one another, or all about team over self. But that’s a flawed, limiting paradigm. The Shalane Effect dismantles it: She is extraordinarily competitive, but not petty; team-oriented, but not deferential. Elevating other women is actually an act of self-interest: It’s not so lonely at the top if you bring others along…


Apart from remembering that teamwork is good for all participants (not least during the countdown to Thanksgiving) what’s on the agenda for the day?

Not College Football Open Thread

I’m on my way to the beach, so I can’t post today’s matchups (image source not particularly mobile friendly). Here are some nice biscuits I made instead:

I’ll be joining my sister to watch the crappy Gators play a hopefully even crappier team. We’ll also eat unhealthy foods and possibly drink too much.

Feel free to discuss football, biscuits, beer, barbecue, whatever.

Sunday Sports Downer Open Thread: Aaron Hernandez, Again

If previous news stories about CTE — or the Colin Kaepernick protests — hadn’t already convinced a lot of middle-class parents to keep their high-school-and-younger kids away from the gridiron, well… From the Washington Post:

Aaron Hernandez suffered the most severe case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy ever discovered in a person his age, damage that would have significantly affected his decision-making, judgment and cognition, researchers at Boston University revealed at a medical conference Thursday.

Ann McKee, the head of BU’s CTE Center, which has studied the disease caused by repetitive brain trauma for more than a decade, called Hernandez’s brain “one of the most significant contributions to our work” because of the brain’s pristine condition and the rare opportunity to study the disease in a 27-year-old.

Hernandez, a former New England Patriots tight end, hanged himself with a bedsheet in April in a Massachusetts prison while serving a life sentence for the murder of Odin Lloyd in 2013…

Because the center has received few brains from people Hernandez’s age, McKee could not say whether his brain was representative of a 27-year-old who had played as much football. But she found the advanced stage of CTE alarming.

“In this age group, he’s clearly at the severe end of the spectrum,” McKee said. “There is a concern that we’re seeing accelerated disease in young athletes. Whether or not that’s because they’re playing more aggressively or if they’re starting at younger ages, we don’t know. But we are seeing ravages of this disease, in this specific example, of a young person.”

At Thursday’s conference, McKee flipped through slides comparing sections of Hernandez’s brain with a sample without CTE. Hernandez’s brain had dark spots associated with tau protein and shrunken, withered areas, compared with immaculate white of the sample. His brain had significant damage to the frontal lobe, which impacts a person’s ability to make decisions and moderate behavior. As some new slides appeared on the projectors, some physicians and conference attendees gasped.

“We can’t take the pathology and explain the behavior,” McKee said. “But we can say collectively, in our collective experience, that individuals with CTE — and CTE of this severity — have difficulty with impulse control, decision-making, inhibition of impulses for aggression, emotional volatility, rage behaviors. We know that collectively.”

McKee said Hernandez had a genetic marker that makes people vulnerable to certain brain diseases and could have contributed to how aggressively he developed CTE.

“We know that that’s a risk factor for neurogenerative disease,” McKee said. “Whether or not that contributed in this case is speculative. It may explain some of his susceptibility to this disease.” …

More detail at the link. I suspect the sports-radio eugenics experts are gonna leap for that ‘genetic marker of vulnerability’ like a dog for a thrown frisbee, but I also get the feeling they aren’t the people with kids young enough to be Pee-Wee recruits, are they?

And if I were the NFL owners, I would give Hernandez’s fiancee Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez whatever it took to make her happy, up to and including Bob Kraft’s less favorite testicle, because more publicity is absolutely the last thing they need right now. But then, I don’t claim to understand sports, especially football!

College Football Open Thread

Here are some of today’s top match-ups:

My crappy Florida Gators are playing the South Carolina Gamecocks at noon. My grandmother, who is almost 100 years old, is a South Carolina alum. If the ‘Cocks win (likely!), she will trash-talk me. Ever been trash-talked by an ancient Gamecock? Not fun.

Auburn-Georgia should be an interesting game. We’ll get a better idea of what ‘Bama’s got when they play Mississippi State. And all of South Florida is abuzz about the Miami-Notre Dame. I am definitely not a ‘Canes fan, but the only time I root for Notre Dame is when they play Florida State. So, Go ‘Canes.

Open thread!