Monday Musings: November 15, 2010

The elections are over, football season is in full swing, and winter is on the way. As the seasonal change takes full effect, it is my intention to be rid of the writer’s block and general political burn-out that has so afflicted my output over the last two months. In the weeks ahead, The Rational Middle will adopt a new weekly post line-up. Monday Musings is doing well, so it will start the week and be followed by commentary on the political media (Tuesday), Mike On Sports (Wednesday), domestic policy (Thursday), and foreign policy (Friday). I have spoken with a few potential guest contributors, and am always willing to hear from more. All that is required is your registration with the blog and an article, submitted via email, that matches the tone and mission of the RM.

It is my hope that the more formal schedule will allow the members of the RM to engage in more rigorous and regular commentary on the issues. The original point of this space, as an antidote to our broken political media, was to foster communication amongst peoples with divergent views. Nothing in this last election cycle has indicated to me that the political media is any better. With this in mind, please feel free to engage the columns on this blog via our comment section or on our Facebook page. Almost 10,000 of you have remained faithful through my struggles of the last few weeks, and I thank you for that. But I would like very much to read more of your opinions.

One last (somewhat crass) note before the meat of the Musings; I don’t do this for the money, and I will never charge a subscription. That stated, if you see an ad of interest, please click and follow. If you have the interest and means, please click on the “voluntary subscription” button. It is far easier, I imagine, to fund blogs and news shows that scream and sensationalize. I hope to continue a more level approach, and every little bit helps. Please forgive this begging paragraph, and thank you for your readership. On to the Musings!

Politics

Senator Mitch McConnell has signaled his willingness to sign off on earmarks reform. There seems to be a great many folks happy about this, and a great many more ready to trumpet this moment as a major success. I remain opposed to the notion, and detailed my arguments in Osama bin Earmarks. Here is an excerpt that captures my point:

When the real Tea Partiers went to work in Boston Harbor over 200 years ago, they did so to protest taxation without representation. The colonies were taxed by the Crown without having members in the British parliament, and without receiving money back in the form of Crown services. Our Representatives and Senators vote on taxation and have the power to influence spending as a whole, and to return taxpayer monies to their districts through specific requests.

This system is far from perfect, and much could be done to make it both more efficient and more fair. My point in this post is that isolated attacks on individual parts of the system are too narrow to be effective. These efforts are more likely to “throw the baby out with the bath water” than to effect any real improvement. Earmarks are often the best use of taxpayer money; they are easy to track and are spent by accessible and local organizations outside of the federal bureaucracy. Every year during the budget battle, smaller agencies that tend to do more effective work in our communities (i.e. Veteran’s Affairs, Corps of Engineers, etc.) tend to see their budgets slashed for the sake of fiscal responsibility. These cuts make little difference to the deficit and generally rob constituents of important services.

Earmarks typically account for between 1% and 2% of the federal budget, and are extremely easy to find and track. They epitomize the notion of transparent governance and budgeting.

Sports

Perhaps the biggest issue in sports media at the moment is the drama surrounding Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. The meat of the story seems to involve he and his father’s alleged demands for over $100,000 to sign with Mississippi State. A lesser violation, in the twisted (I think) norms of our culture, is the athlete’s alleged pattern of academic cheating while at Florida. It is my belief that our current system is completely misdirected in its focus on all forms of compensation to the detriment of academic enforcement. The most twisted example of this focus is the apparent crackdown, by the NCAA and member colleges, on professional tutors who provide student athletes with help that would otherwise cost money. This friends, is a departure from the path of reason. My full argument can be found in Academics, Athletes, And The NCAA.

Television

The cable gabfests remain, but political commercials are blessedly behind us. Never was I more happy to sit through a commercial break then the night after the election; who knew how much I would miss the Cialis ads (now featuring multiple couples in cast iron tubs…although not all in the same tub…regrettably) and local used car salesman? My current gripe (I always have a current gripe) is on the otherwise enjoyable TBS; must they really spend two months of ad space advertising the new 5 episode season of their flavor of the month drama? Men of a Certain Age might be wonderful, and Southland might be groundbreaking, but endless commercial clips are a guarantee that I will never watch an episode. Oh well, I guess I can always reread Harry Potter for the umpteenth time.

The Rational Middle is listening…


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