Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Baseball Thing

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This first thing you have to do, if you want to ask normal journalistic questions about a big sports project, is prove that you’re a decent American and not some pansy, creampuff college boy who spent his adolescence holed up in a study carrel reading Herbert Marcuse and comic books instead of masturbating to the Mike Andrews/Reggie Smith rookie card like the normal guys.

Well, I had that particular baseball card. What I did with it is my business. If you want a more recent example, last Saturday night at a party, Jim Bouton sought me out and said a whole bunch nice things to me about a radio show we had done 30 hours before that. I glowed all night. Seriously. Jim Bouton made me glow.

I know how this works  In 1998, I opposed the Patriots deal from day one. The Courant, meanwhile, lost control of its bowels. The newspaper issued its first “Extra” in God knows how many decades. “TOUCHDOWN!” read the banner headline.  The editors and publishers behind this shameful breach of journalism had done exactly zero analysis. They were too dizzy from prospective jock-sniffing. A week or so later, the Courant sports section did a jolly list of 100 Great Things About the Patriots Coming to Hartford. Maybe it wasn’t 100. I don’t remember. I do remember that one of the great things was “Bruce Armstrong will beat up Colin McEnroe.” I was asking too many questions, you see. The sports department didn’t like that. They thought an offensive tackle should beat me up.

One more piece of bona fides: I’ve spent my adult life wanting the best for Hartford. Sometimes this has involved cheerleading. Sometimes, criticism. Sometimes it has involved active participation in the creation and performance of culture here. I work in Hartford, play in Hartford, park in Hartford. Tonight I have tickets for Hartford Stage, a Dwight Evans throw from the proposed new stadium.

OK? Jeez!

I still think there are some questions to ask and things not to like about this plan. Some of them will be dealt with in my Sunday column. Here are some others.

1. Will it work economically? Sports economist Andrew Zimbalist laid it out pretty well elsewhere in the Courant. If the city collects $500,000 in rent and pays a couple million in debt service, how does the city not lose money? Mayor Segarra apparently has a few ideas, but so far, they’re just that.  Any idea  that requires state approval is dicey because …

2. What does this do to Hartford’s profile at the Capitol? It’s pretty clear the Dan Malloy wants no part of this initiative. Segarra did not bring him along, and that may have consequences when Hartford wants something else from the state: the legislature and/or the governor. “Really? You need X? Funny. You seem to have $60 million lying around for baseball.”

3. Will it work economically for the Solomons, owners of the Rock Cats? Not that I care about their happiness. But if they finance ten percent of the stadium and quintuple their rent, is the franchise going to be OK? There are good reasons for asking about this.

The team playing in the $12 million Bernie Robbins Stadium in Atlantic City, New Jersey, which opened in 1998, folded in 2009. Wilbur Banks, a spokesman for Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford, said now renamed Surf Stadium has hosted youth baseball tournaments and concerts since the team left.

That’s the nightmare scenario. The franchise folds, and Hartford gets stuck with …what?Lord White Elephant

4. What about Hartford’s Moody’s rating?  From the same article:

Moody’s Investors Service cut Ramapo’s rating two steps to A1, the fifth-highest level, in 2012, citing “considerable exposure” to the debt used to fund the stadium and two years of deficits. In October, Moody’s confirmed the grade and assigned a negative outlook.

5. Can we talk about the size and cost of this thing? Paul Doyle’s article today suggests that it’s in line with the trends, but that’s a little sneaky because most of Doyle’s examples are AAA teams. There’s a bigger gap in the economics of AA and AAA than the slight difference in letters would imply.  Also, the next step is looking at how many of these projects can be considered successful. Paul mentions Akron but fails to note that the building, designed for 9400, drew an average of 4220 last season. Here’s a helpful analysis on minor league stadium size. The authors do caution against paying too much for seats you don’t need, which then spreads out into additional maintenance costs.

6. I’m troubled by the degree to which this has been presented as a fait accompli, negotiated in secret and then rolled out with the Council votes supposedly already lined up, sans open public debate. There’s a public hearing Monday night, but, really, what they’re telling us is that its too late to ask questions. This is happening. Well, when was the right time to ask questions? This is antithetical to open, responsive government, and it’s also the way a lot of bad ideas become real things — because there’s nobody in the room asking the hard questions.

7. As a matter of regional policy, it doesn’t really make sense to spend $50 mililon or more in public dollars to move a private business 13.4 miles. If they want a new building, the Solomons should build one. As Ralph Nader said about this on WNPR, maybe it’s time for the capitalists to start acting like capitalists.

8. Bouton is in a terrific documentary coming out later this year. It’s called “The Battered Bastards of Baseball.” It’s the amazing story of a renegade minor league team in the 1970s, and it makes many wonderful points. But for now, consider this one. If we build the stadium and get behind the team, there will come a day when the Hartford nine are piling up wins and charging toward the playoffs, and what will happen? One of the best players will get called up to the Twins. And two more will get moved up to Twins AAA to replace other guys who got called up.  Never forget, the citizens of Hartford will be providing a service not only to the Solomons but also to the wealthy owners of the Twins, who will extend to us all the gratitude and respect you would extend to a paper towel.

 

 

The New York Times Is Losing It

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Ask any attorney who handles employment law: this is the dumbest thing the New York Times could have done. Even if its true, it’s a mistake to say it, because (a) it makes them look like they’re panicking and (b) the state of employment law in 2014 militates against both public and private belittling of one’s former employee. (It’s why references in employment have become kind of a joke.)

Piled on top of that is another question. Jill Abramson undoubtedly signed a severance agreement that includes a non-disparagement clause. She can’t say anything bad about the Times, and she can ‘t even say she signed such an agreement. It’ll be tied to her severance package. These have become commonplace. (If you think very hard, you’ll figure out how I know that.)

The question is: did her lawyer negotiate a reciprocal agreement? If so, the Times is in breach.

The Times also seems somehow involved in a less public version of this battle.  This Fox story contains information about two other employees that almost had to come from a Times source close to Sulzberger’s office:

In the Times’ view, compensation questions are complicated. For instance, when Andy Rosenthal took over as the paper’s editorial page editor, he was initially paid less than his predecessor, Gail Collins. It was Sulzberger who appointed Collins as the first woman to hold that job.

 

 

My Bad Prediction and the GOP’s Hidden Diversity

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Here is this week’s column.

First things first: So much for my predictive abilities.  My editor Peter Pach tried, on Wednesday, when I filed the column, to talk me out of this paragraph.

Six years later, here is their probable field: Five white men running for the five congressional seats. White men running for governor, attorney general, treasurer and secretary of state. The Republicans are so white, they even found a white candidate named James Brown. The lone exceptions could be lieutenant governor (two credible white women seeking the nomination) and comptroller, where Angel Cadena Jr. has emerged as a candidate after the party chair admitted a month ago, that there was nobody planning to run.

I emailed him: “Well, unless I’m missing something, the ONLY way I could be wrong with any  of those statements would be if the white woman beat the white man in the second district. ” 

And guess what happened?  So they have one more white woman Congressional candidate than I had predicted. Not that that really solves their demographic problem. (Before you email me, yes, I know, the Democrats aren’t really much better.) They also did not choose the one and only person of color seeking office at their convention, the aforementioned Cadena. Sharon McLaughlin — you would have to be very familiar with the Ellington Republican Town Committee to know who that is — jumped into the race at the proverbial last minute and won.

But the other thing I could NEVER have predicted was the allegation by one lieutenant governor candidate that one of her opponents had conducted a whispering campaign about the fact that her husband is black.  Her husband is, in fact, Nigerian. His son, who has the same name, plays in the NFL, for the the Eagles.  All of that is not merely the coolest thing about Penny Bacchiochi. It’s the coolest thing about any of the Republican candidates in Connecticut this year.  And it’s much-needed (if tangential) diversity.  And the theory was that it was being whispered-about as a liability?

Republicans, I just don’t get you.

Phillippe Petit Leads A Sparkling Week on the Show

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Coming up this week on the Colin McEnroe Show:

Monday: The Scramble

Eric Deggans by Chion Wolf for WNPR

Eric Deggans by Chion Wolf for WNPR

Eric Deggans, music critic for NPR, joins us at the start of TV network upfront week. This is where the five major broadcast networks parade their best prospects for next year’s break-out hits in front of advertisers with lots of money. And, does it even matter what the networks are doing when so many others are making content? He’ll talk about that and more. And, we’ll bring you our favorite news of the weekend.

 

Tuesday: Navigating Our Way Home

Cellphones have the power to find immediately what world travelers in the last centuries spent lifetimes seeking– our place on the map. Hiawatha Bray, tech reporter for The Boston Globe, tells us how history may have been different if our ancestors had today’s technology to help them navigate more accurately. But, this pinpoint precision comes at a price. Where we didn’t used to know how to find ourselves, now we can’t get lost, no matter how hard we try. What was wrong with a map anyway? We also talk to a modern mapmaker and the author of a book about a rare-map dealer who made millions stealing priceless maps.

 

Wednesday: What’s On Your Child’s Reading List

It’s National Children’s Book Week and we’re celebrating with a show on the latest news and hottest books in the world of kids lit. We’ll have librarians and authors including WNPR’s own Jeff Cohen. We’ll get into the banning of books, yes, it is still done, the value of scary and dark books, and how technology is changing the way kids read. And, we want to hear from you. What children’s book changed your life?

 

Petit in "Man on Wire," photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Petit in “Man on Wire,” photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Thursday: Philippe Petit: We have loved Petit ever since the moment in “Man on Wire” when he says this: “To me it is so simple that life should be lived in the edge of life. You have to exercise in rebellion, to refuse to taper yourself to rules, to refuse your own success, to refuse to repeat yourself, to see every day, every year,every idea as a true challenge – and then you are going to live your life on a tightrope.” For this show, the man who walked a wire from tower to tower at the WTC joins us from a studio in New York City for a full-length conversation about creativity. We’re also working on a mind-blowing surprise guest to join him there.

 

Carolyn Paine by Chion Wolf for WNPR

Carolyn Paine by Chion Wolf for WNPR

Friday: The Nose Actress, comedian and dance troupe leader Carolyn Paine is practically a three-person panel all by herself. She, cineaste/troublemaker James Hanley and culture savant Irene Papoulis will be with us for this conversation.

Fare Thee Well, My Martha

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Martha Dean by Chion Wolf for WNPR

Martha Dean by Chion Wolf for WNPR

It was a bad poll, but it was just one poll.

My guess is that Martha Dean is dropping out for other reasons, although God knows the bad poll didn’t help.

At this stage, it’s all about the delegates, and Dean probably wasn’t finding many who would support her at the convention. (Of course, you can use good poll numbers — if you have them — to sway delegates, so the bad poll was part of a vicious cycle.)

I think the bad publicity about her tax liabilities was also a bitter pill, especially because — to explain the tax problems — she had to talk about her Jarndyce v. Jarndyce custody battle.

And maybe the Newtown Truther stuff stuck with her more than she had expected.

On behalf of all of us snakes and vermin, I say that she will be missed.

I should also admit error. I said she would vault to the Number Two spot in the field instantly. I was wrong. I overestimated the hard core gun constituency in the state. And so did she.

This Week on the CMS

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Monday: The Scramble

We bring you the latest head-turning, maybe chin-scratching, but hopefully interesting news from this weekend. But first, superguest David Daley, editor-in-chief of Salon.com will talk with Colin about what’s on his mind.  One way or another, we’ll look at the Donald Sterling controversy. And maybe the double-barreled canonizations.  How about the redrawing of Connecticut’s Munson-Gibson line?

 

Tuesday: Apitherapy

There are a lot of people who will tell you that Bee Venom helps their arthritis, or allergies, or gout, or their symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. And, bees aren’t in demand solely for their venom. They also produce local honey, pollen, royal jelly, bee bread, (that’s right, I said bee bread) and beeswax. And, honey bees work hard all year supplying the “Bee Triangle” during the warm months of summer in Connecticut, and during winters in California and Florida, where they pollinate orange groves, saw palmetto palms, gallberry plants (that’s right, I said gallberry plants) and more. So, today we learn just what our hardworking bees are up to–where they work, what they produce, how they cure our ills, and how much they help support our local economy.

Honeybee-cooling cropped extra 

Wednesday:  “Have We Lost Track of What a Villain Is?” Imagine that Richard III was not a play but a TV series, where every week he bumped off a few more people who stood in his way. Thats pretty much what “House of Cards,” the popular Netflix series is. The “anti-hero” of the Sixties has been replaced by the “anti-villain.” Tony Soprano, Dexter, Walter White, Al Swearingen. Men who kill without remorse but also invite us to identify with them. On “Justified,” Boyd Crowther, the neo-Nazi drug runner superbly played by Walton Goggins, oozes such charm and appeal that he’s almost driving the hero of the series to its margins. And vampires? They’re boyfriends and exotic pets — not the monster Bram Stoker imagined. What’s going on here? Some of it may spring from a common loathing of The System, an establishment so toxic and corroded that it almost deserves to be exploited by Frank Underwood. Maybe another factor is Phillip Rieff’s “Triumph of the Therapeutic.” What is Darth Vader but a psychologically bruised Anakin Skywalker? But you have to wonder what happens when we lose the stark moral language of Dickens. Ralph Nickleby and Wackford Squeers are villains, which is why it is important to be good. Is it important to be good now, or just a little bit better than Tony Soprano?

 

Thursday: Connecting to the Internet at the Speed of Light

In 2011, Chattanooga, TN installed a fiber-optic network allowing internet connections at (almost)  the speed of light. It takes a Chattanoogan 33 seconds to download a two-hour, high-definition movie that takes 25 minutes to download in Connecticut. Fiber-optic networks offer the fastest internet connections that some say are desperately needed for America’s long-term economic stability. You might think business and people are flocking to be the next “Gig City” but… not so fast. We look at why and whether Connecticut should be the next Chattanooga?

 

Friday: The Nose

Join the week’s culture panelists as they thrash out the latest news you want to hear about, or at least what we want to tell you about.

Dr. Boster, I Presume?

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Late afternoon bled into early Friday evening. I was still woozy from the late stages of an April flu I picked up in New York. I was sitting in a chair that catches the western sun when my phone rang. It was Professor James Boster trying to contact me.

Boster is the subject of this column. And this radio show..

Both of those are the byproducts of this video:

Boster was not happy with me, but he was not unpleasant. I should add that I had tried to reach him earlier in the week at his university email, with no success.

Boster began to talk. He’s a talker. I stayed on the line with him for 40 minutes, saying very little. He’s an interesting man: very smart, very passionate and a little ridiculous. He spoke at some length about the way he incorporates evolution into his teaching of anthropology; and, in my weakened state, I found myself closing my eyes, letting the sun light up my face and enjoying the private, eloquent lecture I was getting. And one point he said something quite stirring and beautiful, and I wish now I had been taking notes. The gist of it: To understand the connection between the single-celled organism and the Archbishop of Canterbury is to understand that all things are joined in the great eternal flux of matter. “And striving to be man, the worm mounts through all the spires of form.”  (Emerson) Or as Sagan said, we are starstuff pondering the stars. Once you understand that, the rest is just details.

Boster had several explanations for his behavior. The most entertaining was that he was “in character” — specifically as the Rev. William Robert Brown, a/k/a Billy Bob, a scientific Darwin-praising counterpart to the fire and brimstone religionists who attack evolution. Boster says he developed BIlly Bob as a form of street theater while teaching in Kentucky.

But at another point, he claimed to have been acting on an ingrained, ursine protective instinct. The undergraduates are like his cubs, he said, and when they were menaced by itinerant preachers who denounced them as “sodomites” and “fornicators,” Boster’s instinct was to rear up on his hind legs, paw the air and roar his grizzly roar.

Boster said he had received the thanks of a grateful student body, especially the LGBT segment. Preachers of this type visit the campus regularly and are considered, at best, a chore. Boster’s nemesis on that day, Don Karns, seems a bit of a provocateur. Boster was interested to hear from me Don Karns has been arrested at least once, in New Jersey. I’ll give Boster an additional lagniappe: On the infamous video, right before Boster delivers his little shove, Karns takes a full step toward him.  The shove is still going to be a problem for Boster, but he could argue that it was preceded by an invasion of his own personal space. Then — and this is fascinating — Karns walks backwards as Boster pursues him. First time around, I read that as alarm and retreat.  Watch again. Karns is pretty clearly maneuvering himself and Boster into a different position, closer to the camera, and maybe also creating a video record of having backed away from the crazy man. This is a subjective call on my part, but it looks more like kabuki than actual fear.

Boster asked me where I got the whole thing about his research into the Shuar tribespeople. I explained that I read one of his scholarly papers — on the correspondence between language systems and emotional states. The paper is startlingly germane to Boster’s current pickle. He lays out the ways in which our understanding of emotions is conditioned not only by the words we have available to describe them but also by the way that our particular culture apprehends that emotion.

According to Lutz, the Ifaluk locate emotions as occurring primarily between people rather than
within them. Similarly, it appears that the Shuar often interpret facial expressions
in terms of publicly observable interactions and behaviors rather than in terms of
internal psychic states, as Americans generally do.

So for people from those two tribes — in Micronesia and Ecuador respectively — it would be difficult to evaluate Boster’s anger (etser, to the Shuar) as a thing of his own making and discrete from Karns. It takes two to tango. Three if you count Billy Bob as a separate person.

After we spoke, Boster sent me an email asking me to re-read my column and ask myself what I would have said differently, if I had spoken with him first.  The answer is: almost nothing, although I would have had more material to cram into my 700-word hole. I don’t think the “It was Billy Bob talking” defense will get him very far. And, as I told him on the phone, I really dislike the protective bear analogy. I told Boster I have a college-aged son, and I’ve spent countless hours talking to him about the value of civil discourse. He has a bad temper, and I’ve have stressed, time and again, that he must keep his hands at his sides and his voice in a normal decibel range. Our children don’t need a bear-man to protect them from spoken words, and God knows, they don’t need a professor setting a terrible example of intimidation and buffoonery.

Boster’s lack of self-awareness was surprising. He had indeed attended the Richard Dawkins appearance and quoted back to me Dawkins’s contention that it’s a mistake to debate in public with creationists because the suggestion that there’s a legitimate playing field and a game to be won or lost is exactly what they’re looking for. It seemed not to have occurred to him that he had made a comparable error by playing right into the hands of Karns.

Still, I liked him. I have a special fondness for brilliant idiots. Some would say I myself am such a person.

At the end of the conversation, I told him it was too bad he was being judged for, according to him, the worst two minutes of a two-hour encounter. (But this is the age we live in. Ask Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling.) I assured him that “anybody who gets his picture taken with a tapir can’t be all bad.”

“What?!” he spluttered. He made me say it twice and still seemed not to understand me.

From his website:

tapir

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love the Gov.?

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1.Possibly the most damaging new revelation in the allegations made by the feds in today’s indictment of John G. Rowland is that he apparently signed off emails — even to men he didn’t know all that well — “Love the Gov.”

2. The feds have charged Rowland with seven different counts.Some of this represents the piling on they do when you don’t take the deal. But some of it represents their apparently strong cases against Rowland in two different elections. We know about the allegations of a fictitious contract connecting him to the Wilson-Foley campaign in 2011-12. What we did not know is that his similar attempt to procure a similar dummy contract with Mark Greenberg in 2009-10 was conducted largely via email and that Rowland even, the feds allege, drew up the fictitious contract himself and emailed it to a lawyer before he showed it to Greenberg. Because email is so secret!

3. Rowland has a lawyer in Hartford and another in D.C.  This is pure speculation, but I don’t think he’s listening to either one of them  This is not unusual. Defendants who are accustomed to driving the bus will often try to do that in their own cases. With predictable results.

4. Should we feel sorry for Rowland?  I do, a little bit.  He’s obviously a broken unit, a guy who’s probably about to make a completely unnecessary second trip to prison over something that was more pathologically stupid than evil. (As distinct from his first conviction.) You read his finagling emails to Greenberg and you see what a habit this kind of thing had become for him. He  tells Greenberg that other consultants:

“can not get you elected .. none of them wiil want me involved for obvious
financial self interests [sic]  . .. I give you the only chance of winning and that is still going to be
hard, I by the way what you don’t understand is .. if I go with you I am going against alot [sic] of
friends from 25 yrs ,, [sic] not easy for me to do[.]] Sorry about today , [sic] I thought I was
coming over ,
for you to give me a pitch , not that I was supposed to sell myself to you, I tried
that already.”

5. Wait. Should we really feel sorry for him? I struggle with this every day. I actually want to feel sorry for him. It would be good for me spiritually. One thing that gets in the way is thinking about all the inmates transferred to Wallens Ridge back in the day when Rowland was often quite glib and flip about getting tough on crime.

6. I worked for WTIC for 16 years. I was let go in 2008. Two years later, WTIC hired Rowland for my old time slot, where he stayed for 3.5 years. According to some commenters, I have to declare this every time I write about this case.

Here, via Wikimedia Commons, is Rowland’s vaguely porn star (but cute) 1990 Congressional photo.

John G. Rowland 1990 congressional photo

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