Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Sunday, September 9, 2012
Very few things in sport frustrate me more than the way that the Washington Nationals are handling the Stephen Strasburg situation.
Strasburg, who missed last season after having Tommy John surgery, was shut down for the remainder of the 2012 season (playoffs included) after he reached the new magic number for pampered young pitchers of 160 innings pitched after a lackluster outing against the lowly Miami Marlins.
Strasburg's poor performance likely had more to do with anxiety from the media circus surrounding the clown decision by the Nationals executive brass to end the Cu Young award contender's season than any physical impediment.
While Nationals GM Rizzo amassed medical research from leading orthopedic surgeons and practicioners to substantiate the veracity of the organization's decision to protect their young asset from potential further stress on his golden elbow, this move screams of a preemptive public relations move disguised as the Nationals being concerned about the long-term health of their superstar.
If you ask any Cubs or Reds fan what their impressions are of manager Dusty Baker, and I have, they will invariably say that, while they like him as a manager, they do not approve of the way that he handles his pitching staff.
A great deal of this sentiment comes from the assumption that Baker and former Cubs GM Jim Hendry sacrificed the health and, ultimately, the careers of phenom prospects Mark Prior and Kerry Wood during the 2003-2005 seasons in pursuit of an elusive World Series title on Chicago's North Side.
While Mark Prior's career was more than likely derailed by a severe shoulder injury that he sustained while running the bases (an argument for the designated hitter rather than against Dusty Baker) and Kerry Wood recently admitted that he first hurt his arm during the famous 20 strikeout game (Jim Riggleman was the manager by the way), perception becomes reality in the dystopian universe of modern sports and entertainment.
Rizzo, a Chicago native, is keenly aware of the power of perception and has guarded himself and the Nationals organization against the type of blame and backlash that will, rightly or wrongly, color the careers of Dusty Baker, Jim Hendry, and the Cubs organization until the Cubs finally reach the unreachable star.
If and when Strasburg walks off the field, possibly for the last time, in excruciating pain with his arm hanging from a shredded UCL ligament, the Nationals will always be able to say that they did everything they possible could to preserve and protect their franchise player.
What the first place Nationals will ultimately not be able to defend is potentially sacrificing the opportunity to bring the first baseball championship to D.C. in over a half century because of what might prove to be undue caution.
In the short series that define modern playoff baseball, having dominant starting pitching at the beginning and end ultimately defines the championship prospects of those teams.
Whether its Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum of the 2010 San Francisco Giants, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee of the 2009 Phillies, or Chris Carpenter and Kyle Lohse of last years World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, championships are won in baseball by having the best front of the rotation at the beginning of each series.
With the possible exception of Gio Gonzalez, Drew Storen, John Lannan, Edwin Jackson, and Jordan Zimmermann do not add up to Stephen Strasburg, let alone Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Cain or Lincecum. Having to face Strasburg and Gonzalez at the beginning of a series and every three days afterward would be a tall order for any team to overcome in either league.
The Nationals are betting on having sustained success in a diminished National League East for years to come in much the same way that the Atlanta Braves did when they won 15 consecutive division titles from 1991-2006. What gets obscured by the shadow of the Braves success is the reality that they only converted their divisional dominance into 1, count it, 1 World Series title, which came in 1995. Ask Maddux, Glaven, and Smoltz how many of those division crowns they would trade in for just one more world title. Over/under - all of them!
World Series titles are elusive beasts, kind of like Big Foot or the Loch Ness monster. Just asks the Cleveland Indians, Milwaukee Brewers, Texas Rangers and, yes, my beloved Chicago Cubs. When you're having a magical season the likes of the one that seemed to be happening in our nation's capitol, there is no future. There's only the next pitch, the next game and the next series leading up to the October Classic.
If Strasburg and the Nationals have a repeat performance next season, or anytime over the next 5-10 seasons,and hoist a championship banner in the end, all of the detractors, myself included, will look like cynical alarmist who lacked the wisdom and foresight of the Nationals leadership team.
However, if Strasburg and the Nationals are never able to sustain the success that had its genesis this season into the future or transmute it into championship gold, as more often than not happens in the game of baseball (1990 Pirates and 2004-2006 Red Sox anyone), how much regret will follow Strasburg and Rizzo throughout their respective careers?
There's taking a chance at glory and failing or not taking a chance at all. I'll take trying and failing all day, everyday. So would Kerry Wood and Mark Prior I imagine.
With the Nationals decision to shut down Strasburg, Dusty Baker seems poised to lead his third franchise deep into the postseason. He has to finish the deal this time to prove that maybe, just maybe there's something to the Dusty Baker method afterall.
Former Jets and Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards may have said it better than anyone could - you play to win the game.
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
As the Republican Party convened in Tampa, Florida to nominated the next almost President of the United States, the divisive politics of race, gender, and socioeconomics that has come the define the base of the Republican platform is on full display.
If the Republican party had not already thoroughly convinced every American with half a brain cell remaining that they were in the throws of a 30 year bout of amnesia regarding "conservative" principles and their disasterous application in the form of Republican governance, the reprisal of this very real reality series has made its season debut.
Setting aside the dual irony that the convention is taking place in the state that gave us the greatest usurpation of voter rights since Jim Crow and the Women's Suffrage Movement during the 2000 Presidential election coupled with the fact that Hurricane Isaac is preparing to batter the Gulf Coast exactly 7 years to the day of Hurricane Katrina placing the ineptitude of the Bush administration front and center on a global stage, the shamockery known as the Republican National Convention opened with the inaugural theme of "We Built This".
They are attempting to build something indeed. The Republicans are attempting to build a theocracy based on the historically false assertion that the Founding Fathers established the United States as a Christian nation.
The Republicans are attempting to build a country where a woman can be brutally raped and forced to birth the child of her assailant.
The so called conservatives want to create a Republic where the fundamental right of a citizen to the petition their government for the redress of grievances via the ballot box is summarily wrenched from the hands of the nation's most vulnerable residents (young people, minorities, and the elderly) because they lack a photo I'D, harkening back to the days when blacks were discouraged from voting with illegal poll taxes and literacy tests.
Republicans want to usher in a time when a mob of xenophobes can be so thoroughly convinced that the nation's first non-white President is "taking their country from them" that they literally storm the White House and throw him out.
All this while the ex-President that started two wars, bailed out Wall Street 100 cents on the dollar, turned a surplus into a deficit by passing the most expensive tax cuts in U.S. history, crippled the education system by leaving every child behind and failed to rescue the citizens of New Orleans from one of the greatest natural disasters in the mainland U.S. is allowed to retire in peace to his ranch in Texas where he can snort cocaine, drink Jack Daniels, and fake serve in the National Guard?
I'm not saying that President Obama is the answer either. He has allowed the Republicans to emotionally blackmail him into continuing their failed policies by extending the Bush tax cuts and increasing the frequency and force of drone attacks in the Middle East.
However, I believe that this President is a man that can be reasoned with while the Republicans have sacrificed every ounce of reason they barely possessed in the first place on the altar of political expediency.
You'll notice that I haven't mentioned Willard Mitt Romney or his boy toy Paul Ryan once in this piece. These two men are simply the screen with which the Republican base projects their misguided impressions masquerading as dogma and strongly held convictions.
They are the light bearers, not the light. They are simply politically ambitious men hoping to ride the wave of rampant dissatisfaction and covert racism into the highest office in the land.
As rational, objective, intelligent and informed citizens, we have to remove the poison from the spring that feeds the river by telling the truth about the Republican platform and their candidacy of lies to everyone that we encounter.
Most importantly, we have to get up early and stay up late not just to vote ourselves, but to help our friends, family, and acquaintances to vote as well.
The Republicans have assured through their nefarious tactics that this will be one of the most closely contested elections in history.
If we wake up on January 20th, 2013 to watch the inauguration of Willard Mitt Romney, each of us will have no choice but to gather the faint outline if ourselves in the mirror and exclaim "We Built This".
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
As we approach the halfway point of 2012, I want to take this time to voice my opinion on several trends that I've encountered that range from minor annoyances to events that make we want to prepare an apocalypse bunker. They all fall under one category.
The Worship of the Military Industrial Complex.
I am really getting sick and tired of the ever present glorification of the military industrial complex in this country. From the Chicago White Sox parading a returning soldier out in the middle of every home game to the made-for-tv spectacle that is suprising a military family with the surprise return of their loved ones from active duty, these tear jerking moments obscure the fact that our troops are fighting tyrannical wars that were justified by no less than boldfaced lies by appealing to sentimental emotions.
What's more, in the face of crisis level unemployment by our nation's recent college graduates and minority populations (just to name a few), state governments such as the one here in Illinois are literally cutting funding for vulnerable populations such as the mentally ill, elderly, and single mothers (to name but a few) for the avowed purpose of rectifying budget deficits. They say that we can ill afford to expand social safety net programs yet institute initiatives to help returning troops find employment, not because politicians really care about high unemployment rates amongst vulnerable populations, but in the hope that their approval ratings amongst conservative groups and military families will increase 2-3 points in an election year. On a more sinister level, the legislation that institutes seemingly noble programs such as this are usually tied to crippling austerity measures.
When you support our troops, you are hurting the neighborhoods that most of them emerged from to serve ”their” country.
Now, you must think that I am the most insensitive bastard on the planet right now and that I don't care about our troops. The fact of the matter is that I care about our troops so much that I refuse to support a PR campaign that uses their immense sacrifices for political gain.
I refuse to forget that when Bill Clinton left office in 2000, there was a budget surplus and rapid economic growth that permeated every fabric of American society and now, 12 years later, we are on the brink of global financial calamity due to unjustied war after unjustified war and Socialism for the rich while the poorest of the poor are subjected to free-market Capitalistic principles that have never existed in a pure form in any society that has ever existed on this planet.
I refuse to forget that Barack Obama promised us change and what we got instead was the same old ice-cream but in chocolate this time around. Don't challenge my patriotism because I refuse to parrot the status quo as propagandized by the tyrants in Washington. In a society whose very liberties are predicated on the existence of a free and impartial press, the words that I've just written are the greatest exercise in patriotism that one could ever engage in.
I remember going to a baseball game with an ex-girlfriend (she wasn't at that time but you get the point) when the team paraded a returning infantryman out to receive acknowledgment. Like robots, everyone stood up and applauded but I refused to do so because of my vehement opposition to the War on Terror (and every other war that the U.S. engages in for that matter).
I remember her asking me why I wouldn't just standup for a minute to support our troops? I told her that I was supporting them by refusing to demote their tremendous sacrifice to the level of a standing ovation, acknowledgement reserved for trivial feats such as a tremendous opera sonata or a walk-off homer.
I was being true to my convictions that non-violence and non-introventionism are the twin pillars that support the temple of Republicanism in its true manifestation.
The government would like you to think that they, along with their military wing, afford you the freedoms that you daily enjoy but, tell me, how free have you felt since September 11th, 2001? Not due to the specter that Islamist terrorist with bombs strapped to their chest present but because of the policies that our own government has inacted in the name of homeland security? Don't worry, I'll wait.
No executive, legislative, judicial or military branch can append or protect freedoms that the average citizen is not ready, willing, and able to die in defense of, even at the hands of one's own brothers and sisters.
As the Mystery Schools have taught its initiates for many millennia, the person that is afraid to die is dead already. Likewise, the person who is afraid to dissent from its goverment will never have an institution circumscribed by the consent of the governed.
Do you really want to support our troops? Do you really want to celebrate a true Memorial Day? The greatest memorial that we could ever give our troops and their families is our vehement opposition to unjust warfare and our unflinching demand that our government not send citizens to war on the taxpayer's dime. Demand that if the richest amongst us insist on engaging in conflicts that primarily if not totally benefit their business interest, they along with their children and grandchildren should be the first to enlist in our ”volunteer” military, the first to fight on the frontline, and the,last to return as it was in the chivalric days of yore.
That would solve the problem of veterans experiencing high levels of unemployment for good because that would make the powers that be think twice when it is their ass on the line.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
On Wednesday, April 18th, 2012 I had the pleasure of accompanying my company, which I will refer to as a large non-profit in the metro Chicago area, to Springfield, IL. with the express purpose of lobbying on behalf of the health and human services industry.
To briefly give you some background on why it was important to make this trip to our state's capitol, the state of Illinois currently has $8.6 billion in unpaid bills. To help alleviate this shortfall, Gov. Pat Quinn and his budget director have proposed significant cuts in the state's expenditures in areas such as medicare, assistance for job seekers, day-care subsidies and other benefits that the poor and working poor depend on to sustain their existence.
My company is the second largest provider of funding in the area of health and human services, second only to the state of Illinois itself. Significant cuts to health and human services expenditures by the state (on top of the reimbursements that the state has yet to dole out to local service providers) could have catastrophic consequences to our citizens who are already struggling to survive and make ends meet in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
This was my first trip to the capitol city in my entire life. I didn't have the seemingly normal class trip to Springfield that most elementary school and/or high school students have. The first thing that I noticed was how far Springfield is from the Chicago metropolitan area. It is a little over 3-hours both ways. This may feed into the apparent disconnect between the legislators and the effects that the laws they pass have on their constituents.
When I arrived at the capitol, I was astonished at the sheer number of people moving at a frantic pace throughout the expansive structure. There were students taking in the Greek Revival architecture of the capitol dome. There were HIV/AIDS activist with signs in tow holding a rally in the main foyer, flanked by the news media. The most significant group of people that you see are the hoards upon hoards of lobbyist close on the heels of the legislators, yelling, speaking softly, and handing literature to the state Representatives and Senators about whatever issue they happen to be championing at that particular time.
I mentioned to one of my colleagues that the best way that I could describe the mass of people that I saw was organized chaos, emphasis on CHAOS. For many years, I wondered why it appeared that our legislators seemed to be ineffective at passing bills for the greater good of the citizenry. The image of lobbyist, activist and legislators running every which way finally painted a very clear picture as to why. It also became evident that the government WANTS to operate this way.
We brought lunch for the Conference of Women Legislators (COWL) on the Senate side of the capitol to thank them for their support of a bill that would codify the Illinois Human Services Commission Act that Gov. Quinn created by Executive Order, thus making the entity a permanent fixture and not subject to dissolution by future governors (In what can only be described as political posturing, the governor has taken a stance AGAINST the very executive order that he signed into law).
Most of the Senators sent their administrative aids to shake our hands quickly before grabbing their free lunch. A handful of legislators actually appeared in person to greet us before claiming their meal and leaving the room with the same gusto in which they entered. In one of the more ironic moments of the day, one of the two Senators that OPPOSED the legislation actually stopped by and spent a few minutes with us. This was akin to a family member or close friend stabbing you in the back and then asking you if you needed medical assistance as you lay on the ground bleeding to death.
We spent most of the day talking to various legislators, either thanking them for their support or asking them to champion pieces of legislation that our organizations feels are important to the social safety net in these trying times. The climax of the day was a meeting with the head honcho, Gov. Patrick Quinn.
Before the emperor entered the room, his budget director primed us with overtures of how the legislature was hopelessly gridlocked on the budget deficit. He assured us that Gov. Quinn cares about the least of Illinois' citizens but severe austerity measures, mostly on the backs of the poor, were absolutely necessary to balance the state's budget. In keeping with the paternalistic patriotism that has come to permeate national politics, the budget director boasted about expanding nursing home coverage for our returning veterans. Caligula would've been proud. While the director gave this moving overture, Gov. Quinn blithely slid into the room, blending in remarkably among the hoards of his star struck synchophants.
Gov. Quinn practiced his stump speech, using the code words that career politicians frequently use to convey absolutely nothing while covertly shattering the hopes and aspirations of his constituents. Once the governor was satisfied with his 5-minute monologue, he hurriedly encouraged all of the occupants of the room to gather around a portrait of a remarkably youthful-looking Abraham Lincoln during the Lincoln-Douglas debates for a photo op.
After shaking a few hands (with minimal eye contact), one of the members of our contingent pressed Gov. Quinn on why he suddenly took a position against a piece of legislation that he wrote himself. None too happy with this confrontation, Gov. Quinn whirled out of the room with a trail of smug following closely behind.
My inaugural trip to the seat of power taught me a myriad of things about the functions of our representative government.
- Our state and national government is many things, but what it certainly is NOT is REPRESENTATIVE.
- Taxation without representation is not just a motto on the District of Columbia license plate. It is a very apparent reality of the modern day government power structure.
- The organized chaos that I witnessed is purposeful. The government could be more efficient and effective if it wanted to be but, if it were, there would be great transparency in the methods that the robber barons that we call representatives use to amass great wealth for themselves and their friends at the expense of the increasing ranks of the severely impoverished, impoverished, poor and working poor.
- There are no longer any such thing as political parties. There are just a myriad of pressure groups and the lobbyist that work as power brokers between these various pressure groups and the representatives that hide deep in their extravagant offices deep in in the recesses of the capitol building.
- You don't have to be smart, intelligent or wise to run for public office. You just have to be good-looking, personable, a tremendous psychologist, and an effective organizer of men and fundraising events.
As I explained to some of my colleagues as we made our return trip to Chicago to continue the work of ensuring equal justice under law for the disenfranchised, until we realize that the only pertinent "rights" are individual rights we will continue to grovel at the feet of men and women who have no interest upsetting the status quo.
The New World Order that President George H.W. Bush and many of our leaders have proclaimed openly over the past decade is the same world order that has always existed warmed over. We are reaping the seeds of division that we have sown ourselves. The fruit that those flowers are bearing is the transformation of inalienable rights into temporary privileges. Our government is now beginning the process of recalling those temporary privileges.
As the prophet Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. warned us,
"Now through our ethical and moral commitment, we must make of it a brotherhood. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will perish together as fools. This is the great challenge of the hour. This is true of individuals. It is true of nations. No individual can live alone. No nation can live alone."Government can not and will not save us. Jesus can not and will not save us. We have to save ourselves. I've now witnessed this fact and the urgency of the moment firsthand.
Friday, March 2, 2012
Okay, so most of my posts on this blog are of a serious nature (with some humor sprinkled in because I'm all for suicide prevention). THIS POST IS ALL ABOUT HUMOR!
Take a look at the lady to the right of Romney (next to the red head). Wow! Looks like Romney has the Republican Party covered from cover to cover - from the Tea Partiers to the Hobbits. On a side note, look how hilariously shocked the guy behind her looks. CLASSIC!
What do you think this lady is yelling at Gov. Romney? Feel free to leave your comments. Politics should be fun so let's have some at Mitt's expense. Here are some of my thoughts:
- "OMG! OMG! OMG! A real, life-sized Ken doll!"
- "Mitt, look over here! I never said the staring contest was over!"
- "I think he just saw his shadow!"
- "Hey, Mitt! Look over here! (Sigh) How am I supposed to take your picture if you keep changing positions?!"
- "Hey, that's my blouse...and my jeans!"
- "Gosh darn it! I showed up to see a half white candidate and all I got was Mitt Romney!" (DISCLAIMER: I do not actually know what Mitt Romney's ancestry is.)
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."
I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life's realities."
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Last night, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney claimed victory in the battleground states of Arizona and Michigan. Romney claimed a meager 3-point victory in his "home" state of Michigan over God's prelate on earth Rick Santorum. During his victory speech, Romney referenced his warnings to the electorate about President Obama receiving ”on the job training”.
Romney cites his experience with turning around failing companies as ne plus ultra and why he is the most qualified to remedy what ails the country.
"I have a plan to get our citizens back to work – and I have the experience to get our economy back on track. I spent 25 years in business. I have been the steward of an Olympics and the leader of a state. I’ve cut taxes 19 times. I’ve turned a budget shortfall into a windfall. I know how government kills jobs – and, yes, how it can help. And I stand ready to lead our party to victory – and our nation to prosperity."I'm not a huge fan of Mitt. He reminds me of a real life Ken doll with all of the charisma of the plastic figurine to boot. He will not get my vote in November (neither will Obama if Ron Paul runs a 3rd party campaign). However, I hate to see supposedly qualified candidates mislead the electorate intentionally or due to fatal ignorance. Mitt should emphasize his tenure as Massachusetts governor more and his business credentials less for the following reasons.
In his book Bureaucracy, Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises attempts to explore the nature of bureaucracies and their place in private enterprise and government. In his chapter on The Crux of Bureaucratic Management, Mises attempts to explain why it is a flawed premise to assume that businessmen can use private enterprise principles to make governments more efficient.
”It is vain to advocate a bureaucratic reform through the appointment of businessmen as heads of various departments. The quality of being an entrepreneur is not inherent in the personality of the entrepreneur; it is inherent in the position which he occupies in the framework of market society. A former entrepreneur who is given charge of a government bureau is in this capacity no longer a businessman but a bureaucrat. His objective can no longer be profit, but compliance with the rules and regulations. As head of a bureau he may have power to alter some minor rules and some matters of internal procedure. But the setting of the bureau's activities is determined by rules and regulations which are beyond his reach.”Mises goes on to drive this premise home in unequivocal terms when he ends the the chapter by stating:
”There are many things about government administration which need to be reformed. Of course, all human institutions must again and again be adjusted anew to the change of conditions. But no reform could transform a public office into a sort of private enterprise. A government is not a profit-seeking enterprise. The conduct of its affairs cannot be checked by profit-and-loss statements. Its achievement cannot be valued in terms of money. This is fundamental for any treatment of the problems of bureaucracy.”Mises wrote these words in 1944, after witnessing the expansion of the federal government to pay for two World Wars and to squash a Great Depression. A staunch advocate of sound money and free market principles, Mises saw first hand why you don't want to hold a government to the same standards that you hold a private business.
Many proponents of small government (myself included) fill the airwaves, newspapers, and blogs with protestations for a more streamlined, efficient government. This is a noble goal that undoubtedly springs from our desire to once again have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. However strong our desires are, the premise that we innately operate from is flawed.
When you turn the operation of government functions over to entities for which the profit motive is their primary concern, you will end up further disenfranchising the most vulnerable citizens in our Republic while simultaneously turning the keys to the exchequer over to corporate interests (sound familiar). While it is customary to cut expenses in private enterprises to prop up the bottom line, cutting costs by the government effects millions of citizens as opposed to a few hundred or thousand works.
Furthermore, the melding of corporate interest with governmental institutions, which is exactly what Mitt Romney and many other conservative pundits are advocating, is the very definition of Fascism. I don't know of any Republican, let alone any informed citizens, that would acquiesce to the installation of a Fascist government to remedy the budget deficits and inefficiencies that have plagued Washington for over a century. Take a really critical look at China and let me know if you want corporate creamer in your government's coffee.
Simply put, any politician or citizens that asserts that the private business model is the cure all for partisan politics and bureaucracy in Washington is playing partisan politics. In an ideal world, private citizens would take the responsibility of infrastructure development and social charity upon themselves, leaving government to arbitrate contracts and provide for the common defense. However, we do not live in an ideal world. We live in a world where wars, natural disasters, economic depressions, fiscal irresponsibility by Wall Street and corporate America, and social policies have created a permanent underclass in our country. Government has entered into a contract with its citizenry to solve these problems and we owe it to those without proper representation to support our government in these laudable undertakings.
Government isn't broken. Our ability to reason, disagree without being disagreeable and, ultimately, compromise across political, religious, gender, and racial/ethnic lines to reach a solution that is in the best interest of the majority has corroded almost to the point of complete disintegration. Government expenditures aren't necessarily wasteful unless they are doled out in a manner that is less than equitable (political favors, based on political polls, etc.). Merging the principles of free enterprise with government is the worse possible solution at this point in our history. We run the risk of ending up more like Saudi Arabia than Greece.
What we need is for government to reclaim its rightful place as the epicenter of secular administration, where the interests of the citizenry is paramount and is purposely shielded from undue influence by corporate and religious organizations.
What we need is for more people like me, who hold deeply entrenched philosophies, to be able to change their opinions based on new evidence. That's called growth. Mindlessly following a flawed philosophy in the face of new evidence is the epitome of Dark Age thinking...and we all know how the Dark Ages turned out.
What we need in Washington are more teachers, policemen, firemen, physicians and, dare I say it, more community activist (will the old Barry Obama please stand up). Big Business has had nearly 100 years to try their methodology and it got us to this point. Their time is up.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
So, I've been watching/listening to the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine on and off for the past 4-days. Yes, yes I am a sports nerd. As amusing as it is to watch all of these athletes run, jump, catch, throw, and lift weights (all things that I do sans cameras), there is this voice in the back of my head asking "why and how does this matter?"
Robert Griffin, III, the highly touted Heisman trophy winning quarterback from Baylor University ran the 3rd fastest 40-yard dash by a quarterback in the history of the scouting combine. He also had an impressive long jump and, by all accounts, he has blown every interview out of the water. Griffin chose not to throw at the combine, which hearkens the question, in what other industry can you show up to a job interview not demonstrate the the essential functions of your potential job?
Enter Andrew Luck, the outstanding Stanford quarterback and consensus # 1 pick in the April draft. Luck also ran an impressive 40-yard dash at this weekend's combine. He threw in a broad jump that was better than his counterpart RG3's and a high jump that eclipsed 2011 Heisman Trophy winner, # 1 pick, and NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Cam Newton. Like RG3, Andrew Luck (sorry, no cool nickname as of yet) decided to forego throwing at the combine.
When one person makes a seemingly inexplicable decision, it's an anomaly. When ALL of your projected top draft picks, regardless of position, decide to forego showing their skills, it becomes an epidemic (think more bubonic plague and less iEverything) .
What is the cause of this epidemic? I think that several entities can claim ownership over this recent fad.
First of all, this epidemic was formed in part by the greediness (some would call it cunning business sense) of the agents representing their clients. Like many businesses, profits for a potential draft pick are inversely correlated to the amount of deficiencies they have on tape. In this sense, the agents agents are protecting the profitability of their clients (while also solidifying the fees they will proffer from said clients). On the flip side, this tactic manipulates the evaluation process for perspective teams. In the age of JaMarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf, owners are less likely to fork out big bucks on a shot in the dark. That begs yet another question. Are athlete's that don't display their wears at every given opportunity at an advantage or a disadvantage in the long run?
Secondly, there is the blind acquiescence of the athletes who bow to their representation. Every year around draft time, agents are frantically positioning themselves for the top talent with a few dark horses (no pun intended) thrown in for insurance. Scouting Combine preparation has become as much a part of an agent's job as negotiating complex contracts (with lots of guaranteed money). These young men (and the vast majority of these guys are only a few years removed from having acne), already daunted by the pro process, almost blindly follow the advice of their representation even when the advice given is not necessarily commensurate with current trends and/or in the ultimate best interest of the athlete (to show what they have to offer a pro team). There used to be a day in the not so distant past where athletes handled things on the field while agents handled things in the board room. Increasingly, it is becoming hard to distinguish where the field of play ends and the boardroom begins.
Lastly, the NFL owners, who are expected to hand out multi-million dollar contracts to these star athletes, are to blame for this debacle. I would even go so far as to argue that the NFL owners are ultimately responsible for the sad state of affairs that has befallen the relationship that the combine has with its star attractions. Not only do the NFL owners hold the purse strings, they also hold title to the means by which these athletes audition for and are hired for positions on a NFL team. Why do they sit idly by as the inmates and wardens take over the asylum? Have they not learned from the hundreds of millions of dollars in "my bad" money they've been forced to payout to players that didn't pan out? These men and woman aren't dumb. They wouldn't be multi-billionaires if they were incompetent. I think that money is the key factor in this equation. As much as NFL owners bitch and moan about revenue splits and salary caps, the fact of the matter is that NFL owners are making money hand over fist, so much so that they can afford to allow loopholes like this to exist in the scouting process. To the next Jeff George...you're welcome.
Some would argue that the athletes that choose not to participate in organized activities at the combine are simply waiting until their school's pro day, where they can run on a field that they're familiar with and throw to/catch from wide receivers/quarterbacks that they are familiar with. That is precisely the point of the combine! In the NFL, you don't choose what field you play on or, sometimes, what player you throw the ball to/what player throws you the ball. THE NFL SCOUTING COMBINE IS ALL ABOUT COMPETITION and rising to the occasion in adverse circumstances.
For example, Cam Newton had a less than stellar showing at the 2011 combine in QB throwing drills. However, the fact that the Heisman Trophy winner participated at his own detriment said volumes about his competitiveness and desire to prove the doubters wrong. Cam went on to pass for more yards as a rookie than any other quarterback in NFL history, eclipsing the record of demigod Peyton Manning. Do I think that Andrew Luck and RG3 would be less competitive on the field due to their lack of participation in the combine? Not necessarily. I'm just a firm believer that every time you step foot in the arena is preparation for the next opportunity. I don't care how good you actually are or how good everyone says you are, more practice never hurt anyone (even Allen Iverson).
Some might also argue that the best gauge of a player's effectiveness is to look at their game film. That's where you gauge talent, drive, technique, and competitiveness applied to work. I agree with this assertion. The player's performance on the field is the ultimate gauge of potential future production.
The scouting combine is about seeing how these players will react in unfamiliar surroundings with the pressure of the situation on broil. We all know from watching the game film that RG3 and Andrew Luck are winners but they haven't won at the pro level yet.
Whose afraid of throwing in front of strangers? I guess we'll find out when RG3 and Andrew Luck visit Revis Island.
Friday, February 24, 2012
- Star Wars Episode 7 - Drone Wars
- A February 17th article in the New York Times details a bill signed into law by President Obama that compels the Federal Aviation Commission (FAA) to expand the use of drones in American air space by September 30th, 2015.
- The drones would be used for commercial purposes such as crop dusting and Hollywood movie shoots but could also see expanded use by state and local law enforcement officials.
- Drones are currently being used by CIA and other military branches for surveillance and air-to-ground missile attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya (that we know of)
- Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor during the Carter Administration and a founder/member of three of the most august think-tanks in human history - The Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission, and the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), has stated unequivocally in his writings that the interim goal in regionalization (European Union, North American Union) while long-term goal is globalization under one-world government. there are many steps that have taken course over the past 500 years leading up to the current era. One of those steps is the expansion of surveillance by the state. Brzezinski states:
- "The technetronic era involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled society. Such a society would be dominated by an elite, unrestrained by traditional values. Soon it will be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain up-to-date complete files containing even the most personal information about the citizen. These files will be subject to instantaneous retrieval by the authorities." –
- Ryan Braun's Brawn
- Milwaukee Brewers MVP outfielder Ryan Braun won an appeal, which overturns the 50-game suspension he was facing in 2012 for testing positive for a banned substance that elevated his testosterone levels. Braun's camp cited a prescription drug that he used for a private medical reason for the positive test.
- This is the first time since Major League Baseball introduced a comprehensive Performace Enhancing Drug (PED) testing program that a player has successfully appealed a suspension.
- The suspension was overturned due to the finding that Braun's urine samples were not handled properly as defined by MLB's testing program guidelines. The fact of the matter is that Braun still tested positive for a banned substance.
- This may be an instance of Braun winning in the courts but losing in the court of public opinion. Americans have short memories. If Braun puts up numbers commensurate with his first 5-years in the big leagues, his defense may be substantiated. However, if there is a significant drop off in his stats, especially his power numbers, the cloud of doubt may very well loom over Braun for the remainder of his career.
- And the Academy Award goes to...
- Best Actress - Viola Davis will likely become only the 2nd African-American woman to win a Best Actress Academy Award for her stellar leading role in The Help. To many in black culture, it appears that the ticket to the Best Actor/Actress award for black actors/actresses can only be purchased by portraying stereotypical roles. See what Viola Davis has to say about this notion.
- Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Octavia Spencer could make this a clean sweep for The Help at the 2012 Academy Awards. Spencer would be the 5th African-American Actress to be honored with this award.
- Best Actor - The experts say that George Clooney has a chance to snag this award for his performance in The Descendants. I didn't see the movie and have no plans to so I'll take their word for it.
- Best Actor in a Supporting Role - MTV says that Christopher Plummer is a shoo-in to receive this honor for his role in "Beginners". Once again, I will take their word for it.
- Best Film - Proving once again that what comes around goes around, black and white silent film "The Artist" is expected to nap best film honors for 2012 with Director Michel Hazanavicius taking Best Director Honors.
- Now that I'm done with Academy Award predictions, can I have my man card back?
- 2012 NBA All-Star Game
- Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game - Whatever team Common is on has a chance to win...unless Justin Beiber shows up to defend his MVP!
- Foot Locker Three-Point Contest - I'm going to take a flyer on this one and take Ryan Anderson of the hometown Orlando Magic to upset defending champion James Jones of the Miami Heat.
- 2012 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest - This event has lost a great deal of its luster due in large part to the inability of the NBA to provide adequate incentives for superstars such as LeBron James and Blake Griffin to participate year after year the way that Michael Jordan and Dominque Wilkins did in the mid to late 80s. Alas, we will be blessed with the likes of Derrick Williams, Paul George, Jeremy Evans and Chase Budinger. Who? I know, right! I like the potential of Derrick Williams but, in the end, the uncanny leaping ability of former volleyball player Chase Budinger will shock the crowd into submission.
- 61st NBA All Star Game - The East and West All-Stars have alternated victories over the last 5-Years. I expect the pattern to hold, with the East All-Stars prevailing 151-147. Dwight Howard will be named the All-Star MVP en route to becoming one of very few players to win the All-Star game MVP for one conference before being traded to the other conference in the same season.
- No, I didn't forget about Jeremy Lin. He's gotten enough press in this blog and throughout the national media so I will give him what he needs most at this time - a mental and physical break.
Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era, 1970
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
First of all, Affirmative Action does not just benefit African-Americans and Latinos. Affirmative Action was instituted to correct blatantly discriminatory actions by companies and institutions of higher learning.While the concept of Affirmative Action was introduced during the Civil Rights movement, the philosophy is meant to and has served to create opportunities for other groups that were discriminated against based on their race/ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. All too often, when we think of Affirmative Action, we think of race. When we think of race, we are thinking of "blackness" or, more specifically, "non-whiteness".
Secondly, Affirmative Action is viewed as reverse discrimination. Many opponents of Affirmative Action view the accommodation as a form of reverse racism because it places a premium on being "non-white", which some feel unfairly disqualifies credentialed white applicants. Race has always been used as a factor in admissions and hiring decisions. Being white and male was seen as a desirable trait while being a black or brown male or a woman was seen as an undesirable trait ( I use the past tense cautiously). Now that the shoe is on the other foot and there is more competition in workplaces and schools, there's a problem all of a sudden?
Furthermore, some people view Affirmative Action as a representative of African-American and Latino intellectual ability and work ethic as compared to the majority (white) population. A friend and fraternity brother suggested that blacks and Latinos should be offended by Affirmative Action because it says that we're not smart enough or hardworking enough to compete with our white colleagues. This doesn't necessarily speak to African-Americans and Latinos views of their own intellectual capacity or work ethic but rather the perceptions (stereotypes even) that many in majority culture have of these groups as well as the indoctrination that many immigrants have regarding African-Americans and Latinos before they even reach our shores. There is certainly a faction of these groups that internalize such stereotypes and who act them out in a sort of confirmation drama for majority culture but I wouldn't characterize this behavior as the pathology of an entire group of people.
On a similar note, we also need to address the stereotypes that immigrants come to our country with regarding its citizenry. The experiences of African-Americans and Latinos (especially blacks) is very different from the "American Dream" narrative that the U.S. supplies the rest of the world with. There are very real obstacles to success in America as dictated by our less than stellar history of race relations. More education is required in our schools and on the exams that we give to potential new citizens to educate them on slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, Women's Suffrage, the Civil Rights movement, and historical immigration policy to lay bare the ailments that Affirmative Action attempts to remedy.
Lastly, we must have a candid discussion regarding what the proper role of government (if any) is in legislating morality. The Objectivist philosophy that I subscribe to and the Libertarian political values, which act as the actionable product of my premises, informs me that the only rights that matter are individual rights. We have a culture that has systematically and blatantly infringed on the fundamental individual liberty as outlined in the Declaration of Independence - the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Affirmative Action is a flawed philosophy but one that is necessary due to the inability of the citizenry to govern their own morality. It is an issue of competitiveness in the world economy and you can't be competitive in any industry with a portion of the populace on the sidelines for no rational reason. To say that Affirmative Action is no longer necessary would be to say that we now live in a pure meritocracy where ability trumps other factors.
So, what can we do to make the necessity for Affirmative Action extinct? If we want the government to get out of our lives, we need to start living by the immortal words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who had a dream that " my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Secondly, if we're going to disallow race/ethnicity as a factor in admissions, then we should also disallow preferences for athletes, musicians, people with disabilities, legacy and any other considerations that do not stem from a purely academic brand of meritocracy. Lastly, disenfranchised groups must get back to taking matters into their own hands. When African-Americans were systematically disenfranchised, we formed our own universities, hospitals, schools, law offices and the other accouterments of a thriving community. We need to take back the responsibility for the education of our children and care of our elderly while also realizing that all Americans, regardless of color, are in this together. When we get back to being self-sufficient in our own communities, other citizens will look upon us as equals and not as moochers.