A good day for democracy

by Lorin Michel Thursday, September 3, 2015 10:16 PM

There are days when I shake my head at some of the stupid things that go on in the name of democracy. I read the other day about a man who, in 1996, was sentenced to life in prison without possibility for the parole because he tried to sell marijuana to the cartel or something. Nothing violent, no children involved. He received a harsher sentence than some murderers and rapists. I was appalled.

The three strikes laws that swept through the country in the 1990s imposed mandatory jail sentences, like life in prison for third offenses. The offense could have been as ridiculous as stealing a pack of gum. Wanna chew? Go to prison for the life. Why not also pull all his teeth? Maybe chop off his hands so he can no longer steal? That’s something I call s-t-o-o-p-i-d.

Democracy is a messy process. It’s about fairness, about choosing, about having a say in the way the country is run. It’s about laws that aren’t arbitrarily imposed by government fiat, but rather by people who elect people to make the laws. It’s not a perfect process but it’s infinitely better than dictatorships. I am partial to it even when I find myself banging my head on the desk screaming at no one: What the hell is wrong with this country?

Today, I am proud to say that while a lot remains wrong – the state of policing, the Republican party, lack of outrage at lack of education, climate change, animal cruelty – and stupid – there are some things that are right.

Regular readers know of my general disgust with organized religion. I find it is used far to often to espouse hatred, bias and bigotry, going against everything I always thought religion was supposed to be about. Turn the other cheek, love thy neighbor and all that jazz. I find it particularly appalling when religion is used to justify same. Perhaps that’s why I read today’s news of the Kentucky county clerk receiving jail time and smiled. It’s not that I want people to go to jail, but this is out of hand.

The woman, Kim Davis, is an elected official. She has refused to issue marriage licenses, first to gay people and now to all people on the basis of her religious objections. Four gay couples filed suit. She went to court, and lost. She appealed and lost. She went to the Supreme Court and lost. Through it all, she continued to deny issuing licenses. Today she went to court again and the judge held her in contempt. He could have just issued a fine. In fact, the people who brought the law suit didn’t want her jailed. But the judge was disgusted and put her in jail, indefinitely. At least until she decides to do her job.

She should have been held in contempt. She should have been jailed. She is an elected official. She is in public office. As much as many people would like to change it, there is still the little matter of separation of church and state. Her issuing marriage licenses does not infringe on her religion. If she had to do it on Sunday, maybe. But not Monday thru Friday. She is not entitled to put what she deems “god’s authority” over the law of the land. She is free to believe what she wants; she is not free to only enforce the laws she deems religiously OK. If she doesn’t want to issue marriage licenses, she is also free to resign. Democracy worked in this case and I was pleased.

Then there is the case of Tom Brady. Oh, come on. You knew I had to go there; I’m a New England fan and have been since college. I supported them even in the infamous massacre of 1985 when the Super Bowl shuffle shuffled them right off the field. I supported them through Steve Grogan and Doug Flutie, through Drew Bledsoe. I know that most of the world hates the Patriots and thinks Tom Brady should have been tarred and feathered on the basis that “it was more probable than not that [he] was at least generally aware” of some footballs being a little underinflated. And there was only one or two that were a little underinflated, not the 11 that was initially reported but never corrected. And let’s be honest here. It was air. It is not in the same league as taking steroids, or killing someone. It is so insignificant that it warrants a $25,000 in the rulebook. Not four games, not a team fine or loss of draft picks. The whole thing was ridiculous.

I said to Kevin today that it’s been interesting to watch the internets go from total condemnation based on perception to realizing that maybe, just maybe, Roger Goodell overstepped. That maybe, just maybe this whole thing has been a major power play and ego trip for the commish. The definition of s-t-o-o-p-i-d.

The NFL filed the suit in New York thinking it would get a favorable outcome. It didn’t. Democracy won. Bill Belichick, the infamously sourpuss coach of the Patriots, started a meme last year: “do your job.”

Kim Davis: Do your job.
Roger Goodell: Do your job.
Don’t abuse your job.

All in all, it was a good day for democracy, though I guess it depends on who you ask.

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I don’t know how to feel

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, January 21, 2015 9:28 PM

Friends and family know what I big football fan I am, in general and of the Patriots in particular. There are other teams I like, of course. I like the Bears because of marriage. I never thought one way or another about them other than when I disliked them intensely in 1985. That was the year they demolished my Patriots in the Super Bowl. It was embarrassing.

I like the Green Bay Packers, the New Orleans Saints. I don’t usually mind the Seahawks. I used to love the 49ers but I haven’t for a long time. Most teams I don’t care particularly one way or the other about. I like to see good plays and to watch good games. There are teams I dislike intensely, but I have friends who like them so I usually refrain from dissing. I don’t find it necessary, and I think it would border on mean. People are entitled to who they like without others continually telling them how horrible that like is. That’s my philosophy, in sports and politics.

I realize there are many out there who would and do say bad things about the Pats. They’re arrogant; they’re thugs. Whatever, and I get tired of it. It’s football. It’s a turf war in every sense of the word. We take sides, just like in politics. We like and we dislike based on preference and history and geography.

So I don’t know how to feel today, finding out about the 2 pound deflation of the footballs used in the AFC championship game against the Colts on Sunday. Everyone, including the Colts, say that the underinflated footballs had nothing to do with the blowout win. The Colts simply didn’t play well. That’s not the point. The point is that rules were broken and as Viper so stoically informed Maverick and Goose in Top Gun “(Top Gun) rules exist for a reason. They are not flexible; nor am I.”

When I first read this, my first thought was give me a break. It didn’t make any sense at all. It seemed like haters just finding another way to hate. Yes, I know there’s history of the Pats cheating – I remember the spying scandal – but I’m not naïve enough, and I doubt most people are, to believe that other professional sports teams don’t stretch the boundaries. It’s sports. It’s about money. It’s about winning. Hopefully it’s done legally; if we push a bit, and don’t get caught, so be it.

But I don’t really believe that. I tend to be more on the side of Viper.

Part of me is still wondering what the big deal is. A slightly underinflated football is simply easier to grip. It doesn’t necessarily make it more on target to the receivers, or ensure that the receivers will catch the ball. It certainly doesn’t have any bearing on running the ball.

I saw an interview with Mark Brunell this morning who said that he, too, liked a slightly less inflated ball. Others have said the same. Brad Johnson used underinflated footballs when he and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won Super Bowl 37. Matt Leinart tweeted this morning that every team tampers with the footballs and that this is ridiculous!! (His exclamations, not mine) Aaron Rodgers has said that he likes his footballs over-inflated and that the refs have often let air out in order to be compliant. It’s not just the Patriots, in other words.

But that doesn’t matter, and it’s not my point. The old saying “if everybody else jumped off a bridge, would you?” comes to mind. There was a rule, for a reason, and the rule was broken.

I think it’s kind of a ridiculous rule. It really doesn’t have an outcome on the final points, or if it does, I haven’t seen how. There isn’t a single football expert disputing the fact that the Patriots won. The only ones disputing it are the haters. And boy, do they hate. It always amazes me, the vitriol people are capable of.

But the Pats broke the rules, and I don’t know how to feel. I’m disappointed and sad. I’m disgusted because I don’t know what the point was. I’m irritated because they’ve ruined the elation I felt at them making it to the Super Bowl. This whole situation has left me unable to cheer wildly. But they’re still my team. I have to want them to win, and I do.

If they win, people will say it’s because they cheated. If they don’t win, people will says it because they couldn’t cheat. It’s no win either way.

I don’t understand the need to cheat. They’re a great team, filled with amazing talent on both sides of the ball. They’re coached by good coaches. Why?

So I don’t know how to feel. I suppose it’s a good thing that I can’t be so blinded by team loyalty, that I can recognize that this isn’t a good thing. It’s not a huge thing, but it is a thing. But I’m sad when I should be cheering it out loud.

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