Minor Insights has moved!

26 Dec

The Minor Insights blog is now being published in the Chicago Tribune’s ChicagoNow blogger community! This move will help draw in more readers and subscribers by leveraging ChicagoNow’s built-in blogger promotion system.

The blog name will be changed from “Minor Insights” to “Think Different” but the blog focus will remain the same: trying to find some sense in a confusing world. The location switch is brand spankin’ new but I do already got three new posts up on the new blog:

I may still post something here that I won’t post on the Think Different blog but most new material will be posted on Think Different. So if you’d still like to follow me, please subscribe to Think Different.

Thanks for staying with me on this journey to seeing things a little differently!

Getting serious about civil rights and race relations in wake of Ferguson

1 Dec

When I was 20 years old, I was once biking on the sidewalk on my way to Loyola University to study. Along the way, a policeman on a motorcycle tried to pull me over, calling me from behind. But because I was wearing headphones listening to my Walkman cassette player (for you whippersnappers who don’t know what that is, google it), I never heard him.

Finally, he pulled alongside me. I stopped and he told me I wasn’t supposed to be biking on the sidewalk. I told him I wasn’t aware that was a law. He replied that it was and that he was going to take me in. Seriously? Arrested for biking on the sidewalk? After a brief discussion about why I would get arrested for such a petty offense, he sarcastically asked me, “Do you speak English?” As an Asian growing up in a low-income, crime-ridden neighborhood, I was used to racism—even from blacks in that predominantly black neighborhood. But I never anticipated it from a policeman—people portrayed as heroes in the TV shows I watched growing up. I replied back, “Better than you.” With that snarky reply, he handcuffed me and ratcheted it extremely tightly—clearly in retaliation for what I said.

I was eventually released on my own recognizance (I believe b/c the other cops knew he overstepped his bounds) and I considered whether or not to file a complaint against the cop for excessive force and/or racism. I decided to drop the matter. That was not my only negative brush with cops either. But the moral of the story is that I personally experienced some of the same things that supposedly caused teenager Michael Brown to be fatally shot in Ferguson, Missouri (not to the same extent, of course, but similar in nature).

You might think that because of my experiences, I am outraged or saddened by the grand jury’s decision to not indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. You might think that I am joining the chorus of people who declare the legal system broken and that there was no justice for Michael Brown. You might think that when I read that King Obama is meeting with civil rights leaders about the Ferguson case, I’m excited and hopeful.

And you’d be wrong.

Did the grand jury really make the wrong decision?

If you think those things, you are being played for a fool. Everyone needs to calm down. Readers of my blog know that the Trayvon Martin case wasn’t at all what the media portrayed. So when this case came along, people with Minor Insights should know it’s time for caution instead of knee-jerk reactions.

Like the Trayvon Martin case, the media only served up one side of the story in the Michael Brown case. We never heard the other side of the story.

Like the Trayvon Martin case, the media only showed us the same one photo of the victim. In this case, an unintimidating neck-up picture of a chubby-cheeked Michael Brown wearing headphones at an arcade with little kids around. How many people knew that that chubby-cheeked teenager was 6′ 5″ tall and 290 pounds—the size of an enormous, hulking pro football lineman?

Like the Trayvon Martin case, the media portrayed Brown to be completely innocent—especially with the infamous “hands up” pose. How many people knew that Michael Brown charged at Darren Wilson, giving Wilson no choice but to shoot? How many people knew that Brown was at least an accomplice to a robbery of cigarillos just moments before the confrontation with Wilson? How many people knew that Michael Brown threw punches that landed square on Wilson’s face?

Brown completely innocent? If so, I’ve got some land in Florida to sell you.

After the grand jury’s decision, Darren Wilson gave an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that (finally) gave his side of the story. If you think Michael Brown and his parents got the shaft, you MUST watch the video. Even as Stephanopoulos tried to bait Wilson into saying contradictory or self-indicting things, Wilson was consistent in his story.

Then there’s the evidence that the grand jury saw. The evidence backs up Wilson’s story. How many people have seen the evidence? Nobody? Yet without any evidence, and without being a witness to the scene, thousands of people fell hook, line and sinker for the media’s portrayal that Brown struggled to get away from Wilson’s car and then was shot with his hands up.

Consider horrible Nightline anchor Byron Pitts. In one segment, he interviewed some people in Ferguson as they watched the Wilson interview and asked if any of them had been stopped by police. Everyone said yes. Makes for good TV, but does not make a good point. Just because police have stopped citizens does not mean the police are all racist pigs who are happy to shoot black people minding their own business. Pitts’ question is a red herring.

Pitts then ended the Nightline show by saying, “Darren Wilson had a chance to give his side of the story. Michael Brown does not.” Pitts conveniently forgot that the media has been giving Michael Brown’s side of the story ever since the shooting first occurred.

Three Minor Insights

I agree the system is broken—but not the way the protesters think. The system is broken in that the media is the one that is the jury to the American people. They don’t report the news objectively, trying to research and report both sides of the story. Instead, they report the most sensational aspect of the news—whatever will cause the biggest furor and thus draw the biggest ratings.

michael brown trayvon martinI also agree the Michael Brown case is like the Trayvon Martin case—but not the way the protesters think. LeBron James tweeted this drawing of Brown and Martin, insinuating that they both got a raw deal in the same way. But the evidence seems to indicate that if you were to look at the front of their faces in this fictitious drawing, they’d have devilish grins, knowing that they both got away with their respective acts of aggression and violence and yet are being lifted up as martyrs in the general public’s eye.

I also agree that America has a race relations problem—but not the way the protesters think. Protesters think white people have a racism problem when the reality is that many blacks too view things with racism as the reason. Many of the blacks I grew up with were very racist. In today’s age, much of the racism is hyper-fueled by the media (e.g., Stephanopoulos in his interview kept trying to bait Wilson into saying it was a race-related shooting). When a white policeman shoots a black citizen, many blacks automatically assume the cause was race. Sometimes race does come into play but you have to investigate each instance on a case-by-case basis; you just cannot automatically assume it to be true every single time.

Bottom line

If we really want to get serious about improving race relations, it’s critical to not be ignorant. The Ferguson neighborhood Michael Brown died in was a hood—no two ways around it, though most people don’t know that. It’s a crime-infested area and Brown himself has party to a crime just moments before his confrontation with Wilson. It’s sad when people gave Brown the benefit of the doubt instead of Wilson based on ignorance. But it’s even sadder when we loot stores, set cars on fire and make calls to “change the system” based on continued ignorance. Don’t be that person.

Is Obama the most divisive president ever?

21 Nov

Last night, in a speech that was televised by NONE of the four major networks in my area (hmmm), King Obama unwittingly did more than simply announce that six million illegal immigrants would not be deported—he also made himself unofficially the most divisive U.S. president ever. How so? Let me count the ways…

Divisive with Congress

This one is no surprise.

In his speech last night, King Obama said:

And to those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill.

Ooooh. Snarky. Too bad snarky isn’t exactly becoming of the President of the United States.

One thing King Obama conveniently neglected to mention was that in his first term, the Democrats had control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives. So what is Obama’s excuse for not passing bills then?

Last night, Obama showed he is daring Congress to stop him—just two weeks after saying (apparently just ceremonially) that he would work harder to make compromises with Congress.

Divisive with Democrats

Several Democrats could side with Republicans against King Obama’s actions. According to the Washington Post,

Among the Democrats believed to be at risk are Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, Jon Tester, Claire McCaskill, and Joe Donnelly. Angus King (who is an independent but caucuses with Dems) is also a question mark.

These must be the smart Democrats. If they know King Obama’s actions are not popular with the voting public, they would be wise to not support them if they want a chance to be re-elected.

Of course, we’ll see if they actually do defect. But the fact that they are “at risk” means there is hope (both for them politically and for us)

Divisive with the American people

King Obama also said this in his speech last night:

Today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it. It’s been this way for decades. And for decades, we haven’t done much about it.

Well, if “everyone knows” the immigration system is broken, NOT “everyone” agrees that Obama’s approach is the best way to fix it.

According to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, more people oppose Obama’s actions than support him (48-38). Another way to put it is that nearly half of America oppose Obama’s actions! Which, as John Hayward points out, means that King Obama is more interested in caring about foreigners than caring about Americans.

Divisive with the Hispanic people

The real shocker also happens to come from the WSJ/NBC poll. Here’s what NBC News reported:

Latinos are divided, with 43 percent supporting the action and 37 percent opposing it.

While the article mentions that it’s a small sample size, it’s still noteworthy in that there are many more Hispanics who OPPOSE Obama’s actions than we would be led to believe if we merely watch news footage on TV of pro-immigration Hispanics protesting. I, for all, thought ALL Latinos would embrace Obama’s actions. But they don’t! 

As Hayward theorizes, American Hispanics could be wary of all these illegal immigrants now being able to “come out of the shadows,” as King Obama put it, to compete for the same jobs as American Hispanics. The American job market is already fragile enough, with more people looking for work than there are available entry-level jobs, that American Hispanics perhaps realize they don’t need more competition for those jobs.

BTW, did anyone catch King Obama stereotype the jobs that Hispanics do? This is what he said in his speech last night:

Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law? Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future?

That quickly spawned two new hashtags: #fruitpickers and #bedmakers. Hey, who said Obama isn’t a great orator?

Bottom line

The ironic thing about all of this is that Obama campaigned in 2008 in part on his image as a uniter: an upper-class black man from Harvard who can connect with whites by virtue of his class status and educational status and who can connect with blacks by virtue of his race. In reality, though, King Obama has proved during his six years in office to be arguably the most divisive president in history. And last night’s executive actions encapsulated in one evening the disharmony he has done to this nation on his watch.

Obama’s illegal immigrant executive orders usher in chilling new era of liberalism

20 Nov

Tonight, Obama is going to continue to pull the wool over the public’s eyes by making his case for using executive orders to prevent six million (that’s about an additional 2% to the U.S. population!) illegal immigrants from being deported, thus bypassing approval from Congress.

Why this has not caused outrage among my fellow citizens is cause for great concern. To paraphrase a famous quote, all that is necessary for the triumph of tyranny is for good people to do nothing.

If you’ve watched the movie The Matrix, you know that in this blog, I like to give you the red pill. If you prefer to take the blue pill, then stop reading here.

There are three significant problems with Obama’s actions tonight, any one of which by themselves should cause a public furor:

1) Obama the hypocrite

Remember November 5th?

That’s when President Obama said “I hear you” to the voters who resoundingly thumped his fellow Democrats at the polls across the country, pledging to work with Congress and forge compromises to get things done.

But buried among the news reports of the pie-in-the-Democrat-face results of the November elections was a reminder that he was going to use executive actions to protect six million illegal immigrants from deportation.

In other words, not one soul noticed Obama’s blatant hypocrisy. Out of one side of his mouth, he pledges to work with Congress; out of the other side of his mouth, he flips the middle finger to not only Congress but the U.S. Constitution itself to create new immigration policy without congressional approval.

2) Obama the dictator

Obama’s use of executive orders to reshape a major national policy reveals his taste for totalitarianism. The brilliance of the U.S. Constitution is the concept of checks and balances, whereby no one branch of government can become overpowering.

King Obama, however, has repeatedly expressed a disdain for the Constitution. He has said it is “imperfect” and “deeply flawed” and that we need to “break free” from the Constitution. So Obama does not want to follow the standard; he wants to do whatever is right in his own eyes. And if there is no standard, all you-know-what breaks loose.

While executive orders can, in rare instances, involve large policy changes with wide-ranging effects, the goal is always to have the government come to an agreement on such matters—which is more reflective of our democracy—rather than a unilateral decision by one person, which is more reflective of a dictatorship.

3) Obama forcing his morality upon others

One of the most common arguments by atheists and liberals is that conservatives want to “force their morality on everyone else.” Has anyone else realized that liberals and atheists are just as lustful in their desire to “force their morality on everyone else”? When Obama wants to force an immigration policy upon the nation without discussion, compromise or vote, isn’t that forcing his morality on everyone else?

Let’s not fool ourselves: the “forcing morality” argument does NOT apply just to conservatives. When gays want the right to marry, aren’t they forcing their morality on everyone else?

With these executive orders, Obama is making it abundantly clear that he wants to force his liberal morality on others.

Bottom line

I’m not against immigrants. My parents were immigrants. But they were legal immigrants. Our country is on a fiscal cliff and Obama wants to add to our nation’s fiscal burden by fast-tracking illegals, which in turn will only encourage even more illegals to cross into our borders. It is a pandora’s box and a slippery slope packaged in a trojan horse.

When people like Obama want to “break free” from the standard that governs this great nation and would rather do what is right in his own socialist eyes, we are in trouble.


Another reason to avoid processed foods

13 Nov

I have a bad memory with names. Terrible memory. Last night, in fact, one of my daughter’s ballet friends said hi to me and I completely blanked out on her name. Only on the ride home did it dawn on me. “Ella!” I yelled out suddenly. “That’s your friend’s name! For the life of me, I couldn’t remember her name when she said hi to me!” My daughter giggled.

In a food-related book that I read (but I don’t, for the life of me, remember the book’s title—again, my problem with names), it mentioned how “real” food is on the perimeter of every supermarket: produce, meat, seafood. The center of the grocery stores have “lab food.” Not that there aren’t problems with produce, meat and seafood, but the processed food that makes up all of the center of supermarkets is certainly the worst culprits in our fight for better health.

I’ve avoided the “lab food” shelves as much as I could since reading that book (what on earth is the title???). But now I’ve read more evidence about why it’s so bad. In his book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell talks briefly about food tasters. Gladwell’s book (which I happen to remember the title only because the book is right in front of me) discusses food tasters for a different reason than health, but when I read it, it forged in my mind yet another reason to avoid “lab foods.”

Here is Gladwell (my emphasis in bold):

Expert food tasters are taught a very specific vocabulary, which allows them to describe precisely their reactions to specific foods. Mayonnaise, for example, is supposed to be evaluated along six dimensions of appearance (color, color intensity, chroma, shine, lumpiness and bubbles), ten dimensions of texture (adhesiveness to lips, firmness, denseness, and so on), and 14 dimensions of flavor, split among three subgroups—aromatics (eggy, mustardy, and so forth); basic tastes (salty, sour and sweet); and chemical-feeling factors (burn, pungent, astringent). Each of those factors, in turn, is evaluated on a 15-point scale. So, for example, if we wanted to describe the oral texture of something, one of the attributes we would look at is slipperiness. And on the 15-point slipperiness scale, where 0 is not slippery at all and 15 is very slippery, Gerber’s Beef and Beef Gravy baby food is a 2, Whitney’s vanilla yogurt is a 7.5, and Miracle Whip is a 13. If you taste something that’s not quite as slippery as Miracle Whip but more slippery than Whitney’s vanilla yogurt, then, you might give it a 10. Or take crispiness. Quaker’s low-fat Chewy Chocolate Chunk Granola Bars are a 2, Keebler Club Partners Crackers are a 5, and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes are a 14. Every product in the supermarket can be analyzed along these lines, and after a taster has worked these scales for years, they become embedded in the taster’s unconscious. “We just did Oreos,” said Heylmun [a professional food taster], “and we broke them into 90 attributes of appearance, flavor and texture.” She paused, and I could tell that she was re-creating in her mind what an Oreo feels like. “It turns out there are 11 attributes that are probably critical.”

Ninety stinkin’ attributes for Oreos?! I, for one, can’t even come up with 20 different food attributes if you put a gun to my head, much less 90. But here’s the thing: “food scientists” are modifying each of those 90 attributes to get the perfect combination of “taste” before a processed food hits the store shelves! If that doesn’t spell out “lab food” to you, I don’t know what will.

My family started making our own mayonnaise from scratch. Call us simpletons but we evaluate the taste by only one attribute: does it taste good or not? We don’t worry about the six dimensions of appearance, the ten dimensions of texture or the (rolling my eyes) 14 dimensions of flavor. We don’t care about color intensity, chroma, shine, bubbles, adhesiveness to lips, burn, astringent or any other kooky attribute. We simply either like it or don’t like it. (And, yes, our mayonnaise tastes good.)

We know exactly what ingredients go in our homemade mayo (just four; Hellman’s has ten, including some chemical called “calcium disodium EDTA” and the vague word “spices”). Most lab foods are a littany of lab ingredients. Try this exercise: read aloud from the following ingredient list for Quaker’s “Strawberries & Cream” oatmeal:

Whole Grain Rolled Oats, Sugar, Flavored And Colored Fruit Pieces (Dehydrated Apples [Treated With Sodium Sulfite To Promote Color Retention], Artificial Strawberry Flavor, Citric Acid, Red 40), Creaming Agent (Maltodextrin, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil**, Whey, Sodium Caseinate), Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Guar Gum, Oat Flour, Artificial Flavor, Citric Acid, Niacinamide*, Reduced Iron, Vitamin A Palmitate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride*, Riboflavin*, Thiamin Mononitrate*, Folic Acid*; *One Of The B Vitamins; **Adds A Dietarily Insignificant Amount Of Trans Fat

I bet you had to slow down to read some of those chemical ingredients properly. Yuck. Now imagine swallowing that every morning.

Welcome to the world of lab foods. The ingredient list is a start in helping us decide what we should or should not buy, but there is so much more going on than what is listed in the ingredients because not everything is listed in the ingredients list. These food scientists are tweaking all sorts of things to alter the different “dimensions” of appearance, texture, flavor and the like. Buyer beware.

Now, what was the name of that food book?…

Illinois voters wisen up, kick out Gov. Pat Quinn

5 Nov

Quinn-Rauner-editorial-board-met-0910The sheeple of the state of Illinois became the people of Illinois when enough of them finally woke up to the reality of bungling Governor Pat Quinn and elected Republican Bruce Rauner instead.

With clear-minded voters, this shouldn’t have been a close race. Quinn has not found a property tax hike he didn’t like, has no clue how to solve the ticking time bomb that is the state’s pension crisis, has limply watched the state’s jobless rate flounder, called for Chicago school reform but refused to help, calls for useless ban on assault weapons, and opposes parental notice on children having abortions. And all this political infertility despite the fact that he had the support of a Democratic legislature during his five year watch as Democratic governor.

Democrats love to promote themselves as caretakers of the poor, yet my parents—who are on Medicare and other government programs—were outraged at how their benefits were cut across the board by—you guessed it—those supposed advocates of the poor, the Democrats. Of course, you won’t hear about these cut in benefits to the poor in the media. But my parents made their voices heard anyway when they voted Republican in this election.

The Democrats hoped to help Quinn by boosting voter rolls when they preposterously loosened voting rules, such as no longer requiring photo IDs for early voting. It already is so easy to vote in Illinois, with no photo ID required during regular voting either. And absentee voting is even easier: the ballots are mailed to the registered voter’s house with no confirmation that the person filling out those mail-in ballots is really the same person (I know this b/c my parents voted via absentee ballot and they showed me the entire process).

And after the AP and other outlets claimed that Rauner was projected to win the election, Quinn and his cronies cried out that “every vote needs to be counted,” pompously assuming that all remaining votes had his name on them. But on Wednesday afternoon, Rauner’s lead actually increased by 5,030 votes. Yes, Pat, you were technically right in that votes were still uncounted!

During the campaign, I thought Rauner spent too much focus on linking Quinn to convicted former Governor Rod Blagojevich rather than focusing on Quinn’s fiscal ineptness. But then again, maybe it hit a nerve with the voting public. I know it hit a nerve with ABC7 political analyst Laura Washington, who was actually offended by Rauner’s claims of Democratic “corruption” and “100 years of failure” during the news station’s live broadcast of the election results.

In any event, Rauner won the endorsement of every single major newspaper in the state, something that didn’t happen the last time Quinn was up for election. In fact, Michelle Obama’s recent campaigning for Quinn probably came back to bite him rather than help him, given that President Obama’s current approval rating in Illinois—even though he is viewed as a beloved son in Chicago—is only 50%. (In fact, those Illinoisans who “strongly disapprove” of Obama is greater than those who “strongly approve”, 33%-23%.)

Rauner is a social moderate, so I’m not fond of that aspect of him. And I’ll address the subject of voting the “lesser of two evils” in a future post. But clearly, Quinn was the very bottom of the barrel and it was long past time for him to go.

Thank God now Quinn is gone. Even if he refuses to leave.

Comparing Cubs’ Joe Maddon to other top MLB managers

3 Nov

cubs-introduce-joe-maddon 2For me, today was one of the most exciting days in recent Cubs history since, well, when Theo Epstein was introduced as the Cubs president of baseball operations. Today, Joe Maddon would have his introductory press conference as Cubs manager.

As I listened to him talk, he revealed some very encouraging nuggets about his managerial philosophy. For example:

  • he doesn’t like to put pressure on his players
  • the key to player success is not as much their physical talent as much as what’s between their ears
  • he’s a big fan of the Malcolm Gladwell book Blink, which I’m currently in the middle of reading myself
  • he combines old-school scouting eyes with new-school number-crunching.
  • he doesn’t like to wear out his players, particularly as the season grinds on (“being first at the park and last to leave doesn’t impress me”), a criticism of Dusty Baker during his tenure with the Cubs.
  • how important it is to him to have a relationship with his players where they trust each other

Those are all philosophies that I myself uphold as a head coach at the youth baseball level.

But as I listened to all these nuggets, my mind wandered a bit: where does Joe Maddon rank in the list of best MLB managers?

After all, San Francisco’s Bruce Bochy just won his third World Series title in the last five years. Bochy is not big on sabermetrics (though he’s not anti-sabermetrics). But he holds unorthodox philosophies that I myself uphold, such as using your closer in a high-leverage situation—even if it’s in the seventh inning—rather than reserving the closer strictly for the ninth inning, and demoting someone who isn’t performing well even if he’s a highly-paid star (e.g., Tim Lincecum). Maddon apparently won’t do the former.

Then there’s (hack! hack!) St. Louis’ Mike Matheny. He is what Fangraphs called “saber-friendly” (though he’s not completely pro-sabermetrics). On making decisions, Matheny said, “For me, first and foremost is gut instinct. Second is understanding the players. There are things that statistical analysis can’t help with, and the state of the individual players is going to rate really high with me. But is statistical data going to play into every decision? I would say yes. I want to make an educated decision with everything I do.” That sounds eerily like Maddon: the Blink-style gut instincts, resonating with players, understanding the state of the players, and sabermetric data all coming into play in his decision-making.

What’s more, Matheny’s infamous youth baseball manifesto showed that he cared a lot about what was between their ears, that he doesn’t like to put pressure on his players, and that he institutes a respected culture of authority—more attributes that sound like Maddon. Matheny’s managing style is likely a big reason that the Cardinals still had success (two NLCS appearances and one World Series appearance) despite losing their Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa and famed pitching coach Dave Duncan.

Other than Bochy and Matheny, it’s hard to say with certainty who the top managers are. Certainly Kansas City’s Ned Yost could be in the conversation but I’d personally like to see more than one year of success before anointing him as one of the best. The Yankees’ Joe Girardi could be a candidate but you have to wonder if your next-door neighbor could be a good Yankees manager given the roster of highly-paid superstars that the Yankees almost always collect.

I was mildly excited when Dusty Baker and Lou Pinella came to the Cubs. But I’m really pumped about Maddon. Given Maddon’s success with the low-budget Rays in the ultracompetitive American League East division, it’s hard not to get excited about what Maddon can do with the Cubs. And if Maddon can indeed help lead the Cubs to a World Series championship, he would automatically shoot to the top of the list of best MLB managers because if you can do what no other manager in the last 106 years has done, you deserve it.