Monthly Archives: February 2009

Cranky Calhoun and the Dirty Business of College Hoops

University of Connecticut men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun has been all over the headlines recently regarding his remarks during a press conference last Sunday. The story goes that a blogger named Ken Krayeske was able to get a press pass that allowed him entrance into the coach’s post-game session with the media. Krayeske started to ask Calhoun a question regarding the coach being the highest paid state employee with a salary of $1.6 million (and UConn being a public university) in the midst of a $2 billion Connecticut state budget deficit, before Coach Calhoun interrupted him and…basically wigged the fuck out. Peep the video below:

Okay so it wasn’t so much of a wig out as it was Calhoun making some bad arguments (“It’s got nothing to do with state funds!”–Uh, it’s a public university, Coach, meaning it’s got a little something to do with state funds) and arrogantly displaying his sense of entitlement in regards to his wealth.

And then things got heated.

Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell called Calhoun’s rant an “embarrasing display,” and some Connecticut lawmakers want him reprimanded.

Calhoun got his 800th career win the other night with UConn’s win over Marquette, but the Marquette fans were ruthless, chanting “How much money? Not a dime!” during the game and calling Calhoun a “Greedy scumbag!” and “Greedy piece of trash!”

Many mainstream media outlets of course have sided with the Coach (the rich have to look out for their own, right?), as I heard commentators on ESPN defending Calhoun, citing how the men’s basketball program does bring in over $12 million to the University and a ton of exposure.

My problem with this rationale is that it overlooks the larger issue at play here, sports as a business, and might even distort Calhoun’s real position in the whole thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending Calhoun. He clearly revealed himself to be the arrogant, cranky, old rich white guy that he is. But in the realm of sports economics, the college hoops coaches are like “mid-level managers.” Calhoun’s taking in a salary that he bargained for and that the University was willing to pay him. The University is the real “owner” or the “CEO” of the college hoops corporation (that is also totally in bed with the state government even if it isn’t a public school).

The real injustice here is that the players are the labor force and they don’t get to see any of the money they bring in! Not a penny for ticket sales, not a penny for jerseys sold with their names on them, not a penny for anything.

And please, let’s skip all the “it’s not about the money, it’s about the love of the game” arguments. It’s definitely about money. Coaches are trying to get paid; players are trying to go pro and make as much cheese as they can while they are in a position to do so and while their bodies are able to hold up to the extreme stress; and universities and state governments are trying to rake in as much bread as they can.

Now, I’m not saying that college athletes should get paid for everything. I just get sick of hearing these sweeping moral judgments that people like to throw at players (the majority “coincidentally” being young people of color), the workers/labor force, for “lacking character” today because they go pro before graduating from school and are “greedy” and “only chasing the money.” If you saw your coach making millions and driving around in an Escalade while you work your ass off and don’t see a dime of that dough, wouldn’t you be trying to go pro too? I know I would. You could always get your degree later. However, you won’t always have the opportunity to maximize your athletic earning potential, as an athlete is always one snapped ACL away from an ended career.

So yeah, Calhoun’s a cranky, rich fuck, but the College Hoops establishment can often be a dirty business all around, and he’s only one small part of a much larger beast. It always helps me to look at sports today as a labor struggle, and this incident highlights again how labor, in this case the players, are getting shafted by management.

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A Song For Ourselves Mixtape

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Head on over to MassMovement to download the new “A Song For Ourselves” Mixtape. Mixed by DJ Phatrick, tracks by Blue Scholars, Bambu, Kiwi and A Grain of Sand (Chris Iijima, Nobuko Miyamoto, Charlie Chin). Production by Fatgums, Asi, Senz of Depth, and others. Shit is hot fire

I had to drive from Atlanta to Randolph County, Alabama last week for work and ran through this tape a bunch of times on the way there and back. I’m pretty sure I was the only Asian brother cruisin down interstate 20 in Alabama listening to some dope ass revolutionary Asian artists.

Go see the world premeire of the “A Song For Ourselves” film this Saturday in LA!

Obama Doesn’t Like Ignorant Mufuckas

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A friend recently sent me this link, which proceeded to make me laugh my ass off. You see, apparently President Obama read the audiotape version of his book, Dreams From My Father. And apparently, a subplot of the book involves one of the President’s high school friends who…uh…swears like a motherfucker. Select clips are compiled on the link above, with the Prez impersonating his friend’s “colorful” language.

I never believed I would one day get to hear the President of the United States say: “There are white folks, and then there are ignorant motherfuckers like you!” Change is here, America!

“A Song For Ourselves” Trailer & New Track

Check out the new trailer for Song and go the premiere if you can! I’m telling you, it’s gonna be dope.

Also, peep the new “War of the Flea” remix, which uses an old Chris Iijima/Grain of Sand sample nicely chopped by Senz of Depth aka Miles Senzaki, and featuring Bambu.

The Regime’s Root Problem

(This is written as part of the Youth Media Blog-a-thon, sponsored by Youth Outlook and WireTap.)

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In a country that was built on genocide, slavery and a system of legalized racism that was only abolished some forty years ago, Barack Obama’s Presidential victory is indeed a historical breakthrough and cause for celebration. I also celebrate because the man appears to be an outstanding individual with liberal politics and an organizer’s instincts. His regular YouTube addresses to the people, like the one below, demonstrate not only a firm grasp of utilizing modern technology to communicate with the masses but also great messaging for empowerment and organizing.

I believe there is also something to be said for the fact that, while not being the diametric opposite of Bush and Republican policies that we would like to think, we are witnessing a significant, bloodless regime change with the incoming regime having markedly different policy approaches than the last. Many places and different conditions require violent revolution or coups for this to happen.

Still, we as progressives have to acknowledge that Obama has clearly demonstrated his willingness to “move to the center” on many issues important to us, as have countless left-supported Democrats before him. Take for example, how his political activities as an Illinois politician seemed to indicate a sympathy for the Palestinian cause, but has changed to the status quo, “Israel is our strongest ally” rhetoric with his ascendancy to the White House.

Again, this is not a singular trait of Barack Obama. Many Democrats that we on the left have supported in the past have compromised their campaign promises and the will of the people in the interest of other bureaucrats, money, greed, their own political ambitions or simply to “get something done” no matter how marginally beneficial or detrimentally harmful the result.

Although there are meaningful differences between the two most powerful US political parties in terms of policy approaches, the undeniable reality is that the Democrats and the Republicans are run by essentially the same people: the rich. At least 35 percent of members of Congress were millionaires in 2005, according to the Center for Responsive Politics–compared with 1 percent for the population at large–and senators had a median net worth of $1.1 million. Furthermore, without publicly financed elections, it often takes a good deal of personal wealth and connections to run for office–the average Senate campaign in 2006 cost about $5.8 million.

Which brings us to the regime’s, or rather the American political system’s, root problem: money rules. The two ruling parties are run by the rich, and thus, it is in their interest to keep the two parties in power, and marginalize any individual or independent political party that tries to challenge them. That’s not democracy, that’s an oligarchy, a plutocracy.

We on the left are told that we should support the Democrats because they are the only ones who can win. We are told we have no other choice but to support them, even when they act against our interests. We are told a vote for a third party candidate is a vote for the Republicans, as if the Democrats are entitled to our votes, even if they haven’t earned them.

I say this all still in support of Obama, but with the full realization that he is only one man. However well-intentioned, he leads an imperialist empire that is in full effect, but a democracy that is broken.

For real progressive change, I believe we need many things. In combination with Obama’s leadership, we need empowered and engaged communities. We need a unified mass movement for progressive change. We need a political system that truly represents the diverse spectrum of political thought that exists today in America.

Here’s a few small reforms that could push us towards a more equitable electoral system and a healthier democracy:

1) Publicly Funded Campaigns

We have to put the voters, we the people, back in control of politics, instead of lobbyists, special interest money and donors with deep pockets. Easier said than done, I know, but it’s actually already happening in a small way through the movement for publicly funded campaigns.

2) Proportional Representation

Basically, proportional representation is an electoral system that believes that all voters deserve representation and that all political groups in society deserve to be represented in our legislatures in proportion to their strength in the electorate. In other words, everyone should have the right to fair representation. To do this, multi-member voting districts are used instead of electing one person in each district like we do in the US. Then, seats in these multi-member voting districts are divided up according to the proportion of votes received by the various parties or groups running candidates. Thus if the candidates of a party win 40% of the vote in a 10 member district, they receive four of the ten seats — or 40% of the seats. If another party wins 20% of the vote, they get two seats, and so on. This leads to a government that is much more representative of the spectrum of political thought in the electorate, instead of being solely dominated by two parties (when a third of the US voting population identifies as “independent).

You can read a much more in depth explanation of how proportional representation works here.

3. Instant Runoff

In conjunction with proportional representation, instant runoff voting is a method that aims to make the electoral system more equitable. The FairVote organization states that:

“Instant runoff voting allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference (i.e. first, second, third, fourth and so on). Voters have the option to rank as many or as few candidates as they wish, but can vote without fear that ranking less favored candidates will harm the chances of their most preferred candidates. First choices are then tabulated, and if a candidate receives a majority of first choices, he or she is elected. If nobody has a clear majority of votes on the first count, a series of runoffs are simulated, using each voter’s preferences indicated on the ballot. The candidate who received the fewest first place choices is eliminated. All ballots are then retabulated, with each ballot counting as one vote for each voter’s highest ranked candidate who has not been eliminated. Specifically, voters who chose the now-eliminated candidate will now have their ballots counted for their second ranked candidate — just as if they were voting in a traditional two-round runoff election — but all other voters get to continue supporting their top candidate. The weakest candidates are successively eliminated and their voters’ ballots are redistributed to next choices until a candidate crosses a majority of votes.

Instant runoff voting allows for better voter choice and wider voter participation by accommodating multiple candidates in single seat races and assuring that a “spoiler effect” will not result in undemocratic outcomes. IRV allows all voters to vote for their favorite candidate without fear of helping elect their least favorite candidate, and it ensures that the winner enjoys true support from a majority of the voters. Plurality voting, as used in most American elections, does not meet these basic requirements for a fair election system that promotes cost-saving elections with wider participation.”

Instant runoff voting is already used around the world and in the US in places like San Francisco, California; Burlington, Vermont; and Takoma Park, Maryland.

You can read more about instant runoff voting (IRV) and other reforms at FairVote’s website here.

I realize that these solutions aren’t perfect and won’t fix everything, but I think they are steps in the right direction in terms of the electoral system. For the sweeping progress we want, the regime change will only go so far unless the roots of the problem are addressed. Fortunately, we the people always have the power to make that change.

Bad BofA (& the return of The Cheddar Path)

This post can also be found on my other blog, The Cheddar Path. Although I haven’t posted on the Path for awhile, I have started the new year off by doing so and will try to do so in a more regular fashion for the 3 people out there who actually read this blog and then are so nice as to read another blog by yours truly. I have added a focus on managing one’s personal finances to The Cheddar Path as well, because I have discovered and believe that managing one’s finances in a healthy way is connected to the struggle for truly empowered, self-reliant communities. I don’t claim to be any kind of financial expert, but personal finance from a progressive perspective is quickly becoming a big interest of mine, especially in recession 2009 America, and I simply wish to share any useful tips I pick up along the way with others. Holla!

BofA, the Employee Free Choice Act & Credit Unions

Recently, after receiving $25 billion in federal bailout funds, Bank of America hosted a meeting with members of the business community and conservative activists to discuss sending “large contributions” to groups trying to defeat the government’s proposed Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workers to join unions. So, Bank of America is using our tax dollars to stop a bill that would help grow the middle class and put more money in the pockets of hard working Americans? Sounds pretty shady to me.

Think what you want about labor unions, but the fact is that across the board, from industry to industry, union job wages are on average 15% higher than non union wages, as well as being beneficial for a host of other reasons.

It’s hearing about stories like these that really make me want to stop supporting the huge commercial banks. I currently bank with one of them, but am strongly considering moving my money into a credit union or community bank, which is much more beneficial to my local economy. MSN has a great article laying out all the benefits of going with a credit union.

New Scholars & Bambu

If you haven’t peeped it already, Blue Scholars released a new song and video at the start of ’09, called “Coffee & Snow.”

Also, peep the new Bambu track, “When Will the Time Come” that flips an old Grain of Sand sample to discuss the current Gaza situation. Hot fire!

Remember, you can catch both the Scholars & Bambu performing at the world premiere of “A Song for Ourselves” on Feb. 28th. Get your tickets now!