Donald Trump and the Jorge Ramos Removal

Donald Trump’s notoriety grew on Tuesday yet again as the presidential hopeful sparred with Univision anchor Jorge Ramos at a press conference in Iowa. After Ramos began to ask a question out of turn, the two men exchanged words, and a member of Trump’s security staff briefly removed the reporter from the proceedings. Ramos later returned and asked his question, which sparked another war of words. Although many in the media have taken the side of Trump or Ramos, both deserve reproach for their poor behavior.

Ramos has been lauded by many for standing up to Trump, but the reporter deserves a barrage of criticism. Instead of impartially reporting on the news, Ramos came off as an activist attempting to throw a wrench in Trump’s campaign.

First, Univision’s top reporter instigated the entire incident by first speaking out of turn. Other media members were patiently waiting for their opportunity, but Ramos interrupted the press conference and refused to let it continue without getting answers to his questions.  Furthermore, the questions were worded with extreme prejudice and designed to paint Trump as a Hispanic’s worst nightmare. Yes, Trump has made many inflammatory comments that have outraged some in the Hispanic community. However, it’s not the job of a journalist to antagonize a presidential candidate.

The poor behavior didn’t end on Tuesday for Ramos. He used the incident as a springboard to launch a crusade against Donald Trump. The anchor appeared on the popular Spanish-language radio show Piolin por la Mañana Friday morning, where he imparted his personal views on the audience and took. He warned listeners that the most grave mistake Hispanics could make is to not take Trump seriously. Ramos lamented that Trump is a legitimate contender to become President, and it’s up to Hispanics to vote to ensure that does not become a reality. When was the last time a major journalist at a respected media outlet so publicly declared his or her political views and urged viewers to vote a certain way?

Although Ramos set a trap for Trump, the Republican contender handled the exchange very poorly. Trump began by repeatedly telling Ramos to “sit down” and instructed him to “go back to Univision” in an extremely rude manner. He came off as a pompous figure who lacks tact and the ability to deal with any semblance of a break from the script. If Trump can’t handle a reporter speaking out of turn, how can he be trusted to negotiate with hard-nosed world leaders on pressing matters of foreign policy? How will he ever pair with Democrats to reach bi-partisan agreements and “make America great again?”

Both men are in prominent positions that require a high level of professionalism and decorum. Trump is the front runner for the Republican presidential nomination, and Ramos is a decorated journalist that serves as a powerful voice for the entire Hispanic community. Yet, Tuesday’s incident was an immature exchange unbecoming of their respective positions. It’s about time these two grew up and learned how to deal with people they don’t always see eye-to-eye with.

Mexico and the Head Coach Instability

On Thursday evening, the Federación Mexicana de Fútbol (FMF) appointed Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti as interim manager of the Mexican national soccer team. Fans were relieved to see the vacant position filled with September friendlies and a crucial playoff in October fast approaching, but the lack of a permanent solution perpetuates the instability preventing Mexican soccer from achieving its full potential.

Mexico has turned in disappointing results since September 2012, and many regional rivals are gaining ground on the once-formidable squad. There are plenty of examples of underachievement. The team amassed only eleven points in ten games in the final round of World Cup qualifying, including a series of shocking results at the vaunted Estadio Azetca. In the 2015 Gold Cup, Mexico drew with upstarts Trinidad & Tobago and Guatemala despite being heavy favorites. La Seleccion Mexicana eventually won the Gold Cup, but the championship was marred by controversy over two dubious penalties that propelled Mexico past Costa Rica and Panama in the knockout rounds. What is the root cause of the underachievement?

The failure on the field can’t be attributed to lack of talent. The current generation of Mexican soccer players is perhaps the best crop the country has ever seen. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez is seven goals away from eclipsing Jared Borgetti as the most prolific scorer in a Mexico uniform ever. Midfielders Hector Herrera and Andres Guardado continue to impress in Portugal and the Netherlands respectively. Defender Hector Moreno has provided Spanish club Espanyol with consistency on the back line, and goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa gained worldwide fame with his incredible saves at the 2014 World Cup.

The problem is simple: Mexico lacks continuity at the head coach position. The head coach sets the entire tone of a team. He implements his personality, his style, his scheme, and his players. Each time a new leader steps into the role, the reset button is hit and the players must spend time understanding the dynamics of the new system and re-building chemistry on the field.

Ferretti is a good choice to lead Mexico, and players such as Giovani dos Santos believe he will help turn things around. Few would argue against his credentials. The coach has spent 24 consecutive seasons coaching at the club level in Mexico. His teams often challenge for the Liga MX title, and he recently led Tigres to the finals of the prestigious Copa Libertadores.  However, he’s the fifth coach to lead Mexico since the 2010 World Cup. The constant roller coaster is extremely counterproductive.

Mexico will hit the reset button again when it takes on Trinidad & Tobago in September, Ferretti’s debut. After four games, another candidate will likely be hired and the players will be forced to adapt yet again.
This group of Mexican players has produced short-lived flashes of brilliance before, but consistency has always been a major issue. It’s hard to blame the players. Isn’t it time the FMF hired an outstanding candidate for the long term and trusted him to deliver on his strategy to realize the potential of the “golden generation?”

Xoloitzcuintles and The Beautiful Business Model

Sports fans know all too well that sometimes owners are not fully invested in the on-field success of their franchise. Many suspected that to be the case when Grupo Caliente–led by Jorge Hank Rhon–established Club Tijuana, a soccer team, in 2007. They believed Rhon wanted to use the Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente to launder illegal profits and conduct other unscrupulous activities, and their concerns were well founded. As Jorge Arangure Jr. notes:

To call Hank Rhon, who served as Tijuana’s mayor from 2004 thru 2007, controversial would be an understatement. He has been accused of consorting with drug dealers; was arrested in 2011 when police found 40 rifles, 48 handguns, 9,298 bullets, 70 ammunition clips, and a gas grenade in his home; had his name appear in a Wikileaks document where the Agua Caliente racetrack was described as being “secure havens for organized crime on the border”; and two of his former bodyguards were convicted of assassinating a journalist. Although he has escaped any significant jail time, as a result of some of his activities, Rhon’s travel visa to the United States was voided in 2009.

Despite the cloud of controversy, the last few years have shown that Rhon and the rest of the ownership group are dedicated to providing fans with a superb product. After promotion to the top division in Mexico’s Liga MX to start the 2011-2012 season , the Xolos spent over $3.5 million to bring in some prominent names. They also announced a series of capacity upgrades to the Estadio Caliente, a brand new stadium constructed in 2007 to host the team. The commitment paid off, and the Xolos captured the 2012 Apertura championship by defeating a well-established Toluca team.

While the meteoric rise to the top of Mexican soccer has been entertaining to watch, the most intriguing aspect has been the business model Rhon has pioneered. The strategy provides an incredible case study in branding and marketing. Club Tijuana found an incredible gap in the market and exploited it brilliantly.

Soccer is king in Mexico. The number of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the United States continues to grow, and many pine for the taste of home and excitement that the Liga MX provides. However, the closest Liga MX team to fans in California is over 1,000 miles away if you exclude Tijuana. Outside of the Xolos, it’s virtually impossible to attend Liga MX games unless you make the commitment to fly to Nuevo Leon or Torreon on a regular basis. In essence, Club Tijuana has a geographic monopoly. Instead of resting on the fact that they are the only Mexican soccer team within reasonable distance and attracting only the citizens of Tijuana, the Xolos have built an identity designed to herd in the younger generation throughout California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and parts of southern Nevada. These young fans often relate with both Mexican and American culture. Accordingly, the team’s roster is filled with a mixture of former Mexican national team players such as Fernando Arce and several prominent Mexican-Americans playing for the U.S. national team such as Edgar Castillo. The Xolos are the only Liga MX team with an English version of their website. In addition, the team runs an English Twitter account and boasts the only official Liga MX team store in the United States. Most importantly, promotional campaigns stress that the Xolos are a team without borders, the perfect mesh of Mexican-American culture that highlights the increasing diversity in the United States.

As an avid sports fan and business student, I felt compelled to trek to Tijuana to see the Xolos play and get a sense of why Club Tijuana has been such a success. From Los Angeles, the drive to the border is slightly over 2 hours. Park at a gas station 0.5 miles from the border in Otay Mesa, and it’s a quick walk across a bridge to enter Mexico. A taxi ride for $10 allows you to arrive at the Estadio Caliente, which sits in a compound that also hosts a gambling hall. Along the way, you see a bevy of jerseys, bars flying flags, and cars with bumper stickers indicating their support.

Inside the stadium, you begin to see why the Xolos sell out every game, and tickets are extremely hard to come by. First, the atmosphere is perfect. Because Estadio Caliente is small, there is not a bad seat in the house. Fans get an intimate experience and are right on top of the action. Behind the goal, a dedicated group of fans waves flags and plays the team’s anthem throughout the entire game. In addition, the concession stands accept American dollars. Not only does this provide convenience for the customer but it also allows the vendors to earn more money by charging slightly higher foreign exchange rates than posted by the financial markets.

After the game, a discussion with our cab driver revealed a few amazing things. First, roughly 80 percent of the fans on any give game day are from the United States. Rhon’s desire to tap into the American market has been wildly successful. The fan base, which tends to be younger, has bought into the marketing campaign. Furthermore, the Xolos have single-handedly revived the tourism industry of Tijuana. The team has pumped a vast amount of money into the local economy and provided many jobs for stadium personnel as well as construction workers. Before heading down to TJ, I did an enormous amount of research. I had heard countless stories about the lawlessness and perceived danger in visiting the border town. Many Americans stopped going to Tijuana starting around 2007, and tourism dropped off roughly 50 percent from 2007 to 2009. At the height of the drug war, Tijuana averaged one murder per day and three Americans were kidnapped per month. However, I never felt an ounce of danger traveling through the city. Though Rhon has been linked to organized crime, it is certainly in his best interest to provide a safe atmosphere given that the majority of his customer base is from America. Like the city, the stadium was extremely safe, and I did not spot one single instance of fan misconduct.

The cab driver also noted that many older folks head to Estadio Caliente to support the team they grew up watching in a different part of Mexico. However, these fans often end up buying Xolos jerseys and changing allegiances due to the infectious nature of the atmosphere inside the stadium. As I looked down at the jersey I had purchased, it all made sense to me. The Xolos offered a bridge between young and old, Mexican and American culture. They not only represent soccer, but a way of life. Few sports teams are able to transcend international borders and cultures, but Rhon’s whole strategy have created an unbelievable brand capable of challenging how sports teams interact with their fan bases. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see if other sports franchises can find such lucrative opportunities and exploit them. MLS, the professional soccer league in the United States, continues to struggle in its quest for relevance. Perhaps they should pull a page out of the Xolos book.

Republicans and The Latino Outreach Failure

If last week’s gaffes are any barometer of the Republicans’ Latino outreach campaign, the political party can expect even fewer votes from that demographic in the next presidential election.

After President Obama handily defeated Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the 2012 election, the losing party ran back to the drawing board. Several prominent members realized a strategy shift was necessary to broaden the voter base, and Republicans decided to begin a Latino outreach initiative. Obama captured 71 percent of the Latino vote, a demographic that represents America’s largest and fastest growing minority.”When you do the math, it’s a very narrow path to victory in a presidential year without significant improvement among Hispanics,” Republican pollster Glen Bolger said.

The party set forth a noble goal, but its outreach program has been an unmitigated disaster. Last week provided two salient examples of why the Hispanic community generally continues to resent the Republican party.

Thursday, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) described the workers his father employed to pick tomatoes as “wetb****,” a slur that has no place in society. By using the pejorative, Young demeaned the very group his party is trying to invite in. He not only alienated them but also conveyed an unwarranted view of superiority.

Young first tried to explain the situation, “I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect.” Inexcusable. When my mother’s side of the family worked the fields after coming to America in 1962, the w-word was a slur meant to dehumanize and degrade Mexican immigrants. Its harsh connotation has not changed, and any time it has ever been used has been in a disrespectful manner.

After some pressure, Young issued a full apology. Republican leaders quickly denounced the racially charged and insensitive comments. House Speaker Boehner characterized Young’s word choice as “offensive and beneath the dignity of the office he holds.” Senator John Cornyn said the language would “do nothing to elevate our party.”

Despite the quick retraction, the damage was done. Latinos saw this as yet another instance of overt racism. It conjured up memories of the backward thinking that led to the inequalities of the past such as my Mexican-American grandfather on my father’s side having to attend a segregated school in New Mexico.

Hispanics are so repelled by the outlandish racism that they close their ears and ignore any attempts by the Republican party to disseminate its ideology. Because the “discourse” on race and humanity is perverse, why should Hispanics believe that the policies are not inherently oppressive?

The mishaps did not end there. On Easter Sunday, Google incorporated a drawing of Cesar Chavez on its home page logo to mark the late civil rights leader’s birthday. The move sparked a sizable amount of outrage amongst members of the Republican Party, who were disturbed that the search giant did not celebrate Easter.

Dana Perino, a former press secretary for George W. Bush wondered if the Chavez doodle was an April Fools prank. Florida-based Republican strategist Rick Wilson lamented Google celebrating Easter with Cesar Chavez and announced he was switching to rival search engine Bing, which placed Easter eggs on its home page.

Google has not portrayed Easter in its logo since 2000, but this is the first time criticism has been targeted at the company for not depicting the holiday. It appears petty, misguided, and racially motivated that Perino and Wilson are upset because colored eggs or a bunny–two items with very loose connections to the resurrection of Jesus Christ–were missing from the drawing.

Instead, the company chose to honor a devout Catholic who fought tirelessly to improve the working conditions for one of the world’s most powerless groups. His inclusion on the home page does not infringe in any way upon the celebration of Easter. It observes the spirit of Jesus Christ and highlights a person who tried to follow His example. Marc Grossman, spokesman for the Chavez family, responded to the criticism, “We understand the concern that some people have, but for many there is no contradiction. Cesar lived the gospel according to Jesus Christ: he helped the poor and outcast.”

The door is open for Republicans to encroach on the dominant grasp Democrats hold over the Latino demographic. There is common ground between Republicans and Hispanics on a wide variety of economic issues. Furthermore, President Obama failed to deliver the immigration reform he promised would be completed by the end of his first term during interviews in 2008 with Univision.

However, Republicans will never truly gain the trust of Latinos if they continue to disparage and diminish the traditions and accomplishments of the Hispanic community. At the end of the day, Latinos would much rather vote for a candidate who takes them for granted and might not fulfill his promises than one whose supporters spew hateful, ignorant rhetoric. Can you blame them?

Archdiocese of Los Angeles and The Sexual Abuse Settlement

Over at The London Times, the author took exception to Catholic officials trying to block some leaders from receiving communion during Pope Francis’ installation mass. She laments:

 The Catholic Church portrays itself hypocritical…[It] is the most powerful religion in the world today but by making itself seem above others creates more harm then benefit.

The hypocrisy The London Times underscores during Pope Francis’ short tenure has roots in his election. On March 12, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles settled four clergy sexual abuse cases for roughly $10 million stemming from allegations by victims that alleged former priest Michael Baker repeatedly molested them in the 1970s. Baker committed these acts under the watch of former Cardinal Roger Mahony, and many people are rightfully up in arms over the fact Mahony allowed this heinous criminal to continue as a priest. Disgraced, Mahony retired in 2011, was stripped of his diocesan duties in January, and formally rebuked in March. Somehow, the history of covering up for a pedophile did not prevent Mahony from continuing to play a significant role within the Catholic Church on a global level though. The day the settlement was reached, Mahony was at the Vatican helping to elect the Pope, the holy leader of one of the world’s largest religions.

By itself, the above set of circumstances paint a disturbing picture, but they are not the end of the story. Not only did Mahony’s actions reveal a flawed character, but his words also did the same. Mahony took to his blog to complain about being made a “scapegoat” in the church scandal. The ex-Cardinal believes he is somehow a victim in this episode, a horrific diminishment of the true trauma Baker’s victims experienced. He is not a scapegoat, but a tacit accomplice who bucked all moral and ethical obligations to protect a fellow clergymen.

Furthermore, the church’s statement after the settlement only worsened the situation. ” The Archdiocese has always taken full responsibility for Michael Baker’s actions, it was just a matter of agreeing on a number. We’re happy to move past this,” said J. Michael Hennigan, an attorney for the Los Angeles Archdiocese. Taken full responsibility? Move past this? Mahony continues to distance himself from the situation, and it’s impossible for the victims to suddenly forget the abuses they were subjected to simply because the Catholic Church cut them a check. This kind of public relations garbage is to be expected from slimy organizations or individuals trying to save face, but we should expect more from the Catholic Church.

At the Papal Conclave, Mahony posted several blog posts about his wonderful experience. He also suggested that he would pray for his critics, a sizable portion of people who vehemently opposed his attendance in Rome. Quite frankly, Mahony should spend his time more wisely. Instead of praying for his detractors, he needs to reflect introspectively to understand why he has failed miserably to conduct himself in a morally acceptable matter becoming of reputable individual.

LA Public Transit and The HOV Toll Lane Experiment

A recently released American Public Transportation Association report noted an 18.5 percent increase in ridership on Los Angeles’ light rail system, a testament to the effectiveness of the beautiful new Expo Line. The news signals welcome progress, and the transportation authority should charge full speed ahead with other mass-transit expansions.

Currently, the public transportation system in Los Angeles is woefully underwhelming. Short trips are relatively easy and reliable, but don’t bother trying to navigate several miles unless you’re willing to map out numerous transfers and spend thrice as long as a car would take for most voyages. The inability to travel long distances discourages many from using public transit and contributes to congestion on the roadways. The region’s many attractions are spread out among various areas, and Angelenos drive more miles per person than any other metropolitan area to reach their destinations according to the RAND Corporation.

Many proposals have outlined an astoundingly comprehensive public transit system, and there is no doubt Los Angeles can compete with other world-class cities such as London in this area.

In order to build out new lines, the transit authority must find a strong source of revenue. Voters narrowly defeated measure J in November to extend the sales tax and provide an estimated $30 billion for expansion, and fuel taxes have not kept pace with inflation.

Though the situation seems dire, a new experiment currently underway is the answer to funding the system upgrade. The transit authority has a cash cow under its nose, and it should not hesitate to milk it. In November, toll lanes popped up along the Harbor Freeway and the San Bernardino Freeway in Los Angeles County for a one-year trial. Not only should the experiment continue along these corridors, but the project should also be expanded to include all freeways within the county that already have HOV lanes.

The toll lanes do not alter the current state of affairs on the roadway; they only improve them. High-occupancy vehicles are still able to use the express lanes free of charge, provided they install a Fastrak transponder on their vehicle that can be purchased for $40. Thus, residents are still encouraged to carpool and cut down on their carbon footprint. Meanwhile, single drivers are now allowed to drive in the express lanes for a variable fee.

Opening up the lanes to all drivers maximizes the use of existing roadways. Single drivers moving into the toll lanes exert a positive externality on other drivers because more space is available in the regular lanes.  The result is a faster commute as the traffic load achieves a greater balance.

Based on congestion, solo drivers pay between $.25 and $1.40 per mile to utilize the lanes. The project, which covers a small fraction of the freeway system, is expected to generate nearly $20 million in revenue per year. A countywide implementation would surely rake in hundreds of millions of dollars.

Initial reception to the experiment was overwhelmingly negative. However, the lanes have operated without a hitch, and case studies of other congestion pricing initiatives suggest that residents will soon warm to the concept.

Critics of the plan have had two main complaints. They denounce it as simply another tax that robs hard-working constituents of their pay. I don’t disagree that some initiatives in this city have been thinly veiled money grabs, but this is a well-researched plan based on several commissioned studies. The transit authority has been left with a dearth of options, and the money is not being used to pad employee salaries or cover pension expenses. Instead, it is being reinvested in infrastructure to fund extremely beneficial projects.

In addition, opponents denounce the creation of a two-tiered commuting system because people with higher incomes are more likely to pay the tolls. To combat income inequality issues, the transportation authority has offered discounted rates for low-income drivers and provided other initiatives to level the playing field.

Above all, the transit authority is not forcing anyone to pay the fee to use the lane. They are simply offering an option to motorists who value the convenience of a faster commute. Anyone opposed to the fee can continue to use the lanes they used to free of charge.

By implementing this innovative approach, elected officials will vastly improve public transit routes and take a major step towards combatting the severe traffic problem in Los Angeles. Study after study decries the congestion on the region’s roadways, and it consumes precious time, pollutes the air, hinders fuel economy, and stresses drivers out. Our quality of life suffers drastically.

Los Angeles stands among the greatest cities in the world. Shouldn’t its transit system reflect its gleaming reputation?

Businesses and The Fake Review Phenomenon

At one point or another, we have all sought input from others to help us make a decision. It’s a common problem to struggle with finding a delicious restaurant to eat at, deciding which brand of an item to buy, or choosing a place to purchase your Christmas tree. The Internet has helped consumers make more informed choices, and a growing number of people are turning to online review sites to help them navigate a wide range of options. Per Kelli Grant of Marketwatch:

In December, visits to the popular local-business review site Yelp.com were up 15%, year-over-year, according to Web traffic analysis site Compete.com. Similarly, travel review site TripAdvisor.com saw an 8% increase in visitors, and traffic to local-services review site Angie’s List jumped a whopping 80%. What’s behind the rising demand? In a 2012 report from market research firm Nielsen, 70% of consumers said they trust online reviews, a 15% increase from 2009. That means online reviews are second only to personal recommendations from family and friends as the most trusted source of buying advice, researchers say.

As the online review industry explodes, it’s fair to question how reliable these sites are. Is consumer trust misguided? Bing Liu, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, believes as many as 30% of online reviews are fake, and Gartner research expects that number to rise in the coming years. Scour the Internet, and you can find companies willing to pay consumers small sums of money to write fraudulent reviews of products or services they have never tried out.

The motive for such unethical behavior is financial gain and market share increases. On the one hand, some companies commission writers to post reviews lauding the specific entity. By the same token, loyal employees–hoping to help their organization out–take to the Internet posing as customers gushing about their experience. The logic is simple; positive reviews provide a tangible impact on a business’s financial performance.   A 2011 Harvard University study determined that a one-star-better difference increased sales anywhere between 5% and 9% for an independent restaurant. On the other hand, organizations commission negative feedback that can cripple a business. Nobody wants to eat at a restaurant that receives one star on Yelp. Knowing this, competitors find people to write scathing reviews and drive traffic away from the competition.

Despite the disturbing trend, consumers should continue to use these online review communities and follow a few common sense guidelines. First, put more stock in profiles with multiple reviews. It is easy for one or two fake posts to skew the entire perception of a restaurant. However, if you see a pattern of reviews underscoring the delicious carne asada at Danny’s Tacos in Los Angeles, chances are the food truck makes a tasty torta. Next, view overly positive or incredibly negative posts with a skeptic eye as they are prime candidates to be fake reviews. Finally, do not be afraid to ask a friend if they have had any experience with the subject in question. Online review sites can be a fantastic starting point for narrowing down possible options, but they do not need to be your only source for information.

Every once in a while, a product or service will fail to live up to the expectations generated by the online reviews. That’s just the cost of making decisions based on information provided by often anonymous sources. However, consumers face similar risks when they ask friends for help in making a purchasing decision. Who hasn’t seen an awful movie a friend raved about? A few bad experiences should not be a deterrent. On average, these sites provide a relatively comprehensive database that effectively and concisely aggregates insightful information about the restaurants, products, and other businesses vying for our disposable income.