Pay College Athletes? Yes, But Divest from the University

Joe Nocera wrote a very good piece on why we should pay college athletes in major football programs and major basketball programs. More importantly, as he notes, unlike other articles on this issue, Nocera takes the adventurous step of outlining proposals to effectively implement the program. His five basic planks are as follows:

  1. Offer players standard negotiable contracts rather than wooing them during recruiting.
  2. Create a salary cap with a minimum annual player salary.
  3. Offer a +2 years to a scholarship if a player completes all 4 years of school. This could be used to finish a Bachelors degree or pursue a Masters degree.
  4. Lifetime health insurance for players.
  5. A collective bargaining entity to represent players and counterweight the NCAA.

Nocera’s proposal is bold and aggressive, going well beyond the recently implemented $2,000 stipend by the NCAA. Yet despite his aggressive proposal, at the heart of it Nocera is trying to put a square block in a circle by attempting to combine the business of major athletics with the non profit educational institution of the university. Simply, each has different goals, structures, and mores. The inability to reconcile the two has led us to this convoluted state where the NCAA must regulate hamburger purchases by coaches for athletes.

Nocera himself brings up the sports of baseball and hockey as not a problem because they already have a functional minor league system, but then he quickly moves on. However, that is the solution, create a functional sub-pro league that works as a business but remains identifiable still as college athletics. Ideally, both the NFL and NBA would have their own formal minor league system that caters to those individuals that did not feel the desire to attend school. Ideally, the NCAA would not continue to subsidize the NFL and NBA on the backs of their student-athlete’s unpaid labor. It’s ludicrous to think that Bubba Starling can  pursue a career as an MLB player as an 18 year old high school graduate, command a salary, and demand a multi-million dollar signing bonus. Yet to become an NFL QB he would have most likely had to spend four years as an unpaid intern at the University of Nebraska with no signing bonus to act as a guarantee. Starling, obviously, made the rational decision and pursued baseball.

The solution to the insanity of today’s modern major college athletics is for the football programs and basketball programs to divest themselves from the universities and the state, if they’re public. Hell, let the NCAA go with them and rule them. Businesses often spin off other businesses and in this case a university is in no real position to be running what are essentially professional franchises. This proposal has multiple advantages:

  1. The university is no longer put in a precarious position of deciding how to allocate resources between education and athletics. Universities can fully resume their mission as an educational institution and provider of amateur athletics without the conflict or stain that major athletics bring.
  2. Title IX issues that shadow every conversation of paying players are no longer at issue. Of course, the university would still have to adhere to the rules for its remaining amateur athletics, but the major sports would be free from the university and NCAA rules as free standing franchises.
  3. Finally, most important of all, athletes would be able to become employees rather than just students. Since they are no longer employees of the university but rather of the new divested sports team (or perhaps of the conference), they should be able to be compensated fairly.
  4. Currently all athletic dollars brought in are usually recycled back into the major programs or dispersed among the non revenue programs, so the financial harm to the university is minimal. This has always been more about prestige to the universities and alums.

It’s important to note though that divesting from the school does not mean cutting all ties. In fact for this proposal to work and to be swallowed by the people who love college athletics, it’s absolutely crucial that ties are maintained to the university. For that reason, there must be some rules that maintain the basic ties that we have to college athletics. For example:

  1. All players should still be required to attend college at the university of their team. Just because the Florida Gator Football team has split into a separate entity than the University of Florida does not mean that they cannot mandate that their employees (players) attend the University of Florida. Even more importantly, the franchise can dangle the salary as leverage to ensure academic standards are being met. If you’re not performing in school and class then your pay will be cut or you will be cut. Academic standards could be set by the conference or some higher governing authority.
  2. College eligibility requirements should remain similar to current ones. This isn’t a change that would allow a washed up 39 year old ex-NFL running back or Allen Iverson to join.
  3. Names and locations should remain the same for at least a mandated length of time. Nothing would destroy fans hearts and the integrity of the league than to see the newly divested Iowa Hawkeyes move to the franchise to LA.
  4. Along those lines, for the time being, the newly divested franchises should pay the universities fees to use current facilities. This would help make up for the shortfall among non revenue athletics.

Essentially, maintaining the identity and integrity of the status quo is important, but the structure and the function of the structure must change. We must recognize these major programs as commercial businesses and stop allowing them to hide behind the facade of being a part of a non profit educational system. Ultimately, the universities will better function as educational institutions, athletes will get their just due, and fans’ experience will be enhanced rather than deprived as the programs will be free of the inanity of the current system. Of course, their will be pain for a certain class of people that have exploited the status quo for all it’s worth but the time has come for reform and hopefully proposals will start to take seed.

The Gazelle Metaphor in American Politics

Ron Suskind’s most recent book, Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President, is a phenomenal examination of President Obama’s handling of the domestic agenda since he took office. The book reveals a flailing President, insubordinate advisers, an inability to execute decisions, and several missed opportunities for true reform. I would highly recommend the book to anyone that is at all slightly interested in the events of the last three years and how modern government functions. Confidence Men delves into several complex issues and policy decisions that the administration faced, however, for the purposes of this post I would just like to share a very insightful metaphor mentioned by Gary Gensler in the text. The metaphor relates to pushing policy through in Washington:

The way Washington works is you often start with what’s optimal, a best solution to some complex problem, and, surprisingly, there’s often quite a bit of bipartisan consensus on what will actually work, at least in private. That’s your herd of gazelles. But you’ve got to get them across the savanna safely, to a distant watering hole. And the longer it takes, the more you lose. You may end up with very few. You may lose them all. Because there are predators out there, lions and tigers, packs of hyenas, and they’re big and fast and relentless — considering how any significant solution to a big problem is bound to be opposed, do or die, by some industries or interests who’d figured out a way to profit from the way things are, even if they’re profoundly busted, and often because they’re profoundly busted! So that’s you’re challenge: see how many gazelles you can get to the watering hole.

The metaphor illustrates, simply, the immense power that the status quo has, and the effort required to make change or to progress. Often in conversation about politics, solutions do seem rather simple, and that leads to immense frustration amongst citizenry who cannot comprehend why Washington simply cannot fix problems. It’s wise to think of the above metaphor at those times, because the metaphor is insightful as to how the world works and the powerful bias that exists towards the status quo. Every policy proposal will have it’s lions, tigers, and hyenas but it’s up to leaders to identify them, work fast, and exploit opportunities.

Unfortunately, Confidence Men serves as an indictment on the leadership and managerial abilities of President Obama. Too many times he was unable to get the herd across the savanna.

South Florida Police Arrest for Iphone Recording

This type of news story occurs too frequently in South Florida, and it’s always ire inducing. According to this Palm Beach Post article:

A “belligerent” 21-year-old was arrested early this morning on charges of eavesdropping for taping the encounter he had with deputies during a traffic stop.

Really, though, the belligerence was a young black man documenting his encounter with the police on his iPhone resting on his lap. Rather than proceeding with the stop in a professional manner, the officer arrested the young man:

The deputy noted in the affidavit that Paul was informed that he did not have the deputies’ permission to record and was therefore violating a state law. Paul, however, refused to stop recording and was placed in custody.

First, let’s be clear, it is perfectly legal to record without consent if the other party has no expectation to privacy, such as in a public street. The courts have thrown out other police arrests similar to this and yet Carl Paul still was arrested and still put in jail. The cop may or may not have been aware of the precedents, though he will not suffer for either his malice or his ignorance. Simply, the cops have no incentive to get shady areas of the law right and, worse, they face little, if any, penalty for being wrong. Meanwhile, citizens are faced with high expenses, lost time, and a harrowing ordeal while the courts have to figure it out. To seek civil penalties against the police often takes money and time, which most defendants lack.

Citizens must encourage a system to disincentivize cops and prosecutors from simply arresting first and then sorting it out. Especially when the charges are either gray or they are simply trivial, like recording a traffic stop.

Quick Thoughts on the Republican CNN Tea Party Debate

Overall, it was a pretty depressing experience. A couple brief thoughts:

1) Regarding the Ron Paul comment about the uninsured: Of course you have your bat shit crazies that shout “yeah!” to an uninsured person dying from lack of medical treatment, but most people, Republicans included, understand you have an obligation to do something. The response by conservatives is to leave the responsibility to charities, most of which are religion based. The point is though, that somebody has to pay for that as well.  If it’s fully funded and everybody is chipping a fair share of their income into it then what is the difference from government taxation for medical coverage? Of course, if it doesn’t receive the needed charitable contributions, which is likely, then it would be a failed solution to the problem of the uninsured.

Whether one is paying a government or paying a charity to help uninsured shouldn’t really matter, but it goes to the heart of the conservative beliefs. Conservatives believe that there is a big difference because they see the government as a threat to their religious beliefs. Also, using a charity would allow selective help. For example, uhhh, not paying for Gardisil treatments to uninsured or not treating bodily damage caused by drug addicts.

2) The mantra of the conservative party is freedom and responsibility, which essentially in their worldview means every person determines their own success or failure and, therefore, should reap the rewards or suffer the consequences of their own actions. It has become puritanical to the point of embracing the love to dish out the punitive measures part of suffering the consequences. Hence, people yelling “yeah!” to hypothetical uninsured dying humans. Yet, this worldview lacks any self awareness or context with regards to the role randomness plays on rewards and consequences. So much so that it makes their lack of compassion repulsive.

For example, the young kid that stood up and asked how much of each dollar he earned would he be allowed to keep. Each candidate raced to the bottom with their tax percentage answers. This kid and audience believe that they earned that money on their own with no assistance and have no responsibility to anyone else. Such a naive view. The kid probably went to a public school where his education was paid for by others, he also probably took out federal school loans which were subsidized by others, and I’m sure he took public roads to his school and now his job instead of hacking a trail with a machete. I’m sure whatever he sells, makes, or does requires other humans to buy, use, or utilize. Everything that he owns or has accomplished he truly believes he was entitled to if the proper effort was put in. Yet he and many like him are unaware, or conveniently ignore, that success is only possible with a good infrastructure and the help of others. Good parents, public schools, opportunities for higher education, and then available work should be available to all.

3) Nothing above is all that enlightening or hasn’t been said a million times. There is a real difference between politics and policy. We face a lot of difficult issues that need meticulous and well thought out policy solutions, yet the debates are filled with pandering and outright lies. The level of “debate” is worse than high school sophomore policy debates, seriously. There’s no point in even going down a list and tearing apart the inaccuracies and idiotic statement because there is no one to convince or persuade anymore. The people that will decide the election were watching the Dolphins/Patriots and will likely decide on less substance than was even discussed at the debate.  It seems that there used to be a facade of rationale in the past and now there’s barely any facade anymore. People like Mitt Romney have to be thinking to themselves I can’t believe I’m really saying this shit just to try to get elected. There is very rarely any effort put forth to be reasonable or truthful and when a candidate does, he’s shot down or offends some base of the party. Rick Perry “lost” the debate mostly because he actually gave some nuanced answers about immigration and because he did the people of Texas a great good by making Gardisil mandatory!!! Anymore, the prescription is but just to laugh at the comedy show that it is otherwise it can be a very painful experience.

4) Finally, it’s clear, to me at least, that Mitt Romney is heads and shoulders above the rest. He actually seems capable and smart enough that he wouldn’t drive the country into some 11th century theocratic crusades mongering state. So my feeling is that if Obama has to be beat then I hope it’s to Romney. That’s a double edged sword for Romney, the fact that he moderately appeals to a person such as myself means he’s doing something wrong in trying to win the primary. But, it also means that he’s going to look very tough versus Obama. I also hope that Romney is saying all this Tea Party propaganda with his fingers crossed behind his back and ready to ditch it if he ever gets elected. The Romney that was Governor of Massachusetts is much, much more desirable than Rick Perry, Bachmann or any of the other candidates.

A Case of Bad Government Regulation – Landlord Registration

The use of regulations to protect citizens and create a prosperous community is absolutely necessary and among the greater duties charged to government. Yet, regulations can often be spurious and have to be clearly evaluated and understood to make sure they are not wasteful or unnecessarily costly and restrictive. The City of Coral Springs, though, has proposed an unnecessary and burdensome Landlord Registration Program which they have named “Enhanced Neighborhood Preservation Program.” The proposal can be found in the City Commission agenda from the 8/23/11 meeting here: 2011-08-23 City Commission – Full Agenda-1211.

The gist of the program is that the city wants to compile a database of landlords and renters. To do so, they will require every landlord to register and pass inspections, in addition to paying the fees. The purpose, taken directly from the proposal, is three-fold:

  1. To enhance the the Neighborhood Preservation Program with a Landlord Registration which will provide the city with a current, accurate database of rental properties
  2. Rental property database will be utilized to contact the property owners or designated agent in case of health, safety violations or in case of emergency
  3. Database to be shared with Police Department for use in criminal activity

The proposal goes on to list the requirements of the program but egregiously leaves out the “why” of this proposal. There’s a cursory mention of health, safety violations and emergencies but it does not dare explore how a new database is justifiably better than the status quo. A closer examination shows the frivolity of the stated purposes.

On first glance the idea of a landlord registration may sound appealing, until you realize that a database of every property currently exists and can be accessed by anybody with an interest, including the City of Coral Springs. The Broward County Appraiser’s Office maintains all the property records in the county and is easily accessible at www.bcpa.net. So the City of Coral Springs is stating that they want to require landlords to voluntarily submit information, at an expense to themselves and the city, to provide the city with information that already is compiled and accessible. Quite absurd, right?

It sounds so absurd that the city must explain why it’s own database is indispensable and necessary. Again though, Coral Springs only makes a vague reference to “health, safety violations, or in case of emergency,” all noble purposes. In fact, noble enough that it makes one wonder why this is only applicable to landlords and renters. The fact that homeowners are not compiled by the City of Coral Springs is curious. Do they not merit concern with the above stated issues? Of course, that’s tongue in cheek and the obvious answer is that homeowners would realize the absurdity of such a database and never allow such frivolous action take place. Unfortunately, renters and landlords do not carry the weight of the homeowner majority and are particularly vulnerable to these types of overreaching regulations.

Finally, the database is to be shared with the police for criminal activities. This is the most curious stated purpose and it’s hard to decipher what is meant by that. Are we to believe that the lack of a current registration is somehow preventing police from arresting criminals? Any competent police force should be able to acquire any information the proposed registration would provide with very little effort. Statements of purpose like the above are concerning because most citizens are apt to give police a benefit of the doubt even on such vaguely stated premises. This proposal makes no attempt to flesh out any justification over what is currently available and, therefore, should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Finally, it must be noted that the program specifically uses the wording “Enhanced” because this is a regulatory proposal on top of already existing regulation, the city’s Codes and Ordinances. The programs requirements are all redundant! Essentially the requirements made of landlords with regards to code remain unchanged, as does enforcement. Except, now, the City will need added enforcement and bureaucracy for the required registration aspect.

The city’s proposal for Landlord Registration is redundant, unnecessary, costly, and will have the unintended consequence of making housing less affordable in the City of Coral Springs. The cost of compiling the database and enforcing the registration must come from someone, either the taxpayers or the landlords, which means it will be money spent on poor, unneeded regulation rather than a tangible or evident good. What’s galling is that the City of Coral Springs, in the same meeting, makes a wonderful proposal to enhance the city’s entrance way and make aesthetic improvements all over the city, yet wants the taxpayer to accept a tax increase. Personally, I was willing to do so and was actually looking it over when I ran across the Landlord Registration Program which exemplifies wasteful and unneeded government regulation. Citizens should not be asked to pay more taxes while at the same time the City of Coral Springs is pushing through poorly thought out but “feel good” regulation.

The problem is that in many cases it really is a “this or that” situation in governmental budgeting. Trees, parks, capital improvements or regulations and enforcement. Each proposal has to be well thought out and the benefits must outweigh the costs. However, there is a bias in any type of government to regulate and control regardless of cost. This penchant for regulation must be monitored very closely by the government, in this case the Commission, and the citizens to make sure it is effective, necessary, and justifiable.

** Additional Reading: The following study in Scotland provides data showing the ineffectiveness of the Landlord Registration http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2011/07/13111732/3

 

A Matter of Taste – Septic Tanks on Crops

Rep. Bryan Nelson of Apopka, FL

Admittedly, I am a little late on this story but this Miami New Times article on Top 5 defecation stories of the Year in Florida unfortunately brought it to my attention. In May of this year, while the Florida Legislature was still in session, a House Bill was proposed that would repeal the ban on spraying sewage out of septic tanks onto farmland. TampayBay.com’s Craig Pittman explains the detail in this May 6th article.

Essentially, sewage from septic tanks is a environmental hazard as it pollutes water and spreads disease.  So, if using human waste, lightly treated with lime, to grow the tomatoes you find in your local supermarket isn’t revolting enough, it’s also scientifically shown to be detrimental to the environment and your health. This is an excellent case example of why there is such a disconnect between people, politicians, and the government which has led to immense dissatisfaction with government for most citizens.

Now you can spin this issue anyway you want but the bottom line is that nobody I know, Republican or Democrat, likes the idea of eating food fertilized in human shit.  Yet, that won’t stop the politics and, excuse the pun, bullshit. Republican Rep. Bryan Nelson of Apopka doesn’t see it as spreading human shit on crops, instead he sees a ban on that practice as a “tax on people with septic tanks.” Nelson must be very persuasive legislator as the bill to ban “land application” (notice the vagueness of language) eventually passed and we citizens are subjected to shit filled Springs and produce grown from the excrement of another man (or woman).

The question that naturally arises is who do Bryan Nelson and his colleagues represent? Do they represent their constituency? Or, perhaps, do they represent the business interests of the 90 or so companies permitted to haul and spread Septic Tank sewage to farms? To answer these questions, let’s try a thought experiment: Ask every single Floridian how they feel on this subject. Hell, even narrow it to registered voters and ask them do they favor sewage, shown to be a hazard, spread on farmlands? In my theoretical thought experiment, I envision 95% + agreeing with this ban. If you have significantly different results, I would question what universe you inhabit or if your universe is solely inhabited by Septic Tank Dispensing Companies. I question anybody that thinks the general public would instinctively be against this ban. I’d be willing to hear arguments that you might be able to persuade them with the “tax on septic tank owners” argument but c’mon, really?

This highlights the issue of special interests which is pervasive in our government and politics. The government is no longer for the people and ran by the people, if it indeed ever was. At all levels politicians are unduly influenced by special interests and protect those interests over their constituent’s interests whenever possible. I have no doubt in my mind that if this bill would have been brought to public notice because of some tragic environmental disaster then it would not have passed into law because of public pressure. However, there are thousands of these legislative issues in every session and we have to be able to trust that our Representatives are looking after the majority of constituent’s interests first and foremost rather than a minority special interest with deep pockets and influence.

How to counter these bizarre “democratic” outcomes? Vote in all elections, whether national or munincipal, and inform yourself of the candidate’s views and records. Ask yourself, has this person voted to spread the land with human excrement? If so, why? Politicians respond to constituent pressure but it’s upon us to be aware of what’s happening at all levels and apply pressure when needed. Politics is not all national big topic issues, most of the laws that affect everyday life are decided in State Legislatures, County Commissions, and City Halls.

**EDIT: Septic Tank legislation will again be an issue in the upcoming session. Republican Marti Coley has filed legislation to REPEAL state inspections of septic tanks every 5 years. The intent of the inspections was to prevent sewage pollution of the Florida’s springs, a noble goal for those of us that don’t like to imbibe shit. See this article for more information.

 

All Politics is Local

It’s very easy to fall into the trap that everyone is deeply concerned with the newest political crisis brewing, especially for those of us that follow politics with a laser-like focus. It’s also very easy to become condescending towards the fellow citizens who seem unconcerned, unknowledgeable, or simply uncaring about the national crisis du jour. Finally, it often seems incomprehensible that our fellow Americans have such misguided and belligerent views. In times like that, it is important to remember the old but wise cliche, “All Politics is Local.”

A case in point for liberals, such as myself. In the small town of Coralville, Iowa, the police shut down a lemonade stand of a 4 year old girl citing the lack of permits. According to the Omaha World Herald:

A city ordinance says food vendors must apply for a permit and get a health inspection.

I’m sure the law has merit and it’s not my intent to discuss health permit law or even the discretion that the police should or should not have used.

Instead, in a small, heartland town that is probably by nature apt to vote conservative this is a perfect example of “government regulation” and “big government” overstepping it’s bounds and destroying the Apple Pie America of yonder. In other words, words that conservatives have unrelentingly branded are used to reinforce the bad actions by government and hence, influence people. Politicians, pundits, and politicos have to keep in mind that most people will form views and ideas about government through their own experiences and the experiences of their family and community, not through the lens of Harry Reid versus Mitch McConnell debating the vagaries of the debt ceiling.

Government regulation is necessary for much of our society to function efficiently. For example, without the FDA the simple act of consuming food would become burdensome and even precarious. Yet much of government regulation is abstract and abstruse to most everday Americans, which allows the politicos to seize upon words and phrases to control the message. The Republican messages and branding must be fought first and foremost but it must be done on a grassroots level. The Republican Party has done an amazing job at getting down to local politics and reaching out to the disaffected. They have also done an excellent job at infiltrating most State Legislatures and even smaller local positions which has given them a national advantage larger than their numbers.

The liberal movement must do a better job at grassroots movement, concerning themselves with what citizens care about on a local level, and controlling the message. It’s important to combat the message of “government is bad” with “government is good and necessary.” Too often today, even the much of the liberal media treats the government as a necessary evil and then rails on it’s opponents with condescending, cold logic which only appeals to the already converted. The liberal world does not need another Paul Krugman, it needs an antithesis to the Tea Party that espouses the need and merits of good governance in appeal to the masses.

Debt Ceiling Notes

Notes on the debt ceiling crisis:

1) The Centrist Cop-Out by Paul Krugman. This is a must read column by perhaps the most insightful and relentless liberal commentator around. Krugman illustrates the fetish that media organizations have with trying to find a balance between two sides, even if one side is bat shit crazy. The result leads to a skewed perception by the general public of both the issues at hand and of the responsibility of dysfunctional government. This centrism craze has led to Obama being further and further right of where he campaigned and what liberals desire. That leads to a rift between liberal factions of die hard Obama supporters and those critical of Obama’s rightward drift. A win for conservatives who continue to drag this country off a cliff.
** In addition, here’s a good article comparing Obama to Nixon.

2) Disasters Happen by Matt Yglesias. Yglesias points to an analogy between the current debt ceiling crisis and World War I. The main point being that just because something would be to everybody’s disadvantage does NOT mean it won’t happen. I wholeheartedly agree with Yglesias here and it’s the primary reason that I fear a crisis may occur. Neither side is willing to blink and disaster, like 4 years of trench war, may be inevitable. The follow up to the original post is even more insightful, comparing the GOP to Germany and desiring war “now” rather than at a future date when they are weaker. Yglesias points to the impending demographic changes that will occur and weaken conservative politics, arguing that now might be their best chance to fight for their political life. Both are must reads.

3) Shay’s Rebellion. Another historical comparison with regards to the debt ceiling. This piece on CNN gives the background of the rebellion and how it is similar in some respects to today’s crisis. The main point to take away from this article is that a strong, manipulative, “dirty fighter,” is often needed to lead. The continual compromises and concessions tend to historically lead to a passing of the buck where the real issue is never settled. With Obama currently conceding everything but the kitchen sink to an uncooperative Republican Party, it may be time to approach it differently. Obama may looking at squashing his opponent through whatever means rather than brokering with fools.

4) Worst. Congress. Ever. Norman Ornstein of the AEI, a staunchly conservative think tank, writes a scathing piece in ForeignPolicy.com on the current congress, accusing the Republicans as simply refusing to govern. Personally, I fail to remember an issue or time when so many Republican pundits and, more importantly, former Republican officeholders have called out congress as much, whether it be over the debt ceiling or foreign policy. Which leads to the next note….

5) Bob Gates: GOP Mixed Message. DemocracyArsenal.com has a piece on Bob Gates and his frustration with the GOP mixed message on Foreign Policy and government spending. Gates is quoted as saying:

“Congress is all over the place,” Gates says at one point. “And the Republicans are a perfect example. I mean, you’ve got the budget hawks and then you’ve got the defense hawks within the same party. And so I think there is no consensus on a role in the world.”

Gates seems very exasperated in the quote and with the direction of the country in general. He’s got a great point, though I disagree with his emphasis on defense, and that is that we as a nation want certain things and have been willing to pay for it, whether it be national defense, education, or simply roads. The problem with the current GOP is having no roads, no education, and no defense is a preferable (insane) option, in fact much more preferable than paying taxes.  The elite conservatives, the long time public servants, and the business class conservatives have a real disconnect from the grass root Tea Party faction. Until the old guard shouts out and takes action, the fringe will continue to lead America into decline.

Random Notes: Justice System, Florida History, Constituent Action, and More

First, I must apologize for the long lag in between posts. The past month has been filled with obligations that left little time to write. Now it’s a matter of catching up on an immense backlog of reading and start publishing again. To get the ball rolling I’m going to start with a Random Notes from across the web.

1) Roy Black and the Justice system. This post by Miami defense attorney Roy Black is both eloquent and spot on. Black discusses the win at all costs prosecution in this nation and how it becomes criminal in and of itself. A must read. Black asserts that an arrogant desire to punish is the reason why this occurs and I don’t dispute that. However, I also believe the system incentivizes prosecutorial “wins” rather than justice. Therefore, human nature at work responds to the incentives. A prosecutor that doesn’t convict has little chance at being a judge, a judge that isn’t tough on crime fears may be displaced in an election, and so on.

2) Taking Action Matters. Matt Yglesias advocates being more proactive and writing your elected officials and gives reasons why it matters. Of course, there’s a sense of apathy among most constituents that are skeptical that their voices even matter. However, it’s important to remember that your actual personalized letter will not get a personalized response, yet an aggregate of letters voicing a certain opinion will invariable get the representative’s notice. I would further add, that the more local the representative, the better chance at getting heard on issues that may directly affect you. I believe it’s very important to stay in contact with the political representatives and make a practice of writing them when I feel compelled.

3) AA Arena Hates Free Markets. The Miami New Times documents the efforts of the AA Arena and local restaurants at banishing hot dog vendors from the neighborhood. This is obviously nothing more than an attempt to take more market share of hungry eaters but veiled in hardly disguised bullshit about health concerns. These type of situations occur regularly and are farcical. I say hurrah to the New Times for calling the perpetrators out on it and I hope that citizens will react. A couple of letters written to the City Commisioners (see #2 above) could quite well have an impact.

4) Florida History. Florida has a deep an interesting history which includes the Seminole Wars. PoliticalBooks.org has a review on the seminal Second Seminole War (that’s a tongue twister) book by John Mahon. The book itself looks like it’s full of interesting bits and pieces and imagining a war in the swamps of Florida during mid summer seems nightmarish.

5) Twitter. Remember to follow @counterpolitics on Twitter. Here are a couple of website links from our newest followers:

@jamespoin of www.jamespoindexter.com
@edvotes of www.educationvotes.nea.org
@paula68154
@warroomlogistics of www.warroomlogistics.com