Culture Justly Scrutinized: Rice, Wilson, OPEC

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Toasted Rice on the Side

Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice won a pyrrhic victory this week when a judge ruled that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell improperly punished him twice for the same crime of violence against his fiancée (now wife) Janay. The judge got it right – the only reason Goodell punished Rice harshly with indefinite suspension was to mollify the outcry of the masses against the initial two-game suspension they perceived a mere slap on the wrist. It was almost certainly not because Goodell discovered some previously hidden film clip from inside an elevator of Rice clocking Janay, as the Commish lamely claimed.

As the assault happened inside a casino where cameras are installed every four feet everywhere, there is no chance the really incriminating footage could have evaded the NFL brass. (Besides – what more evidence do you need after you see a woman walk unaided into an elevator only to be dragged out unconscious 30 seconds later? Do you really need to witness the action inside the elevator before you can render a theory?)

In any event, it makes no difference for Rice. He’s toast. After a lackluster 2013 season and an abandoned 2014, his desirability is limited. But even if a team could get him at the league minimum, they’d pass. I have to believe that the NFL owners leaned on Goodell in the first place to suspend Rice indefinitely – as the highly lucrative but suddenly vulnerable sport business had been taking a beating at the time in the press over inaction on concussions, player misbehavior against women, and other damaging news that was hurting the brand. They have no appetite now to re-raise the ugly specter of coddling an abuser all over again.

Laying down an indefinite suspension was the NFL’s way of announcing to the women of the world: “we get it.” No way will the other owners allow any team to bring new slime upon the NFL franchise by reinstating Rice. And I don’t care about the precedents set by felons-turned-cherubs like Michael Vick and Donté Stallworth. Rice’s situation is different – he smacked a woman exactly at a time when the NFL needed desperately regain the approval of women. Rice upset the narrative – he ain’t never coming back.

Like His Namesake Volleyball, Wilson Floats Away into the Sunset

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A St. Louis County grand jury chose not to indict Darren Wilson, the cop who shot Michael Brown to death after an altercation – because the District Attorney didn’t want to prosecute Wilson. A few things are common knowledge:

• As elected officials, DA’s want to tout 99+% conviction rates, and will never take a case to court unless they can get a conviction or a plea deal.

• DA’s can indict anyone they want, as the process is phenomenally one-sided in their favor. They decide what to show jurors and what not to. The defendant and his lawyers are not part of the process (unless the DA wants them there, which in this case, they did).

• A DA can indict a ham sandwich – and although I know of no such indictment occurring, I wouldn’t be surprised if one from Friendly’s Restaurant is doing 5 to 10 for assault with a deadly mayonnaise spread.

If the DA wanted to bring Wilson into court, he could have done so. But instead he essentially treated the grand jury like a criminal jury – presenting both sides to the jurors and leaving it up to them to sort it out. Kind of weak, but ultimately savvy on the DAs part.

Consider this: Had the grand jury indicted Wilson, the judge would have scheduled a trial for sometime late into next year, giving the media 200+ days to whip partisans on both sides into an even greater frenzy than we’re seeing today. Wilson would be placed on administrative leave with full pay and would receive taxpayer defense – pissing off a large slice of America. When jury selection started, the networks would gin up the ominous clouds of looming race riots. Then the trial would begin, and my guess is that it would have taken on O.J. dimensions – and end in an acquittal. After all, Brown is a dead black guy; Wilson is a live white cop. Does anyone actually think the defense couldn’t build reasonable doubt?

And seconds after the acquittal? Pandemonium all over again.

Yes, the DA knew damn well what he was doing. It’s called “the ends justify the means.”

OPEC-ers Taste Free Market Forces

It’s taken forty years, but justice has finally arrived. It was the spring of 1973 and I had just passed my driver test (2nd try). The family car: a 1967 convertible Pontiac LeMans. I was ready for action, then came something called the Yom Kippur War, and by that winter the price of gasoline doubled to more than 50 cents a gallon. Rationing took hold, speed limits plummetted, and soon cruising ceased to be an affordable past-time. The oil embargo instituted by a hitherto-unknown cartel called OPEC lasted for months, and by the time the oil started flowing again from the Middle East in 1974 the price had been elevated permanently. The rest of the 1970s became a decade of malaise – even fashion and popular music took a hit thanks to the greedy actions of the Saudi sheiks and their cohort.

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Today, the tables have turned. Thanks to hydraulic fracturing, the U.S. has flooded the market with cheap oil and natural gas, thus driving world prices down to levels that are unsustainable for the likes of Venezuela, Russia, Iran and a much of the once-reviled OPEC nations. Fuck ‘em. Fracking will undoubtedly cause local problems (mostly for people who advocated for it) in the form of fouled water supplies and 24×7 truck traffic, but the prospect that tyrannical regimes that use the influx of dollars to fund terrorism and instability will suffer is a fine trade-off.

I still look forward to a petro-free world, but in the meantime it’s so nice to watch the arrogant tyrants squirm, knowing they have no plan B.

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