Wednesday, April 27, 2005

EXCLUSIVE! We are now officially a tabloid!

Our former USC classmate Arash Markazi has a piece in the latest issue of SI on Campus (yes, it's an actual magazine that Sports Illustrated actually prints that we've actually held in our hands) on Matt Leinart, who was awarded SI on Campus' U-Award. It's apparently the equivalent of Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year, and it's no surprise that it was given to the Golden Boy. But what piqued our interest was Leinart's mention of the special lady in his life. No, not his mom...his girlfriend.
In fact, Leinart has been dating USC freshman basketball player Brynn Cameron since February. The two had been friends since they met in a study hall in October. "I have a girlfriend now who I'm very happy with," says Leinart, who attended a handful of women's basketball games this past season disguised in a hat and an oversized hooded sweatshirt. "I'm a normal guy, just like any other 21-year-old college student, and I'm with someone who treats me normal and that's the most important thing. It's hard to trust a lot of people right now and know exactly what they're after."
Now, you could go to the USC athletic department website to get a photo of Cameron, but only here will you find an additional, non standard-issue photo of the precocious freshman. Yes, we have sources. That are good.

We'd like to note that while we're certainly happy for Bachelor Bob, er, Leinart, the fact that he's dating a freshman still living in a dorm who is perhaps not as hot as the women he's been linked to in the past (Jessica Simpson, Alyssa Milano, etc.) confirms that the lefthander is much closer to the nerd he claims to be than the ladies man most assume that he is. And in light of how much trouble some of his teammates have been getting into, that is probably a very good thing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Please Stop With the Sexual Assaults!

Today the Los Angeles District Attorney's office announced that it would not be filing charges against USC cornerback Eric Wright in an alleged sexual assault case that had prompted Pete Carroll to suspend Wright from participating in spring practice. As a Trojan fan, it's nice to know that the talented Wright will be on the field (and not behind bars) when USC begins its quest for an unprecedented third national title in the fall. But apart from our own hedonistic desire for the Trojans to field the best team possible, this most recent incident begs the question, "Just what is it with USC players, rape, and the DA deciding not to file charges?"

For the record, we're against sexual assault of any kind. If Wright had done what was alleged, then he should have been prosecuted and convicted, regardless of the impact that would have had on the fortunes of the Trojans. But these allegations, along with similar charges made (but not brought) against running back Hershel Dennis last fall, no doubt leave interested parties scratching their heads. How does this keep happening?

First, let's make a clear distinction between these rape allegations and the incident between Dominique Byrd and Steve Smith. They don't deserve to be grouped together, especially by those looking to back up the thesis that the sky is falling on the Men of Troy. The Smith/Byrd fight was, like Pete Carroll noted, much closer to a tussle between brothers than the manifestation of real animosity between teammates. The circumstances surrounding the incident indicate that Smith and Byrd are friends, and that they had a friendly disagreement that, regrettably, ended in Byrd suffering a broken jaw. Remember, these are top-flight athletes, so it's not surprising that a confrontation produced said results. Smith expressed remorse and regret over the foolishness of the situation; Byrd has not spoken to the press (or much of anyone, thanks to his jaw being wired shut). On a team of competitive athletes, confrontations likely occur every day (which Carroll seemed to imply in his comments), and though what happened was regrettable, it's not exactly the end of the world.

Now, if the same thing happens again between two different players, then we might start to get concerned that the Trojans really do have a problem on their hands. That's why, though the Hershel Dennis saga was troubling, the Eric Wright situation was much more deeply so. One could write off Dennis as an isolated incident, an instance of a single player exercising bad judgment. But for the same thing to happen to Wright? This deserves a closer look.

That's going to be hard for outsiders to accomplish, whether they be from the local or national media. Even the beat reporters from the local dailies don't hang around the players outside of practice or games, or attend parties at USC, or have friends who live at the apartment complex (Cardinal Gardens) where both of the alleged sexual assaults occurred. We, on the other hand, do.

The first thing you should know is that most of the USC football players are not exactly beacons of virtue. They might be great guys (the ones that we've met all are), but like most college students, they engage in such activities as underage drinking and casual sex. The drinking part we've seen with our own eyes; the sex has happened behind closed doors but we've either heard about it or read it in the LA Times.

Let's break down what we believe may have happened in the Wright case. We're using the Dennis case as a precedent, where it seems that Hershel engaged in consensual sex with a woman who later claimed that she had been raped. That they had sex was not in dispute, but the DA was unable to unearth sufficient evidence to prove that it was not consensual. Also, alcohol and/or drugs were involved. Dennis told the Daily Trojan that, "the girl, she was already intoxicated." So in this case, it seems that Dennis had sex with a woman who was drunk; whether or not she was in the state of mind where she could give consent to that sex was the issue.

Now, indulge us for a moment. You're a young, beautiful woman. You're at a party. Everyone is drinking. You become intoxicated. You wake up the next morning, and the events of the previous night are murky. And yet, you know that you had sex last night (as a female friend of ours once said, "You can tell when you've had sex.") You start putting the pieces together; you talk with some of your friends about who you were with last night. You were talking with a USC football player. You left with that player, your friends tell you. People saw you enter his apartment. You woke up the next morning in his apartment. Hmmm, you think to yourself, I don't remember wanting to have sex. Was I raped?

We imagine that the woman who made the sexual assault claim against Eric Wright may have gone through a similar experience. Like the Dennis situation, alcohol was clearly involved, this time at a fraternity party where Wright and the woman met and eventually left, together. At some point, they likely engaged in intercourse. The issue, again, was that of consent.

Let's take a look at what the law of the state of California says with regard to the issue of consent as it relates to sexual assault:
Consent: Positive cooperation in the act or expressing an intent to engage in the act pursuant to an exercise of free will. The person must act freely and voluntarily and have knowledge of the nature of the act or transaction involved. A person who is giving consent cannot be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, unconscious, passed out, coming in and out of consciousness, under the threat of violence, bodily injury or other forms of coercion, and cannot have a mental disorder, developmental disability or physical disability that would impair his/her understanding of the act. [Emphasis added.]
It seems clear, then, that if the alleged victim in either the Dennis or the Wright case was drunk when she had intercourse, she has been sexually assaulted, in the eyes of the law. We don't dispute that, but the reality is that at colleges and universities, intoxicated women have sex all the time, and rarely are claims of sexual assault or rape made. Often it is those women who are the instigators of the act. That's not to allege that happened in these two cases, but it's worth noting that it's not uncommon. What's certain is that once alcohol enters the equation, things get murkier. Buf if these were both cases of men having sex with intoxicated women, they seem to be fairly cut-and-dried, at least according to state law, as long as the prosecutor could prove that the victim was intoxicated. So why were charges never brought in either case?

The most likely hypothesis is that each of the accusers decided not to testify in court, something not uncommon in sexual assault or domestic violence situations. Another possibility is that the accusers (whose identities we do not know) may have been under the drinking age. Would that have had an influence on the prosecutor? It's hard to say. But if the central tenet of the case was proving the accuser was intoxicated, and that accuser was under 21, it may well have complicated the case. A third possibility is that these assaults never happened; that the women were in full control of their faculties and thus able to grant consent in both instances, yet for some reason they felt compelled to make these allegations ex post facto. We don't put much stock in that theory, though when the accused has some level of notoriety (as in these instances), it's not completely unheard of.

So what is a Trojan fan to take from these two regrettable incidents? First, that no matter what Pete Carroll tells his troops, they're probably going to keep finding their way into trouble. And second, if those players want to insulate themselves from facing similar allegations in the future, they ought to stop having sex with drunk girls.

UPDATE: An article in Thursday's LA Times seems to confirm much of what we had postulated:
According to the district attorney's charge evaluation worksheet, prosecutors were considering charges of forcible oral copulation, forcible sexual penetration and rape. The worksheet said the 18-year-old student who made the allegations against Wright was intoxicated on the night she met Wright at a party. When the alleged victim left the party, Wright put a blue pill he said was Ecstasy in the woman's mouth, the report said.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Ann Althouse asks, we answer

If Jesus wore a t-shirt, what would it say?

Monday, April 18, 2005

New Calvin Klein Ad Campaign Announced


Our Favorite Jacko Post

Just when we start complaining that there's nothing interesting in the news, Drudge flashes a Michael Jackson headline. Finally, something surfaces about which we've got plenty to say.

Geraldo Rivera -- yes, the Edward R. Murrow of our day -- apparently alleged on Los Angeles radio station KFI that the current case against Jackson is destined to fall apart when it finally goes to trial. Now, it's not that we'd doubt something Geraldo told us, but considering Jackson's past pay-offs and continuing bizarre behavior, we're going to wait until all the facts are in before making a judgment for ourselves.

Speaking of Geraldo's assurances that Jackson is innocent (of these particular charges, it should be noted), we've been bothered since this fiasco began by the "outpouring of love and support" from Jackson's fans, who say that they just know in their hearts that the King of Pop is innocent. Echoing the critical thinking skills of the left-wing die-hards in Evan Coyne Maloney's recent short documentary on inauguration protestors, the only evidence these Jackson supporters cite is their own love of his music. They transfer that love of a Jackson product over to Jackson himself -- a dangerous but not unprecedented behavior.

From O.J. Simpson to Kobe Bryant, fans of troubled celebrities have always rushed forward to maintain their hero's innocence, with little regard to the evidence or, more importantly, the victims of these alleged crimes. Perhaps Simpson and Bryant are poor examples, as both were exonerated (more or less -- neither was convicted of a crime) in the court system, but it's not as if their fans knew before the end of the trial that would be the case. Similarly, even if these charges against Jackson do not result in a conviction, the quality of his music will not be the reason why.

We should add say that we're also fans of Jackson's music, but that doesn't make us Jacko apologists. We find this situation very sad -- our sympathy goes out first to the victims (if indeed they prove to be) and we also find ourselves feeling sorry for Michael, though certainly not enough to excuse this kind of (alleged) behavior. He was a celebrity by age 9, but even before that he was a singer first and a little boy second. He never went to school -- the kind of school that you and I attended, where we developed our social skills -- a day in his life. His father, as has been documented, was not the most kind. Being a superstar kept him from having any semblance of a normal life, preventing him from being able to go out in public and imprisioning him inside the world he was forced to create. Remember, this was not the life that he chose, but one that was chosen for him.

And then there is his ghastly appearance. An accident in 1984, when his hair caught fire while filming a commercial for Pepsi, may have been what led him to plastic surgery (it's unclear whether he had gone under the knife earlier), which obviously for Jackson has become an addiction. But he also suffers from a rare skin disease called vitiligo, best described as "albino spots" caused by loss of pigmentation. This is a very real condition (several of our family members have it) and one that can be particularly destructive psychologically, especially for a black man and one whose job involves being in the public eye. Additionally, the 46 year-old Jackson also suffers from lupus, according to a source who worked with him on his landmark music video, Thriller.

As to whether Michael Jackson is guilty or innocent, we're not sure. But one thing is certain: his life, which we once thought was the quintessial American success story, is actually an American tragedy.

Original post date: January 26, 2005

The Real Jeff Greenfield?

Has CNN's Jeff Greenfield learned his lesson? Glenn Reynolds links to a Howard Kurtz article that quotes Greenfield as one of the few defenders of blogs among members of the MSM.
CNN analyst Jeff Greenfield likes many blogs and doesn't much worry about "the baked-potato brains who say you're a media whore. . . . On the whole, I'm real happy to know there are a lot of people watching with the capacity to check me. I don't think that's chilling. It's just another incentive to get your facts right."

As for "smear artists" on the Internet, Greenfield says, "The freedom that it gives anonymous twerps to spew out invective -- that they don't like the way you look or think you're an idiot or a child abuser -- that's just part of the process."

But Greenfield hasn't always been a cheerleader of blogs. We quote from our February 18th post about a speech Greenfield made at UCLA in the wake of Eason Jordan's resignation from CNN, to which Vodkapundit linked with the comment:"CNN's Jeff Greenfield: It's the fault of blogs. Huh?" An excerpt from the post:
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From an article in the UCLA student newspaper, the Daily Bruin:
Speaking about American media in a 45-minute speech, Greenfield refrained from analyzing specific incidents of bias in the media, and instead asked people to look inward to determine the root of the alleged problem.

"Are you part of the problem?" Greenfield rhetorically asked.
Finally, someone (from CNN, no less) willing to stick out his neck on the subject of MSM bias and point the finger students?
Greenfield also spoke about the public['s] aversion to reading material that goes against their own core beliefs. To many people, Greenfield explained, "unwelcome info is proof of bias."
Especially CNN executives, who have an aversion to reading the latest ratings showing them getting spanked by, say, FOX News...because that unwelcome information is clearly biased!
Greenfield cited the profusion of various media sources, from satellite news to Internet Web logs, as partially responsible for creating an atmosphere of unaccountability where people struggle to find trustworthy sources.
That's interesting. Blogs creating an atmosphere of unnaccountability? Tell that to Dan Rather. Or Eason Jordan. Or Trent Lott. If anything, the blogosphere and satellite networks like FOX News are the ones holding the rest of the media responsible -- and it's that irresponsibility exhibited by the MSM that has sent people looking for trustworthy sources in the first place. But Greenfield doesn't seem to get that. Big surprise.
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We're not quite sure what changed Greenfield's mind, but it's worth noting he wasn't such a staunch defender of the blogger eight weeks ago. We'd posit that Greenfield changing his mind on blogs -- specifically why -- is a bigger story than someone like Adam Nagourney getting his feelings hurt when Mickey Kaus writes mean things about him. It seems, however, that Howard Kurtz does not read our blog and thus, missed out on the big story. (Ed. note: like Greenfield, Kurtz is also employed by CNN...not that there's anything wrong with that!)

UPDATE: Alert reader Mickey Kaus emails to tell us that "at the Dem convention Greenfield was very high on blogs." He thinks the comments we noted were an abberation in the wake of the Eason Jordan scandal. If that's the case, this might just be an even more interesting story than we first thought. Greenfield changes his mind on blogs faster than a blogger in his pajamas can post on it!