« September 16, 2012 - September 22, 2012 | Main | September 30, 2012 - October 6, 2012 »

September 28, 2012

the refs and the lessons for labor

I did not watch the Browns play the Ravens last night.  Actually, I couldn't, as Thursday games are only broadcast on the NFL's own premium cable network, which only a fool would pay money for.  This goes a long way to demonstrate the wisdom of the National Football League.

But I would like to thank the NFL (and, full disclosure, I watch the football, enjoy it, etc.) for one thing, amidst their long history of money-grubbing, at the cost of the safety of their players and at the civic pride of whole cities, and one thing only: for locking the NFL refs out.

Oh, it wasn't their first lockout in the past two years — they tried the same thing last year with the Player's Union, an organization of vastly more leverage (and less sympathy from the average guy).  The owners were out to crush the union just on principle, which didn't work, but the union made concessions.

But the owners thought that the refs had absolutely no leverage, and so why not just grind them under their heels, even though the cost of refs was a tiny little percentage of NFL budgets.  Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if sales of NFL-branded onesies is double or triple what they pay refs.  But a couple of the owners are rich guy, right-to-work assholes, so on to crush the union they were.

And they lost, and lost badly.  Not because the refs were irreplaceable (they're not), but because the NFL took little to no effort to replace them, called up some Lingerie Football League misfits, put 'em in a weekend camp, and let them learn by doing during the pre-season.

Given the time (or proper training pre-season, oops), the replacements would've become as serviceable as the union refs.  But the NFL didn't bother and the replacements blew some spectacular calls.  And remember, union refs blow spectacular calls all the time.  But these were replacements, and when the replacements lost Green Bay the game on Monday, the tide of public opinion had turned irrevocably.  Three days later, the union had a contract.

And so I thank the NFL for giving organized labor the first stirring victory in decades.  I'm not sure if the lessons learned are replicable for all unions (definitely firefighters/cops), but all unions should be paying attention, and asking themselves why a nation cared more about the labor rights of a handful of zebras more than they did 30,000 or so Chicago school teachers.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:04 AM

September 27, 2012

ha ha busy busy

Toiling under deadlines and impending drive-by visit by my little sister and other family right after that and, what was the other thing?  Oh right, I have an actual job, that.

But you would do well to read this, the best little wrap-up of where we're at in this feckless little presidential election five weeks out, by Jonathan Chait:

And then, finally, there is a poetic justice in the substance of Romney’s self-immolation. This is not a random gaffe, a joke gone bad, or even a terrible brain freeze. It is Romney exposed for espousing a worldview that is at the heart of his party’s mania. The idea he summed up at that fund-raiser was a combination of right-wing fever dreams I’ve been analyzing since Obama took office — the Ayn Randism, the fact-free class warfare, the frantic rage at a changing America. The Republican Party is going down because its candidate was seen advocating exactly the beliefs that make the party so dangerous and repellant.

That's not just true, that's been true for an entire generation, and once it's generally realized it'll be a miasma that we will emerge from.  I actually believe that!  Not like fog being blown out to see, mind you, but like the civil rights movement, or the SSM issue that slowly entrenches itself and become the status quo.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:50 PM

September 25, 2012

it's the little things that drive me crazy

A minor complaint &mdaah; take this Talking Point Memo story on some minor point concerning Mitt Romney's position on health care reform.  Dozens of little items like this run every day, and in most of them, especially the ones that deal specifically with policy, some sentence like this appears:
“[Romney] has a comprehensive reform plan; for instance, his own plan will deal with preexisting conditions but not in the same way that Obamacare does,” a campaign aide said.

This is not so much a point against Romney.  We have an entire Internet for that.  I am rather deeply unhappy with the architects of the Romney campaign, Matt Rhoades (campaign manager) and Stuart Stevens (Romney loyalist and target of unsourced backstabbing), that they think that stating that a candidate has a "comprehensive plan" will demonstrate to the public that such candidate does in fact have a comprehensive plan, even though the candidate refuses to divulge this comprehensive plan under any circumstance.

The Romney campaign does this with its budget plan, which includes mystery tax loopholes to be cut that will afford tax cuts for billionaires, with its foreign policy, and with its health care plan, as cited above.  It's a tactic that asks for a new word, a word that means "cynical" but to an order of magnitude.

And let's not leave out the voting public: to be fed this crap and not have it raise an eyebrow is an equivalent act of cynicism, a tacit acknowledgement that what does it matter what the candidate says, anyway?  It bespeaks a nation that is a bad place to live, because it is peopled with awful, small-hearted people.

I'd prefer to live in a time and place where I can disapprove of Mitt Romney's candidacy purely because of his bad policy, and not because his campaign is messing with the Zeitgeist.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:52 AM

September 24, 2012

apologies to janet malcolm

I spent a small portion of the weekend looking through the boxes and boxes and forgotten cabinets and closet top-shelves to see if I could find any of my old "Bloom County" collections.  Specifically, there's a sequence from the earlier part of the 80s in which Milo, the kid with the glasses, is a reporter for the local paper (was it called The Picayune? I think it might have been), harasses the local politician, who is of course depicted as a fat old white man wearing suspenders and smoking a cigar.  The bits are all classic slapstick, and all involve the contortions that journalism can go through when it's trying to pick sides more than it should.

One bit I can remember is Milo asking something like, "Did you bury your wife's body in the lake?"  Politician answers with some version of, "Murder my wife? What are you talking about. Of course not!" resulting in Milo writing "Politician refuses to reveal whereabouts of wife's body."

I've been spending a little too much time thinking about the election and the peripheral industries, you see.  Had a conversation with someone on Twitter, who thinks the quality of the coverage is trite and unfocused.  He's right, I guess, but I see the coverage as symptomatic of everything about us as Americans and don't see an easy way to fix it?

Anyhow, I'm only a journalist part of the time, so I can cheapen the tone as much as I want.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:47 AM