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Floyd Mayweather: A Cautionary Tale Print E-mail

 

Floyd Mayweather: A Cautionary Tale

By Kelefa Sanneh

Last week, Floyd Mayweather, promoting his upcoming fight, was asked about the N.F.L.’s banishment of Ray Rice. “I think there’s a lot worse things that go on in other people’s households,” Mayweather said. “It’s just not caught on video.” This was an absurdly dismissive response and also, undeniably, a true statement, delivered by a man who might be in a position to know its truth. Mayweather has been accused of a series of assaults on women, some of them brutal: in two cases, he has pleaded guilty; in another, he was found guilty; in 2012, he served two months in jail.

The day after his remarks, Mayweather delivered a perfectly remorseless apology: “Whoever I offended I apologize. I am only human. Domestic violence is something I don’t condone.” The CNN anchor Rachel Nichols wondered whether Mayweather’s remarks about Rice reflected his own views on violence against women:

NICHOLS: You are someone with a history of domestic violence, yourself. You’ve even been to jail for it. Why should fans root for you with this kind of history?

MAYWEATHER: Everything has been allegations. Nothing has been proven. So, you know, that’s life.

NICHOLS: I mean, the incident you went to jail for—the mother of your three children did show some bruising, a concussion when she went to the hospital. It was your own kids who called the police, gave them a detailed description of the abuse. There’s been documentation.

MAYWEATHER: Mm-hmm. Once again, no pictures. Just hearsay and allegations. And I signed a plea bargain. So once again, not true.

After the interview, Nichols marvelled at “the denial of the public that supports him,” concluding with an editorial comment: “I am curious how many of those who shuddered at the video of Ray Rice in that elevator this week are also planning on plunking down their seventy dollars tomorrow for Mayweather’s pay-per-view fight. It is worth considering before you pull out your credit card.”

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Mayweather does particularly well in the athlete pay rankings if you exclude endorsement deals, because, unlike virtually all of the other top athletes in the world, Mayweather isn’t the focus of a single major advertising campaign. This partly reflects his insistence on doing whatever he likes and almost never apologizing. It also reflects the survival strategy of boxing, which has stayed afloat by demanding more money from fewer fans, in particular the million or so people in America who are in the habit of buying fights on pay-per-view. This arrangement makes boxing more accountable to its fans, who are given only the matchups they are likely to watch, and sometimes pay to watch.

But accountability to boxing fans isn’t the same as accountability to America at large, which is why it was a little odd to hear Nichols ask Mayweather about “the public” that supports him—it is, like all collections of fans, a smaller-than-general public, and one with peculiar tastes. As promoters well know, boxing fans aren’t too troubled by bad behavior, which is why Mayweather’s time in jail didn’t affect his earning power once he got out. A villain can be as big an attraction as a hero, and, anyway, any boxing fan will find it hard to resist watching the best boxer in the world, no matter how appalling his crimes. Mayweather might well see a disappointing pay-per-view buy rate for his Maidana rematch, but it won’t be because viewers decided that he didn’t deserve their money; it will be because not enough of us thought that Maidana deserved him. If the next fight looks like a good one, we’ll all come flocking back.

The N.F.L. is answerable to all sorts of people, but boxing is free to focus on the true believers and ignore everyone else. Of course, instead of “free,” you might say, “forced”: Mayweather’s untouchability, and even his riches, are the result of a sport that for decades has been left alone with its fans. For an athlete in trouble, especially this year, the anything-goes world of boxing might seem like a tantalizing alternative reality. But for a sports executive whose profits depend on easy accessibility and broad cultural relevance, the story of boxing’s biggest star probably looks more like a cautionary tale.

 
WSJ Saturday Essay: Climate Science Is Not Settled Print E-mail

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Climate Science Is Not Settled

WSJ Saturday Essay: Climate change is real, writes a former top science official of the Obama administration. But we are far from having the knowledge to make good policy.

The idea that "Climate science is settled" runs through today's popular and policy discussions. Unfortunately, that claim is misguided. It has not only distorted our public and policy debates on issues related to energy, greenhouse-gas emissions and the environment. But it also has inhibited the scientific and policy discussions that we need to have about our climate future.

My training as a computational physicist—together with a 40-year career of scientific research, advising and management in academia, government and the private sector—has afforded me an extended, up-close perspective on climate science. Detailed technical discussions during the past year with leading climate scientists have given me an even better sense of what we know, and don't know, about climate. I have come to appreciate the daunting scientific challenge of answering the questions that policy makers and the public are asking.

The crucial scientific question for policy isn't whether the climate is changing. That is a settled matter: The climate has always changed and always will. Geological and historical records show the occurrence of major climate shifts, sometimes over only a few decades. We know, for instance, that during the 20th century the Earth's global average surface temperature rose 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Nor is the crucial question whether humans are influencing the climate. That is no hoax: There is little doubt in the scientific community that continually growing amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, due largely to carbon-dioxide emissions from the conventional use of fossil fuels, are influencing the climate. There is also little doubt that the carbon dioxide will persist in the atmosphere for several centuries. The impact today of human activity appears to be comparable to the intrinsic, natural variability of the climate system itself.

Rather, the crucial, unsettled scientific question for policy is, "How will the climate change over the next century under both natural and human influences?" Answers to that question at the global and regional levels, as well as to equally complex questions of how ecosystems and human activities will be affected, should inform our choices about energy and infrastructure.

But—here's the catch—those questions are the hardest ones to answer. They challenge, in a fundamental way, what science can tell us about future climates.

 
MATT BAI: How Gary Hart’s Downfall Forever Changed American Politics Print E-mail

How Gary Hart’s Downfall Forever Changed American Politics

Back then, Hart was as close to a lock for the nomination — and likely the presidency — as any challenger of the modern era. According to Gallup, Hart had a double-digit lead over the rest of the potential Democratic field among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. In a preview of the general election against the presumed Republican nominee, Vice President George H. W. Bush, Hart was polling over 50 percent among registered voters and beating Bush by 13 points, with only 11 percent saying they were undecided. He would have been very hard to stop.

As anyone alive during the 1980s knows, Hart, the first serious presidential contender of the 1960s generation, was taken down and eternally humiliated by a scandal, a suspected affair with a beautiful blonde whose name, Donna Rice, had entered the cultural lexicon, along with the yacht — Monkey Business — near which she had been photographed on his lap. When they talked about him now in Washington, Hart was invariably described as a brilliant and serious man, perhaps the most visionary political mind of his generation, an old-school statesman of the kind Washington had lost its capacity to produce. He warned of the rise of stateless terrorism and spoke of the need to convert the industrial economy into an information-and-technology-based one, at a time when few politicians in either party had given much thought to anything beyond communism and steel. But such recollections were generally punctuated by a smirk or a sad shake of the head. Hardly a modern scandal passed, whether it involved a politician or an athlete or an entertainer, that didn’t evoke inevitable comparisons to Hart among reflective commentators. In popular culture, Gary Hart would forever be that archetypal antihero of presidential politics: the iconic adulterer.

...........................................

The Hart episode is almost universally remembered as a tale of classic hubris. A Kennedy-like figure on a fast track to the presidency defies the media to find anything nonexemplary in his personal life, even as he carries on an affair with a woman half his age and poses for pictures with her, and naturally he gets caught and humiliated. How could he not have known this would happen? How could such a smart guy have been that stupid?

Of course, you could reasonably have asked that same question of the three most important political figures of Hart’s lifetime, all Democratic presidents thought of as towering successes. Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were adulterers, before and during their presidencies, and we can safely assume they had plenty of company. In his 1978 memoir, Theodore White, the most prolific and influential chronicler of presidential politics in the last half of the 20th century, wrote that he was “reasonably sure” that of all the candidates he had covered, only three — Harry Truman, George Romney and Jimmy Carter — hadn’t enjoyed the pleasure of “casual partners.” He and his colleagues considered those affairs irrelevant.

By the late 1980s, however, a series of powerful, external forces in the society were colliding, creating a dangerous vortex on the edge of our politics. Hart didn’t create that vortex. He was, rather, the first to wander into its path.

The nation was still feeling the residual effects of Watergate, which 13 years earlier led to the first resignation of a sitting president. Richard Nixon’s fall was shocking, not least because it was more personal than political, a result of instability and pettiness rather than pure ideology. And for this reason Watergate, along with the deception over what was really happening in Vietnam, had injected into presidential politics a new focus on private morality.

Social mores were changing, too. For most of the 20th century, adultery as a practice — at least for men — was rarely discussed but widely accepted. Kennedy and Johnson governed during the era that “Mad Men” would later portray, when the powerful man’s meaningless tryst with a secretary was no less common than the three-martini lunch. Twenty years later, however, social forces unleashed by the tumult of the 1960s were rising up to contest this view. Feminism and the “women’s lib” movement had transformed expectations for a woman’s role in marriage, just as the civil rights movement had changed prevailing attitudes toward African-Americans.

As America continued to debate the Equal Rights Amendment for women into the 1980s, younger liberals — the same permissive generation that ushered in the sexual revolution and free love — were suddenly apt to see adultery as a kind of political betrayal, and one that needed to be exposed. “This is the last time a candidate will be able to treat women as bimbos,” is how the feminist Betty Friedan put it after Hart’s withdrawal. (If only she’d known.)

Perhaps most salient, though, the nation’s news media were changing in profound ways. When giants like White came up through the news business in the postwar years, the surest path to success was to gain the trust of politicians and infiltrate their world. Proximity to power and the information and insight derived from having it was the currency of the trade. By the 1980s, however, Watergate and television had combined to awaken an entirely new kind of career ambition. If you were an aspiring journalist born in the 1950s, when the baby boom was in full swing, then you entered the business at almost exactly the moment when Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post — portrayed by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman in the cinematic version of their first book, “All the President’s Men” — were becoming not just the most celebrated reporters of their day but very likely the wealthiest and most famous journalists in American history (with the possible exception of Walter Cronkite). And what made Woodward and Bernstein so iconic wasn’t proximity, but scandal. They had actually managed to take down a mendacious American president, and in doing so they came to symbolize the hope and heroism of a new generation.

 
Pew Report:Parents with College Degree Focus on Persistence Print E-mail

Pew Report:Parents with College Degree Focus on Persistence

By Rebecca Jackson

New Pew report finds In highly educated households, 13% of parents ranked “persistence” as the most important value in child-rearing. Yet only 8% of non-college graduates ranked it as an important value.

In the Pew survey, a total of 815 parents were asked to rank the top three qualities that they thought were the most important.  Hard work was one of the top three.

However, in highly educated households, 13% of parents ranked “persistence” as the most important value in child-rearing.  Yet only 8% of non-college graduates ranked it as an important value.  “Persistence” in pursuance of a goal, regardless of the challenges, is also known as “grit”. 

In the area of obedience, only 5% of parents with a college degree ranked it as the most important value, compared to a staggering 16% of parents without a college degree.  Obedience is connected to a child’s compliance with demands.

 
Secret service criticised after White House intruder prompts evacuation Print E-mail

White House: US secret service officers in front of the main entrance

Secret service criticised after White House intruder prompts evacuation

 Chris Johnston

An intruder who sparked an evacuation of the White House managed to get inside after jumping over the fence just minutes after President Obama had left, the US secret service said on Saturday.

The incident on Friday may have been the first time a fence-jumper has made it inside the US president's official residence, and it prompted fresh criticism of the secret service.

After scaling the fence on the north side of the White House, the intruder ran toward the building, ignoring calls from secret service agents to stop, spokesman Ed Donovan said. The 42-year-old man was apprehended just inside the north portico doors – the grand entrance that looks out over Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC.

Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives oversight and government reform subcommittee on national security, called the incident "totally unacceptable" and said it was just one of a string of security failings on the secret service's watch.

"Unfortunately, they are failing to do their job," said Chaffetz, who is from Utah. "These are good men and women, but the secret service leadership has a lot of questions to answer."

"Was the door open?" he added, incredulously.

Donovan said the man appeared to be unarmed to officers who spotted him jumping the fence. No weapons were found on the suspect, identified as Omar J Gonzalez, 42, of Copperas Cove, Texas. He was arrested and taken to a nearby hospital after complaining of chest pain.

 
US will not commit to UN climate change aid Print E-mail

US will not commit to UN climate change aid

Island in Marshall Islands atoll

Suzanne Goldenberg

Rich countries pledged $100bn a year by 2020 but only Germany has made significant contribution

Barack Obama will not be pledging any cash to a near-empty fund for poor countries at a United Nations summit on climate change next week, the UN special climate change envoy said on Friday.

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, has challenged the 125 world leaders attending the 23 September summit to make “bold pledges” to the fund, intended to help poor countries cope with climate change.

The UN has been pressing rich countries to come up with pledges of between $10bn and $15bn.

“We are putting a lot of pressure for them to do it at the summit on the 23rd,” the UN envoy and former Irish president, Mary Robinson, told the Guardian on the sidelines of a US Agency for International Development meeting. But she added: “I know the United States is not going to commit because I’ve asked.”

Obama put climate change at the top of his second term agenda, and the administration unveiled a host of new green measures in the run-up to next week’s meeting, including an initiative to cut the extremely potent greenhouse gas used as a coolant in refrigerators and air conditioners.

Obama’s speech to the summit will showcase those US actions, such as proposed new rules cutting carbon pollution from power plants.

“The president will use his speech at the climate summit to call on other leaders to keep their ambitions high and to work for a strong global framework to cut emissions,” White House adviser John Podesta told a conference call with reporters.

 
How Long Can the GOP Hide the Crazy? Print E-mail

No Todd Akins or Richard Mourdocks so far this year. But there’s still time—and here are some candidates who might slip.

I have to give the Republicans credit for one thing in this election cycle. They’ve been able to keep their crazies quiet. But the big question is: Will some GOP crazy talk seep out between now November 4? In the words of Sarah Palin, I’d have to say, “You betcha.”

We’ve recently seen some glimmers of Republican lunacy. Just last week the Arizona State Republican Party’s vice-chair, Russell Pearce, offered this gem: “You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I’d do is get Norplant, birth-control implants, or tubal ligations.” Translation: forced sterilization of poor women to make sure they don’t have more babies. Pearce resigned on Sunday.

That’s an awful remark. But that wouldn’t even get him to the GOP final four of crazy when you compare it with the crap we’ve heard come of the mouths of Republican candidates in recent years. 

 Who can forget in 2012 the double whammy of GOP Senate candidates comments about rape? First, there was Rep. Todd Akin who told us when there’s a “legitimate rape” of a woman, her body somehow is able to magically block the unwanted pregnancy.

 Then came Indiana’s Senate nominee, Richard Mourdock, who told us that pregnancy from rape is in essence a good thing because it’s “something God intended.” Consequently he, like Akin, believed that women who were raped should be legally required to carry the rapist’s child to term.

And in 2010, there was Sharron Angle, who lost a possibly winnable Senate race against Harry Reid in Nevada with comments like people might need to look toward “Second Amendment remedies” to turn this country around and “the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.” It’s not often—in America at least- we see politicians suggest that maybe their political opponent should be shot.

Now some might ask: Maybe we aren’t hearing those types of remarks because the Republican Party no longer has right-wing crazies? (I’ll pause so you can finish laughing.) True, some “wacko birds,” to quote John McCain, lost in the primaries this year, but still the GOP still is chock full o’ nuts.

And I think we are well positioned to see some of these candidates take a journey on the crazy train in the closing weeks of this election cycle. Why? Three reasons. First, the debates are coming up, and as we saw in 2012 with Mourdock, the more these people talk in an unscripted forum, the more likely the guano will ooze out.

 
Blackwater Founder: We Could Stop ISIS Print E-mail

Erik Prince says his old private army could have dealt with the Islamic State militants on their own—and that Republicans need to start fighting ‘like we pay them to.’

Erik Prince has a message for ISIS: You’re lucky Blackwater is gone.

On Friday night, the controversial founder of the private military company had plenty to say about what the organization he once ran could be doing in the fight against the so-called Islamic State—and also why Republicans need to stop being such losers.

“It’s a shame the [Obama] administration crushed my old business, because as a private organization, we could’ve solved the boots-on-the-ground issue, we could have had contracts from people that want to go there as contractors; you don’t have the argument of U.S. active duty going back in there,” Prince said in an on-stage discussion featuring retired four-star Gen. James Conway. “[They could have] gone in there and done it, and be done, and not have a long, protracted political mess that I predict will ensue.”

Prince was speaking at a dinner event for donors to the Maverick PAC, a conservative group with ties to the Bush dynasty, at the Capital Hilton just blocks from the White House.

His private military company (since rebranded as Academi) courted more than its fair share of trouble during the Bush years, in large part due to Blackwater guards gunning down 17 civilians in Baghdad. The Obama administration severed most ties with Blackwater, and Prince sold the company and uprooted to Abu Dhabi, where he continued doing sketchy work with security forces. Feeling betrayed by the Obama administration, he has since said that his days working for the U.S. government are over.

 “I want you to tell your congressman that we pay them to fight,” Prince told the crowd. “They are hired to fight for our values, for what you sent them there to do… I am sick and tired of Republicans getting rolled—having a lousy, weak leadership that gets rolled every time by the Democratic Party. We’re like… Charlie Brown trying to kick the football every time and they keep taking it away… I encourage the Republican Party to get off their ass and fight like we pay them to.”

 
The Billionaire and Millionaire Boom Print E-mail

The Billionaire and Millionaire Boom

The billionaire ranks are growing rapidly in many countries. Who's minting the most new members of the ultra-rich class? WSJ’s Jason Bellini has #TheShortAnswer.

 
Rice case: purposeful misdirection by team, scant investigation by NFL Print E-mail

Ray Rice

Rice case: purposeful misdirection by team, scant investigation by NFL

By Don Van Natta Jr. and Kevin Van Valkenburg

The seven-month scandal that is threatening Roger Goodell's future as NFL commissioner began with an unexpected phone call in the early morning hours on a Saturday in February.

Just hours after running back Ray Rice knocked out his then-fiancée with a left hook at the Revel Hotel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the Baltimore Ravens' director of security, Darren Sanders, reached an Atlantic City police officer by phone. While watching surveillance video -- shot from inside the elevator where Rice's punch knocked his fiancée unconscious -- the officer, who told Sanders he just happened to be a Ravens fan, described in detail to Sanders what he was seeing.

Sanders quickly relayed the damning video's play-by-play to team executives in Baltimore, unknowingly starting a seven-month odyssey that has mushroomed into the biggest crisis confronting a commissioner in the NFL's 95-year history.

Ray Rice and Steve Bisciotti

"Outside the Lines" interviewed more than 20 sources over the past 11 days -- team officials, current and former league officials, NFL Players Association representatives and associates, advisers and friends of Rice -- and found a pattern of misinformation and misdirection employed by the Ravens and the NFL since that February night.

After the Feb. 15 incident in the casino elevator, Ravens executives -- in particular owner Steve Bisciotti, president Dick Cass and general manager Ozzie Newsome -- began extensive public and private campaigns pushing for leniency for Rice on several fronts: from the judicial system in Atlantic County, where Rice faced assault charges, to commissioner Goodell, who ultimately would decide the number of games Rice would be suspended from this fall, to within their own building, where some were arguing immediately after the incident that Rice should be released.

The Ravens also consulted frequently with Rice's Philadelphia defense attorney, Michael J. Diamondstein, who in early April had obtained a copy of the inside-elevator video and told Cass: "It's f---ing horrible." Cass did not request a copy of the video from Diamondstein but instead began urging Rice's legal team to get Rice accepted into a pretrial intervention program after being told some of the program's benefits. Among them: It would keep the inside-elevator video from becoming public.

 
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