Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “football”

Should the Cheats Define the Policy? – Tom Rossi

It seems that, for most of my life, I’ve heard a lot of whining about welfare cheats and people who cheat medicare, unemployment, social security, food stamps, and several other programs. Additionally, I now hear all about the people who misuse California’s medical marijuana law so that they can get high and have fun.

There really are people who fit these descriptions. But are these reasons to axe the whole programs? The Department of Labor, for example, estimates that 1.9% of unemployment insurance payments go to cheats. While that does add up to a significant amount of money, it also means that 98.1% go to legitimate, unemployed citizens who are in need of help.

Statistics on cheating in state welfare programs are considerably worse (and difficult to find research results on), but appear to be well below 25% attempts at fraud or at least minor tweaking, most of which are caught and stopped.

There can be no doubt that, even if at a statistically low level, this cheating is a drain on our financial resources that should not be ignored. But this is a problem of enforcement of the rules and regulations of these programs. Fiscal conservatives use these problems as justification to call for these types of programs to be shut down completely, or to cut the benefits as low as possible.

These programs are designed to help people in need. People who have lost their jobs, have had a serious illness in the family, are taking care of a special needs child (or adult), or single or just low-income parents. Can we turn our backs on these people because some people cheat?

There are societal costs – real costs – to ignoring the needs of our so-called less-fortunate citizens. It can mean that we lose whatever contribution a person might make if he or she is helped through a temporary setback. It can mean that people are carrying illnesses while mingling with the “rest of us.” It can mean that some (many) children never reach anything like their true potential and never make the contribution they could to our country. Or it could just mean unnecessary suffering by people suffering from anything from the effects of chemotherapy to chronic insomnia.

These are real costs that justify the costs of assistance programs. But I, for one, believe that the purpose of civilization and certainly of America is to insulate us from the brutality of life, or the “law of the jungle.” Otherwise, we could just fire all the cops and say, “If you can’t protect yourself, too bad.”

I want to live in a civilized country – as far from the law of the jungle as is reasonably possible. We can’t define our policies based on those (relatively few) who abuse them. That’s a separate matter. We must define policy based on benefits to our society and then work to keep the process honest. Would conservatives have us shut down the NFL because teams and players sometimes break the rules? Of course not. Think about this when you’re watching your next football game.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Irony: NFL vs. The Little Guy – Roger Ingalls

By now most sports fans have heard about the NFL scab-referee debacle. In case you haven’t, the NFL locked out the top-tier professional referees once the employment contract between the two parties ended before the start of this season. Replacement refs have been used during the pre-season and for the first three weeks of the regular games. It’s been disastrous.

This past week was particularly bad. Illegal hits and tackles were rampant due to players testing the limits of the scab-refs and finding they could get away with unsportsmanlike play. An Oakland Raider receiver was hospitalized with a brain injury because of a hit to the head. Another player had part of his ear-lobe ripped off when he was illegally hit on the side of his head. American professional football with the big and fast participants can get extremely brutal when the referees controlling the game are not respected.  And that’s now happening. The players don’t respect the authority of the replacement refs because they make bad calls and are indecisive.

Now, the NFL team owners are finally coming to the table and talking with the professional referees they locked out. What brought is all to a head was the last game of the week on Monday night when millions of people witnessed a final second play that gave the win to the wrong team due to bad decisions by the scab-refs. It was awful. Even members of the winning team said they were given a gift because replacements didn’t interpret the play correctly.

Why is this issue important? The NFL by itself is an $11 billion industry and if you consider gaming, food and beverage, fantasy football and other fringe markets, we’re talking about a $20 billion market. It’s a big part of our economy and integrity of the game is paramount.

I find two things ironic about what’s happened in the past few weeks. First, what brought the two parties back to the discussion table was the bad call that put the Green Bay Packers on the losing end of that Monday night game. There are 32 teams in the NFL and 31 of them are owned by very rich men and only one team is from a small market and is owned by the community… that team is the Packers. The little market “people’s team” pays the ultimate price because of the greedy rich.

The second ironic aspect of recent events is how the NFL parallels Big Business. The rich team owners locked out the real refs because they didn’t want to increase pay, wanted to have the ability to replace refs at will and wanted to stop paying into pensions. Keep in mind, NFL refs make anywhere from $25K to $100K which is peanuts compared to owners and players. The owners are bullying the little guys. See the parallel? Big Business pensions have been replaced with 401Ks which are cheaper for business and riskier for employees. They are also trying to make union bargaining illegal which minimizes worker rights and limits collective wage-benefit negotiations.

I’ve always said, “football emulates life” so I guess it’s not a stretch to say that NFL greed parallels the new American economy. What a bummer.

UPDATE: Owners and Referees come to an agreement Wednesday evening.

Football-Minded Obsession – Roger Ingalls

American football, the greatest sport ever conceived. It has all the elements that I love; physical presence, cunning, strategic planning, tactical perfection, statistical tendencies, competitive analysis and the willingness to lay it all on the line.

Football emulates life. Most, if not all, the elements described above are used daily and in many aspects of life. Getting a job, marketing, selling, politics, courting and even mating requires sophisticated gamesmanship.

I’ve watched and played football since I was a kid and my mind has been groomed to pursue every endeavor as if I were on the gridiron chasing the pigskin. It has served me well over the years but there is a downside.  It would be nice to just be able to disengage the brain, relax and enjoy life without auto-thinking the next conquest. It’s seems impossible to retrain an old brain. It’s a kill or be killed world.

An aging body can no longer play the sport but some smart football-minded person invented a new game called Fantasy Football for the physically unable to perform. After ten years of trying, I’m proud to say that the title of champion is mine.

The first game of the 2012 regular season is on the TV as I’m writing this post. American football is brutal, exciting, glamorous and defines our warring culture. It epitomizes who we are.

It’s a sickness but I love it. Go Pack Go!

Oh, Those Tax and Spend Republicans – Tom Rossi

On the news the other night was a story that almost made me change the channel. I’m glad I didn’t. At first, it seemed like the typical, NBC news fluff piece about a kitten being rescued from a tree by a nine-year-old dressed as a fireman or something. But the piece had a diamond in the fluff.

The city of Allen, Texas has something to brag about. Something to show off – a new football stadium. What’s such a big deal? Lot’s of places have a football stadium, maybe even a really nice one. But in Allen, the stadium is for…

a high school.

I’m not going to talk about the ridiculous excess of spending $60million in bond money to build a high school football stadium. Lot of people have been talking about that for three years. What caught my attention was a comment made by an Allen resident (I’m not sure if he was involved in the project) in an interview at the stadium.

He said the $60million was an “investment in the future of the kids and in the future of the town.” The money was supplied by a bond initiative that was approved by 64% of the area voters. Interviews with fans confirm the sentiment by the supporter mentioned above saying, again and again, that it was “worth it.”

Students walk across an indoor practice field, part of the new $60 million football stadium at Allen High School

I’m captivated. I can’t know the individual politics of anyone in any of these video interviews, but Texas is an extreme conservative stronghold. And here are a bunch of Texans speaking the language of progressivism: investing in your community, investing in the future, sacrificing money for a greater purpose. Wow.

If these people could only make the HUGE leap from football to things like water, the climate, clean air, transportation, and sustainable energy, we would really be onto something.

The other thing that fascinates me now is that this piece really seems to have disappeared from NBC. I have searched and searched, and it’s just gone. Even though I made a note of it being on NBC, I also searched on all major and local (bay area) networks and stations’ web sites. I finally found the entire episode of NBC Nightly News on Youtube:

Why would this be missing from NBC’s own web site? Besides the taboo “investment” talk – I actually saw a language “translator” for Republicans that said that the word, “investment” actually means, “spending” – the piece talked about the 64% of voter approval garnered by the bond measure. What this means is that 36% of voters in that area are paying taxes for an “investment” that they didn’t want. Hmmm… Sounds kind of socialistic and/or dictatorial to me. I’m usually skeptical of conspiracy theories, but this piece might have just been a little too embarrassing to Republicans.

We have entered Bizarro World. At the Republican National Convention, Romney and Ryan are berating President Obama for cutting medicare… like they have been demanding for years. They’re claiming that Obama wants to raise taxes on the middle class. And they’re shouting about his “crony capitalism.”

Am I on drugs? Am I in a coma and having bad dreams? Maybe not. In football, if one team does something new or uses a certain kind of system and wins, the other teams imitate it. Football and politics have a lot in common.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Writing With My Sons

My annual family camping expedition is always exciting for me. It is an opportunity to spend intensive time with my sons and wife without the interruption of screens, play dates, or work.

We have seen orcas in the ocean, bald eagles in the sky, caught our first trout each, biked in the redwoods, driven boats on lakes, and much more. This year we had an experience that was particularly special.

My eldest son is 11 and loves reading fantasy. Give him swords, a quest and some dragons, and he can disappear for hours even as he sits in our living room. About six months ago, we began writing a fantasy novel, just a few pages and then forgot it in the humdrum of regular life.

During this vacation, we reread what we had written and began writing again. Our younger son (7) joined in. And now we have 12,000 words on the page (well, word document).

The book might come to nothing, but sitting under the stars, gas light on a picnic table, my sons either side of me as we rode the creative waves of writing together was truly exhilarating. We might not be an immediate threat to the masters: Tolkien, Donaldson, Brooks et al, but I will treasure what we wrote and especially the experience of creating together.

Good Writing,
Alon

ALON SHALEV
Oilspill dotcom – in paperback & currently on Kindle for $4.99

England Forever, South Africa As Well

One of my defining episodes as a teenager exploring social activism was the anti-apartheid movement. I participated by attending demonstrations, asking people to sign petitions, and I had a Free Nelson Mandela sticker on my pencil case. When people were asked to play their favorite song at youth club, I would offer up Biko by Peter Gabriel.

I am writing this blog 48 hours before the soccer World Cup in June 2010. I am excited, not just for the once-every-four-years’ festival of my favorite sport, but the recognition of how far South Africa has come. In a world of hate, corruption, violence and extremism, South Africa is a beacon of what can be achieved.

The overthrow of a brutal, racist system did not spiral into the bloodshed and vengeance that so many feared. The brave and difficult decision to heal memories and move on are a tribute not only to Nelson Mandela, but to every South African who committed themselves to this part.

I am a Brit. I will support the English soccer team no matter what. But I sincerely hope that South Africa, by some miracle, have a great run in the World Cup.

They deserve it.

Good Writing,
Alon
http://wwww.alonshalev.com/

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