Sunday, August 24, 2014

Perhaps The Ultimate Argument Against Privatizing Public Services

When the obligation to pay bills is deemed to be greater than the need for something as basic as water, something has gone seriously wrong with our priorities.  Yes, Detroit and its citizens should pay their bills.  But in a more human way than the one described here.

I really wonder, sometimes:  who will save us from ourselves?  We're the ones who put these people in charge, either by active support or indifference.  The only thing that will stop them is active opposition.

We Are Not Now, Nor Have We Ever Been, A "Christian" Nation

Doubt it?  Read this.  And then share it with as many doubters as you can.  If we're going to base our laws on the original intent of our founders, we should at least be honest about what that intent actually was.

And Why Do We Need Reasonable Restrictions On Guns (Part 2)?

So that ordinary, peaceful citizens don't have their everyday lives disrupted by fools like these.

The Real Danger Of The Hobby Lobby Decision

It allows corporations to have the rights of both corporations and individuals, but without any of the restrictions imposed on either.  We have, constitutionally, attempted to do something that God cannot by definition do:  build something bigger than ourselves.

Something that has the power to swallow all of us.

From Your Mouth To God's Ears, Mr. Erickson

Mr. Redstate himself agrees:  the GOP is nothing but a bunch of corporate shills.

And Why Do We Need Reasonable Restriction On Guns?

In part because some men seem to view them as an alternative to women.  Take a look.

Oh, What A Tangled Web Scalia Has Weaved!

That is, when first he practiced to deceive everyone into thinking that the Second Amendment's "militia" language was just surplusage, to be tossed out the window as quickly as possible in favor of an individual constitutional right to bear arms.  So the Supreme Court held, in a 5-to-4 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller v. District of Columbia, with the majority's opinion authored by Scalia.  And yet, per Scalia, that right was not an absolute one; it was subject to "reasonable" restrictions, according to a paragraph tacked on to the end of the opinion and otherwise seemingly at war with the rest of it.  In effect, Scalia was trying to have it both ways on the issue, without any precedential or philosophical justification for doing so.

Putting it in the vernacular, Heller is one hot steaming mess of a decision.  The one thing on which both gun rights advocates and gun control advocates agreed on at the time it was released by the Court is that the floodgates were now open to new cases deciding the parameters of "reasonableness" when it comes to gun laws.  And, indeed, those cases have been brought into and decided by lower Federal courts.  So where is the Court, when it comes to these opportunities to clarify its Heller handiwork?

In its own version of the witness protection plan, as it turns out.  And not likely to emerge from it for a long time.

One can easily understand why.  Consider the sheer number of laws that now exist, either promoting or restricting the rights of gun owners.  Every one of those laws can theoretically be considered either "reasonable" or "unreasonable," depending on the eye of the beholder.  The same can be said of every law designed to replace any law not found to pass constitutional muster.  This is a conservative Court that defines that conservatism in part by taking the fewest number of cases possible.  The last thing it wants to do is turn into a traffic cop for the back-and-forth battles between the NRA and advocates of public safety.

Why did the Court set itself up this way in Heller?  The Slate article hyperlinked above possesses one tantalizing clue:  the suggestion that Justice Anthony Kennedy would not have voted with Scalia if Scalia hadn't inserted the language about "reasonable" restrictions.  That paragraph is more consonant with Kennedy's approach to constitutional issues than Scalia's.  It also explains why that paragraph feels like it's been copied and pasted into the decision from another case.  In effect, it was the price Scalia paid for Kennedy's vote.  (And don't think that sort of horse-trading doesn't go on in the Justice's chambers.  Bismarck's admonition that no one should see how laws or sausages are made applies as much to judicial chambers as it does to legislative ones.)

It would not help matters for the Court to adopt my view of the constitutionality of gun ownership.  That view, simply put, is that the Second Amendment was enacted to protect the slave patrols, that the Thirteenth Amendment effectively nullified it, and that gun rights are, per the Tenth Amendment, divided between the states and the people, with the latter enjoying the right to own guns and the states being permitted to reasonably police that ownership.  Federal restrictions are permissible if identifiably tied to a specific federal power.  That perspective, even if written into an opinion by the Court, would not put the Court in a different position from the one it now faces.

So, what to do?  Even if our politics weren't polarized up to our eyebrows, I don't think any of us has an easy way out of this mess.  Ultimately, I believe what we need is a constitutional amendment to enshrine sensible gun policy into our basic law.  It may happen one day, and I hope I live to see it.  But, to paraphrase George Washington in one of his dispatches to the Second Continental Congress:  dear God, what precious lives will be senselessly lost before we get there.

The Polls of August: More Mischief Than Movement

Julius Caesar may have needed to beware the ides of March but, for us in modern times, it's the month of August that needs to keep us on our toes. Yes, August, the month during which most of the world goes to sleep.  Except, of course, for those who mean political mischief.  It is no accident that the lead-up to both World Wars occurred in August, when Yugoslav nationalists plotted to assassinate an Austrian nobleman and his wife, and Hitler plotted to invade Poland.  Deeds of this nature are always easier to carry out when everyone else is on holiday and thinks, for a few fleeting moments, that all is right with the world.

Without meaning to draw exact comparisons, August has also been the month during which, in election years, Republicans have found political gold in behind-the-scenes dirty work.  And Democrats, often resting on misplaced overconfidence, have frequently joined everyone else at the beach, and let themselves be caught napping.  One of the best (or worst) examples of this occurred in August of 1988, when Michael Dukakis was sitting on a double-digit lead over George H.W. Bush, and suddenly found himself fending off rumors (planted by Lee Atwater) than he had seen a psychiatrist.  Dukakis, by taking the month off to rest up for the fall campaign, effectively created a news void, one that the opposition swiftly filled.  And, speaking of swift, much the same thing happened to John Kerry 16 years later, when he went body surfing while his military record was slimed , in part by people who had never put on a uniform.

Barack Obama is not Michael Dukakis or John Kerry.  And the Democrats have learned a thing or two from their own history over the years.  But neither of those facts mean that the Republicans aren't going to try to make mischief during August.  As has been the case over the past few election cycles, their weapon of choice:  opinion polls.  Once upon a time, opinion polls were conducted independently and with complete statistical rigor, so that everyone--the parties and the public--had every reason to trust the results.  But, in the Fox News age, neither independence nor statistical rigor applies.

Consider Rasmussen Reports, for example.  For years, RR has manipulated their numbers to inflate the leads for Republican candidates, then dialed back those results as the election date grew closer so that the final result was statistically "accurate."  That way, during the campaign, they allow themselves to be used as a Republican campaign tool, but almost always are in a position to tout their "accurate" final results.  Consider further Fox News on Election Night 2012, when its statistical analysts were predicting a Romney "landslide," with Minnesota leading the way.  As George Will would say, "Ahem."

And then take a look at current results of polls for the generic Congressional ballot.  Per Rasmussen, it's a tie; per Fox, the Democrats have a 7-point lead.  True, they're not polling exactly the same universe; the Rasmussen poll was conducted among "likely" voters, while the Fox poll was based on registered voters.  But even that fact demonstrates the ability of pollsters to manipulate results.  And, even taking that difference into account, a seven-point difference can't be created without additional manipulation.  (Incidentally, I liked the fact that I got a right-wing pop-up ad when I logged onto the Rasmussen site a few minute ago.  Think that's a sign of their impartiality?)

My guess is that Fox is trying to frighten its audience (right-wing voters)with the prospect of living under neo-socialist rule, while Rasmussen is trying to give its higher-end audience of right-wing pundits and campaign managers ammunition for the campaign trail.  And they're counting on no one paying enough attention to notice or care about the difference.  My advice, to progressives:  don't find despair or comfort in either poll.  Take to heart the old adage that the only poll that matters is the one on Election Day.

And, in the meantime, ignore media hysteria about polls like this, which are geared solely along Rasmussen-type lines.  Take this advice, from FiveThirtyEight.  And organize, donate, and vote.  Don't let the polls of August become the reality of the next two years.

UPDATE, 08/25/14:  Nate Silver weighs in on the subject of polling today.  Personally, I think he's underestimating the role that cheating plays.

We Are All Victims Of Our Lowered Expectations

In so many ways.  Construction, both public and private, is but one example.

You get what you pay for, folks.  Most so-called "savings" exist only in the short run.  If you care about the long run, pay for it--and then you'll really be able to save.

I Can't Let August Go ...

... without reflecting on the fact that, one hundred years ago this month, the world was transformed by the first war to engulf nearly all of it.  To tackle that subject properly is way beyond the scope of this blog, but I am happy to commend this to your attention.  It's well worth reading.

Especially since poppies still grow in Flanders Field, teach us lessons that too few of us have learned.

It's Not Just Pat Robertson--It's Glenn Beck, Too

I guess this makes it official:  Bush and Cheney blew it on Iraq.

If Only There Were More CEO's Like This One

One who understands that it takes all of us to make an economy work.

Then again, maybe there are.  Let's hope so.

Ayn Rand Is Killing Sears

Well, not single-handedly.  First of all, she's dead, even if her rancid books have a zombie-like life.  And second, even if she were alive, it wouldn't matter.  One of her followers is destroying America's oldest department store in order to prove how great capitalism is

The Case For Adaptive Reuse

It's affordable.  It's ecological.  It preserves and respects history.  And, you end up with some really amazing results.  Take a look.  The last two are my favorite.

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Lame Duck Can't Be Bullied; Why 2014 Will NOT Be 1994

Well, I suspect all of you have been reading the same polls I've been reading.  Especially since, in my case, I read them daily, from several different places on the Web.  And, if you're on the same side of the fence as me, the view of the U.S. Senate's future is not encouraging.

Consider this article, from FiveThirtyEight.  Like most pollsters, it assumes that Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia will flip to the GOP.  Like most pollsters, it notes that there are otherwise six currently blue Senate seats with races that are too close to call.  If the analysis of Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia is correct, and the GOP merely takes half of those six seats, Harry Reid will not be the majority leader in the next Congress.  A 50-50 split of the statistical ties is a fairly likely outcome, even without polls showing a "wave" election (which, so far, they do not).  Of course, the stipulation here is that the GOP has to hold on to all of its seats.  But this seems increasingly likely, now that Georgia is reverting to true red form, and despite the tantalizing possibility that, come next year, there could be a little less wrong with Kansas.

So it may be time for progressives to confront the possibility of Barack Obama facing the last two years of his Administration with an all-Republican Congress.  The possibility, not the guarantee.  But the possibility nonetheless.  If that happens, how much should we worry?

When it comes to executive appointments, a lot.  I doubt that Obama will be able to get so much as an under-Secretary or an island-nation ambassador confirmed by a body under the control of Mitch McConnell (or John Cornyn, should Alison Grimes be the giant-killer I hope she is).  When it comes to budgetary politics, somewhat less.  McConnell has spent some time lately strutting up and down the political runway like the second coming of Blaze Starr, tossing off promises of shutting down the government so he can take Obama to his own personal woodshed.  But ... well, you know how well that worked out before.  Still, the budget process is often the birthplace of some ugly compromises.  Remember the sequester?  Something like that could be in the offing.

But only up to a point, and that brings me to my main point.  Barack Obama will be a lame duck.  And a lame duck, especially one as smart as Obama, is in no position to be bullied.

To be sure, any legislation Obama proposes will go nowhere.  But, for the most part, the same fate will await any bill that the GOP Congress passes--if they can agree on bills to pass, that is.  Obama could look at the stimulus, Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, removing the troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, DACA, and the successful promotion of green energy, and say "That's my legacy.  Here are some nice vetoes to pass around the caucus.  Have a nice day, John and Mitch."

Or, he could do more.  Much more.  His recent track record on regulations regarding carbon emissions, and his prospective administrative actions on behalf of immigrants, suggest that he's prepared to do more.  Much more.  And even though administrative actions do not have the same level of permanence that legislation has, they help to create a new status quo--one that even the Tea Party would have a hard time changing even if 2016 is an all-GOP year.

In any case, Barack Obama is not in the position that Bill Clinton was in 1994.  He does not need to prove himself a "centrist" to win re-election.  He is not prone to "bimbo" eruptions.  He is not the president of a country still pining away for the misty-eyed charms of Ronald Reagan.  Reagan has been gone from the political landscape for a quarter-century.  This is a different age.  And Obama's current place in it, approval ratings notwithstanding, is a far less vulnerable one than Clinton's in the Age of Newt.

For these reasons, I believe that a GOP Congress in 2015 and 2016 might be something we can survive.  It might even help us flourish, if Obama's actions are big enough and GOP divisions and mistakes are big enough to help set the stage for Hilliary in 2016.

And, in any event, it's not over until it's over (thanks, Yogi).  Any number of reasons exist to think that a GOP Congress is not inevitable.  And all of them depend on you.  I leave you to take it from there.  I'm hoping that you do.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Conservatives And Ferguson: Cognitive Dissonance, Or Blatant Hypocrisy?

Let's be clear, before we go any further, about one thing:  when it comes to Ferguson, the police blew it.  Any time you shoot six bullets into an unarmed teenager--two of them into his head--without even knowing whether or not he was a suspect in a crime, you have failed as a peace officer.  And any time your superiors fail to address a tragedy of this magnitude with full disclosure and complete humility, they have blown it as well.  When Ray Kelly, nobody's idea of a bleeding-heart liberal, thinks you've blown it, you have blown it.  Period.  Ferguson obviously has a serious problem with race relations, and we can only hope and pray that, out of this senseless homicide, lessons can be learned and people can find a way to answer Rodney King's famous question with a "Yes."

But we need to pray for ourselves as well.  Because Ferguson is not alone when it comes to the poison of racism and its ability to seep into our public services.  And we need look no further for evidence of that fact than the simple, obvious absence of something in the midst of the chaos and controversy:

Outrage from conservatives about the excessive use of governmental force against Mr. Brown.  And, in particular, outrage from the National Rifle Association about the excessive use of governmental force against Mr. Brown.

Then again, perhaps outrage from the NRA would be surprising.  It would certainly be ahistorical.  After all, as I noted in a previous post, the Second Amendment--the NRA's alleged raison d'etre--has its roots not in the need for civil militias, but in the need for "slave patrols" to protect the "rights" of slaveholders to their "property."  And say whatever else you will about the NRA; its dog-whistle rhetoric does not stray far (if at all) from the racist roots of our so-called "constitutional right to bear arms."  Take a look.  See what I mean?  It is painfully clear from the proverbial horse's mouth that the only people who have the right to defend themselves are the ones who share something in common with slaveholders:  complexion.

But what about conservatives who aren't members of the NRA, or, for that matter, focused on advocacy of gun rights?  Where's their outrage?  Why do we get nothing but dog-whistle rhetoric from the likes of Sean Hannity?  Is it possible that modern conservatism owes its rise almost exclusively to white-power thinking, speaking and acting?  Can you say "Southern strategy"?  Ultimately, aren't all of these questions rhetorical?

Perhaps they are, when posed as part of an exchange among progressives.  But maybe, just maybe, it's about time to confront the other side with the truth that lies behind their double standard on gun rights and governmental force, as Patricia Byrnes courageously did in pushing back against Mr. Hannity's condescension.  Perhaps its time to stop pretending that the double standard is an Emersonesque "foolish inconsistency," and recognize it as the pernicious, racist evil that it really is.  Perhaps its time to risk anything, even putting ourselves in harm's way, to make this point.

And perhaps the best time of all to do is before there's even one more Michael Brown on our consciences.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

If Pat Robertson Keeps Talking Like This ...

... even I may start to like him.  Take a look.

Why Don't I Watch Sunday Talk Shows?

Well, not to answer a question with a question, but why should I listen to these people beat up Obama on the subject of Iraq, while ignoring the role that they played, in collaboration with these two, for creating the whole damn mess in the first place?

If I had to use the Sunday talk shows as the basis for making an evaluation, I would say this nation is seriously screwed.  But, for many reasons that have nothing to do with Sunday talk shows.  I don't think we are.  At least not yet.

I Wish There Were More Ball Players Like You, Mr. Gwynn

And more fans, and people too.  R.I.P., sir.

There ARE Simple Solutions To At Least Some Of Our Problems

Synergistic ones, too.  Here's one way to create jobs and reduce the waste caused by plastic bottles.

Why Giving Power To Conservatives Makes No Sense In A Democracy

Because democracy requires deal-making, and today's conservatives can't do that.

Go For It, Mr. FitzGerald!

So John Kasich thinks Ohio can afford to roll clean energy back?  Don't let him do it!  Ohio, and American can't afford it.  And, if you pursue this, we all may be better off for it.

The Cost of "Faithfully Executing" The Laws

This article from today's New York Times gave me food for thought on a lot of fronts.  Not the least of which is the statement that balancing the federal budget without new revenues would require $5 trillion of cuts over the next decade.  There's a lot that could be written just about that subject, and I suspect I will do so at this time next week.  There's also the fact that the Republican Senators quoted in the article, as well as the author of the article itself, gave me the feeling of being just a bit premature in their assessment of whether or not they will have a majority to do some of the things they mention.  But again, I'm content to discuss that later.

But the citing of the budget figures gave me a little thought about House Republicans and their insistence that President Obama must be absolutely perfect in taking care to faithfully execute all of the laws of the United States.  This insistence is the reason that there's been so much talk about impeachment (and make no mistake:  they are the ones who have initiated that talk).

The problem with this, of course, is that, sooner or later in the world we all wake up in, their faithful execution rhetoric has to collide with their austerity rhetoric, in much the same way that, during the Bush years, their tax-cutting rhetoric ultimately collided with their war-on-terror rhetoric.  Whether you want the government to give everyone health care, or clean up all of the terror hot spots, you can't escape the fact that government costs money.  The single biggest problem over the past 35 years with Republican politics, and therefore with American politics, is that the GOP has done everything possible to repeal, run away from, or otherwise ignore that fact.  That is one reason, by the way, that you should waste no time listening to Republican complaints about the national debt:  they are its architects.

And that forces me to ask the question:  how much does the imperfect execution of our laws depend on the austerity budgeting.  At the very least, plenty.  And that shouldn't be surprising.  When the GOP took over the House in 2010, its members admitted that imperfect execution was the real point.  Starve the beast, and shrink it down to size.  They didn't care about trying to change the laws to matched the budgeting.  And, with the calls for impeachment, you can now see why.  It sets up the win-win scenario of shrinking government and blaming Obama for the fact that things aren't working the way they should be.

Small wonder, then, that some people have responded to John Boehner's plans to sue Obama by suggesting that we, the people, sue Congress.  A laudable goal, but, ultimately, a futile one; any court would just tell us that our constitutional remedy is the next election.  And they're right.

But what about an alternative?  What about putting together a cost estimate for the faithful execution of our laws, and submitting that, if not to Congress, then to the court of public opinion?  Along with ways to pay for it, like closing corporate loopholes and slashing corporate subsidies?  What about making that the election-year vehicle, from an issue standpoint (along with too-big-to-fail banks), that gets us our constitutional remedy.

Somebody good at crunching numbers should do this.  And I mean right now.  And then the rest of us should whack Republicans over their heads with it from now until Election Day.  Personally, I'd love to help make this happen.  How about you?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Why Aren't "Too Big To Fail" Banks The Number One Election Issue?

Here we go again--maybe.  In fact, if history teaches us anything, very likely.  Even after the near-crash of 2008, even after major financial reform legislation was passed back before Congress was partially hijacked by lunatics, even when public opinion is clearly not on the side of another Wall Street bailout, Wall Street appears to be setting itself up for--well, potentially, another bailout.

How is this even possible?  How can this country's major financial institutions have learned absolutely nothing from recent history?  Or have they?

What they have learned is that socialism works, so long as it's socialism for those who don't need it, and so long as you can convince the people who do need it that they don't, after all.  And this is possible because (a) Republicans in government believe nothing about capitalism except the name, and (b) the core of their supporters believe in everything else about it.

During the Bush years, Washington was like Santa Claus to corporate America.  Tax cuts, deregulation, military spending--it was a conservative cornucopia that seemed endless.  Except for the fact that it wasn't, because of an ancient formula, one that conservatives are fond of citing to liberals:  when spending exceeds income, bankruptcy results.  It didn't help matters, of course, that the captains of the financial sector, free of any obligations except to greed, decided to "invest" in securities so untethered from reality as to effectively turn stock markets into casinos.

If capitalism has any morality at all, it is the morality of failure.  According to classic capitalistic theory, the markets punish those who do not invest and spend their money productively.  But classic capitalism exists only in theory.  Real capitalism involves investing and spending money to "buy out" anyone and anything that might oppose you--including big government.  So it should have surprised no one that, when Wall Street was near collapse, it turned to the government it had helped to buy, and asked for a great big dose of socialism, on the grounds that the entire country would suffer greatly if capitalists were actually punished for their failures.  And the Bush Administration, with the shameful cooperation of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, gave it to them.  By doing so, they effectively ended the Age of Capitalism, and ushered in the Age of Socialism.  Now, the only real debate is about how much socialism, and for whom.

In spite of this bald-faced hypocrisy, Republicans went back to their supporters after the bailouts, and after the Democratic blowout of 2008, and warned of the dangers of big government, ready to pick the people's pockets blind if given half a chance.  And their supporters, being more inclined to believe the easy lie rather than think their way to hard truths, bought it.  They overlooked the bailouts, focused on the alleged evils of Obamacare, and gave Republicans the opportunity to shut Washington down for going-on four years, lest any of the socialism given to the 1% be shared with the rest of us.

Only now, Obamacare has been shown not to be evil, and even to be practical.  As has the stimulus, another alleged big-government boondoggle.  People are beginning, slowly but surely, to understand that big government is sometimes necessary, and helps to create a level playing field that gives everyone a chance to build the lives they want to lead.  Despite that fact, there is a real danger that the lunatics' control of Congress could become complete in a few months--and the small but real gains of the past six years could be destroyed.  The Democrats desperately need an issue that can pull together voters from both sides of our political divide and illustrates the essential need for a strong Federal government on behalf of the people.

What should that issue be?  I believe that it should be reinstatement of the Banking Act of 1933, more commonly known by the name of its sponsors, the Glass-Steagall Act.  The senseless repeal of the Act in the latter days of the Clinton Administration led to the creation of "too-big-to-fail" banks and their casino practices, by allowing commercial and investment banks to merge and destroying safe havens for investor capital.  Public awareness of the destructive nature of Glass-Steagall's repeal has grown over the years and cut across party lines.

The potential to create a huge coalition around this issue is right there, hanging in front of the Democrats.  This is not to say that other issues, such as immigration, should not be at the forefront of this fall's campaign.  But reinstatement of Glass-Steagall is a cause that could truly become bipartisan, and help set the state for another era of progressive accomplishment.

The only thing that stands in the way of this is the dependence of national Democrats on Wall Street money.  Can that be overcome?  Maybe.  It's up to you to get involved and make them pay attention to the people they should be serving.  That is the only way that socialism is going to have a chance to work for 100% of us, instead of 1%.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

If We Can Afford To Put Them In Harm's Way ...

... we can afford to do whatever's necessary to take care of them.  You're wrong, Senator Sessions.

And, did I mention, despicable?

Time To Stop Assuming All Regulations Need To Be Rolled Back

Tracy Morgan would probably agree, unfortunately.  Bad timing indeed, Senator Collins.

So Much For The Rule Of Law In Virginia

What kind of political party hypocritically talks about impeaching Obama to "uphold the rule of law," while breaking the rule of law in Virginia to stop the expansion of Medicaid?

The no-longer-so-Grand Old Party, that's what kind.  Shades of Watergate!

Too Late, Republicans, He's Already A 100% Success

And here's the proof.

Cutting Carbon Pays For Itself.

The results in nine states can't be wrong.

What Does The History Of European City-States Teach Us?

It teaches us the dangers of letting an economic elite gain control of our politics.  Take a look.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Ray Rice: Let The Punishment Fit The Crime

So Ray Rice, the Baltimore Ravens' star running back, is going to take a two-game vacation as a punishment from the National Football League for an act of domestic violence involving his then-fiancee and now-wife.  And Roger Goodell, the league's commissioner, is arguing in public that this punishment is proportionate to other disciplinary actions taken previously by the league for similar incidents.

One is forced to wonder about the NFL's sense of proportionality, given the fact that it has handed out more severe sanctions for drug use, a crime with arguably fewer victims than domestic assault.  One is forced to wonder how seriously the league takes the issue of violence in general, given its checkered career of treating injured current and former players with less than optimum concern and care.  And finally, given the image-conscious efforts the NFL has attempted in the area of women's issues (breast cancer specifically), one is forced to wonder if it can tell the difference between promoting a cause and actually doing something about it.

Because, as far as I'm concerned, and notwithstanding what the criminal justice system may do in regard to this matter, the NFL's punishment does not fit the crime of which Ray Rice stands accused.

In the United States, professional football is more than the most popular sport.  It is the social and cultural event that brings together men in larger numbers than any other event.  It takes them away from their wives and children, promotes the consumption of alcohol, and glorifies a level of physical contact that would, for most of us, be disabling at best.  No, I'm not arguing for a ban on the sport.  I am, however, arguing that it helps indirectly to promote an atmosphere in which violence can be seen as acceptable--or worse.  And the conflict between Ray Rice and his wife serves to illustrate that point more powerfully than any words of mine can.  After all, it is not an isolated case, as even Goodell's defense of his sanction illustrates.

What would I do, if I were in Goodell's position?  I'm a Ravens fan, but I care more about safety for women than I do about my team.  I would sit Rice for a year.  That's right.  A year.  And I would require him to donate his salary to local shelters of victims of domestic violence.  And I would require the NFL to match that sum with a donation to shelters across the country.  As disproportionally as the Ravens would be affected by this on the field, it would make them and every franchise in the league sit up and take seriously the violence the sport helps to promote.  And, in all fairness, a franchise such as the Ravens, which has had a large number of players in trouble with the law, would perhaps benefit from some disproportionate pain.

I think that men, in general, are guilty of being less than human in their treatment of women as human beings.  It's time for male-centric organizations like the NFL to make a real difference in changing things for the better.  Talk is cheap.  Let's work to create a better playing field for everyone.

And, if you're of a praying disposition, pray for the Rices.  They may need all the help they can get.

Should The People Elect The Speaker Of "Their" House?

In spite of its somewhat Communistic sound, John Boehner is fond of describing the branch of Congress he heads as "the People's House."  Given the way in which he has "led" it, it's entirely fair to wonder which "People" he is referring to.  And that has never been truer than during the past week, when he and his party barely got a border-crisis bill across the legislative finish line, and then quickly got out of town, hoping that everyone would see that they passed a bill, and that no one would see the bill go nowhere.

In this instance, the "people" don't include either President Obama, or any members of the Senate from either party, neither of whom were asked by Boehner's "People" to work with them toward a consensus bill.  Nor do they include the the "people" who staff our immigration system, nor the residents of border states who are directly affected by the crisis.  Worst of all, the "people" definitely do not include the thousands of Central American children who are looking for a safe haven from the violence our foreign policy has generated in their home countries, wherever they can find it (including the U.S., where many of them have relatives as lawful residents).  In fact, the "people" don't even include a large portion of Boehner's own Republican caucus, many of who are tired of having their lives run by the Tea Party.

Ah, the Tea Party.  Now we've identified the "people" that Boehner really cares about.  Because they control his ability to enjoy the perks of the position he has worked so hard to otherwise make meaningless.  The Tea Party is a minority of the House, of the whole Congress, and of the American people.  But, thanks to Boehner's preference for perks over principles, the Tea Party is acting as a "rump" government, demanding a government that isn't possible and sentencing the majority of Americans--Democrats and Republicans--to suffer from not having the government they need.

And yet, as partisan a Democrat as I am, I have to wonder if things would be much better, or even different, if and when control of the House changes hands.  It would be easy enough to imagine how the tables might be turned, with one or more factions of House Democrats creating a level of chaos not much different or better than the current mess.  And, while redistricting reform might help solve the problem through the creation of less partisan districts--as I've argued elsewhere--it may not be enough to counter the increased factionalism in a nation that has never suffered from a lack it.

What's the solution?  I think it's time to have the Speaker of the "People's House" elected by the people--directly.  In fact, I would argue for a system that has elections for Speaker conducted in the off-years between Presidential elections, along with the other Congressional races.  That way, there would be a real incentive for everyone to participate in every election and, hopefully, an end to the midterm slump in voter participation.  Each party would nominate a candidate, who would be on the ballot in every state.  The person elected would be directly responsible to the voters to ensure that the House of Representatives worked on their behalf, producing legislation rather than gridlock, working across the aisle to produce consensus rather than conflict.  I've written before that the Speakership is already a Constitutional office.  Amending the Constitution to allow direct national election to the office would help to ensure that our system worked the way the Constitution was intended to make it work.

It's not easy, of course, to amend the Constitution.  But it's beyond painful and pathetic to simply put up with the abuse of our system of government that Boehner and the Tea Party have conspired to create.  Something has to be done, if we're going to be able to heed Benjamin Franklin's advice to "keep" our Republic.