Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Why Businessmen Can't Govern

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

Scouting Combine Royalty

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'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

A Potpourri of Mental Diarrhea - February 24th, 2012

It's Friday and I'm bored. Enjoy this Potpourri of Mental Diarrhea!
  • 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." –
      • Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era, 1970
  • 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.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Government as Power of Attorney Over Human Morality

Yesterday, numerous publications including the Huffington Post detailed the announcement made by the Supreme Court that they would hear a challenge to the University of Texas' affirmative action program. Texas' program is similar in nature to the University of Michigan Law School program affirmed by the high court in 2003. What has changed is the political make-up of the Supreme Court, which could effect the future efficacy of the law. What hasn't changed are perceptions and stereotypes surrounding the law and exactly who benefits from its existence.

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.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Lincredible Return of the Great (Non-Black) Hope

A disease has swept the nation. Get out of your underground shelters, it's not smallpox. This disease is called Linsanity and no amount of hand washing or quarantine can save us from this pervasive bug.

Jeremy Lin continued his Linsational rise to the top of American sports stardom with a "lackluster" 10 point, 5 rebound, and a career high 13 assists as the New York Knicks beat the Sacramento Kings 100-85 to notch their 7th straight win. Thus far, Lin has scored 118 points in his first 7 NBA starts. That is the most points by any player in NBA history since the ABA and NBA merged in 1976-77.

Undoubtedly, the Lintensity with which fans and the media have embraced Jeremy's story has a lot to do with the American fascination with the underdog. Here is Lin, an exceptional basketball player from Southern California who was nevertheless not seriously recruited by ANY basketball programs in the nation. Pac-10 schools wanted him to walk on. Only Harvard and Brown would guarantee Lin a place on their basketball teams. Ivy League schools do not offer athletic scholarships. Lin ended up at his fallback school, Harvard where, during his junior year, he became the only Division I men's basketball player who ranked in the Top 10 in his conference in 8 separate categories. Lin was a 1st Team All Ivy League performer during his senior year. He graduated from Harvard with a 3.1 GPA in Economics. 

Lin went undrafted before being signed to a 2-year deal with his hometown Golden State Warriors. He was cut in December of 2010 but was claimed off of waivers by the Houston Rockets. Lin played 7-minutes in two preseason games before being waived on Christmas eve to make room for center Samuel Dalembert. The Knicks didn't recognize it at the time but they got a late Christmas present when they claimed Lin off of waivers on December 27th. A couple of injuries and 7 extraordinary performances later, a Linderella story has engulfed the nation.

Okay, enough with the Linguistics, I promise.

Many prognosticators have displayed their total lack of creativity by reaching for the obvious comparison to Broncos "quarterback" Tim Tebow. Both men are smart, humble, and portray the "good guy" persona. Tebow likes to circumcise Asian boys during the off-season and Jeremy Lin has an Asian penis. However, that is where the similarities end. Tebow was one of the most highly recruited athletes in the nation coming out of high school. He went on to a prestigious All-American collegiate career at the University of Florida where he won a Heisman Trophy (he almost won two), a National Championship, and is widely considered to be the best collegiate football player in history. 

A better comparison might be to soon-to-be Pro Football Hall of Famer Kurt Warner. Warner went undrafted out of Northern Iowa (same as Lin), played in the Arena Football League (Lin played in the NBA D-League), bagged groceries, and slept on couches (Lin slept on his brother's couch until his contract became guaranteed) before finally getting his chance when incumbent quarterback Trent Green went down to injury (same as Lin). Another good, local comparison would be Super Bowl Champion and Pro Bowl Wide Receiver Victor Cruz of the New York Giants, who went undrafted out of Massachusetts before springing from the head of Zeus to amass 82 receptions, 1536 yards, and 9 touchdowns in a season that no one, not even Cruz, predicted.

While the story of Jeremy Lin is a great one, his emergence on the grand stage raises questions about race and race relations in America, especially in American sports. Lin's rise to stardom has intentionally or unintentionally made us address our deep-seeded stereotypes about American athletes, especially the black male athlete.

On February 8th, 2012, Forbes Magazine, Yahoo, and Fox Sports released their list of the Top 10 Most Hated Athletes. 8 of the 10 athletes listed are African-American or Latino (Kurt Busch and Chris Humphries also made the list; I guess to add diversity). This begs the question, are there more African-Americans on this list due to the over exposure of mainstream society to the black athlete or is this a sign of hatred and fear surrounding the black and brown male body due to nearly 500 years of white supremacy ideology? The easy way out would be to say that there is a lot of gray area in my supposition. The hard thing to do would be to take a critical look at what we PERSONALLY think of and how we PERSONALLY feel about black and brown men in our lives.

Furthermore, on the February 15th edition of SportsNation on ESPN (one of my favorite shows because Michelle Beadle is smokin'!), co-host Colin Cowherd lauded both Lin and Tebow for being humble, hard-working good guys that say all the right things to the media. Maybe Colin had a lapse in memory but I believe you could also apply the same "good guy" label to athletes such as Derrick Rose, Dwayne Wade, Andre Iguodala, Brandon Phillips, Mark Sanchez, Tony Gonzalez and a host of other black and brown athletes. I'm not going to sit here and paint Colin Cowherd as a racist because I don't know him to be such. However, I think that he and many other Americans consciously or unconsciously view black and brown males as dangerous while non-black and non-brown men are viewed as safe. Stereotypes such as this might be part of the reason that the O.J. Simpson trials of the early 90's solicited the rancor of many whites (while putting blacks on the defensive) while the heinous crimes perpetuated by men such as Drew Peterson elicited a comparatively soft response.

(In all fairness, the ire that the O.J. Simpson trial elicited had a great deal to do with his wealth, stardom, and the tremendous trust that many people placed in O.J. due to the perception that they garnered of him on television shows and in commercials.)

There are more stereotypes at play other than the view of black and brown men as being dangerous and "not good guys". There is also the stereotype of the unathletic, nerdy Asian male. The fact than Lin attended Harvard and majored in Economics fits in well with our Western view of the overachieving Asian male. When you throw athletic prowess into the equation, the subject becomes a novelty and a freak show. This is not unlike the novelty that President Barack Obama elicited when he was first elected to the U.S. Senate in route to the White House. For many Americans, a (half) black, clean-cut, Harvard educated man who is a great father and has good credit went against their previous view of the African-American male as being an uneducated, unemployed thug. 

How can you blame folks for holding these views? Every night on the news we are bombarded with images of licentious behavior by black and brown men. It is a very rare occasion indeed when the scholastic or civic contributions of these same groups are given more than a cursory mention. Now, think of the images that we see of non-black and non-brown men in the news and media. If your only connection with other cultures comes through the nightly news, you would think that every major discovery since the Council of Nicaea was made by white men with a few Asians sprinkled in. Black and brown men are portrayed as destroyers while non-black and non-brown men are portrayed as builders and saviors. 

The fact of the matter is that there have been many prominent Asian-American athletes prior to Lin. Some of these include soccer player Brian Ching, NFL players Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu, tennis player Brian Chang and...hold your breath...Tiger Woods. There are a couple of issues at play with these athletes. Firstly, 2 of the 5 athletes listed above have African-American fathers. The once official and now unofficial rule is that one drop of "Negro" blood makes one inextricably black, no matter what the other constituent parts are. Secondly, whether we care to admit it or not, Americans view academics and technology as the purview of Asian men while the court (the athletic ones as well as the legal ones) are viewed as the natural environment of black and brown men. Judging by the outpouring of support for Lin from the Asian community here in America and across the world, it might be safe to say that many people of Asian descent also hold these stereotypes about their group and other groups.

Look, I'm not trying to sit here and make a feel good story into a race issue but we can not continue to ignore the elephant in the room - that race still matters in our society no matter how many times the Liberals claim that we live in a post-racial society. It's not fair to Jeremy Lin that his hard work, dedication, and resolve never to give up on his dreams has been sensationalized due in large part to his ethnicity. 

As the old saying goes, there's no such thing as bad press but this is not wholly true. Press can be bad when it covertly perpetuates generalizations and stereotypes that chip away at the foundation of our society rather than edifying it. Modern sports is one of the greatest examples of a true meritocracy in the world today. We should admire Jeremy Lin's story because it proves that, if you look for knowledge, skills, and abilities independent of what a person looks like, you might discover a diamond in the rough.

They understand this in sports (an imperfect understanding but understanding nonetheless). It's time that the rest of us catch up.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Mitt Romney, Poor People, and the Myth of Team Chemistry

So, Mitt finally said what all Republicans since 1960 have secretly thought - they don't care about poor people. The fact that Mitt had the chutzpah to get on national television and say that there is a safety net for the very poor shows that, on a positive note, he has the grapefruits to sit in the oval office but that he is completely out of touch with not only those who are living in poverty but also with millions upon millions of Americans who find themselves teetering closer and closer towards poverty on a daily basis.

Further more, to say that he's not worried about the very rich because they're doing just fine displays an equal amount of apathy for the plight of the 99% and a willingness to defend the status quo, a status quo that has in part caused the greatest redistribution of wealth in human history. The recent bank and automotive bailouts (which were passed by those Democrat fuckers too so don't think I'm just hating on Romney and the Republicans) made the Dutch Tulip mania of the early 1600's look like a lemonade stand going under.

I'm a Libertarian politically and Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand, informs my opinions. I believe wholeheartedly in the efficacy of individual liberties. However, no matter how much those sociopaths in Washington and Hollywood blabber on about free-market economics and capitalism, they have all made exorbitant amounts of money by sucking on the tax-payer's nipple. When it comes to a social safety net for the very poor, what's good for the goose should be good for the gander, right?

That's the thing, though!

The very rich and the very poor both have a social safety net but that's where the similarities end. The social safety net for the very rich is the ability to get unlimited amounts of taxpayer money and other resources to bail them out of their bad investments, hide money in tax-free off-shore subsidiaries, and lower their taxable income significantly by making charitable and/or political donations.

On the other hand, the social safety net for the very poor includes food stamps (under attack by Republicans as an "entitlement" program), Social Security (raided by Democrats and Republicans to proffer wars), Medicare/Medicaid (an entitlement program that Republicans won't acknowledge is what it is because they'll lose the elderly vote), and Unemployment Security (Barack Obama practically had to blow John Boehner to get an extension to unemployment benefits).

If you call this a safety net, the ground must not be too far beneath it.

The fact of the matter is that Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Barack Obama, the Clinton's, Kennedy' s and other political figureheads and families ACT like they are just like us but are far removed from the plight of average Americans. They are living in a self-effacing bubble. Politicians are like that ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend that don't want anything to do with you until they're close to getting blue balls (don't know the female equivalent of that). They know that you'll still put out if they remind you enough about the good times you had together and how you can have all of those moments back if you'd just (fill in the blank).

Washington, D.C., Wall Street, and Hollywood are the next bubbles that need to burst

On a similarly ridiculous note...

On the latest episode of Where In the World Will Superman Go, Orlando Magic All-Star center Dwight Howard added the Chicago Bulls to his list of desired landing spots as he continues to (unsuccessfully) coax his way out of Florida. Howard originally left the Bulls all his short list of desired destinations but then he realized that the Bulls have one of the best records in the NBA along with arguably the league's best player so he changed his tune like the Black Eyed Peas.

Now, there are people on both sides of this debate.

Some people feel that Bulls are fine as is. While they think that Howard is a fantastic player, they are worried about how the team chemistry would be affected by the loss of core players such as Luol Deng and Joakim Noah. People who are for keeping the team as is draw parallels to those late 80's and early 90's battles between Jordan's Bulls and The Bad Boys of the Detroit Pistons. It took the Bulls three tries before they finally upended the Pistons dynasty in 1991, en route to the first of 3-consecutive championships for the Bulls.

My question is...what the hell is chemistry aside from a high school requirement? Chemistry?! Give me a break! I can hear the sycophants of this chemistry concept lining up with their typical rebuttals such as "if chemistry isn't important, why doesn't the team the best talent always win" or the opposite rebuttal of "if chemistry isn't important, why do dysfunctional teams fair worse than teams with camaraderie"?

The fact of the matter is that teams with the most talent win WHEN everyone is in the right seat on the bus to make the greatest use of their talents. The fact of the matter is that what we readily identify as chemistry is a psychological effect that is the sum total of one thing - WINNING! Ask the Indianapolis Colts or the Cleveland Cavaliers where their chemistry went. If the Bulls have the opportunity to acquire a guy like Dwight Howard, you have to pull the trigger on the deal no matter who you have to give up (with the exception of Derrick Rose). Howard would fill the void that Carlos Boozer makes deeper on a nightly basis for a consistent low post scorer, he is dominant on the defensive end (just like Coach Thibs likes it) , and it would give D.Rose the Robin to his Batman as they look to contend with Los Tres Amigos in Miami for the foreseeable future.

Fans get caught up in the personalities on a team. Winning cities and organization look for value and talent. Not only will Howard bring personality, he will also bring value and talent.Don't worry, the Bulls will be able to find another Luol Deng in the draft. They will effectively replace Joakim Noah. God forbid they seek to replace Carlos Boozer with more than a bunch of orange safety cones!

Chemistry?! Get the flip outta here. The only chemistry I'm concerned with is the type that puts those two Hydrogen atoms next to that single molecule of Oxygen.