Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Jaws and Climate Denial

There is no better Fourth of July movie for my money than Jaws. I would watch it at least twice every Independence Day weekend if that wouldn't bore and annoy my spouse. It was designed and filmed so carefully that time has transformed it into a beautifully accurate period piece, capturing the New England beaches of my 1970s childhood in loving detail. Time has also turned it into something else it was not originally meant to be: a parable about the dangers of denying climate change.

Jaws is the story of a community whose economy depends on its natural resources. That's true of every community and every economy, but in this story it's simple and obvious. The town has a beach. Its entire economy depends upon tourists coming to that beach during the summer. If the summer people don't come, everyone will go hungry. Clear enough.

Then the natural world throws up a problem; there's a shark in the water, and that shark kills a swimmer. The local police chief wants to close the beaches, but doing that at the height of the tourist season means financial ruin for the townsfolk, the danger that they will, as one character puts it "be on welfare all winter."

Watching the movie, the right thing to do is obvious. But that doesn't mean it's easy. Closing the beaches would cause real pain for many people. It isn't a cheap or easy solution.

The town authorities cave and do the wrong thing, trying to wish the shark away. They change the first victim's cause of death to "boating accident." When a second person is killed, they balk at the price of commissioning a serious shark hunt by a professional and instead countenance an amateurish bounty hunt that brings in "a shark, but not the shark." That gives them just enough apparent evidence to dismiss scientific advice and open the beach for Fourth of July weekend.

Then, as one of my friends likes to say during the shark sequences: nom nom nom nom nom.

The last act of the movie leaves the island behind to focus on the daring shark-hunters' interpersonal struggles and their fight with the monstrous fish. But the ending of the town's story is clear: they have destroyed their economy, not simply for a few crucial weeks but for the entire summer and probably for years to come. No summer people are coming to an island where three people have been killed. And tourists aren't going to magically forget the shark attacks next summer either. Trying to deny the problem in order to protect the beach economy leaves the beach economy in ruins.

So it is with us. Our economy depends on exploiting fossil fuels. And burning those fuels has begun to create major problems. Reducing emissions will not be cheap or easy. It will have painful costs, and there is no point in underestimating those costs. Nor is it helpful to expect that people who will bear heavier losses than the rest of us should simply take those losses. It's dysfunctional to let individual create massive social expenses, but it's also dysfunctional to make individuals shoulder massive social expenses themselves.

But here's the thing: avoiding the necessary economic sacrifice in the short term only makes the price of the eventual economic sacrifice higher. If we don't take the emissions-reduction hit now, we will incur all the costs of a changed climate AND eventually have to reduce our emissions even further. We will hold on to Fourth of July weekend and lose all of our summers. The character talking about "being on welfare all winter" isn't talking about closing the beaches for two weeks. He's talking about the cost of cheaping out and not killing the shark.

The Jaws parable is playing out in North Carolina right now, where the State Legislature has ordered experts to change a report on how rising sea levels will affect the Outer Banks. (At the same time, Virginia is taking steps to protect its endangered coastline.) North Carolina is afraid that the news of rising sea levels will be bad for the Outer Banks's beach-tourist industry, so (like the Mayor and medical examiner in Jaws), they have had the alarming report amended. The problem for the Outer Banks is that, as they say, This was no boating accident. And waiting until the sea level has already risen too high to ignore means waiting until it may be too late for the Outer Banks to be saved.

Denying climate risk is like ignoring a debt; it simply gets harder to pay off. I understand why people on the Outer Banks are afraid that their property will lose value if the state projects a thirty-nine-inch rise in the sea level by 2100. But if no steps are taken to deal with the rising sea, property on the Outer Banks will someday lose all its value. You can't sell a hotel to the fish.

And sooner or later, every climate denialist will have to hear the hardest news of all: "Summer is over. You're the Mayor of Shark City."

P.S. It has come to my attention since I started this post that the admired Historiann has also recently posted about Jaws, and that she has only recently seen the movie for the first time. Welcome to Amity Island, Historiann. Amity, as you know, means friendship.

cross-posted from Dagblog

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Religious Freedom vs. Religious Privilege (or, Franklin vs. Penn)

The version of "religious liberty" currently promoted by the American right, best exemplified by the Hobby Lobby decision and the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act," is not only a recipe for future religious disputes and persecution. It represents an approach to religious freedom that has already created trouble. It was tried and abandoned so early in the American Experiment that most of us don't learn it in school. That's because the policy of providing religious groups extensive privileges or exemptions, rather than maintaining a neutral public square for all, failed before the Revolution.

Many of today's religious conservatives object to a religiously-neutral public square (where, for example, everyone has to follow the same laws). This, they say, restricts their free exercise of religion. They feel entitled to exercise their "sincerely held" religious beliefs in full. The problem with this is that when everyone enjoys maximal rights of free exercise, parties inevitably infringe on other parties' rights to free exercise. People of other faiths are not allowed to practice, or people are forced to abide by some religious precept which they do not believe. (For example, non-Catholics might not be denied certain health coverage benefits because of a Papal encyclical from 1968, forcing those non-Catholics to abide by the tenets of someone else's faith.) The approach that Justice Kennedy et al. have so improvidently revived grants certain parties (especially powerful parties) particular carve-outs or concessions, allowing them spheres of influence where they are exempted from the ordinary rules.

Some of the original Thirteen Colonies, of course, began as religious concessions on a grand scale, with particular religious minorities (in the 17th-century English context) granted their own domains to settle and govern. The most obvious of these are Puritan New England (settled by radical Congregationalists and Presbyterians), Maryland (granted to the Roman Catholic Lord Baltimore as a personal fiefdom), and Pennsylvania (granted to the Quaker William Penn as his personal property). This idea of colony-as-denominational-ghetto is, of course, an outgrowth of 17th- and 18th-century England's own sorry resistance to religious toleration, and its bias toward its own official Church; better to give the Quakers huge swaths of territory in the New World than to accept an England where all faiths were welcome.

But in all of these colonies, albeit in different ways, there was serious conflict between the locally privileged religion and people of other faiths. Maryland never quite got off the ground as planned, because so many of the colonists were resistant to the idea that Catholicism would be specially privileged; the colonists had to struggle with a superior civil authority in order to achieve a more level and neutral public square, with the same rules for all.

Puritan New England became a site of significant religious persecution, as the Puritans battled non-Puritan groups and one another. That Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island are three different states is testimony to the Massachusetts Bay Puritans' gift for squabbling and schism. Connecticut and Rhode Island were founded by Puritan religious dissenters from Massachusetts. The struggle between the Congregationalists and Presbyterians was more peaceful, but bitter and socially divisive. And other religious groups had no rights at all. Baptists and Quakers were not only expelled from Massachusetts, but whipped for good measure; the Massachusetts Puritans insisted on their religious freedom not to intermingle with other faiths. The final extreme was the execution of some Quakers for being Quakers, at which point the royal government had to step in. A superior civic authority had to restrain the majority of the colonists from oppressing and persecuting their neighbors.

(One of the ironies that I've blogged about before is that Mitt Romney has enjoyed far more religious liberty in modern secular Massachusetts than he would have in colonial religion-in-the-public-square version. Secular Massachusetts elected him Governor; theocratic Massachusetts might well have hanged him. When modern religious conservatives complain that the "secular culture" oppresses them and limits their freedom, they have NO idea what they're talking about.)

In Pennsylvania, the case was most complicated, with the colony owned by a family of Quaker proprietors and the colonists divided between a Quaker-led political faction and a non-Quaker faction. But the special privileges accorded to the Quaker faith did, inevitably, burden the rest of the Commonwealth. The most startling example was the reluctance by the pacifist Quakers to countenance a colonial militia despite recurring armed conflicts with the French and the Native Americans. That left their fellow-colonists with the choice of going undefended, and thus dying for beliefs they did not share, or of shouldering the entire risk and expense of colonial defense themselves, without any contribution from the Quakers. In the 1740s Benjamin Franklin (nobody's military man) had to organize an all-volunteer militia without legislative sanction; essentially a self-funded private club to defend the colony. The Pennsylvania legislature wouldn't actually fund a state militia until 1756, two years after the French and Indian War had begun in Pennsylvania, and a year after the colonial commander of the British Army had been killed in action there.

The Quakers' special prerogatives could only be sustained by limiting the political freedoms of others. "Religious liberty" conceived as special privileges or exemptions for believers has repeatedly, inevitably, become an infringement on others' liberty.

Franklin stands as an exemplar of the other, more successful approach to religious freedom. Franklin advocated a public square open to all, with no special advantage or favor to any sect. This often put him at odds with the Quaker party in colonial politics. But, since it is the eve of the Fourth of July, let me be bold on the great Franklin's behalf: he was right, and his political opponents were wrong.

Franklin, who belonged to no organized church and swore to no particular creed, advocated a "secular" public sphere, the true religious equality where all believers (and unbelievers) are accepted by the commonwealth and all accept the same obligations to the commonwealth. Franklin remained on friendly terms, by his own account in the Autobiography, with every religious denomination in Philadelphia by donating money whenever someone was trying to build a church. He believed in a Philadelphia where faith was a choice and every citizen had the same freedoms, where every conscience was free and where no one had to bear the burden of a stranger's beliefs.

The William Penn model has failed, more than once. Now that the RFRA and five short-sighted Supreme Court justices have revived that long-discarded model, it will fail again, but only at the cost of burdening Americans' liberty. Under the Penn model, some people have more religious freedom than others; the rest of us are free to exercise someone else's religion. And that tends, always, to mean extra religious freedom for  the rich and powerful at the expense of ordinary citizens' freedom. The rest of us are free to worship as my Lord Baltimore pleases, free to sacrifice to William Penn's lofty principles, free to have the chief shareholder of the corporation that employs us make moral decisions about our wombs. The model of "religious liberty" as special privilege always ends up giving all the liberty to the privileged.

That was not the America Benjamin Franklin wanted. And I say, this Glorious Fourth, that Benjamin Franklin was right in 1776, and right in 1787, and Benjamin Franklin is right today. Freedom of conscience is not about exemptions or concessions. Every conscience is, and can only be, equally free. And only a neutral public square, where all have equal standing, allows religious equality. Franklin was right, and history will continue to prove it.

Happy Independence Day.

cross-posted from Dagblog

Monday, June 30, 2014

Religious Liberty vs. Hobby Lobby

Let's start with one thing. It is not acceptable for my boss to make my religious decisions. It is not acceptable for your boss to make your religious decisions, or for somebody else's boss to make religious decisions for them. Your religious freedom is yours, alone. It does not belong to your employer, to your landlord, or to anybody else. The deepest stupidity of the inane Hobby Lobby decision is that it uses religious freedom to let your boss take away your religious freedom. That is not acceptable. And it is not sustainable. Five allegedly rational Supreme Court justices have just opened the door to vicious religious conflict. Because letting your boss make your religious decisions is not acceptable, and over the long run people will not accept it.

I will admit that the Supreme Court and I come at First Amendment questions from different directions (although with a shared commitment to the First Amendment's value). They look back at it from the present day, viewing the Constitution as a point of intellectual origin. They understand its context and immediate antecedents, but their historical narrative is about the creation of the Constitution and the past two centuries of its interpretation. My scholarly work forces me to look forward to the Constitution. The writers and books I study are from an earlier period, inhabiting a world in which the Constitution is not yet imaginable. So I have gradually come to see the Constitution in terms of what went before, to see it as a set of codified solutions to particularly ugly historical problems. I don't have to imagine where we would be without Constitution or the Bill of Rights, because I have all too clear a picture of what the world without them was like.

The 16th and 17th centuries were periods of ferocious religious warfare, complete with terrorism, persecution, assassination, torture, inquisitions, and massacres of civilians. I use none of those terms figuratively. Kings were stabbed to death by religious fanatics. Religious leaders were burned alive in the public square. Conspirators plotted to blow up government buildings, to overthrow regimes. Women and children were beaten to death by mobs of their own neighbors. All of this was done by Christians to other Christians, and no denomination's hands were clean. If you look back at this history hoping to find that your own church behaved like the good guys, you will be sorely disappointed. Every existing Christian group played both the villain and the victim, more than once.

The hundred years or so before the Constitutional Convention saw the European religious conflicts modulate somewhat, so that religion became one volatile and dangerous wild card in larger games of international conflict and domestic factionalism. But religious intolerance and aggression did not go away. The settlement of the Thirteen Colonies was partly driven by the need to escape various forms of sectarian prosecution. And while the wars of religion were no longer the main show, they were certainly not gone. The last armed revolt aimed at putting a Roman Catholic on the English throne was in 1745. Benjamin Franklin was 39 years old at the time.

When I hear 21st-century American Christians complain about being persecuted for their beliefs, I am caught between laughter and disgust. Those people have no idea what real persecution is. And the danger to Christians has never been the secular state. The greatest danger to Christians; religious freedom is always other Christians. Secular government was devised to protect Christians from one another, and it is the only thing that has been shown to work.

The First Amendment guarantees free exercise of religion, and prohibits the establishment of any favored religion. The current religious right loves one clause and hates the second. They want freedom of exercise. They hate that the Establishment clause enforces a level playing field, and prevents one religious group's exercise from infringing upon others. Enormous bitterness is directed toward Jefferson's phrase "separation of Church and State," with endless tedious reminders that Jefferson's phrase is not in the First Amendment per se (but only a clear record of, ahem, original intention). But the fact is, you can't have one without the other. Religious freedom is only possible if the officially-secular state enforces a neutral playing field.

If we allow various Christian groups (or hypothetically other groups, although only Christians have that kind of political muscle in the United States) to use political or economic power to push their version of Christianity on others, the live-and-let-live "free exercise" arrangement falls apart. And then push comes to shove.

If certain parties are allowed to exercise their religious rights so vigorously that other people aren't free to make their own religious decisions, then no one can afford religious tolerance anymore. If my neighbor is permitted to impose his religion on me, then my only recourse is to drive everyone whose religion I disagree with out of the neighborhood. If the principal of the public elementary school has religious freedom to proselytize my (hypothetical) children, then I need to discriminate against certain potential principals on religious grounds, eliminating people whose beliefs I don't share. If a Mormon governor is liable to ban coffee shops, then I can no longer vote for a Mormon candidate. If people are using business to push religion, I can no longer do business with people of incompatible religions. That's a very bad outcome, but it's also the inevitable outcome.

If the government does not act as a referee, religious toleration becomes impossible, unworkable. If individuals are allowed to use whatever leverage they happen to have to coerce their neighbors or employees or tenants into conforming with their own religious beliefs, what you create is a competition in which people are forced to keep amassing more and more coercive muscle. The only way to keep your neighbors from jamming their religion down your throat is to organize some coreligionists and jam your religion down the neighbors' throats. That turns into persecute or be persecuted: a swift, ugly, and distinctly ungodly cycle.

What five of the Supreme Court justices have decided in Hobby Lobby is that religious coercion by non-government agents is actually a guaranteed right, and that the government cannot step in to prevent it because that would limit the coercive party's right to free exercise. That is a mind-bogglingly stupid position. And it ultimately leads back to the bad old days of sectarian infighting, where the only way to protect your own religious liberty was to trample everybody else's. I don't want any part of a country like that. I been there before.

cross-posted from Dagblog

Thursday, June 05, 2014

You Don't Need a Gun: Mass Shooters

The shootings in Isla Vista have left me too angry to blog. But now we have yet another shooter on a college campus, at Seattle Pacific. Fortunately, this murderer was stopped after killing one and wounding three. And he was stopped in the way the gun-rights community says he can never be stopped: he was stopped without a gun.

If you'll forgive me repeating parts of a blog post from two years ago, written after another of our endless repeated mass murders:

if you are attacked by a shooter in a public place, and if you ever get a chance to stop the shooter by force, you will get that chance when the shooter stops to reload.
You are not guaranteed to get that chance, or any chance.

Tonight, thank God, the Seattle Pacific shooter was tackled by a student security monitor when the gunman paused to reload his shotgun. [I salute that brave person, and hope the press finally covers the hero of the day instead of the murderous failure of a villain.] If the gunman had used a gun with a larger clip, such as a Bushmaster, he would have been able to shoot many more people before he was vulnerable.

Why does this matter? Because:

If you did get a chance to attack the shooter, in that moment when he needs to reload, you would not need a gun to stop him. When he is temporarily unable to fire, he can be attacked with bare hands or hit with anything handy. And there are documented incidents where shooters have been stopped, and further killing prevented, in exactly this way.

On the other hand, if you happened to have a handgun on your person when the shooting started, it still wouldn't help much until the shooter had to reload. Most mass shooters are using semi- or fully-automatic weapons with a high rate of fire, designed to provide suppressing fire that makes it hard for anybody to fire back.

Now, the NRA fans will tell you, every single time one of these shooting happen, that "The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." But this is clearly not true. In fact, it's the opposite of the truth.

You do NOT need a "good guy with a gun," to stop a mass shooter. More than one mass shooter has been stopped by good people who were totally unarmed. There are real cases we can point to, and another, thank God, tonight.

And if by, "a good guy with a gun" you mean, as gun-rights advocates usually mean, an armed bystander with a gun, that is completely wrong. I can't think of a single mass shooter who has been stopped by a random civilian with a gun.

Shooting incidents like this end in three ways:

1. The police kill the gunman.
2. The gunman kills himself when the police have him cornered.
3. Unarmed bystanders rush the gunman when he reloads.

The police don't count as "good guys with guns" in the discussion over gun rights and gun control, because no one in America advocates disarming the police. So when the NRA/open-carry/Second-Amendment-absolutist crowd talks about the need for more guns, they are talking about something that never happens. Private citizens who happen to be carrying a gun do not stop mass shooters.

So, the gun-rights crowd demand that everyone have guns to stop this violence that everyone having guns has never, ever stopped. On the other hand, their insistence that everyone have untrammeled access to serious firearms means that mass shooters do have guns. We need to let emotionally-troubled criminals amass the firearms they need to massacre people, so that it will remain hypothetically possible that someone, somewhere, at some time might possibly use a gun to cut a senseless gun massacre short, although that has not happened so far.

That's the logic, if you can call it that. Keep gun laws loose, no matter how many lunatics use them for mass murder, so that private citizens with guns can continue to not stop those mass murders. It's hard to imagine a worse plan than that.

cross-posted from Dagblog

Friday, May 09, 2014

Donald Sterling, Big League Sports, and the Free Rider Problem

Can the other 29 NBA owners force Donald Sterling to sell the LA Clippers? Let's put it another way: can the other 29 owners be forced to remain Donald Sterling's partner? Of course, private citizens shouldn't be forced to sell privately owned businesses. But how much of Sterling's business exists if you take away his association with those other 29 private businesses? If you take away the other 29 teams, what does Sterling own?

Sterling's real business isn't the basketball team itself, but his partnership with the rest of the owners. Donald Sterling didn't "make the league" as he has put it. The league made Donald Sterling an owner. The league has made Donald Sterling very, very rich, while Sterling has never made any money for the other franchises. Can his 29 partners, who have indirectly subsidized his business for over 30 years and who are now worried that Sterling is going to cost them untold millions, be forced to stay in business with him?

What would happen if the NBA owners decided that they couldn't make Sterling sell the team itself, so that the only way to get free of him was to expel the whole team from the NBA? Sterling would still own his business: a basketball team named the LA Clippers. He'd have that business's assets and its debts, hold its leases and its contract obligations. But the other NBA teams wouldn't play the Clippers. They would be free to find other opponents. But who would pay to watch that? Who would pay to advertise at those games? Who would put that on TV?

A Clippers organization cut loose from the NBA would never bring in the profits Sterling has gotten used to as an NBA owner. It wouldn't be able to bring in enough revenue to pay the players' existing contracts. Without its league connection, the team would go bankrupt. Without the NBA, the Clippers organization does not exist. The other 29 owners are Donald Sterling's business.

The truth is that Sterling's membership in the NBA has always involved both indirect and direct transfers of wealth from the other owners. The Clippers have been a notoriously terrible organization for most of Sterling's tenure; that they have actually been winning the last two or three years is an almost flukey interruption after three decades of futility. (And that fluke was directly engineered by the last NBA commissioner, who forced another team to trade a star player to the Clippers instead of the Lakers.) To put it very simply, Sterling has spent 30 years as the owner of a basketball team that people don't want to see. He has basically gotten rich as the owner of the Washington Generals.

Sterling has made money because his team that people don't want to watch holds one of the 30 exclusive licenses to play the basketball teams that people do want to watch. Sterling's business has not been putting on the Clippers' home games but hosting the other 29 teams' away games. Sterling has been granted a special license to sell tickets to Lakers, Spurs, Bulls, Pistons, Celtics, and Heat games. The other 29 teams are obligated to play on Donald Sterling's floor 41 times a year, no matter what. And they are obliged to host the Clippers 41 times a year, no matter how low the demand for those games.

Most of those teams, most of those years, could do as well or better by playing someone beside the Clippers. Fans happily paid to see Bird's Celtics, Ewing's Knicks, Jordan's Bulls, and generations of championship-bound Lakers teams play Sterling's Clippers over the years. But they were paying to see those teams, not the Clippers. And when your team was having attendance troubles, you never got a boost when the Clippers came to town. On the other hand, Sterling could always count on selling extra tickets when better, more popular teams came to town. Sterling has profited off generation after generation of visiting basketball stars, from Magic and Bird in the 80s to LeBron and Durant today.

Now, running an also-ran team for 30 years, with only rare and brief playoff appearances, means that your team doesn't get much time on national TV. But that's okay for Donald, because the league has a formula for sharing out its TV revenue to all of the owners. So Donald Sterling has gotten a slice of the Lakers/Celtics money, the Bulls/Jazz money, the Spurs/Heat money. In the same way, league revenue sharing means that Donald gets some money from every NBA hat, jersey, and official knick-knack that gets sold, although nearly all of that merchandise has some other team's logo. LeBron's jersey puts cash in Donald's pocket. The cash other owners have gotten from the sale of Lamar Odom and Danny Ferry gamers doesn't even begin to match the revenue Sterling has made from Jordan, Magic, Shaq, and the rest. The number of kids who've bought an NBA video game so they could play as the Clippers might actually be the square root of -1, but Sterling has taken a split from every XBox cartridge.

The other 29 NBA owners haven't been hurting, and they haven't missed the cut that goes to Sterling. But for the last 30 years and more, they have been subsidizing him. They have put money in his pocket, and he hasn't put any in theirs.

You'd think that Sterling would be grateful. But, well. Only a few years after buying the Clippers, Sterling moved them from San Diego to LA (which, you may have heard, has another basketball team) despite being forbidden to do so by the league. Instead of building up the league by strengthening the San Diego market, Sterling took the NBA out of that market entirely. Instead, he went to a city where his team added nothing -- and indeed could add nothing -- so he could feed off the existing market created by the Lakers organization. Sterling could not possibly build LA's interest in the NBA; a better owner had already built a deeply beloved franchise there. Years later, NBA Commissioner David Stern would actually reward Sterling by forcing Chris Paul to go the Clippers instead of the Lakers. Sterling couldn't attract stars to his business, so the NBA gave him one. Sterling's relationship to the NBA has always been parasitic.

Sports fans love to hate the big-spending owners who don't give smaller-market teams a chance. But fans give a free pass to owners like Sterling, who exploit their membership in the big-league club to get a lucrative free ride. Every major sports league has some owners who have decided that they can get rich fielding mediocre teams and making a buck off the stars that better owners pay. Attempts to restore competitive balance with revenue sharing don't fix this free-rider problem; they make it worse, because they make it even easier to profit off your association with better-run businesses. Some of these owners are in smaller media markets, but it's not just about the size of the market. Donald Sterling runs his crappy business in Los Angeles.

George Steinbrenner took a lot of heat over the years, and I talked smack about him myself. But Steinbrenner put money in the other owners' pockets. Every team the Yankees play this year is going to make money marketing Derek Jeter's farewell; every team they played last year made money from Mariano Rivera's farewell. Yankee Stadium doesn't get to market the farewell tours of beloved Royals or Indians Hall-of-Famers. The Yankees don't have paid attendance double when the Padres come to town. And they don't double the ticket prices for spring training games against the Florida Marlins. Other teams do charge extra for spring training games against the Yankees; they make a profit off Steinbrenner's payroll. Free-riding owners are at least as big a problem for competitive balance as free-spending owners.

One of the jokes about Sterling's self-immolation is that he castigated his girlfriend for "broadcast[ing]" her association with Magic Johnson. But associating with Magic Johnson has always been good for the NBA's business. He has always made them money and always improved their brand. (Magic is a likeable version of Hyman Roth -- he always makes money for his partners.) The other owners literally want to broadcast their association with Magic; they want him associated with the NBA on TV. The essence of Sterling's entire business model has been to broadcast his association with Magic Johnson, who has put fans in Sterling's seats and dollars in Sterling's bank account.

The rest of the league has carried Donald Sterling for over 30 years, and the value of his NBA franchise has increased twenty-fold in that time; that increased value has been created by the other 29 franchises, not by Sterling. Now Sterling's craziness has threatened those other 29 owners' businesses. Advertisers don't want to be in business with Donald Sterling. TV networks don't want to be in business with Donald Sterling. So the rest of the owners simply cannot afford to be in business with Donald Sterling. They're considering making him sell, at a ridiculous profit that has nothing to do with how Sterling has run his business and everything to do with how the other owners have run theirs. If Sterling fights in court, it will be likely be on anti-trust grounds; major American sports leagues essentially do operate like trusts or cartels, and need to. The joke is that if the NBA didn't operate like a trust, Sterling's Clippers would not exist at all.

cross-posted from Dagblog