If you’re a fan of the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks, or heck, even the Los Angeles Clippers, Thursday is a day you’ve had circled on your calendar for months, if not years. The same might apply if you’re a Cleveland Cavaliers fan too, but for far different reasons.
At midnight Thursday, the doors of opportunity will open for the much (and deservedly so) ballyhooed NBA free agency class of 2010. For teams like Chicago and Miami, it is a chance to cement themselves as one of the league favorites (if not the league favorite) for next season. For Cleveland, it is the only chance to remain relevant in the NBA landscape. And for Toronto, well, there’s really nothing too look forward too (hint: Chris Bosh isn’t coming back.)
Already, there has been much speculation about where the “Big Five” of James, Wade, Bosh, Nowitzki, and Johnson will land. To no one’s surprise, “sources” have come out of the woodwork and stated that the LeBron and Bosh to Chicago move is all but a done deal. Other “sources” have LeBron and Bosh joining Dwyane Wade in Miami. Still others have Johnson joining LeBron with the Bulls, Boozer joining Wade in Miami, and Bosh signing with the Minnesota Timberwolves (just kidding on the last one, but a T-Wolves fan can wish, right?) Regardless, I think it’s almost a near certainty that at least two of the top five will be playing together somewhere. Guessing where, however, is a crap-shoot. You get to see the results of that crap-shoot after the jump.
What makes our nation the United States of America; what makes us Americans? The pervasive fears of a coming “new world order” and “one world government” are largely limited to the political right and evangelicals. The most explosive emotions on the subject of immigration, illegal or otherwise, are found at both edges of the political spectrum. Everywhere in our politics, there is a sense of confusion and anger attendant to the subject of trade and open borders. In a nation with increasingly fractious politics, it is critical to first identify the ground rules; who gets to play in our park, and what are the rules of entry?
The Rational Middle has argued before that racism is not the principal cause driving opposition to immigration reform; the RM has also argued that having a good reason to take legislative action does not guarantee that the resulting law will make sense. Unsurprisingly, these arguments have not been accepted by the media and punditocracy whose well-appointed livelihoods depend on interesting stories. In today’s cable media, you are a do nothing politician or baby soft liberal if you oppose “tough” legislation. If you happen to support laws like the one that Arizona passed, then you must be a racist. In a nation with 300 million unique individuals, our media is uncomfortable unless it is easily able to identify heroes and villains. Our media, friends, is becoming steadily less informed and more sensationalized. This fact accounts for the total lack of reporting, with any basis in fact, on the notions of borders and free trade.
Afghanistan has been visited by conquerors and saviors repeatedly through the centuries. As an international crossroads, as a source for mineral wealth, as a center for opium production; Afghanistan and her tribes have always attracted attention for the wrong reasons. Great Britain tried to subdue the area for its own use in the 19th Century, the Soviet Union tried exporting Communism there in the 20th Century. In our time, the United States tries to install “U.S.-style democracy” in the imposing geography of Central Asia.
We are hampered, as ever, by our own contradictions. As we try to install central government in a nation that has never had a successful central government, we fight the trappings of central government at home. As we fight to remove the bipartisan corruption evident in our democracy, we are asked to work with an Afghan leadership consumed by graft. America is engaged in Afghanistan to deny comfortable training grounds to Al Qaeda, but the terrorist organization needs no headquarters to operate. In many ways, we are fighting a rat infestation in our barn, by burning one of the hay bails inside.
(Publisher’s note- The RM’s intrepid sportsguy, Nate Schlatter, is taking the week off. It is left to me to fill in on Sports Wednesday; but you all know that I can’t resist a little politics with my sports…MC)
The NCAA has long been the entity charged with governing the bulk of intercollegiate athletics. Over the last 3 decades, and driven by the rise of cable sports, the job of governance has gotten to be quite a challenge. The organization, which is not a government entity, has been sued and slandered, conned and cheated, mistreated and manipulated. But the NCAA has done itself the greatest damage. In its rush to integrity; in the very push to safeguard the pure motives of college sports, the NCAA has compromised its own purpose.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association, through its emphasis on recruiting rules and scholarship totals, chose to focus on fair play. They paid little heed to the notion of the student athlete, focusing rather on the notion of the amateur athlete. Whether or not a coach or booster provides extra benefits has become a central issue in college sports, a face that represents a monumental departure from the system itself. It is, by definition, important for the athletes to be in college. It is, by definition, critical that the participants be, in fact, student-athletes. But even on that score, the NCAA has fallen woefully short of making their own grade. The debate over student status led to ill-considered focus on the scores of standardized tests. At a time when policies designed to protect the academic potential of athletes were falling away (ie. the non-participation of freshman rule), the NCAA was placing the focus on what might or might not have happened in high school.
For years, America has been treated to a steady attack on poor people. When bad things happened over hill and dell, you could bet that poor people were the cause. White poor people in Appalachia, brown poor people in the Southwest, and black poor people everywhere; where there was crime, despair, or peeling picket fences, there was poor people. Poor people, it seemed, were poor because they didn’t like work. Poor people were poor because they were lazy. As with many arguments, there were, and are, nuggets of truth to the claims. Some percentage of the poor, perhaps even a significant percentage, were and are lazy. But much of the focus on the poor was of a political nature.
Democrats, starting in the 1960′s, began to specialize in getting the poor vote. Republicans, beginning with the Reagan Democrats in 1980, started drafting working class Americans to vote against programs perceived as catering to the poor. Class division, after all, is such a wonderful tool for creating electoral momentum. But we have moved past the poor in today’s America. Much of the architecture set up to ensure help for the poor has fallen by the wayside; even our education system is being pushed out of relevance. Nowadays, the political powers that be have picked out a new target; the working class.
Something doesn’t make sense. The process is askew. Shouldn’t aim come before fire? The media and Congress are operating today, based on their actions, as though a debt crisis is our great national problem. The people don’t believe that; poll after poll find jobs and the economy are more important than the federal deficit. We are constantly told that Congress went against the wishes of the people when they voted for health care reform. The same polls tell Congress that jobs matter more than the deficit; where is the drumbeat for action on that front?
I can hear folks thinking already; the people say jobs, but what do the professionals say? Economists have been beating the drums for real stimulus for over a year now. The collapse of the housing bubble blew a $2 trillion hole in the economy; a hole that resulted in precipitous falls in state and federal income tax and local sales tax collections. Better than half of our current federal deficit is a direct result of the recession; a fact which means once people go back to work, that potion of the deficit will no longer be an issue. The professionals are calling for federal action on jobs, the people are calling for federal action on jobs, the media are being led like sheep towards the false idol that is debt crisis.