Monday, June 29, 2009

Tribute to "the king" (of pop)!!!

I am a little late on this (by a few days). It was a real real sad day last thursday to hear the news about MJ. He might have been the laughing stock r people during the better part of this past decade or so. But how could you undermine the legend that is MJ??

I probably do not listen to music like his now. But I sure did growing up .....who didn't right? I am sure every kid growing up in the 80s and early 90s must have tried impersonating MJs moves ..... his moon walk (wow... the moonwalk !!!), the kick move and the infamous crotch grab. Not to mention the number of walls with his poster on in the 80s, and kids with the red jacket of his. His popularity and stature was just mind boggling ....and dare i say (again) ...legendary. I still remember how I used to hate U2 for a few years when they won a bunch of Grammys for "Joshua Tree" instead of MJ's "Bad"...although objectively U2 probably had the better album that year.

I hate to talk (or even think) about his personal life. It is an understatement that he had issues. But it should not take any shine out of his achievements as an entertainer. I hope, at least after his death, people stop trying digging out dirt (yeah I'm talking about you ..... you sensitivity and morally challenged TMZ, E!, Hollywood access etc)..... he has been tarnished enough. This man deserves to be remembered in the right ways at least after his demise.

MJ was arguably the most popular global figure in entertainment this past century ....not only for his music but also his revolution in dance and music videos. MTV would not be here today if not for his transformations of music videos to an art, rather than as promos before his time. If you look at entertainment as a bunch of eras, the 80s and 90s were easily MJ's, just as Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra had their own earlier last century. Yes, to me he is up there with them as a legendary icon for music and I hope that is how history will see him.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Discovering my political identity....

I learned a lot about myself over the last 2 years. It is no coincidence that it overlapped with the election season of 2008. It is really important for everyone to realize what you believe in. It was not an easy task for me. I used to think I was a liberal and hence I should have shared democrat views. But I was being short sighted. I realized I was looking only at the social issues (which I still am fairly liberal about) couple that with the general dissatisfaction with the government under Bush. And there you go: I thought I was a liberal democrat!! Little did I know that I was completely wrong on this one. The following are some truths I uncovered that brought me to reality:

Fiscal Conservatism and Capitalism

One reason we are in this financial mess, apart from all the irresponsible politicians and financial firms', is that the country is in debt. How did we get there? In simple terms, we were spending more than we were supposed to. This could have been avoided by following true fiscal conservative principles. Most fiscal conservatives believe in the trickle down economy, including yours truly.

To explain my understanding of it in a nutshell, rather than the government tax the crap out of you and spend the people's money (in its own utterly inefficient way), the more "conservative" way to do this is drastically reduce spending by the government and reduce taxes. Reduced taxes for businesses (both small and large) means that these businesses now make more money (which is not "evil" as many liberals will like us to think) and can now grow. This translates into more jobs created, meaning more people having jobs. People having jobs spend some of that money which is pumped into the economy and the viscous cycle continues, which indicates a good and healthy economy.

On the contrary, lets see how the fiscal liberals would want the economy to function. They would increase taxes, which is going to reduce profits made by businesses. Then use these tax dollars to create more public sector jobs. First, who wouldn't want to work in the government (yep I'm being sarcastic)?? Imagine life working at the post office or the DMV rather than say at Fedex or Shell Oil (or any other private sector corporation). Clearly the quality of private sector trumps public sector jobs created. Moreover, what about the increased taxes? Lesser profits for businesses not only reduces private sector jobs that offset the public sector jobs created, but the businesses are not going to take the losses in their balance sheet. They are going to pass them down to us in the form of increased prices for their products and services. So the tax increases for businesses (or "evil corporations" as liberals like to call them), in actuality, are tax increases for every consumer. The only thing that the liberals get out of this is that it creates some amount of social equality, because they control lot of the jobs now.

I would any day pick a good chance to have a prosperous life (capitalism through conservatism) than a guarantee of a mediocre life for everybody (socialism through liberalism). After all, isn't life supposed to reward the people that work hard. Or would you rather have every adult in society lazing around, sitting on benches playing domino all day (what's up, Cuba?).

Individualism Vs Collectivism

Individualism holds that the individual is the primary unit of reality and the ultimate standard of value. This view does not deny that societies exist or that people benefit from living in them, but it sees society as a collection of individuals, not something over and above them. Each individual in this country is independent and unique and should know his/her responsibilities. The individual is sovereign in the society. Every person/individual is an end in himself and no one should be sacrificed for the sake of another. The unit of achievement is the individual himself. It is not that one person cannot build on the success or achievements of another, but it is in stark contrast to the theory of collectivism, which is a very liberal idea. Collectivism holds that society or a group of people is the primary unit of reality and the goals and needs of the individual are subordinate to the bigger group. Extremists of this idea believe in social equality by forced redistribution of an individual's success or achievements to others in that group as they believe success is a product of society and not individuals. So under collectivism, the state becomes the instrument to organize people to meet the needs of what they dream : "ideal society".

Of course, of the two, I would rather live in a society based on individualism, where I am independent and am accountable for myself than in a society based on collectivism. In an individualist society, if I work hard and do what is necessary, I will be rewarded and my achievements, if and when I do have some, will belong to me and owned by me. But, in a collectivist society where whatever I achieve will be snatched forcefully out of my hands and given to others who may or may not deserve it. Also, reward for work (as in individualism) motivates people to achieve something and do their thing rather than, as in collectivism, where you are indirectly encouraged to be irresponsible by rewarding laziness and lethargy. Collectivism leads to leaches in society that survive on the blood of other responsible individuals without being responsible enough to survive on their own.

What really is Free Market Capitalism?

The following phrase says a lot: "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". Again the afore mentioned phrase applies to individuals and not the society as a whole. Again, it does not mean that society doesn't have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it rather applies to every individual in society. As you see, this subtle difference has a lot of meaning and implications. Capitalism is the only political system that is compatible with individualism and recognizes the entity of the "individual". It is a social system that recognizes rights of the individual and in which all property is privately owned.

Unfortunately, today, capitalism has been misunderstood, with the help of the smear machine of all "so-called capitalists" and socialists (including the current articulate President) who publicly blame capitalism for a lot of the problems we currently face. It is imperative to understand that State intervention in the economy, which is the root cause for all problems, was not a result of Capitalism. In a true capitalist system, the State and Economics are separated (just like separation of State and Church and for similar reasons). Free Market Capitalism is a system based on the notion that every individual is a trader and is free to act or do trade on his own. He can "voluntarily" decide to interact with whomever he chooses. The role of the State is to make sure that the "voluntary" part of the above definition remains truly voluntary, meaning, both sides chose freely to deal with each other and there are no other third party forces that add constraints. No doubt in reality, this is easier said than done. But, it is this part of the Capitalist soceity that failed us - the State failed in its duty. The government has time and again interfered with the capitalist system by meddling with the financial system through their own implicilty backed ntities (eg: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) or through irresponsible law making (Eg: Community Re-investment Act of 1977 and especially its changes in the 1990s, which had great and noble intentions, but very poorly implemented). There are examples galore of unjust acts committed under the banner of law and justice, for example, when the government takes from one person to feed another, or when government takes taxpayer money to bail out foolhardy bankers. It pains me to here these politicians (being politicians) talking that Capitalism has failed us, when in truth it is their establishment in Washington that has failed us.

I do not mean to say that capitalism is perfect. There are always going to be rogue corporation and heads of corporations (like Enron) who do not play by the rules and ethics that once existed in business in this country. But that is another story altogether. I also do not mean to say that there should be no regulation (as the pure form of capitalism requires, which I got to admit is ridiculous) of the economic system. You are damn right that the current regulatory policy of the State is ineffective. It doesn't mean you increase regulation. It rather means you need a more effective regulation policy. But, sadly, efficiency and government can never go hand in hand. Which leads us to the only hope that people in general revert back to morals and ethics in society.

Under capitalism, the government protects rights, including the right to property. Without the right to use and dispose what one has produced, one has no liberty. If individuals can't work and produce towards goals they can't pursue happiness. If one can't consume the product of one's effort, one cannot live. That is how Capitalism protects one's right to "Life Liberty and pursuit of Happiness". Capitalism is not a system under which unproductive individuals can leach off the productive ones, whether the ``unproductive'' are the unambitious or politically-connected businessmen. Nor is capitalism a system in which the government acts not as a protector, but as a coercer of productive individuals.

Bush - Not a Fiscal Conservative!!

Having understood what Capitalism really means, When you look at the Bush years, one has to wonder how the embodiment of capitalism and conservatism failed? The truth is, contrary to what he said, or was portrayed as, he was not a fiscal conservative. The age old political trick of saying one thing and doing the opposite was what was happening (which is also one of the notorious traits of the current President). If at all anything Bush and his policies were fiscally liberal. The evidence for this - all the spending and legislature for welfare (like the prescription drug law for medicare etc). The only things he was conservative about were social issues (not a big fan) and national security (which I tend to agree on a some and not on others). So, in essence, democrats are obviously not conservative and republicans (at least the leaders of the party) aren't conservative either. They are all liberals or (I would rather call them) "progressives". This is probably why the republicans lost the 2008 elections - because they did not have a conservative face (except for their hypocritical talk) and by recent estimates, around 40% of Americans are conservative (including about 22% of registered Democrats).

Conservative Libertarianism!!

Putting all these things together I realized - if I did not like Bush's policies, I am not what he is - not a fiscal liberal (or progressive. I am centrist-left on social issues - definitely pro-choice. Again not a fan of Bush's social policies - not a Social Conservative! So what category do I fall into?

Voila ..... I am a Conservative Libertarian! Actually, not totally, as I still do not accept some of the policies of the Libertarian Party here in the US. They have some ideas that are outlandish to me.

Libertarianism is another very misunderstood term. I was myself surprised to learn about the origins of the word, which is from communist - anarchist groups from the late 19th century. Over time there have been changes and newer meanings had started to evolve. But in the US, Libertarianism has, for a while been used with a pro-individualism / pro-property ideas and movements, mainly used to promote free market, economic freedom and anti-communism. Individual liberty is the utmost important thing in this school of thought. Libertarianism also brings in the liberal thinking of social issues into it, kind of making it a fusion of a conservative economic beliefs with liberal social makeup, which very much coincides to the way I think. But some of the ideologies and sub-groups that branch out of this basic idea do have some strange ways of thinking in terms of national security etc. So I don't think I can ever call myself a true Libertarian. But Conservative Libertarian is probably to the best way to describe myself of all political groups that I know of that exist.

Hence it should be no surprise that I am in no way happy about how the new administration is handling things. Its not only that there is a clear difference in philosophies, but I also find all the double talk, misleading and chicanery cheap and dirty. I guess, its politics as usual in Washington, with the administration trying to payback all the different groups that got them elected (especially labor unions and organizations like ACORN), catering to the needs of all the blow-hard leftist liberals, being indifferent to the majority of the people who have a big growing check waiting to be paid off in the near and distance futures. Not to mention the slow nationalization of financial industry and then the auto industry (who knows what's next??) and all the national security and border security lapses / weaknesses (intended or unintended) due to philosophical policies and nepotism. And the media is not yet out of it's Bush bashing and (so called) conservative hating mode, mix in the fairytale of the underdog minority candidate challenging the incumbent in last years "American Idol" elections, the Obama - fawning (after all he's the "chosen one") has not only not come down to Earth, but it has blind-folded the media from doing their duty as a watch dog. They are more like a lap-dog with no credibility what so ever. I never thought I would think there could be a worse candidate for President than President Bush .....that view lasted just a few weeks after he left office.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bye Bye Basketball (and Hockey)

Its finally summer. In the annual sporting seasonal cycle, it indicates the end of the hockey and basketball seasons. What a couple of post-seasons its been for both the sports.

I'm actually glad basketball is over. It kinda sucks that my team (the lowly warriors) didn't make the playoffs (....not even close). An my second favorite team the Bulls made their exit after the first round after a valiant performance against the reigning champs. So my interest in the postseason ended right there. Its been a loooong post season, to put it in perspective, the regular season ended in mid April and the finals got over just yesterday ...mid June..... two grueling months of postseason basketball .... overkill anybody? I really do think it is especially for someone without a horse in the race. It probably was a great show of basketball quality-wise, but the two months of all the hype is overrated. If only I got a nickel for every time I heard "Kobe can (or cannot) do it without Shaq." or "Lebron is the second coming of MJ" or about how Houston are better without T-Mac (which is BS). Dont get me started on the never-ending barrage of Kobe-Lebron puppet adds was kinda funny in the beginning ...but please ...enough is enough. I really am happy to see the end of the NBA season. Although I probably have a couple more weeks about all the Laker gloating,the "Kobe is one of the greatest" hype and the "Will Phil Jackson be back next year?" debate to put up with.

The hockey post-season was not all that great for me either. My beloved San Jose sharks had one of the greatest regular seasons ever. But ended up doing a dramatic choke job in the first round of the playoffs. Granted the ducks were probably a better team than their 8th seed indicated and also riding a hot streak over the month entering the playoffs. But you don't tank if you are supposedly the best team in the league ....and sharks ended up doing just that....that's right ...Patrick Marleau... (choke!! choke!!) ......Joe Thornton...(choke!! choke!!)......and of course Evgeni Nabakov .... how could you be a brick wall during the regular season and then just be a miserable goaltender during the playoffs? i hear "choke!! choke!!". Hopefully, there will be some overhaul in the off-season and they will comeback strong next year.

So overall disappointing ending to the NBA and NHL seasons for me. But I have a pleasant surprise in the form of the SF Giants. Before the baseball season started, even the most optimistic homer for the giants would not have predicted this. As of now they are a whopping 6 games above .500. Do I smell playoffs??? I should probably keep my hopes lower because we hardly are past the 40% stage of the season and leading the NL wild card standings (albeit by 1 game) probably doesn't mean a lot. Will have a better idea in a month I think, when they face tougher opponents than they have been in the past month or so.

The pitching has been terrific. Tim "the freak" Lincecum has been great after a rather rough first 2 games (after all expectations are high for the reigning NL Cy Young champ). Matt "the caner" Cain has become the Timmy of this year (do I hear All- Star starter???). He was prabaly this good last year except that he had to cover for the infamous lack of run support. The Big Unit has been alright for his age. The biggest surprise to me has been Zito. He has been pretty good on the mound more often than not. No way does he explain the big bucks contract he has, but at least he is above average. Jonathan Sanchez has been a dissapointment though. At times he displays electric stuff...but then suddenly blows all and looks lost on the mound. If he can put together a few good games he could be a good trading pawn to get a bat. And the Giants definitely do need a bat or two. It says a lot of Bengie Molina is your best hitter (no offense to "Big Money" Molina .....but wouldnt it be great if he was hitting 7 or 8 instead of cleanup??). Pablo "the Panda" Sandavol has been good of late and Rowand has been in a hot streak too. So they are not in a crisis situation in terms of offense. But to remain in contention, they will have to add a little pop to the line-up sonner or later. Lets wait and watch what happens ...... Go Giants!!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Waddup Cheeseheads??

Here is a preview to the pre-training camp situation with the packers.

I don't believe what I'm doing. Is there never an off-season for football? Atleast not for me. Football season doesn't end with the super bowl these days. When the super bowl is one and done in early february (add all post super bowl analysis plus time to get over all hangover from all the drinking and partying for the big game by mid - end feb), its time for draft analysis. And before you know, the draft day is upon us end of April. The next month or so goes on with the draft pick analysis. Add to some free agent signings and trades (which are not a whole lot with my packers though) ....theres always a lot to chew on. And soon, mid may they start with off-season programs, where you are kee to see how the new guys are comming along with your team. Then come the OTAs (Organized Team Activites) in early June followed by Training camp in July and then pre-season in August and then ..... boom!! Football Sundays are back come september!!

For the packers the last two off-seasons (in name only) have been extra special. Apart from all the activities I mentioned above they have a "drama queen" to deal with. Yup, you know I'm talking about Brett "the drama queen" Favre. (And yeah ....he's earned that knickname with all his antics the past 2 years). His melodrama will require a whole new post from me, which I'll save for another day (maybe). But apart from that the season seems to be shaping up pretty good for them Packers. Here are a few notable things to keep an eye on (at least I would):

1. Defense switch from 4-3 to 3-4:
As you might have known, after all the defensive breakdowns at end of games last year, which was probably the main reason for their miserable 6-10 record (No, Aaron Rodgers wasn't the reason ....although he didnt help a lot at end of games ....more on that below), coach Mccarthy blew up almost the entire coaching staff and brought in Dom Capers to install a 3-4 defensive scheme. The change in defensive philosophy for the team means a fairly big reshuffle in personnel on defense and also there were soe gaping holes that needed to be filled. Without going too much into details, I would like to point out a few personnel adjustments / inclusions. Aaron Kampman is movin from DE to outside linebacker. They added BJ Raji in the draft and hope Harrell stays injury-free (at least this year) for depth in Defensive Line. the new scheme requires more Linebackers and along with Kampman they drafter Clay Mathews for the other outside position. Inside Linebackers should be Hawk and Barnett (who is recovering from injury). The secondary is something which I would like to keep my eyes on. For the cornerbacks, its no more man-to-man coverage, so its gonna be new for the old guys. I think Woodson should be fine as CB, but I am a bit concerned about Al Harris. They have decent depth with Tramon Williams and Bush at backup / nickel. Safety is probably the most important position for this defense ....probably the captain of the D (see Troy Palamalu in similar scheme at Pittsburgh or Ed Reed at Baltimore). Should be fun to see if Nick Collins can do that ....from what I hear, he is cerebral enough to pull it off. Hopefully, Atari Bigby is fine after an injury plagued year in 2008. I think its gonna be his breakout year. The depth is ok with Aaron Rouse and Anthony Smith (signed from Pitt).

2. Rodgers the leader:
Rodgers seems to be taking up the leadership role pretty well. This is his first off-season with very little Favre Drama. He had a great year 2008 except for the win - loss column, which is what counts the most (but its pretty telling when as a rookie starter you throw 4000+ yards for the year ...only other person to do it?? ...not Peyton Manning ...not Dan Marino ....not John Elway .... definitely not Favre ... it was Kurt Warner!!). Rodgers will only get better and hopefully with a better O line and better running game things should get a little easier too. A new twist to his story line is that Cutler is now in the NFC Norht division.... with the friggin Bears at that. Imagine the division with Rodger , Cutler, Favre (if he joins the vikes) and Stafford (with lions). What a division for QBs!!

3. The YAC Pack and the Offense:
I already pointed out that Rodgers should be better this year with a seaon under his belt. It can only get better for the O-line (stay away from injuries) and for Ryan Grant and the other RBs. Waht can I say about the receivers. Driver is gonna be tough down the middle as ever. Jennings will probably earn the contract he's gonna sign soon. Jones, again one of those injury plagued players hoping to be fit this year. And then theres Ruvell Martin and Jordy Nelson. As a group its probably the best receiving group in the league (cant think of a better group considering nos. 1 to 5). It could be a break out year for Jermicheal Finley. at Tight End. If he is good Mccarthy will have two TEs along with Lee to increase the flexibility of the offense. Gonna be exciting!!

4. Special Teams:
To be honest, I dont really know much about the improvements here. Although I can vouch that it has to be an area of improvement for this team. Tramon and Woodson can return kicks/punts. They have a new punter (thank goodness for getting rid of Frost). They have added a lot of bodies in the draft which should help in coverage. So I guess its just fingers crossed.

Well I guess thats all I have for now. But a lot could change from now and even training camp. let alone pre-season. I'm just hoping for the best. Go Packers!!

Numero Uno!!

Well, I'm finally doing it. And its only the beginning (hopefully).

I intend to keep this blog more like a commentary avenue for myself. Will be dealing with more opinionated posts about day-to-day events around the world and very little, if at all any, personal posts per se. Sports has always been a passion of mine and so it shouldn't surprise anyone that it would be the most dealt with subject around here. There is gonna be a whole lot of Green Bay Packers talk here (Oh Yeah!! Go Packers!!) with some bay area sports sprinkled in. And pretty much whatever the hell I want :).

I will probably throw in a tad bit of politics in here too, which I intend to be more at a policy / philosophical level for people like me as individuals, rather than the dirty partisan party-line talk you find in Washington (or any typical political blog). I sometimes have strong opinions and feelings about things that are taking place and how they would affect me in the near future and later too. I will use this blog to express them.

Rather unique combination eh? Sports + Politics!! Feel free to leave comments anytime. I would love to be pointed out if I am wrong or if something I write warrants a better explanation from me. Do keep in mind though that most of the posts are gonna be my opinions and I reserve the right to hold them (wink). Will also post interesting links to articles and sites that I find interesting out here for some learning / entertainment value.

Stay tuned.......