Category Archives: Links

A Weird Spring

It’s something I’ve learned over the years: spring is that time of year when weirdos and nuts come out of the wood works, or however that phrase goes.

I suppose we should be grateful that the leaking through the media of a recording of a private conversation of the owner of the L.A. Clippers, Don Sterling, has us talking about race and gender issues.   The new NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, has announced that Sterling would be getting a lifetime ban and a $2.5 million fine, and the NBA will try to force him to sell the Clippers, via a 3/4 vote of NBA ownership.  I won’t be surprised if there would be more actions in the form of lawsuits, since professional sports is all about contracts and money.  The unfolding issues are just fascinating for their potential depth and multiplicity.  There are all these complications of what goes on in the private and public spheres; what is the responsibility (if any) of a major corporate entity like the NBA, which has this huge egg on its face because of this scandal (in the middle of the 1st round of playoffs); what about what are we as sports fans/viewers/consumers supposed to do (do we really accept this blech from Sterling?); and, hey, it’s spring and it’s crazy…

Anyway, I thought these two posts by Gene Demby over at NPR’s Code Switch blog are good synopses/analyses; definitely worth a read if you want to figure out the developments of this sports/beyond sports story.

Basketball legend (and ex-New Yorker) Kareem Adbul-Jabbar is right on the money: “Let’s use this tawdry incident to remind ourselves of the old saying: ‘Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.’ Instead of being content to punish Sterling and go back to sleep, we need to be inspired to vigilantly seek out, expose, and eliminate racism at its first signs.” I agree that the levels of misogyny and racism out of this mess are opportunities to learn and not just assume that some punishment and moment of shaming will solve everything (not really). Getting things out in the open and discussing them in a civil manner get us on the road of how to actually deal with the craziness and becoming vigilant.

Which reminds me: I ought to read Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent from last week’s US S.Ct’s decision, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action et al., as she has been quoted for writing, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination.”  Hmm.  (see here on Gene Demby’s post on the Supreme Court’s difficulty on debating on racial discrimination, over at the NPR Code Switch blog).  I think that if the US Supreme Court justices are having a difficult time debating how we ought to talk about the big issues, if we ever knew how to talk about them – well, clearly, we all need to learn something and these topics are everywhere as it is.

And, while also not related to the NBA situation, note this: “I’m convinced we won’t really learn how to deal with these issues until we learn how to talk about them. It’s time to break down the patterns; they’re only keeping us from really relating to each other on a subject that’s too important to get right.” – Eric Deggans, NPR critic, in discussing the reaction to his post on whether there would be more diversity on late night tv shows.

I’m not even an NBA follower, although I suppose the Brooklyn Nets are trying to keep things interesting with their playoff games against the Toronto Raptors.  I’m still waiting to see if Barclay Center will ever be a real financial boon for the neighborhoods of Boerum Hill, downtown Brooklyn, Prospect Heights, and Park Slope (which are all fighting to claim the arena; yeah, okay.., you’d think we’d all try to work together to spread the wealth, since Barclay Center is smack in the middle of the intersection of those neighborhoods).

At the least, we’re living in interesting times.

Spring 2014

Well, pardon the latest unintended hiatus…

One year after the Boston bombings at the Boston Marathon, it was great to see that Patriot Day of 4/21/14 was such great marathon day, with people taking back that finish line.  A big plus: Meb Keflezighi as the men’s champion! I remembered rooting for  Meb back when he was close to winning the gold at the Athens Olympics (still silver – no slouch), and it was great when he won the 2009 NYC Marathon, getting to be the first American in years at the time to have done that, and how he has kept alive elite American long distance running/marathoning. If anyone was going to try to pull it off to be the first American in 30 odd years to win the Boston Marathon, it’s terrific that Meb did it (since he did it before in NYC).

See here for the post I had on Meb’s winning the NYC Marathon 2009.  I saw there that I had a link to the NY Times article on Meb’s 2009 victory – and how poignant that it still reverberates these years later – that a great American story of victory lifts an American event (if you can pardon my being patriotic about this).

Meb is that great American story – an immigrant who keeps persisting, a lesson we can all learn. Boston Strong, indeed. (and kudos to Rita Jeptoo of Kenya for winning again and breaking a new women’s record at the Boston Marathon, and everyone who ran and supported the efforts!).

NY Times’ art/architecture critic Michael Kimmelman on an idea (just an idea) of a modern streetcar through the waterfront of Brooklyn-Queens, making more mass transit. I like the idea (I’m someone who is not impressed by the lack of bus frequency, especially on weekend/weeknights), since this could be a great alternative. But again – just an idea…

I’m not sure what to make of the US S.Ct’s decision, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action et al. – a plurality,  it surely is – upholding Michigan’s ban against affirmative action in public universities. I suppose I’d have to dive into reading the opinions therein, but I still find troubling Chief Justice Roberts’ belief that the way to deal with discrimination is not think/do it (well, I’m paraphrasing); it’s a nice idea, but it’s hard to get people to be colorblind when they’re not actually colorblind (or certainly not there yet).  The majority decided to defer to the Michigan voters, so, ok, democracy wins; but I don’t necessarily think that voters always do the right thing.

Slate’s Emily Bazelon did a review of the decision, and comes to the conclusion that I couldn’t help having:

 

I can’t read this without noting that in previous cases, Roberts has expressed his preference for color-blindness. This is where the conservatives on the court lose me. Good faith or no, it is at odds with reality to imagine that race no longer matters. I hope the states that ban affirmative action continue to enroll more low-income students as they also find ways to admit black and Hispanic applicants. But we still live in a world of race and class considerations. Not either/or.

Emil Guillermo also breaks down the plurality, with the twist reflecting on the climate we are in concerning, say, campaign financing:
But it’s likely that we will see future electoral battles over state and local propositions, now unfettered by campaign finance limits from special interests.  But will people of color be affirmed or will we see the tyranny of the majority? If it’s the latter, then this will be the 6-2 decision that cleared the way.
(h/t AALDEF’s home of the Guillermo post).
So, what’s next?  NY Times’ Tamar Lewin covers the question of how to tackle diversity.  The anti-affirmative action crowd seems to have race stuck in the brain, when there is a way to define diversity as more than race and when it is actually about getting as much people (critical mass, one would think) together, even listening to opinions that are really disagreeable. The article closes with a clincher for me:

Kati Haycock, president of the liberal Education Trust, said she could not deny that most people who follow the Supreme Court believe the clock is running out on race-based admissions policies.

“I just keep wishing that the people who spend so much time trying to end racial preferences in higher ed would work to end the racial differences in the education we provide K-12, which is why we need the racial preferences,” she said

That’s a big issue: if primary and secondary education in this country weren’t of such varying qualities, college readiness and people’s jobs options would be a hell of a lot better. We could say that the American dream is there for us all, except for some reason, it isn’t.  If, say, NYC, weren’t so socially and demographically segregated (de facto, not de jure), maybe we wouldn’t wonder why discrimination (as a matter of social practice, forget as law) wouldn’t still be on our minds (at least for those of us who feel it’s still going on).  I’m rambling, but I feel kind of down about how diversity can still be a real thing (and I believe that it is a good thing, and that affirmative action as a remedy shouldn’t be gone yet).

Meanwhile, Above the Law‘s Elie Mystal seems to be optimistic, citing three reasons why there is still hope for affirmative action: (1) “It’s up to the voters” (i.e., this case was about process, not the substantive policy itself); (2) “College Admissions Committees are smarter than voters” (i.e., they’re looking for students who actually want to be in their schools and make their schools great places – so the holistic approaches are still around, and admissions processes are way more complicated than we think – and it’s not just GPA’s and SAT’s or ACT’s – we’d hope); and (3) “Private Colleges are still awesome” (because this case only affects pubic institutions; a voting initiative isn’t necessarily going to tell a private school what to do).  Elie Mystal says it with a lot of sense, closing:

Today’s decision was “bad” for supporters of affirmative action, but the program is going to continue in various forms.

You know why? Because it works. Affirmative action has been wildly successful, both at giving minorities opportunities and for creating a better, more diverse learning environment. Schools aren’t going to easily give up something that works so well, even if the Court says that they can.

Last but not least: the passing of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but in some ways, because we still have his writings and the legacy that they have – well, he has become a little immortal, much like other great writers who have reached a pinnacle and have an impact. I liked listening to the NPR remembrance; in discussing Garcia Marquez’s work, it included actor Hector Elizondo’s reading an excerpt of a Garcia Marquez book.  It just sounded so good – good writing and a good voice actor. I read Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold earlier this spring – and while it wasn’t as much of magic realism, the (lack of) social justice and other questions made it quite a read.  I still have ways to go to read more of his work (One Hundred Days of Solitude is still on my perpetually long to read list), but I’m glad that I started an effort and maybe I should keep going with it.  It’s spring and it’s time for some renewal and re-energizing.

March Madness 2014 – Here we go!

Well, I had meant to do a post on the Winter Olympics, reflecting on how nice that it wasn’t dangerous and how nice that Team USA’s Meryl Davis and Charlie White won gold in ice dancing and that Bob Costas managed to pull through back on the anchor desk coverage.  And, how nice was that closing ceremony, even though I will never understand why NBC insisted on using (exploiting) the Olympics to promote its not very good new sitcoms.

But, then international realpolitick prevailed and kind of made my positive sentiment rather murky.  The Russia-Crimea-Ukraine situation is pretty mind-boggling, but the world is nuts, I think.

I kept looking for other things to distract me.  PBS NewsHour’s Miles O’Brien (the real one, although I’m sure he gets enough attention from Star Trek fans, since the Trek universe has its own Miles O’Brien) had quite a situation in losing his arm due to complications from compartment syndrome after his arm got banged up by his equipment.  He talked about the experience on the NewsHour, and I was so moved and wished him the best of luck.  Maybe his being a science journalist can bring some perspective to the situation.

Meanwhile, in time for the anniversary of the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear meltdown of Japan, the NewsHour aired O’Brien’s three-part story on the status of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, with the meltdown’s consequences still ongoing,  Really fascinating exploration on the science and the policies, and I recommend watching the story.

The disappearance of Malaysian Airlines, Flight 370, is just capturing our imagination, with the endless speculation.  When or if we get actual evidence is a real question, which might lead to some kind of answer, even if still unsatisfactory.

Amid all the turmoil in the world, I look forward to March Madness as a nice distraction.  It feeds the economy to some extent (umm, all that junk food and cable tv and gambling, etc.).  We enter the delusion that scholar-athletes can bring a little glory, and maybe some money via the NCAA will get to flow to other, less high profile NCAA sports. At least, that’s what I keep hoping every year.

Of course, every year, I keep thinking that I’ll pay more attention to the regular season and I’m too casual a fan to really watch much.  My Alma Mater undergrad school’s men’s basketball team actually did pretty well this season (certainly tons better than our football team this past season), playing competitively outside and inside the Ivy League, until Harvard blew us away in a blow out.  I’m impressed that Alma Mater got invited to play some post-season tournament (notwithstanding that I never heard of CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT)).  I’ve heard of the NIT, and I don’t know what to make of the CIT, but hopefully people get some fun out of this.

Time.com has a good post on the five games to watch, among the 64 teams of the NCAA Men’s Division 1 Basketball tournament.  I get the feeling that I’ll be too stuck at work to get to watch the games I’d like to watch.  Manhattan College has Louisville in (that’s what they call it these days) Round 2.  Hopefully Manhattan gets to be competitive.

I’m also hoping that Harvard gets a real shot against Cincinnati; hope springs eternal that the Ivy League can show that it can play with everyone else.  Then again, I picked them this time in my brackets so… eh, who knows?  Of course, I haven’t even done my brackets yet and it’s not like I followed any regular season games.  I’m also wishful about the Big East, but that’s old-fashioned local home region talking there.  Ah well…

I read this article in (dead tree edition) Sports Illustrated, about the Princetown v. Georgetown game, reputedly saving the NCAA.  Worthwhile read about that 1980′s era of college basketball and the personalities (the coaches, the players, the variety of issues/themes – race, class, the rise of Cinderella in the NCAA).

Meanwhile, President Obama has made his picks for his men’s brackets.  I guess he wants a distraction like the rest of us.

On with the rest of March.  Maybe we can some consistent spring temperatures already!