It’s Not Football

For the National Football League, the game might as well be called “Get the Quarterback!” Or perhaps the modern equivalent of the Roman Empire’s gladiatorial games.

By the end of November fourteen teams (out of thirty-two) had started two or more quarterbacks this season. Over the entire season, the San Francisco Forty-Niners went through four quarterbacks, losing two for the entire season, and they lost the conference play-off because one quarterback was concussed and the other had his throwing elbow injured enough in the game that he couldn’t throw a pass. The Los Angeles Rams lost all the quarterbacks on their roster one week and had to sign Baker Mayfield two days before the next game.

From what I could determine, at least twenty-four quarterbacks were injured in the current NFL season seriously enough to miss at least one game – not counting the Superbowl, which hasn’t been played.

Eight quarterbacks were concussed severely enough to miss at least one game completely. Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is still in the NFL’s concussion protocol more than a month after he last entered it. He was already out for two games earlier this year because of a previous concussion, and some doctors suggest that it might be best if he retired, rather than risk another concussion.

And despite the playing longevity of a few select, talented, and lucky NFL players, the average career playing span is a little over three years, not all that different from a Roman gladiator, the significant difference being that most less successful gladiators died, while NFL football players ‘only’ have their lifespan reduced by thirty percent on average, and that doesn’t take into account the high rate of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and the considerable risk of dementia in their later years, which some studies have shown may well be over 70%.

But that’s football… and lots of money for franchise owners. The Walton-Penner group paid $4.65 billion when they bought the Denver Broncos last year, and Denver’s hardly likely to be the most profitable NFL franchise.


All of a sudden classified documents are showing up in more homes than those of Donald Trump or Joe Biden, and I’m more than certain more could be found. While Trump willfully knew about the hundreds of documents he kept and insisted that they were his, it appears that both Biden and Pence were unaware that classified documents were included among their personal papers.

Given the volume of papers crossing their desks, it’s hardly surprising that comparatively small numbers of classified documents slipped through scrutiny. But the hullabaloo over Biden and Pence ignores a far larger problem.

Part of the problem is that the classification system is broken. More than forty years back when I was a Navy pilot and then a Congressional staffer, everyone in defense-related fields new that far too much information was overclassified, and that much of that information that couldn’t ever have been kept out of public view. Aviation Week was known in the military-industrial community as “Aviation Leak.”

Since then the problem has grown, partly because it’s far easier to classify information than to ask if it really needs to be classified, partly because classification is also a way to mute public and media criticism , and partly because the media has become more and more tabloid, ever more willing to disclose and publicize not only material that should never have been classified, but also to publicize information that legitimately should not be presently in the public domain.

Too much information that was classified legitimately years and years ago remains classified, not because its disclosure now would be detrimental to national security, but because its disclosure would be detrimental to the national image or to the reputation of institutions and individuals. But you can’t learn from past mistakes if you never know what they were and if you accept the images founded on incomplete information.

And the media, unfortunately, can’t be trusted to determine what should or shouldn’t be made public, especially not when the media’s primary goal has become profits, and when disclosing secrets raises ratings and, consequently, profits.

Nor can the military be totally trusted, but details and specifications for new weapons systems don’t belong in the public domain. Neither do intelligence findings about foreign military readiness… nor do the names of covert intelligence operatives.

What’s necessary is a balancing of interests and national needs, but balance doesn’t serve the short-term interests of politicians, the media, or the military-industrial complex…which is why we have an overclassification problem.

The Great Multiplier

A while back, I made the observation that technology is, of itself, neither good nor evil, but that its basic function, whether intended or not, is as a multiplier. In warfare, technology multiplies the force wielded by an individual or a group of individuals; it multiplies the distances from which one can strike and the impact of that strike. In transportation, it multiplies how far and how fast one can travel. In communications, technology allows the transfer of more information almost instantly [at least on our planet] to more people.

But there’s one aspect of technology that’s seldom mentioned, and that’s the impact not only on the person or people affected by the technology, but also on the individual using the technology, where often technology multiplies the ability to do harm and the ability to avoid being caught or punished for that harm..

Donald Trump effectively mobilized somewhere between thirty thousand and a hundred thousand protesters (depending on where people were counted and by whom) on January 6th, from all across the nation, and more than a thousand actually stormed the Capitol, of whom more than 700 so far have been arrested and charged, with most being convicted or pleading guilty.

The problem with technology, in the case of Trump and others, is that while technology multiplies their abilities, it fails to multiply their accountability. In fact, in the case of Trump, his uses of technology has made it difficult to enforce any accountability.

Con men and swindlers can commit thefts from places where they can’t be discovered, let alone prosecuted. Cyber-bullying among teenagers has become endemic, and definitely contributes to increases in teen suicide. Trolls can badger and harass people with little fear of either retaliation or repercussion.

Functioning societies fall into two categories – autocracies and those based on popular trust, generally but not exclusively democracies. But technology is increasingly being used in ways that isolate people and create greater mistrust of any one who is different. Because isolation and mistrust undermine governments, one of the questions facing democracies is how to stop the increasing misuse of technology, because, skeptic that I am, I sincerely doubt that the people who are using technology to harm others are going to stop of their own free will. Trump and Putin certainly aren’t, nor are all the others.

Why So Little Gets Done in Congress

The current “popular” reason why so little gets done in Congress is the wide polarization between the Democrats and Republicans, and that’s certainly a major factor, but I’d submit that there are other reasons that are just as important, if not more so.

The first is that the benefits of doing anything for the public good always take time to happen and often longer for people to recognize and appreciate them, while the negative impacts usually recognized and trumpeted widely and instantly by those affected. That’s why it took decades for legislation eliminating leaded gasoline and lead-based paint to be enacted. Lead in gasoline was a cheaper way of allowing gasoline refiners to market lower octane gasoline that worked in cars. Without using lead, refiners needed more highly refined and/or other more expensive additives. The same was true of lead paint. The benefits of “deleading” were spread across society, but benefitted the poor the most, while the costs were concentrated across a comparative handful of companies and industries, all of which had greater wealth and political power.

Dealing with environmental issues has run into the same difficulties.

Another problem is that some problems have no “good” solutions, because any financially and physically workable system will hurt many innocents. Yet the longer such problems persist without being addressed, the worse the problem becomes.

Immigration is one of those proems facing the United States. First, there’s no financial, military, and physically feasible way to halt all illegal immigration without becoming a police state along the lines of East Germany or North Korea. Walls don’t work, and deporting millions of border-crossers on a continuing basis becomes a huge financial and resource burden. Much of the problem lies in the fact that for many would-be immigrants, ANYTHING is better than remaining where they are, but to change those conditions in Central America and elsewhere would require essentially invading and rebuilding the socio-political structures in those lands, which would require resources and an effort that neither the regimes of those countries nor the American taxpayers would support. A “middle-ground” of allowing certain immigrants who would benefit the United States and absolutely rejecting the others would mean rejecting innocent people who merely want a chance at a better life. At the same time, failing to address the problem with clear-cut policies and laws will insure that the problem will worsen.

And the bottom line is that most politicians wish to avoid pain at a time when workable solutions will cause immediate pain for those with resources and votes.

False Equations

One of the traits common to politics today, but especially to the Party of No, otherwise misnamed as the Republican Party, is a continuing failure to understand and acknowledge context and factual accuracy, and to equate minor transgressions with major criminal offenses.

Donald Trump knowingly and willfully transported thousands of official documents from the White House, of which more than three hundred were classified, many highly classified. He insisted, contrary to established law, that they were his. He claimed, falsely, that he could and had declassified them. After months and months of attempting to reclaim them, with Trump’s attorneys falsely claiming that all documents had been returned, the Justice Department executed a search warrant and discovered even more documents.

To date, a few handfuls of classified documents, if that, dating from Biden’s time as Vice President have been found in an office he used after leaving the Vice Presidency and in his home. These were turned over to the archives and later to the Justice Department. Biden didn’t claim they belonged to him and has cooperated fully.

Trump did not and still hasn’t, yet the Republicans and many of the media are equating the situations as roughly equal.

They’re anything but equal.

Once upon a time, I was staff director for a Congressman, and even with a staff of twelve or so, the amount of paperwork was staggering. Now, admittedly, we handled no classified documents in the office, although I did have a security clearance. The Executive Office employs roughly 1,800 employees, with slightly less than five hundred directly under the White House chief of staff, and the paper flow to the President and the Vice President is staggering.

Even under the best of circumstances, with that much paperwork, it’s practically impossible to absolutely assure that a document here and there doesn’t get filed in the wrong place or sticks to another file and ends up misplaced, particularly during a transition period or when leaving office. That’s a far different kettle of fish, as the saying goes, from the deliberate and willful theft of thousands of documents.

In addition, the Republicans are asking for “visitor logs” of people who visited Biden’s private residence, despite the fact that such logs don’t exist for private residences and have never been required – and that such a request was never even suggested for Donald Trump. But then, Trump ended the policy of visitor logs to the White House, which Biden restored. So the Republicans are demanding of Biden what they didn’t of Trump, compounding their intellectual and political dishonesty, not to mention emphasizing their hypocrisy.

There’s a huge difference between the situations, but what can you expect from a political party that denies election results and is indebted to Trump?

As for the media… as usual, they’re in it for the headlines, and accuracy is either an afterthought or irrelevant, especially for conservative media.