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 were up 15%, year-over-year, according to Web traffic analysis site Similarly, travel review site 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.

Marissa Mayer and The Remote Employee Fiasco

At the age of 37, Marissa Mayer left her post as a Google vice president on July 16, 2012, to take over as Yahoo!’s new CEO. The young executive was charged with the arduous task of reviving the struggling Internet company and focusing employee efforts on core competencies. So far, Wall Street has been impressed with her work, boosting the stock price up by $5.52 (35.39%) per share to a 52-week high of $21.16 since the announcement she would grab the reins.

Mayer continued to make waves earlier this week when she declared that full-time employees working remotely and telecommuting would have to physically come into the office starting in June. Previously, Yahoo! had a very liberal policy giving workers flexibility.  In a memo to employees, the human resources department declared:

“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices.”

Outside reaction has been overwhelmingly negative. People argue that these employees, some who took the position assuming they could work from home, have to pick up in a matter of months and move their families to the Bay Area. Furthermore, they propose that face time in the office does not directly correlate with productivity, and the only result will be lowered morale. Yahoo! employees as a whole aren’t coming out in support of the initiative, either. Many sources have sent tech reporter Kara Swisher snarky comments taking jabs at the new policy.

The company would not elaborate on the number of employees the move will affect. However, it is believed that many employees telecommute at least one day a week in addition to the hundreds of workers that work from home full time. Yahoo!’s old policies on telecommuting were very similar to other tech companies, allowing employees to use their discretion. But the practice is not exactly encouraged across the sector. Google CFO Patrick Pichette spoke about his company’s view recently: 

“The surprising question we get is: ‘How many people telecommute at Google?’ And our answer is: ‘As few as possible’ … There is something magical about sharing meals. There is something magical about spending the time together, about noodling on ideas, about asking at the computer ‘What do you think of this?’ These are [the] magical moments that we think at Google are immensely important in the development of your company, of your own personal development and [of] building much stronger communities.”

Though the policy change might seem drastic, Mayer needed to take swift action to help get Yahoo! back on track. The Internet company once stood as a market leader. In fact, Yahoo! was founded three years before current industry-leader Google. However, the company has remained stagnant as other players have shown tremendous growth. The lack of success can be attributed heavily to a shortage of innovation and a culture of disparate efforts. A few former Yahoo! employees have confirmed that many were taking advantage of the work-from-home policy. Managers could not be reached for guidance. Some were dedicating time to other ventures while on the clock.

When employees are not in the office consistently, it creates a whole host of problems. Because employees are not interacting face-to-face on a daily basis, there is not a sense of camaraderie. Workers do not feel part of a larger organization, and they are not as motivated to pour their heart and soul into value-creating activities. Furthermore, impromptu idea sharing does not take place in cubicles, cafeterias, or at the water cooler. The creative process is limited to scheduled meetings, which makes it difficult for Yahoo! to introduce and cultivate innovative new initiatives. Last but not least, productivity suffers. Workers stationed remotely are likely to begin their day later, be distracted by a variety of chores, and call it quits earlier than they would if they were in the office. Marissa Mayer has a duty to her employees to create an exciting place to work. Morale is an important component, but it can’t be the sole focus at the expense of productivity and efficiency. It’s obvious that the previous policies were being abused, and she deserves credit for trying to infuse accountability and cohesion into Yahoo’s fabric as they look to regain prominence.

Sports Wagering and the Legalization Proposal

Anyone keeping tabs on the current state of affairs knows that these are dire financial times. The deficit continues to widen as tax intakes pale in comparison to the mounting cost of providing governmental services. Naturally, elected officials are searching for viable options to produce new revenue streams. Several choices are on the table, but politicians must be cautious when implementing new policies. Laws and regulations shape public behavior, and it would be foolish to promote unsavory activities for the sake of a dollar. One of the more controversial proposals took center stage in early February when California State Senator Roderick Wright introduced Senate Bill 1390 to legalize sports betting at locations in California that already have a gaming license. Passage in California’s legislature is only one of the hurdles to clear before gambling on sports will be allowed in the Golden State. A federal law, which takes precedent over any state decree, was passed in 1992 that prohibits wagering on sporting events except in Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon. These states were grandfathered in because they already had the practice in some form in place. Generally, the federal government defers to states on hard-to-enforce matters like marijuana use, and sports gambling should not be an exception. As Nelson Rose, an expert on gambling law points out, “It’s completely irrational. “It’s as if in 1929 Congress had decreed that a dozen states would be allowed to have sound in their movie theatres and all the other states would be able to show only silent films.” (Surowiecki) In order to clear a path for state regulation, the federal government should repeal the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act because public perception of sports wagering has shifted, and it would allow states to capitalize on the profitable industry by collecting needed tax revenues.

Some are quick to shoot down the legalization proposal on moral grounds. After all, wagering on sports interferes with the idealized view of athletic competition dating back to the days of the ancient Greeks. Purists argue that sports are about pushing physical limits in training, performing incredible feats, playing for the unbridled love of competition, and bringing honor to oneself. With such noble aspirations instilled in athletes, why would anyone allow a marriage between such a pristine activity and the allegedly degenerate world of gambling?

In reality, it is naïve to stand by this romanticized view of athletics. Like everything else, sports have undergone a drastic change. Unlike in ancient times, commercialization is a huge aspect of the game. Viewers are inundated with advertisements, and some teams even wear sponsors on their jerseys. The athletes command such exorbitant salaries that fans are left to question how many of them actually play for the love of the game. Furthermore, scandals rife with steroid use and misconduct have arisen so often now that most people are numb to them. William Morgan, a USC professor of ethics in sports, writes in his book Ethics in Sports, “…the moral standing of contemporary sports at all levels leaves much to be desired. Nor am I saying anything new when I decry the depressingly sorry moral state in which sports presently find themselves; the fact is, they have been feeding at the moral bottom for some time now.” That is not to say that sports don’t play an important role in our lives, but we should reconsider why we find them so entertaining and pervasive in today’s society. As Ernest Cashmore notes in his book Making Sense of Sports, humans are drawn to the confrontation with conflict it creates. “Challenge is important to the human condition: it’s one of the oldest preoccupations. Where obstacles—natural or artificial exist—we attempt to surmount them. And, where they don’t exist, we invent them.” Wagering on sports is not some immoral activity that poisons the very essence of sports. It is simply yet another challenge that appeals to the human psyche and a complement that enhances our interest in various contests. People find entertainment in trying to use their knowledge to beat the sports books, which employ some of the brightest statistical minds to handicap games.

While sports are on the decline morally, there is little doubt that the public perception of gambling is on the rise in America. It used to be a taboo subject that people were vilified for participating in, and many associated it with organized crime. Now, many adults participate in the activity and support its legalization. Forty-eight states host some form of gaming, and 80 percent of Americans find the practice acceptable. In California, a 2012 Field Poll found that 58 percent of registered voters support legalizing and taxing the sports wagering industry.

With the improved moral view of sports gambling, the practice has seeped into the mainstream and grown in popularity. Now, signs of sports gambling are ubiquitous. Open up the sports section of the newspaper and you will find a list of odds for the day’s contests. Watch the ticker on ESPN and note the point spread accompanying the time of the game. In addition, advanced technology has given gamblers reason to take even more interest. Websites such as Basketball-Reference contain a litany of statistics to plug into a regression model and help predict outcomes. Once a wager is made, bettors can follow the action on one of the hundreds of networks that carry virtually any athletic contest of importance taking place.

From a dollars-and-cents point of view, sports wagering is a fantastic industry for government entities to tax. Betting on sports is the largest form of gambling in the United States, and the industry has seen tremendous growth over time.  From 1974 to 1994, the amount of money bet legally skyrocketed 2,800 percent. In 1998, Las Vegas casinos booked $122.5 million in gross gambling revenues alone; they accepted a whopping $2.4 billion in wagers in 2009. The large revenue numbers translate into robust tax for the state of Nevada. Oregon has also benefitted greatly from including wagering on NFL games with its state lottery. The niche game allowed the state to pledge $2.5 million towards scholarships in 2002. The proceeds are enough to fund four years of education for 40 in-state students.

The financial data reported by Las Vegas and Oregon represents only the tip of the iceberg. Analysts believe legal wagers represent between one and three percent of all action nationwide. A National Gambling Impact Study Commission conducted in 1999 estimated that the scope of illegal sports betting in the United States ranges anywhere from $80 billion to $380 billion annually. Furthermore, it is believed $2.5 billion was illegally bet on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in 1995. The underground gambling market is not confined to physical transactions, either. Offshore websites, often based in Latin America, have gained immense popularity. Over $300 million was bet online in 1998, and Costa Rica earns roughly three times as much as Las Vegas.

Gamblers, faced with a dearth of legal avenues to lay down a wager, seek out illegal bookmakers to take their bet. Projections indicate as many as 20,000 bookmakers run illicit operations in New York City alone. These unscrupulous organizations have been known to charge absorbent interest rates on outstanding loans or resort to physical violence to collect debt, creating public concerns. Legalization would push many of these illegal wagers into the lawful realm and solve market inefficiency. The demand for betting is immensely high, as evidenced by the billions of dollars placed on the line. However, there is a tremendous shortage of trustworthy places for gamblers to conduct their business. With local bookmakers, bettors worry about the company they are associating with. In the online realm, many have complained about inconsistent payout policies. Thus, it is reasonable to believe a sizable portion of the underground market would flock to state-regulated operations. The convenience and reliability offer a superior advantage over the competition, and both parties gain as states see a spike in tax revenues.

As with any public policy decision, a thorough discussion must include a study of the social impact in addition to the fiscal impact. Opponents of sports wagering argue that the practice threatens the integrity of the matches.  In an imperfect world, sports provide an escape full of entertaining competition where athletes put forth their best effort to secure a victory. Fans sit down to watch athletic contests anticipating that the playing field is level and the outcome has not been predetermined. However, sports fall down a slippery slope when there is doubt and suspicion that the outcome of the game was not completely decided by the players on the field. Brian Phillips of Grantland sums up the quandary best:

“You can still have sports if players are cheating. You can still have sports if fans are fighting in the parking lot. Those are problems, big problems, but they can be addressed without threatening the basic concept of the game. When the outcomes of matches are being dictated from the outside, though? You no longer have a game at that point. You have something else, a weird simulacrum, pro wrestling without the feather boas. (And, almost as crucially, without the fun.) The essential idea of athletic competition — let’s both show up and try to win — is no longer operating.”

The fears of match fixing are well founded. History has seen countless cases of scandal involving gambling on various levels. Dating back to 1945 when Brooklyn College basketball players admitted to throwing a game against Akron, the college ranks have seen over 30 documented cases of point shaving or game fixing. Furthermore, a 1992 study indicated that four percent of college basketball players surveyed admitted to betting on their own team. Less than one percent acknowledged they had accepted money to not perform well. The professional leagues have not been immune from scandal as well. The baseball world was turned upside down in 1919 when eight players on the Chicago White Sox intentionally lost games in the World Series. In 2007, the New York Post broke the story of NBA referee Tim Donaghy’s involvement in a betting operation with organized crime. Donaghy was accused of altering his calls to produce favorable outcomes. Most recently, INTERPOL revealed it found 680 possible instances of match fixing in soccer from 2008 to 2011, and the extent of the scandal is shocking. Some matches carried little importance, but others played a role in determining the winner of the prestigious UEFA Champions League or who qualified for the FIFA World Cup.

Conventional wisdom dictates that legalizing wagering on sports will only decrease the public’s confidence in the integrity of sports. All of the sports leagues subscribe to this theory, and they are staunchly against legalized gambling. Commissioners worry that scandal will harm their brand and affect the bottom line. They believe fans are less likely to buy tickets or purchase apparel if a cloud of match fixing hangs over the sport. While their fears are well intentioned, the relationship they draw between legalizing sports wagering and an increase in match fixing is unfounded. League executives argue that as the convenience of placing a legal wager increases, the temptation for people to alter the outcome of the game and bribe participants will only grow.

In fact, legalizing gambling on sports will make it easier to detect corruption and serve as a deterrent. Currently, the majority of gambling corruption flies under the radar. Since there are few places to place a wager legally, most of the money bet on sports is done underground. There is little, if any, record of it, and the police are charged with the impossible task of trying to uncover fraud with few leads and often no evidence.  By contrast, legalized sports books in Las Vegas are equipped with sophisticated software. They can detect suspicious betting patterns and match them with statistically improbable outcomes to raise red flags about the legitimacy of a game. Thus, the casinos have been a valuable resource to the authorities in providing leads on illegal activities and exposing gambling fraud.

Though legalizing sports wagering offers a new stream of revenues, the proposal is not without fault. Gambling—like alcohol or drugs—can be incredibly addictive. Bettors, who often have very competitive personalities, can fall into several traps. Some win large sums of money early and believe their luck will never run out. Others lose early and continue to chase their bets unwilling to accept defeat. Whatever the cause, addicted gamblers can’t control the urge to gamble, even if they are aware of the harm it is causing. Gambling addiction can launch people into severe debt and force them into a dire financial situation. Some feel so trapped by the debt that they resort to drastic measures to deal with their problems. Moe Pergament, 19, ran up $6,000 in debt betting on the 1997 World Series. The teenager felt so awful about the money that he drove around erratically in his car brandishing a toy weapon so that the police would shoot him out of his misery. Keith Tubin robbed $89,000 from eight Las Vegas banks to cover his debt. These are just two examples of the destructive behavior caused by gambling. It can also strain personal relationships and cause people to lose their houses.

Gambling addiction is not a problem that effects a minute portion of the population. In fact, the statistics are alarming. Ten million people—roughly three percent of the population—are believed to have a gambling addiction, and that number is expected to grow. Research suggests that the problem starts early, and the profile of the typical gambler continues to get younger and younger.  Nearly fourteen percent of high school students have or at risk of developing a gambling addiction. Five percent of college students are compulsive gamblers, and the average age of people seeking help at Gamblers Anonymous has fallen from fifty to thirty over the last twenty years.

Legislators need to include several provisions in the bill to put safeguards against destructive behavior in place. First, they need to require sports books to pledge a certain percentage of their revenues towards gambling addiction education and recovery programs. These locations should also be required to post numbers for anonymous hotlines, hang signage with warning signs, and provide pamphlets that offer suggestions for dealing with the problem. Furthermore, betting windows should only accept wagers in cash. Requiring cash to place a wager provides a few advantages over credit cards. Hopefully, the policy would prevent bettors from wagering with money they do not have. They could conceivably go out and get a cash loan, but that would be very hard to come by. Meanwhile, gamblers could max out credit cards and use funds they do not have assets to back. In addition, ATM withdrawal limits would force customers to walk into a bank branch during working hours to withdraw large amounts of cash, which could dramatically limit impulse bets. Most importantly, parting with cash is psychologically more significant than swiping a credit card. Bettors are forced to physically peel off bills and see the magnitude of their wager.

With thoughtful and responsible implementation, sports gambling is a fruitful source for states to derive revenues. The industry attracts a notable percentage of the population’s discretionary dollars, and the profit potential will continue to rise. Currently, the federal government is arbitrarily preventing 46 of the states from regulating the practice. Societal norms have clearly changed. Surveys indicate that more people view gambling as an acceptable practice than ever before. Furthermore, there is no proof that changing the laws will interfere with the integrity of the matches being played. The proposal put forth by State Senator Wright is not perfect, and states must work in conjunction with betting operations to combat addictive behavior. However, it is a progressive step towards creating viable and sustainable options for curbing the mounting fiscal deficit, and the time has come for Capitol Hill to allow states to choose whether they want to offer sports gambling. 

LAPD and The Shoot-First Mentality

The Los Angeles Police Department rapped up the biggest man hunt in the region’s history earlier this week, causing Angelenos to breathe a collective sigh of relief. People felt more at ease now that Christopher Dorner–an ex-LAPD officer who promised to murder police officers to avenge his dismissal from the force in his manifesto–had been neutralized.

Despite an ending many hoped for, the search provided two incidents that stirred up even more fear and caused people to question the police’s actions after they shot first and asked questions later. Most notably, two Hispanic women–47-year old Margie Carranza and her 71-year old mother Emma Hernandez–were driving through Torrance in the early morning delivering newspapers. LAPD squad cars rolled up behind them, opened their doors, and seven officers opened fire on the unsuspecting truck.  Both women sustained gun shot wounds, though they are expected to make a full recovery.

Police Chief Charlie Beck lamented, “Tragically, we believe that this is a case of mistaken identity by the officers.” Calling the incident a case of mistaken identity is an interesting characterization by Beck. That implies the officers even made some sort of attempt to identify the vehicle or the victims in question, but the facts do not seem to back up that assertion. Officers were looking for a gray Nissan truck, but the women were driving a blue Toyota pick-up. A quick glance at make of the vehicle would have alerted the officers to the fact that this was not Dorner’s vehicle. On top of that, these women did not resemble a 270-pound African-American male in the slightest. One resident begged the obvious question:

“How do you mistake two Hispanic women, one who is 71, for a large black male?” said Richard Goo, 62, who counted five bullet holes in the entryway to his house.

To mitigate the situation, Beck offered to replace the truck in question. However, his gesture is not enough. LAPD needs to take some serious action against the officers involved, including suspension without pay, to show its unequivocal intolerance for this behavior. I understand these officers were working under extremely stressful conditions. I can’t imagine what it must be like chasing a fugitive knowing his sole goal is to kill fellow police officers. The situation, however, does not automatically allow the police to open fire on anyone they think might be the suspect, and this form of vigilante justice can’t be tolerated. It automatically places people who simply drive a similar vehicle or possess similar physical characteristics of a suspect in harm’s way. At that point, it becomes unsafe for anyone to be out on the streets, and that is not the type of society anybody should strive to live in.