Back to School Supplies

It shouldn’t be news to anyone at this point that America’s education system has significantly fallen off from where it once was. In the 1950s and 60s it was among the best in the world, and nowadays our students are mediocre in pretty much every subject. Top 20, maybe top 15 at the best.

The reasons for this are vast, complicated, and systemic. I cannot possibly address all of them in one post, but there is an issue I’d like to focus on specifically. Simply put, our teachers across America are not paid enough. There are a bunch of other reasons why our education system isn’t doing as well, but for me this is a huge part of the problem. 

I’d like to do a case-study of one US state in particular: Nevada. I think NV is a good choice because it is a microcosm of the larger, nationwide problem with teacher salaries. I don’t want throw too many numbers into this, but some are necessary. The two biggest school districts in NV are Washoe County and Clark County, and when you look at the numbers it becomes clear right off the bat that teachers aren’t being paid enough. An entry level teacher with a bachelor’s degree (if he/she can find a teaching job with the County) will make $32,289/yr in Washoe his/her first year and $34,684/yr in Clark. To put it on a relative scale, some valet attendants at Vegas casinos make more than teachers.

It takes a bachelor’s degree to get those base salaries. The median student loan debt in 2014 is $33,000. How are you supposed to pay off $33K in debt on $32k a year? This isn’t the only profession that doesn’t keep up with student debt, but its an especially big problem for low-paid teachers. Keep in mind, this debt figure is an average. There are people with even more student debt. Of course teacher salaries increase gradually over time, but to get the bigger pay increases the teachers have to take more classes and spend more money. It’s a bit of a vicious circle. I know many teachers in Nevada in particular who have taken second jobs since becoming teachers, which they have freely admitted to me affects their lesson plan preparations for the next day. When the teacher can’t prepare, the quality of education suffers. 

It true that the state of Nevada’s cost of living is slightly less than the national average, but the teacher salaries are still not proportionate to the cost of living. What’s more is that there are often too many kids in a class and not enough books for everyone. What really sets me off though and what compelled me to write this post is that teachers in Nevada and throughout America for the most part have to buy their own school supplies! I’ve known this for a long time but it’s mystifying to me as to why the state or federal governments don’t give teachers some sort of subsidy or grant with which to buy supplies. How is a teacher already struggling with debt and cost of living expenses supposed to be able to spend several hundred dollars (sometimes into the thousands) per year on supplies they need to do their jobs? I’m sure there’s some sort of tax write-off at the end of the fiscal year, but it’s still difficult to initially come up with that much money on a tight budget. 

I’ve even seen charity drives to raise money for school supplies! While these efforts are definitely noble and needed, we shouldn’t need a charity drive for school supplies in the first place. 

The work that teachers at all levels do is far too important for them to be paid so relatively little. It’s not a 9 month, 8-3 job. The teachers I know work year-round, even when not dealing directly with students. It’s hard work.The perception of education and what teachers do needs to be changed not only in NV but also across America. Too many politicians at the state and federal levels see education as a burden on a budget and teachers as government moochers. This is the entirely wrong perception to have. Education must be viewed as an investment on the future, and it must be seen as the fundamental tenet of democracy that it is. The people our teachers educate today are the leaders and voters of tomorrow, and if we have uneducated people running our country some poor decisions will be inevitably made. 

In my personal opinion, teachers should be given whatever money they need to help educate their students. Teachers are some of the most dedicated people in the world, and none of them are in it for the money. They do it because they love to do it. They aren’t looking for six figure salaries, either. I’m talking about enabling them and empowering them to let them teach the best ways they know how, and if that costs a bit extra than what we’re spending now then so be it. They’re our children after all and we all want the best for them, right? I do not have children, but if I did I would feel much better about dropping them off at school every day knowing they were going to get the best education in the world, instead of the 15th-20th best education. 

Giving teachers some more financial peace of mind would allow them to focus on what they do best – teaching. If they do not have to worry about a second job, they can spend more time grading, preparing lesson plans, meeting with parents, and meeting with students. Also, working two jobs like some teachers do is exhausting. Here’s a simple fact: fatigued teachers are less-effective than rested teachers! 

If we increase teacher salary across the nation in tandem with a few other policies, I think the American education system can get back to where it was. I hope it does but given the current state of Congress I’m not optimistic. Perhaps the changes we need to make should start at the state level. A state legislature is much more likely to actually do something about this problem than Congress is right now, so if you feel as passionately about this as I do I encourage you to advocate and vote for a raise in teacher salaries whenever it is possible to do so. 

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Camping is Dumb

How’s that for a clickbait title? lol. 

It’s not incorrect though. I get a lot of invites to go camping and I want to explain fully why I decline to go every single time. The looks of incredulity I get when I tell people I don’t like camping drive me crazy. It’s as if people simply can’t comprehend why I think camping is terrible.

Let’s start with the very basics. I reject the very premise of camping right off the bat. Its the idea of removing yourself from the comforts of the 21st century, and for the life of me I cannot figure out why anyone would voluntarily do that. I’ve heard all sorts of reasons of course, but no real satisfying explanations.

Think about this way: it has taken humans 50,000 years to get to where we are now. We had to figure out how to hunt, gather, rule ourselves, and basically survive in a rather unforgiving environment in that alotted time. We also had to learn how to make fire and hide in caves from predators, and caves were likely our first real shelters that we lived in. We’ve done well since then, given the fact that air conditioning, showers, and down pillows exist now. Our lives have truly never been more comfortable, at least here in the Western world.

I basically see no desire to spend even one second of my life living as my ancestors did. Why would I reject modern advancements in comfort? Why would I want to be outside for several days at a time? Why would I want to subject myself to heat, cold, wind, or rain when I don’t have to? Camping to me is spitting in the face of every modern inventor and innovator. It’s like we’re collectively saying, “Fuck your lightbulbs, air conditioning, soft bed, and gas stove. We’re going camping for a week!”

I don’t want to reconnect with nature by going to live in it. That’s overkill. If I wanted to do that I could go to a park. The best thing about that is after I have soaked up some sun and fresh air at said park, I get to go home and not be outside anymore. Also, in no way is camping relaxing. I’ve heard people describe it that way and that is utterly befuddling to me. In order to go camping, you need to get a permit, pack your car to the brim with supplies, get lost on the way to the campsite, pitch the tents, set up a fire (if you are allowed to), and then unpack everything else. That sounds like the antithesis of relaxing. That sounds like a lot of work. 

Camping isn’t even really “camping” anymore either. It’s what I like to call shitty camping. I’ll only cosign to your camping trip if you actually try to “reconnect” with nature. That means no tents, no supplies, and no technology at all. Just you and your bare hands. You have to make your own shelter, fashion your own weapons for hunting, start a fire, and then actually go hunt and look for water. That’s roughin’ it. Anyone who brings a tent and their own food is not really reconnecting with nature in the purest sense, are they? If you go full-on Bear Grylls when you go camping then to me that’s more acceptable than cheat-camping. Don’t even get me started on people who bring RVs for camping. That’s not “camping” at all. That’s just taking your house and moving it to a rural area. It’s not camping if the water comes out of a fucking tap and you have a flushing toilet. 

Of course, no one wants to do any of the Survivorman stuff. They don’t want to do any of that because it sucks. This is what I’m on about. Campers want to have their cake, and eat it too. They want to reconnect with nature, but they want to do it with the comforts of the 21st century. It’s almost hypocritical, really. 

If all that wasn’t enough, the natural hazards of camping are by themselves enough reason to not go. When you remove yourself to a rural area a whole host of dangers present themselves. I have no desire to go live among bears, mountain lions, or anything of the sort. I do not wish to encounter snakes and asshole insects. I do not wish to be three hours by helicopter from the nearest hospital when I trip over an asshole plant and break my leg. I also do not want to accidentally wander through poison ivy and spend the next 4-5 days in itching hell. 

I’ve done a lot of bitching about camping so far but here’s a legitimate complaint: camping is a by-product of our entitled nature here in the Western world. There are people in developing nations who live in camping-like conditions on a daily basis, and to me people in the West going camping is essentially saying, “Your terrible life is something we do for fun.” People look back on camping trips with fond memories most of the time, but to think fondly of camping just shows how privileged and ignorant we are of the problems of the larger world. No running water is a temporary inconvenience for campers and something to laugh about, but it’s a way of life for many people. 

And I’ve been camping. I’m not talking out of my ass, here. I’ve gone camping three times with three entirely different sets of people in three entirely different locations and I detested it all three times. It’s simply not fun for me. If I want to get away from technology or relax then I can think of at least 15 ways to achieve both of those things without having to even leave my neighborhood.

Anyone who asks why I don’t like camping will be automatically referred to this post. I appreciate the camping invites and it’s very nice of you to think of me, but I’m not going. I don’t even really have a problem with you going, just don’t expect me to join you. 

/rant

World Cup 2014: A Football Fan’s Dream

Well, as we all know, the Germans ended their 24 year drought and finally got themselves a well-deserved World Cup. Aside from their matches against Ghana and Algeria they were the most consistently good team of the tournament, and who alive today will ever forget seeing them put 7 past Brazil in their own backyard? Of course part of that was Brazil’s own mental self-destruction, but Germany were ruthless and took every chance Brazil gave them. For me I would have given Player of the Tournament to Thomas Muller, who not only scored 5 goals but assisted in 3 more. Leo Messi, the actual winner of Player of the Tournament, was important for Argentina to be sure, but for me Muller did more against supposedly tougher opposition. This German team is scary as hell, and they will be for years to come.

Messi had a chance to crown himself as the Greatest of All Time in this World Cup, but he fell just short. He likely has only one shot left as well, depending on if he stays fit. Of course he’s still one of the best of all time and his efforts were at-times heroic for Argentina, but in my opinion he needs more help. Higuain missed his golden chance, Aguero was missing most of the match, and Di Maria was unfortunately injured after a good tournament. But, someone else has to step up for Argentina and help Messi if they want to get him the World Cup that I think he deserves at this point. 

England of course were miserable, but I hope our young players took a lot away from this tournament in terms of experience. We did look more creative than we have in years going forward, but our back line was atrocious this time around. Anyway, I didn’t let England’s general shittyness get me down too much, because we as a world witnessed a tournament for the history books. There were 171 goals scored at this World Cup, which is tied with France 1998 as the highest-scoring World Cup of all time. I love it. Miroslav Klose became the all-time leading scorer at the World Cup with 16 goals, and Tim Howard coincidentally set a record for saves in a World Cup with 16 against Belgium. We also saw the arrival of a superstar in Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez, who is rumored to be signing for Real Madrid for an obscene amount of money imminently. 

I could go on for days about all the story lines here. I’ve even managed to restrain myself from slamming Rat Face Luis Suarez or complaining about some of the terrible pundits ESPN dragged on screen (cough Lalas cough). Sitting here in the USA and from a very limited perspective though, this World Cup seemed to go off fairly well. There were some reports of riots on the first day of the tournament and sporadically throughout, but considering what we thought could have happened it seemed to be relatively peaceful. People in Brazil get easily distracted by quality football, just like the rest of us avid watchers do. After all, the Final was the most-watched event in the history of television both in the USA and worldwide. 

I see what people in Brazil are pissed off about though. The news story about a freeway overpass collapsing indicates that the $11 billion the government spent on this World Cup could have been better spent elsewhere. Along with better roads they need better schools and better economic opportunities so people can get out of the favelas. Also, there is now a massive stadium in the middle of the city of Manaus with no serious plans for future use. Wasteful, really. I question the choice of Manaus as a host city partly for the stadium reason, also the fact that it’s incredibly hot, and the fact that its in the middle of the god damn Amazon. It’s a city that’s only accessible by boat or plane. Perfect place to hold four international sporting events, right? 

But that’s FIFA for you: take the logical option and throw it out the window because someone has given you money to do so. This is exactly how Qatar 2022 came about, another FIFA fiasco that is probably better to be talked about at a different time. 

I think this sport (football, futbol, soccer, whatever) is on the verge of taking off here, if it hasn’t already. The Americans were freaking out during all four of their matches, and that keeper Howard is a beast (which of course he is, he used to play for Manchester United). Now they just need the outfield players of equal talent at their respective positions. I think this World Cup interest is a good springboard for the game, but I worry that this tide of enthusiasm will dissipate once the NFL, college football, and MLB playoffs start. Jurgen Klinsmann said the other day that the MLS has to improve its level of skill if America is going to improve talent-wise. I agree and take it further. I think the MLS has to improve its level of skill so that more people will watch it and keep the interest going between major tournaments.

I encourage all Americans to watch the Copa America in 2015, then I encourage you to go to a Copa America match in 2016 because USA will be hosting it! Messi, Neymar, James Rodriguez, and loads of other football superstars play in this tournament every year. Think of it as a World Cup but only for countries from the Americas. No European, African, or Asian teams in this one. USA, Mexico, and probably Costa Rica will line up against teams like Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, Chile, and Ecuador. Should be freakin’ sweet. 

Right, before I go, a public service announcement. One thing that did disappoint me about the Germans winning was not the fault of the Germans at all. I didn’t like how Americans (and probably English people too) reverted to Nazi and Hitler jokes every time the Germans were playing, both on the internet and in real life. I’ve mentioned this before on Facebook but I think those kinds of jokes are not only offensive they’re also comedically shitty jokes. I’m not saying that Nazis and Hitler don’t deserve to be made fun of, but to make Nazi jokes about modern Germans just shows how little people know about post-war and post-unification Germany. This is probably the most anti-Nazi country in Europe now, and moreover its an incredibly progressive one in many different ways. These trite jokes also show how lazy people are. They can’t even be bothered to do enough research about Germany to make a relevant reference. I realize internet trolls will say anything these days and you can’t take them seriously, but it still sucks that people are so ignorant. 

Anyway, I’ll leave you with my Team of the Tournament (4-2-3-1 formation) and individual player awards:

GK – Manuel Neuer (GER) (Don’t hate me for not picking Howard. Neuer saved Germany’s ass repeatedly this tournament)

RB – Phillip Lahm (GER)

CB – Javier Mascherano (ARG)

CB – Matts Hummels (GER)

LB – Pablo Zabaleta (ARG)

CDM – Sami Khedira (GER)

CDM – Bastian Schweinsteiger (GER)

LAM – Arjen Robben (NED)

CAM – James Rodriguez (COL)

RAM – Thomas Muller (GER)

CF – Robin Van Persie (NED)

Subs: Howard, Tiago Silva (BRA), Howedes (GER), Messi, Paul Pogba (FRA), Angel di Maria (ARG)

Player of the Tournament – Thomas Muller

Young Player of the Tournament – Paul Pogba (FRA) lol I actually agree with FIFA on this one.

Goal of the tournament:1. James Rodriguez vs. Uruguay 2. Tim Cahill (AUS) vs. Netherlands

#activism

Hashtags annoy the living hell out of me, generally speaking. I realize some people use them for organizational purposes and for grouping certain things together on various social media sites, but for some reason every time I see a hashtag I just go into rage mode. I think it’s because I perceive hashtags to be a convenient way for intellectually lazy people to express a point without having to actually think about it. Hashtags come across to me as a real-life version of newspeak, the language designed by George Orwell’s Big Brother to dumb down the populace and make them think about complex issues within the limited context of a single word or phrase. It’s a kind of speech designed to keep you from thinking too much. I’ll be really terrified if I ever see a post saying #doubleplusungood or something like that. Orwell was wrong about the government having to institute and mandate newspeak, though. We’ve instituted our own brand of mind-numbing newspeak all by ourselves. 

Lets separate this out a little, though. Are all hashtags really that bad or am I just being cranky? I would say that the vast majority of hashtags really are that bad. It’s insulting to the reader’s intelligence to put an asinine hashtag like #food onto a picture of a meal you just uploaded. I see it’s food. I don’t need your assistance determining that. The hashtag adds nothing to what you are trying to convey and is therefore pointless. Even if your motives are simply to gain more followers for your shitty black & white photos of turned-over chairs on Instragram, you adding “#photography” is not going to get any more people to follow you. 

When social activism went online, I initially saw it as the death-knell of civil disobedience in the West. Why would anyone want to take to the streets if there is the easier option of tweeting/posting a hashtag? I foresaw all protests moving online, and nothing getting done because no politicians or policy makers at the time took the internet very seriously. The one I had the biggest problem with was #kony2012. Most of the people who posted that hashtag normally did not spare a single thought in their lives for the country of Uganda or its citizens, let alone the continent of Africa. Most people who posted that hashtag didn’t even see the Kony 2012 documentary. People might know that the hashtag has something to do with child soldiers in Africa, and people know they’re against that. By posting a hashtag like that the person kills several birds with one stone. For one, it allows the person to appear as socially conscious to their peers without actually having to do any of the tedious reading that comes with being socially conscious. Moreover, it give the person posting the hashtag a sense of achievement for the the absolute minimum of effort. When a person posts a social activism-related hashtag, it gives them a sense of “Hey! I helped!” while they actually did nothing to help. By the way, they still haven’t caught Joseph Kony, a full two years on from the #kony2012 campaign. He was supposed to surrender in 2013, buuuut he didn’t. So yeah he’s still imprisoning children and conscripting them into his murderous army. Anyone want to start the campaign again? Nope. No one gives a shit because its not popular to give a shit anymore. 

That’s all very cynical, of course. I think that #activism has developed quite significantly since then. The internet has grown in importance, even in the short time since 2014. Social media has also risen in importance in correlation with the internet. For this reason and the reasons below I am now of the opinion that sometimes social media campaigns can be very successful in effectuating actual, tangible change in policy. Social media trends now get attention on national news whenever they get big enough, and while the wisdom of that is an argument for another time it cannot be denied that media attention elevates the status of the trending hashtag. For me, the most successful hashtag so far has #bringbackourgirls, which was concerned with the kidnapping of 200 Nigerian girls from their school. At first I thought it was going to be another #kony2012, but then the campaign got the attention of celebrities, the news media, and eventually Michelle Obama. Her picture where she is holding up a sign with the hashtag on it went viral in and of itself and it was invaluable to the movement. It also got the attention of UK Prime Minister David Cameron, among other world leaders. Accordingly, it seems now that some social media campaigns now have the ability to make politicians pay attention. This hashtag is the most successful one most importantly because it has brought about actual change. In early May 2014 a team of law enforcement experts and hostage negotiators from the US were sent to Nigeria to assist their government in the return of the girls. That’s definitely something the movement can hang it’s hat on. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/nigeria-welcomes-us-military-assistance-to-free-kidnapped-girls/

So you see, it is foolish to dismiss #activism entirely. As if the #bringbackourgirls campaign was not evidence enough of this, you can look outside the US for even more evidence of the effectiveness of social media and hashtags in bringing about real-world change. Egypt, Brazil, Turkey, and Ukraine are just some of the countries to see civil unrest recently, and the protesters in those countries often use Twitter and its hashtags to coordinate events, marches, and demonstrations. Twitter was so effective in Egypt and Turkey that the governments of those two countries blocked Twitter entirely, leading people to spray paint the IP addresses of proxy servers on the sides of buildings. That was astounding to me and really showed the importance of social media in modern-day political activism. 

Speaking of Egypt, a woman from that country named Gigi Ibrahim is the impetus behind this blog. If I had any doubts about the effectiveness of hashtags, they were tempered even further by the interview Ibrahim gave on the Daily Show on June 4. Watch it here: http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/goaw64/exclusive—gigi-ibrahim-extended-interview-pt–1 This woman is a real life socialist revolutionary, a person actively fighting day-to-day for the betterment of her country and her people. If a hashtag campaign is useful for her, then who the hell am I to contradict her? (by the way, #freemahienour)

Most hashtags are still asinine and pointless, but I’ve evolved on the effectiveness of social activism hashtags. I still want people to read about the issue and not just repost something because its popular, but those same mindless people are part of the reason by hashtags can be sometimes successful. I think that coupled with real-world marches and protests, social media activism can be very effective for bringing about change in certain scenarios. Whether or not hashtags can be effective in all situations remains to be seen. Viral hashtags have a very limited lifespan and tend to be forgotten quickly when the next one comes along. If they get big enough though and stick around for long enough in people’s minds then there is a real chance that actual change will come about from it. 

 

World Cup Preview

I’m finally done with finals so its time for a bit of fun. I love the World Cup and I have been looking forward to this one since the last one in 2010. I love not only the football but also the mixing of cultures and the general sense of world unity that comes out of the tournament. It’s in Brazil this time, a country rich in footballing history and culture. I am confident that Brazil will provide a fantastic stage for some exhibitions of world-class footie. I do also hope that the Brazilian government resolves all the problems favorably for both sides so that civil unrest not mar the tournament.

If nothing else, at least the annoying vuvuzuelas at the matches will be replaced with kick-ass samba drums.

The domestic seasons are over or almost over. The teams have qualified, the group stages have been drawn, and now most of the players have been selected. Let’s play some footie! I’m not going to talk about all 32 teams here, mostly because I don’t know enough about all 32 teams to provide decent analysis of their chances this summer. Plus, ain’t nobody got time to read in-depth analysis about all 32 teams. I am only going to do a few. Lets do the Americans first since most of my readers are Americans.  

USA

Before I discuss the current squad, I want to recognize the massive strides forward the Americans have made as a national side and both as a footballing country. The sport has never been more popular in this country, and I think more and more Americans are following football than they used to. 25 years ago the Americans were a joke of a national side, but that is no longer the case. There is still a long way to go before they are realistic challengers for the World Cup, but any team who dismisses the Americans do so at their own peril. The Americans have a good manager in Jurgen Klinsmann and a solid overall tactical plan. One little gripe: I refuse to call the American national team “USMNT”. That looks like US-Mutant Ninja Turtles, not US-Men’s National Team. The acronym is dumb. Get rid of it and go with Team USA or something. 

Anyway, let’s talk about their chances in Brazil. Once again, the luck of the draw did not help the Americans. Similar to what happened in 2006 in Germany, the Americans got drawn into what’s known as a Group of Death. Included in the Americans group are perennial favorites Germany, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, and one of the better African teams, Ghana. Now, the chances of the Americans getting a victory against Germany or Portugal are rather slim, given the quality of those two teams. A winning result against Ghana will be key. If the Americans beat Ghana and scrap a draw from either Germany or Portugal, they have a small shot at getting out of the group.

The play of the American veterans, such as Dempsey and Donovan, will be of the utmost importance. It is likely the last World Cup for the both of them, and if they want to go out on a high note they are going to have to play their very best. Michael Bradley will also be a key player, as he is America’s best box-to-box midfielder and will have to be in charge of trying to slow down silky Portugal and the buzz-saw death machine that is Germany. The American back four (defense) worry me as well. There is a shortage of options for them at right back, something players like Ronaldo and Tomas Muller will be happy to exploit. The Americans should park all 11 men in front of the goal and then try and hit those two teams on the counter-attack. Some fast wingers will be key for that strategy. Even with that strategy tho, I don’t realistically see the Americans progressing out of the group stage.

But here’s something about Americans that I don’t think many Americans realize. Whether it’s going to the moon or winning a football match, Americans always have this belief about themselves that they can do something. No matter how tall the odds are, Americans always believe they can achieve what they want to achieve. This is not some patriotic, wave-the-flag bullshit because I live in America. This is something I and non-Americans that I talk to have observed. Self-belief can be the difference between victory and defeat in a closely-contested football match, and truth be told I wish England shared that same mentality. 

Anyway USA, keep up the good work. You guys are halfway up the mountain and I fully believe the Americans will become World Cup contenders in my lifetime. 2014 just may not be your year. Keep watching and keep playing, and you will see your national team become better and better.

England

Oh boy. I don’t even know where to start. England has the opposite problem America has. We’ve got bags of fantastically talented players but the national mentality, which is dictated by the English press, is overall very negative and expectations could not be lower for England this summer. We got robbed of a goal against Germany in the last world cup in South Africa and our already-pessimistic attitude got even worse. We also had a mediocre showing at Euro 2012, losing once again on penalties. The people of England are desperate for a bit of success at a World Cup, since the last and only time we won it was almost 50 years ago. Here’s an analogy to help Americans understand England’s problems: think of England and its supporters as the Chicago Cubs and its fans. Neither team has won anything for a very long time and as a result the fans of both teams are crying out for anything positive. 

England is also in a bit of a group of death of it’s own, having to contend with Luis Suarez and Uruguay, Andrea Pirlo and Italy, and a Costa Rica side eager to play spoiler to the bigger countries. We will also have to soundly beat Costa Rica and fight for a draw against Uruguay and Italy, then hope we get out of the group. England’s biggest problems, to me, are 1) a lack of a sound overall tactical plan, and 2) everyone reacting so negatively every time England lose. If we solved either one of those problems, our chances of doing well at tournaments increase dramatically.

There is a silver lining to all of this pessimism. England, at this point, likely cannot sink any lower. The manager Roy Hodgson knows this and he has wisely chosen young, energetic, and talented players for the squad instead of going with more experienced but less in-form players. Playing younger players is a gamble, but its a gamble worth taking since we have nothing to lose.

I say we unleash our youthful attacking talents like Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Daniel Sturridge, and Danny Welbeck and just let them run at Uruguay and Italy’s back four. Uruguay can score a lot of goals to be sure, but they also allow in a lot of goals. I hope to see Gerrard as a holding midfielder who plonks himself in front of the back four and distributes the ball to the wingers who can get at opposing fullbacks. Put the big target man Lambert in the box with Rooney in behind him and let the wingers ping crosses in all day. That’s what I want to see. 

If England does anything at all positive this World Cup, it will be considered a success. The bar is that low at this point. I think they’re chances of progressing out of the group are only slightly better than the American’s chance of getting out of theirs. 

Brazil

The hosts and favorites to win the whole thing. They’re playing Brazilian-style football again thanks to their manager Luis Felipe Scolari, and they have a superstar in Neymar to run their attacks through. Brazil has suffered a relative dip in form at the past two tournaments, a “dip” in the sense that they didn’t win them. Brazil hold the record for most World Cups won and I think in 2014 they are back to that standard. The whole country will be rocking and Brazil will be very very difficult for anyone to beat once the goals start flying in. Scolari has picked a young, dynamic side with creativity in midfield and solidity in defense. There are some question marks over the goalkeepers, but that’s really about it. Brazil are a very good side and it will take something special to knock them off their high from winning the Confederations Cup last summer. They should have little to no trouble taking down Cameroon and Mexico (a team that is a complete enigma at this point). Croatia will be a more difficult task, but still well-within Brazil’s capabilities. 

Spain

The defending champions and the main threat to Brazil, along with Argentina and Germany. Vincente Del Bosque has gone the opposite route of Brazil and England, opting for experience over youth. Spain will be sour after losing the Confederations Cup final to Brazil, but as the current World and European champions everyone will be gunning for Spain. Everyone likes to take shots at the throne and Spain will have to be at their very best to win this World Cup. Along with the usual blockbuster midfield players like Iniesta, Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Busquets, and Juan Mata they have also brought a world class centre-forward with them this time in Diego Costa who will provide exactly what Spain were missing at the Confederations Cup. Sometimes all the passing around the midfield works, but Spain have figured out sometimes you just need a big dude in the box to cross the ball into. Special shout-out to Manchester United’s own David De Gea for being called up to play!

The Spanish do have to contend with 2010 runners-up the Netherlands and an energetic Chile side in their group which makes their group harder than Brazil’s. Again though if Spain come out and play their game like they know how to then they should have no problem challenging for the World Cup for a second time. 

Other Favorites to Watch – Germany, Argentina

Dark Horses – Belgium, France

I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. World Cup 2014 kicks off on June 12th!!!!!

Free Speech, Donald Sterling, and Racist Assholes

Knocking out two birds with one stone here. I have my Con Law II final to study for, with free speech being one of the main subjects I have to know. I wanted to take some time to clarify what “freedom of speech” means because I don’t think most Americans fully understand.

Let’s clear this Sterling nonsense up first. In my opinion, the bigger scandal is his repeated mistreatment of the minority tenants in the buildings he owns, but that’s an issue for another time. Let’s focus on the more recent scandal. While Sterling has been almost universally condemned by everyone as a racist, there are still some uneducated elements out there claiming his right to free speech has been violated. Put simply, that is wrong. A First Amendment, freedom of speech violation is only actionable under the Constitution if a government body is the one violating the speech. Adam Silver and the National Basketball Association are not associated in any way with the federal/state/local government, so Sterling receiving a lifetime ban for saying racist things is perfectly allowable under the Constitution. Sterling may have a cause of action under the NBA by-laws or California statute, but Constitution-wise he’s got nothing.

Yes, Sterling does have freedom of speech like every other person in America. However, while freedom of speech guarantees your right to say certain things, it does not save you from facing backlash if you say something unpopular. Sterling can say what he wants (more or less), but he must also realize the consequences of saying certain things.The most relevant case to note regarding Sterling is Virginia v. Black, which essentially says that racist statements/conduct are permissible as long as there is no “true threat” accompanying the racist statement. That of course is a bit of a gray standard, but I really want to drive home the fact that it is not a crime for a private citizen to be openly racist in America. Europeans might have a hard time understanding that, mostly because many European countries (UK, Germany, Spain, France) have laws that ban racist statements and racist speech. In Europe, you can be criminally charged with racism, something I think to be a very radical concept. If Sterling had said what he said in a country in western Europe, he not only would have been banned and fined, he likely would be arrested too after the appropriate investigation.

There’s a bit of irony within the free speech laws. I find it highly interesting that if it weren’t for racist assholes like Sterling in the past then our free speech laws would likely be very different. For example, your right to openly advocate for the overthrowing of the American government is now protected thanks to a racist asshole named Clarence Brandenburg, a KKK leader who challenged an Ohio statute that banned talking about overthrowing the government. His case became Brandenburg v. Ohio and is now a leading free speech case. The same thing happened with Barry Black, an ironically-named KKK leader from Virginia who challenged the state statute on cross burning. The Court upheld his right to burn as many crosses as he wants, as long as there is no intent to intimidate anybody by doing it. Justice Thomas disagreed with that standard in his dissent, but that is still good law and it comes from the aforementioned Virginia v. Black. One more racist asshole example: the petitioner in RAV v. City of St. Paul. I couldn’t find his name, but the plaintiffs in that case were teen-aged wannabe KKK members who burned a cross on a black family’s lawn. The Court didn’t like the St. Paul statute against cross burning because it banned a specific practice, and the Court does not like viewpoint restrictions.

Whether you think these rulings are wise or not, you can thank assholes like Brandenburg, Black, and the petitioners in RAV for being the loudest proponents of freedom of speech in the past few decades. In fact, I hate to write it but I probably owe a little bit of thanks specifically to Brandenburg, as I have openly advocated for overthrowing of the federal government in the past. Had his case not gone to the Supreme Court, it’s possible I might have gotten into some hot water for making those statements. Of course he and I would incite rebellion for vastly different reasons, but the idea of advocating for rebellion is more or less protected thanks to him. Racist prick.

April 29, 1992

22 years ago today, the LA riots kicked off after three LAPD police officers were acquitted in the beating of Rodney King. Naturally, the minority communities of Los Angeles were pissed off. After 53 deaths, 2,000+ injuries, over 11,000 arrests and millions of dollars in damge later, the riots emerged as one of the most notable episodes of civil unrest in America since the Civil War era. This blog is not necessarily designed to defend the actions of the rioters, but rather to examine the root cause of the riot in the first place.

As Bradley Nowell of Sublime alludes to in the song, the riots were not just a response to the wrongful acquittal of the LAPD officers. That was however the straw that broke the camel’s back. If you were to write a book about the history of police interaction with minorities in America, you’d title the LAPD chapter as “What NOT to Do.” The LAPD have a notorious history (like many police departments) of racial profiling and corruption. In the early 1990s there were even problems with rogue officers enforcing their own racially-driven laws. It was madness. All of that negative treatment and injustice was like gasoline within the black and Latino communities of LA. It was gasoline that just needed a spark, and it was the lack of justice for Rodney King that did it. Apparently it was OK for LAPD officers to beat an unarmed black man repeatedly while he was on the ground and covering his head. This led the people to retaliate with their own violence.

Are things any better now? Short answer: no. Long answer: The families of Amadou Diallo (d. 1999) and Oscar Grant (d. 2008) would tell you things aren’t any better. Literally SCORES of Youtube videos depicting cops beating up minorities shows you things aren’t any better. Shit, any black/Latino in America could tell you things aren’t any better. Racial profiling by police continues to this day in every police agency in America to one degree or another. Sure, some departments don’t have too much trouble with race issues, and some are worse than others, but they all do it. When you profile someone based on their race what you are doing is dehumanizing them. You are assigning them a personality and character traits they may not have. When you do that, it becomes very easy to think of people as being somehow less than human. That’s why racial profiling leads to police brutality. The cop has already subconsciously (or even consciously) decided that the person he is stopping is prone to criminal activity because of his race, and as a result the cop is now determined to find some sort of wrongdoing when there may not be any. 

How do we fix this? Better racial sensitivity training for police, and encouraging police to hire more minority police officers. That’s a start. There’s also certain places in America (like Oakland and Detroit) that do not have enough police officers, and the ones they do have are stretched far too thin for the amount of crime in the city. It’s my hope that the next generation of cops is as racially diverse as possible, and I also hope that community-oriented policing catches on more across America. Oh! Another idea. GET RID OF STOP-AND-FRISK! Mayor DeBlasio of New York City has already ended the policy in his city, and it is up to the mayors of other cities to follow his example. It’s an ineffective policy that only breeds distrust of the police, and if the citizenry doesn’t trust the police then you will not have an effective police force. 

That’s my biggest problem with all of this. Cops are hindering their own investigations by racially profiling people and using excessive force. By stopping/arresting minorities when there is no reasonable suspicion to do so, they are potentially missing real criminal activity! As if that wasn’t bad enough, harassing and beating up every black or Latino person gives no incentive for blacks/Latinos to help police if say for example the cops need witnesses or informants. They’re hurting themselves on two different levels. Why should a minority person even bother to help the cops in an investigation if all the cops do is harass people that look like him? There’s little incentive to help the police if the police are viewed as incompetent, corrupt, racist, or any combination of those three things. If cops went around harassing white people like they do minorities I would certainly be disinclined to help them if they were looking for a white guy in my neighborhood. 

This shit has to stop. Racial profiling and police brutality benefit no one. We need better training for our police so as they do their jobs more effectively. If they carry on like they have been doing it’s only a matter of time before another big riot occurs, and history will repeat itself. More people will be killed/injured/arrested, and it will get us precisely nowhere.