Monday, September 30, 2013

Who Is To Blame?

In the last week, so many people have written about the looming government shutdown and answered the question, who is to blame? The obvious answer, the GOP, is the right one as well, but that hasn't prevented some GOP House Reps. to blabber on about how Harry Reid and Obama are shutting down the government. That's just not the truth and I think Josh Marshall's post about this latest episode of brinkmanship is one of the best reads on the ridiculous GOP and their inability to accept that this whole "defund and defeat Obamacare" strategy was already rejected in November of 2012. 

Money Quote: 
For all the ubiquity of political polarizing and heightened partisanship, no honest observer can deny that the rise of crisis governance and various forms of legislative hostage taking comes entirely from the GOP. I hesitate to state it so baldly because inevitably it cuts off the discussion with at least a sizable minority of the political nation. But there's no way to grapple with the issue without being clear on this single underlying reality. Sufficient evidence of this comes from 2007 and 2008 when Democrats won resounding majorities in Congress and adopted exactly none of these tactics with an already quite unpopular President Bush. This is the reality that finally brought Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein, two of DC's most arbiters of political standards and practices, fastidiously sober, even-handed and high-minded, to finally just throw up their hands mid-last-year and say "Let's just say it: The Republicans are the problem."
Read the rest here. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Quasi Movie Review - Oblivion


After reading Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Disbelief, I'll probably never look at Tom Cruise the same way again. So, it was weird that while I watched Tom Cruise traverse the post-apocalyptic Earth searching for downed drones and scattered aliens, I kept thinking of moments from his real life as a Scientologist, like when the church held tryouts for a "special mission." The mission, you ask? To be Cruise's next girlfriend. So, I kept a close eye on Oblivion wondering if its story or message had some hints of Scientology theology. I think it does, but revealing that would spoil the movie, which pleasantly surprised me. These days, I'm pleasantly surprised by any good movie, which stars Tom Cruise.

Now, does my endorsement of this movie as good, but not outstanding, mean I have endorsed any or all beliefs of the Church of Scientology? Absolutely not. But you can still think of this as a double endorsement. That of Oblivion and another of Lawrence Wright's amazing book, Going Clear. Truly, the book is astounding in its depth and research and that Wright hasn't been sued into Oblivion. Pun intended.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Vote For My Photos

I'm promoting myself in this post. I entered my photos in a contest. You can vote for them this week and I'd really appreciate it if you did that. It's easy to do too! 

Below the big ad, click the "Gallery" tab. 

Three fields should appear/be visible. In the username field, which is located to the right next to the red "FILTER" button, type "@bperica". 

Click "FILTER."

All my photos will appear. There are ten of them.

Then click on the star in the middle, bottom of each picture. If I win, I promise I'll bring you back a souvenir or send you a postcard. 


I'm not Catholic, but...

I don't think I've ever posted about the Catholic faith on here, but I have read with interest the statements Pope Francis has made regarding homosexuality, abortion, and contraceptive methods. I think he is sending the strong, right message. However, as Andrew Sullivan pointed out today on his blog, Pope Francis' statements have put many Catholics in an awkward position, specifically, those Catholics who have spent a lot of time in the last few years focusing on the issues of homosexuality, abortion, contraceptive methods, and not much else. Watching them scramble now to act like they have always thought as Pope Francis clearly does makes for good reading. 

The people in the hierarchy and the hard-right of the American Catholic church have put their best face forward after Pope Francis’ categorical rejection of their entire project.
Read on.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Work, err, Perks Never End

A long, vomity cover story appeared within Time’s September 16, 2013, issue. It suggested that we take the most spoiled and privileged athletes on any collegiate campus, who almost never have to pay for a dollar of their education, and pay them on top of tuition, books, and room and board, to the tune of about $225,000 a year.

The author (Sean Gregory) writes that an “uncomfortable question has surfaced.” The problem, as he sees it, is that there is this game called football and it’s very, very popular. So popular, in fact, that people pay to watch it, even when it’s only a couple of college teams playing. So popular, that the crowds are large enough to support businesses that rely on the crowd’s support and addiction to this game. The university prizes the football players and they are rewarded for it in the form of full-ride scholarships, which, in turn, give them a great college education for free. For free, that’s worth writing one more time. The average college student graduates with $26,600 in financial debt. The problem here is not the debt of the vast majority of college students, but that college teams aren’t paying their football players a salary of $225,000 a year.

The notion throughout the article is that these football and basketball players are 21st century slaves and since they perform for a mass audience they should be rewarded. High school football players in Texas perform for mass audiences, some much bigger than collegiate football crowds. Should we pay them too? Gregory never answers that question, but of course we shouldn’t pay them. They are volunteering to play sports. And, in college, they are volunteering again, although this time they get the perk of having a free education worth more than $100,000 these days.

Gregory quotes several professors in his article. One of them being Roger Noll, “a noted sports economist from Stanford University.” Noll is quoted as saying, “The rising dollar value of the exploitation of athletes…is obscene, is out of control.” Even if I believed this was an accurate statement, I wouldn’t think paying the student in addition to their scholarship would be the solution. How about dialing back the football madness? As the popularity of the NFL has grown, the importance of collegiate football has also risen, putting a bigger and brighter spotlight on major collegiate teams and their star players. If we are looking to exploit them further, then, by all means, pay them a salary. Let the endorsement battles begin. I am sure this will only emphasize the importance of the college education they are already getting for free.

What especially kills me about all of this talk is that the players complaining to Time that their likeness is being used by the NCAA to sell jerseys, video games, etc. are often the players who are going to sign professional contracts after graduating. Meaning, they’ll soon be making millions in a year or over the span of their career. These are not needy people; they are some of the most-spoiled people on collegiate campuses who devalue their education to the extent that they feel they have seen zero dollars in compensation.

One of the biggest, erroneous claims in this article is that these players spend forty hours a week on their sports. This just is not true. In fact, it is illegal for players to formally spend this much time on their sports. Countable hours cannot exceed 20 a week. True, athletes are free to go home and study football plays and video, if that is all they want to do. One player complained in the article that he was spending more time on sports than academics. Well, that’s really his choice, but has anyone done some on-campus research or some Googling? If they had, they would realize that the vast majority of college students playing NCAA D-I football would prefer to spend more time on sports than on academics. Paying them will make this equation even more lopsided.

Look, these players aren’t victims, like this article suggests. They are cogs in a very profitable machine and they are being paid as such. Full-ride scholarship? Check. Books? Oh those are free. Your portion of the rent check? Don’t worry, the living stipend is in the mail. Line at the bar long? Let me usher you to the front. Drinks are sort of pricey tonight? This round’s on the house. Get a good sack in today’s game? Oh, here’s $300. (Read Sports Illustrated’s article about playing football at Oklahoma State University.) You have an 8am class? Coach will be up to usher you there in the morning. You have to go to study tables (where student-athletes are required to study on the clock, that is, if they are dumb and can’t sustain above a 3.0) but you really want to stay at the apartment and play Grand Theft Auto V. Don’t worry, when you walk in and sign in I’ll look away so I don’t see you walk out and then later I’ll sign you out so you get the hours. (This happens everywhere.) Shoes are looking worn? Come on in, I’ll hook you up with a new pair.

Here’s a favorite passage from the article:
And don’t imagine for a moment that universities harvest their athletes’ celebrity for only four years. After a truly memorable championship season, veterans are brought back to campus on a regular basis for reunions and tributes, sometimes for decades. The work never ends.
The work never ends? What the hell? I didn’t know voluntarily coming back to campus, having travel costs covered, wining and dining with the AD and the president of the university, and getting a standing ovation at halftime was work. Shit. Sign me up. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Feature, Not a Bug

I am an avid watcher of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. While I truly enjoyed John Oliver’s stint as the host of TDS this summer, I am thankful to have Jon Stewart back as host. He can, at times, deliver the most powerful critiques of our media, especially of the 24-hour cable news networks, and the critique he delivered on his Tuesday, September 17th show, was one of the best I have seen. Below is a money quote and the aforementioned portion of the show.

“So my final, not initial, conclusion is: This is deliberate. The chaos, the vomit onto the screen, the very thing we thought news organizations were created to clarify, is a feature, not a bug.”

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Never Forgetting, But Moving On

Last year, on September 12, 2012, the day after the eleven-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I read an article in the New York Times. I found one snippet of the article to be profoundly disturbing. Like many 9/11 anniversaries, there was a rally at Ground Zero on this day last year. Someone was speaking to the assembled crowd and the line that received the loudest applause was not, “We will never forget,” but “We will never forgive.”

I understand if someone who lost a loved one on 9/11 has not forgiven those who are responsible, but I don’t think “We will never forgive” should be our rallying cry on this day or any other. If we rally around a statement like that it puts us in a reactive state of mind, the one everyone was in the morning the towers fell. 

I have searched for and have failed to find a video I remember watching on this day twelve years ago. The video was of a man, one of the thousands walking out of Manhattan on the Brooklyn Bridge that day. He saw that a news camera was filming the scene and he took a moment to yell into the camera. His voice was understandably filled with rage and he said, “You see this, you see this?” as he pointed toward downtown, “Whoever you are, wherever you are, we are coming for you. We are coming for you!” It was a moment of raw emotion that we all felt that day. It was healthy to have that feeling, to express it, but not healthy to hold on to it.

During the interregnum, between that crisp, fall morning and this morning twelve years later, the US’ ventures in the Middle East have often been misguided by the “We will never forgive” attitude, an attitude that helped fuel erroneous claims that Saddam Hussein was connected to 9/11 and that he was intent on using WMDs or getting them into the hands of terrorists. It is an attitude that has fueled the rise of Islamophobia in the US. It is a “shoot first—think later” state of mind that some still cling to and that others are slowly beginning to shed as the country learns how to walk that fine line between Never Forgetting and Moving On. Do both today.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Must Watch

Maybe in the last week or two you saw the video of the girl who is "twerking" and falls over and catches on fire. TV stations (local and nationwide) shared the video as a viral YouTube clip and news anchors said there were implications for twerking, meaning that this video showed it was a dangerous form of dance. Well, Jimmy Kimmel featured the now famous dancer on his show last night. Watch.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Helping the Bad Guys in Syria

There is a chance that by bombing Syria the US will just be helping rebel groups who are affiliated with al-Qaeda, a terrorist network (and a mentality) that the US has been fighting in many parts of the world since 2001. Why should we take unilateral action to risk this?

Continue reading at my other blog, here. Check it out.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Some Syria Links

I just posted at IR From Afar about the Syrian situation. I share several helpful links about the most recent developments and I conclude with some thoughts of my own about Obama's desire to strike Syria, a move I strongly disagree with. 

Check it out