Archive for November, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving for Some…

Posted: November 23, 2012 in Holidays, Random

Thanksgiving is typically one of those holidays that I really love. Getting together with the family, there are great football games, excellent food and memories galore. This is the case for many family and friends across the country, and even some of those trying to celebrate overseas. Unfortunately there are also many of people who are currently missing the opportunity to enjoy the holiday, and not just our troops across the globe.

Black Friday shopping has continued to get more and more out of hand. When it was first developed, the idea was meant to kickstart the holiday shopping season. Slowly, the start time for store openings continued to crawl earlier and earlier into the morning. Only recently has it actually reached all the way back to midnight for certain stores. This year, several stores have pushed their start times all the way back to Thanksgiving night, as early as 8pm (and staying open until the end of the shopping day on Friday evening).

Why is this such a problem if people are going to go out shopping anyway to take advantage of the deals? It is inhumane! It is crazy to force people to have to come in on a day of family, friends, reflection and appreciation for what we have to encourage a culture of buying things we do not need. That is what Friday is for. The employees of these stores deserve the opportunity to take the day to relax and enjoy their day. They should be able to watch enjoy time with their families and friends, and, for that matter, everyone should be able to take the day off to not have to worry about buying things.

     

I decided to boycott the Thursday night shopping, but I know that will not make a difference. I hope that store owners develop more of a conscience next year and let their employees actually enjoy the holiday.

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With all of the reactions after the election to Obama’s victory, I was quickly reminded of one of my favorite television shows, Sports Night. The anger over the election results spurred up a rash of racist comments, focused on Obama’s identity as a black man. Rather than lashing out against those individuals, I channel my inner Isaac Jaffe and thought about what I actually want to support in reaction to these reactions. It is about supporting equal rights and equal treatment.

This is where Isaac Jaffe comes in. During an episode during the first season, Isaac was reacting to football players playing the game under the Confederate flag. Roland Shephard had received the starting job on the team and was beating records, but eventually felt uncomfortable playing under the flag. Eventually convinced to make a statement on the air, here is what he said…

“Exaudio, Comperio, Conloquor. That’s a Latin phrase that translates: To Listen, To Learn, To Speak. Those words are carved into the stone arches that form the entrance to the undergraduate library at Tennessee Western University. This afternoon, an extraordinary young man named Roland Shepard made what had to have been an excruciating decision. He said he wasn’t playing football under a Confederate flag. Six of his teammates then chose not to let Shepard stand alone. And I choose to join them at this moment.

In the history of the South, there’s much to celebrate. And that flag is a desecration of all of it. It’s a banner of hatred and seperatism. It’s a banner of ignorance and violence and a war that pitted brother against brother, and to ask young black men and women, young Jewish men and women, Asians, Native Americans, to ask Americans to walk beneath its shadow is a humiliation of irreducible proportions. And we all know it.

Tennessee Western has produced some outstanding alumni in the last hundred years. People of wisdom and vision. Strength and compassion. One of them is Luther Sachs. Luther Sachs owns Continental Corp, which owns the Continental Sports Channel, which you’re watching right now. Luther Sachs is a generous alumni contributor to Tennessee Western with a considerable influence over its Chancellor, Davis Blake, and its Board of Trustees. Luther, you’ve got a phone call to make.

You’ve got to call Chancellor Blake and tell him to take down that flag or he can stop looking for your checks in the mail. You’ve got to put these young men back in a classroom, and I mean pronto. These boys are gonna make you proud one day, Luther. I challenge you to do the right thing. Not an unreasonable request to make of a man whose alma mater declares Exaudio, Comperio, Conloquor. To Listen, To Learn, To Speak.

In the meantime, God go with you, Roland Shepard and you six Southern Gentlemen of Tennessee. God’s not done with any of you yet.”

This episode aired in 1998. I would like to see us continue to progress and recognize how we can continue to grow as a nation. The phrase highlighted as part of Tennessee Western seems to also be fitting for what our government should be doing right now. Just sayin’…

There are a mix of emotions at the moment. At a time when it seemed that the college landscape had settled, a new revelation has set in motion a new set of dominos that keeps the door open for even more moves. Maryland has been in talks throughout the weekend to make the expensive move to the B1G Ten, followed by Rutgers agreeing to follow suit. This afternoon, President Loh, Kevin Anderson, Jim Delany and the host of Maryland’s coaching staff stood before the media and announced that the decision had been approved by the Board of Regents and Maryland would officially joined the B1G Ten for the Fall 2014 season. Rutgers will be making their announcement on Tuesday.

From a personal perspective, I am completely torn. I know that the main motivation for this move is money, but there are so many different challenges at the same time. Let me break it down (though the positive list is fairly minimal)…

Positives

  • $$$$$$ – Maryland will receive a bigger television contract with the B1G Ten than they would ever get in the ACC. Enough said.
  • Stability – The money is part of the equation. With the strapped for cash operations of the past few years, the program could start to turn attention from fundraising back to coaching and expanding. There is also the possibility of a continually changing realignment process and Maryland will at least have their position cemented. The Big East is definitely still in jeopardy and the ACC may also be less stable than it appears.
  • The B1G Ten was looking for a market expansion, which it gets with UMD (Baltimore/DC) and Rutgers (NY/NJ), though how Rutgers is a big enough school is a little farfetched.
  • New rivalries – The ACC’s realignment was going to create new challenges for Maryland’s matchups. The basketball schedule was going to eliminate the 2-game setups with UNC and Duke for Home & Home matchups with Virginia and Pittsburgh. Had Maryland been able to get one of the North Carolina schools and Syracuse, there may have been more they would be losing in the men’s basketball arena. Matching up with Indiana, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan and Michigan State is not the same but also not as huge of a loss. At the same time, ACC football is not impressive, so the B1G Ten is a definite upgrade.
  • Potential recovery of the program – In the past few years, the school has struggled with the threat to and eventual loss of multiple athletic programs.
  • Recruiting – Tied into this is also the lack of strength in Maryland’s football program with the ACC. The lack of rivals and consistency in performance has hurt Maryland from attracting competition away from regional schools in other conferences and even other schools in the ACC. Stronger competition could open new doors for developing a stronger program.

Negatives

  • Tradition lost – Maryland was a founding member of the ACC. They have a history in all of their sports, particularly in basketball, soccer, lacrosse and field hockey. Men’s and women’s basketball against UNC and Duke are the biggest games of the year. While there is still opportunity to schedule early season matchups with these schools, nothing beats the ACC in excitement in college basketball.
  • Loss of identity – While Maryland struggled to identify and gain foundational rivals in the ACC, they have always been an ACC school. The B1G Ten does not seem excited to welcome us in.
  • Competitiveness – This is a problem on both sides. Football is significantly more talented in the B1G Ten, so it is difficult to understand how Maryland will be able to compete with the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State. On the other hand, Maryland’s programs in women’s basketball, soccer and field hockey matchup so much better with the likes of UVA, UNC and Duke than the best of the B1G Ten. Maryland may come out a winner in those sports, but some nifty scheduling magic will have to take place to ensure that there are still matchups against the best the ACC has to offer.
  • Lacrosse – The B1G Ten does not have lacrosse and Maryland boasts one of the best programs in the nation. The ACC will probably not be happy to entertain that Maryland remains a member in just 1 sport. Will Maryland have to channel Notre Dame and become a Division 1 Independent to keep the program afloat?
  • Image in question – Maryland has gone through several years of tough image problems. Debbie Yow and the administration during her leadership conducted some questionable financial management and business practices that put the school in a position to have to cut some longstanding and successful teams. When Kevin Anderson came in, he fired Ralph Friedgen and managed the dissolution of those unprofitable teams, cutting some marketable interest from prospective students. This move came out as a surprise without any significant public discussion more than days before the official announcement. This raises questions as to why the move took place in he public eye so quickly and will the school be looking at some interesting investigations in the near future that uncover the shady business practices that led to this move?
  • Is Maryland being used? – The B1G Ten’s motivation is clear ($$$$$$). What about Under Armour? Kevin Plank is strongly for this deal because it opens him up to an entirely new market that is not challenged by Nike with the strong UNC connection. Maryland could be collateral damage for an attempt at a new market.

Additional Effects

  • Expansion of certain programs – The B1G Ten would certainly get a boost from the addition of Maryland lacrosse (if they can get up to 6 teams for an automatic bid), soccer and field hockey. Maryland basketball also has a great history and would add a little something to the conference.
  • Continued drama for the Big East – As another team prepares to leave the Big East, the conference is scrambling to keep its current members. Pitt, Syracuse and Rutgers are all dodging for the ACC. UConn could be right behind them. It is only a matter of time that Louisville and Cincinnati wise up to maintain competitiveness in football. The new additions are also going to start having second thoughts due to the lack of strength of the conference and the ridiculous travel schedule. It will not take long for San Diego State, Houston, Boise State and SMU to also wise up and find their way into more regional conference that make sense.
  • Continued realignment to SUPER conferences – Louisville and Cincinnati would be strong candidates to take the B1G Ten up to 16 teams. Notre Dame could also decide that they are a better fit for the B1G Ten and jump the ACC ship, causing one of the other teams to go ACC. SDSU and Boise State would probably go to the Pac-12. Houston and SMU would fit in with the competitiveness of the Big 12. South Florida, Memphis, Temple and UCF could be the odd schools out, as the SEC has shown no interest in taking on more Florida teams (and they would want more competitiveness from the likes of FSU or Miami over South Florida and UCF).
  • SUPER conferences to the extreme – Even the ACC could be in trouble with these continued moves. There have been thoughts that UNC would make an eventual strong addition to the B1G Ten structure, and Kansas also is a member of the Association of American Universities (which is a prerequisite for the B1G Ten). The ACC could follow the pattern of the Big East, losing North Carolina teams to the B1G Ten and/or Big 12. FSU, Miami, Georgia Tech and Clemson would go south to the SEC. Boston College, Syracuse, Pitt and the Virginia schools would have a tough sell to figure out which conference they fit into, but the B1G Ten would make the most sense regionally.

It is a done deal, so there is no sense trying to deny that it is happening. Let’s just sit back and enjoy the ride, I guess…

I have spoken much in the past several posts about the divisiveness of the media and prevailing belief structures on the extremes of both of the main parties of our political system. This is an issue that continues to plague our nation as we try to move beyond the election and get back into the necessity of figuring out how to survive the fiscal cliff, growing tensions in the Middle East and maintain the best path for our country to continue as a premier nation of the world. Then Mike Huckabee reminded us that we will continue to remain too stubborn for our own good.

While on The Daily Show earlier this week, Huckabee was responding to some concerns by Jon Stewart about FOX News’s exaggeration of the intimidation issues in Philadelphia on Election Day as well as, more importantly, the political ad that Huckabee sponsored toward his conservative, religious constituents. The problem that Stewart was trying to highlight was that the perspectives on FOX News and his commercial played more toward this divisiveness issue rather than support a more positive narrative about the direction of our political landscape. Huckabee refuted the claims by claiming that his message was a positive message for his fan base and not a negative one against non-believers.

Where my frustration comes to play in this interview was with Stewart missing the opportunity to more clearly point out that being pro-traditional, biblical marriage does mean that you are anti-gay marriage. While Jon tried to refocus on other missing issues with poverty, Huckabee was able to divert without actually responding to the larger concern. When his commercial talked about Christian values standing the test of fire, it gave off a sense that non-believers were sinners and were therefore invalid in their desires for stances that go against the interpretations of the Bible. This, of course, ignores the fact that the Bible has been reinterpreted on multiple occasions and there are beautiful LGBT-identified families in existence, most of which are more successful than the average heterosexual marriage.

Both sides actually need to wake up with these divisive issues. I do not think that democrats should reduce their fight for equality and access, but there should also be more of a focus on the issues that are typically seen as stronger for conservatives (i.e. economy, foreign policy, military support, state governance). Democrats also need to be more ready to articulately support their social policies in a way that reaches a broader population while also listening to their reasons for struggling to support the same issues.

The republican party is in a much more difficult situation. Pandering to voters only weeks before the election by starting to talk about issues that were important to them instills no confidence that they are actually going to carry out positive change if elected or reelected.

The demographics are changing, but in reality, they always have been. Each new population overtakes the last one at some point, and a new population tries to search for acceptance under a discriminating lens. The colonists arrived and took the land away from the native peoples. Protestants discriminated against Irish immigrants, Catholics and Jews. Men maintained dominance in the political and social realm until the suffrage movement. People of color had to fight for their equality, just to be recognized as equal citizens. Now the LGBT community is asking for the same access to rights afforded to heterosexual couples. The discrimination never fully disappears, but society does eventually begin to progress forward.

Can we just agree that this is a problem and that we all have to begin to look at how we contribute to it? I think that is called Step 1.

Huckabee Interview – Pt. 1

Huckabee Interview – Pt. 2

We are almost a week beyond the election and the discourse has continued. Unfortunately, the two sides of the issue are taking some extreme, unnecessary reactions.

Before taking a look at the conservative uproar, I would like to calm the liberal-leaning Americans down just a little bit. There are a lot of things to be proud of coming off of this election. The steady growth of the economy can continue under Obama’s policies (and hopefully will not collapse with the fiscal cliff). Equal marriage has won huge in four states. More women have been able to break into Congress. Still, there is no reason to gloat. The reality is that the House and Senate are still divided. When Congress is under the gridlock like we have seen over the past two years, progress is impeded. It is not necessary to attack the conservative side when they care about the direction of the country as well. It is more important to maintain an open mind and keep moving in a direction that helps the nation as a whole.

So now with the conservative woes…

I have already talked about the meltdown at FOX News and the challenges with understanding how Obama won the election. The thing is that the denial is much broader than a biased “news” organization. Since the election ended, excuses have been aplenty and thousands of people have attempted to challenge the results, more than even Karl Rove attempted to on election night.

One of the more organized efforts to fight the decision has been to gather conservative views within certain states to request secession from the United States. While it may be believed that the red states would be the ones to push this agenda, a couple of states won by Obama actually posted petitions as well. This is not new, as there have been several states that have taken this tactic after the past few elections. This is also mostly a gesture, since it would never be approved by the federal government. The problem is that secession is a tactic of avoidance rather than partnership. It appears to be more of a sour grapes move taken to show that it is our way or the highway. The nation is complicated and needs a diverse set of viewpoints to be able to make the right decisions for the largest numbers of people. If we start dividing as a nation, we will struggle to maintain stability even within the individual states that try to split off. Again, the message is about partnership, not division.

Related Article: http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/secission-petitions-filed-20-states-190210006.html

One of the other significant issues has been the public social media outpouring. It has been a major struggle to see some of the comments, particularly from young people. Twitter has been a significant venue for a sense of freedom from consequence. Jezebel has gotten into some trouble after they decided to take action and post the information of the high schoolers who used the “n” word, other defamatory names to describe Obama and posted comments about threatening the life of the president. This was more than unsettling but rather downright dreadful. It is unbelievable to think that we have progressed as a people in regards to oppressive views and actions, only to find that our nation’s youth seem to be perpetuating deceitful and damaging mindsets. Jezebel may have taken their fight a little too far in posting and reporting to their schools the types of comments they were posting, but it does not make their Twitter discussion any less of a problem.

Related Articles: http://jezebel.com/5958993/racist-teens-forced-to-answer-for-tweets-about-the-nigger-president & http://readwrite.com/2012/11/12/jezebel-violates-standard-codes-of-journalism-ethics-by-harassing-minors

So the lesson really is about unity and partnership. As we continue to play the game as an “I win, you lose” mentality, we will maintain this strong division as a nation. The reality is that Barack Obama is a moderate president, not a socialist. Mitt Romney was not a horrible guy, but his party and choice to bring in Paul Ryan created an extreme conservative narrative that ignited the conservative base but lost the moderate and liberal vote. Post elections, there needs to be an environment of productive discourse and not divisiveness. Let’s hope that we can first get past the fiscal cliff and see the government thrive through the next four years, regardless of who controls the executive and legislative branches.

The Coal Miner’s Dilemma

Posted: November 10, 2012 in News, Politics

Breaking news came out of Salt Lake City on Wednesday, as Bob Murray made a move that somewhat baffles people outside of his company. In reaction to Obama winning his re-election, Murray decided that 102 of his employees needed to be laid off. Citing a number of different reasons, Murray focused mostly on a believed war on coal by Obama’s policies. He read a combination of a statement and religious scriptures before handing out the pink slips.

Interestingly enough, the coal industry has actually been growing beyond its means for the past 4 years and has had to recently compete with a surging natural gas and alternative energy industry. A representative from the Sierra Club acknowledged that the layoffs were actually unnecessary and had to be more personally motivated in response to the election.

If you were to take a look at Murray’s record, it would be hard to ignore his erratic and irresponsible behavior in the past. He has fired portions of his staff before several holiday seasons. He has also had multiple accidents that have resulted in loss of life at different mining sites. The United Mine Workers of America have identified him as a poor manager and businessman. Related to the election, he has also been identified for holding and forcing his workers to attend Republican rallies and donate portions of their earnings to the Republican campaigns.

This action of firing people after the election appears to be more of an attempt to make a statement against a false war on coal. While coal may be a less profitable business than in the past, the rise of other energy sources have not been a secret. Over-hiring and poor management are more of an issue for Murray than anything Obama is doing. Many conservatives who are so strongly sticking to their laurels have been exerting their sour feelings for the past few days through actions ranging from posting comments on Facebook, trolling comment sections of videos and news stories online and severely punishing people in the name of their tradition.

To take a concept used by the conservative supporters that has been used to describe the non-traditional people in America, Murray and other conservatives need to take more personal responsibility and stop looking for excuses for their own problems.

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE ABOUT THE FIRINGS

Sour Grapes: The Plight of FOX News

Posted: November 9, 2012 in News, Politics

The election is over and FOX News has been left scratching its collective head trying to figure out how something they were so sure of could fail as strongly as it did. The Five debated the possibilities, none of which focused on any real shortcomings of their party. Karl Rove was pretty clear on election night that he would not admit to what his own station had already projected, even though the math was against him. You might ask, “what reasons would FOX News blame the election result on?”

The first reason they highlighted was the difference in the way that both candidates targeted the swing states. In some ways, they were right that Obama did a better job at campaigning, winning all but one of the swing states (NC). Still, Romney poured a ton of money into each of them and even made last ditch efforts in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Though the margins for some of them were not huge, Obama did not even need to win all of them to win the re-election. Romney’s campaign was not hurting for money and did not slouch in most of the swing states, so this is a bit of a wash of an argument.

The second reason was in the clarity of their policies. The truth is that Republicans and Democrats have distinctly different views on the economy. While it was interesting for Romney to take such a similar stance to Obama on foreign policy, the fight remained in the arena of how to recover from the recession and prevent another one. Obama may not have articulated a full plan with full details, but his plan is articulated through the actions he has taken in his 1st four years and the slow but steady growth of the economy back from the brink. Romney never clearly articulated anything. It was not all his fault, but I will get into that later.

The third reason was the battle with the changing demographics. Romney never made a good play with the Hispanic population, as he was tough on immigration and changed his position on the Dream Act. Women voted strongly for Obama as well, partially because of the strong push for equal status and the GOP’s failure to keep their candidates from sounding like sexist monsters. The young vote was also another area the Republicans failed. Though FOX News would claim that young people are voting against their future, the GOP has also failed to find a way to get beyond their overly conservative social views that do not match with the evolving social perspective of the youth vote.

Related to the changing demographics, there is a strong sentiment from the conservative viewpoint that the diverse people in the US are not true Americans. There is this strange fear that the “growing desire for entitlements” will kill the economy. While people do like things for free, the Obama policies are not about giving away free stuff, but rather to provide opportunity to those who are commonly disenfranchised and neglected. Romney did not try to exploit that perspective too much but the 47% comment that swept the media certainly struck a divide among the electorate.

The items above are the ones that FOX News has been trying to tell themselves were the causes of the Republican defeat, but there are more significant reasons that I have identified (some of which are explained in my descriptions above).

The biggest reason why the Republicans lost was that the election was more about a referendum on Obama than it was about Obama versus Romney. Obama’s record was on the line and the American public was divided with a slight edge to giving him another four years. Romney did not stand as much of a chance when he failed to promote a competing agenda, since people would rather stick with something they better understand than no plan at all. I have equated the difference in their plans to the concept of the tortoise versus the hare. Romney was asking for swift change and repealing everything from Obama’s first term (much like the hare). Obama’s record has shown improvement in the economy (just not to the degree that he promised in 2008). Still, there has been progress and it has been slow and steady (like the tortoise). The financial cliff is upon us with the end of the Bush tax cuts, but with neither candidate talking about how they would resolve the issue, experience at the larger scale in the political realm won out.

Romney’s second major issue was his image. This was not as simple as talking about a conservative mindset or his Mormon faith. Neither of those identity characteristics were automatic deterrents. Romney took his role as the governor of Massachusetts from a more moderate perspective, while working with a liberal government. When he entered the primaries, he was still somewhat moderate leaning, and periodically strongly moderate in comparison to some of his ultra-conservative opponents. There was little excitement about his eventual win the primaries because he seemed like the safe choice to at least represent the ideals of the party but not ignite a spark in the independents. He also came out of the primaries having been beaten up by the other Republican candidates, particularly when he started to take a lead in the polls. When he was finally the chosen representative, he moved further to the right, alienating many of the non-white parts of the populations and taking on the negative identity of his party’s attitudes toward women (whether purposeful or not). Ultimately, he never maintained consistency in his presence and failed to draw excitement away from a candidate that had previously ran on hope and change and was now tempered by the realities of holding the position.

The next big issue was Paul Ryan and the congressional candidates. In simply terms, they all cost Romney votes. Paul Ryan was a strange choice because he was not talked about until the last minute and then disappeared throughout the remainder of the campaign, except for a couple of campaign stops and the VP debate. His conservative views may have fired up the stronger conservative base, but there was little likability and trust he projected toward the independent and questioning democratic voters. He was slightly better than Sarah Palin but only because he was less of a caricature. The congressional candidates seemed to fizzle out near the end of the campaign process because of their inability to avoid offending women.

The fallout from this election is that Republican party is in trouble of becoming obsolete. The agenda seems to be lacking in an understanding of the true makeup of the American people and the importance of the country’s role in the greater global arena. Meghan McCain is one of the few bright spots in the party at the moment because she can look beyond the social issues that hold the party back from gaining an open ear from independent and liberal Americans. She recognizes that there are inconsistencies in the way that her party supports equality. She almost takes a more Libertarian stance but has not had enough airtime to truly articulate how she would change the image of the party. Regardless of her limited media attention, the rest of the party needs to consider that they will continue to fall short of the popular vote and the continually changing demographics if they fail to meet the needs of their constituents.

Without getting into it since it is implied in much of the dialogue above, the Republican party also needs to separate themselves from the Tea party. Extremist views and a lack of context quickly alienate the entire philosophy from getting recognized beyond their small circle. If we wanted to go back to an age of slavery, subservient women and hatred toward anyone who is not white, then the Tea party would be more popular. Racism, sexism, ethnocentrism and heterosexism are real issues in today’s society, even if they do not take place in the form of rape, murder and violence (though even this still exists). Shouting obscenities on Facebook and Twitter is an example of the new age of oppression. Screaming that reverse racism is hurting this country ignores the fact that the white race still holds the power, regardless of the race of the man in charge. There is a privilege that goes with dominant identities and the GOP is a screaming example of all of them. If you do not believe me, the voter breakdown of who cast the majority of the votes for each candidates gave Romney only the white vote. The vast majority of his votes were from white Americans, while Obama was able to pick up enough of a base of white Americans while also winning the Black, Latino and Asian American constituents.

The Republican party needs to evolve in more ways than they can even accept at the moment and FOX News will do little to help promote a fair and balanced way to do it. Denial will continue to be the name of the game, at least until the politicians or the American people can stand up and demand that our representatives come together. A 13% approval rating for Congress (with a Republican majrity in the House) seems a lot worse than a 49% approval rating for the president.

Here is one more treat…