Saturday, September 30, 2017
The Hubris of Roger Goodell and the NFL In the immortal words of Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman: “What, me worry?” These are trying times for the NFL. The owners and players are rolling in dough. Almost all games are sellouts. The NFL is back in Los Angeles. NFL teams have received $3.2 billion in stadium subsidies. $7 billion annually in TV contracts with CBS, ESPN, Fox, NBC, and DirecTV. Unlike professional baseball and hockey, they don’t have to support minor league teams; the colleges are their minor league. Even the most incompetent owners of chronically losing teams earn a large profit from the NFL. Commissioner Goodell earned $31.7 million in 2015 and $174.1 million over seven years. His motto: “What, me worry?” He’s getting a five year contract extension through 2024. What, Roger worry? What’s the buyout? The Commissioner started out in the NFL as an intern. He is the living exemplar of the Peter Principle in action. Beer and jersey sales are in the stratosphere. The Dallas Cowboys became “America’s Team.” Baseball was America’s Pastime; now it’s football. The Boys of Summer aren’t worshiped anymore. Colin Kaepenick took a knee last year and is out of the League. The NFL is taking a knee this year. The NFL now believes it is bigger than the fans. The hubris of the NFL. NASCAR understands its fan base. One owner said the crew members could stand, or take the Greyhound Bus back. The NFL's swans headquarters are at 345 Park Avenue in Manhattan. Perhaps they should move back to Columbus or dayton. They have forgotten their fan base in what New Yorkers often derisively refer to as "Flyover Country." The NFL celebrated America’s military, but charged the Pentagon $6.1 million to do so. NFL, look to the University of Missouri. We go to the movies and watch TV, both for entertainment, and to escape from the real world and its problems. So too with athletic events! We don’t go to the movies, watch TV, or football games for politics. We can do that with CNN, Fox, and MSNBC. President Trump in a simple tweet made it about the American Flag and the National Anthem. The Flag is our symbol. Our men and women have died under, and been wounded and maimed under the Flag. They salute the Flag to honor the Flag and country. The players say it’s about oppression, inequality and the President. President Trump’s patriotic tweets trump the NFL players. They cry oppression. 25 year old pampered, self-indulgent multi-millionaires present a poor case for oppression. Many of the players decry inequality. The highly paid players are a symbol and beneficiary of inequality. High ticket prices, gouging food and beverage prices, inflated prices for merchandise made in sweatshops overseas, resulting in high salaries, that’s the NFL inequality. Give it back to your community. 25 year old basketball, football, and baseball players with histories of alcohol, drugs, domestic violence, and illegitimate children are not role models for America. Their athletic success is a role model for aspiring athletes. Leave it at that. We hardly ever hear of the lives of the scores of players who are solid citizens and loyal family men. We hear of the miscreants on and off the field. Similarly, I don’t care what Hollywood celebrities profess and proclaim, but I find their mug shots and rap sheets amusing. Freedom of speech? Not really! Freedom of speech does not legally exist in the private sector. It is a constitutional guarantee against actions of the government, but does not apply to private action. However, we respect their right to protest, by words or symbols. Actions have consequences. Just as the players can state their positions, the public has every right to respond by not buying their tickets and merchandise, attending their games, or watching their games on TV. The President has the same right to speak out as the players. President Trump has every right to use the President’s Bully Pulpit to call out the players. They’ll show President Trump. They’ll kneel, hold hands, stay inside, and stand for God Bless the Queen in England. That’ll show Trump. And the American public! Solidarity of the players. The hubris of the players and the Commissioner. Their arrogance betrays the basic maxim: “Don’t bite the hand the feeds you.” Who’s right? The NFL or President Trump? Initial fan resistance may be a trickle or a torrent. Even if a trickle, a trickle can build on a trickle and turn into a flood. These are the early keys to the answer: 1) TV Viewership, but that can be ambiguous and reflect multiple causes; 2) Game attendance; 3) DirecTV refunds for the NFL Football Sunday package; 4) Resale ticket prices on StubHub; and 5) Jersey and merchandise sales. The owners, successful entrepreneurs, understand. The NFL does not.
Saturday, September 16, 2017
Law school Professors Larry Alexander of San Diego and Amy Wax of Penn published an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer on August 9, 2017. It is entitled “Paying the price for the breakdown of the country’s ‘bourgeois’ culture.” They were responding to the breakdown in American values today: the drug culture, single motherhood, the decline of adult males in the workplace, and college students lacking the basic skills needed in college. The blame it on the breakdown of America’s bourgeois culture. They wrote that the bourgeois culture of the late 1940’s into the mid-1960’s, in essence the post war America up to Vietnam, “laid out the script we are all supposed to follow: Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime ….” These are, of course, traditional American values, which are falling by the wayside in much of society today. I wouldn’t call it “bourgeois culture”, but a unique American culture. Whenever I head “bourgeois” I think of a phrase from 5-6 decades ago: “decadent bourgeois capitalism.” They wrote “Not all cultures are equal.” They are not equal to responding to the needs of being “productive in an advanced economy.” That is irrefutable. Cultures with slavery, female genital utilization, honor killings, forced marriages, rampant sexism, or cannibalism are not equal. Neither are totalitarian governments. American society of two centuries ago is not a good or equal paradigm for today, but America grew and evolved. The Ottoman Culture was not equal to Ataturk’s culture. They further wrote: “This cultural script began to break down in the late 1960’s. A combination of factors – prosperity, the Pill, the expansion of higher education, and the doubts surrounding the Vietnam War – encouraged an anti-authoritarian, adolescent, wish-fulfillment ideal – sex, drugs and rock-and-roll – that was unworthy of, and unworkable for, a mature, prosperous adult society. This era saw the beginnings of identity politics that inverted the color-blind aspirations of civil rights leaders like the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. into an obsession with race, ethnicity, gender and now sexual preference.” The “bourgeois” values were more successful in creating economic growth and the great American middle class than the current breakdown in values. I do not necessarily agree with all their points. The post-World War II period was a time of great economic growth and optimism. The United States was the only major Word War II combatant with an intact industrial base. The sky seemed the limit. Even the nascent Civil Rights Movement, beginning with the Montgomery Bus Boycott, was achieving success. A core value existed. Shared values, American values were honored and respected throughout the country. The prevailing attitude was “can do;” anything was possible and achievable. The nuclear family was the model with dad working and mom staying at home. The public schools were excellent. Civics and American History were taught in the schools to highlight the American Spirit. Taxes were low and the middle class was growing. It added up to American Exceptionalism. America knew who it was. Americans knew who they were. Americans had a common, core understanding. The culture that arose in the 13 colonies, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution was a combination of the Judeo-Christian heritage, British values, and American self-dependence. The young republic created an unique culture in world history. It set out a welcoming mat, sometimes selectively, out to the world. The Statue of Liberty became the symbol to the world. One of the greatest contributions of the Founding Fathers was creating a government based on the Rule of Law rather than the Rule of Man. President Obama led the way in ignoring the Constitution and the Rule of Law, appointing judges who do not believe in the Rule of Law or the Constitution. The American culture was not limited to whites; it was open to all. Much of the genius of America is assimilation. Each wave of immigrants added to the American Republic. The key for all was the work ethic. They assimilated into the American culture, the white bourgeois culture if you want, for that was the path to success. Generation after generation of immigrants followed that path to success in America. I see it most recently with the Hispanic, Persian and Vietnamese students in my classes. Professor Wax was interviewed in the Daily Pennsylvanian. She was quoted a saying “Everyone wants to go to countries ruled by white Europeans … because Anglo-Protestant cultural norms are superior.” She never said that, but the quote is a red flag for attacking her for “white privilege.” It’s not in the August 9 op-ed. However, it would have been a valid, but incendiary, point to the campus leftists if she had said it. Not many would have predicted during the Dark Ages that western civilization would rise. Most of the population was illiterate. Islamic scholars were the geniuses of the time. Nation states had yet to arise. Then came the Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, the Age of Exploration, and the Industrial Revolution from western Europe. History tells us that it was white western Europeans that rose out of darkness. It wasn’t the Aztecs, Incas, or Mayans. Nor was it the Ottomans, Persians, Egyptians, Romanoffs, Chinese or Japanese. Much of the world remained bands or tribes while western Europe was developing into nation states. Ferdinand and Isabel United Spain and dispatched Columbus to find a route to India, but the Spanish Inquisition is not a virtue of western Europe's history and culture. By no means is White Civilization necessarily superior. Think of Hitler and Nazi Germany or Stalin and the Soviet Union. Think of the western European civilization of the Dark Ages. Professors Alexander and Wax had to foresee in a blowback in today’s charged academic environment, but they had the courage to publish it. They also have tenure, as do I. 33 of Professor Wax’s law school colleagues penned an open letter to the Penn Community. It begins “We write to condemn recent comments our colleague … has made in popular media pieces,” followed by a short paragraph of her remarks. It continues “Wax has every right to express her views publicly free from fear of legal sanctions thanks to the First Amendment, and she may do so without fear for her job due to her position as a tenured faculty member at Penn.” That is a gross misstatement from very bright law professors. She has no First Amendment Protections because the First Amendment applies only to the government – not private entities such as the University of Pennsylvania. The 33 professors wrote: “We do not question those rights, or the important role that principles of academic freedom play at our university. But Wax’s right to express her opinions does not make her statements right, nor insulate her from criticism.” They then write, without any reasons “We categorically reject Wax’s claims.” So much for civility and collegiality with this exercise of Orwellian groupthink. The double standard in the academy is clear. Seemingly the most extreme views on the left are protected. Say anything negative you want about President Trump or Republicans, and it will not only be accepted by the Academy but even rewarded on occasion. No collective group of faculty criticize these extremists. Conversely, conservative views are denounced, ridiculed, demonized, and attacked. The speakers are pilloried and sometimes physically attacked. Both Professors Alexander and Wax have been the subject of student petitions seeking their removal from required first year courses. The Penn Law Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild issued a statement: “While we do not challenge Professor Wax’s right to express her views, we question whether it is appropriate for her to continue to teach a required first-year course. The Penn Law administration has long been aware that her bigoted views inevitably seep into her words and actions in the classroom and in private conversations with students. We call on the administration to consider more deeply the toll that this takes on students, particularly students of color and members of the LGBTQIA community, and to consider whether it is in the best interests of the school and its students for Professor Wax to continue to teach a required first year course. Exposure to a diversity of viewpoints is an essential and valuable part of any educational experience, but no student should have to exposed to bigotry or abuse in the classroom.” They called the op-ed an “explicit and implicit endorsement of white supremacy.” They view Professor Wax’s comments as a “textbook example of white supremacy and cultural elitism.” I view it as a textbook example of free speech. The students fail to see the implications of their proposal, because, of course, their’s the only side. The corollary to liberals disqualifying conservative professors is for conservatives to disqualify liberal professors from required courses. Members of the Federalist Society would have a field day disqualifying liberal professors, including the vast majority of Constitutional Law professors. Abortion, Affirmative Action, Gay Rights, Gun Control, and Immigration raise strong passions on both sides, but may only have one perspective presented by the faculty. The result would be sheer chaos in law schools. Of course, any conservative so acting faces the risk of a vicious and perhaps violent attack from the left. The NLG’s co-chair in a separate email accused Professor Wax of endorsing white supremacy and segregation (which she has not done) as well as lacking academic rigor, being intellectually dishonest, and failing to support her opinions with evidence. Once again the left resorts to ad hominem attacks rather than reason! The Black Law Student Association at San Diego made a similar request to disqualify Professor Alexander. BALSA’s letter wrote “Those who romanticize an era of segregation and unequal rights are being disingenuous at best and racist at worse.” One of the problems in America today is that both sides on the left and right can become so imbued in their dogma that they don’t actually look at the opposing arguments and statements. Professors Alexander and Wax acknowledged that “there was racial discrimination, sexism, and pockets of anti-Semitism” during the period of the 1950’s and 1960’s. They added “steady improvements for women and minorities were underway even when bourgeois norms reigned.” A provocative op-ed in the past would have prompted serious discussion and thought. Today though, especially on our campuses, it becomes the spark for shrill, unreasoned attacks. Yes, the values of 5-6 decades ago are fading fast in today’s America.
Sunday, September 10, 2017
Equifax Pulls a Trifecta. Equifax announced last Thursday that it had discovered on July 29 that it had been hacked. Up to 143 million personal files may have been accessed: social security numbers, birthdates, addresses, and perhaps driver licenses. About 55% of the American adult population is now at risk. It was the third known hack of the year for Equifax. A bad day for Equifax is potentially a calamity for 143 million people. The second leg of the trifecta was Equifax’s response. Three executives, including John Gamble, the chief financial officer, sold $1.8 million in Equifax shares within four days of the breach. That’s insider trading. The trio are looking at criminal and civil penalties and disgorgement. Equifax’s claim is that they were unaware of the breach. Hence, it’s just a coincidence. That might work if the sales were pursuant to a routine, planned sale, but it’s not. Equifax did not notify the public of the July breach until July 7, almost six weeks after the breech. The company has some explaining to do. The third leg of the trifecta compounds Equifax’s public relations disaster. It offered a free one year-credit monitoring, but the fine print included a waiver of any legal claims against Equifax. The company is about to run through a gauntlet of litigation. Two class action suits were filed against it Friday, with more to follow. It will also face Congressional hearings, state attorney generals, and regulatory agencies. Legal costs and settlements will claim a big percent of its annual sales of $3.1 billion. Shareholders can forget about dividends and capital appreciation for years. Equifax should have learned a lesson from Target about the dangers of a computer breach. Target was hacked December 2013 the week before Christmas. 40 million credit and debit cards were compromised. Target incurred costs of $292 million in resolving the claims. About $90 million was covered by a cypher insurance policy, leaving Target’s cost of $202 million. Equifax has a checkered history. It was earlier known as Retail Credit Company of America. Its practices and mistakes, along with its creditors, led to Congressional enactment in 1970 of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The problem for us as consumers is that we cannot boycott Equifax. We are not its customers because we do not deal directly with it. Its customers are banks, retailers et al who seek credit reports on companies and individuals will have to shift their business to Equifax’s competitors.
Friday, September 8, 2017
Memo to Senator McConnell, Speaker Ryan and Congressional Republicans: President Trump's "Art of the Deal" is a Deal, Even with Democrats if necessary.
Donald J. Trump ran for President as a Republican. Americans elected President Trump to get thing done in Washington. He’s tried working with the Congressional Republicans. They failed him and the American people on ObamaCare. They claimed to have repeal and replace in place after seven years of running against ObamaCare. They failed. They claimed to have a tax reform bill in place for a quick introduction in Congress. We still haven’t seen it after eight months. They were dithering over raising the debt limit. They couldn’t get budget bills through. The Senate is slow-walking his appointments. Senate Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Ryan, and other prominent Republicans join the media chorus and Democrats in trashing the President. Enough is enough! President Trump is a man of action. He is not a traditional American politician. Indeed, he was a Democrat much of his adult life. He represents traditional American values. The relationship between President Trump and the Congressional Republicans is not one of mutual loyalty and respect, but of a forced marriage in which neither party is free to leave, but both can stray. He pledged to “Drain the Swamp.” The Washington Swamp, including Republicans, has proven to be deeper with a more glutinous viscosity than expected. He sent a message to the Congressional Republicans with DACA and the debt ceiling. If they can’t get it done, then he will work with Democrats. Some Congressional Republicans are seething over the Trump “betrayal.” They have only themselves to blame. The agreement between the President and Congressional Democrats lifted the debt ceiling for three months, and provided a continuing resolution for funding the government, all of which is attached to a $15 billion relief bill for Hurricane Harvey. The Republicans need to understand that when the President deals with Senator Schumer and Representative Pelosi the Republicans are going to be very unhappy with the results. They will not get as much as they could have working with the President. Nor should they. President Trump gave Congress six months to fix DACA. The Republicans can legislate relief to the Dreamers with border security, probably not a continuous wall, or watch the President and Democrats enact DACA, perhaps amnesty, with little border security. They can work with the President on meaningful, economy boosting tax relief, or watch the Democrats muck it up with President Trump. Many of them can also watch themselves be voted out of office in 2018, either in the primaries or the general election.
Friday, September 1, 2017
“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities It is the best of times with Jim Harbaugh as head coach. It may be the worse year yet under Jim Harbaugh after two 10-3 seasons. Much is expected of Team 138. Much is fretful of Team 138. I started at Michigan in 1970. This is the first year when I am clueless about the team. We don’t know yet if Michigan has reached the ability of Nick Saban at Alabama and Urban Meyer at Ohio State to reload every year. I quickly learned in in the early years of the great Bo Schembechler that the Wolverines would lose the last game of the season – either to Ohio State or in a bowl game. But hope always sprang eternal. Then Michigan might win the last game, but would have lost a midseason game to an unranked Big ten team. It all came together in the 1997 season when the Wolverines went undefeated during the season, beat Washington State in the Rose Bowl, and claimed a share of the national title. Then back to normal. Great winning seasons, but always a setback. Michigan was 10-2-1 against Ohio State. Ohio State’s great coaches, Jim Tressel and Urban Myer, have flipped that number. Michigan has only defeated the Buckeyes once in the past 14 games. Lloyd Carr’s last season, 1997, was the turning point. The slide began with the opening game exactly 10 years ago on September 1, 1997. Michigan lost at home 34-32 to Appalachian State, and was then blown out the next week at home by Oregon. The team went on a winning streak, but lost the last two season games to Wisconsin and Ohio State. The team redeemed itself by defeating Florida and Urban Meyer 41-35 in the Citrus Bowl. Goodbye Lloyd; Hello Rich Rod, a good coach, but the wrong coach at the wrong school at the wrong time. 3-9, 5-7, 7-6. Goodbye Rich Rod. Hello Brady Hoke. 11-2 with a win over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. Michigan was back. Or not 8-5 7-6 5-7 Goodbye Brady, a good coach, wonderful person, but not tough enough on the players. Hello Harbaugh, the true successor to Bo and Woody. Every player has to learn his position, especially as a starter, at all times. 10-3, blowing out Florida 41-7 in the Citrus Bowl, Last year, great promise, with a 9-0 start, but then three losses in the final four games by a total of five points. The problem this year is in the dozens. 19 players from last year have signed pro contracts. Only 5 starters return, just on defense. The best defensive backfield in college last season – gone. The receiver corps – gone. The offensive line – mostly gone. Youth and inexperience can jell by the end of the season. Michigan has four difficult games on its schedule: Florida, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. The big unknown is the first game against Florida on Saturday, September 2. If the Wolverines defeat the Gators, then they are on the road a great record. If not, it may be a long season. The problem with the Florida game is that it is the first game of the college season. This is the game players show their inexperience and lack of cohesion by making stupid plays and penalties. Michigan has inexperience. Florida has ten players on indefinite suspension, including the star receiver and starting running back. Mistakes may decide the game. Michigan’s consistent problem over the past decade is winning on the road. Penn State and Wisconsin are away games. Wisconsin is the week before Ohio State, which means, win or lose, the wolverines will be banged up when they play Ohio State. A great season will be 3-1 against Florida, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. A really good season will be a win against The Ohio State University. They could also lose all four, making for a dreadful season. Injuries can also make a difference. Too many Michigan quarterbacks played Ohio State with limited passing ability because of injuries. For example, Michigan’s Wilton Speight suffered a shoulder injury in the Iowa game last year and lost his effectiveness over the remaining three games, including losses to Ohio State and Florida State. Injuries to quarterbacks and running backs are also caused by Michigan’s inconsistent offensive lines over the past decade. Coach Harbaugh is Old School. He loves a power running game with tight ends and fullbacks. He did it at Stanford. He’s still not there at Michigan. My prediction: 10-2 in the regular season. My optimistic fantasy: 15-0.