Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sperling on Sterling: Words, Actions, Consequences, and Overly Dramatic Blog Post Subtitles

The Donald Sterling controversy is kind of growing old and tiresome, but it also kind of isn't.  Take for example that the Clips haven't yet played at home, giving fans a chance to speak out, and also from this morning we have the contrast between the two viewpoints in the links below, both expressed by owners of NBA teams.  Leslie Alexander (Rockets owner) wants maximum league-level pressure applied to Sterling, someone he is associated with (and lumped in with) and has to run a collective business with, and who has tarnished the entire brand.  Meanwhile Mark Cuban (Mavs owner) says that forcing someone to sell (or trying to at least) based on thoughts and private conversations and not actions is a very, very, very slippery slope (his emphasis). 

Cuban is right generally, that personal views, e.g. something like donating to a certain political group, shouldn't be grounds to force someone out (as happened with Mozilla CEO who donated a small sum to anti-gay-marriage group See this OKCupid protest for an interesting treatment I enjoyed and I  endorse http://www.okcupid.com/profile/Aithrobates).  Punishing Sterling's comments is made even more problematic by virtue of the comments having been made in a private conversation.  Cuban is right that one should be able to hold whatever views they wish so long as their public words and deeds are acceptable (...and now we can feel Sterling's less than sterling public record creep in, and it probably should).  Any other policy leaves open a massive door for injustice anyone applying/enforcing the policy will be tempted to step through.  If MLK secretly held racist beliefs and Nixon secretly loved the Vietnamese, so be it, the history of their public words and actions will stand.

So Cuban makes some compelling points, but, Cuban's case for tolerating intolerance is conveniently ignoring that Sterling’s actions did have business consequences, unexpected consequences (again, it was a private conversation), but not unforeseeable or intangible consequences. Comm. Silver and the NBAs other lawyers will likely emphasize clear harm to the NBA brand and the owners' legitimate interests being negatively impacted by what's happened.  Sterling's comments were private, but he took whatever risk of them leaking he was willing to take, and they did emerge into the public record.  That all makes a great deal of sense to me too.

I am personally torn here in terms of my "armchair commissioner" ruling.  This one’s really tough, and the stakes are high.  I'm curious as to A) How would you rule within the Commish’s powers (outlined here http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/10852199/challenge-donald-sterling)?  B) What is the right outcome despite whatever procedural handcuffs or political considerations impact the Commish, if you were in charge of who got to keep their job or their sports team?

(UPDATE: After I wrote this piece, Comm. Silver came down with a lifetime ban and $2.5M fine for Sterling.  Only the other owners can vote to force a sale, so it seems we have Silver's/TheNBA's take on what the max they could do is).

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Drew Levin and Social Issues: A Letter to a Friend


I consider you a friend regardless of our disagreement on certain issues.  That's true now, and something unexpected would have to happen going forward for it to change.

My question is this: What would you do if your friends, who shared your approximate social values in the core-belief sense but had a very different way of expressing it, kept engaging in circle-jerk, echo-chamber type discussions where critical thinking took a backseat to getting applause and pats on the back?  If you'd call them out for it, then you're like me.

Now, from the friends' perspective - from inside the echo chamber - it would appear that someone interjecting was just being "disruptive" or "trolling", or worse yet, evidencing hidden beliefs in line with the "other side" conservative viewpoint.  See, for example:
"Drew Levin ‏@drewlevin [to me] @mtg_law_etc ... you are literally the biggest concern troll I've ever encountered."  
"Drew Levin ‏@drewlevin [to me] @mtg_law_etc You derail every conversation about [social justice] you participate in, claim liberal social views yet bat for the other side CONSTANTLY."  
Well, of course it looks disruptive, it's intended to disrupt.  When you, Drew, and others are doing things like attacking a straw-man argument or otherwise serving your like-minded audience at the expense of the persuasive arguments, then, upon being called out, falling back on "well, I wasn't intending to persuade anyone, just to offer support to those who are oppressed/struggling", you are engaging in a pattern of discourse that SHOULD be disrupted every time people try to pass it off as persuasive writing or discourse.  Being supportive is fine, but I constantly see an attacked persuasive piece being defended as "mere support for the victim(s)" when the arguments are scrutinized, in an attempt to shield the piece from criticism and critical analysis.

At the end of the day, bad arguments are written in sand.  Solid arguments are written in stone.  If you care about social issues, that should matter to you.  http://www.skepticink.com/prussian/2014/03/21/how-to-argue-like-stalin/

An example of an argument I've made (pulling pretty randomly, I just happened to make this one this morning) is "To depict is not to endorse."  How could they show violent rape on [TV Show X] or ambiguity about racial issues in [Movie Y]? Well, depicting events with either realism or exaggerated realism is one of the artist-as-social-commentator's most powerful tools. Victims of crime or people in other sensitive circumstances have to be the ones applying filters to content if they aren't ready to view certain material.  The only alternative to that (since we all agree expression should be legal - 1st amendment disclaimer, we aren't talking about that) is authors censoring themselves in anticipation of various sensitive groups of viewers, and nearly all interesting and forward thinking content will give a careful author pause. There are all kinds of viewers, sensitive to all kinds of content, it might not even be possible to filter at the author level for things that may trigger something in a particular audience member, wherever they may be.  Even if an author can filter, say, depictions of rape, the overall landscape of awareness of and discussion of rape will suffer.  It's too large a price to pay.

I rehash that argument here in an attempt to show, with a concrete example, that I do practice what I preach.  I get called a troll all the time by those on both sides of social issues who don't want to have to actually defend what they're saying, but where in the above paragraph do you find the name-calling, assertion of claims I don't honestly believe have value, or hiding the ball/distraction that is actually the work of trolls?  That's the great thing about an argument like the one above.  Now that I've written it, it stands alone, and nothing that can be said about me will take away its force when a rational person reads it.  I hope my friends, regardless of how they feel about offensive content, will point out whether they think the argument is persuasive or unpersuasive, and I hope they cite opposing viewpoints in doing so, even if they don't hold those viewpoints themselves.

Drew, join us as we write our arguments in stone and hope the next generation will find them.

Matt Sperling

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Announcing Grand Prix Magic Festival 2015 (Atlanta)!

Summer of 2015 means Grand Prix Magic Festival is back for its Atlanta stop!  Head to the greater Atlanta-ish area the weekend of June 19th, 2015 to join thousands of Magic fans and enjoy all that Magic has to offer.  

Format: Standard Masters block sealed deck day 1, draft day 2

  • One-Day Pass Friday only: $70
  • One-Day Pass Saturday or Sunday: $150
  • All-Access Weekend Pass: $340
VIP Packages (all packages include an All-Access Weekend Pass):
  • Side Event VIP (fixed side event seating, plus receive a pseudonym for when your name is called because you're late to a side event - never let your friends know you're drafting in round 4 again!  Also included: access to the Losers Lounge) - $450 
  • Bottle Service (3 litre "handle" of water and up to 10 glasses (ice included) every 3 rounds, plus enjoy the privacy of a roped off private match area. Includes one free Commander side event entry) - $750
  • Platinum Emperion (all benefits of bottle service and side event VIP packages, plus one Bic pen and Grand Prix life pad, PLUS VIP golf cart rides to the restroom located near the hall's northwest entrance.  Platinum Emperion members are guaranteed to receive a playmat while supplies and our desire to provide playmats last) - $1250
Prize Pool: $4,000 for first, $2,700 for 2nd, with cash prizes all the way down to 100th place!  The winner will also be driven to the airport following the event in the tournament organizer's own 2015 Lamborghini Aventador.

On behalf of FutureTimes Games we hope to see you there, and we hope you're one of the approximately 5 players expected to open an Ultra-Mythic Rare!