BAKE ME A CAKE AS FAST AS YOU CAN

If you offer a product or service to anyone, you must offer it to everyone, but you don’t have to accept an order for something you are not in business to build, even if the would-be buyer is gay.

Based on initial reports of the Supreme Court’s oral-arguments phase of the appeal on the Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay wedding, sounds like the Supremes might be inching toward what this observer considers the crux of the case:  just what, exactly, did the baker refuse to do?

Seems clear enough the engaged couple made it known they were gay (i.e., they introduced themselves as the parties to be married), and asked the baker to bake them a wedding cake.  Also seems clear enough that in the end, the baker refused to bake them a wedding cake.  What has been missing from press accounts of the case is this:  did the customers indicate what kind of cake they wanted?  Did they want any old wedding cake, like one of the cakes on display, or a cake of a particular design, like a design that in some way commemorated the fact that it was in celebration of a gay wedding?  More specifically, did the customers indicate they wanted the design to include, for example, two male figures as the wedding partners, or some other design that denoted, at least to the congnoscenti, that it was a gay marriage – e.g., the special flag that the celebrants eventually ordered and bought from another baker?  Initial accounts suggest that Justices Kennedy and Gorsuch, through their lines of questioning, were heading toward this issue.

Why does the design of the cake matter?   Answer:  (i) no problem if the guys wanted a generic cake, like the ones the baker displayed – it is indisputable that the baker offered to sell them a standard-design cake, despite their being gay.  In other words, the baker will sell all of his conventional cakes to anyone, regardless of the customer’s sexual orientation;  but (ii) big problem if the customer wants the baker to produce a transparently-gay cake.

The law is, you cannot offer a particular product to some people but not to others, when the reason for the discrimination is the others’ sexual orientation.  But what about refusing to make and sell a particular product that you do not offer to anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation?  If that behavior were illegal, then a person could walk into a bakery and order cupcakes and a new Mercedes, and if that person were gay, the owner would have to build him a Mercedes. Moral of the story:  if you offer a product or service to anyone, you must offer it to everyone, but you don’t have to accept an order for something you are not in business to build, even if the would-be buyer is gay.

NEWS FLASH:  TRUMP IS A CONSERVATIVE

Here is the essence of this site’s recent CliffNotes summary of the Trump presidency: “The president is more of a conservative than many of his detractors, even though his conservatism is based upon his business experiences and instincts.  He is anti-regulation but not anti-government.  He is pro-markets but willing to provide governmental assistance.  Do his critics miss the point because they are too distracted by matters of taste and manners?”  (from http://www.mecmoss.com/small-government-vs-stingy-government/ )

And here is an excerpt from Christopher DeMuth’s Wall Street Journal essay (November 18, 2017) on “Trump v. the Deep Regulatory State:” “Many readers may be puzzled that our tempestuous president should preside over the principled, calibrated regulatory reform described here . . . (that) he is comfortable and proficient in managing his own enterprise, which is now the executive branch . . He may even understand that modern presidents have become too powerful for their own good and can benefit from sharing responsibility with Congress.”  Great minds think alike.

The first – and to date, the latest – U. S. president to grasp and support the Milton Friedman/William F. Buckley agenda of reduced regulation and reduced tax rates was Reagan. Remember, it was George H. W. Bush, the nation’s dirty-old-man emeritus, who set in motion the dismantling of the wondrous Tax Reform Act of 1986, and it was the winner of the Y2K Yalie v. Yalie election, “W,” who, after a promising start, ended up giving us a government so bloated, a national debt so severe, and an economy so devastated that the most leftist president in U.S. history was elected under the bizarre expectation that socialism was the key to economic recovery.  And now, finally, the Deplorables have said, enough of government by Skull & Bones or Marx, how about somebody who actually knows something about real-world economics, about what it takes to grow an economy, even though he scorns political-correctness, has vulgar tastes in women, hotels, and haircuts, and communicates with the public through un-presidential tweets rather than evasive press conferences?

Turns out the most animated, vicious political battle of our time is not Democrats v. Republicans, it is Trump v. the left and right wings of the Republican Party.  The president v. the flaccid Bush/Flake/McCain cabal, and the president v. the  Paul/Cruz libertarian orthodoxy.  Trump has offered his love to Republicans, and if they are foolish and snobbish enough to decline the offer, he will dump them and look for another bride.

ROGER GOODELL IS A FAILURE

Pro football is in trouble.  A significant decline in viewership of NFL pro football could trigger a death spiral for the entire sport.

Pro football has a concussions issue, an overall safety issue (e.g., spinal injuries), a saturation issue (football on Sunday night, Monday night, Thursday night), an empirical ambitions issue (games in the U.K., Mexico, etc.), a feminist/metrosexual issue (football is too mean, violent, aggressive, and manly), a players-as-felons issue (Ezekiel Elliott, Ray Rice, etc.), and a race-&-politics issue (Colin Kaepernick, a decent QB who is shunned because he chose an outrageous platform from which to stage his socio-political protests).  The cumulative magnitude of these issues is being revealed by a substantial decline in recent TV ratings.

Thus we have a Bob Costas piling on, with his observation that we may be headed toward a day when the only remaining players will be athletes for whom football is the only way out of poverty –  “At some point  . . .  parents say, ‘I don’t want my kids to play.’ And then it becomes only the province of the poor, who want it for economic reasons to get up and out.”  Is it a coincidence that the NFL is presently 70% black?

Some fans, especially former players and coaches, have already indicated that they find the pro game boring and they think college football is way more interesting because it involves more action, more innovation, more complexity.  These fans say they have already switched to college ball and they do not miss pro ball at all.

Well, here’s the problem.  If pro football became a niche sport, why would an elite athlete want to play college ball?  Young athletes do not matriculate in order to study Sophocles or Thomas Acquinas, they do it to prepare themselves to play football for big money.  Take away pro ball, you take away college ball in pretty short order.  And maybe high school ball and Pop Warner, which are already in trouble.  Even with all the slimy agents and alumni, college players do not make seven figures a year.  Blacks would drop football if it no longer offered them a future, and whites would drop football if their mothers would no longer let them risk concussion and paralysis.  Game over.

Commissioner Goodell thinks he should be retained as NFL Commissioner because the NFL has made a ton of money during his regime.  That might be persuasive if the NFL were a publicly-owned corporation offering positive projections, but it is not.  The future does not look so great, largely because Goodell has failed to resolve any of the critical issues and has no apparent plans for doing so, meaning he stinks at his job regardless of the NFL’s 2016 financials.  If Goodell had the necessary talents for the job, we would never have had a Tom Brady fiasco, an Ezekiel Elliott fiasco, or a Colin Kaepernick fiasco.  But we did, and millions of fans were alienated and the NFL was left with a legal/social/political crisis.  Help!

SAVING THE NFL

Here is why – and how  – the Houston Texans should hire Colin Kaepernick.

The take-a-knee movement in football is a tragedy.  If the point is to complain about poor treatment of black people in America, especially poor treatment by the police, that is a fair point, a fair topic for conversation.  But what has that got to do with football – which employs far more blacks than whites and pays them far more than what the vast majority of white Americans are paid?  What does police misconduct have to do with the national anthem and the flag – which are inspirational symbols the vast majority of citizens respect?   Short answer:  nothing.  The anthem/flag platform was chosen because:    (i) it would attract a lot of attention by annoying a lot of people; and thus (ii) it would give the players greater leverage in their battle to achieve improvements in their treatment by their fellow citizens and the police.  So far, the jury is still out on whether the players have helped their cause.

Which brings us to Kaepernick, the leader of the Take-A-Knee movement.  It comes as no shock that the American Left, which includes virtually everyone who reports or comments on sports on TV or radio or in the newspapers (even the Wall Street Journal), argues that Kaepernick should be picked up by an NFL team.  In truth, the lefties would probably prefer a perpetual stalemate where CK does not get hired but remains a prop for the argument that pro sports in America are controlled by racist bigots.

The best venue for the solution to the TAK crisis might prove to be the Houston Texans, now reduced to rubble by season-ending injuries to both the best defensive player in football (J. J. Watt) and arguably the best offensive player in football (rookie Deshaun Watson).  The Texans would  have little to lose by hiring CK, other than the support of their fan base, which would have a cow but would  eventually calm down if the team explained the move properly and  CK actually won the Texans a few games they otherwise would have lost.  Besides, with a 4-year wait-list for season tickets, the team would have no difficulty in replacing people who gave up their seats on principle.  Especially with Watson and Watt coming back, amidst visions of Super Bowls.

So, why not give it a shot?  The media answer:  a moot point.  They won’t, because owner Bob McNair is a billionaire white guy – i.e., a racist bigot.  Isn’t he the guy who referred to the NFL players as “prison inmates.”  Well, no, that is not what he said or meant, though the media have chosen to disregard McNair’s plausible and sensible explanation that his “prison inmate” comment was a slam at Roger Goodell, not at the players.  In fact, McNair has shown, time and time again, that he is totally colorblind regarding both management and players.

So, should McNair OK a CK-hiring?  Sure.  CK is maybe the last of what used to be thought of as the prototype black QB:  great runner, decent arm, limited ability to master the full range of QB responsibilities (reading the defense, checking down to the right receiver, etc.).  In other words, Vince Young.  Could the right coach turn CK into a decent QB?  Well, if anyone could do it, it would be Coach O’Brien, who specializes in getting good football out of bad QBs.  O’Brien has been masterful in handling Deshaun Watson, who combines the best of the white QB model with the best of the black QB model, a blend of Tom Brady and Michael Vick.  CK is no Deshaun Watson, but he is not chopped liver, either.

If handled correctly, the hiring of CK could be a masterstroke, a way to save the NFL, to halt the death spiral, a way to satisfy both the TAK players and their patriotic fan base. Even if CK stunk.  How could McNair do it, assuming his coaches were OK with bringing in CK?  McNair would seek a meeting with CK to discuss race and politics in football, might seize the opportunity to elaborate on the point that being a patriot does not make one a racist.  No one need win the argument, just a fair and frank exchange of views.   McNair, before signing CK, would insist upon CK’s commitment not to take knees or raise fists or link arms or take any other symbolic actions during the anthem while wearing a Texans’ uniform.  Out of uniform, CK, like all the Texans’ players, would be free to say whatever the heck he wanted.  We are happy to have you, we respect your views on race and politics, but on the field, our team, our rules.

The Texans’ fans would reluctantly be OK with it – and would hope that Kaepernick still had some good football in him.  But even if he proved a bust, his hiring, and the terms under which it took place, would defuse the crisis and make McNair and the Texans heroes for saving the game while improving race-relations.  Even if they could not save the Texans’ 2017 season.

TEXAS V. EVERYBODY

It now appears likely that both our Houston Astros and our Houston Texans will have their seasons sacrificed on the altar of political correctitude, their morale blown to bits by twin explosions of overdone umbrage.  Well, at least we Texas sports fans can draw solace from knowing that, in bowing to the gods of our new religion, we all took one for the cultural team.  Today’s lineup:

  • ESPN The Magazine, reporting on an October 18 meeting attended by NFL league executives, team owners, and players, quoted Bob McNair, the Texans’ owner, as stating that “we cannot have the inmates running the prison.” The report provides zero context for the comment, but the players, heeding the immortal advice of Rahm Emanuel (“never let a good crisis go to waste”), volunteered to offer context, claiming that McNair was insulting the players, was referring to them as the “prison inmates” in his metaphor.  McNair himself responded to the uproar with both an apology and an explanation: one of the NFL’s problems is that the owners, having ceded too much control of the sport to the NFL commissioner, have in effect put the “inmates” (i.e., Commissioner Goodell and his staff) in the position of running the “prison” (i.e., the teams).  In McNair’s view, the commissioner’s job is to execute the will of his bosses (the owners), not to overrule them.  Nothing newsworthy here; that tug of war has been going on for ¾ of a century.  As for whether McNair’s statement of intent was correct and complete, should we care?  Short of  psychological testing, there is no way to figure out what McNair originally meant, but we do have his apology and explanation, providing assurance that he does not consider players as inmates and has never done so.  In a rational world, that would suffice.  But McNair’s intended meaning was irrelevant to the players, who were delighted to channel their inner Rahm Emanuel.  For today’s victims, no explanation, apology, or penance is enough.
  • Speaking of today’s victims, we come to the sad case of the Astros’ Yulieski Gurriel, their 33-year-old rookie who escaped from Cuba last year and had been the ‘Stros’ best hitter in the playoffs. Gurriel did something worse than spitting at the umpire or giving the fans the finger:  after hitting a home run and returning to his dugout, he made a pair of gestures to the opposing pitcher that would be regarded as good-natured ribbing in Cuba (and much of the rest of the world), if delivered between two friends or colleagues or fellow-competitors.  (As for America, you want to tell me NFL offensive and defensive linepersons do not do stuff like this, and worse?)  Yes, baseball has a code that you avoid showing up the opponent, but this was dugout-to-dugout.  I am OK with giving Gurriel a lecture, maybe a fine, maybe 2 hours locked in a room with Rachel Maddow, plus an explanation that this stuff might be OK in Cuba but not here.  But a 5-game suspension?  For a guy who apparently had no idea this was a capital offense in MLB? Plus doing it immediately, which might have placated America’s moral guardians but also seriously affected the Astros’ morale for the rest of the World Series?