Saturday, September 02, 2006

Sports Report

The American Basketball team lost again at the World Championships. This time they were soundly beaten by Greece, a team with no current NBA players.

Continuously using pick-and-roll plays to beat the Americans’ defense, the Greeks shot 63 percent (35 of 56) from the field and made 31 of 44 shots over the final three periods.

The United States has not played for a world championship since winning the last of its three titles in Toronto in 1994.

Michael Wilbon in the Washington Post explains it like this:
Our arrogance has no boundaries when it comes to international basketball, though it ought to by now, after yet another loss in a major competition. Even Americans who pay fairly close attention to world basketball, people who should know better, took one look at the Greek roster and dismissively figured, "No NBA players on the roster? Then no chance for Greece."

And it's a racial condition as well. We -- and by "we" I mean Americans of all colors -- have conditioned ourselves to look at European teams specifically and dismiss them out of hand because they're white. Or we think they're white. And of course, Americans have led the world in telling folks that white men can't jump, though amazingly some of those Greek kids apparently didn't accept our premise.

Well, yes, but the racial aspect isn’t just that white guys can’t jump, it’s that black guys are selfish losers who can’t play team basketball.

That, of course, is the worst kind of racism. Any cursory glance at the history of basketball definitively proves that skin color or African ancestry does not preclude one from playing smart basketball at the highest levels of the sport.

We can, however, assign a lot of the blame to “ghetto culture.” It’s all about individual status. There are those who dominate and those who submit. It’s not just a racial thing. The same could be said for the Masters of the Universe Wall Street bullshit, but unlike stock speculation, basketball is a team game and a good team always has a chance to beat a collection of better individuals.

But the NBA, NCAA and the television networks share the biggest part of the blame. They are the ones who allow the “me first” and “humiliate the opponent” attitudes that come straight outta the ghetto to dominate the game.

These powers that be in big time sports and television are irresponsible and they may be fools, but they are not idiots. They no doubt have polls and ratings to show that more people will watch ghetto basketball than the more traditional team oriented sport.

This is unfortunate because ghetto basketball reinforces the very worst elements of ghetto society. Being poorly educated, pathologically selfish and abusive works for basketball stars, but doesn’t usually get a person very far in the real world. So very, very few kids will escape their lives of poverty by becoming professional basketball players, yet so much of our culture encourages them to act in the worst possible way for advancing their interests.

On the other hand, the colleges and the NBA could have a positive influence by punishing the ghetto style of play. This is not as radical as it sounds. The rules have been changed over the years to encourage it. They can be changed again to discourage it. That’s a big reason why the U.S. can no longer dominate the international game. Because the international rules favor team basketball. If those who played ghetto ball couldn’t make the team in college, much less the NBA, better values would be pushed back down to the ghetto and people would change.
Krzyzewski and a few players congratulated the Greeks, but most of the U.S. team quickly headed to the locker room.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006


I saw The Illusionist a couple days ago and just finished watching Spike Lee’s Inside Man. It didn’t occur to me going into it, but at some point I realized that the films are very much alike.

Oh, I know, every single plot detail is different, but in the end they are both about illusions and almost every scene is in some way illusionary.

They have other things in common as well. The production values and camera work are excellent. The acting and direction are top-notch. Both movies are able to pull off both the little illusions and the grand finale on first viewing.

The big difference is that all of the illusions in Inside Man stand up to further scrutiny. Once the illusions are revealed, all the plot elements and characters’ actions make sense.

Whereas with the The Illusionist, when the movie is over and you think about it, you quickly realize that it was a bunch of bunk. The characters’ actions moved the story along and provided drama, but ultimately made no sense whatsoever.

They are both enjoyable movies while you’re watching them, but Inside Man has substance and will stay around. The Illusionist, on the other hand, is no more substantial than a CGI generated ghost walking around 19th century Vienna.

Sorry if I seem too harsh. There’s a lot to be said for a very well-produced movie that is enjoyable to watch. I recommend seeing it, by all means. I’m just disappointed because one of its illusions was that it might be high art, but it turned out to be nothing more than good entertainment.

And I’m not saying that Inside Man was high art. It too was good entertainment, ultimately better entertainment, and perhaps it did manage a few moments that transcended the genre.

Straight from the netherworld

I started noticing this writer’s work during the last election. I’m privy to a couple mailing lists run by people who aren’t what you’d call intellectual sophisticates. Most of the emails contain stupid sex jokes or pictures of hillbillies in the outhouse or the like, but occasionally there’s right wing propaganda.

The example below is typical of this writer. I don’t mean this as an example of a stupid argument. It is a very intelligent argument for a very stupid proposition aimed at people who if they are not genetically stupid are willfully so. It is the worst kind of propaganda pure and simple. I do not believe that the author believes a word that she is writing. And I do not believe that she is unaware that she is using logical fallacies. She is more than happy to use them in her rhetoric. She is, I believe, a rhetorician.

These kind of emails are passed around constantly among people who belong to the Elks, the Moose or the Kiwanis club. A lot of them are college educated, but failed to learn anything that didn’t apply directly to their career.

During the presidential election these emails were constantly being passed around among the reddest people in the red states and a lot of regular people of their acquaintance. I'll bet they’re gearing up now for the mid-terms. I’ve tried to trace a couple of them with no success. Given their sophistication, I suspect that it is part of some Republican operation and that the person who writes them gets paid. She’s probably some ivy leaguer living in New York laughing it up while she suckers the yokels with such crap. But that’s just speculation.

What is a Billion ?

The next time you hear a politician use the word "billion" in a
casual manner, think about whether you want the "politicians"
spending your tax money.

A billion is a difficult number to comprehend, but one advertising
agency did a good job of putting that figure into some perspective in
one of its releases.
a. A billion seconds ago it was 1959.
b. A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive.
c. A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.
d. A billion days ago no-one walked on the earth on two feet.
e. A billion dollars ago was only 8 hours and 20 minutes, at the rate
our government is spending it.

While this thought is still fresh in our brain, let's take a look at
New Orleans. It's amazing what you can learn with some simple division.
Louisiana Senator, Mary Landrieu (D), is presently asking the
Congress for $250 BILLION to rebuild New Orleans.  Interesting
number, what does it mean?

a. Well, if you are one of 48,674 residents of New Orleans (every
man, woman, child), you each get $516,528.

b. Or, if you have one of the 188,251 homes in New Orleans, your home
gets $1,329,787.

c. Or, if you are a family of four, your family gets $2,066,012.
Washington, D.C .. HELLO !!! ... Are all your calculators broken ??

This is too true to be very funny:

Tax his land,
Tax his wage,
Tax his bed in which he lays.
Tax his tractor,
Tax his mule,
Teach him taxes is the rule.
Tax his cow,
Tax his goat,
Tax his pants,
Tax his coat.
Tax his ties,
Tax his shirts,
Tax his work,
Tax his dirt.
Tax his tobacco,
Tax his drink,
Tax him if he tries to think.
Tax his booze,
Tax his beers,
If he cries,
Tax his tears.
Tax his bills,
Tax his gas,
Tax his notes,
Tax his cash.
Tax him good and let him know
That after taxes, he has no dough.
If he hollers,
Tax him more,
Tax him until he's god and sore.
Tax his coffin,
Tax his grave,
Tax the sod in which he lays.
Put these words upon his tomb,
"Taxes drove me to my doom!"
And when he's gone,
We won't relax,
We'll still be after the inheritance TAX !!

Accounts Receivable Tax
Building Permit Tax
CDL License Tax
Cigarette Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License Tax
Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel Permit Tax
Gasoline Tax
Hunting License Tax
Inheritance Tax
Inventory Tax
IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax),
IRS Penalties (tax on topof tax),
Liquor Tax,
Luxury Tax,
Marriage License Tax,
Medicare Tax,
Property Tax,
Real Estate Tax,
Service charge taxes,
Social Security Tax,
Road Usage Tax (Truckers),
Sales Taxes,
Recreational Vehicle Tax,
School Tax,
State Income Tax,
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA),
Telephone Federal Excise Tax,
TelephoneFederal Universal Service Fee Tax,
Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Tax,
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax,
Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax,
Telephone State and Local Tax,
Telephone Usage Charge Tax,
Utility Tax,
Vehicle License Registration Tax,
Vehicle Sales Tax,
Watercraft Registration Tax,
Well Permit Tax,
Workers Compensation Tax.

COMMENTS: Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago and there was
prosperity, absolutely no national debt, the largest middle class in
the world and Mom stayed home to raise the kids.
What the heck happened ?????

Let’s review the argument.

A billion dollars is a lot of money.
Some liberal bitch with a French name wants to give 250 of them to a bunch of low life blacks, 2 million per family.
Good decent salt-of-the-earth (working class whites) pay lots of taxes.
If good decent people didn’t have to pay taxes, we’d be living in heaven on earth.

Of course it’s easy to rebut this nonsense point by point. Obviously nobody’s advocating $2 million per family to flood victims in Louisiana, it’s not like a bunch of islamo-fascists hijacked some airplanes and flew them into the levees. Major infrastructure is expensive. Just ask those throwing those hundreds of billions at Iraq.

And why do the good working class folk pay so many ridiculous taxes? Well, because the very wealthy and the corporations don’t, unlike the good old days of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Beave, and white picket fences.

And there are plenty of countries where working people don’t pay a lot of taxes. Collectively its known as the third world.

But by the time you finish explaining all of that to your imaginary yokel, he or she is already reading the next piece of propaganda. Your story is not so pleasing as the free lunch in paradise for all good people narrative.

Sure, they are suckers, but who wants to hear that about themselves?. Yea, they’ll get what they pay for, considerably less, but nobody’s going to stay tuned for the end of that narrative either.

Unfortunately, there is no opposition party in this country, no one to tell an equally pleasing story that would have such a better ending. We get what we pay for.