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Posted by on Feb 17, 2019 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 0 comments

Prosecute Jussie Smollett to the Fullest Extent of the Law

 

 

Why is there any sympathy for Jussie Smollett?

The television star’s incendiary allegations that he’d been the victim of an ugly racial attack imploded yesterday.  His story fell apart.  It was apparently, all an act.

Smollett had claimed he was assaulted on a downtown Chicago street by pro-Trump racists wearing red MAGA hats while walking late at night.  His allegations sounded implausible from the start.  That’s the reason so many of us sympathetic to the victims of hate crimes took a “wait and see” approach to the alleged incident.  Not that racially-motivated and homophobic attacks like the one described by the TV actor don’t happen in America.  Yes, they do.  It’s just that so many pieces of Smollett’s case didn’t seem to add up.

Admittedly, I’d never heard of Jussie Smollett until this controversy.  He’s the co-star of a popular hit television show, Empire.  Based on a persistent and often feisty social media presence, Smollett, who is a gay Black man, has been described as an outspoken activist.

Investigators now believe the attack on Smollett was a fabrication.  It was staged.  If this proves to be true, he’s about to become the new Tawana Brawley.  Recall, she’s the despicable young girl who accused multiple police officers of a brutal gang rape thirty years ago, sparking national outrage.  Eventually, a thorough investigation found that she made the whole thing up.

Although there are clear parallels in the two cases, there are also significant differences.  Brawley was a poor Black girl with little education.  Not that she deserved any slack but let’s also remember:  Brawley was a minor, just 15 when she claimed she’d been raped by four men.  At least there were grounds for understanding what happened in the Brawley case.  The girl lived in an abusive household, feared severe punishment for staying out late one night, and made up her story as an excuse.

Smollett has no excuses for fabricating his criminal conspiracy.  He’s a relatively affluent, seemingly intelligent man, with a highly-successful career and — until this moment — a very bright future.  Inventing such a far-fetched story makes absolutely no sense, nor has any justification whatsoever.

Accordingly, Jussie Smollett should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

The Chicago Police Department spent a countless number of hours on this case which began three weeks ago.  Law enforcement dedicated considerable manpower to their investigation.  Dozens of people were interviewed.  Businesses with surveillance cameras were summoned to provide any evidence of a crime.  Hence, police wasted considerable time and effort chasing an invisible rabbit down a hole.  These pointless efforts reduced the precious resources available that might otherwise have been allocated elsewhere in Chicago, which does have a serious crime problem.  If dozens of police officers were out rabbit hunting Smollett’s false claims, that’s less law enforcement on the streets, and by consequence, more incidents of unsolved crime.  Smollett has done a terrible thing, and now he should pay for it.

But the real victims of Smollett’s deception (if eventually proven), are all those people from lesser backgrounds with little money, fame, or power who must live in constant fear and have to endure pervasive racism and homophobia in their daily lives.  They don’t have Smollett’s easy access to media nor talent for playing the convincing role of a crime victim, so they won’t get on TV to tell their stories.  The casualties of this contrived canard are future victims of hate crimes.  Now, because of doubts and discord and the lingering impossible-to-ignore memories we all have, they’ll face even more doubts.  They must meet higher, perhaps impossible thresholds, to prove when racially-motivated crimes actually do happen.  The movement Smollett purportedly wants to help shall ultimately pay the highest cost for his blatant deception.

That’s the real crime.

If evidence is found to implicate Jussie Smollett in a conspiracy, then he must be prosecuted.  Then, if he’s found guilty — lock him away.  For a long time.

We must make an example in this case and send a clear message:  There’s more than enough racism and homophobia in America already, without having to make things up.

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Posted by on Feb 10, 2019 in Blog, Essays, Music and Concert Reviews | 0 comments

Matt Lessinger’s Annual Grammy Awards Analysis and Forecast [2019]

 

 

If you’re a regular reader and not yet up to speed on Matt Lessinger and his expertise on awards shows and analysis, then I’m not sure what else to say.

He’s been introduced here before.  Get with the program.

Let’s skip the usual preamble and get straight to Matt’s thoughts on tonight’s Grammy Awards.  For the record, I know nothing about this year’s music or ceremony, which will air tonight.  The Grammy Awards typically warbles between mesmerizingly great and train wreck awful.  I expect more of the same, tonight.

For those who appreciate the science of handicapping and value great analysis, I urge you to read his thoughts here, which should be valued as a terrific handicapping outlier.   You need not be knowledgable of the music nor interested in the Grammy’s to value the high level of this work — which is why I’m eager to share Matt’s contribution here at my site.

Matt’s e-mail to me reads as follows:

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Hi Nolan:
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Sadly, I’ve looked at the Grammy odds on three different sites, and the best odds were on Bovada each time.  You know the offshore sites are getting worse when Bovada has the best lines!  That’s unfortunate because they are only allowing a max bet of $125. on each category, and I have no idea how they came up with that number, but they are standing firm on that max.  I don’t have the time or the resources to scour for a site with potentially better odds and/or maximums, but if anyone can find one and they are willing to share that information, it would be most appreciated.  In the meantime, the odds listed here can all be found on Bovada at the time of this writeup.
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The most obvious difference from years past is that there are now eight nominees in each category instead of five.  That makes our job a little harder, but there’s still value to be found and money to be made.  The other difference is that the nominees lean way more in the direction of hip hop than in years past. If I had been forced to bet on who this year’s nominees would be, admittedly I would have gotten slaughtered.  For example, if you look at the category for Best Pop Vocal Album, which has six nominees (Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Camila Cabello, Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Shawn Mendes), I would have said that each of those albums could easily have landed in the Album of the Year category. Instead, NONE of them were nominated!  For Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande to not have been nominated in an eight-horse field for Album of the Year is downright shocking.  It may signal that the Grammys are going in a new direction.  However, until they prove that they are willing to change the way they hand out the actual winners trophies, we have to assume for betting purposes that they are still the same old Grammys.
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I’m going to list the categories in order of confidence, going from least to most.
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Let’s begin:
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SONG OF THE YEAR
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“Shallow” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper is the -300 favorite and will almost certainly win.  There are going to be two themes that repeat themselves throughout the categories.  The first is that there are no standout nominees in any category.  In my humble opinion, “Shallow” is not even a particularly good song, but it may be the best one in this weak field.  The second recurring theme is that we will summarily dismiss any hip-hop nominees, even though there are more than usual this year, until it is shown that they can win the open categories on a more regular basis.  With regard to this category, that eliminates half the field.  Out of the ones that are left, Lady Gaga is the only one with a winning Grammy track record, having won six of them in the past.  “Shallow” is the logical choice, but at -300 it is unplayable.  I’m going to take a complete flyer for a token wager on the longest shot in the field, “The Middle” by Zedd and Maren Morris.  Bombs away!  My simple logic is that it is the only other song in the field that would be considered pop.  On the one hand, the fact that none of the Best Pop Albums were nominated for Album of the Year signals a move away from pop music.  On the other hand, Grammys have always rewarded pop musicians in the open categories, most notably Taylor Swift and Adele in recent years.  “The Middle” might be the only upbeat song in the entire field, and it wouldn’t shock me if some voters gravitate to it just because it sounds uplifting in a sea of comparatively depressing music.
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My play: “The Middle” by Zedd and Maren Morris at 33-1, for a very small wager.  But if you’re willing to lay the heavy wood, you’ll probably win with “Shallow” at -300.
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BEST NEW ARTIST
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When the nominees were announced, my initial reaction was that Dua Lipa would be the odds-on favorite.  Instead, H.E.R. is the -110 favorite and Dua Lipa is +180, and it’s far back to the rest of the field.  Anecdotally speaking, H.E.R. is from Vallejo, CA which is a half hour away from me, and I listen to R&B music, and I had never heard any of her songs before.  Once I listened to her, I had to admit I liked her music quite a bit, and she has a recognizable talent such that she could certainly win.  But her resume doesn’t match up to Dua Lipa, who has already had a #1 song (New Rules) and international radio airplay.  At the given prices, Dua Lipa is definitely the better value play.  It’s hard to summarily dismiss the longshots – someone like Luke Combs or Margo Price could certainly be bombs away at 22-1 – but the problem in this category is that it’s hard to predict which longshot the voters would gravitate towards, so it’s easier to just stick with the proven commodity.
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My play: Dua Lipa at +180
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ALBUM OF THE YEAR
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Disclaimer: As much as I try to keep my personal musical opinions out of this process and stick to cold, hard analysis, sometimes that’s just not possible. This is one of those times.
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Kacey Musgraves is the +120 favorite. I am quite sure a country artist has never been favored in this category for as long as I’ve been following Grammy betting.  To me that signals the weakness with the other nominees more than it signals the strength of her album.  She could certainly win, but there’s no value there.  The 2nd and 3rd choices are the Black Panther album, which is essentially Kendrick Lamar, and then Drake.  Both are hip-hop artists, and so I’ll say the same thing I’ve said every year for the past 15 years: the hip-hop artists who have previously won Album of the Year are Outkast and Lauryn Hill.  That’s it, that’s the list.  If one of them becomes the third member of that list, more power to them, but at +250 and +350 they’re unplayable.  Cardi B and Post Malone are two more hip-hop artists that can even more easily be dismissed.  Brandi Carlile and H.E.R. are the two longest shots on the board, and justifiably so.  Out of the last four nominees I listed, Carlile is the only one who should have any shot at winning due to her career longevity, which is often rewarded in the AOTY category, but sometimes just being nominated is the reward, which is what this feels like.
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That leaves Janelle Monae, who is listed at 6-1 on Bovada, but I’ve seen her as low as 3-1 elsewhere.  Being completely honest, this is more of a hunch play than anything else.  It simply feels like it should be her time.  She is an R&B artist, which has historically been more successful in the open categories than either hip-hop or country.  She has had a musical career spanning almost 15 years, which is more than most of this field can claim.  Prince was an uncredited collaborator on the album, and assuming the voters are aware of that, his recent passing will certainly carry some weight. It was one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the year.  And finally, inserting my own two cents, this album deserves to win. At 6-1 the value is there.
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My play: Dirty Computer by Janelle Monae at 6-1.
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RECORD OF THE YEAR
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Despite the constant insistence that Song of the Year and Record of the Year are two distinct categories, the same song wins in both categories way too often to be a coincidence. “Shallow” is the -300 favorite for SOTY and will probably win.  So why is it the +160 second choice in this category, and “This is America” by Childish Gambino is the -150 favorite?  I tried to find a logical reason and couldn’t come up with one.  This is the best bet on the board.  I’ll include another token wager on “The Middle” in case it sweeps both categories, but it’s far more likely that Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper will get the scoop.
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My play (Best bet): “Shallow” at +160
Token wager: “The Middle” at 22-1
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Good luck to everyone this year!
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Cheers,
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Matt L
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