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Friday, October 30, 2015

Another Patriots Scandal?

Today Boomer Esiason reported that the NFL scanned the visitor's locker room at Gillette Stadium for listening devices before the game between the Patriots and the Jets. Later in the day, the NFL responded that this was part of a 'regular and random' program, with the implication that this has been occurring for an extended period of time, and that there was no specific request from the Jets. These two nuggets are summarized in an ESPN story (you can click on the name to get the link).  In a further report, Mike Florio expanded on this.

Let me be clear: There is absolutely no evidence that anything was found. If bugs had been found, there would have been reports on Sunday, not the Friday after. We all know that the NFL is about as leak-proof as the Titanic after the iceberg; it is impossible to believe that they would have sat on this juicy little nugget that would paint the Patriots in a negative light. There is no evidence that the Patriots did anything wrong. Nothing at all. There is no proof, there is no proof, there is no proof. If there was, then the NFL would be speaking up about it. And the Jets would be screaming about it. Neither has happened, therefore nothing did.

So now what? There are three possibilities, as I sit here:

1) The NFL is telling the truth about having a regular program but there was a request from the Jets.
2) The NFL is telling the truth, there was no request, and it is part of their regular program.
3) The NFL is telling the truth about the request but lying about it being regular and random.

Let's look at each scenario as it applies to the Patriots, since that's the lens here in New England.

1) The NFL is lying. The Jets requested a specific sweep of their locker room because they were so paranoid about their locker room being bugged. The NFL listened to the Jets because they either believed there was a creditable chance that the locker room was bugged or because they respond to requests like this all the time.
         If the former, then the NFL is still looking to pin something, anything, on the Patriots because, well, jealousy on the part of 31 other teams? Revenge for Brady beating them in court? Because Mike Kensil was part of the Jets before joining the NFL's office and can't stand the Patriots?
         If the latter, then good for the NFL in this one particular case. However, there might be a bit of an issue here, since I have heard (but was unable to find confirmation) that the Patriots have requested the NFL sweep and were denied the request. Again, I cannot find confirmation of this, so take that as you will.
         Back to the main issue, though. The NFL is lying. That's an issue, in and of itself; however, I would see the Jets' request as a positive. That means the Patriots and Belichik are soooooooo deep into the heads of the Jets' coaching and front office staff that they're seeing bugs on the walls and not concentrating on game planning. This is beautiful.

2) The NFL is telling the truth. Given the behaviour of the NFL in the past several months, this is unlikely in the extreme, but if it's true? The argument has been made that, if this was true we should have heard about this program long before now and that the NFL should have mentioned it earlier this year when Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy talked about bug worries. Addressing these two items in turn:
         Why would we have heard about this before now? Given that there are likely dozens of programs that the NFL conducts we never hear of unless something goes awry, then we might never hear of most of them. This little program probably came to light because the Jets are actually relevant this year (for the first time in a while) and there is an increased focus on the Patriots.
          As to the second point, when the report came out from Dungy, Deflategate was still looming large over the season. Judge Berman had not yet ruled and, according to the NFL, would have been confirming their suspension in just a matter of days. It made perfect sense for the NFL to say nothing about any routine sweeping program they might conduct, as they wanted the Patriots to be portrayed as negatively as possible. Bugging? Eavesdropping? Whispers in the hall? Why would they want to counter THAT? No, they wanted to smear them as much as possible, and here was an outside source doing their dirty work for them!

3) The NFL is both telling the truth about the request and lying about the regularity. If you're a Patriots fan, this is the most worrying of all. This means that the NFL is still looking for a hook to hang the Patriots out to dry, that the sweep of the locker room was about setting the Patriots up for the future. Let's dive more deeply into this scenario.
         In this scenario, the NFL is sweeping the visitor's locker room at Gillette to establish that they do sweep the locker rooms. Then, down the line, the NFL plants bugs themselves in the locker room before an 'inspection' and then, amazingly, 'discovers' evidence that the Patriots have bugged the locker room. They then persecute (yes, persecute, not prosecute) the Patriots and kick Belichik out of the League because he's on Double Secret Probation and has been since 2007. They are creating the conditions for a sting operation to destroy the Evil Empire once and for all.
         THIS is the scenario the scares me most of all.

I'm going to close this, though, with a positive thought on the NFL and all their efforts:
The NFL makes Laurel & Hardy look competent. Now that their little plan has been exposed, then what the Patriots need to do is hire their own firm to sweep the locker rooms before home games, in full view of media personnel, to show that there is no bug anywhere in the locker room before the NFL gets a chance to get in. Then, when the NFL tries to pin a trumped up charge on them they'll have ammunition to fight back.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Sociology 101 Continues

Let’s do this thing.
 Ch9: What 3 theories explain global stratification?  Which theory do you feel provides the most accurate explanation & why?

Three theories attempt to explain global stratification – that is to say, how social stratification is a global phenomenon, occurring in all cultures. These theories are the Functionalist View, the Conflict Perspective, and then you have Lenski’s Synthesis. There are three OTHER theories to explain how global stratification ORIGINATED, but we will deal with those at another time. They are the Colonialism, World System, and Culture of Poverty theories.

In the Functionalist view, proposed by Kingsley Davis and Wilbert Moore in 1945/1953, there are four factors that will lead to the inevitable stratification of society. To wit:

1.        For society to function, its positions must be filled;

2.        Some positions are more important than others;

3.        The more important positions must be filled by more qualified people; and

4.        To motivate the more qualified people to fill these positions, they must offer greater rewards (from the text).

To put it another way: Let’s talk about GE and Panera Bread, and let’s make the assumption that for values of ‘important’ GE ranks higher. GE needs to have a CEO. So does Panera. In order to fill the position at GE, the Functionalists would have you believe that GE needs to find a more qualified person to be CEO and therefore must offer more money and perqs to get the right person into the position. In 2014, Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of GE, received $37.2 million in total compensation; Ronald Shaich, Panera’s CEO, received $3.4 million (; This would seem to bear out the theory.

However, as Melvin Tumin pointed out in 1953, there are some major issues with this. First, how do you define ‘important’? To the average person, Panera is probably more visible in their lives than GE, for all that GE is a major manufacturer of just about everything and Panera bakes bread. Second, if this stratification worked perfectly then we would all eventually live in a meritocracy, where all positions are awarded on merit. Does this sound like the real world? Patently not; I’m certain every one of us has at least one example of being passed over for someone less-qualified but better-networked. Third, if stratification is functional, then it ought to benefit everyone. This, too, is patently not so. In fact, it is the opposite, as many people never get the chance to participate even if they might have been more capable.

In the Conflict Perspective, there are several complementary tenets. First, Gaetano Mosca proposed in 1896 that society will be stratified by power. His reasoning was that no society can exist unless organized; this requires leadership for coordination. By its nature leadership requires inequities in power as some people step into leadership roles while others follow. Finally, since we are all, at the core, selfish jerks, the people in power will tend to enrich themselves. Karl Marx predicted further that, as the workers (the powerless proletariat) grow frustrated with the abuses of the powerful (bourgeoisie) they will revolt and rise up to take the reins of power and control the means of production. Current Conflict Theorists apply this principle of battle between groups down to internal conflicts as well, for example between rival unions, or racial, gender, and ethnic groups competing for social advancement. George Carlin, in his show Jammin’ In New York, said:

Now, to balance the scale, I'd like to talk about some things that bring us together, things that point out our similarities instead of our differences. 'Cause that's all you ever hear about in this country. It's our differences. That's all the media and the politicians are ever talking about—the things that separate us, things that make us different from one another. That's the way the ruling class operates in any society. They try to divide the rest of the people. They keep the lower and the middle classes fighting with each other so that they, the rich, can run off with all the fucking money! Fairly simple thing. Happens to work. You know? Anything different—that's what they're gonna talk about—race, religion, ethnic and national background, jobs, income, education, social status, sexuality, anything they can do to keep us fighting with each other, so that they can keep going to the bank! You know how I define the economic and social classes in this country? The upper class keeps all of the money, pays none of the taxes. The middle class pays all of the taxes, does all of the work. The poor are there just to scare the shit out of the middle class. Keep 'em showing up at those jobs.

The issue that I can see with this Conflict Perspective is, while it does seem to reflect the current socio-economic condition in the United States today, with a tiny minority owning or controlling an overwhelming majority of the country’s wealth, it doesn’t quite apply to less-developed nations.

That’s where Lenski’s Synthesis comes in, and this is the one I agree with most. In 1966, Gerhard Lenski proposed that the Functionalist Theory would prevail in societies where there was not a surplus of goods and services, while the Conflict Perspective would rule where there was a surplus. In simpler terms, in the less industrialized nations, where mere survival is the name of the game, it is more important to simply get by on a daily basis. Certain jobs, certain positions, are clearly more important (the best hunters eat better, the strongest warriors are honored) and others less so. Once the society has progressed to the point where a surplus is possible, where the potential of starvation is not around every day’s dawn, then a struggle arises over control of the surplus. The group that eventually prevails becomes the elite, and the other groups struggle for their place in the pyramid.


Ch10: What are the major consequences of social class?  What do you feel are the most significant issues of these and what are others not addressed? 

According to Weber, social class is determined by grouping people closely by property, power, and prestige – or, in another perspective, wealth, the ability to get your way, and respect. These three components are intertwined; power can bring property, prestige can bring power, property can bring prestige, and so forth. Naturally, your social class has effects upon your life and how you live it. Some of these consequences, identified in the text, are:

·         Physical Health – more money, better health care (generally) and better choices

·         Mental Health – same equation

·         Family Life – stresses from a more difficult life place stresses on families

·         Education – more money, more opportunities

·         Religion – although not immediately apparent, there is certainly a bit of a caste system in Protestant churches, with some being for those with money and those who are piling up riches in heaven because they can’t accumulate them on Earth

·         Politics – yes, the right to vote is pretty universal in this country, but who you vote for is a function of your class. If you have money you tend to feel you should keep it and thus vote Republican; if you are struggling and need help you vote Democrat

·         Crime and Criminal Justice – think of it this way: if OJ was a poor black man instead of a rich black man, do you think he would have been acquitted?

If I had to pick just ONE of these as ‘most significant’, I would propose Physical Health. A poor person needs to be healthy; in this country, with no mandatory sick leave, a workday lost to illness is a significant financial blow. Living from paycheck to paycheck, scrimping and saving to make ends meet, your working class person simply cannot afford to miss money or their world might crumble. In addition, a good medical plan will allow them to head off many mental health issues through regular interaction with trained medical professionals. If you’re healthy and working, your stress is reduced (compared to unhealthy or unable to work) which will lead to better family life. If you’re healthy, you may be able to physically afford to take classes to advance your learning and get ahead.

And one that is not addressed specifically is personal freedom. Yes, in theory every person in this country is equal to every other and has all the rights of anyone else. But if you’re making minimum wage, and your supervisor tells you to do something inappropriate, how many people would be comfortable refusing and possibly losing that job? Your rights are being infringed; you cannot speak up!

Ch11:  Where is gender inequality experienced?  What are specific examples of how you have experienced this or are aware of this/  What can be done to change this and improve these conditions? 

In the simplest possible terms, gender inequality is experienced everywhere, in everything. It is endemic, crosses all cultural borders, and permeates every aspect of all societies.

Specifically, from the text, it is experienced in:

·         Everyday Life – specifically, devaluation of things feminine (‘you throw like a girl’)

·         Health Care – it’s all in your head; ‘feminine vapours’

·         Education – being seen as weaker and encouraged to study less strenuously; still being steered to ‘feminine’ courses of study

·         Workplace – the pay gap; the glass ceiling

·         Sexual Harassment – unwanted sexual advances and behaviour

·         Violence Against Women – there is still a culture of ‘she deserved in’ in many crimes, including rape and domestic abuse

Being male, I have not experienced any of these. However, I can state that as the culture has become more aware of these inequalities, behaviour has changed. What was acceptable twenty years ago is frowned upon now; what was taboo then is accepted. Overall, this is progress, although one might argue that in a race to become entirely gender-neutral and totally inoffensive to all we are losing some of the challenging aspects of our culture which have provided an edge. (I provide this link to an excellent article for further reading:

I will end with two quotes, one to make you think and one to amuse. You can decide which is which.

Whenever women have insisted on absolute equality with men, they have invariably wound up with the dirty end of the stick. What they are and what they can do makes them superior to men, and their proper tactic is to demand special privileges, all the traffic will bear. They should never settle merely for equality. For women, "equality" is a disaster.- Robert Heinlein

Boy, these conservatives are really something, aren't they? They're all in favor of the unborn. They will do anything for the unborn. But once you're born, you're on your own. Pro-life conservatives are obsessed with the fetus from conception to nine months. After that, they don't want to know about you. They don't want to hear from you. No nothing. No neonatal care, no day care, no head start, no school lunch, no food stamps, no welfare, no nothing. If you're preborn, you're fine; if you're preschool, you're fucked. Conservatives don't give a shit about you until you reach military age. Then they think you're just fine. Just what they've been looking for. Conservatives want live babies so they can raise them to be dead soldiers. Pro-life... pro-life... These people aren't pro-life, they're killing doctors! What kind of pro-life is that? What, they'll do anything they can to save a fetus but if it grows up to be a doctor they just might have to kill it? They're not pro-life. You know what they are? They're anti-woman. Simple as it gets, anti-woman. They don't like them. They don't like women. They believe a woman's primary role is to function as a brood mare for the state. – George Carlin