Still alive

Well, it is interesting how far I have come as a writer after reviewing my previous works below some two years later. These were all submitted for various classes throughout my early college career. Perhaps I will add some more recent works, as I am nowhere near a complete writer, but much improved from what I have posted thus far. One day though folks, you will see my name published in something major. If this is NOT the case, then I have certainly sold myself short on my potential. Maybe I will make this something like my personal journal. I am not quite where I would like to be academically and professionally at this point in my life, but I will get there. I have just enough ambition to complement my self deemed natural ability to do some great things. And now we wait….

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The Controversy of Vietnam

The Controversy of Vietnam

            The Vietnam War has been regarded as one of the most controversial issues the United States has involved itself with, as nearly every aspect of the war is still examined and debated today. Like the great World Wars, this was an outside affair that caused the U.S. no direct harm; instead, the perceived threat was the spread of communism to surrounding nations in Asia. Common thought during this era promoted the notion that one nation succumbing to communist rule would lead to others in the vicinity to follow suit. Upon this basis, the United States entered the affair. The war itself was simply a prolonged struggle of northern Vietnamese Nationalist forces and their sympathizers in the south known as the Vietcong, at odds against the intervening United States and the aid of the South Vietnamese. In order to increase the number of forces to support the war effort in the Asian nation, the U.S. reinstated a military draft in 1969. This, along with prolonged warfare, public exposure depletion of resources, and a rising economic bill caused the war to become quite unpopular in the states and many riots began to stir. Soldier morale was low and it became increasingly ambiguous as to what America’s role in the conflict was. It is debatable whether victory was even sought. Furthermore, the United States was not well suited to fight in such a terrain. The jungle habitat of Vietnam endorsed unorthodox combat for Americans as this guerilla warfare proved too arduous to overcome. These factors are the primary causes for said controversy and concern. The U.S. would withdraw from the war in 1973 largely unsuccessful as North Vietnam would soon overtake Saigon and eventually the entire nation.

Vietnam’s history in the 20th century had seen occupation by France and Japan before communist revolutionary leader Ho Chi Mihn established the Viet Minh. This group was aimed at ridding foreign rule from its borders. An independent Vietnam was announced under Mihn after World War II, but France, backed by the U.S. through military aid, quickly fought back to regain the territory. The Geneva Peace Conference was held after the French suffered a huge defeat at Dien Bien Phu, which led to their withdrawal from Vietnam. The conference essentially established a cease fire and created a border along the 17th parallel splitting the country into a communist north and anti-communist south. An election supported by the U.S. made Ngo Dihn Diem the leader in the southern region, but he proved ill-suited to lead; so much, in fact, that a group of northern Vietnamese sympathizers in South Vietnam sprang up, known as the Vietcong. Fighting would continue between the southern Vietnamese and the Viet Cong.

United States direct involvement in the Vietnam War came via the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. The U.S. had been sending advisors to South Vietnam and in early August, 1964 the Northern Vietnamese fired upon two U.S. ships in international waters. This directly led to the Tonkin Resolution which, according to Edwin Moise, author of Tonkin Gulf and the Escalation of the Vietnam War, “[was] of historical significance because it gave U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson authorization, without a formal declaration of war by Congress, for the use of conventional military force in Southeast Asia. Specifically, the resolution authorized the President to do whatever necessary in order to assist ‘any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty’.”[1] Thus, the U.S. would be involved in a war nearly 10,000 miles away from home; a war that Johnson had the authority to engage in without support from Congress.

As alluded to, like the World Wars, this would become another international affair that the U.S. involved itself with. George Washington firmly warned against these ventures in his farewell address given in 1796. He argued that America should focus on itself and let other nations worry about themselves. He was mostly referring to European affairs, but we can attribute this to those of the Asian continent also as the basis remains the same; there was no direct result that would affect America. As this epiphany manifested after the body count of American forces shot up and war dragged on, citizens and soldiers alike began to question U.S. involvement in Vietnam. “What are we fighting for…” became a very common question asked around the country, and anti-war protests began to sprout up, particularly on college campuses. The most notorious of these occurred on the campus of Kent State University on May 4, 1970 when four protesting students were shot upon and killed by the National Guard which was called in to oversee the protests. At this point the U.S. was torn domestically, and the soldiers overseas also felt lack of motivation and often resorted to drugs while counting down their days until their assignments were over. Fervor against the war grew as the overseas conflict wore on year after year with no victory in sight. Ironically, upon U.S. entry into the war, victory was never on the agenda.

According to historian Jen Rosenberg, “President Johnson’s goal for U.S. involvement in Vietnam was not for the U.S. to win the war, but for U.S. troops to bolster South Vietnam’s defenses until South Vietnam could take over.”[2] Although a juvenile analogy to make, in sport, if a team or player does not play for victory, he/she or they are setting themselves up for an inevitable defeat. Mindset is a colossal influence and there is no wonder why soldiers were questioning their raison d’être on the battlefield. Rosenberg continues, “By entering the Vietnam War without a goal to win, Johnson set the stage for future public and troop disappointment when the U.S. found themselves in a stalemate with the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong.”[3] Vietnam veteran Donald Whitfield claims that given the authority for full scale warfare, the U.S. would have claimed victory. He states, “I feel cheated about Vietnam, I sure do. Political restrictions- we won every (explicative) battle we was [sic] in, but didn’t win the whole (explicative) little country…”[4] His bitterness is not uncommon among veterans, as it is generally accepted now that the U.S. did not “commit itself to a total victory,” as James Henretta states.[5] A total victory would mean full scale warfare that may have prompted China to come to the aid of their communist Northern Vietnamese neighbors, something that the U.S. utterly tried to avoid. Again, this led to U.S. involvement being unclear in a war that proved more difficult to fight due to unfamiliar surroundings.

The Americans were not prepared to keep losing high numbers of soldiers for such limited progress in a difficult jungle war; a war which they were not fit for. According to Ivan Eland, a specialist on national security at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California, “Guerilla warfare is the most underrated and most successful form of warfare in human history.”[6] In this type of situation, the invaded are at a supreme advantage over the invader. If the guerillas do not lose, they simply will win by waiting out the opponent until they retire. In this war, the Vietcong would constantly ambush and attack the Americans, then escape through their complex underground tunnel system causing the U.S. to become increasingly frustrated with their lack of progress in quartering the enemy. Although the U.S. dropped more tonnage of explosives than they did in all of World War II, they could not stop the movement of troops or supplies to the South along the strategic trails and tunnel systems that the North had access to. It seemed clear that American troops were out of place and not nearly as resourceful as the North were. Instead, a draft was reinstated to increase numbers being sent to fight overseas.

Conscription has long been a controversial issue in the United States. Called into question is the sacrifice of freedom that the draft wavers upon, while filling its ranks with potentially unwilling soldiers. Before Vietnam, the draft was accepted and helped America win both World Wars on the side of the Allies. During Vietnam, however, the draft took a different face and was largely looked down upon. Protests and riots rallied by students continued to emerge upon college campuses. Others publicly burned their draft cards, joined resistance movements, or simply fled the country while estimates suggest that upwards of 100,000 people could have gone abroad to flee from the threat of the draft boards, according to author Bernard Rostker.[7] The United States Constitution, ratified in 1787, does not clearly state whether or not conscription lies within its means of rightful law. On one hand it gives Congress the power to raise and support armies while on the other it prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude. The draft, as we have seen to be a controversial issue by now, having been reinstated to promote an already controversial war, caused America to be arguably the most divided it has been in its history sans the Civil War.

No other war had been this widely publicized in the U.S. before. It was deemed a ‘living room war’, as it was the first to be televised and watched throughout the nation. America was following this war closely. Propaganda and erroneous information led Americans to believe they were winning the war when in fact they were in a truly dire situation. When Richard Nixon took over the presidency, he made a promise of ‘Vietnamization’ which would train and arm the Southern Vietnamese to fight the war on their own. This was to be the U.S. escape route out of the war. In 1970, however, Laos and Cambodia were invaded, clearly showing that the U.S. had no immediate plans of evacuating Asia. Nixon cited “increased enemy activity in Laos, (and) in Cambodia.”[8]  Then in 1971, the ‘Pentagon Reports’ were leaked by Daniel Ellsberg which claimed that the Tonkin Incident was faked to gain entry into the war, and that the war itself was being fought for economic reasons. These two revelations to the American public greatly reduced an already low level of support for the war. At this point it was clear that backing for the war among citizens was at an all-time low.

To make matters worse, the war proved to be a costly financial conundrum that expanded as the years of the war went on. It should be noted that the Vietnam War was, until this point, the longest war that America had been involved in. According to Henretta, “The Vietnam War cost the taxpayers $27 billion in 1967, pushing the deficit from $9.8 billion to $23 billion.”[9] Inflation skyrocketed. According to history-world.org, the total cost of the Vietnam War for the U.S. was over $150 billion.[10] The Multimedia History Company states:

The funds were going overseas, which contributed to an imbalance in the balance of payments and a weak dollar, since no corresponding funds were returning to the country. In addition, military expenditures, combined with domestic social spending, created budget deficits which fueled inflation. Anti-war sentiments and dissatisfaction with government further eroded consumer confidence. Interest rates rose, restricting the amount of capital available for businesses and consumers. Despite the success of many Kennedy and Johnson economic policies, the Vietnam War was an important factor in bringing down the American economy from the growth and affluence of the early 1960s to the economic crises of the 1970s.[11]

The economic effects of an already controversial war only further perpetuated the disdain for U.S. involvement. This was simply yet another aspect that added to the drama of the Vietnam War.

We have examined the provocative issues surrounding U.S. involvement in Vietnam. The war itself is largely considered a blemish in the span of American history. Its controversial nature divided Americans and has been rumored to have scarred returning veterans back from battle. It must be questioned though—would reflective investigation differ today had the U.S. been successful? Would we look down upon Vietnam if America was able to successfully rid communism and the Northern Vietnamese threat from the region? This war was a risk. Progress always involves risk. But was the evacuation of communism halfway across the world a risk that, even if successful, would be worth the reward given all that was thrown into the war? Public opinion said no, but this was only after it was revealed that Vietnam was a losing effort. When America was deemed as winning the war, public support seemed favorable. Perhaps the issue at hand here is lack of victory rather than nature of war. Either way, we cannot be sure, and that is a topic for a different analysis. To hypothesize what could have been is null for purposes of this essay and the fact remains that the Vietnam War was perhaps the most controversial event in United States history.

Bibliography

About.com Online. 20th Century History. The Vietnam War. Jennifer Rosenberg. http://history1900s.about.com/od/vietnamwar/a/vietnamwar.htm

Fernlund, Kevin J., America’s History Volume Two (Boston: Bedford, 2008).

Henretta, James A. and David Brody, America A Concise History (Boston: Bedford, 2010).

Knickerbocker, Brad. Classic Guerilla War Forming in Iraq. Christian Science Monitor. 20 Sep. 2004. http://www.ufppc.org/us-a-world-news-mainmenu-35/1390-analysis-10-years-to-win-this-guerrilla-war-in-iraq-say-experts-if-winning-is-even-possible-csm.html

Moïse, Edwin E. Tonkin Gulf and the Escalation of the Vietnam War. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1996.

Rostker, Bernard. I Want You: The Evolution of the All-Volunteer Force. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, 2006.

“The Vietnam War.” Digital History. Web. 30 Apr. 2011. <http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/modules/vietnam/index.cfm&gt;.

“Vietnam War and the American Economy.” American History and World History at Historycentral.com the Largest and Most Complete History Site on the Web. Web. 30 Apr. 2011. <http://www.historycentral.com/sixty/Economics/Vietnam.html&gt;.


[1] Edwin Moise, Tonkin Gulf and the Escalation of the Vietnam War (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina, 1996) 78.

[2] Jennifer Rosenberg, About.com, 20th Century History: The Vietnam War, http://history1900s.about.com/od/vietnamwar/a/vietnamwar.htm

[3] Ibid.

[4] James A. Henretta and David Brody, America A Concise History (Boston: Bedford, 2010) 838.

[5] Ibid. 837.

[6] Brad Knickerbocker, Classic Guerilla War Forming in Iraq. Christian Science Monitor, http://www.ufppc.org/us-a-world-news-mainmenu-35/1390-analysis.html

[7] Bernard Rostker, I Want You: The Evolution of the All-Volunteer Force, (Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, 2006). 170

[8] Kevin Fernlund, America’s History Volume Two (Boston: Bedford, 2008) 407.

[9] Henretta, 838.

[11] Vietnam War and the American Economy, History Central http://www.historycentral.com/sixty/Economics/Vietnam.html.

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Makes Me Wanna Holler Book Analysis

Makes Me Wanna Holler

Nathan McCall’s Makes Me Wanna Holler is an autobiographical work that describes his troubled life experiences as a youth up until today. The very title speaks volumes about the inner struggle that he deals with; the effects of such events described in the book and his difficult life growing up, culminating with the injustices and demands of being an African-American male. Oppression is one of the major themes that McCall alludes to in his book. He begins by talking about his earliest contact with white people, seeing them on television to seeing them in person. When he was very young, he enrolled in Mapp, a white school, with the idea that he could get a better education. He was instead maltreated by the students. As we see in the book, McCall is easily influenced by his surroundings, and, being around the white kids, seeing white people on TV and in society, he admired and aspired to be like them. When the students treated him poorly and harassed him, it left him in shambles. This had a lasting effect on his future.  From that point forward, he felt a sense of inferiority and this feeling grew into self-hatred later on in his teen years.  He then transferred to W.E. Waters, a predominately black school. He seems bright but realizes in junior high that carrying school books and making honor roll is not a trait that will gain him friends.

Realizing that he will never fit in among white people, he searches for acceptance. McCall often talks about a guy named Jerome Gary also known as Scobie-D, the most popular peer among the thugs he admired most. Everyone feared and esteemed Scobie-D and McCall naturally respected the respect that Scobie-D demanded. It appears that McCall has found his role model in the form of a crime smitten hooligan. Again, McCall is strongly influenced by this lifestyle. Later on in his life story however, McCall loses a lot of respect after Scobie-D murders his wife, then turning the gun on himself. This is a major revelation in McCall’s life and he expresses that he “already figured out that Scobie-D didn’t really understand what manhood was all about, but when he killed his wife like a piece of property, it confirmed that he wasn’t half the man everybody thought he was.”

In the chapter “Trains” McCall describes how exciting and what a rush it was when he and his buddies used to gang-rape girls from their neighborhood. This, of course, is something he saw Scobie-D and his group of friends doing that McCall picked up on along the way. In retrospect later on in life, McCall reflects that he and his friends “thought we loved sisters but we actually hated them. We hated them because they were black and we were black and, and on some level much deeper then we realized, we hated the hell out of ourselves.” This quote is revealing on many levels. We begin to see the struggle that he and his peers go through on a daily basis just because of their race. McCall’s self-hatred perpetuates within himself and leaves him in a troubled, dangerous state; he seems to no longer care about himself, but only what other people think and this ends up getting him into trouble.

McCall shoots a man. He commits armed robbery. He participates in gang rapes. Violent neighborhood wars ensue. He ends up in jail where he meets a few older, more knowledgeable men. Chicago was the first. He ran the cell block and was a very articulate man who was supposedly a black revolutionary and was well versed on philosophy, politics, and law. McCall looked up to him and learned quite a bit during this stage in his life. Chicago would preach to the jailers, McCall included, about the legacy of slavery and history of African-Americans which inspired and fired up the inmates. Another known as “Mo Battle” saw philosophical meaning in everything. These conversations were especially interesting and again, McCall learned quite a bit from Mo Battle. He taught McCall how to play chess, and through this game, McCall learned about the notion of consequence. Mo’s philosophical nature and the game itself taught McCall accountability. McCall never forgot when Mo Battle said to him, “Don’t make a move without first weighing the potential consequences because if you don’t, you have no control over the outcome.” Jim, another inmate, preached about white man’s evil ways and taught him his version of history. He preached how white men thought they were better because they were taught a history of distorted facts that always presented whites in a positive, superior light. Jim told McCall that “it was important to understand the past because it shapes our present perceptions about ourselves and the rest of the world.”

McCall takes these teachings and does a lot of reflecting on his life and he begins to really understand why he was angry with white people. He also begins to stop hating himself and decides that he is going to find happiness after his prison sentence. When he gets out on parole he decides to go back to college at Norfolk State. After three years at Norfolk, he graduates with a college degree and earns a job at the Portsmouth bureau. He moved to Atlanta for another job at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution then to The Washington Post, where he currently works as a journalist.

McCall’s life story, as depicted in Makes Me Wanna Holler, can be associated and correlated to the course in many ways. After he transfers to the all-black school, he soon realizes that keeping the attributes that he picked up on from the white kids would not help him advance socially. According to the course book, “A common view advanced by some educators is that the reason African-Americans, especially males, do not succeed in school is that they do not want to be caught ‘acting white’. That is, they avoid at all costs taking school seriously and do not accept the authority of teachers and administrators.” This is undoubtedly the case for McCall, as we have seen that he was quite easily influenced in his younger years. At some point during his life, McCall has obtained a skewed vision that ‘acting black’ actually meant engaging in criminal behavior and taking upon that lifestyle. It is easy to understand, unfortunately, why McCall had this mentality though. We can see through de facto segregation that the all-black neighborhood had perpetuated this mindset in McCall. Brown vs. Board of Education transpired many decades before this book was written, but the way that neighborhoods and areas that blacks have been subjected to has not dramatically changed, but instead has perpetuated.

According to the course book, Racial and Ethnic Groups by Richard Schaeffer, the percentage of blacks completing high school in 1960, 1980, and 2007 is dramatically lower than whites of comparable status. The percentages of blacks completing college in those same years are also dramatically lower. This can be directly correlated to annual incomes. The course book states that in 2007, the average income for black families was $37,005 while white families averaged an income of $64,663. Given these numbers, we can see how this de facto segregation, based off of economics and education, has put McCall in his place in society. Neighborhoods and communities form based off of those in similar status, thus resulting in residential segregation. Sometimes, as we saw in an earlier Dateline report in the class, blacks are deterred from, or even shunned from buying or renting in white neighborhoods, further promoting this residential segregation. For McCall, he picked up on the qualities of those predominant in his neighborhood, which happened to be criminal activity.

“A complex, sensitive topic affecting African Americans is their role in criminal justice,” says Schaeffer. He further states, “It was reported in 2007 that Blacks constitute 5% of all lawyers, 14.9% of police officers, 17.6% of detectives, and 29.8% of security guards but 39% of jail inmates.” What promotes this type of lifestyle? Is it segregation? Is it racism? Lack of education? Poorer economic circumstances? Differential justice? History? Lack of role models? For McCall, it is a combination of aspects. It is no secret that African-Americans have been oppressed throughout history. From the earliest colonies where slaves were brutally shipped over from Africa, to segregation, to hate crimes to Jim Crow laws, African-Americans have dealt with enormous odds. From the start and up until very recently in this country’s history, African-Americans have not been placed in a position to succeed in society. They had largely been relegated to their own areas, for example McCall’s own neighborhood, and have lived through poorer economic conditions. According to Schaeffer, this clearly has a direct impact on crime rates among a racial group. In the 1990’s gang wars were prevalent throughout inner cities across America and associated with African-Americans specifically. Another factor that plays a role in McCall’s abuse of crime is that he has no form of a positive African-American role model, thus he accepts Scobie-D as he whom McCall looks up to. One can take up the theory of ‘blaming the victim’ which the course book describes as “portraying the problems of racial and ethnic minorities as their fault rather than recognizing society’s responsibility,” for McCall’s troubles, but through his detailed autobiography, we can see that there are in fact other prominent factors. The cause and effect is obviously present in his story.

Racism, prejudice and discrimination also play a role in shaping McCall’s life and his decisions. While attending the all-white school, he is clearly discriminated against and simply cannot fit in. He constantly blames problems on white racism and black injustice. On a separate occasion, while looking for a summer job at businesses owned by white people, he was not considered simply because of his skin color. Again, we go back to the Dateline study in which African-American’s were shown to be given less reception than white in similar situations.  Other white boys McCall’s age instead held those jobs. Other times we see instances of all-weather bigotry on the part of both whites and blacks. This has been as blatant as McCall and his friends beating white boys simply because of their color. The racial lines are clear in this book.

For McCall, we see a sort of reverse ethnocentrism on his part. According to the course book, the definition of ethnocentrism is: The tendency to assume that one’s culture and way of life are superior to all others. McCall’s self-hatred proved the opposite to be true. He hated himself because he was black. As we have noted, a common theme in the book is oppression. According to W.E.B. Du Bois, members of subordinate groups, such as African-Americans, are inherently treated differently, as McCall had experienced all throughout growing up. Du Bois states that, “this leads to feelings of contempt toward all whites that continues for a lifetime.”  Furthermore, Du Bois claims that “a group may come to hate itself.” This, at least for a period in McCall’s life, reigns true and is a large factor in some of his decisions as a young adult. When he takes on his role as a criminal, it appears that the self-fulfilling prophecy has deemed itself accurate in McCall’s case. Did he really have any other option? McCall, even in the closing pages of his book never seems to express remorse for his actions. Maybe he does not feel that he had any other choice given his circumstances. Maybe expressing his story to the world to read is his means of payback for his crimes; showing that one can make more of himself than a life of crime. Whatever the case, McCall has at least seemed to conquer his adolescent insecurities enough to come to grips with writing his story for others to learn from.

The lasting legacy from McCall’s book is that of racist dysfunction. Obviously McCall was a very bright individual. Schaeffer states that one of the dysfunctions of racism and discrimination is that it “fails to use the resources of all individuals.” McCall is now a writer for the Washington Post. How many intelligent individuals have been lost to the streets due to lack of resources, opportunities or motivation? Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise for McCall to have gone to jail and learn so much life material from his inmates. Ironically, these were the individuals whom shaped McCall’s lasting perspective and the reason that McCall was able to make something of himself. To this end, McCall sees himself as an example of an African-American youth, and does us all a deed by portraying the events of his life in his autobiography for the whole world to recognize and reflect on.

Reflection:

Reading this book and writing this review was a treat. The book was entrapping and writing the analysis was simple. Even though I have been exposed to a lot, the book was still eye opening as an autobiographical work. The struggle and mindset that the author had was saddening, but left a source of optimism at the same time. I was able to finish the book in record time, and actually began reading it a second time before I was able to compose the paper also in record time. This was simply one of the most enthralling papers I have written and I attribute that to McCall’s knack for telling an intriguing story that I was able to delve into and reflect on in words.

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Simpson’s Paradox and Jimmermania

Jimmermania and Simpson’s Paradox What better way to showcase the enigma that is Simpson’s Paradox than in the sports world? More specifically, why not use the number one local celebrity in Utah in BYU’s Jimmer Fredette to portray this conundrum in mathematics? It is a phenomenon that is easy to pinpoint and sports numbers and percentages illustrate this perfectly. First, let’s determine what exactly Simpson’s Paradox is and how it can deceive the common person. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Simpson’s Paradox occurs when an “association between a pair of variables can consistently be inverted in each subpopulation of a population when the population is partitioned.” Christopher Morrell, professor at Loyola College, deems the term as “occur[ing] when the direction of an association between two variables is reversed when a third variable is controlled.” We get another definition from Myra Samuels, professor at Purdue University, which regards Simpson’s Paradox as being “viewed as one of a natural and coherent collection of association reversal phenomena that are of fundamental importance in statistical practice. Association reversal means that the direction of association between two variables X and Y is changed by collapsing (unconditioning) over a covariate Z.” In laymen’s terms, Simpson’s Paradox occurs when stats, numbers or other data appear to show one result, but when combined with another set of stats, numbers or data, they in fact show an opposite result than what was initially assumed. Once this is applied to numbers, the Paradox becomes much clearer. In basketball, if you shoot anything over 50% for the game, you can consider yourself having had a great outing for the night. The recent frenzy in Utah was BYU’s spirited run behind superstar, senior point guard, Jimmer Fredette. Now Jimmer is a peculiar player; his name swept the country and quickly became the most popular college basketball player in the nation this past year. His knack for elite shooting accuracy beyond the three point barrier, and well past, has established him as one of the greatest shooters that college basketball has ever seen. Sometimes Jimmer would get carried away and cast off from nearly 30 feet away from the hoop (the official college three point line is 20.9 feet, while NBA is 23.9 inches), but coach Dave Rose would never take him out of the game because he was essentially BYU’s sole option on offense. When Jimmer had an off night, BYU would lose. More often than not though, Jimmer would lead the Cougars to victory behind his scoring prowess. These victories eventually led BYU to the Sweet 16 game of the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament this past year, a feat that BYU had not accomplished since the days of Danny Ainge in the 1970’s. Their opponent was a tough Florida team. The stage was set, national media ready, and Jimmer amped. The game in itself was a thriller. Jimmer started off slowly, with the defense primarily focused on him, but the game remained close. At halftime the score was tied 36-36. The second half saw BYU slip behind in the game but behind Jimmer, BYU was able to creep back in and make it a close game with a few minutes left. Jimmer hit clutch shot after clutch shot. Florida, hanging tough, simply refused to lose though and after the end of regulation, the score was again tied, 68-68, resulting in overtime. What a game. Unfortunately for BYU, they were unable to pull off the victory, which would have been considered an upset by oddsmakers. Still, Jimmer finished with 32 points, leading either team in scoring by a long shot. Even though BYU came up a bit short by the final buzzer, Jimmer did all that he could and ended up having yet another great game. Or did he? Breaking down basketball statistics can be tricky and are not always crystal clear to interpret. We will not focus on other stats such as rebounds, assists, turnovers, steals, blocks or fouls, but simply concentrate on points and shooting percentages. After all, scoring more points than your foe is what wins the game, right? Now it must be said that there are three major ways to score in the game, and all are categorized as percentages separately. The field goal is the most basic, which results in two points. The field goal is a shot, layup, slam dunk or any form of scoring the basketball that results in two points. The three point shot is any shot that derives from behind the 20.9 foot designated half circle on the court, resulting in three points. Finally, the free throw, which occurs when a player is fouled, accrues one point from the foul line. Here, the player, unmolested, takes one, two or three shots, depending on the violation made by the other team. Each of these three result in different percentages, as mentioned. A good field goal percentage for a game would be roughly 50% for an individual player. Field goal percentage is always higher for a center or power forward rather than a guard simply because they play closer to the basket. Guards, however, will generally have higher three point percentages. Anything above roughly 40% can be considered good for beyond the arc, as the farther one is away from the basket, the more difficult the shot is to make. Guards, too, have the higher free throw percentages in general, while 80% can be considered worthy from the line. When determining shooting percentages for a game, field goals and three point field goals are combined to reach the final percentage. Free throw percentage is always considered a separate entity. So Jimmer had 32 points in BYU’s tough loss. Have we yet determined that he had an excellent game? Let’s look deeper into the stats. He shot an astonishing 57% percent from field goal range. He was perfect from the foul line, not missing a single free throw. He was 20% from three point range, which we have determined is the hardest shot to make in the game and always the lowest percentage to yield. So then, 32 points; an amazing field goal percentage; not so great three point percentage; perfect free throw shooting. Give and take a little here and there and Jimmer still comes out ahead we would assume. Well, not so fast. Jimmer was 8 for 14 on field goals, which really is impressive. He was 7 for 7 from free throw range, which can be considered irrelevant in determining shooting percentage (again, shooting percentage only combined field goals and three point field goals). This is where Simpson’s Paradox comes into play. Jimmer was a horrid 3 for 15 from three point range. He actually attempted more three pointers than field goals, which is unheard of! When we look at Jimmer’s shooting percentage for the game, we see that it was 37% overall, which one would not necessarily consider a bad night. But to note that he threw up 15 three pointers and made a fifth of them would leave anybody with a bad taste in their mouth. If Jimmer would have been 1 for 5 from three point range, we could have forgiven him for that 20%, but to take 15 three pointers throughout a game is ridiculous. By contrast, he took nearly the same amount of three point field goals as everyone else on his team combined. It looks like Jimmermania, as sportswriters, late night talk show hosts, and fans around the world have coined him, ran out of steam at last. The notion of Simpson’s Paradox can be seen through example in many ways. Anything that records statistics, data and percentages has the opportunity to display this perplexity. Sports provide the perfect venue for it to transpire. Batting averages can show this in baseball, either on a game by game basis, or over the course of a person’s career. A tennis match can display a perfect example of this, as scores are determined on a match by match basis rather than an accumulation of points. Boxing matches, according to Compubox numbers – the system used to determine how many punches thrown to punches landed – is perhaps the best example. In a fight, the busier fighter often will win the bout if the fight goes to the scorecards. This, however, can be a drastic failure since percentages do not take into account power punches versus jabs, as a powerful left hook does not equate to a short jab in effectiveness. Also, even though a fighter may have better Compubox numbers, this does not take into account that boxing is scored on a round by round basis, rather than an accretion of points. Or, in the sad case of Jimmer Fredette and BYU, the nations adopted Cinderella team, Simpson’s Paradox can show that even though you have won over an entire country, it does not mean you have necessarily played a good game. Bibliography “Explaining the Simpson’s Paradox.” Jon Wertheim and Tobias Moskowitz. Sports Illustrated. 24 March 2011. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/ writers/scorecasting /03/24/simpson-paradox/index.html National Collegiate Athletic Association. Statistics & Schedule: BYU. http://www.ncaa.com/scoreboards/basketball-men/d1/2011/04/04 Samuels, Myra L. “Simpson’s Paradox and Other Phenomena.” Journal of the American Statistical Association. JSTOR. March 1993. http://www.jstor.org/pss/2290700 “Simpson’s Paradox: An Example From a Longitudinal Study in South Africa.” Christopher Morrell. Journal of Statistics Education v.7, n.3 (1999). http://www.amstat.org/publications/jse/secure/v7n3/datasets.morrell.cfm “Simpson’s Paradox.” Stanford Online Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 6 Aug 2009. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/paradox-simpson/ Statsheet Online. College Basketball Teams: BYU. http://statsheet.com/mcb/teams/brigham-young

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History 1110 Document Analysis Essay and Reflection

Martin Luther: Freedom of a Christian

 

            In 1517, the German monk Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the All Saints Church. In 1520, he was excommunicated by the Pope. That same year he wrote his bold treatise, Freedom of a Christian, aimed at the Papacy, but later revealed and embraced by Luther’s followers. The work traced Luther’s beliefs, which starkly contrasted the Catholic Church’s stance on salvation. In it, Luther essentially argues that faith alone in Jesus Christ is enough to gain entry into heaven and acceptance by God into His kingdom. This, of course, is in opposition to Catholic doctrine which recognizes Church authority, deeds and works as necessary points of emphasis and keys of entry. Ultimately, Luther created separation within the Christian world; no longer would Christianity be united and many branches of Christianity would in turn develop due to Luther’s writing.

As mentioned, this argument of faith alone was focused towards the Pope; the most High of the Catholic Church. Historically, the Pope held much more power than today as he was not only a religious icon, but also a political leader who had influence across the world. For Luther to target the Pope directly shows not only the utmost audacity, but also how fervent Luther was in his beliefs.  Originally composed in Latin, the text was soon translated into German, Luther’s natural tongue, displaying his influence among his contemporaries. A following emerged behind Luther’s teachings, who himself was a Catholic monk prior to his manifestation. He knew Catholic doctrine and theology. He knew exactly where the shortcomings were within the religion, or so he felt. The seeds of the Protestant Reformation were sown and Luther’s teachings were no longer aimed solely at the Pope, but all of Christendom.

Within Freedom of a Christian, Luther takes a modest yet assertive approach in explaining his faith. He does not degrade the Catholic Church. He does not directly call out the Pope. Rather, he focuses on what he believes to be the essence of Christianity. Originally angered by the selling of indulgences and the political approach the Roman hierarchy had been displaying, Luther professed that faith is the only thing that is needed to become a Christian. He focuses on the relationship between a man and God instead of duty and obligation. Until this time, Christianity was accepted by adherents as more of a religion; a set of rules, ritual and doctrine rather than the personal relationship with God. Luther states, “…it does not help the soul if the body is adorned with the sacred robes of priests or dwells in sacred places or is occupied with sacred duties or prays, fasts, abstains from certain kinds of food, or does any work that can be done by the body and in the body…” What he was alluding to was the works or duties that the Catholic faith, he felt, emphasized. The document is not only laden with personal opinion and bluster, but is also influenced directly by scripture, much scripture, which is included all throughout the writing. It seems that Luther is using God’s word as evidence of his argument for faith alone.

To fully understand the effects of this treatise, we must understand the world that Luther lived in. Contemporary society can largely be described as secular, free of religion in everyday life. In the 16th century, however, religion played a monumental role in every aspect of society. It is difficult, if not impossible to correlate a similar action in our day that would emulate the effects and drama of Luther’s actions. The world would simply never be the same again after Luther. Bloodshed and warfare would follow between Protestants and Catholics for centuries to come. Even today, there is some rift between the two sects in some parts of the world. As indicated, Christianity was no longer united, and instead more and more factions would emerge. Monarchies would be affected. Dynastic succession was altered. Millions were killed. Surely Luther did not foresee this upon writing his thoughts on faith, but the effects of this document have been colossal. Luther’s stamp on world history is unmistakable and nearly unparalleled because of not only this dissertation, but all of his collective thoughts and writings.

The idea that faith alone is the key to salvation is at the heart of Luther’s Freedom of a Christian. The notion itself was groundbreaking, especially given the parameters and era of history that Luther lived in. With this concept, anybody could obtain salvation by simply believing; by having faith in Jesus Christ as ones savior. It was a completely internal matter, as Luther alleged, “no external thing has any influence in producing Christian righteousness or freedom.” Regardless of Luther’s beliefs, his assertiveness is admirable due to the fact he was facing one of the most prominent people in the world at the time. In a sense, Luther was a revolutionary. While reading Luther’s writings, there is a very interesting connection to make and reflect on. As Luther is preaching against the status quo of Catholicism and dismissing established doctrine and theology, we are almost reminded of Jesus condemning the law and established ‘religion’ of his time as well. Again, the notion of faith alone, as established and presented by Luther in Freedom of a Christian, is truly one of the most important, reverberating, and essential ideas in all of human history.

Reflections:

My research in writing this essay was deep-seated, as knowledge on the subject was largely preexistent. Aside from Martin Luther’s Freedom of a Christian essay, all else that was needed was a quick brushing up on the Bible. Writing on the topic became second nature; theology and religion are areas of keen interest to me. Preconceived notions on the subject were only strengthened while reading Luther’s words, and the paper itself seemed to come together almost instinctively.

As with any piece of writing that I put together, effort is always held at a very high standard. Again, this document was a pleasure to compose. No questions remain and all information is provided, as this can be considered a complete work.

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