Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I Don't Get the NFL

So, in case you don't follow sports, there's an ongoing labor dispute between the NFL and its players. It's a fairly standard dispute: the union wants more money, and the business says it can't afford to pay more. This lead to a lockout, which led to the union decertifying (in name only), which led to a lawsuit by the players, which led to a court order to lift the lockout (presumably along the argument that players should be allowed to work, although clearly influenced by the current pro-union federal executive administration). All of this, though, leads me to wonder: what's the big downside for the NFL?

The NFL has a television contract, from which it derives most of its revenue. Previously, this was contractually guaranteed to be partially distributed to the players, in a fixed ratio set forth in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. However, with the union dissolved, doesn't this leave the league free to distribute the revenue however they see fit (assuming they can uphold their end of the contract, ie: put on the games)? Moreover, they should be more free now than ever before to craft whatever rules they want for the teams and the league, now that there's one less interested party at the table.

Want a salary cap? Easily done; just work it out among the owners and come to an agreement. Want to pay players less? Also easily done; work it into the agreement among the owners. There's no player's union to collectively bargain, so owners should be free to impose whatever employment terms they want. The league can create whatever rules they want for the sport and the operation of the teams, and teams can hire players as they see fit (in accordance with whatever rules the owners agree to). How is this not a solid win for the league?

The whole point of the player's union and CBA is to get more benefits and revenue for the players by refusing to work as a group unless demands are met. If the players want to not operate as a union, but rather as individual employees, how is this bad for the business? Just write the rules, craft an agreement among the owners, and start hiring whoever is willing to work. What's the problem?

Monday, April 25, 2011

On Police and Personal Rights

I was reading a story recently about a guy who basically got railroaded by the FBI after someone used his unsecured wireless connection to download child porn. Now, child porn is pretty horrible, but so was the abuse this poor guy had to endure at the hands of the FBI, who, as far as I can tell, doesn't care about respecting people's rights at all. Between this, the various recent privacy abuse stories, and the ongoing controversy over recording police activity (which, btw, should absolutely be unequivocally protected), I got to thinking: our current system is pretty bad at protecting peoples' rights, especially against abuse from law enforcement.

It's no surprise why this is so, of course. The police (and I use this term generally, to be inclusive of local, state, federal, and other government enforcers and thugs) are required to respect the laws, but commonly do not. I mean, are we even surprised when we see police routinely disregard traffic laws whenever they feel like it? This is so common, it's not even regarded by average people as surprising, even though it is clearly illegal. Should it come as any surprise, then, that some police officers feel they can step over people's rights as they will, with no consequence? After all, even when they are "caught" and sued, they don't feel the pain: it's the city/state/country, and eventually the taxpayers, who have to foot the bill. This might be somewhat fair if the police acted in the interests of the people, but I think that's so far removed from reality that it's laughable at this point.

What I would propose is to create a disincentive which would actually work, for the betterment of society. Every police force has retirement benefits, paid by the government, and negotiated as part of compensation packages. I would like to see a system where if there were any judgements against the police for violating people's rights, those were paid directly from the pool of money allocated for retirement benefits (perhaps over the next year), reducing the benefit payouts accordingly, and every single affected police officer get a note explaining which officers committed the violation(s) which directly cost them money.

You know what? There wouldn't be any more incidents of breaking down someone's door, beating them, and accusing them of child porn unless the police were sure they had the right guy. You know why? Because Officer Bob doesn't want to have to explain to his 10,000 retired buddies why he personally cost them each part of their rent payments by not taking the extra five minutes to do a 'duh' check with the tech department. There also would be a whole lot less beating random people, and if we (the people) are lucky, we might actually get the police to back efforts to let us record their activities, since the only police seemingly opposed to that are the ones who like to beat people. You know what else? We might accidentally also raise the level of quality we expect and receive from the people who nominally work to "protect and serve".