Who’s Darel Morey? Why is he in the NBA doghouse?

Mr. Morey is the general manager of the NBA Houston Rockets, and he tweeted support for the freedom-loving people of Hong Kong, with an image that read: “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” China’s official basketball association, headed by Hall of Famer and Houston Rockets great Yao Ming, said it will suspend cooperation with the Rockets after that tweet. The Chinese Basketball Association said Sunday on its Twitter-like Weibo account that Morey had made “improper remarks regarding Hong Kong” to which it expressed its “strong opposition.”

Of the four major United States commercial sports leagues—NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB—it seems to me that the NBA markets being woke more front and center than the others. Part of that marketing is the international angle: how popular their stars are overseas, how many foreign players there are in the league, how international play is catching up to the United States. Another angle, less trumpeted but more visible, is the fact that the overwhelming majority of NBA players, especially the stars of the league, are black, and NBA stars have a symbiotic relationship with the NBA when it comes to merchandising.

I am not complaining, it makes no difference to me. The international angle is fine too. Baseball is played in lots of countries, mostly south of the United States and Japan, lots of international stars come into MLB, including my favorites of all time, Albert Pujols and Ichiro. I don’t follow hockey, but I know it’s more popular in the northern countries than it is here, and some of the biggest stars in the NHL were/are Canadians (Gretzky, Howe, Hull, Crosby) and Eastern Europeans or Russians (Ovetchkin, Jagr, Selanne). The NFL has the fewest international stars, and I think they are all kickers. My point is, the NBA really needs it’s international popularity, especially in China, more than the other commercial leagues.

It’s always a problem in this world when an American enterprise needs or covets the Chinese market. The government of China is a huge challenge to “wokeness”. Actually, it’s more than a problem. Doing significant business in China is Ambien on steroids to being “woke”! Did you ever see someone’s behavior 20 minutes after popping a double dose of Ambien (Zolpedim)? Known side effects include decreased awareness, hallucinations, changes in behavior, memory problems, sleepwalking, sleep eating (and cooking), and even sleep driving. In fact, Ambien has become rather notorious for its weird and wacky side effects. The sleeping pill’s mix of “hypnosis, amnesia, and hallucinations” has led the internet to dub it the “Ambien Walrus.” On the healthline.com website, there are stories from people who, while in waking sleep, did the following: “I drove to the store and bought whipped cream.” “I bought a $2,000 guitar amp online.I raided my neighbor’s freezer for ice cream, and I don’t even like ice cream.” Obviously, before taking Ambien, lock up your wallet and car keys. Okay, enough fun, back to China.

I am watching ESPN Sportscenter right now, as the NBA commissioner Adam Silver is saying “There is no doubt, the economic impact is already clear,” Silver said. “There have already been fairly dramatic consequences from that tweet, and I have read some of the media suggesting that we are not supporting Daryl Morey, but in fact we have. I think as a values-based organization that I want to make it clear … that Daryl Morey is supported in terms of his ability to exercise his freedom of expression.” That didn’t save Morey from “apologizing” rather succinctly for the tweet, “I did not mean to cause offense!” Then James Harden and Russell Westbrook, the Rockets biggest stars were trotted out, “We apologize. You know, we love China. We love playing there,” Harden said. “For both of us individually, we go there once or twice a year. They show us the most important love.” Don’t mention the fact that consumers in China buy far more merchandise than consumers in Hong Kong ever will.

Merchandise accounts for over $1 billion annually for the NBA’s. I don’t know how much of that is from China. NBA has deep ties in China, where basketball has functionally been the national sport for a century. For example, the league in July signed a reported five-year, $1.5 billion extension of its digital broadcast rights deal with Chinese tech behemoth Tencent. This post is only tangentially related to the NBA. It started out to be, yesterday, about the hypocrisy of the NBA, but more stuff coming out today makes me realize that the real story is our most formidable enemy.

Even hardcore Muslims are not immune to the China economic syndrome. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan seeks to project himself as a global defender of Islam, but he won’t utter a peep about one of the most egregious persecutions of Muslims: China’s repression of Xinjiang’s Uighurs and its project to Sinicize Islam. Instead of writing about the fallout from Mr. Morey’s tweet, I was going to present the Twitter thread, which included a gif of the man confronting a tank in Tiananmen Square, but the tweet was deleted.

Do The Math: Climate narrative sausage.

Searching on that phrase, do the math, yields many different perspectives: 1- The Journal of Statistical Mechanics uses it to suggest “an optimization problem: weighing different variables and crunching the numbers to find the optimal combination of those factors.” What factors? “In the case of where to put your car, the goal is to strike the optimal balance of parking close to the target—a building entrance, for example—without having to waste too much time circling the lot hunting for the closest space.” In other words, the most efficient way to find a parking spot. 2- Forbes online blares the headlines “Do the math: It’s a six person race for 2020.” For Democrats that is.

3-The San Diego Union Tribune has an article on why in America has being a celebrity become such a big business? “Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese soccer star has 183 million followers on Instagram. Do the math–the entire population of Portugal is less than 10 million people. This guy has some major reach.” 4- Math Solutions company uses that phrase in their marketing: “Do The Math® helps students in grades 1 and up catch up and keep up with grade level content. Do The Math develops students’ understanding of whole numbers and fractions through lessons that foster reasoning and number sense.” 5- The Free Online Dictionary defines the phrase as an idiom, meaning: Figure out or put together the information for yourself. They give two helpful, amusing examples: “Do the math—can’t you see that he’s just using you to get ahead in the company? and “What happened? They convinced you to give them a lump sum as an ‘investment,’ and now they’ve cleared out of town. You do the math.”

Last week a staunch climate change semi-alarmist (“I don’t know if it’s time to panic yet/it might be too late”) friend of mine in Hawaii who’s anti-GMO, pro-vegan, anti-fossil fuels profits, pro-sustainability sent me a video she was sure would convince me to adopt her position. I have made my own position clear in previous posts. The video was entitled Do The Math. Given that the title of the video could have meant at least 5 different things, but she is a scientist, I expected the Do The Math would mean actual math proving how dire global warming is, or will become. Not so. The video was actually the 5th meaning. Do The Math (fossil fuels stink/oil companies are bad).

The only actual math was misleading. “Last year (2014), the top five oil companies made $137 billion.” When someone quotes what they “made”, they are referring to revenue, how much was taken in. How meaningful is that figure? I decided to calculate how revenue translates to profits, which is what stockholders care about. While profits are not the only measure by which to determine whether or not to buy a stock, they are a more relevant measure of what the video was trying to condemn–greed. Why? Let’s say two investors owned identical apartment buildings in New York or S.F. (this is a theoretical exercise-no two buildings would be identical). Since rents are very high, your revenue would be high. If the profit margin (after taxes, upkeep, salaries, repairs, etc.) of investor #1 were 20%, and the profit margin of #2 was 5%, which investor is greedier? The only factor accounting for the difference is expenditures. Investor #2 must be spending more on either repairs, upkeep, salaries or taxes, or all. Whose building would you rather live in? “Making $137 billion is impressive, but you then reduce revenues by costs of goods sold, depreciation and other factors to get gross income. Then you reduce gross income by operating expenses, taxes and other factors to get net income. Then you reduce net income by dividends and other shareholder expenses to get profit, which changes constantly. By my calculations, using Exxon (the largest oil company) as a proxy, the $137 billion revenues would be about $761 million, or about .56% of revenues. Not peanuts for sure, but not nearly as impressive.

Aside from math, Do The Math video had such objective gems as: “Nobody should be able to pollute for free. That’s what keeps us from getting renewable energy” and “You have to pay for garbage hauling, why should oil companies pollute for free?” “BP’s business was wrecking the Gulf of Mexico.” “Exxon has done all they can to destroy the tundra.” I wonder what these polemical hyperbole statements have to do with math. Am I a shill for the oil companies? Am I defending their anti-competitive and pollution practices? No and No. I just really dislike it when a movement uses such statements to confuse the issues and fire up their troops–the statements about BP and Exxon got the loudest applause. I mentioned all my criticisms to my friend. One thing I asked was “What renewable energy will power vehicles?” Her answer was electric vehicles. What about the pollution from manufacture of batteries which power electric cars?

From Scientific American, 2016: Electric cars are great for eliminating oil from transportation, because very little U.S. electricity is generated by burning petroleum. But electric cars may or may not help the country combat climate change—and it all depends on where the electricity comes from. Cars and trucks are responsible for roughly 24 % of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution—nearly 1.7 billion metric tons per year. Because those emissions come from hundreds of millions of tailpipes, this source of pollution seems difficult to control. Shifting it to hundreds of smokestacks at power plants that supply electricity to charge electric cars therefore seems like a more effective way to clean up the fleet. But those smokestacks, many attached to coal-fired power plants, are the single-largest source of greenhouse gas pollution in the U.S., at two billion metric tons of CO2 per year. That source would grow as electric cars demand more and more electricity, unless tighter pollution controls are placed on power plants or electric utilities shift to less polluting sources such as solar. As it stands, a conventional Toyota Prius hybrid vehicle, which burns gasoline when its batteries are not engaged, and the all-electric Nissan Leaf produce roughly the same amount of greenhouse gas pollution: 200 grams per mile, according to data from the U.S. Department of Energy.”

Things have gotten considerably better since 2016. China, the worst coal polluter, is switching over to cleaner power sources (like hydro) and applying stricter pollution controls. The U.S. is switching from coal to natural gas. The Tesla “gigafactory” will be powered entirely by renewable energy (an aerial photo shows hundreds of windmills within sight of the facility). At Rice University, scientists have invented a new method for turning carbon dioxide into a liquid fuel that can efficiently store energy in fuel cells. The fuel could one day be the future of green transport, cramming more energy into the tank than the same volume of hydrogen while also serving as a building block for a whole chemical production industry. Technology is moving far faster than global warming. This paragraph represents only a few of the hundreds of positive changes.The last thing we need is Pavlovian rallies under deceptive phrases like Do The Math.