Saturday, October 24, 2009

Freakanomics - The Revenge

Don't tell anyone but I'm really bad at math. Oh wait, that's no secret. Yet somehow I was able to get into college and managed to pass a college level math class with only one class in basic math under my belt before I got there. I mean I barely squeaked by but I did pass that class. Now here's the amazing part of that equation, I almost made an A in my Business Statistics Class. What? That's right, after almost failing the prerequisite that I was taking simultaneously with the Statistics class, I almost Aced Statistics. Even today it amazes me that this happened. I will say that numbers, the stories that numbers tell, and the lies that numbers shield from prying eyes. It's fascinating to me how numbers can be used to manipulate outcomes, be disguised as facts, and even proclaimed as irrefutable that is until they are refuted and found to be...well...a lie.

That's why, although I'm not a big math nerd with pocket protector strategically and artfully placed in the pocket of my white blouse, I LOVED the book, Freakonomics. I mean I LOVED that book. I loved it so much I bought my own copy so I could reference it often or reread it if the urge hits me. It lead me to read another number crunching book called The Black Swan when I should have been reading a book from the Oprah list.

Now I know I said I loved the book, but that does not mean that I agree with everything that was written in it. There are somethings that even when we are faced with "facts" we chose to see only what we want to see. It is a universal human trait and not one that is unique to me. Sometimes those "facts" are just one interpretation of the same set of numbers.

Then today I learned that economist Steven Levitt and New York Times journalist Stephen J. Dubner have a NEW book. It's called "SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance." How's that for a title?

Now you might ask yourself if you are as open minded as you might think you are when faced with a new set of "facts" backed up by numbers. You see the authors suggest that women's liberation, is responsible for the rise of high-end prostitution in America and a failing public education system. WOW, how is that for a "thoughtful investigation" of the statistics? Are things only wrong when we believe they are flat out wrong or are they wrong when the numbers bear out the conclusion? By the way just who is making that conclusion and how are they sampling that subset?

Oh and gender income disparities, well according to the book's authors, it is not discrimination but decisions women make early in life that takes them on a different life path than a professional male.

As always the authors deal with the answers to the burning questions we all want the answers to:

* How is a street prostitute like a department-store Santa?
* Why are doctors so bad at washing their hands?
* How much good do car seats do?
* What's the best way to catch a terrorist?
* Did TV cause a rise in crime?
* What do hurricanes, heart attacks, and highway deaths have in common?
* Are people hard-wired for altruism or selfishness?
* Can eating kangaroo save the planet?
* Which adds more value: a pimp or a Realtor?

By the way these are not the real bombshells the book is said to reveal. I will reveal it here for the first time, "There are a lot of men who want to have a lot of sex more than they're able to get for free? Who knew?

Now I know I absolutely have to read this book and if the authors want to send me a FREE copy I would love to let you know what I think. It sounds like another page turner that will require me to say things like "I didn't know that" or "I don't believe that at all."

Yet Another Wrinkle In The Megan Williams Story

I recently posted about Megan Williams' statement that her allegations of rape and torture were false. Megan's supporters helped raise more than $70,000 from the initial incident. In addition she and her mother had hoped to make money from a book she hoped to write or a movie about the incident. It made me question how a woman could go to such elaborate ends to perpetrate such a tale.

Now today, according to the Associated Press, I learned that the story doesn't end there. Frankie Brewster, one of the defendants, told WCHS-TV in Charleston that multiple crimes were committed against Megan Williams during the attack.

"It did happen," Brewster said during the interview at the Lakin Correctional Center, where she is serving 10 to 25 years. "All of us participated."

Brewster denied that race or Williams' relationship with her son started the series of crimes. Rather, she blamed a co-defendant who accused Williams of stealing.

While Brewster would not detail her own actions, she acknowledged having improper contact with Williams. Brewster pleaded guilty to second-degree sexual assault in the case.

Brewster also said that race wasn't a factor and she said some of the crimes did not occur at her trailer home.

"I just want the truth out and for people take responsibility for what they did," Brewster said

So what truly happened? What is the real story? Will we ever truly know? Here's what I do know. If this incident happened as she originally said it did then it is egregious. If she lied about this then I find this almost incomprehensible and question her mental stability.

Either way this case opens the gaping maw of racism and causes us to wonder just how far we've really come. Are we still a country where the race of the perpetrator determines how heinous a crime is or is it the facts of the case that defines this? Would there be a need for Hate Crime laws if we would honestly punish those who commit crimes against HUMANS to the fullest extent of the law?

What of Sharpton's role in all this? If Megan's latest story is correct, and this is all manufactured, then should we be outraged that Sharpton has yet again rushed into the fray for his own self-aggrandizement? Is he a provocateur of racism or a champion of the oppressed?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Black Woman Retracts White Torture Claim

As a rape survivor I am very sympathetic to others who have been abused and degraded by this horrible crime. I know some of what they deal with, the nightmares, the trust issues, the doubts, the wagging fingers and my heart aches that we as a society have not yet found a way to stop this sort of violence against women. Just as horrible we live in a society that still judges and at some level blames the rape victim

When I heard of horrific acts and crimes related to the reported abuse and repeated sexual assault inflicted uponMegan Williams my heart went out to her. How could any one human being let alone six treat someone in this manner?

Six white suspects, male and female, were placed in police custody for allegedly torturing and attacking Megan Williams back in 2007. The woman’s abductors were said to have used racial slurs in their attacks that included stabbing, choking, rape, pulling out her hair, confinement to eat animal feces and other grotesque acts, according to media reports.

The Rev. Al Sharpton lashed out at state and federal officials for not speaking out against Williams’ ordeal.

“It’s a deafening silence,” Sharpton told The Logan Banner. “I guarantee you when we come in, it will make everyone respond. It shouldn’t have to take us to do it, but this is a national uproar among whites and blacks. I think that there’s shock and dismay that there has not been outrage expressed by our national leadership.”

Both Sen. Robert C. Byrd and Sen. Jay Rockefeller have condemned the attack.

You can read her transcript here.

Having once been the woman too afraid to close her eyes for fear her attacker may find her again and kill her this time her case brought back the nightmares that still plague me of my rape. I still bear the scars of the knife wounds which are a constant reminder that my life was on the line.

Seven white men and women were convicted in the case and are serving prison time. It seemed like the case was now over and everything was tied up in a short amount of time. I was happy for her that justice seemed to have played out, for me it never has because my rapist was allowed to plead out because he turned states evidence on another unrelated case.

Today there is an update on this case. Megan William's attorney says his client fabricated the story to get back at a boyfriend who had beaten her up. Potts (her attorney) said that Brewster's son, Bobby, was the boyfriend who had beaten Williams and that she had stabbed herself with a straight razor to help embellish the story of being tortured. As a matter of fact she admits that the only thing not self-inflicted were the bruises on her face,'

Williams told the newspaper that she was afraid of her mother, who knew some of the defendants.

Williams' mother, Carmen Williams, died in June. Potts said he did not know what role the mother might have had in fabricating the case.

The woman's lawyer, Byron Potts, said she no longer wants to live a lie. 'She told me the only thing not self-inflicted were the bruises on her face,' Potts said at a news conference in Columbus, Ohio.

Williams, 22, who now lives with a caregiver, was in the office with Potts but she did not appear before reporters.

In a January interview with The Call & Post, a black newspaper in Cleveland, Williams acknowledged she had been mistreated but said her mother made her embellish the story for exposure and financial gain.

Prosecutors in West Virginia have dismissed Williams' new claim, and lawyers for the defendants aren't discussing their plans.

Every time one woman uses a falese charge of rape against a man for revenge, it makes it harder for the next woman, fighting back to reclaim her life to be believed on the stand. I do not care about her race, her religion, or any such identifier. I care that she is a woman and she hurt us all with these action. Her words were meant to harm her boyfriend and his family but they cut into the hearts of many. I hope that she seeks out counseling because she is definitely in need of it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Balloon Boy's Parents Willing to Turn Themselves In

The Heenes or as they are now known as "The Balloon Boy's Family" are now in deep doo doo.

No stranger to the world of media the family had appeared on the show Wife Swap twice. Recently Heene had pitched a reality show to the network months ago, but it passed on the offer.

The Heenes have said the balloon was supposed to be tethered to the ground when it lifted off, and no one was supposed to be aboard. A video of the launch shows the family counting down in unison, "3, 2, 1," before Richard Heene pulls a cord, setting the balloon into the air.

"Whoa!" one of the boys exclaims. Then his father says in disbelief, "Oh, my God!" He then says to someone, "You didn't put the (expletive) tether down!" and he kicks the wood frame that had held the balloon.

Falcon's brother said he saw him inside the compartment before it took off and that's why they thought he was in there when it launched. Heene said he had yelled at Falcon before the launch for getting inside.

After originally saying that they believed the family the local the Larimer County Sheriff's Office has changed their tune. They will now recommend charges of conspiracy, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, false reporting to authorities, and attempting to influence a public servant against the Heenes.

No charges have been filed yet, and neither Richard or Mayumi Heene are under arrest. Some of the most serious charges each carry a maximum sentence of six years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

Child Protective Services had also reportedly been asked to interview the Heene family and Alderden said they would "probably open an investigation."

He called the move to contact CPS 'standard' in cases involving children.

It seems almost unimaginable that a family would do such things to get fame but over the years we've heard of far worse. To quote David Bowie "Fame puts you there where things are hollow."

Friday, October 16, 2009

FREE Meal & A Lovely Dinner Companion

Girl's night out

I received a great tip from Carol who is part of the Sweep Club to which I belong. Carol lives not too far from me and she found out about a new Sports Bar that opened up not too far away from me. She wanted me to know I could have a FREE meal if I went tonight.

You don't have to say FREE and Food in the same sentence to me too many times. I jumped at the chance.

Just as I was getting ready to go I said, "You should invite Pixie to go with you." I felt bad for her because she's been going home to an empty house for awhile now and probably could use some time away from her home.

I walked back in and extended the invitation and she accepted. I'm glad she did because we chatted about lots of things, big and little. Some of it was personal and some was school related. It felt good to get out and about and it has been quite some time since I'd gone out with a friend for dinner without my husband.

My husband was out playing cards with some people he knew and I was fine with that. Girls Night Out has been absent from my life for years. Pixie said she hoped that we could go out again soon. I hope so too.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Boy In Balloon Has Been Found

I came late to this story. You see just after my students left for the day I checked the news and saw the story proclaiming that there was a boy in a balloon that was set adrift from the Heene's Fort Collins, Colorado. Now I bet you are asking the same question I was asking, just how does this happen?

I glanced at the headlines, grabbed my purse and headed out the door. Just as I turned on my radio I heard an update about the balloon incident saying the balloon had landed but there was no child. Even more tragic there was word that someone thought they had seen something fall from the balloon.

Again, the question I was asking as how did the kid get in the balloon. Richard Heene, the boy's father, is a known weather tracker and it is believed the balloon was built for weather monitoring. His brothers initially told officials the boy, identified as Falcon Heene, climbed into the basket attached to the saucer and, somehow, the rope that held the aircraft in place became untied at about 11:00 a.m.

Thankfully this whole incident has come to a happy resolution. During a news conference at 4 p.m. local time, Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden announced that Heene had been located, alive and well. He had apparently been hiding inside a cardboard box in the attic of the family's attic.

Thank God he's OK!!! It could have ended so differently. By the way doesn't that look like the same balloon behind the Heene family at the beginning of this show?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Captain Lou Albano - Often Imitated, Never Duplicated

I was never what you might call a wrestling fan. I'd never watched a match until I met my ex-husband and then I wanted to roll on the floor. My ex, Steve, and his friends would get together to watch this nonsense and for them it was genuine entertainment. It didn't take long for me to realize that at least one of his friends believed the crazy bios that these guys gave themselves. For him, the Grave digger really did dig graves and the Russian Bear was really from Russia. Steve didn't believe that it was real but for him the male bonding of sitting on the sofa Sunday mornings, beer in hand, with his friends, high-fiving over "brilliant maneuvers" was something he just loved.

It was back in that environment I found out about Captain Lou. He was the manager of over 50 different wrestlers.

During the 1980s, Albano appeared in Cyndi Lauper's music videos for her hit songs "Girls Just Want to Have Fun", "She Bop", and "The Goonies 'R' Good Enough" Even now women young and old still love "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" and I can relate to the gruff Dad angry at his daughter who was out partying all night.

Albano began appearing in a vast array of television and film projects. Throughout the late eighties, Albano appeared in Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling, 227, Miami Vice, Hey Dude, Brian De Palma's Wiseguys and the 1987 wrestling movie Body Slam. Expanding into music, Albano managed and performed with rockers NRBQ. He was immortalized in the song "Captain Lou" on their Lou and the Q album. Albano also periodically appeared on the John Davidson version of Hollywood Squares.

This was one of my favorite NRBQ songs and the album was the only one of theirs I ever bought and I bought it just for that song.

Albano died on October 14, 2009, under hospice care at his home. How sad. He was such a character and he obviously lived his life outloud.

Louis Vincent Albano (July 29, 1933 – October 14, 2009)

Monday, October 12, 2009

The People of Walmart

File this under "Now I've Seen Everything". One of my students asked me if I'd ever seen the site I have only myself to blame because we've talked about the loss of privacy that we have experienced with the rise of technology. This site, he assured me would illustrate this concept perfectly. Little did I know how correct he truly was.

How many times have you said, "I just have to dash out to get...." or "I'm just headed over to Walmart"? I will admit I have uttered these words many, many times before.

Unlike the runways of Paris I'm not afraid that people are saying to themselves "I can't believe she is wearing..." especially since they are no better dressed than I am. While I don't see Gucci bags or Prada in Walmart, I do see the kind of people that some would refer to as Walmartians. Walmartians are said to dwell in the land that the toni-white bread folks call "Fly over country." They tend to be the guy who will give you the shirt of his back if you asked him. They might be the lady who will bring a casserole to your house because she heard you were feeling ill.

This site, turns these people into a Freak show, an excuse for liberals to poke fun at conservatives while they claim to reach out to the least of us. The very people who shun the big box stores laugh at the people who shop there because they are barely scraping by in today's economy. Even some of the residents of the upper middle class has rediscovered Walmart as they try to pay off their former excesses.

I remember one of my students, years ago, patiently explaining to me how conservatives were quick to judge people and belittle others. She then proceeded to make fun of people who lived in trailer parks, people who were fat, and Christians. The basic tried and true litany of how they were all stupid and unenlightened. She missed the fact that the what she was saying was out of sync with the message of compassionate liberal.

I could almost hear people like her laughing and saying that these people are obviously Republicans. (Can we say profiling?) I could almost see those kinds of liberals dancing with delight as though they actually had proof of life on other planets or found the body of Big Foot. "Hurry, hurry, hurry folks, step right up and see the "Teabaggers" in their native habitat." The left calls conservative African Americans "Porch N's", Uncle Tom's, and Aunt Jemima. While the far left feels the need to call Condie Rice Aunt Jemima I'm certain they would howl with rage if the same term were applied to Michelle Obama. The fact that both woman are bright, beautiful, articulate, well educated, and believe strongly in their positions is immediately cast aside if one's opinion does not march in lock step with the extremists on either side.

Funny thing is that if one tried to use such outrageous photos to illustrate the left you would be labeled a racist, right wing extremist, hatemonger, and oh yeah ignorant. Isn't that funny how that works?

When I checked out this site, I wondered about the different people I saw. What did they do for a living? Were they aware that their photo was out there and that others were mocking them? Did they care? Would they care? Did they know that the owner of the site is making $1,000 a day?

I don't know the answer but I know that from now on I will try to make sure that my hair is done, my make up is applied, and I'm dressed like I walked out of the pages of Vanity Fair next time I head on over to the place where prices are always falling.