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“For The Patriots, Without Apology”: Even Though Loyalties Can Be Misplaced, A Life Lived Without Them Makes No Sense

I never knew how much fun it was to be loyal to a hated outlaw sports team until the whole world came down on my dear New England Patriots.

Having rooted over the years for Boston teams that many felt sorry for — God help us — and found psychologically interesting, it was a rush to hear MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough the other morning describe my Patriots as a “ruthless killing machine.” Wow!

It’s a long way from the early days of the quarterback-wide receiver combination of Babe Parilli and Gino Cappelletti (he was also a great kicker). Back then, many didn’t even take the upstart American Football League seriously. As a kid, I insisted on being faithful to our local guys, so I’ve been a Pats fan from the day they were created.

And I now understand far better what life is like for those who work as spinmeisters. In a fight like this, you look for whatever arguments come to hand and judge their merits later, in a quiet room with fellow fans.

If those footballs were deflated, why didn’t the refs, who handled them dozens of times, notice? Maybe the balls lost air. Besides, didn’t you catch the fact that Tom Brady did far better with the regulation, non-deflated balls in the second half of the Indianapolis Colts game? And anyway, everybody messes with the football, right?

All Patriots fans are Taylor Swift partisans these days: “The haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.” She didn’t invent the line, but many loyalists are using her buoyant and defiant lyrics to shake off the Pats’ critics as jealous souls who just can’t stand this team’s dominance in the long Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era.

Already, I can imagine the sighs of impatience from those who think loyalty to professional sports teams is a silly and even pernicious waste of energy. Aren’t they just a bunch of businesses owned by rich guys who use them to make more money and stroke their already large egos by paying a share of that cash to athletes, some of whom get wealthy themselves? Didn’t we see what a moral mess the National Football League made of the Ray Rice affair?

And isn’t loyalty itself a questionable virtue that can lead people to overlook many ethical issues and to ignore more important moral callings?

On the last question, I share what the 19th-century philosopher Josiah Royce called a “loyalty to loyalty.” Of course loyalty can be misplaced, as Royce acknowledged. “A family engaged in a murderous feud, a pirate crew, a savage tribe, a Highland robber clan of the old days — these might constitute causes to which somebody has been, or is, profoundly loyal,” Royce wrote, and he agreed that such relationships are problematic.

But even though loyalties can be misplaced, a life lived without them makes no sense. They are defined by the legal scholar George Fletcher in his fine book Loyalty as obligations “implied in every person’s sense of being historically rooted in a set of defining familial, institutional, and national relationships.” There really are, he argues, “groups and individuals that have entered into our sense of who we are.”

For many, sports teams become part of this fabric, usually through powerful regional ties (I really do love New England), bonds of friendship (only a fellow fan could understand what it felt like to lose the 2008 Super Bowl to the Giants, or to win the “Snow Bowl” against the Raiders in 2002), and the draw of history (see everything above).

Do the owners of these teams exploit such feelings? You bet, which is why fans feel so outraged and betrayed when a team gets moved from one place to another. But is there anything intrinsically wrong with their loyalties, or with the admiration of fans for heroism in an athletic encounter involving “their” team? I don’t think so.

Given such strong sentiments, the people who own these teams have an obligation to stewardship that they don’t always discharge. Even as a profoundly loyal Patriots fan, I’d be upset if the team and the league simply threw a locker room attendant under the bus to get out of their problem. Loyalty runs both ways, and it most certainly extends to the locker room attendant. (And if he did deflate 11 balls in 90 seconds, he should have been in the Pro Bowl.)

But I know which side I’ll be on this Sunday, without any mental reservations. The Patriots, including the attendant, are my guys.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post; The National Memo, January 29, 2015

February 1, 2015 Posted by | National Football League, New England Patriots, Super Bowl | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Bigots Continue Their Battle”: Despite Conservative Republicans, Gay Marriage Will Prevail

She didn’t mean it.

Alabama state legislator Patricia Todd now says she’s not going to name those among her conservative colleagues who have had extramarital dalliances, although she had threatened to do so. But she has stiffened her resolve about this much: She’ll continue to combat anti-gay bigotry, which is what started this imbroglio.

Todd, a Democrat and Alabama’s only openly gay legislator, was heartened when a federal judge struck down the state’s law banning same-sex marriage earlier this month. The ruling is another sign of the rapid advance of gay rights; if U.S. District Court Judge Callie V.S. Granade’s decision holds, Alabama will be the 37th state to permit gay marriage.

But the ruling was immediately greeted with criticism from Republicans in the statehouse, who vowed to fight it. State House Speaker Mike Hubbard, for example, pledged to “continue defending the Christian conservative values that make Alabama a special place to live.”

For Todd, that was too much. “What I heard was, ‘We’re going to defend the Christian values of Alabama and family values.’ … This rhetoric … is very hurtful in the gay community,” she told me.

So she took to her Facebook page to warn her colleagues that she would fight back.

“I will not stand by and allow legislators to talk about ‘family values’ when they have affairs, and I know of many who are and have. I will call our elected officials who want to hide in the closet OUT,” she wrote.

Her anger is understandable. For decades, conservative Christians have wielded the Bible as an instrument of division, distorting its message to buttress their bigotry. Worse, they’ve been “family values” hypocrites, indulging their own vices while casting stones at others.

As just one example, U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) was implicated in a prostitution scandal in 2007. He offered an apology for his “sin” and has since been re-elected. He continues, by the way, to oppose gay marriage.

The challenge to Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage was brought by a lesbian couple, Cari Searcy and Kim McKeand, who were married in California in 2008 but live in Mobile. The major reason for their nuptials was so that Searcy could be considered a legal parent to their son, whom McKeand gave birth to in 2005, they told The Associated Press. But the state of Alabama refused to recognize their marriage.

Judge Granade, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, ruled that Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban violated the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment. And she dispensed with the absurd notion that rearing children in a same-sex marriage would loosen the bonds that tie biological parents to their offspring.

“… Alabama does not exclude from marriage any other couples who are either unwilling or unable to biologically procreate. There is no law prohibiting infertile couples, elderly couples, or couples who do not wish to procreate from marrying. … In sum, the laws in question are an irrational way of promoting biological relationships in Alabama,” she wrote.

Still, the bigots continue their battle, hoping to bend the arc of history back toward the 19th century as the nation waits for the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a definitive ruling later this year. Alabama’s attorney general is appealing Judge Granade’s ruling. And Alabama’s famously combative Supreme Court chief justice, Roy Moore, has promised to ignore the federal judge’s decision.

Further, those antediluvian voices have been echoed on the national stage by some Republicans considering a run for the presidency. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal have suggested a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

But that view is rapidly dwindling, close to obsolete outside the aging GOP base. Nearly 60 percent of Americans now support same-sex nuptials, according to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll. No matter what the Supreme Court rules, gay marriage will prevail in the not-too-distant future.

That’s why Todd is optimistic — even as she pushes back against the prejudices of some of her colleagues. “The reality is, we’re going to win this battle,” she said.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker, The National Memo, January 31, 2015

February 1, 2015 Posted by | Bigotry, Marriage Equality, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s Not Him, Republicans, It’s You”: Mitt Romney Isn’t Running, But His Specter Still Haunts The GOP

I’ll have to admit that I’m a bit surprised Mitt Romney decided not to run for president, given the man’s almost superhuman optimism and persistence. But according to various reports, the torrent of criticism Romney received when he made it clear he was considering a run had a real impact on his final decision, even though in his statement he talked about his faith in “one of our next generation of Republican leaders” (take that, Jeb!) to win back the White House.

The Republican consensus was obviously that Romney represented failure, and they need something different if they are to win in 2016. But maybe Mitt Romney isn’t the problem. It’s not him, Republicans. It’s you.

Nobody would ever claim Romney was anything like a perfect candidate. His background as a private equity titan was particularly fertile ground for Democratic attacks painting him as the representative of the economic elite, and he had a colorful way of reinforcing that impression again and again, particularly with the “47 percent” remark.

But I actually think that if he had decided to run, he would have had a better chance than anyone of getting the Republican nomination. Every GOP primary campaign for the last half-century has begun with an obvious front-runner, and every one of those early front-runners got the nomination. Romney would have been that front-runner, as reluctant as many in the party were about his candidacy. In recent GOP races, the winner hasn’t been the one who defeated his opponents, just the one who outlasted them, as one chucklehead after another became the flavor of the month and then self-immolated (remember when Herman Cain led the primary polls in 2012?). Romney could certainly have stuck around until the end.

But now the 2016 race is truly a free-for-all, with no obvious leader. And if the only lesson Republicans take from 2012 is not to nominate a CEO (sorry, Carly Fiorina), they’ll make the same mistakes all over again.

Consider that “47 percent” remark. It made for a vivid illustration of arguments Democrats were already making, but Mitt Romney was hardly the first Republican to say it. The basic idea underlying it had been repeated endlessly on conservative talk radio and by other Republican politicians for years. If it hadn’t been caught on tape, the attacks from Democrats would have been the same, and the outcome would have been the same. Another example: when Republicans exploded with joy after Barack Obama’s “you didn’t build that” remark, Romney didn’t have to convince them to make it a huge issue; they all thought it would be a silver bullet that would take the president down, and they were all flummoxed when it didn’t. They couldn’t imagine that voters wouldn’t punish Obama for an (alleged) criticism of business owners, because they forgot that most Americans work for somebody else.

The prevailing attitude in GOP circles is that Romney failed because he was the wrong messenger. Yet almost every contender is preparing to offer voters the same policy agenda that Romney did. They may be saying now that they’ll talk about wage stagnation and inequality, but when you ask them what they’re going to do about it, their answer is the same as it has always been: cut taxes and cut regulation. It’s going to be awfully hard to convince voters that they’ve had a real change of heart. And anyone who deviates from Republican orthodoxy is already finding themselves on the defensive (as Jeb Bush is for his less-than-total enthusiasm for deportations).

It isn’t surprising that the party’s diagnosis of what went wrong in the last couple of elections won’t extend to the policies they’re offering the public; those positions are rooted in sincere ideological beliefs, and changing them would be hard. But even without Mitt Romney in the race, it looks like Republicans are going to offer a program of Romneyism. They could find themselves facing voters at a time when the economy is doing well overall, and they’re particularly ill-suited to address the structural problems that keep people anxious — two strikes against them. A fresh face is unlikely to solve that problem.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; The Plum Line, The Washington Post, January 30, 2015

February 1, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Mitt Romney, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Heading Towards A GOP Train Wreck”: You’re Going To See The Republican Party With All Their Clothes Off

Does anyone else see a train wreck coming for this Republican Congress?

One train is coming this way:

House Ways and Means Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) will lead along with two other top committee chairs a Republican task force to come up with a plan in case the Supreme Court strikes a blow to Obamacare later this year…

They will be tasked with working up an alternative plan if the Supreme Court invalidates tax credits in the 30-plus states that use HealthCare.gov, as well as a more general Obamacare alternative if the law were to be repealed…

Coming in the opposite direction is this train:

There is internal dissent on whether Republicans ought to come up with an alternative. One congressional GOP health aide, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly, said his party is as determined as ever to fight Obamacare, and will remain so as long as it exhibits failure. He said devising an alternative is fraught with the difficulty of crafting a new benefits structure that doesn’t look like the Affordable Care Act.

“If you want to say the further and further this gets down the road, the harder and harder it gets to repeal, that’s absolutely true,” the aide said. “As far as repeal and replace goes, the problem with replace is that if you really want people to have these new benefits, it looks a hell of a lot like the Affordable Care Act. … To make something like that work, you have to move in the direction of the ACA. You have to have a participating mechanism, you have to have a mechanism to fund it, you have to have a mechanism to fix parts of the market.”

Pushing on the accelerator of both trains is this:

Leaders in the GOP-controlled House and Senate see the court challenge as their best hope for tearing apart a law they have long opposed. If the court strikes down the subsidies, Democrats are expected to clamor for lawmakers to pass a measure correcting the language in the law to revive them. Congressional Republicans say there is no possibility they would allow that.

“No, no, no, no;” said Sen. Dan Coats (R., Indiana).

Rep. McDermott came up with a different analogy.

GOP congressional leaders haven’t coalesced around a specific replacement for the law should the court strike down the subsidies. Democrats say that makes them vulnerable, and plan to paint the GOP as responsible for taking away benefits that millions already receive.

“What you’re going to see is the Republican party with all their clothes off,” said Rep. Jim McDermott (D., Wash.) “They are standing out there naked as a jaybird and they are going to have to stand up and explain, ’Well, now we got rid of it – now what do we do?’”

It would all be humorous if it weren’t so terribly tragic.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 31, 2015

February 1, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Death, Mayhem, And Disorder, The Protests Were Not”: The NYPD Is Giving Cops Machine Guns To Control Peaceful Protests

he New York Police Department announced this week a new approach to community policing. By Commissioner Bill Bratton’s account, the new strategy will allow more precinct cops to spend more time in neighborhoods, leading to better mutual relations between police and New Yorkers.

It also happens that these Strategic Response Groups will arm 350 police officers with “long rifles and machine guns,” the commissioner said during a Thursday news conference. “Unfortunately,” he added, such materiel is “sometimes necessary in these instances.”

The instances in question: possible terror attacks and large crowd assemblies. “It is designed for dealing with events like our recent protests, or incidents like Mumbai or what just happened in Paris,” Bratton said. By such phrasing, a reasonable listener might infer the recent protests in New York begat horror on the scale of hundreds dead and wounded over a coordinated series of bombings and shootings (Mumbai) or the slaughter of a magazine’s editorial staff and police and civilians and an accompanying hostage crisis that killed even more (Paris).

Rather, the protests in New York were a triumph of peaceful democratic expression, in which tens of thousands of people of all colors, creeds and classes, marched peacefully through the heart of America’s largest city, joining as a united voice to call for social justice. Now, it happened that the actions that spurred this action were the unaccountable killings of civilians by cops. Sure, you’d have to be blind to miss the occasional “fuck the police” cardboard sign. But death, mayhem, and disorder, the protests were not. They just happened to piss off many of New York’s Finest.

Friday morning, the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, for one, jumped on the association, calling for the newly announced police groups to be disbanded. “Thousands have marched in a massive civil rights movement demanding police reform,” the group’s executive director, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, said in a news release, “and the NYPD has decided to respond to the community instead by arming the police with machine guns.” Since at least late last year, in fact, Bratton, union brass, and the rank-and-file have been treating elected leaders and citizens as some sort of invading force. Police have been shunning the mayor, turning police funerals into spectacles, and slouching on the job just to show the city what it’s like to live without them making ticky-tack arrests. Most of us in New York did just fine, actually.

The police position makes more sense given some of the surrounding circumstances. The police are in a contract negotiation with the city; any point of leverage, you can expect them to use. Also, when Ismaaiyl Brinsley drove to town explicitly to kill police, claiming on Instagram that it was some sick tit-for-tat for police killing Mike Brown and Eric Garner, he scrambled the equation. By aligning himself nominally against the same predicating force as the protestscops’ unaccountable use of lethal forceBrinsley unjustly yoked the 25,000 people who flooded down Broadway to his act by association.

New York cops should know better. Not every New York cop put a fatal chokehold on Eric Garner, and in fact, no protester killed Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos in their squad car. Police watched over those demonstrations, in which thousands of people vented their anger, their fear, their frustration, and yes, at times, their hatred. They did so peacefully, with a political agency that comes from feeling you have a voice. And it was New York’s finest who watched over them and blocked cross-street traffic, who helped provide the venue for that voice. The city called for better policing, and it was good policing that allowed them to do so. The protests could have been a watershed moment for cop-citizen relations, if police had taken the message of Black Lives Matter as a wake-up call rather than fighting words.

At best, it’s sloppy for Bratton to tell the city he’ll have counter-terrorism forces armed to the teeth, watching over protests with the same force police reserve for bombings and mass shootings. At worst, it conflates peaceful assemblies with villainy. If he wants his announcement to have a chilling effect on demonstrators, he may succeed. He should also ask himself whether broad, peaceful protests are really the worst thing for the city and for the safety of his officers in tense times.

 

By: Sam Eifling, The New Republic, January 30, 2015

February 1, 2015 Posted by | NYPD, Police Abuse, Weaponization of Police | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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