Tuesday, November 25, 2014

POLL: Americans See Michael Brown Shooting Very Differently By Race and Party

Not TOO surprisingly there are stark racial differences in how Americans of different racial backgrounds view the shooting of Michael Brown, a poll by Huffington Post reveals.

As YouGov puts it:
There is a massive racial divide between white and black Americans about whether Darren Wilson should face punishment for killing Michael Brown. While only 22% of whites say that wilson was at fault and should be punished, just under two-thirds (64%) of black Americans want the officer to be punished. 30% of whites, and 11% of blacks, say that the shooting was a tragic accident. 29% of whites say that officer Wilson was fully justified in shooting Brown, something only 4% of black Americans agree with.
Views of the Ferguson incident are not only bifurcated by racial identity but also by party identification:
Democrats were also three times more likely than Republicans to say Wilson was at fault, and to fear that he would be punished too leniently. 
Perhaps the biggest divide, however, was on whether the shooting represented an isolated incident or part of a broader pattern in how black men are treated by the police. While Americans overall were split, 74 percent of black Americans and 57 percent of Democrats, compared with 31 percent of whites and 18 percent of Republicans, saw the shooting as part of a larger pattern.
Despite this being an incident that involves a white cop and  a Black victim I would be interested in seeing data about how other racial groups (especially Latino and Asians) view the Michael Brown situation. Race in America is far more complicated than just Black and white.


TENNIS TUESDAY: Serena WTA's Player of The Year (Again!), ATP Year-End Rankings


The year end rankings of the ATP were released yesterday and there are some interesting stories buried in the Top 10:

  1. Novak Djokovic (SRB) – No. 1 for the third time in four years, finishing in the Top 3 for the eighth straight year
  2. Roger Federer (SUI) – Oldest year-end No. 2 (at 33 years of age), finishing in the Top 10 for the 13th straight year (tying Ivan Lendl).Andre Agassi and Jimmy Connors (16) hold the record for most Top 10 finishes
  3. Rafael Nadal (ESP) – A three-time year-end No. 1 and the third left-hander – after Connors (16) and John McEnroe (10) – to finish in the Top 10 for 10 straight years
  4. Stan Wawrinka (SUI) – Finished in the Top 10 for the second season in a row at a year-end high of No. 4 after winning his first Grand Slam title (Australian Open), first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 (Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters) and first Davis Cup trophy for Switzerland
  5. Kei Nishikori (JPN) – First Asian to finish in the Top 10 and the first player to debut in the year-end Top 5 since Andy Murray in 2008. He was also the first Asian male to reach a Grand Slam final, at the US Open (l. to Cilic), and first Asian player to compete at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals (his semi-final match against Djokovic, on 15 November, was watched by 10 million viewers on TV Asahi between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. local time in Japan)
  6. Andy Murray (GBR) – Seventh consecutive finish in the Top 6
  7. Tomas Berdych (CZE) – Fifth consecutive finish in the Top 10
  8. Milos Raonic (CAN) – First from his country and first player born in the 1990s to finish in the Top 10.
  9. Marin Cilic (CRO) – Made the biggest jump from year-end 2013 ranking of No. 37
  10. David Ferrer (ESP) – Second-oldest Top 10 finisher (at 32 years of age), ending the year in the Top 10 for the fifth year in a row and sixth time overall.
On the WTA side, World #1 Serna Williams has been named Player of the Year for the 6th time in her career and the third consecutive year. She won the honor in 2002, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Only Steffi Graf (8 times) and Martina Navratilova (7 times) have been named Player of the Year more times, and these three are the only ones to have ever won it more than twice. Interestingly, Serena has only ended the Year End Rankings at #1 four times (2002, 2009, 2013 and 2014). It will be interesting to see what 2015 bring for Serena, and her sister Venus Williams, who ended the year at a very respectable #18 in the world.e

Monday, November 24, 2014

EYE CANDY: Haze McCarthy




Haze Mccarthy is best known for his work at the porn site Randy Blue. According to the Man Crush blog, Haze (is that really the name his Momma gave him?) "is 20 years old and from Massachusetts, plays football and works out 4-5 times a week." I haven't been able to find more (or more accurate) information about Haze, but since I saw him at the Gorgeous Sexy Guys blog I am convinced he is Eye Candy worthy.

What do you think?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

2014 DAVIS CUP: Federer Clinches Final for Switzerland By Defeating Gasquet




World #2 Roger Federer was able to recover from his straights sets loss to Gael Monfils on Friday to partner with World #4 Stan Wawrinka on Saturday to win the all-important doubles match in straight sets over Richard Gasquet and Julien Benneteau. Then on Sunday, Federer clinched his country's first Davis Cup with a straight sets singles win over Gasquet, 6-4 6-2 6-2. Gasquet was substituted for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who lost to Wawrinka in 4 sets on Friday.

Federer gave props to his countryman Wawrinka and the rest of the Swiss team:
"I'm happy I was able to stay calm and play a good match, and I'm really happy for the guys in the team, everybody worked incredibly hard to get me match ready," Federer said. "Stan has put in so much effort over the years and played an unbelievable weekend that gave me the opportunity today. I'm very much aware of that, this one is for the boys."
The 17-time major champion first competed in the Davis Cup in 1999 so it has taken 15 years to win this prestigious title for the player many people feel is the Greatest Of All Time.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

SATURDAY POLITICS: Huizar-Molina Race For Los Angeles CD14 Heats Up


As you may recall, I live in Los Angeles City Council District 14 which is represented by Jose Huizar. Huizar is running for re-election in the March 3, 2015 primary and in this heavily Democratic region, winning that race basically would insure his position on the council until 2019 at least. I say "at least" because there is a movement to move municipal elections that typically happen in odd-numbered years (i.e. not in presidential or gubernatorial election years) and align them with those larger turnout elections. There are arguments both for and against this idea (for: having city and county races in the same year will mean that they will occur in the same time frame when people are thinking about other political races; against: the big money that dominates state and federal races will be used to swamp local concerns in local races).

However, Huizar is facing a strong challenge from Gloria Molina, the outgoing Los Angeles County Supervisor, who has been a political power center on the East Side of Los Angeles for decades, and at age 66 has decided to challenge an incumbent city councilman to get a job she held more than 30 years ago.

With the primary barely more than four months away, the two candidates are jockeying for endorsements and donations. On Thursday, both candidates (in addition to MadProfesssah) attended the endorsement meeting of the East Area Progressive Democrats in Eagle Rock, seeking that new club's endorsement. They were both greeted politely and asked probing questions by the audience, with Huizar getting a little testy when he admitted that the "municipal election schedule realignment" that he supports would end up in increasing the length of his own term in office. Molina announced her opposition to the plan, showing a keen awareness of her audience, because EAPD has come out strongly against the proposed plan to align the city's elections with the state's. In the end, though, neither candidate received the high threshold required for an official endorsement by the club.

Huizar has built a substantial lead in fundraising. In fact, he is approaching the record amount raised by any City Councilman in the history of Los Angeles, according to Downtown News columnist Jon Regardie:
This puts Huizar on a record-breaking path. I pored through the Ethics Commission’s online fundraising information, which has data on every city council election going back 11 years. In that time, the only person to raise more money during the primary was Antonio Villaraigosa, who scooped up $773,000 in 2003 when he beat incumbent Nick Pacheco. Of course, AnVil used that seat as a springboard to the mayor’s office two years later.  
Huizar is $38,000 short of the record, but still has more than four months until voters head to the polls in March. Curious fact: The next highest tally in a council primary was recorded by now-Mayor Eric Garcetti, who raised $683,000 for a win against Gary Slossberg in 2009. No, I don’t know who Gary Slossberg is either.
It's curious tat the two people to have raised more money than Huizar went on to become Mayor. Is that Huizar's ultimate plan? He is only 46-years-old now and the current Mayor will be termed out in 2021. Some people think the only reason Molina is running for City Council is to make a future bid for Mayor of Los Angeles more palatable. Maybe the people who are giving money to Huizar don't want to see that happen?

Anyway, I'm sure there will be twists and turns in this race as the March 3 date gets closer and closer.

Friday, November 21, 2014

2014 DAVIS CUP: Final Tied 1-1 Wawrinka d. Tsonga, Monfils d. Federer, Doubles Decision Looms


The final tie of the 2014 Davis Cup is even at 1-all after the first day since Gael Monfils dispatched Roger Federer in straight sets, 6-1 6-4 6-3, following Stan Wawrinka's 4-set win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga earlier in the day. Monfils had previously lost to Federer 8 of their 10 meetings but he famously squandered two match points in their 2014 US Open quarterfinal after also dominating the Swiss great from the back of the court for more than two sets. If Monfils had won that match, is it possible he could have won the US Open instead of Marin Cilic?

Monfils' (somewhat)  surprising win does not bode well for Switzerland's chances of wining the Cup, because France is expected to have a decided advantage in the doubles tie ad then would only have to win one match on Sunday to deny Roger Federer his chance to complete his career-long goal of adding his name to the cup.

Unless perhaps Federer and Wawrinka team up to play doubles? Then only one of them would have to win on Sunday in order to claim the cup. Federer's play on Friday hopefully reflected only a lack of practice and not any more lingering effects of the back injury which caused him to withdraw from the final of the 21014 ATP World Tour Finals on Sunday. And asking the 33-year-old great to play three consecutive days (one singles, one doubles and then another singles match) may be a bit too much to ask. Then again this is Davis Cup and it is unlikely that Federer and Wawrinka will have as good a chance to bring historic tennis glory to their country by winning the Davis Cup.

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Chris Hemsworth Named People's "Sexiest Man Alive"


Chris Hemsworth has been named People's Sexiest Man Alive for 2014. The 31-year-old 6-foot-4 hunk from Australia is best known for playing Thor in Marvel studios Thor (2011), Thor: The Dark World (2013) and The Avengers (2012). Hemsworth is married and the father of 3.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Now There Are 35! South Carolina Joins Marriage Equality States!


The Supreme Court today denied South Carolina's request for a stay on the implementation of a federal judge's ruling in Condon v. Wilson declaring the Palmetto State's ban on marriage equality unconstitutional.

As Freedom to Marry notes, today's actions means that 35 states in total, including all states in the 4th, 9th and 10th Circuits are currently issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. There are pending hearings in federal court the 5th Circuit (very conservative) and the 6th Circuit recently ruled against marriage equality, with all of the plaintiffs in those four states (Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee) now petitioning the Supreme Court to hear their appeal of that decision. The  Arkansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in the appeal of  a state court ruling in favor of marriage equality.

Hat/tip to Joe Jervis

FILM REVIEW: Gone Girl


Gone Girl is one of the best films of the year. To date it has grossed nearly $150 million domestically (and even more than that internationally). Critically, the film is hovering very near the 90% level on rottentomatoes.com (88% from critics and 90% from the audience). That it is from David Fincher, one of America's most distinctive directors (Fight Club, The Social Network), is another reason to see it.

Gone Girl is based on the blockbuster best-selling mystery novel published in 2012 written by Gillian Flynn with the same title. "What a dark comedy!" one of my friends exclaimed as the credits rolled and scattered applause was heard around the theater (at the Arclight Cinemas in Pasadena) when we saw the film in on its opening weekend.

Gone Girl is multiple movies rolled into one. It is a dark comedy; it is also a whodunnit, a battle of the sexes, a biting critique of the "if it bleeds, it leads" media culture, a meditation on the nature of the modern American marriage and star-centered vehicle for Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike.

Affleck and Pike play Nick and Amy Dunne, a married couple whose version of the American dream has gone bust when both of them get fired from their publishing industry jobs in New York City and end up moving to Nick's hick hometown in Missouri to take care of Nick's ailing mom but end up stuck there permanently.  This upsets his wife, who grew up as the pampered only daughter of two psychiatrists who wrote a series of successful novels about Amazing Amy, the perfect child.

The movie opens on the occasion of Nick and Amy's fifth wedding anniversary, with Amy having apparently disappeared and Nick looking uncomfortable and secretive when questioned by the police about his wife's friends, her activities and their marriage.

When Amy doesn't appear after a few days, the police (and Amy's parents) get more suspicious of Nick's behavior and even the audience, who wants to give Affleck's character the benefit of the doubt starts to turn on him.

The film's effectiveness depends on the numerous twists and turns that Flynn has expertly included in the screenplay she adapted from the excellent source material of her own novel. Fincher's direction is exceptional, because even at well over two hours, the movie is thrillingly paced and very suspenseful.

The only question remaining now is whether (or how) Hollywood's award-industrial complex will be able to embrace and reward Gone Girl despite its genre roots come end-of-year awards.

Title: Gone Girl.
Director: David Fincher.
Running Time: 2 hours, 25 minutes.
MPAA Rating: Rated R for a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity, and language.
Release Date: October 3, 2014.
Viewing Date: October 5, 2014.

Writing: A.
Acting: A.
Visuals: B+.
Impact: B+.

Overall Grade: A- (3.66/4.0).

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

And Now There Are 34! Montana Joins The Marriage Equality Majority


Wow! Montana today joined the rest of the Ninth U.S. Circuit when a federal judge issued a ruling striking down the Treasure state's ban on same-sex marriage. One key excerpt from the ruling in Rolando v. Fox is:
The Court hereby DECLARES that Montana’s laws that ban same-sex marriage, including Article XIII, section 7 of the Montana Constitution, and Montana Code Annotated section 40-1-103 and section 40-1-401, violate Plaintiffs’ rights to equal protection of the laws as guaranteed by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Court PERMANENTLY ENJOINS the State of Montana and its officers, employees, agents, and political subdivisions from enforcing Article XIII, section 7 of the Montana Constitution, Montana Code Annotated section 40-1-103 and section 40-1-401, and any other laws or regulations, to the extent that they prohibit otherwise qualified same-sex couples from marrying in Montana, and to the extent that they do not recognize same-sex marriages validly contracted outside Montana. This injunction shall take effect immediately.
That makes it pretty clear that same-sex couples can get married in Big Sky Country now! (There is no stay on the order.) The Democratic Governor of Montana Steve Bullock praised the decision while the Republican Attorney General (named defendant) Tim Fox announced that he would appeal the decision (presumably to the Ninth Circuit, which has already ruled that marriage equality is required under federal law, and then to the Supreme Court, which has previously refused to issue stays on the effect of marriage equality rulings from the 9th Circuit.

Another key quote from the ruling is:
Montana’s laws that ban same-sex marriage impose a “disfavored legal status” on same-sex couples. The time has come for Montana to follow all the other states within the Ninth Circuit and recognize that laws that ban same-sex marriage violate the constitutional right of same-sex couples to equal protection of the laws. Today Montana becomes the thirty-fourth state to permit same-sex marriage.
And so it goes...

Hat/tip to Equality Case Files.

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: Mississippi Heritage Amendment Proposed To Declare Christianity "Principal Religion"


Whoa! Mississippi may be considering a state constitutional amendment in 2016 that would, among other things, declare "Christianity" the "principal" religion of the state, and insert the words "Holy Bible" into the founding document of the Magnolia State. The Magnolia State Heritage Amendment reads, in part:
The State of Mississippi hereby acknowledges the fact of her identity as a principally Christian and quintessentially Southern state, in terms of the majority of her population, character, culture, history, and heritage, from 1817 to the present; accordingly, the Holy Bible is acknowledged as a foremost source of her founding principles, inspiration, and virtues; and, accordingly, prayer is acknowledged as a respected, meaningful, and valuable custom of her citizens. The acknowledgments hereby secured shall not be construed to transgress either the national or the state Constitution’s Bill of Rights.
In case you think  I am making this up, here is the official summary of the amendment from the Mississippi Secretary of State's office:
Initiative #46 would amend the Constitution to restrict or define Mississippi’s heritage in the following areas: religion, official language, state flag, nickname, song, motto and state university mascots. Further, the initiative would prevent the consolidation of Alcorn State University, Delta State University, Jackson State University, Mississippi University for Women, and Mississippi Valley State University, designate the month of April “Confederate Heritage Month,” and reinstate Mississippi’s Constitutional boundaries.
I guess Mississippi does not have the legal requirement that ballot measures restrict themselves to dealing with one topic! Oh, and it also insists that the state government can not offer government services in any other language than English. Is "y'all" English? I guess well find out if the measure qualifies for the ballot and voters get to see the measure in November 2016.

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