Saturday, June 29, 2013

Ronda Rousey might not be very good for MMA's image

For my own part, I don't care if she's good for MMA's image.  For crying out loud, it's a semi-legal fistfight in a cage.  Pretending that sports in general and MMA in particular encourage good, upstanding people is an exercise in futility.  They are people looking for a legal way to beat the shit out of other human beings.

That said, the UFC is pretty interested in creating a good image for MMA.  Which is why they are forced, against their personal preferences, to support a fighter like Georges St-Pierre.  He's so wholesome, amirite?  They initially tried to pitch John Jones like that, a good Christian family man, but he turned out to be too weird.

I think they're making a slightly different, but related, mistake with Rousey.  Unlike Jones, who is hard to like because he's weird, Rousey is hard to like because she's so petty and mean.

So, recently, she said she would love to "beat the shit" out of Brian Caraway, Miesha Tate's boyfriend, because of stuff he said on Twitter.  She won't because she thinks he's the kind of "bitch" who would "sue". (Perhaps she doesn't understand that assault is generally charged under criminal statues and the real risk is prison.)

She is hardly, of course, the first fighter to hate another fighter.  (Though it is, perhaps, the first time a championship fighter has had such a public fight with two other fighters who are a couple.)  And it's interesting to see such an aggressive woman (though, let's be fair, she's doing something I find pretty chickenshit - she's the one hiding, saying she'd beat up so-and-so if not for the law . . . . I mean, I feel the same way, I'd totally beat the shit out of John Jones except it's against the law; that's what's stopping me, the law, really, I swear) but the more she opens her mouth, the more shallow, petty and mean she comes off.

Seriously, you'd beat a guy up because of what he says on Twitter?  Ronda, grow up.  It's fucking Twitter.  You don't want to get bent out of shape?  Stop going on Twitter.  Or use some sort of filter so you never see or hear what Tate and Caraway say.  It's not that hard.

But, no, she's the kind of person who gets bent out of shape over Twitter and then says she'd beat someone up if the law didn't stop her.  Ugh.  That's so . . . thirteen year old asshole on the Internet.  The faux bravery ("I'd beat them up IF . . .") combined with the juvenile rationale for the problem.  Rousey ends up looking, to me, like a twerp, a childish Internet bully who just happens to know how to armbar people.

I suspect there's going to be a Frank Shamrock thing going on.  Sure, she's the baddest woman in the world - well, except when she dodges fights with Cris Cyborg, so the second baddest woman in the world, let's be honest - but, like Shamrock, she's a not-too-bright bullying asshole.  She is going to remind people that MMA is a sport of brutal jerks.  For a bit, little girls will go, "I want to be like her!"  But, like Shamrock, as time goes on and she becomes absurd, those same people will sigh and shake their heads, reminding themselves that they were children when they admired her.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Reporting sucks today - the BBC editors and writers should be fired

I read two fairly horrible articles on  The first was "Big rise in new 'legal highs' - UN Drug Report" and the second was "Did our brains evolve to foolish follow celebrities?"

In the first about legal highs, the article is about the spread of designer drugs for whom no legislation exists and how the chemistry of drug designers works faster than law enforcement in criminalizing them.  The article goes on to say that this is bad because the new designer drugs are dangerous.  This is stupid in at least two ways.  One: it takes as a given that getting high, in any fashion at all, should be illegal.  Two: the facts are wrong.

Now, why should it be taken that getting high should be illegal?  It is untrue, of course.  We are allowed to get high, legally, with alchohol and nicotine (I should, perhaps, add caffiene to that list).  These things are legal and regulated and they get you high.  Alcohol, in particular, has the power to get you as fucked up as any illegal drug -- the characteristic of the high is different than, say, LSD, but you can get yourself totally wasted by alcohol to a similar extent as LSD.  While nicotine lacks that kind of potential in the way the industrialized world generally uses it (though if you're fond of a hookah, you can get pretty goddamn smashed, I should add), clearly we are not systematically opposed to intoxication.  So why should we presume all other forms of intoxication are bad?  Yet, in a totally unspoken way, the article does exactly that.

Afterward, it just says that designer drugs are unsafe.  Really?  Let's think this through.

(One of the unsafe drugs mentioned is "bath salts", which is just sloppy journalism.  Almost no one takes bath salts because the high isn't very good and the crash is quite bad.  But after that guy freaked out here in Miami had started eating a dude's face, there was a bath salts scare.  Bath salts had nothing to do with the attack, but once a good scare is started it's good for sensationalism to bring it up.  Who cares if people don't actually use bath salts?  Bath salts are bad!)

Alcohol and nicotine can kill you.  In the US, alone, the CDC says that 60,000 die every year because they drink too much.  The CDC says that cigarette smoking causes twenty percent of deaths in America, 443,000.  Fifty thousand of those deaths are from second hand smoke -- fifty thousand non-smokers die every year because of cigarettes.

In 2010, a study by the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs ranked how dangerous various drugs were on a scale of 1 to 100, taking into account personal harm, harm to others, costs to society.  Alcohol got a 72, the highest score - this is above heroin at 55 and crack cocaine at 54.  Tobacco was right under cocaine at 25.  Cannabis rated a 21.  Mephedrone - one of the "dangeorus" designer drugs - rated a 12.  Ecstasy rates a 9.  LSD is down at around 7 and magic mushrooms a 5.

So, most illegal drugs are safer than most legal ones.  The dangerous mephedrone, meow meow in the article, is . . . pretty goddamn safe.  Safer than cannabis.  Ecstasy, LSD and magic mushrooms?  Single digits.

I question the report in several serious ways.  There is no real indication that cannabis harms the user.  So why does it rate above, y'know, in the same ballpark as cocaine and amphetamines?  And how does nicotine, causing so many deaths, rate lower than alcohol?  So, far from perfect.

Yet, many of the drugs we thing are dangerous - mushrooms, LSD, ecstasy - are very . . . well, safe compared to things that are already legal.  And mephedrone, one of the drugs the reporter specifically mentions, is much safe than the legal drugs of tobacco and alcohol. 

In short: there is no reason to presume designer drugs are dangerous.  That's just pure sensationalism created out of a fairly bizarre idea that being high on anything other than booze or cigarettes is somehow worse than being high on booze and cigarettes.  It's also just plain wrong and clearly no one fact-checked the article, so it's a failure on the editorial level, too, for a newspaper that is supposed to report facts.

The second bad article is about the effects of prestige on society.  The article opines that we should not care what underwear David Beckham wears - that Beckham's social prestige makes us care more than we "should" for extraneous things like his fashion choices.

What the article fails to really address is that this isn't happenstance.  We care what underwear David Beckham wears because someone make a multimillion dollar advertising campaign to sell us Calvin Klein briefs.  Left to our own devices, most of us would never, ever learn, or care to learn, what briefs Beckham wears and care about his prestige in his area of legitimate expertise - soccer.

The use of the prestige of celebrity to sell us things is not a maladaptation to the modern world.  It is an adaptation that is being consciously, actively subverted by advertisers to sell us crap we do not need.  Without the influence of advertisers, would the prestige of celebrity be so odious?  Is it bad to hold up David Beckham in considerable prestige due to his really incredible athletic skills?  Or to hold up Beyonce for her skill as an entertainer?  But what happens is this prestige, this false authority, is being repackaged by advertisers as a means to manipulate us.  It isn't just happenstance.  Someone is doing it.

When you fail to mention something so important in an article about how prestige is used to influence us - that there are a group of people consciously manipulating this psychological reality - then you've failed as a journalist.

Then I stopped reading the news because I remembered how horrible it is, generally.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

"Friends of Syria"

A bunch of countries, the US among them, have representatives in Qatar to decide how much aid to give to the rebels.  This baffles me.  I know that they're using chemical weapons as the fig leaf to rationalize the intervention, even though reports of chemical weapons use seem to be equally leveled against both sides.  Not to mention that the rebels aren't a peach, they're frequently crazy religious fundie nutjobs of the sort we've seen take over other Middle Eastern countries . . . in part because they get funding from the US.

So, over in Syria we have two political groups, both detestable.  It is baffling to me why the US would involve itself in so ugly a conflict, support religious fundamentalists, once again.  Power makes people stupid, I think.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Thoughts on WSOF 3's main card

In the wake of Josh Burkman avenging his loss against Jon Fitch, I have a few thoughts.

First and foremost, get Mazzagatti out of the goddamn cage. He's a menace to fighters. I understand that reffing MMA is harder than reffing boxing – there are more judgment calls. I get that. But Mazzagatti is terrible. Fire him before someone gets hurt.

Second, John! This just validates Dana White's assholery! It elevates his bad decisions to the realms of oracle! Now he can just smugly say that he knew that this was going to happen, which is why he fired you!

Third, well, yeah, I also saw it coming so it's possible White, with his greater access to information, knew it, too. Fitch came off of a year-long rehab of a separated shoulder to get kneed in the face by Johny Hendricks. Then he got outwrestled by BJ Penn for two rounds before pulling off a draw more due to Penn's lack of stamina than anything in particular he did. Then he narrowly beat Erick Silva and was dominated in a positional battle by Demian Maia before getting submitted by Burkman. There is a word for this and the word is “shot”. He's getting to be in his mid-thirties and more than one athlete has failed to recover from a separated shoulder. I'm sure Fitch works real hard, but since he's utterly opposed to the kind of therapies that would allow a 34-year old dude to recover from a bad separated shoulder, his inability to beat anyone of stature in his past four fights indicated to me he should start looking for a job with less physical trauma involved. Fitch has shown greatly diminished ability to win the positional battles upon which his style depends and it isn't like he's radically improved his striking to make up for it. Also, his chin seems to be going. There are only so many head blows a dude can take, after all.

I know, this seems to disrespect Josh Burkman, diminish the significance of his victory. Well, yeah. This is not the same John Fitch as before his shoulder separation. Maybe it's the shoulder, maybe his love of fighting has waned, maybe it's something else or some combination, but regardless of the cause, the effect is that if John Fitch can't beat Josh Burkman, he's no longer a force in MMA. The fight was, I think, far more a referendum on Fitch's diminished performance than a demonstration that Burkman is now a top welterweight.

But, really, the takeaway message from all of this is that Steve Mazzagatti is a terrible referee and need to be taken out of the game before someone gets seriously hurt.