All posts by Trevor Brookins

roger goodell

The Socialist’s Journal: Roger Goodell

goodell & rice

*A few months ago I wrote that I wasn’t surprised at the punishment given to Ray Rice. The main reason for my position was that there was too much money at stake.

Sure enough everything with the NFL and Baltimore Ravens was business as usual all summer. There is footage of Ray Rice being greeted warmly by fans after preseason games. And then last week the video that showed exactly what happened between Rice and his (then) fiancée became public. The images weren’t pretty.

Now that we all have seen what happened I am not surprised that Rice’s two game suspension tuned into an indefinite suspension. I also must admit that I was wrong to imply that Rice’s actions were okay because I incorrectly read that a weapon was involved.

In addition I am not surprised that there are calls for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to lose his job. I suppose this is because Goodell didn’t punish Rice enough when he first had a chance. But barring specific evidence, like how the video raised the stakes for Rice’s punishment, Goodell will keep his job. And the reason is the same reason that Rice was going to keep his job: money.

Goodell’s main duty is to make sure the NFL owners continue to make money. Race Rice was going to help that money to be made so Goodell minimized the initial suspension. Furthermore Goodell’s punishment went farther than the criminal justice system of New Jersey. And beyond Goodell’s suspension the Baltimore Ravens had the authority to add disciplinary action of their own. But they declined. At this point, saying Goodell should lose his job is turning him into the scapegoat for the leniency of the Atlantic City district attorney and the greed of the Baltimore Ravens.

What would make more sense is asking for Goodell to lose his job because he has been following in this instance instead of leading. He went from issuing a two game suspension to revamping the league’s domestic violence policy to suspending Rice indefinitely based on public opinion. But once the two game suspension was handed down the only alternative would have been for Goodell to stick to that as the benchmark for these types of incidents. I don’t think anyone believes that is the best outcome. If you are wrong about something initially and people call you out on your wrongness, then being reactionary is a good thing.

Probably the only way Goodell really does lose his job is if it is discovered that Goodell saw the video of Rice punching his fiancée and covered up his viewing to justify the two game suspension. However even then I can imagine him keeping the job because everything he is doing and has done was to try to keep the money flowing into the owner’s pockets. If they keep making money (and they do) why would they fire him? And why would we think they won’t keep making money? Through the first two weeks of the season the NFL is as popular as ever. Fans of the Raven’s, who again were just as culpable in the overall leniency of Rice’s punishment, came out to support the team in the first home game. If the fans can say that they attended the game because they already used their hard earned money to buy tickets and they shouldn’t have to waste their money, then Goodell and the owners are just as justified in looking after their economic interests.

None of this means that Rice should have hit his fiancée. None of what I said means that Goodell (now having seen the video) was as harsh as he should’ve been back in July. And I’m not saying I like or agree how money influences decision makers, but I do understand the influence.

So the bottom line is if the money keeps flowing, Goodell will keep his job.

Trevor Brookins

Trevor Brookins

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.

Brookins Head Shot

The Socialist’s Journal: Immigration Reform

Trevor Brookins

Trevor Brookins

As a college undergraduate in an introductory ethics course I was introduced to the classic lifeboat dilemma.

What do you do when those around you are in a desperate situation and in need of help but your resources limit the amount of help you can give?

This thought experiment is important because it mirrors one perspective on immigration reform – particularly illegal immigration from Latin America.

There are four groups highly involved in the issue of immigration: conservative and liberal politicians who are trying to decrease/eliminate illegal immigration, Latino Americans who are themselves or related to former immigrants both legal and illegal, and Latino immigrants who are still trying to enter the country. Each group needs to change their perspective so that this issue can be resolved for the benefit of the greatest number of people.

Conservative policy makers are currently griping about the lack of immigration reform while simultaneously not coming up with a plan. They need to either approve the bill proposed by their liberal colleagues or counter it with their own bill and challenge the liberals. This is how government is supposed to work. But what is unacceptable and indeed what is happening is that conservatives are basically stalling until the political climate changes either because there is a new president (a very long wait) or a Republican controlled Senate (they hope next year).

Liberal politicians, President Obama most specifically, should also move forward with their solution immediately. Right now Obama is waiting so that an unpopular executive order (his way of dealing with the issue in the face of an uncooperative House of Representatives) won’t damage the election chances of Democratic politicians running for office this November. Having such a fear implies that Democrats either don’t believe in their plan or don’t believe the public will believe in their plan; either way it sounds like a better solution is in order. And if this is the best solution, liberal politicians, President Obama most specifically, should explain why it’s the best solution and stick by their guns.

Those who have recently immigrated and their families tend to see immigration reform as a statement about themselves and their value to the country instead of about people breaking the law to enter the country. But the basic consideration is really about how the finite resources of the country will be distributed. And make no mistake the United States, while extremely prosperous, does not have an unlimited ability to sustain unlimited amounts of people. If immigration continues unchecked there will be less for all. This is not to say that immigrants are not worthy of our country or to deny that some are quite skilled. It is simply a matter of mathematics.

Although it is true that American politicians are in a position to enact change, the issue of immigration really comes down to the basic question of whether people in other countries believe they are better off coming here (even illegally and facing numerous dangers) versus building a life in their native country. Despite receiving the worst wages of all laborers, folks consistently determine that the United States is worth the journey.

And while it is not the responsibility of the United States to better other countries, it is undeniable that helping them would likely lead to less immigration. Even without American help, immigrants need to re-evaluate their conclusion that coming here is the only and/or best course of action.

Immigration reform is a complicated issue. But at the core of the issue, reform will be successful only when policy makers do their jobs and work together, current and former immigrants take the focus off themselves, and potential immigrants strive for different solutions.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.

Trevor Brookins

The Socialist’s Journal: Quick Hits 2014 Pt. 2

Trevor Brookins

Trevor Brookins

*Why I hate politics, exhibit A: surely there are more important things than the president’s suit color. There are many legitimate reasons to dislike his policies but his choice of suit is not pertinent.

Stop getting on Roger Goodell (alone) for the comparative lengths of Josh Gordon and Ray Rice suspensions. One was bargained and the other was at his discretion. But even the one that was with the expectation that the NFL Players Union would have something to say about an excessive penalty. Any criticism of Goodell should also be aimed at the Union.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is great in terms of raising awareness and funds over the past few months. Let’s hope that by Christmas it hasn’t been forgotten as a worthy cause.

Ditto for Miley Cyrus advocating for homeless youth.

I’m not surprised that so many female celebrities have taken nude pictures because this is the time we live in. Everything is digital. On the other hand I’m very surprised any celebrity would store those kinds of images somewhere they could be accessed by hackers. Unless you’re trying to stir up some buzz for yourself (and Jennifer Lawrence didn’t need that) why put yourself in this position?

The situation with ISIS is a perfect example of how some people are stuck in the Middle Ages where religious tolerance was a foreign concept. It is a perfect example of why the United States should not have interventionist policies. It is also a perfect example of when precision strikes would be justified.

The problem with attempting to lead the world is that it requires immense amounts of intelligence. Gathering that kind of intelligence requires less than stellar ethics. So it makes no sense that people would be surprised that American spies spy on Americans (even the government). There is almost no way to empower foreign spying without understanding domestic spying will also occur. Deal with it.

Anyone who is smart and able is investing in Cleveland. The fortunes of that city will rise over the next few years with an initial bump this winter. LeBron James matters that much.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.

Brookins Head Shot

The Socialist’s Journal: The Chicken and the Egg

Brookins Head Shot*The situation regarding the geographic territory surrounding Jerusalem will not be settled until three basic issues are overcome.

The parties involved need to be led by a spirit of reunion and liberalism (unlikely). The parties involved need to agree on the historical facts (very unlikely) or decide that the historical facts are unimportant (very very unlikely). The parties involved need to allow that God wants their opposition to occupy some of the territory happily (damn near impossible).

While I generally do not look on issues from a conservative perspective, perhaps the instance in which I, like most people, would embrace a more conservative outlook is when determining territory. If something is mine, I would like it to remain mine. Which is why it is understandable that Israelis and Palestinians are at an impasse most of the time. Israelis can correctly state that they possess territory and should not cede it to Palestinians. Palestinians can correctly state that the territory possessed by Israel was at one point theirs and was forcibly taken from them to create Israel. If Israel shouldn’t give up their land now, how do they justify how it became their land in the first place? If Palestinians want Israel to give up their land now, how do they justify not pursuing a future in which there are two nation states (messy as that solution may seem). A liberal perspective on this issue would yield a more conciliatory mood around negotiations that would eventually allow for both sides to gain something (a nation state for Palestinians and security for the nation state of Israel theoretically).

But even if such a mood is adopted it would only be the first step because…

The cannot agree on what happened in the past as a basis for the two state solution. Again this is very tricky because there is a finite amount of land to be had and nations are generally not in the habit of giving up their claims on it. Nevertheless there needs to be some consensus regarding how the borders shifted and when. I hesitate to recount the military history of Israel because I am sure I will get something wrong from one point of view or another. Broadly speaking though, Israel was established despite objections from some people in that region of the world; some people fought over those objections; Israel grew its territory. For many Israelis and Palestinians the details I’ve left out are critical because some of those facts bolster one side’s claim over the other. And if there were a way to unequivocally state what happened when that would be great. On the other hand it might not really matter because turning back the hands of time is impossible. What is really necessary is figuring out how these two groups of people coexist going forward. And the historical facts (even if agreed upon) are probably not going to help with that.

And figuring out how to coexist is a herculean task because…

Both sides devoutly believe that God wants them to occupy the territory in question. Recently I read (or heard, I’m not sure which it was) a summary of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that simply said: it all starts with “Abraham had two sons” referencing the Bible. I generally do not try to interpret the religion of others or try to get them to disavow their beliefs, but in this case these beliefs are the basic hump that is almost impossible to get over. Why would either side give in at all if they genuinely believe that God favors their claim?

If somehow leaders emerge on both sides of the equation that will allow for the possibility that God wants them to share the land, then somehow those leaders decide to ignore the decades of fighting and bitterness, and can approach things with compromise in mind, then we might get somewhere.

But that is a might big if.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.

Trevor Brookins

The Socialist’s Journal: Here We Go Again

Trevor Brookins

Trevor Brookins

*We have been here before – and more times than I care to count.

I as in a black male, we as in the African American community, and more universally we as in American society, have seen this movie (where the black guy dies at the hands of one or more white men) and we know how the story ends.

If everyone keeps their cool, there will be lots of apologies. If folks start losing their cool, there will be some loss of life, loss of property, loss of freedom, criticism, and less apologies.

The events at issue are the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the choking death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York. It is important to note that both of these deaths were at the hands of police officers.

American society has come a long way in upgrading the status of men of color so that their civil liberties are not infringed upon by other citizens. There is still a blind spot when it comes to officers of law enforcement.

My first encounter with the phenomenon of a black man dying and his death being determined as justified was Amadou Diallo who was killed by police in 1999. After an inquiry a grand jury decided that the tactics employed by the officers were justified. Regarding Diallo I commented that while law enforcement generally deserves our gratitude and support there is a problem when training dictates that officers respond with deadly force. Furthermore this training is dictated by the neighborhood. In other words, when in a predominantly minority neighborhood and in doubt, shoot to kill.

It seems that police training hasn’t changed very much in the last 15 years. Garner was a large man (over 400 pounds) so I can imagine officers were a bit intimidated and thought they would have a hard time subduing him. I understand. But then that’s what tasers are for, aren’t they? Instead multiple officers physically tackled Garner and in doing so choked him to death even as he stated he couldn’t breathe. Something is wrong with this picture.

In Missouri Brown was shot 6 times as officers pursued him as a suspect in a petty theft. Somehow officers felt that Brown represented enough of a threat that they felt justified in firing 6 times. The fact that the autopsy shows 2 of the shots were to his head either turns the officer into a liar or the worst kind of incompetent officer who is unable to discern when deadly force is necessary and/or no longer necessary. Again, isn’t this why officers supposedly carry tasers?

I once had someone being chased by the police pull into my driveway. Once they put the person in custody the car was left on my property. I went out to ask the remaining officer about it and reminded myself to walk slowly, speak softly, and keep my hands up. Was I being paranoid or just using common sense?

At some point someone will point out that both Garner and Brown were suspected of illegal activity. Certainly true. This is where the criticism starts and the apologies lessen. But being suspected of committing a crime is not the same as having been proven to have committed a crime; and the crimes were selling unlicensed cigarettes (Garner) and petty theft from a convenience store (Brown). Even if Garner and Brown were guilty of these crimes, neither crime would justify deadly force.

It has been proven that there is a correlation between the ethnicity of a person murdered and the likelihood that the convicted perpetrator is sentenced to death. Black victims do not lead to as many death penalty sentences as white victims. The easy interpretation of this is that society does not value black life as highly as white life. Perhaps there is a more nuanced perspective to be taken on this data but the recent events in Staten Island and Ferguson support the simple interpretation.

It’s at times like these that I am particularly thankful that I have daughters. Because how do you tell young black men not to react violently? The looting that has taken place in Missouri is definitely misdirected; as far as I know the stores that are being damaged and stolen from are not owned by police officers. But the desire to strike back physically can be overpowering. And the normal restraint of not wanting to be targeted by police is weakened by the perception that they are already being targeted. And yet the historian in me can confidently state that there is no way in hell that a physical confrontation between men of color and law enforcement ends well for the men of color. At the end of the day there are always more police than are possible to harm and/or evade. So I wish folks would chill just a bit more.

But I also wonder what it would look like if the next Michael Brown were a white American and what the response from the police would be. And more importantly how intense and long lasting the outrage would be.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.

Brookins Head Shot

The Socialist’s Journal: The New Rules for the Bowl Subdivision’s Super Subdivision

Brookins Head Shot*I love tradition. But at some point you have to take a good look at a tradition and see if it still makes sense.

College football operates by the assumption that traditions should be maintained – often despite all evidence pointing toward devising a new structure and process. The latest consequence of this philosophy is the potential establishment of different regulations for schools in the top five conferences of the bowl subdivision.

Schools in these conferences will have the chance to alter the terms of scholarships to allow more financial aid as well as earn money in other ways not related to the sport they receive a scholarship for. Basically the NCAA is allowing conferences to create rules to allow for more money to go to the players.

I have long advocated for allowing the players to be able to get more money so I won’t argue against these developments. But I will point out the absurdity of the direction the NCAA is allowing things to go with the thought that it can retain control.

Basically the NCAA is allowing these conferences to make their own rules because the NCAA wants a piece of the money the money that big time college football generates. The conferences were tired of following NCAA rules which they argued was affecting that revenue. So the NCAA said “OK. Make your own rules that would be more beneficial.” In doing this the NCAA has basically given authority to the conferences.

The basic rules are still governed by the NCAA but that’s only because the conferences don’t care enough to take the time to create basic rules for themselves – yet. Once that happens what is to stop the conferences from deciding that they don’t need the NCAA for anything? And they don’t really. People will show up for college football no matter what; the schools will gain revenue and can fund the other sports however they’d like. This reminds me of the American Revolution. Quick history tangent – once parliament blinked and repealed some taxes, it was basically a green light to the colonists to say we don’t want any of your taxes. These conferences will soon come to a similar conclusion about the NCAA.

The other ticking time bomb is the double standard it creates among the top five conferences and every other conference. Theoretically the schools in those conferences could also schedule athletic contests among each other (albeit with less revenue being generated) without NCAA input. Theoretically they could decide which rules are important and establish new regulations to abide by.

The service provided by the NCAA (rules and oversight) has always been necessary. But it was never necessary that the NCAA provide it. There is great value in doing something first and then pointing to tradition. The NCAA has been standing on tradition for over 100 years.

But all things come to an end.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.