Monday, November 11, 2013

The NFL Should Go "Zero Tolerance" on Hazing

I've been a football fan--college and pros--for many years, but everything said in this column is just dead on.

Money quotes:

The Incognito-Martin story is fascinating, but it is also unique and, essentially, isolated. There likely will never be that definitive bow tied to it. That's how it is with most workplace harassment issues.
The bigger deal here is just that: this is a workplace issue first and foremost. It's clear that the NFL does a poor job of following generally agreed upon standards of decency and respect. That's one part of how the "culture" of the locker room is formed. Worse, it trickles down through the sport to levels where the headlines aren't as big but the stakes are so much greater.
The NFL needs to let this issue spur it to do something broader and bolder, something it should have done years ago.
It should step back from the specifics here and just move into the modern era.
It needs to go zero tolerance on hazing, no matter how much moaning and whining the old guard makes. No more rookies paying for dinners. No more taping guys to goalposts. No more new guys carrying the pads. None of it.
The benefits to this stuff are minimal. The problems are potentially huge. The message being sent to younger athletes in all sports is terrible. 
The news is always littered with high school hazings gone bad. Kids are always trying to play adult when they aren't yet capable of seeing the end game. This won't end that – nothing will – but it certainly can't hurt if suddenly kids can't point to the NFL and say, this is how you "build" a team. 
Football exists in a bubble of arrogance, one rooted in the concept that it is somehow more noble and important than just about any other job or extracurricular activity. Too many in its ranks believe it is the only place where character can be built, teamwork forged, life lessons taught and leaders built, mainly because that is their experience. It's nonsense though. Football can do all of these things of course. It can do so many good things for young people.
So can working at Burger King, or studying hard, or learning to play chess, or volunteering at a hospital, or acting in a school play, or whatever. Sports can be great. So can a lot of things.
No matter how often football likes to compare itself to war, it isn't war. This isn't the military. This is a game and, most notably, a business. Extreme team building via primitive bonding measures is unnecessary. What new workers (rookies) are forced to do would not be tolerated at most companies. Nor should it. Here's guessing most veterans would be fine to see this go.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Washington Post Ventures Into Tea Party Land, Informs Us Of Nothing

I don't who I'm more annoyed with after reading this article in the Wash Post this morning, the tone-deaf teabaggers who wanted the country to default on its debts, or the Wash Post writer who seemingly didn't bother asking them (1) What's so wrong with the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, that they're willing to bankrupt the country over it; (2) What their responsibility is to compromise with those of other opinions and interests; (3) is the country supposed to default on its debts to please them; or (4) do they understand Democrats have the WH and the Senate, which in our system of checks and balances gives them considerable input into policy and budget choices?

Any of those questions would seem warranted when interviewing suburban teabaggers outside of Louisville, KY, who gathered to meet the wealthy teabagger candidate who's primarying Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. 

But no, we got nothing. So, given what the article did reveal, there's not much reason for feeling optimistic about anything politically unless teabagger candidates are just defeated, everyone, everywhere.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Washington Post Editorial Blaming GOP For Shutdown Gets It Almost All Right

There is a very strongly worded Washington Post editorial on the government shutdown in the today's edition. Some excerpts:

...Republicans have shut much of the government in what they had to know was a doomed effort to derail the Affordable Care Act. That law, in case you've forgotten in the torrent of propaganda, is hardly revolutionary. It is an effort to extend health insurance to some of the 40 million or so people in this country who have none. It acts through the existing private-insurance market. Republicans tried to block its passage and failed; they hoped to have it declared unconstitutional and failed; and they did their best to toss Mr. Obama out of the White House after one term in order to strangle it in its cradle, and they failed again.
They’re entitled to keep trying, of course — though it would be nice if someday they remembered their promise to come up with an alternative proposal. But their methods now are beyond the pale.
After months of refusing to confer with the Senate on a budget proposal, they have demanded a conference committee to keep the government funded for six weeks. They are rejecting a budget extension that includes limits on federal spending — the so-called sequester — that they insisted on and that Democrats oppose. In a particularly shabby piece of faux populism, their final proposal Monday night included a measure todeprive congressional aides, many of whom earn considerably less than the esteemed members, of the subsidy to purchase health insurance that employers routinely provide.

All fine words, indeed, and much overdue. Unfortunately, one of the reasons we have gotten to this point, and one of the reasons we face an even worse crisis over the debt ceiling two weeks from now is this item, mentioned earlier in their editorial:

We don’t come to that view as rabid partisans. On many of the issues stalemating Washington, we find plenty of blame to go around. We’ve criticized President Obama’s reluctance to pursue entitlement reform. The last time the country reached the debt ceiling, we urged both sides to compromise on revenue and spending in the interest of long-term fiscal soundness.
Ah, do we see the problem here? Two years ago the GOP orchestrated a similar hostage-taking maneuver over the debt ceiling, which was emboldened by many in the media. It's no wonder that the 2013 version of the GOP feels equally emboldened in regard to sacrificing the budget in their efforts to delay, defund, or obstruct in any way they can the implementation of Obama's signature legislative accomplishment. Now, it's quite possible they would have done this anyway, this year, even if the 2011 debt-ceiling hostage taking hadn't taken place. But there's no doubt that the GOP's success that year in extracting concessions, such as the budget-busting sequester, has emboldened them this year and for when the debt ceiling comes up again in two weeks.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Benghazi Boogaloo: Pickering and Mullen seek to testify

By CNN's Jake Tapper and Alison Harding

In a letter to Rep. Darrell Issa exclusively obtained by CNN, the co-chairmen behind an independent review of September's deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya, expressed irritation over the House Oversight Committee chairman's portrayal of their work and requested he call a public hearing at which they can testify.

"The public deserves to hear your questions and our answers," wrote former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, co-chairmen of the Accountability Review Board that was convened to investigate the September 11th attack.


Eight months after their report cited "systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies" at the State Department," Issa continues to be a leading critic of the accountability board, calling its review "a failure" and asking for further investigations into the Obama administration's response during the attack and its aftermath.

The dispute between Issa and the co-chairmen came to a head after neither Pickering nor Mullen attended a May 8 House Oversight Committee hearing on the attacks, sparking a heated back and forth about who was invited and when. The rhetoric intensified Sunday during a highly contentious joint appearance with Issa and Pickering on NBC's "Meet the Press" in which Issa maintained the two "refused to come before our committee." Pickering insisted that he was not invited despite expressing a willingness to testify.

"Chairman Issa sent word back that he might want to take me up some time in the future" Pickering said.

Issa also suggested on the program that Pickering and Mullen meet with the committee behind closed doors so as not to create "some sort of stage show." But the two assert in their letter that a public hearing is a "more appropriate forum" and accuse Issa of changing his "position on the terms of our appearance."

"Having taken liberal license to call into question the Board's work, it is surprising that you now maintain that members of the committee need a closed-door proceeding before being able to ask "informed questions" at a public hearing," they write in the letter.

Pickering and Mullen assert that since they are not witnesses, but rather officials asked to serve on a review board, they should be permitted to testify in public.

"While we understand and respect that your committee has the authority and responsibility to review the Benghazi attacks, we ask that you similarly understand and respect that the Accountability Review Board bore its own authority and responsibility to review Benghazi," they write.

"What the Committee is now proposing is highly unusual in the context of senior officials who are not fact witnesses but instead are reporting their own independent review."

Last year’s attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Pickering and Mullen have proposed May 28 or June 3 for a public hearing.

So, Issa doesn't want Pickering and Mullen to testify about Benghazi in public before his committee. My surprise, let me show you it.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

CNN's On The Case of the Gitmo Detainees

OK, well, one of the headlines at is this:

Guards Hit With Feces

Exclusive: The men and women guarding detainees at Guantanamo deal with abuse every day.


Sounds like it will be a thoughtful, insightful piece.

I wonder if CNN will interview any of the detainees’ lawyers?

I wonder if CNN will ask any questions about how people should be expected to deal with being confined for 10+ years without charges.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Dr. Ben Carson - Apostate Christianity's Latest Pathetic Spokesperson

You might have heard recently that the noted neurosurgeon and best-selling author of books about himself, Ben Carson, took to the podium at the nation's celebrated "prayer breakfast" or whatever it's called to speak on behalf of his aggrieved class of fellow high earners and privileged religionists. Rather than afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted the good doctor agitated for a flat tax, because the slightly higher tax rates that the upper middle income and wealthy pay on a fraction of their generous income is incredibly burdensome and so terrible unfair, even though marginal, not to mention average, tax rates in this country are still lower than they've been since the Great Depression, not even accounting for the multiple tax deductions most of us fortunate householders and charity givers are allowed to take, drastically reducing the ultimate tax incidence any of us are subject to, but let's not discuss that here. He also called attention to the unconscionable oppression suffered by well to do Christians from sea to shining sea who suffer under the lash of having Happy Holidays said to them instead of Merry Christmas while shopping for unneeded goods during the nation's grotesquely commercial and materialistic year-end celebration of itself and all things bought, produced and sold.

God, what a sorry spectacle we've become, this nation, it's so-called Christian class of value warriors. It's small wonder that more and more Americans affiliate with no religion and are abandoning the Christian world. Pathetic.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

An Open Letter to Hobby Lobby, Opus Dei Catholics and Other Conservatives having Butthurt over the Contraception Mandate

It didn't have to be this way.

You could have played a constructive role in the healthcare debate. You could have helped ensure increased access to healthcare for many millions of Americans, and on terms that were preferable for you. Americans who, by the way, support the current taxpayer subsidized, employer-based healthcare system but don't get anything in return for it. And yes, anyone who works and draws a paycheck in the economy pays taxes. No matter their earnings level, federal income taxes are taken out of every employee's paycheck every time they get paid, and those taxes help subsidize health insurance for many working Americans.

Politically, you also enjoyed the benefit of having a new president who campaigned on the basis of changing the political culture and reaching out to members of the other party and to those with different ideas. You might not have believed this of him, but you could have pursued the olive branch he was extending and participated in a process that aimed to establish, finally, a universal healthcare system, or something much closer to it than we have ever had before. And even if taxpaying Americans weren't "worthy" of better, or any, healthcare, and even if the president wasn't agreeable to you, universal healthcare access is a goal you should have supported as your Freaking Christian Duty anyway. And I shouldn't have to remind you about that.

Instead, you, by your silence or active contrivance, helped incite the mob of John Birchers who raged at congressional town hall meetings across the country about "Socialism", "death panels" and "2nd Amendment solutions". Remember that? You either acquiesced or zealously supported the hateful and deceitful vitriol spewed forth about healthcare reform (not to mention everything else) by the conservative media complex of talk show radio hosts, cable television pundits, and "family" research institutes. Maybe you hoped this mob would successfully intimidate the president and members of Congress into not doing anything.

But you fucked up. The healthcare law passed without you and because you didn't help or participate, you got nothing.

So how's that workin out for ya?

I'm real sorry for your precious religious liberty you now say is being violated. But you had your chance to exercise your Christian Liberty in a helpful way that would have generated good will and helped many vulnerable Americans. Now, you have to hope the courts will yet rule in your favor. But if they don't, you will have gotten what you deserve.