In Defense of Richard Sherman

First off, I get that Richard Sherman doesn’t need me to defend him. I’m just giving my point of view on the overall larger racial discussion that has ensued since his now infamous interview with Erin Andrews.

That interview is just one side of Sherman, though. This is a guy who graduated from Stanford. He also used his last year of eligibility at Stanford to start his Master’s degree. Most NFL players never actually graduate from college. They just play there until they get drafted.This is a guy who managed to escape the streets of Compton and not let the city or LAPD screw up his life. This guy who started off as a wide receiver and converted to corner under Jim Harbaugh (the current Niner coach) and has developed into the best corner in the league; something he adequately pointed out during his interview. 

Sherman is not a thug. Sherman is the farthest thing from a thug. How many thugs do you know with degrees from Stanford? I don’t know any. As Sherman pointed out in a subsequent video, the word thug has come to replace the n-word in the American vernacular. Calling a black man a criminal is apparently OK still. I think that’s fucked up. Now, that’s not say that there haven’t been some real “thugs” in the NFL (cough *Aaron Hernandez* cough), but Sherman is not one of them. A bunch of people avoided that problem all together online by simply calling him a monkey or the flat out n-word. I realize that’s the internet and I can’t get too riled up about trolls because it’s a waste of time, but I can’t stand dickheads like that.

The interview was the NFL player side of Sherman, a side which every NFL player has. I’ve heard and seen the vast majority of them (white and black) talk shit during games to each other. It happens in every game. I personally love trash talking. It’s one of my favorite sports past times, especially when the athletes themselves get involved. It’s more entertaining to me that way; I was laughing for the entirety of the Sherman interview. The element of team and interpersonal rivalries is something that has been lacking in the NFL in recent years I feel, and guys like Sherman and others are starting to bring it back to the post game interviews.

Here’s what really happened: Michael Crabtree (the 49ers wide receiver) was being a sore loser at the end of the game. Both Sherman and Crabtree were mic’d up by the people from NFL Films, and the audio of the final play was caught on tape. Sherman went over to Crabtree and held out his right hand, saying, “Helluva game! Helluva game!” Crabtree responded by shoving Sherman in the face. Naturally, Sherman was heated about that and it spilled over into his post game interview. Another interesting thing is that ESPN Deportes actually got the first interview with Sherman before Erin Andrews did, and it was just as entertaining as the first one. At the end of that interview, as the camera is panning towards the ESPN reporter for the sign off, you can see Sherman giving Andrews a big hug. I thought that was funny too. Andrews saw the entirety of his ESPN Deportes interview, so she knew he was heated going into it. She even tweeted the next day that she wasn’t surprised and that the interview was “awesome.”

He’s not a thug, a monkey, or the n-word. He’s a professional football player who had just made the biggest play in the biggest game of his career and he was pissed about Crabtree being a dick to him. I don’t necessarily want Seattle to win on Feb. 2, but I do want Richard Sherman to have a good game. I hope he takes all this hate and uses it as fuel for a career day. I’m pretty sure Manning is smart enough to not throw it anywhere near him, though. 

Sources (chronological): (the mic’d up video of Sherman and Crabtree) (his interview with ESPN Deportes) (the infamous Andrews interview) (Sherman explains the word “thug.”)


Curbing the NSA? Not so much.

This morning, Obama announced plans to “curb” the use of bulk data collection by the NSA. In case you have been living under a rock since 2001, the NSA has been collecting and storing data on phone calls, texts, emails, and web postings on pretty much everyone who has access to those things. They do this to whomever they please, whenever they please. Per the BBC article, they collect metadata of roughly 200 million text messages per day. It’s not just American citizens either. Ask the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel. This is a woman who lived in an actual police state (East Germany) and has recently compared the NSA to the Stasi, the nasty East German off-shoot of the KGB. Her comparisons are not without merit.

To be clear, the NSA is not listening to every call, text, or email made in America in real time. They don’t have the manpower for that. What the NSA is doing is “TiVo-ing” our data. They are recording everything from their massive complex in Utah, a place that has the computing power to store terrabytes of data in its massive database. What they do if they suspect you of something nefarious is go back to your phone calls/texts and see if there is additional information in there they can use against you.

I have only begun to formally study the 4th Amendment, but the actions of the NSA seem to flagrantly violate the provisions against unreasonable search and seizure.

Anyway, Obama has come out this morning and said he wants to curb the use of bulk data collection. He has proposed a few new restrictions on the NSA that include no more bulk collection of metadata, no more phone tapping of foreign leaders, He has proposed the idea of a third party holding all the data collected, and the NSA would have to ask permission to access it. He also says that an independent panel of privacy advocates would sit on the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (sometimes known as a FISA Court), which has responsibility for giving permission for mass surveillance programs. 

All of that sounds very well and a good on it’s face. But truth be told, it’s not enough. I’ve heard several metaphors to describe what Obama has proposed today, and my favorite one compares these reforms to “re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.” These changes make it look like Obama is doing something, but truthfully these reforms do not really accomplish much. At the very least, these reforms raise more questions than answers. What program is going replace the bulk data collection? What third-party private entity is going to have access to all of our information? Why the hell do we have secret FISA courts in the first place? 

Also, it seems Obama has given the NSA a “get out jail free” card of sorts. He says that he is going to implement all these reforms and has given a list of what the NSA shouldn’t do, but he also gives the “national security” exception. It’s like saying to the NSA, “Hey guys, don’t do this stuff anymore unless you think you ought to.” 

This brings me to my least favorite argument for domestic spying: national security. Obama says that the NSA has helped to prevent terror attacks, but we are never going to know the details surrounding that. Keep this in mind though; in April of 2013 two of the objectively WORST (because they were idiots) terrorists in the history of terrorism detonated a bomb at the Boston Marathon, killing 4 and injuring hundreds. These two searched for how to make bombs online (often using Al-Qaeda funded websites) and used texts as their main form of communication on the day of the attack. Isn’t the whole point of domestic spying to stop this EXACT kind of thing? No one at the NSA said, “Uh, these guys are searching for how to make bombs on Al-Qaeda websites, should we tell the FBI or something?” Fuck’s sake. 

Even if it turns out to be true that the NSA and the domestic spying program has prevented terrorist attacks, does that validate it’s existence. Hardly. The Ben Franklin quote gets over used nowadays, but it’s applicable here, “Those who would give up an essential liberty for a small amount of temporary security deserve neither.” The government has no right to know what we talk on the phone or email about. Of course they should have access to information we make public (Facebook info, etc) but it should absolutely not have access to information we intend for only one person to hear or read (phone call, text, email). 

All in all, this is just an other way I am disappointed in Obama. I expected this shit from Bush, but Obama was supposed to curb executive power, not expand it. As a former professor of Constitutional Law, Obama should know what this program is doing is a blatant violation of the 4th Amendment. My worry however is that this agency has gotten too big for even Obama to control. I’m worried they’re doing things not even he or anyone in his administration knows about. 

What do we do? Simple. Let internet and telephone providers keep all their customer’s data, and then make the NSA get a search warrant from a non-secret non-FISA court before they are allowed access to metadata. That for me would be a good start.

Rocky Mountain High

First, happy belated New Year. I’ve been lacking the energy to blog about stuff but today the passion is back, and it’s probably because this is a subject I feel passionate about. I won’t go into the exact reasons why, but suffice it to say I am big fan of personal liberty and a staunch defender of your liberties within the four walls of your home.

I want to pay special attention today to the state of Colorado, in particular I want to focus on a new law that went into effect there on January 1st/2nd. For those who somehow don’t know, Colorado recently became the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Colorado residents can purchase up to an ounce (28.5 g) and non-residents can purchase up to a quarter ounce at one time. People stood outside in blizzards and snow to make their first purchase at the the 21-25 legal pot shops, mostly in the Denver area. To be clear, it’s not a “free for all” though. There are some strings attached to these new laws, such as the age requirement to purchase (21), you cannot smoke it outside your home, and you can’t take it out of the state.

Colorado is basically acting as a test laboratory for the rest of the country. 18 other states plus DC have medical marijuana laws, and the state of Washington has already legalized marijuana as well, but legal sales there won’t happen for another few months. Colorado is really the first state to have the system in place for the taxation and distribution of marijuana. This brings me to the raw numbers. Yesterday alone (and in blizzard conditions) the 25 or so pot shops in Colorado sold over $1 million worth of product. $1 million in 24 hours. Let that sink in for a moment. Colorado expects that total sales of marijuana for 2014 will be around $660 million, with Colorado taking in a raw $67 million in taxes alone. The Colorado legislature has wisely decided to allocate most of this $67 million to the building of new schools. Hundreds of applications have been submitted for new pot shops, so we will soon see many more than just the 30 or so legal pot shops in Colorado. (Which interestingly creates more competition, which will eventually help keep prices low. But the supply/demand aspect of this is not really what I want to focus on). 

This sort of policy is what I want to see happen on the federal level. It makes perfect sense and an injection of cash would really help heal our ailing school system. However, thanks to the Controlled Substances Act of the early 1970s; the cultivation, transportation, sale, and possession of marijuana is illegal. That won’t change until that Act is repealed or amended, and given our current Do Nothing Congress I don’t foresee national legalization happening any time soon. Importantly though, the Department of Justice has announced that it won’t give Coloradans too much grief about their new law, provided that the marijuana stays within the state as much as possible. That might change in a new administration, but for right now it’s good news that the DoJ is letting this slide, as they are well within their rights to go into Colorado and shut down every legal pot shop in there. 

My message today is not for Congress, nor for state legislatures. My message is to the voters in every state with marijuana initiatives coming up this November. No politician is going to roll the dice with his career and introduce legislation to legalize marijuana. There are still far too many people against the idea of outright legalization for that to happen. Even in Colorado there is still 45% of the voting population against legalization for recreational use. The way this happened in both Colorado and Washington is by voter referendum. The voters of those states put the initiatives on their ballots, and they legalized it themselves through simple majority. No politician had to go get his/her hands dirty if they didn’t want to. If you want your state to legalize marijuana for recreational use, you are going to have to do it the same way.

I’m looking at you, California. This state already does EVERYTHING by referendum anyway, so it won’t be hard to get a marijuana initiative on the ballot. I’m fairly certain that it has already been on the ballot, but it has lost every time. If California legalizes, then it is a matter of time before the rest of the country does. As is the case in so many other instances, the way California goes is the way the rest of America goes. This is not snobbery because I live in CA, nor am I making an argument that California is somehow to superior to anywhere else, because it isn’t. Let’s take a look again at the hard numbers though. Due to California’s massive population, it is projected that legalization and taxation of marijuana could create a $2 billion (with a B) positive swing in the California economy. For one, we would not be spending millions locking up people who get caught with weed, and the tax revenue would also contribute about a billion. Does it solve all of California’s economic problems? Absolutely not. But it certainly helps!

If California legalizes and starts raking in the money (which it would), other states would notice that and hopefully decide they want to get in on it too. The more states that fully legalize, the more pressure there is on Congress to repeal or amend the CSA so that they can get in on some of this sweet sweet tax money. I don’t foresee too many people complaining about this once some of the tax money from marijuana comes in and their kid gets a new school or additional teachers or better textbooks.

What Colorado has done is take the first step in the right direction. Washington will be next, and then hopefully more will join after we vote on shit again in November.