Archive for January, 2008

January 30, 2008

Higher Learning

Stuck on Stupid. Heard that from a child… what wisdom they possess. Collectively we are stuck… I loved the movie Belly when it came out. Mostly because the cinematography was exceptional. The story was a stretch (at best) and another movie about hustlers changing their lives didn’t really excite me. But, there was a scene in the movie when one character asks another, “when was the last time you read a book?” and the reply? “what!? never ni&&a!!”. It was almost as if it was the most ridiculous question he had ever been asked. I hate to use movies as examples of what real life is like, but….

 When was the last time? How much more watching than reading do we do? Why is it that little ray-ray knows all of the words to souljah boy’s new song and still doesn’t know the alphabet? Because a premium is not placed on education. Whether it’s because parents don’t know any better, or don’t care, it’s the children who pay the price. We are creating a generation of watchers and not doers. And who will run the country 30 years from now? Little Ray-Ray?

But there is hope. This generation is the most creative and quick to learn, ever. The question is, what are we exposing them to? Whenever we have the chance we should expose a child to something new. Something of value. Something productive. Of course I’m partial to this subject as a father, but without sounding cliche… children are our future. Today’s politicians, business leaders, etc. were yesterday’s children. Less TV (I don’t remember cable before I was probably 8 or 9 even though HBO debuted when I was 3), less internet, etc. produced more readers. More reading produced more thought… and more thought produced better ideas. Am I saying that TV/internet is inherently wrong? No. I’m saying that kids aren’t exposed to anything else. Since we all learn indirectly by what we are exposed to most often, I offer the hypothesis that kids are learning more from TV/internet than from their parents/books. What are they learning?

January 29, 2008

Table Talk 1: Negativity

I was sitting there wondering what to make our first table talk subject and I couldn’t come up with something yet. All of a sudden inspiration hit me. There is always a lot of negative information out there today.

Listen to the news. There is always something wrong or someone killing somebody, obesity statistics, things that can kill you, How you can avoid being killed etc. Not enough time is focused on the good that is going on around us. We’ve got people volunteering, real life heroes, just plain nice people in the world.

We have enough information about athletes and their wild ways. Their cars and lavish lifestyle. Pacman Jones makes it rain in Vegas, we hear about it. Kobe Bryant helps the make a wish foundation and it gets absolutely no coverage.The end result is that people live in fear. You can’t walk up to someone on the street and say “hello” to them because they might have a gun or might be a freak of some sort.

No wonder certain youth turn to gangs and dreams of becoming rappers or ballplayers. They lack positive role models that they can believe in. How can we tell them to stay in school when we can’t show them examples of people who made that system work for them? It is not that these models don’t exist, they just get little to no coverage.

So this first week is dedicated to the good in all of us. This week is about looking at yourself and saying, this is a beautiful place to live. Its not always doom and gloom all the time. Are things bad? Yes they are but there is so much more good. So much more.

January 28, 2008

Obama wins South Carolina and other thoughts…

This particular democratic race is turning out to be something crazier than I imagined. I for one would never have thought it would shake out the way it has been thus far. Incase you didn’t know, Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton and John Edwards to win the state of South Carolina.

What is surprising isn’t so much that he won, but that he won by such a large margin. Some interesting tidbits;

Obama garnered 80% of the African American vote in South Carolina and 50% amongst young people.

This continues a trend that has been established early thus far; Obama appeals to the youth. While the media, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards continue to see Obama as a capable black man, they are missing out on the main point. There is a rebellion, a revolution coming. The Youth are saying: hey we don’t like the way things have been to this point and we are going to make a change.

Obama understands that. This is why you’ll see him say “change”, “change”, “change” as many times as he can in every speech he makes. Clinton and Edwards should start to get it or they don’t stand a chance. Just a word of advice to the wise.

So if you hadn’t heard by now, Dana Jacobson was recently suspended by ESPN and just got reinstated.

Apparently Ms. Jacobson of ESPN’s “First Take”, went too far at a roast for Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg (of Mike and Mike fame) and said some things that were inappropriate about Notre Dame, Touchdown Jesus and Jesus himself.

I have searched around but I can’t seem to find any information on what she actually said. If anyone knows, please do share. Here is what I have to say though. It is a pity. I like Dana Jacobson. I thought we should have learned by now that alcohol and microphones do not mix well. Not at Karaoke bars and obviously not at celebrity roasts.

January 26, 2008

The Round Table Organization

There has been so much going on its hard to keep abreast of everything including this spot. This is not to say that it has been neglected thus far. Not at all.

Here are some of the things we’ve been working on:

The Round Table Organization is finally a reality. As of now there are only a few of us so I am not going to go through incorporation and so on as of yet. We’ll see how far it goes and how much it grows. Like I said before, the goal is to do what is right in this country. This is of course is a very broad concept and that is on purpose. There are gaping holes that need to be dealt with and our goal is to do our best.

How are we going to go about this? Thats where you come in. You are welcome to join us. Every tuesday, we’ll pick a new topic as the focus of the week. We’ll blog on it and put some stats up and why you should care. Then we’ll open up the floor to suggestions. The purpose of this is to get intelligent ideas that we can find ways to act on. We don’t believe in just waiting for the government to solve problems. There are things that we can do and it is time to start doing them.

January 23, 2008

the right thing, the wrong thing, no thing

There is a recent ideology circulating America regarding race relations. It’s basic premise is that the way to eliminate racism is to cease discussing it. It is an interesting, albeit flawed ideology. The assumption is that racism is merely an ember being fanned by fanatics who refuse to let it die and play the “race card” (strongly dislike that phrase) at every turn. It assumes that ignoring a non-issue will make it go away.

 There are a few problems with these assumptions. The first is that racism is an ember. Perhaps in relation to the overt, violent form previously seen in this country, that is a correct assumption. However, racism is not a black/white issue. It’s an issue of powerful vs powerless. Those of African descent in this country DO enjoy a much better quality of life than in any decade before. Yet, I contend that the mindset that created racism lives on. Hispanics would tell you that sans slavery, they are being treated in Jim Crow fashion. Arab-Americans would have you know that they are viewed as if THEY were the ones who flew the planes into the towers. How many movies, tv shows, etc. must Asian endure where they are the butt of stereotypical jokes? Racism is now diluted because it’s not predominantly by one race towards another. But that doesn’t change the fact that it was, is, and will remain… racism.

What HAS changed is people’s perception of racism. We are so politically correct now as to have removed most language that can be perceived as “offensive”. The double standard created when people make fun of themselves, yet scream at the top of their lungs when someone from outside their circle does the same has created an climate of numbness to real issues. Either the N word is offensive or it isn’t some say. Intent is irrelevant, the word is the word. I call my daughter stinky. Does she stink? I certainly don’t believe she does, but I, as her father have the authority to help define her. It’s similar with the N word. But since our “leaders” can’t even agree on a common approach to such a minor issue as the use of that word, we find ourselves mired in trivial bs while larger issues go overlooked. Management needs an enema. Rev. Sharpton may never live down the Brawley incident. Therefore whatever he says of merit, unfortunately loses credibility. Same thing with Rev. Jackson and the “hymie town” affair… and the affair. Many issues are lost when the “leaders” who push those issues have public relations (many would say character flaws) issues that prevent people from hearing the message. Yet, President Bush, after misleading the public about WMD’s (which is in my humble opinion, a more egregious offense than Brawley or Hymie town) is still accepted as the leader of this great nation. Al Sharpton is a charlatan and George Bush is a leader? Neither assumption is 100% true (nor 100% false). But it shows the dichotomy in people’s thinking that foster a mindset where real issues are buried by personality.

But those are minor flaws in reasoning. The biggest issue is thinking that racism will disappear if we just ignore it. Will a pregnancy disappear if you do nothing? Maybe cancer will be cured if we just stop talking about it. Which of societies ills has been ended by a cease and desist order or rational conversation? I was told long ago that you have three choices when faced with ANY dilemna… you can do the right thing, the wrong thing, or nothing…. The worst of the three is nothing for you have now released control and will be forced to react rather than act. Racism will not end by doing nothing. We haven’t come this far as a country by inactivity. Stay active people… we have a long way to go.

January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King Day

Dr. King deserves all the respect and accolades that he gets. It definitely cannot be over emphasized. I like to wonder what things would be like if he were still alive. What he’d think of what we’d become since his time.

I am sure he would be proud of how far we have come and by we I mean America as a whole. There has been a lot of good work done. We live in harmony. There are opportunities to be had.

But he’d march on and continue the fight. I like to think that Dr. King was the kind of man who had a fire burning deep in his belly for better or for worse. I’d like to believe that he always stood for fairness, justice and equality. And that battle, my friends is yet to be won.

This article says it better than I can. Enjoy.

Happy MLK day.

January 19, 2008

Why there needs to be change

Some say that America has lost its brain. I’d like to submit that we have lost our hearts. Sure, one could pull out statistic after statistic to show that we are getting lower test scores, our teenagers are disconnected from the real world, college students don’t even know the basic tenets of history and grammar anymore, etc. but that isn’t what is wrong here.

The real problem I believe can be summed up in one phrase; “we just don’t care anymore”. Notice I said we. I am including myself in this conversation. We have buried our heads in the sand of circumstance and refuse to see what is going on around us.

To illustrate this point, consider this; a majority of the population especially young people do not believe that any politician is honest or is trying to serve the people. Let that sink in for a second. Then remember that this is a democracy. This is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. We’ve taken the people out of the equation and now its a bunch of politicians just doing their thing.

This same apathy can be seen in our everyday life and not just in politics. Yeah katrina was bad but the government ought to have done something about it. Yeah there is racism still left in the world but someone ought to do something about it. And so on. That someone is me. I want to do something about our problems.

But I need you. I need your honesty. I need your help. I need your heart. I want you to care. I want you to ask the right questions with me. I want you to pick me up when I am down. I want you to feel with me for the homeless guy on the street corner. I want you to feel for the little boy in the hood whose hopes are going to be dashed because he has no avenue to survive. Change needs to happen because the way things are going now isn’t going to cut it and its up to us to do something about it. I can’t do it alone and neither can you. So join me.

January 14, 2008

Indicting the Black Athlete of Today

You know about Elgin Baylor. You’ve seen his records being broken. Maybe you know that in the 61-62 NBA season he averaged 38.3 points to go with 18.6 rebounds. Such numbers are eye popping but there is more to this man than that. You may not know that Elgin was a United States Army Reservist that same year and could only play for the Lakers when he got a weekend pass. You may also not know that Mr. Baylor single handedly saved the Los Angeles Lakers. In 1958, when Elgin was drafted number 1 overall by the Lakers, the Lakers were in trouble. They were lousy. The George Mikan era was over and the players who were left on the team were “slow, bulky and aging” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elgin_Baylor). The Lakers owner at the time, Bob Short, begged Baylor to skip his junior year and join the Minneapolis Lakers. Mr. Hope would later say in an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 1971: “If he had turned me down, I would have been out of business. The club would have gone bankrupt”. The Lakers drafted Mr. Baylor to save the franchise and in his rookie year, he led them to the NBA finals. To help put this in perspective think of this; the Lakers had finished 19-53 one year before Elgin came to town. Talk about clutch.

You definitely know about Jackie Robinson. You know what he accomplished by being the first black person in the big leagues. Jackie had to be good you see, Jackie had to be very good or this experiment was going to end just as quickly as it had begun. He was carrying the hopes and dreams of every little boy and girl who wasn’t white but had picked up a bat, a glove, or a ball and dared to dream. Talk about pressure. He knew exactly what he had to do. He had to carry those dreams and hopes on his back. Good thing he had a strong, broad back.

What about Oscar Robertson? He was the only man to ever average a triple double in a season. During the 61-62 season, he pulled off 30.8 points, 11.4 assists and 12.5 rebounds per game. But you knew that. You may not know just how poor Mr. Robertson was growing up. In fact, he picked up basketball because it was a “poor boy’s sport”. His family could not afford a basketball so he learned how to shoot by tossing tennis balls and rags bound with rubber bands into a peach basket. The Big O had to put up with a lot of racism during his career especially in college and high school. He often had to sleep in dorms on the road instead of hotel rooms like the rest of his teammates because he wasn’t allowed in. Despite all of that, Mr. Robertson flourished and even helped bring an antitrust lawsuit against the NBA which led to a reform of free agency and draft rules.

There are many more old time black athletes. Some of them we’ll never hear about because their sacrifices went unpublicized. In a time when their white counterparts were renowned for what they did on the courts, pitch, field, etc., these men had to be champions both on and off the court. They were called upon to look beyond themselves and help bring change and they came through convincingly. Without them, there would be no Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Lebron James, Michael Jordan, etc. The NBA wouldn’t be fantastic, Major League Baseball wouldn’t be importing players from Japan and the Dominican Republic, and Football wouldn’t be America’s new pastime. Yet these men are at risk of being forgotten. Some of them are still alive but aren’t celebrated. When the average fan of today calls Michael Jordan the greatest, I beg to differ. All Michael had to do was just play. The people before him had to win the hearts of people who didn’t want them there.

We are losing a valuable piece of American history. Part of the problem is the apathy shown by current athletes in their refusal to take up causes outside of their comfort zone. There is still some racism left, some injustice in this society, and yet the people who have the power to do so much do nothing at all. The current black athlete is failing off the court despite their high marks on it. Meanwhile history continues to be lost, one piece at a time.

January 11, 2008

And so it begins

It hasn’t been but a mere three days since the New Hampshire primary and well, there has been so much “drama” surrounding these events that my head threatens to explode trying to keep track.Then a close friend pointed me to this article. To follow along with what I am about to say, it would be helpful to read the article first.

The dilemma or the issue at hand is that Sen. Barack Obama lost New Hampshire after every poll had him leading Sen. Hillary Clinton by nearly ten points (Clinton ended up with the win). So were the polls wrong?

Note that this wasn’t the case with the Republican primary. Sen. John Mccain won with about the same margin that the polls had him leading with.

Andrew Kohut, President of the Pew Research Center and the author of the article claims that a possible explanation for this discrepancy is “the longstanding pattern of pre-election polls overstating support for black candidates among white voters, particularly white voters who are poor.” Kohut is making the argument (backed by personal research) that college educated white voters with higher socioeconomic status tend to participate in polls. These polls are then expanded as a representation of the entire population of white voters and in the case of New Hampshire, they were way off. The implication being that college educated white voters are open to voting for Obama while voters without a college education are less likely to do the same (the votes reflected this trend).

So here is the million dollar question; why won’t the aforementioned group vote for Obama? I have my answer but I am not going to push it on you. I want to hear yours.

January 9, 2008

Consciousness

“We gotta make a change…It’s time for us as a people to start makin’ some changes. Let’s change the way we eat, let’s change the way we live and let’s change the way we treat each other.You see the old way wasn’t working so it’s on us to do what we gotta do, to survive.” (Tupac Shakur).

Science has come a long way from what it used to be. I would argue that it has come full circle. Once an institution that had no time for the soul, mind, spirituality or any such notions it is now turning over a new leaf. Science started this whole concept of “if I cannot see, collect or measure it then it doesn’t exist”. This school of thought argued that the concept of the soul or consciousness was myth. We are basically higher thinking computers or robots controlled by our brains.

The issue at hand was that science wanted to be able to have man fit into its concept of the natural world. One that could be calculated and explained by mathematical equations, to translate loosely. Thus, science abandoned the concept of the soul or consciousness because it just didn’t fit. The greatest irony in all of this is that to be human one had to have choices and decisions, fall in love or even hate. In other words to study the human, science tried to destroy the very thing that made us human.

Thankfully, this ridiculous notion is being abandoned and the result is that scores of scientists are meeting with religious leaders around the world to try and come up with other concepts of trying to study and understand human beings. Good luck with all of that.

The point I am trying to make is that human beings have always historically tried to be in control. All the ugliness of past wars, racism, sexism, slavery, and even in sports, the prevalent concept has remained control. Adolf Hitler wanted to control the world, Osama bin Laden wants to control Israel and the United States, the Enron executives wanted to control more money, even Roger Clemens wanted to regain control of his fastball at 40 (okay maybe I went too far but you see where I am going with this).

This is why most people refuse the concept of a God or a maker. We would rather have that God show himself to us on our own terms or else He doesn’t exist. This control is what science craved so badly that they wrote goodness and love out of the script.

Some things just don’t need explaining. When you close your eyes and you get that certain feeling inside you, maybe you should just take it for what it is. We don’t need to know why we feel very protective of little children or why we prefer certain kinds of music over others or why flowers are so pretty. Or maybe we already know and we just don’t want to accept it.