Monday, September 18, 2017

Don't Protest Shame Me Bro

Ramblings Post #340
I am, in case this is your first time reading, a Dallas Cowboy fan. Long time fan. Die Hard. When the Cowboys lose don't talk to me the next day  type of fan (see Broncos game). Let Dez score a TD or Zeke break a big run and suddenly "We going to the Superbowl" type of fan. And I realize that the NFL is flawed. I am fully cognizant. Rich old guys own the teams, young black people play. Completely aware. But I grew up in the South. I grew up when one of the most popular shows on TV featured a car with a confederate battle flag on top. I grew up in a town where they had a moment to fallen to the fallen southern soldiers in the town square. And because I was raised bathed in an almost casual racism, I don't see quite the way many others do. It's doesn't mean I'm not mad, it just means I've learned to endure differently. And that's okay. 

Apparently if I'm not completely and totally outraged enough to sit-in, stand-in, go on a hunger strike, chew rocks and march on Washington because (fill in the racial issue of your choice), them I'm a collaborating appeasing self hating respectability politics believing motherfucker and I'm not woke or really down for the struggle. What. The. Fuck. Ever. Because what I am is a grown ass man and I'm of the opinion that if your answer to every injury is burn it all down then I think you're not REALLY listening to what's being said. So, let's clear this up. Am I upset about police brutality and do I want to end the policies where police officers are not being punished for overstepping their authority or committing crimes? Yes, of course I am. Do I think Colin Kaepernick not only had a right to protest, that he did it in a way that was highly visible but not especially disruptive? Yes, it was a brilliant concept. Am I also watching pro football this season? You goddamned right I am. Because while Colin Kaepernick is a stalwart man of purpose and vision who believes in standing up for what he believes in, his protest was to bring attention to his issue. At no point did he say he wasn't willing to play. 

Now, does Kaepernick deserve a shot in the NFL? Considering his QB rating last season, around 90, and the current ratings of some of the starting QBs playing in the league, around 70 or below, then the logic says yes, he should have gotten a shot. Considering the play so far, some GM SHOULD be digging through their trash can right now looking for his number.  

But then, this is football. And if you know how football works, it's not simply how the numbers stack up because if it was there is no way to explain how all those castoffs and rejects end up doing all that winning up in Foxboro. Football judgement is murky, a custom combination of those numbers, a GM or coaches gut feelings, some arcane magic, blind luck and a unwavering belief that a players primary interest in football and football only. Not to diminish Kaepernick's stance, but we're talking about a league that dinged an high potential player who expressed a desire to pursue his opportunity to be a Rhodes scholar in the off season. Kaepernick is a very upfront social activist. Asking a team to hire a player deeply concerned about a social issue that they can't exploit AND who angers a great deal of their most loyal customer base is asking a lot.  

But however, just a a few games into the new season, some of these teams are going to have to make a decision even Kaepernick doesn't have to make: Principle or winning. I don't know how to explain this to a non-fan. Winning fixes a lot. Winners get a great deal of leeway. There are dyed-in-the-wool-name-their-child-Robert-E-Lee-fill-in-their-last-name racists in the south who punch the local sheriff in the mouth if he even thought about arresting the local black star athlete who ensures that his team WINS GAMES for anything less than...well, that's a pretty wide slot right there. Hell, murder is not even a lock if a championship is on the line. But you have TO WIN. And although Kaepernick statistically is a better quarterback than more than few guys who have jobs at this point in the season, unless he's guaranteed to put W's on the board, thereby mitigating they social backlash from their socially unaware season ticket holders (and there are apparently a lot of them) it becomes a tricky question for the Owner and GM. Bring in a better QB (Kap), piss off the fan base and hope he wins games, Or stick to their asinine principle, continue to lose and lose the fan base anyway?    

Money is a powerful thing. But it has no conscience. And no memory. 

I'm of the opinion that a few more games in or the someone else gets hurt and somebody will be desperate enough to have to re-prioritize (see Bengals). The slump in TV ratings and the empty stadiums will only speed things along, provided that the league can package their capitulation properly. And then the rubber meets the road and Kap better win, or then we've got a whole new problem. Would we be just as outraged he couldn't find a job...if he was subpar? Now there is an interesting question. 

I'm not against protesting. And I damn sure don't think Kaepernick should have stuck to sports, after all nobody is telling J.J. Watt to stick to sports. (By the way, Watt is admirable for using his platform to help out hurricane victims - Just like Kap is trying to help his people. Kap started something there.) But protest fatigue is a very real thing. It's hard not to get overwhelmed when it seems like a never ending onslaught. This one, this particular protest, is just not for me. But, let's be clear, here. Should we protest when we as a people are injured by institutional racism and those whose ingrained biases distort their vision of our reality? Hell yes. Every single infraction? Bruh, there isn't that much time. 

Barkeep. I'll not need my protesting libations today. But keep them handy.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Realities in Government : A Critique

This is a political post. 

One of the problems with government running as a business is the business at it's core it is supposed to be designed to maximize and react quickly to changes in it's operational theater. By contrast professional government exists as a kind of national insurance policy - financial, medical, military - required in it's purpose to maintain reserves so that it can mitigate misfortune and disaster and is designed to change slowly. Lost in the shuffle of response, rescue and rebuild is the reality that just before Hurricane Harvey struck, the Republican led Congress was about to gut $900 million dollars out of the budget of country's national disaster response organization - FEMA - using that always prudent (at least to them) kind of thinking that "well, the money is just sitting there," and putting it towards The Wall, the new administration's idea of how border security is supposed to look. It's as though  to them the term "natural disaster" only appeared in CGI heavy movies full of split second escapes made by crazy directors. Then, Hurricane Harvey made that unexpected shift and devastated the city of Houston. And last weekend Irma made Disneyworld close for like the fifth time, ever. 

And our glorious Republican leaders have responded to this massive disruption of life, stability and loss of property, suggesting a tax cut?

Well color me surprised.

But then these are people who swore that government was so wasteful, but seemed determined to treat it like a unlimited charge card and free advertising platform while attempting to destroy so much of it we have no choice but to try something else. It's like the captain of the Titanic purposely ramming the iceberg because using lifeboats will prove who the real men are. This is who is running the country now.

I have long been of the opinion that business and government are fundamentally different, have diverging purposes, and the techniques of success in one cannot be applied wholesale to the other. And very soon we it will become evident to everyone but the most fervent of believers that the reduction in government oversight on a massive scale and the reduction of taxes, instead of a creating a capitalistic libertarian utopia, is almost certain to birth a national version of what happened in Kentucky, Wisconsin and Oklahoma. The less government/less taxes mantra has left a trail of busted budgets, reduction in basic services, and living for some a lot more harsh than even their grandparents remember from the Great Depression. And now we're going to try it on a national scale. My question is what would be enough for them to admit they made an error in judgement? How do you jibe a 50+ billion dollar increase in outflows (military spending) with a reduction in inflows (taxes)? Not one of the current ruling party seems to remember that the Great America they want to get back to, where rampant oppression for everyone not them was a common as kudzu, happened during the absolute highest levels of taxation ever. I'm not even going to get into the political realities of rights and changes in the social atmosphere since then.

And once the hard reality hits that these same people have redrawn the voting districts so that the scoundrels can't even be voted out? Even when they've turned on themselves. We won't even be a representative Republic anymore, much less a democracy. I mean, does anyone else find it interesting that the party in power is working harder to make sure people can't vote than it is to get folks to actually want to vote for them. Just me? Okay, just me.

In it's purest form, running a business is like managing a sports team. Management of the enterprise is a constantly shifting combination of practical experience and gut feeling resulting in a odd mix of proven entities and hoped for future production assets where additions and terminations are regular occurrences and expected by all participants.  Government has to run more like a family - in that a great of those things necessary for continued existence are fixed over time, additions are usually limited, depleted assets must be maintained because that's what you do. Moreover, it does and should takes a great deal of soul searching and agonizing before to committing to drastic action because the consequences cannot be avoided. We are America the family. Not America the sports team.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

And thus ends the road production of the Great White Hype

Ramblings Post #339
There is thing, this feeling that you've been somewhere before or done something before called Deja vu. I sometimes get it when I get invited to a thing and I'm a little nervous but when I pull up realize that not only have I been there before but I had a great time. That feeling that this isn't wholly original...

When it was announced, I was inclined to believe that MMA fighter in the heart of his career could beat a retired boxer. But then I didn't really pay attention to it because I don't really watch MMA and boxing stopped being exciting once the Eastern European man mountains got their hands on the heavyweight title. To me, MMA was always the sport of people who think waiting at red light means pickup your cell phone - people who expect to be entertained every second without having to think about it. Not that there isn't tremendous skill in MMA, it's just that the format doesn't lend itself to long form strategy - it's really an all-in sport every outing. In contrast, boxing requires "thinking long." And while I can appreciate the smaller weight classes and the talent within, for this kid of another age I've always viewed the heavyweights as the big draw - and the dominance out by the Klitschkos sucked the excitement out of the room.

shot by photographer Idris Elba for Mayweather Prod.
But back to this fight - Money Mayweather, a undefeated boxer of great skill, versus the human form of the Tasmanian Devil in the form of Connor McGregor. Mayweather a champion whose fights weren't quite the draw they used to be fighting a Irishman who had never boxed professionally before. And suddenly it struck me - I'd already seen this movie starring Samuel L. Jackson. And I'll be damned if that movie's scheme didn't work again - only this time in real life.

The Great White Hype (1996) is a film starring the aforementioned Sam Jackson, Jeff Goldblum, Jamie Foxx and Damon Wayans as the heavyweight champion of the world. Only this champ is so good his fights are boring and no one wants to wants to watch anymore. His manager the Sultan, played by Sam Jackson, with his back against the wall recalls that the most profitable fight in history was Holmes v Cooney, even as he proclaims "Cooney's jab couldn't even break wind." Thus the Sultan promises the champ that he'll find him a white boxing opponent, and if he can't find one he'll create one. Thus is birthed Mayweather vs. McGregor, er, sorry Roper v. Conklin, where here Conklin is the last person the champ lost to in his amateur days. Sultan finagles a title shot for Conklin, nicknames him Irish Terry Conklin and before the dust can settle the seats and pay-per-view are selling like hot cakes.

Sound familiar, doesn't it?

Now, while Mayweather didn't show up for the fight overweight and smoking in the corner between rounds like the champ in the Great White Hype, in his own way he didn't take the fight seriously. Oh, he trained, but then training is what he does really, with the one night fight events really more interruptions. No, training is Mayweather's job and he's good at it. And I don't mean the pre-fight head massage because well, hell, I'd like a pre-anything head massage so more power to him. I say he didn't take the fight seriously because of something I heard on ESPN the next morning. As the announcers sat around one reported that the day of the fight - around 4pm - Mayweather visited a local casino and tried to place a bet on himself. This is not as crazy as it sounds. He thinks he's gonna win, he's going to try to win, the money is green, so why not? Only it wasn't a straight bet, Mayweather tried to place a bet that he'd win the fight in nine and half rounds.

Now,  when they called it,  McGregor is despite what he said later in the locker room interview, is clearly almost out on his feet. He's weaving, he can't really defend himself and he's about to take another almost two minutes of damage. In the NINTH round.The exact round Mayweather tried to place a bet on him winning. The announcer indicated that had the casino let him place it, Mayweather would have won the bet by about thirty seconds. This is why you don't normally let athletes bet on themselves.

Now, I'm not saying the fight was fixed. In the movie Conklin really thought he could win, and I'm certain McGregor was pretty sure he could pull off the upset was well. He is a proud, game fighter, who was winning the early rounds. But even before I knew what I know now I was of the opinion that the longer the fight lasted the better Mayweather's chances. MMA fights are intense but shorter, and I didn't think McGregor had enough time to build up his endurance, which is crucial to boxing. But it seems like Floyd has the sweet science down to well, a science.

And thus end's the road production of the Great White Hype. We applaud Floyd Mayweather in his deal roles of Sultan and champ. Tax problems goodbye.

Barkeep, I'll need a bottle of your cheapest champagne...and funnel. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

The White House and the KKK

This is a political post. 

I used to have conversations with Hardcore Black Progressives who were upset that Obama had not done more specifically for black people. They would say that he should do this, or he should have done that, as though they imagined the  election of the first black president should have made all blacks the elites of society and completely reversed racism. And I would pragmatically counter and remind them that Obama wasn't voted to be the President of Black people, but the President of the All Americans and he just happened to be black. He didn't really have the option of just being the President to his base, but then no President does. Once we give you the chair, you have to work for those who voted for you...and those who didn't. And I think that someone needs to inform the current guy sitting in the Oval Office of that reality.

Cheeto saying that there is blame on both sides  in Charlottesville is a little like saying the young coed in the horror movie had a bat, so the clown mask wearing axe murderer who just killed everyone in the summer camp is completely justified trying to decapitate her - she's just as at fault as she is. And that's about as flawed as argument as you can make. And no Cheeto, there were no "good people" out there with the Neo-nazis. By definition people who think Hitler not only did nothing wrong but idolize him are NOT good people. We, meaning the whole world, took a vote and the people with swastikas lost. AND...People who side or chose to associate with unashamed Neo-Nazis are also NOT "good people." They didn't end up over there by accident. They didn't miss seeing the Nazi flags or "protestors" who showed in body armor. They made a conscious decision to side with people who believe in genocide. Good? I don't think you're using that word right.   

Side note - Quick Question? Why is Jared still there? I mean, Jesus, his father in law supports people who want him to not exist. Jared, the man who Trump thinks can single-handedly replace the State Department, boost the economy and makes the world's best guacamole. Why hasn't he packed up and moved by New York? Where is his self respect? Without him, the whole thing falls apart, and Cheeto hasn't got his back? Wow.   

I am well aware that this would be Cheeto attacking his hardcore base. But when your hardcore base, those who would support him "even if he shot somebody on Broadway in broad daylight," turn out to people who follow the same ideology of people the rest of us fought a war against just a generation or so ago, you might want to take a long hard look at yourself. This is beyond conservative. Even the most conservatives of conservatives - McConnell and Romney disagree with you. I'm almost certain a large number of people who voted for him in November are trying not to watch the news right now, because denial is terrible thing. I don't know anyone who enjoys being wrong, and I think if that blaming both sides is his final answer, well, a lot of people got it wrong.

Getting rid of Bannon, a man who is a real life overweight Joker come to life, is a good first step. But since Cheeto is ultimately a self promoting narcissistic but ultimately under qualified person to hold the office the President, and entirely too full of himself to ever understand that, I'm not sure what the next step is. Impeachment? Resignation? I think not. Honestly Pence would be worse, because unlike his boss, he knows what he's doing. All those things we are terrified Cheeto might do, Pence would actually get done. This maybe a situation where, and I realize this is a weird idea, but you leave the incompetent demon in place just because he's so incompetent. I mean, he couldn't pass his healthcare rollback and his party owns the government.

With luck, by the midterms he'll have pissed off so many folks he loses his lock majority, and by the next election even outside interference won't be able to save him. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Nazis and the Old South

This is a political post 

We're here now? Seriously? What the actual fuck?

If you don't know, and you should by now, in Charlottesville VA people who consider themselves the oppressed, white males, gathered together and marched while, Nazi slogans and giving the salute that literally gets you jail time in Germany. In a supposed protest against the removal of a statue of a person who was an actual traitor to this country. We're living in one of those crackpot alternate word books right now, we have to be, and I think if we all get together and chant the right words we can get back to a place where common sense is in charge. I say that because what I just wrote is completely true but makes no actual sense.

And then, as if to add butter on the already burnt popcorn, the President's statement was the mealy mouthed political equivalent of the teacher handing out a reprimand for fighting to the both you and the bully who jumped you, because reasons. (This is also the political equivalent of the bully being the teacher's child, or at least nephew.) Someone tell the orange one there is not hate "on many sides," just the side that showed up a "peaceful" rally carrying torches, shouting slogans that give old men night sweats and toting weapons.
The new No Hoods option

I don't even want to get into why there were no police in riot gear on hand. Or why the cops just seemed to stand around and watch. When six black people get together to protest you get SWAT teams. In Ferguson MO, when black people tried to peacefully protest the failure to charge an officer with murder or even investigate the circumstances, the National Guard was called out and they were met with tanks. Because protesting unlawfulness by the people who are supposed to keep the law should be like a thing. But when white people stand in the streets protesting the removal of a statue of a traitor to the country, shouting the slogans of a group that wanted to destroy America, well, it's just something that happens, right? The cops just mull about, if they show up at all. In my opinion, it's this casualness that lead to the circumstances of Heather Heyer's death. But I'm gonna stop there, and I'll leave that to others to fight.

Are we seriously here? I used to think that Obama's presidency and the dawn of the true ascendancy of the black man (and woman) had just uncovered the long simmering and festering hatred from 1950s we'd been unable to eradicate through education, integration, civil rights laws and television. Well, if you're from the South, since last Tuesday, but you get the idea. But now I see it's much worse, because in the 1950s they may have been racist, but at least they hated Nazis. Now they want to be Nazis? Jesus, this is suddenly the 1930s but with internet.

I'm not sure where this going, but as a kid I wonder how those people who fought for my rights did it, how they found the courage and the strength. So, I guess I get to find out.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The New Office Odd Couple

Ramblings Post #338
Work. I want to say something profound and memorable, but all I can muster is "There must be more than this. Isn't there?" I realize you can't chase your dreams forever, but I'm of the opinion you can still walk slowly in their direction while you keep your eye on the important things. Depending on how you define important things.  

One of the things about being a freelance ranch hand is that you keep running into characters. I'm talking about fellow Ranch Hands who apparently ride the range because they're just a little too bronco to bust, they ride rough in a world with smooth edges, or they just don't fit in anywhere else. These are people who either make you happy or dread heading out onto the spread. It is from those people you get the best stories, who with you have the most interesting experiences, and who create those moments that make you consider the priesthood.

For the purposes of these recitations I shall call this pair Shotgun Minnie and Pecos Slim.

When I moved to the big new ranch, I didn't move alone. A few of us rode up north, and among them were these two. Both of them are like me, long time Ranch hands with lots of miles under the belt, and how they ended up out here freelancing like me I refuse to ask. I've seen Pecos Slim turn down a spot in a law practice and Shotgun Minne says she used to do work all over the state. I'm freelancing because this is just where I am right now. They apparently have other views. But the two of them couldn't be more opposite.

Pecos is a middle aged guy like me, maybe a little younger, who worked at big Ranch until he just decided he didn't want to do that anymore - something that happens but nobody talks about. He holds himself out as a GQ type, and a bit of a rake, and to my honest surprise seems to do okay with the ladies. Maybe he's more charming to people with nice thighs? He eats healthy and works out a lot, sometimes twice a day, so maybe that's it? But he's also very thin skinned, wanting things his way always, as evidenced by the time I pointed out to him he was thin skinned and he nearly went ballistic. That and his declaration that his latest gym sucks, not because the equipment is bad or being too crowded, but that he can't get a wifi signal and I should have know that's the most important part of working out.

Shotgun Minnie by contrast is a older white female and may actually be the text book definition of the term "piece of work." She openly admits she thinks the word 'budget' is how you say get your buddies together in French and may have seen every single local band to play Atlanta in the last two years. Every single band. I'm not kidding. She also once asked to take a day off because she read online that a local singer she saw ten years previously had died and she needed to process it. At the old spread she would find an excuse to leave early every single day, such a doctor's appointment or something she has to pickup or something she has to do, which is odd because she also disappeared for hours at a time when she claimed she was there. If it rained she went home for the day. She told me that she preferred to go grocery shopping at 3am the day we got paid and she once sold me a commemorative coaster to get gas money.

Both of these people are firm believers that they are God's gift to the world.

At the previous spread their interaction was limited. Back down south, myself and the "trail boss" worked with Shotgun Minnie on a daily basis, trading off who would help her when she called for assistance. For everything. The running under/over for calls for assistance was six, but I think Minne beat it everyday (we're cowhands, not bookies). Pecos Slim and I shared an office, but he would arrive and put on his headphones and pretend nobody else was there. Several times a day however, he would suddenly ask a question out of the blue, usually about a news article he'd just seen online or something existential. Then get peeved if we didn't understand.  

At the new Ranch however, well, then get on Abbot and Costello. Like Crosby and Hope. Like a mismatched Cheech and Chong. Pecos still puts on his headphones, but he seems to take joy in needling Shotgun Annie about her inability to stay at her desk so he has them off more often. We counted one day and were able to get to 14. Also, this new spot requires a full eight hours, something foreign to her, and Pecos Slim doesn't seem to want to let her forget that either. Then, he talks about popular urban culture to her as though she knows what he's talking about, and holding her own she talks to him about local bands and clubs she's trying to go to in the future like he's trying to tag along. The, um, long time local ranch hand who we've been paired with and who looks like she's always laser work focused told me that she thinks the two of them are a hoot.


I'm not sure how to take that.

Barkeep. Some of that old Snake Eyes and some ice water.