Monday, March 19, 2012

Matt Stone & Trey Parker, Public Defenders

I don't have much to say on the tragedy in Central Florida in which a young man was shot and killed for going to the convenience store for Skittles. However, I do have problems with the defense of George Zimmerman's being derived from a South Park episode.

Florida's Stand Your Ground law may have worked if this was 1850s Arizona, but in 2012 in an urban area when the police can be easily reached? There should be no law that justifies the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Illinois Coaching Auditions

I did not fill out NCAA brackets this year.  As a heart-broken Fighting Illini fan, there was something deflating about the end of the season, firing Bruce Weber, who would have been the coach of the Illini as long as we would have let him.  The AD seemed to have decided he was going to let him go this year, which is not surprising for new athletic directors to want to pick their own coaches.  However, I don't think Mike Thomas truly understood the hurtful way in which Bill Self left.  When Lon Krueger left for the NBA, we wished him well and even rooted for UNLV on occasion.  Contrast that with Kansas' loss to Bucknell in the tournament a few years ago: I had a photo of Bill Self crying at the end of the game hanging in my office for a month and a half.

So, this year is Illinois coaching auditions.  Ooohhh.... but who shall we choose?  If Mike Thomas has asked a handful of alumni about this, he'll have a simple list: someone who can win, someone who will get the kids to go to class (not Calipari), and someone who won't see the Illinois job as a stepping stone to a better job (not Self).  We want a Coach K.  In fact, it stings a bit that Mike Krzyzewski is from Chicago.  The next coach of Fighting Illini basketball should be someone who understands that the Big Ten (with a margin of error of 2) is the big stage, and Illinois can be a force within that stage.  A connection to the Midwest, therefore, might be a nice bump to understand this but not critical.  So, would the 32 coaches who won in the 2nd Round (formerly First Round) want the Illinois job and be happy to coach there?  Let's break it down.  Your pool is Kentucky, Iowa State, Virginia Commonwealth, Colorado, Baylor, Xavier, Lehigh, Michigan State, St. Louis, New Mexico, Louisville, Murray State, Marquette, Florida, Norfolk State, Syracuse, Kansas State, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Florida State, Gonzaga, Ohio State, North Carolina, Creighton, South Florida, Ohio, NC State, Georgetown, Purdue, Kansas.

First Cut: No lateral moves.  Big Ten Coaches don't need to move to another Big Ten school.  Eliminates: Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Purdue

Second Cut: No SEC schools.  Anyone who takes a job in the SEC cannot be serious about academics by rule.  Eliminates: Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt - although a good case could be made for rescuing Illinois-native Kevin Stallings, but after 12 years at Vandy, rescue would probably involve moving the school to the ACC.

Third Cut: Kansas.  While Bill Self may regret the move to Kansas after the gutting of the Big XII, we don't want him.

Fourth Cut: Someone who wants to move.  We may as well take out Jim Boeheim at Syracuse and Roy Williams at North Carolina.  Those guys are not moving.  Actually, let's take out Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg.  As an Ames native who played at Iowa State, he's not leaving, and the alumni won't let him be fired.  Job for life, my friend.

Now we are left with 19.  Schools in the Midwest get an automatic bye into the next round: Xavier, Lehigh, Marquette, Cincinnati, Creighton, Ohio, and St. Louis.  Coaches at other schools need to prove a bit of Midwest loyalty by being from the region, or playing Big Ten ball.  This brings through VCU's Shaka Smart (from Wisconsin), Baylor's Scott Drew (son to Valpo coach Homer Drew, but not the son who hit that shot in the 1998 tournament), New Mexico's Steve Alford (from Indiana), Kansas State's Frank Martin (former Cincinnati Assistant), South Florida's Stan Heath (from Michigan), and NC State's Mark Gottfried (from Ohio).
Eliminates: Colorado, Louisville, Murray State, Norfolk State, Florida State, Gonzaga, Georgetown

Sixth Cut: No Hoosiers.  The only coach more hated by Illinois fans than Bill Self is Bob Knight.  No Knight disciples.  Eliminates: New Mexico

Seventh Cut: No issues of ethical misconduct, NCAA investigations, or being the assistant to someone who is an A-Hole.  Eliminates: Kansas State, due to Martin being an assistant to Bob Huggins.  Baylor's Scott Drew - possible?  A lot of questions about how he contacts potential recruits, but no firm investigation. Xavier, Cincinnati due to that nasty fist-fight - we don't need to be acting like Pacers or Pistons.

Eigth Cut: Really, they have to want to move.  No one who is either in a first year with the program, or has more than 10 years with the school.  Eliminates: NC State - although this is a soft elimination for someone who went to high school in Illinois... might be able to lure him away.

We're left with some intriguing prospects:

Brett Reed, Lehigh.  Make that Dr. Brett Reed.  No, "Doc" is not a nickname, he has his Ph.D. from Wayne State University in Instructional Systems and Sports Administration.  Will this guy be able to teach students how to play ball?  Yes.  As a Michigan native who went to Florida for school then returned to Detroit, the only "step up" he may consider would be to replace Izzo at Michigan State.  He'd be a great addition to a program that needs its players to get excited about classes and actually attend them.  Plus, with the Ph.D, it is possible that Varsity Basketball could be offered as a class in the department of Kinesiology, and students could be graded on their effort and receive 1 to 2 hours per semester.  Messed up on your freethrow drills = participation points deducted.

Rick Majerus, St. Louis: Wisconsin native, we'd be eating a lot of bratwurst in Champaign.  Downside, eating a lot of bratwurst means that Majerus may not be long for the world.  Which leads us to...

Buzz Williams, Marquette: He seems to jump around a lot, so you'd have to ask whether he'd jump ship if the Texas or Texas A&M job opened up.  He seems to be leading Marquette as well as (or better than) Tom Crean, but raiding Marquette for coaching talent just feels done already.

Greg McDermott, Creighton: Like most people from Iowa, this guy seems kind of boring.  But kind of boring is preferable to being Rick Petino.  However, it doesn't appear that he has the coaching chops for a marquee program.  Good for a program like Creighton where winning the conference tourney is your yardstick for performance, but not the Big Ten where we want a Sweet 16 appearance every other year.

Stan Heath, South Florida: Former assistant for Tom Izzo, this could be a good fit for Illinois, but a so-so record at South Florida makes you wonder if he can really coach given that he was fired from Arkansas.  The relationship to the SEC makes me wonder if he'll actually have kids stick around for their degrees, or if he'll babysit them for 2 years before they head off to the NBA.  We don't need to be another Ohio State, especially if they ever start to enforce those graduation requirements.  But, he did get Kent State to the Elite Eight, so you know, that's something.  Or may be to an AD from Akron... who may also be interested in...

John Groce, Ohio: Former Thad Matta assistant.  He's from Muncie.  He's boring.  But, he did beat Michigan.  We like beating Michigan.

Shaka Smart, VCU:  I don't want Coach Smart to be the Illinois Basketball Coach.  I kind of want him to be my friend and pen pal.  Honestly, I think you may be able to lure him over if you promise to let him have one of the copies of Diderot's Encyclopedia in his office.  Having the largest university library of any public college could be a selling point for a future coach, and that prospect makes me giddy.  My freshman year, one of the starters for the basketball team was getting his masters in mechanical engineering.  I want a coach who's going to encourage that type of pursuit, and someone who got a Masters in History while an assistant coach sounds like the kind of person I want.  We know he can coach, so that part's in the bag.  If transferring the personal papers of John Milton to a vault in the Head Basketball Coach's office seals the deal, I'm willing to do it.  Heck, if he wants to enroll in a Ph.D. program while he's at it, I think we'd let him.  Or, if he'd like to currate a collection at the Spurlock Museum, we'd be open to it.  Plus, his favorite movie is supposed to be Hoop Dreams, with the dramatic climax during the State Championships at Assembly Hall.  Coach Smart, you could do that EVERY DAY.  Every single day. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day

As an Irish-American, I will be making all of the recipes that remind me of my being a child and hanging out in a relative's kitchen (except my grandmothers - she could not cook).  Today is the one day per year that I cook red meat.  This year, I have a brisket portion from a local Angus beef producer that has been brining into corned beef, which will be bathed in Guinness and slow cooked for 6 hours today.  It will be amazing.

The one downside is that today is the day that people get to mock us?  I think?  I'm not sure what's going on, but it is the day that people drink nasty green beer, get drunk, and pretend that they are celebrating Irish heritage.  Currently I'm looking at someone who is plum drunk at 9am, wearing green, and pretending to be a Leprechaun.  I can guarantee that leprechauns do not sound like that. 

Instead of acting like idiots in the streets, I would suggest that we as a people, celebrate St. Patrick's Day in a way that would have made our Irish ancestors proud.  Namely, by punching Englishmen.  Hear me out... during the famine, it was the stereotype of Irishmen being lazy drunkards prevented Parliament from interceding and providing charitable food aid to starving people.  Millions of Irish emigrated in the face of certain death.  My own great-great-grandfather left a parish in Western Ireland that lost 90% of its population between 1845 and 1860.  If people want to spend this day reinforcing stereotypes, let's do this right.  We're also supposed to be hot-headed, interested in politics, and prone to fist fighting.  So, find yourself an Englishman, let him know that you're Irish, and punch them.  Especially if he's in a bar wearing green and talking about the little people.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Fixing the NCAA Men's Tournament

Like many Americans, I fully intend on spending the afternoon on my laptop working in front of a giant screen watching men's basketball while sumarizing reports.  Not that anyone in the office will complain - they'd have to be in the office to see what I'm doing.  Instead, they'll be down the street at the bar watching the tournament.  There are studies that try to quantify the amount of lost productivity in a dollar amount for the first two days of the tourney, but a safe number is to take the amount of profit generated for a day, subtract the productivity of the workforce for this day, and get the amount lost.  As the productivity of the day is probably around zero, the amount of lost productivity for the day is all of it.

One thing that bugs me is that while Thursday is the "First Round", with the expanded 68 team field, this is actually the Second Round.  Eight teams "made" the tournament, then they did not *quite* make the field.  They had to prove that they were worthy by playing in the least scenic town in America, Dayton, Ohio.  Why Dayton?  What did they do to deserve such a fate?  I know the President and the British Prime Minister were there, but Dayton?  And why do they have to "play-in", while other teams just get invited?  For teams like Iona, Brigham Young, California, and South Florida, this makes sense.  They were At-Large bids, having no right to be in the tournament apart from the decision of the selection committee.  However, for Lamar, Vermont, Mississippi Valley State, and Western Kentucky, this is rude.  Each won their conference tournament, yet the selection committee decided that their conference was not worthy of an automatic trip to the First Round, but other conference tournament winners do not have to prove themselves.

Therefore, behold my solution: The 97 team tournament.

No, seriously, 97.

Here's how this works:
All 30 Conference Tournament Winners advance to the Thursday-Friday round, along with the Ivy League champion.  If you are an At-Large team, you play-in on a Tuesday-Wednesday round.  The 31 Automatic Qualifiers will each face an At-Large team on the Thursday-Friday round, with 2 At-Large winners facing each other to have 32 games played in that round.  So, the 64 teams that play that round are 30 conference tournament winners, the Ivy League champ, and 33 teams that won a game on Tuesday or Wednesday.  So, you need 66 teams to play to produce the 33 teams.  This leads to 97 total teams.  You can keep seeding, or you can toss it.  It shouldn't matter.  You can even stack the tournament so that Kentucky plays a team like Cleveland State on Tuesday, then play Western Kentucky on Thursday.  All at-large teams are treated alike, as are the automatic qualifiers.  Whether or not the committee likes the SEC conference or doesn't like the America East conference is reflected in the teams invited, not in whether the conference tournament champ needs to play an extra game.  At least it seems fairer.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Religious Employment and Birth Control

Hiatus comes to a close after a crazy couple of weeks... which will be followed by a crazy couple of months...

I must be a slut.  Being a happily married woman but without kids, it's no surprise that this is not by accident or an unfortunate medical condition.  Heeding the advice of hundreds of Republican lawmakers, my husband and I have chosen not to have children that we can't afford.  So, we're sluts.  Excuse me, I'm a slut.  My husband merely is acting on his biological urges which he can't be expected to control.  I'm a woman, so I should be above all of this.  (This is the paragraph where I find out whether or not he reads this blog.)

Considering that not having children is still cheaper than having children, the debate over whether or not insurance companies must cover contraception is silly.  Even if Sandra Fluke is correct that birth control costs $3,000 per year, it is still cheaper than the average hospital birth.  If something goes wrong during that birth, then 10 years of birth control will look like a drop in the bucket when compared to the cost of caring for a premature baby.  If an insurance company wants to maximize profits, then they want women on the pill.  The only way it could benefit insurance companies would be in marketing more expensive plans to groups that really, really, really, really want women to have babies like bunnies.  Imagine covering the health care of the Dugger family. 

The only companies in the market for such a health-care plan would be religious institutions.  Anyone whose primary focus is profit would never sign up for a more expensive insurance plan which could result in more employee leaves of absence.  Private religious institutions are the only organizations which could justify the higher costs to their constituent groups.  And, I'm sure you are thinking that their ability to do what they want is protected by the First Amendment, and the Supreme Court would make sure that this distinction is saved from the restrictions of religious freedom imposed by Obamacare.

Or, would they?  I'd say not.  Even with the current court.

NPR had a wonderful run-down on the case law surrounding this controversy, so I won't go over it here.  What I will mention is the decision in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC.  At issue is whether or not a "called" teacher is a minister, and therefore exempt from labor laws that require reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities.  In the unanimous opinion, the Justices decided that there are lay employees, and religious employees.  Religious employees have a ministerial exemption from labor laws, while lay employees do not.  However, the standard of religious affiliation is higher - ministerial employees must receive training from the governing body, adhere to the religious beliefs thereof, and answering a call from God to work through a given congregation.

Applying this concept to, say, a Catholic hospital, and it's hard to make the argument that the doctors, nurses, and technicians are actually ministers, as opposed to lay persons employed by the Catholic church.  As lay employees, it will be difficult for a religious employer to state why they are exempt from a labor law.  Now, the Nun in charge of the children's ward - that's a different story.  No one's making the case that she should be force fed Plan B.  But the janitor sweeping the floor of the children's ward?  That's a different case.  And this is why for all of the moaning, that janitor is probably going to receive free birth control should a suit go before the Supreme Court.