Saturday, January 19, 2013

Betrayed by Lance

Lance Armstrong came out and confessed that he had won all his 7 Tour De France competitions by cheating.

He was one of my athlete idols.

I feel enraged at the thought that the runner ups -and all other honest cyclists- competing against Lance were not the ones doing the victory lap on Champs-Elysee but Lance was. Stealing does not describe fully what Lance did. What Lance did was like backstabbing the other honest cyclists and then rubbed their blood on their faces. A disgrace and a farce. A charlatan, no less.

It is embarrassing to have an Olympic sporting event that cannot seem able to extirpate cheating from its ranks. I cannot make myself watch cycling again without thinking that somebody in the peloton is a cheat and a fraud. Why should this be, IOC?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Cox Communications Sucks Again

Cox Communications is a company that should dissappear from the face of the planet, as far as I am concerned.

After they lost all my email messages last December -absolutely all my messages older than 90 days- Cox decided to 'compensate' me with a $50 credit. That is just arrogant and insulting.

If I could I would get a T1 line directly to my house and manage my own internet connection and totally eliminate Cox Communication from my life.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Financial markets vesus democracy

I am elated to see that our representatives in DC have reached a compromise on the fiscal cliff. Kudos to them.

Why was this agreement achieved at the very last moment as opposed to, say, Dec 14th? Beats me, but this is symptomatic of political instability.

Let's be realistic and ponder whether we will ever have a normal political process again. What laws can ever be passed with no compromises, negotiations, and sights on the big picture? At this time, and for the past several years: none. Except, perhaps, for the minimum necessary laws before elections....

We have a political class that disregards the needs of the citizens that elects them. This is because we have only two official parties and too few elected representatives. It seems to me that these 2 items are the seeds of a severe constitutional crisis. On top of that we have the 2nd and 14th Amendments that require clarification.

Every week that passes shows that DC appears to be consumed by an an 'already advertised' crisis. This week's crisis (and for the next several weeks) is the debt ceiling. Nothing ever happens in DC until the very last moment.

If the financial markets do not punish our elected representatives by refusing to accepts such low returns as 0.5%/year on US government bonds then nobody can. What is the rationale for the financial markets to assume that the US government can pay its obligations back on time? I am not sure, but I would assume that the financial markets have more collective intelligence than the collective intelligence of our democratically elected representatives.

Perhaps short term myopic behavior is an attribute of the free market. However, as far as our democracy goes we can clearly see that it has hit a few speed bumps along the way. The objective of our democratic processes is to make US  a better place for all Americans and not to blindly facilitate acceptance of some purely artificial political dictates (such as the 'no new taxes pledge').

If the financial markets see no problem with the US debt levels -given the low returns they offer no less!- then why are our representatives so 'worried' about that? The Congress and Senate are both equally responsible for the historically accumulated debt of the US government, after all.

What is the point of having a perfectly balanced budget with no national debt if people live in fear, poverty, and uncertainty? There is no historical evidence showing that a nation has lived better during balanced budget times than during deficit/debt regimes. I am willing to bet that North Kora has no budget deficit or national debt. Are they well off at all? On the contrary, they do not leverage the time component in their day-to-day economy.

Theoretically and wholestically, the total debt issued by anybody must be owned by somebody somewhere, so we are in perfect balance and harmony. Nobody forces anybody to buy any debt issued by somebody else.

The nature of the modern financial system is such that debt is at its core but this does not mean that we can legislate how the capital and financial markets should work.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Soccer is more democratic than American football

American football is an awesome game of strength, strategy, power, and hierarchy. A typical professional American football team has 53 players on the roster. Of these 45 can be active on the day of the game. However, only 11 players can be on the field at any given time. There are hundreds of additional staff on an NFL team: coaching, technical, administrative, and leadership. The coaching staff count alone is about 20 per team.

Surely, given the numbers above, and for all intents and purposes an American football team has actually 4 teams (offense, defense, special teams, and reserves).

The quarterback is the team captain of sorts but he is active only when the team is on the offense, obviously. The quarterback has king-like attributes, if you will. He decides the plays to be made -together with the help of the coaching staff-, the players he will pass the ball to,  the tempo of the game, and his performance greatly affects the scoring performance of the team. The American football is highly hierarchical and based on directives. It lack too much creativity and spontaneity. It is a rigid and command driven game.

Soccer, on the other hand, even though it has11 players on the field its roster has no more than 17 players. The staff size is no larger than 6. Each soccer player has a clear role on the field and they are always on the field so they are much better able to adapt and react to the needs and demands of the game. The soccer team captain plays a symbolic role and his/her role is to represent the team when the referees decisions are questionable or to purely be the spokesperson of the team.

Each soccer player is equally powerful in that they are all able to score or defend. They are universal and they represent a team in the pure sense of the word.

Soccer is a reflection of pure democracy in action while American football is a reflection of militarism/hierarchy, specialization, and top-down decision making. Soccer reflects power when each player's skills and performance are well balanced across the entire team while American football reflects power when the quarterback is best in class.

Another democratic characteristic of soccer is the fact that it remains a true game in terms of time tracking and management, while for the American football the clock and time management are football 101.

In American football time is subordinated to the game while in soccer time is just a reference point outside of the game. Soccer is more spontaneous and eloquent of a game while American football appears like a stuttering boy called out to read a report at the front of the class with all other children watching.

Long live soccer!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Why I am an atheist

I think religion plays an important social role. Nobody cannot deny the social role played by religion. People go to church and relate to one another. At church they organize breakfast, lunch, and dinner times. They sing together and they pray as a group. That is awesome, but -let me be clear- it is awesome for purely social reason and not for 'after life' reasons.

I love the idea that religion thinks that it can make people be better. It is, in a way, a classic idea of hope and success. Who -after all- does not want to be hopeful and successful? It does not mean that this idea translates in reality since the distribution of bad people in the church going crowds is not any different than from non church going crowds.

Being an atheist makes me free of having assumptions anchored in beliefs and old texts. I believe in the free human spirit and the ability of science (humanism) to free us from thinking that all answers are given to us. We need to search for answers for as long as we live and we need not be satisfied with formalisms and declarative statements.

Yesterday, Kevin-Prince Boateng Became A Super Hero

Yesterday, AC Milan midfielder walked off the pitch during an exhibition/friendly game against Pro Patria (in Busto Arsizio, Italy) because Pro Patria fans were chanting racist slurs directed at him.

His gesture, fully supported by his teammates, who walked off along him, was heroic as it may well represent a dramatic shift in the European soccer's players attitude towards their fans. Fans' attitude against non-white soccer players is toxic and must change rather quickly. We are all more diverse and culturally this helps us.

I literally cheered when I saw Kevin-Prince walk off the pitch and I hope all non-white players in Europe do exactly the same thing next time racist slurs are directed at them.

Kevin-Prince Boateng, as he walked off the pitch in protest, walked in the Pantheon of super heroes.