Will the Republic Survive One More Election?

I am reblogging this piece here because it is wrong-headed and as it originally appeared it didn’t allow for comments. I shall ignore the majority of the article, which appeared to be carefully reasoned and is correct in many ways in order to focus on the heart of the message: a Democrat must not win this election because that person will select the ninth Supreme Court justice and swing the court to the left.
The problem with this argument is that it cuts both ways: if a Republican were to be elected that person would nominate Supreme Court justice who would swing the court to the right. But, as history has shown, in many cases the judges are independent of political forces and vote their conscience: politics does not always rule the Court.
In the case of Donald Trump we have no idea whatever whom he would choose and the gamble would be unwise, to say the least. The choice of a Supreme Court justice is central to this election and we need to have someone making the nomination who understands what the republic stands for and how wise judges are to be selected. It should not be left to the whimsy of a rattle-brained narcissist.

Constitutio Fidelis

This article is written to convince you, the reader, that the Democratic candidate MUST NOT WIN the 2016 election for President of the United States of America.

It does not matter whether you are a Democrat or Republican, Libertarian or Bernie supporter, never-Trumper or a stay at home protest voter. It doesn’t matter who the Democratic candidate is, whether Hillary Clinton or some replacement if she somehow does not finish the race. The bottom line is the Democratic candidate MUST NOT WIN.

The United States is NOT a democracy. It is a representative republic. The people do not vote on each law at the national level. They do not write laws directly. The people elect representatives and the chief executive to do that work and handle the day-to-day operation of the Federal government. The elected officials are replaced or continue then at the will of the people at each…

View original post 1,762 more words

Strong or Weak?

When Donald Trump tells his mindless minions that America is weak and he will make it strong, or “great,” again they simply lap up what he says like a dog drinking from the toilet (and the analogy is quite apt). What he and they don’t realize is that “strong” and “weak” are terribly vague terms. And how does one define “greatness”? What philosophers have known, going back all the way to Socrates, is that if we are to understand one another we must make sure we know what we are talking about. Language is the key, (though it would help if Trump’s minions also knew that Socrates is not an Islamic terrorist).

I suspect that when those folks use the term “strong” what they mean is something like “last man standing after a fist-fight.” They know that this country hasn’t won a war since 1945 and after a string of ignominious defeats and withdrawals we are no longer King of the Hill. Thus we are weak. The country has lost its mojo. This is the simplest possible meaning for that term and we must suppose, given its simple-minded approach to immensely complex problems, that it is the meaning that this particular cult gives to the word.

But, then, we spend more on defense than the rest of the world, by far, and have troops in places all over the earth , including the air and seas. This is not enough for Trump and his minions. They want once again to be King of the Hill, even if it takes using nuclear weapons. And the minions are convinced that the man standing before them with the garbled speech, the strange hair, and tiny hands will once again lead them to the top of that hill and bring the rest of the world to its knees as we did Germany and Japan lo those many years ago.

Of course, what they also do not understand, as I have noted in previous posts, is that the president is not a dictator (much as he may like to be) and he cannot get much of anything done without the cooperation of the Congress. Indeed, given the Donald’s recent gaffs and the sight of Republican rats leaving his sinking ship, if he were to become president (Heaven forbid)  the Congress wouldn’t acknowledge his existence much less cooperate with him in his grand plans: he wouldn’t be able to do so much as order more toilet paper for the White House. As for making this country strong again, whatever he means by that, it’s a silly pipe dream, a fiction.

I read recently that Trump has done us all a favor by kicking over those many rocks and having the creepy, crawly things exposed to the light. Now, it is said, we know how far-spread ignorance is in this country. Aside from the fact that I do believe there are some things I would rather not know, there is some truth in this claim. If it were the case that we now know how ignorant so many of our fellow citizens are we might then address the problem and, say, spend some of the money we now waste on “defense” and pour it into education. We might pay teachers what they are worth and thereby make the profession attractive to our best and brightest. And we might give those teachers their heads to teach as they see fit — as they now do in tiny Finland — instead of having some committee somewhere dictate what needs to be taught to every child regardless of his or her capabilities.

I prefer to define my terms in ways we can understand. The country’s education system has fallen behind that of almost every other “developed” nation on earth and focusing attention on that problem would indeed make this country much stronger than we are at present. Spending a small fraction of our very large budget on improving our educational system would make us strong indeed instead of weak (in the head) as we are now. It might also allow us, once again, to achieve a level of “greatness.”

The Relevance of Thomas Paine

I have been reading Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” about which Wikipedia has this to tell us:

Thomas Paine has a claim to the title The Father of the American Revolution,which rests on his pamphlets, especially “Common Sense,” which crystallized sentiment for independence in 1776. It was published in Philadelphia on January 10, 1776 and signed anonymously “by an Englishman.” It became an immediate success, quickly spreading 100,000 copies in three months to the two million residents of the 13 colonies. In all about 500,000 copies total including unauthorized editions were sold during the course of the Revolution.

The pamphlet came into circulation in January 1776, after the Revolution had started. It was passed around, and often read aloud in taverns, contributing significantly to spreading the idea of republicanism, bolstering enthusiasm for separation from Britain, and encouraging recruitment for the Continental Army. Paine provided a new and convincing argument for independence by advocating a complete break with history. Common Sense is oriented to the future in a way that compels the reader to make an immediate choice. It offers a solution for Americans disgusted with and alarmed at the threat of tyranny.

Paine was determined to get the colonies to unite and especially to write a constitution. He felt that as long as the colonies were “lawless” they were subject to usurpation by a despot who would be king. As he himself says:

A government of our own is our natural right: And when a man seriously reflected on the precariousness of human affairs, he will become convinced that it is infinitely wiser and safer to form a constitution of our own in a cool and deliberate manner, while we have it in our power, than to trust such an interesting event to time and chance. If we omit it now some [opportunist] may hereafter arise who, laying hold of popular disquietudes, may collect together the desperate and the discontented, and by assuming to themselves the powers of government, may sweep away the liberties of the continent like a deluge.

Now, while the minions who blindly follow today’s popular would-be-despot can hardly be described as merely “desperate and discontented,” they are certainly ready to follow the man who would be king. I would describe the minions in stronger terms than did Paine, but we get the picture. When men and women are “desperate and discontented” they are subject to the lure and promises of anyone who presents himself as the one WITH THE ANSWERS, who knows all, and who will sweep away the corruption he sees all around him and RESTORE this country to greatness — the greatness that followed upon the American Revolution, perhaps.

But, as Paine was careful to point out, the only king this country could possibly allow and remain free is the constitution, a body of laws that would make it possible for the citizens to protect their property and retain their freedom. They never looked to one man to deliver them from England and protect their property and freedoms, though they held George Washington in very high regard. He himself realized the dangers of allowing the executive in the new constitution to have too much power and he was, by all reports, a very restrained president.

The irony of the parallel I seek to draw here is that the man who would be king appears to be ignorant of the constitution (one of his first acts as president, he says, would be to jail “corrupt Hillary”) and to place himself in the place of that constitution as a law unto himself. But the truly sad thing is that his minions actually appear to believe that he can do just that and they are ready to support him and follow him wherever he leads. They desperately need to read history and take a course in civics to see how things are supposed to work in a republic defined by the balance of power.

This country is founded on the principle that no one person will have the power to determine the course of the country. The constitution is law and it rules in place of a king. The coming election will see this principle sorely tested and my hope is that we are the people that the founders hoped would make this country strong enough to reject tyranny and despotism no matter what form it might take.

The Babysitter

I have been thinking about the subject of my most recent post, the peculiar twists and turns of the collective psyches of Donald Trump’s minions. It is a fascinating subject and like a kid at the circus who can’t tear himself away from the freak show despite the fact that he keeps telling himself to leave and get some cotton candy, I am drawn to the perplexing question: what on earth are these people thinking — the followers of Trump, that is? I have come up with an analogy that has helped me see more clearly.

Years ago when my wife and I had to leave for a couple of days we decided to leave our two sons, about seven and eight respectively, with one of my tennis players who was a Junior and someone we liked and trusted. Now, we were a bit strict and passed along some of the ground rules to Kathy (we’ll call her that because that’s her name), including the fact that the boys could not have dessert until they ate all the food on their plates. That is, they didn’t have to eat something like, say, broccoli, if they simply couldn’t do so, but they didn’t get desert if they didn’t eat it. Yeah, it was a bribe. But it worked like a charm and allowed the boys to make their own minds up about what they could and couldn’t eat. They usually cleaned their plates.

In any event, after we returned we discovered that Kathy let the boys do whatever they wanted to do, eat what they wanted to eat, stay up way past their bedtime, watch whatever TV shows they wanted to watch, and she played with them like a third child. They had a blast. All restraints were off and this wonderful girl was their best friend. We had a dickens of a time getting them to settle down afterwards, needless to say.

Trump is the babysitter and his minions are the boys — though they have a collective IQ well below that of my two sons even at seven and eight. The babysitter has told them the old rules no longer apply. They are free to do and say whatever they want with no repercussions whatever — as long as they restrain from criticizing the babysitter. That’s Taboo. From what we can gather of the rallies, it is bedlam with shouting obscenities not only allowed but encouraged. They are rallies of hatred and all restraints are off as the minions can scream all those insults that have been repressed for years.

In Dostoevsky’s seminal novel The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan Karamazov has a theory that since God is dead “all is permitted.”  This theory eventually drives him mad, but in the meantime he infects his adoring half-brother with the doctrine who then summarily kills their father. In other words, in Dostoevsky’s view, the absence of moral restraints can lead to murder and madness. This is certainly the view of that author who was, by all accounts, one of the most brilliant thinkers of the 19th century. But, after all, what does a nineteenth century Russian author have to tell us about ourselves in this sophisticated day and age?

Civilization, according to Ortega y Gasset the Spanish intellectual, is the will to live in common. In the minds of Trump’s minions it is all about self and letting it all hang out. Restraint and denial are things of the past. Donald is telling them that “all is permitted.” If this were to become the rule of thumb in our nation the suggestions of the two men I have mentioned would lead us to the conclusion that our civilization is at risk and as a people we may well be headed for murder and madness. When I shy away from this dire conclusion I recall my two sons, whom I love dearly, and the looks on their faces when we told them that the fun was over and things were back to normal. Kids love to play and to have their way. But maturity and growth require self-control and self-denial because the rewards later on are much greater and their absence leads to chaos. Our boys have learned that, but I wonder about Trump’s minions. Are they capable of growing and maturing?

Could This Be It?

For months now I have been trying to figure out why thousands of ordinary folks would blindly follow a candidate such as Donald Trump — given all we know about his innumerable shortcomings and character flaws. I had always thought (hoped?) that my fellow citizens were smarter than that. But I no longer think it’s all about smarts. It is partly that, of course, and a course in civics and a couple of years in seminars discussing difficult books would give these people heightened critical thinking skills. That would certainly help. But, again, I don’t think it’s all about thinking or intelligence.

I have tried to put myself in the minds (such as they are) of those who adore this man. It has been a difficult and frustrating task and has cost me some health problems that I hope will pass after November 8th. But I do think I have begun to get a glimpse of the truth here. Those who follow this man do so out of a sense that he is “one of us.” That is to say, he won’t take our guns away; he doesn’t approve of abortions; he talks like us; he hates Hillary; he wants to take this country back from the smart-asses. The bluster and braggadocio, the scattergun thought-bites, the insults, the hatred, the bigotry, the racism, the man-in-the-street persona this bogus billionaire has managed to pull off seems to have struck a chord deep in the psyches of a great many people.

He’s one of the guys. He “tells it like it is,” he is anti-establishment; he hates they very same things I hate and he tells us he will fix things. Whether he does or not doesn’t really matter, because we know he will, at the very least, stir up the mud. And there is plenty of mud in Washington where the elite bastards who run this country sit on their butts and collect large paychecks for doing absolutely nothing — or at least nothing that benefits me in any way.

It is this sense of fellow-feeling, that Trump is a blue-collar guy in a $2,000.00 suit, that determines the followers to follow. It matters not where he leads. It matters not that he lies because he is speaking from the heart and attacking those we fear. It matters not what the critics say because they are all establishment types who really don’t understand the man and are out to smear him. This sense that their man is being picked on simply fans the flames of adoration: if the establishment fat-cats criticize him that simply proves his worth to these folks.  It makes him a sympathetic figure. The fact that establishment Republicans are abandoning him is also a good sign, in their view, because it emphasizes the point that this man will not play by their rules. His “locker room comments” simply underline the fact that, in their minds and hearts, he doesn’t hold anything back. He may tell lies, but he is honest about his feelings and that’s what matters.

In a word, the connection between Donald Trump and his mindless minions is not about reason and logic in any way whatever — note the contradictions in their feelings about this man. It’s visceral, all about gut feelings. It is about the connection between this man and those thousands of people in this country who feel left out and ignored, who are insecure, like the Donald, and who are filled with the same confused thoughts their leader is filled with and a deep hatred of the status quo — and of others who differ from them in unimportant ways. It is easy to identify with this man for so many of them because he really is just like them. This helps us to understand why the surveys tell us  his followers are devoted while Hillary’s are lukewarm: she’s very hard to identify with.

Those who are still sitting on the fence, I suspect, feel much the same way but they are also leary about his shortcomings and have doubts that keep them from giving in completely to their gut feelings. They are drawn toward him and repulsed at the same time. And the fact that they find it hard to like much about Hillary Clinton simply makes their struggle that much harder. After all she’s decidedly Establishment (with a capital E) and, moreover, she’s a woman. For many, that’s enough.

It’s hard to say, in the end, which side of the fence they will come down on, because it will depend own how strong is the pull toward someone they feel a connection with and how strong is their sense that this man is, in the end, a total fraud. For these people, too, reason and logic play a small role, if any. It will all come down in the end to how they feel about each of the candidates. That’s not the way it is supposed to be, but I suspect that is the way it is.

I Hate Hillary!

I purposely used the “H” word as I did recently in connection with a comment about Lucy Ricardo because the word seems to be all the rage these days — it or one of its synonyms. But I actually hate neither woman. I don’t know either of them so how could I hate them? And yet, there are thousands of people waiting to vote who claim to hate Hillary — or at least to not be able to stand her — even though they do not know her either. What they “know” is a political caricature that has been created over the years by her political opponents and the air-heads on Fox News.

I suspect she is a very private person, perhaps secretive. But that is OK with me because I’m a bit private myself and I realize that on the international stage when one is privy to information dealing with national security one has to be secretive. But, as I say, I don’t know the woman and I cannot say, therefore, that I hate her or that I love her. I simply don’t know her. Neither does anyone else, for that matter — except for her immediate family and a few close friends.

I have made the point a number of times that how we feel about the two candidates should not enter into our calculations of which one we will vote for. This is not to say that character and personality do not count. They do. My blogging buddy, Sue Ranscht, politely pointed this out to me after I insisted that they do not. Even though we do not know either of these two people, we know enough to allow character flaws and personality glitches to enter into the equation. But this does not reduce our decision of whom to vote for to the level of gut feeling. One would hope.

In the end it is the person’s record of public service, their C.V., that is most important. Which candidate has the better qualifications for the office? And while personality does enter in — just imagine Donald Trump in that office dealing with professional politicians and international dignitaries who have walked the world stage for years while he was firing people on reality TV — it shouldn’t weigh enough to allow us to accept or reject that person.

I recently quoted a woman who is determined to vote for Donald Trump (can you imagine?) who said she cannot stand Hillary and that, apparently is her main reason for voting for Trump. I noted that this involves a leap of immense proportions, one that I cannot even follow. How does one get from “I hate Hillary” to “I am determined to vote for Trump”? This leap ignores several alternatives: (1) one could decide not to vote any all; (2) one could vote for the libertarian candidate; (3) one could vote for the Green Party candidate; (4) one could write in someone like, say, Monica Lewinsky — or anyone else. The leap itself cannot be made logically and can only be accounted for in this woman’s case as a leap based on blind faith. At this point it is up to the psychologists out there to determine why someone would take such a leap of ignorance in a matter of this importance.

In the end, however, what matters is the candidate’s record and there is only one candidate who is fully qualified  for this job and that is Hillary Clinton. It doesn’t matter if you can’t stand the woman, what matters is that she is almost certainly the best qualified person for the presidency since the birth of this nation. If we were to like her that would be icing on the cake. But if we don’t it really doesn’t matter in the end.

Featured Image -- 12937

This is a must-read. A brilliant piece of research and writing. This woman is good!

Filosofa's Word

“The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.” –  Albert Einstein

“Dictatorships lock up the opposition, not democracies.” – Stanford University Professor Michael McFaul

“It smacks of what we read about tin-pot dictators in other parts of the world, where when they win an election their first move is to imprison opponents.” – Michael Chertoff, a former federal appeals court judge who also served as the secretary of Homeland Security and head of the Justice Department’s criminal division

“You would like a president with some idea about constitutional limits on presidential powers, on congressional powers, on federal powers.” – Randy E. Barnett, Georgetown University Law Professor

From the outset, the Republican National Convention in July was more about Hillary Clinton than it was about Donald Trump.  T-shirts reading “Hillary for Prison” were sold outside the venue, Governor Chris Christie led a crowd in a ‘trial by…

View original post 1,309 more words

I Hate Lucy

Don’t get me wrong. I used to laugh my head off at Lucy Ricardo’s shenanigans on the “I Love Lucy” show. But, let’s face it, that show may be at the roots of the culture of lying that has emerged in this country, especially off late. The humor on that show was based, almost without exception, on the deception and lies that Lucy perpetrated against Ricky. As a result of those lies she had her hilarious comeuppance, and all was well in the end. In any event, so many sit-come that have followed have adopted the same template: tell lies that generate embarrassing, funny situations and make sure the hero or heroine learns a lesson or two but all comes out in the wash at the end.

So what? Well, think about it. The entertainment industry has taken over this country and folks spend the better part of their day and night watching the tube. Sit-coms are extremely popular. If we put two and two together and make sure we don’t come up with five, we might infer that those shows permeate the tiny cells in our brains and plant seeds (if television waves can plant seeds). And those seeds give us the deep impression that lying is OK. We see it time after time on the tube. We know that the used car salesman lies to us. It’s a given. We know that going in and brace ourselves for the tall tales about the car we like driven by an old women and never over 30 miles an hour. And we know the man selling his house will simply not mention that the basement leaks every time it rains.

Politicians lie to us and we know it as well. It’s a given, just like the used car salesman, the house-seller, and whoever else has an item to sell. The politicians in particular are selling themselves and they will tell us what we want to hear in order to get our vote. We say we hate politics; perhaps it is because we all know that it invariably involves lying. One of the two candidates for president in the current race is the Champion of Liars. A recent count by the folks at the New York Times reveals that in a given week he told 87 lies to his opponent’s 8. Clearly, he is the Champion! But the fact remains that his opponent lies on occasion as well. Perhaps it is best to take what they all say with a grain of salt, as they say, and assume that we are being lied to all over the place.

The problem is that we need to know where those folks stand. We need to now if the car we buy will hold up after the warranty runs out and whether or not the leak in the basement can be stopped. We need to know these things and when we are told lies and we believe those lies we are the victims. How do we avoid that trap? Surely, we have some responsibility to learn the truth and separate that from the rest of the verbal detritus that spews forth from the mouths of those we would like to believe.

As I have noted in a previous post, when lies become the norm there is no longer any truth. Truth becomes whatever we choose to believe. I do think we have arrived at that point as a society. How else to explain the thousands of people who buy the swill that is being sold by the Champion of Liars? So many of us have become like the naive fools who bought snake oil from the man on the wagon at the fair years ago. There’s a fool born every day. Sometimes dozens of fools. How do we make sure we are not among them?

To begin with, we need to be suspicious about anything a politician tells us. We need to insist on corroboration from another source when a claim is made, a reliable source. We need to ask ourselves whether what he or she says is plausible? Does it make sense? Can the president, for example, have the power to accomplish all the things this particular candidate is claiming he or she will accomplish when in office? What evidence do we have that what this person says is true or that they are competent to hold that office?

The rule of thumb in critical thinking is that truth is a residue. If we can find a weakness in a claim, if we can find counter-evidence, that claim is almost certainly not true. A claim is true if, and only if, we cannot find reasons to reject it. This was the Socratic method and it has stood the test of time. But it takes work. It requires that we be suspicious. It takes careful attention to the claims themselves and a willingness to think through what the person says and reject those claims that are clearly false — even if they fit in nicely with our preconceived ideas. And that is tough. We do want to think that those claims are true that make us feel good about ourselves. But a claim is not true simply because we want to believe it. It is only true if it cannot possibly be false.

Ricky believed Lucy because he loved her and he wanted to believe what she said was true. He should have given it a bit more thought. But it wouldn’t have been half as funny. On the political stage these days, however, it is not the least bit funny and we have our work cut out for us.


I was determined not to add my voice to the outcry about the latest revelations regarding Donald Trump’s utter contempt for women whom he sees simply as objects placed on earth to satisfy his sexual urges. I really didn’t want this blog to lower itself to that level, the level of the gutter where this man seems to be most at home. But there are a few things that really need to be said.

I begin with the fact that the revelations about his vulgar comments regarding women do not really surprise me. I am past being surprised by anything this man says or does. But I continue to be amazed that those women who still follow him continue to do so regardless. For example, take the case of  Cynthia Schiaroli, a retired elementary school teacher in Reading, Pennsylvania who insists that she will vote for Donald Trump:

“I am not voting for him to be pope,” [she said].
While Schiaroli was “disgusted” by the tape and said she would have a serious problem with her own husband saying anything like that, she believes Bill and Hillary Clinton have said and done things just as bad, if not worse.
“Hillary gets passes for everything,” Schiaroli told CNN Money on Saturday.

This woman dismissed Trump’s comments as no worse than the kinds of things Bill and Hillary Clinton say, which makes me wonder how she comes by this inside information about the private conversations of the Clintons, but it matters not. Her blind dislike of Hillary Clinton makes it impossible for her to even consider leaving the Trump camp. This, in turn, leads to a question.

How does one get from the hatred of a woman one doesn’t even know, except from media reports and mud-slinging sketches put together by marketing firms, to blind support of a vulgar, narcissistic, megalomaniac? There is a leap there somewhere and it is impossible, I suspect, to follow it. “I can’t stand Hillary, therefore I will vote for the man bent on demeaning all women and those who disagree with him while he clearly lacks the knowledge to run the country he insists only he can save.” Clearly this is a muddled mind.

Trump was reported to have said at one point that he could shoot someone in the middle of main street in front of a number of witnesses and he would still have thousands of loyal followers behind him. I thought at the time this was simply another example of his propensity to brag and blow himself up in his eyes and those of his adoring minions. But I am beginning to believe that he was right. It doesn’t seem to matter what he does; those loyal to him are also purblind to his obvious shortcomings — if one can use such a mild term to describe this man’s total lack of character.

When this election is finally over — and it cannot possibly come too soon for my liking — we will really have address what might be called “the Trump phenomenon.” That is to say, how is it possible for thousands of people to hang on this man’s every word — so many of which are bald-faced lies — and grant him license to describe someone like Hillary Clinton as a “horribly flawed person.” Why does this not strike a chord in his followers suggesting that this comment, among so many others like it, is the epitome of hypocrisy: it is the pot calling the kettle black. And there is little evidence that the charge against Clinton has any grounds whatever in the truth.

But the truth seems not to matter. For his mindless minions, as I have noted in the past, this man can say whatever he wants to say and it will be believed. Indeed, for those who have attached themselves to him like Velcro this man defines what is true and what is false. This may change from day-to-day, but it makes no difference: what he says is all that matters. Those who would criticize him are simply out to get him which proves, in their minds, that he is right and they are wrong.

In this regard, I do suspect that when this man comes under attack he becomes the victim no matter how well-grounded in truth the allegations against him might be. He is under attack from the Establishment, an ill-defined group of smart-ass liberals who are “out to get us” — which is why his minions need someone like Trump to hang on to. He gives them a desperately needed sense of power which they otherwise lack and he says and does those things his followers would like to say or do but have heretofore been disallowed  by the have-it-alls. It is interesting in this regard that the woman quoted above can’t stand Hillary because she “gets passes,” is allowed to get away with everything. The Establishment protects its own in the tiny minds of the fearful minions.

The sheer illogicality of the Trump phenomenon beggars belief and demands close scrutiny by those who claim expertise in understanding the meanderings of troubled minds. For myself, I easily lose my way and feel like Alice in Wonderland where everything is upside down and back to front. It’s not a world in which I want to try to find my way, but I do hope there are others who will make the effort and then reveal to us how this could possibly have happened.

Play For Pay

Nick Weiler is a kicker for the football team at the University of North Carolina. A week ago, with 4 seconds to go against Florida State, he kicked a 54 yard field goal to win the game and was therefore raised in the eyes of the Tar Heel faithful to the level of hero. Throughout his four years at North Carolina he has been an extraordinarily talented kicker and will assuredly be drafted into the NFL after graduation — if he graduates. Graduation doesn’t seem be a high priority for those who play football in Division I of the NCAA.

In any event, after the game-winning kick ESPN decided to send one of their reporters to visit with Nick for a day and do a “piece” showing their viewers what it is like to be the Big Man on Campus. As it happens, Nick doesn’t spend much time on campus, preferring to keep a low profile in his off-campus digs and just “hanging” with this friends — when not on the practice field. As far as I could tell from the brief piece very little of his time, if any, is spent in class or the library. In fact, if this young man’s experience is typical of athletes in Division I football, going to class is not much of a priority. It’s all about the game and about emerging as a star in order to have a chance to play in the NFL.

The sense that the sport is of primary concern at the Division I level was driven home to me personally not many years ago when a transfer from the University of Minnesota played tennis for my team for one year. She told me that as a Freshman she was told at that Division I school to take her classes before noon. After noon she “belonged to the tennis team.” This is women’s tennis, folks!! In contrast, we practiced two hours each afternoon and played most of our matches on weekends in order not to miss classes.

But, back to football. There are other stories like Nick’s. I had a good friend years ago who attended the University of Illinois back in the day of Dick Butkus who, it was said, hung out in the student union until, in his words, it was time to “go to work.” He was there to play football and he did that very well — well enough to become a Hall of Fame NFL player. And he also made movies to entertain us all!

These are anecdotes, of course, and don’t allow us to draw reliable generalizations. But, none the less, they give us a glimpse into the life of the semi-professional football players in Division I football — who are, reportedly, also given to violence off the field, especially toward young women. But, again, we must be careful about generalizations. I am sure there are a great many young men out there who actually respect women, go to class, and end up with a degree in hand at the end of four years. A few at any rate. Division I football programs are not famous for their high graduation rates.

In fact, I recommended years ago in an article I wrote for the Montana Professor (http://mtprof.msun.edu/Fall2001/CurtArt.html) that the athletes in Division I football — and basketball — be paid to play and not required to attend classes at all. Folks don’t care about these young men and what they might or not do after college — unless they go on to play for the NFL or the NBA which is apparently their dream. If they were paid a salary to play football or basketball then they could, if they wanted to do so, pay for some classes and actually earn a college degree just like their fellow students. And they would graduate without the huge debts incurred by their classmates!

In any event, let’s stop calling them scholar-athletes and going through the rigamarole of making them attend classes just for show. So many are in college for just one thing: to make it into the pros. So let’s be honest and admit that these are semi-professional athletes in what are, in effect, the minor leagues of their sports simply working to achieve a level of proficiency that will make them attractive to the professional teams.

In a word, what we do at present, in addition to exploiting these young men, is a sham and dishonest to boot. Let’s pay these men — even let them join unions — to play the games they love and wear the uniforms of their respective colleges and universities. But don’t make them go to class at all, even to take underwater basket-weaving and other non-challenging courses designed to make their lives as easy as possible while they maintain their NCAA eligibility to play games. If they really want a college education, they can pay for it like everyone else. If not, they can simply “go to work” each day and hope to land a huge salary playing at the professional level after a few years at the Division I level. At the very least, it’s more honest than what we do at present.