Monday, October 31, 2011

The Herman Cain Mutiny

In my comfortable world of warm cynicism, I knew this would happen eventually.  The only question was who would be the perp and who would be the victim.  We have a political battle for the 2012 GOP nomination pitting 8 major candidates in a steel cage match against reason and accountability (reason and accountability are bleeding profusely and are not expected to survive the bout, by the way).  The only thing missing from this high stakes drama was an allegation of sexual impropriety, and thanks to Politico’s “reporting”, now we have something tawdry to spice interest in the campaign.  Clearly, demagoging on electrified fences and forced vaccinations could not hold the public’s attention.  Advertisers demanded more.

If you haven’t heard, Herman Cain, surging candidate for the GOP nomination, has been accused of having been accused of sexual harassment some 20 years ago.  The story surfaced in Politico, and has metastasized overnight into the blockbuster ratings bonanza every media outlet was hoping for, serious journalistic integrity be damned. 
So what if Cain was accused of sexual harassment?  Accusations are free, but defending against them costs money.  Evidence of an employment settlement to those who may have accused Mr. Cain does not represent proof of anything.  It could be proof of extortion, in which case Cain is the victim.  It could be proof of a reasoned business decision.  Sadly, business decisions are made all the time to settle certain claims before determining if there is any basis in truth.  The decision to settle could have been made to avoid unwanted publicity for his association that had issues before Congress.  The decision to settle could have been more cost effective than fighting.  Guilt and innocence are not proven by the existence of a settlement agreement.

Of course, it could be true that he is a serial harasser and unfit for office, but if you voted for Clinton and would again if he were running, take a breath before you pile on and disqualify Cain.  Love him or hate him, Clinton appears to have enjoyed his share of harassments while handling affairs of the state (pun intended).

The story represents the worst of political hackery and soulless journalism.  “Unnamed sources” and “someone with knowledge of the situation” have been trusted enough to approve the printing a story that will upend someone's career and reputation, all in the name of…what?  It’s shameless, and the implication of the story is clear – Cain is a pervert that must be stopped.  Really?  Based on the rumor of an event?  Based on a misunderstanding of what a settlement agreement represents in a matter like this?  I disagree with him politically, but he should not have to spend a minute on this silliness.  He already has plenty of silliness to impart on an adoring vocal minority of a sliver of the electorate.

Be careful, my dear right wing friends.  It is fun to blame your second favorite punching bag, the liberal media, for this imbroglio.  In the end, my cynicism tells me that the source of the story, such as it is, may end up being one of the other campaigns and not the disorganized left wing propaganda machine.  If that liberal machine were organized in any sense, I think the Occupy protesters message wouldn’t be quite so ‘muddled’.  The liberal machine is defined by its messaging incompetence.

The fact is that the rationale to disqualify Herman Cain from holding the Office of the Presidency is so extensive, so well documented, that basing your decision on his fitness for office on this poorly vetted report from Politico would be akin to deciding you disapproved of Charlie Sheen for President because of his role in Hot Shots!  There are so many other reasons Sheen should not be President, and many of them are a mere click away on YouTube.

This alleged settlement is a non-story.  The story is that is a story at all, and until we learn otherwise, this alleged sexual harassment settlement should not be in the public discourse.

Stop the Cain Mutiny!  Don’t abandon the Cain! (At least not because of this story)

In the classic Humphrey Bogart movie, The Caine Mutiny, much effort was spent building a case against Captain Queeg for his alleged incompetence.  We knew from watching the on screen action that he was a flip-flopper at best, a liar at worst.  In the dramatic final courtroom scene, Queeg was ultimately found incapable of command, but not because others testified against him.  The cross examiner just let Queeg talk, and his insanity became apparent. 
Better to let Captain Cain just keeping talking.  That should be enough to derail his ambitions.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

“…a little roller up along first…BEHIND THE BAG!”

Personally autographed by Ray Knight, 1986 World Series MVP, aka “Melon Head”

Last night, October 25, 2011, marked the 25 year anniversary of the greatest night of my life (except, of course, for my wedding day, birth of the kids, blah, blah, blah).  On October 25, 1986, the New York Mets staged a comeback for the ages that some refer to as the Buckner Game.  For me, and other fanatics like me, it’s just Game 6. 
Ah, Game 6.

It is not often that scenes from the greatest night of your life are on television (occasionally on YouTube without your consent, but that’s another story), but ESPN Classic carried the game last night, edited down to a digestible 2 hours of vintage ‘80s baseball.  I watched the entire drama unfolded again.  It was not as good as the first time, but it was darn good reality TV.

There is so much that I have forgotten about the game over the years.  Pre-Roid Rage Roger Clemens had a no hitter through the first 4 innings.  Rubber armed outfielder Mookie Wilson threw out Jim Rice at the plate in the 7th inning to hold the Sox at 3 runs.  The Mets battled back to tie the game with 2 runs in the 5th inning.  They tied the game again with one run in the bottom of the 8th inning.  They blew a perfect opportunity to finish the game in the 9th before the disaster of the top of the 10th led to the nirvana of the bottom of the 10th.

You all know the tale.  Nobody on base, two runs down, two outs, two strikes on Carter, then lightning.  Base hit, base hit, base hit. One run.  Wild pitch.  Tie game.  Through Buckner’s legs, there will be a 7th Game.

I am exactly the same, but all the characters in this hero’s tale had changed and moved on with their lives.  Roger McDowell, the hard throwing sinkerballer/prankster who was the notorious second spitter from behind the bush on the gravelly road, is now pitching coach with Atlanta.  Davey Johnson, the brash young dugout genius, is now the old seer managing the Nationals.  Carter, Rice and Boggs are enshrined in Cooperstown.  Strawberry and Gooden are cautionary tales on how not to handle stardom.  Times have changed, but the feeling of that night remains the same for me.  I love watching that game as much if not more than Red Sox fans hate being reminded of it. 
While the emotional rescue provided by the Mets is unforgettable, some of the actual scenes I had forgotten.  I was struck by a few images:

  • All the players sporting the porn mustaches before they were known as porn mustaches (Hernandez, Backman, Buckner, Boggs, Johnson, Santana (Rafael, not Johann), Wilson, Evans, the drunkards in the Shea crowd bundled up in their Members Only jackets…).
  • The turf at Shea was no better than my son’s little league field after surviving a game of tackle football in the rain.  The technology of infield lawn care has evolved by leaps and bounds.  I guess we have Carl Spackler and his hybrid research to thank for that. 
  • There was a noticeable lack of pitching changes.  Tony LaRussa would have substituted 4 pitchers during the time that Calvin Schiraldi was allowed to remain in the game, long after he was clearly ineffective.
  • I smiled when I saw the crazy lady rolling her arms in the front row just to the left of home plate.  Her repetitive rolling motion placed a jinx on the Red Sox’ pitchers as they threw.  Babe Ruth has nothing on this lady.   
What made that night 25 years ago so perfect was the depth of despair I felt before rising suddenly to the peak of joy.  You have to go through hell before you get to heaven, said Steve Miller, and he’s a rock star – he should know.  The 1986 game offers a good life lesson for all of us, even the non-sports fans, although the non-fans probably didn’t make it as far as this paragraph.  To experience winning, you have to know losing (paradoxical unity).

Sports are such an ideal metaphor for life.  Everyone should have one sports memory that touches them the way this game touched me, and if you're lucky, Vin Scully does the commentary.

Maybe for you, my NY/NJ friends, it is this game:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Driven to Tears

“Protest is futile; nothing seems to get through
What's to become of our world, who knows what to do.”
- Driven to Tears, music and lyrics by Sting

I am pretty sure that Sting did not write this song with teaching his daughter how to drive a car in mind, but the process of training my 15 ½ year old to handle 2,200 pound machine capable of traveling at high speed is driving me to tears.

I admittedly approached her training phase a bit na├»ve, maybe even more so than she was, and that’s saying something.  It was easy for me to overlook the fact that my driving skills and instincts were not as honed 32 years ago as they are now.  In my mind, I always drove with my current level of precision, safety, and innate feel for the road.  When I was 17 (the legal driving age in NJ at the time), I was dropped into the proverbial deep end of the pool, and rehearsed the art of traffic dodging in my 1973 Plymouth Duster on the mean streets of New York City.  In NYC during peak hours, the motto “Hesitation Kills” is not just an empty platitude.  It has real life consequences. 
I have some faint memories of my parents teaching me to drive as a teen.  My mom took a laissez-faire approach.  She would toss me the keys, and say, “You drive.”  Not wanting to disappoint her, I would.  We’d talk about all sorts of topics on those long drives, none of which were related to the task of driving that I remember.  It was mostly sports, current events and school.  I never remember her being nervous as she sat in the passenger seat, pre-shoulder strap seat belts and pre-air bag technology.  She probably would have been nervous had she given it any thought, but I was the 5th student to attend her family driving academy.  My siblings broke her in, and I guess broke her down.

My dad did not spend too much time alone in the car with me behind the wheel.  He must have the survival gene.  He did teach me one lesson I still remember.  He taught me to watch the car in front of the car that was in front of me.  “Look through the back window of the car in front and see what’s coming next through their windshield,” he would tell me in more colorful language than I have provided here.  Driving was all about anticipation, he taught.  That’s true.  Teaching my daughter to drive is all about anticipation…along with a healthy dose of dread and a dollop of trepidation.  That’s what I anticipated.

I went into my daughter’s instructional phase with a sense of calm, a calm that can only come from total resignation and acceptance of the reality of the inevitable.  I was calm because I had no choice.  She would learn to drive with or without me, so I might as well be the one.  It was not going to be my wife coaching her on proper driving techniques, and for obvious reasons, I will not share in this space why she would not be the trainer.  I’ll let you guess.

The first outing started with what I thought would be the most valuable lesson of all.  I would teach her to pump her own gas.  After all, you won’t get far if you can’t put gas in the car. 
“I don’t want to learn that,” she said.  I anticipated this objection.  Guess what my answer was? 
“Move to New Jersey or get out here and learn.”

She watched with intense disinterest all of the steps – swipe card, raise lever, select grade, remove gas cap, pump.  At least she stood outside of the car while the tank was filled, and we didn’t lose the gas cap.  It was a small victory.

Next I drove to the local church parking lot for a few simple pointers.  For this module of training, she needed to sit in the driver’s seat.  There are a few moments in a man’s life when he comes face to face with his own mortality.  His wedding day; the birth of his children; the day they start school.  Standing outside of the car looking at her in that driver’s seat was one of those moments.  From here, it’s a short trip to soft foods and angioplasties.  But I digress.

We went through the motions.  Adjust the seat, position the mirrors, review the dashboard and switches on the steering column.  I patiently explained the functioning of the intermittent wipers, the headlight high beams and the appropriate usage of the car horn (when you are cut off in traffic or to signal a friend to come over to your car).  Car in park, key turned, and we’re ready to roll.

“Which pedal is the gas?”

Inhale.  Exhale.  Serenity now.  Serenity now.

After 5 minutes of repetitive whiplash, a few panicked jerks of the wheel to prevent the car from drifting into the woods, and other white knuckle inducing moments, Marra felt ready to take the next logical step in her driving education.  After all, she had been driving at a sustained 8 mph for a solid couple of minutes.

“I think I am ready for some music now.”

Inhale.  Exhale.  Serenity now.  Serenity now.  I will teach her the value of preset stations and their role in preventing distracted driving on another day.  On this particular day, even though she was ready for music, I was not.  I needed quiet.  The roar of my life passing before my eyes was deafening.  30 minutes was enough for Lesson #1.

“So, can I try driving on the street next time?” 

If I don’t laugh, I’ll cry, but it’s tears for me either way.  The driver’s ed process may at times drive me to despair, but I am proud of my girl.  She’ll learn it.  She is growing up and getting mobile, and that is good and welcome.  One thing is for certain – she will have to pay for and pump her own gas along the way, at least until she moves to Jersey.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Cardinal Rule

House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, was scheduled to deliver an address at the University of Pennsylvania on the topic of income inequity in America.  His address was abruptly cancelled when news leaked that citizens, otherwise known to Rep. Cantor as “mobs”, would try to attend and provide instant vocal feedback on the content of the speech.  Since these so-called ‘citizens’ could not be trusted to stay home like sheep, Rep. Cantor decided to go home like a mouse.    
Fortunately, since this was a planned event, the written text of the address was provided to media outlets in advance.  Much of it was utterly forgettable, mostly because the address did nothing to bridge the divide in the smoldering economic and social debate.  There was, however, a snippet buried towards the end that MSRP found interesting and worth releasing to its’ loyal readers.  I left the typographical errors untouched.  I promise that you will not find this text excerpt of Cantor’s speech anywhere else on the Internet (unless it is stolen from me without attribution by members of the evil 1% crowd).

From prepared speech by Eric Cantor:

(Pause for applause)

Let the unfettered market work, and all our troubles will be solved, my friends.  In America today, we have concrete examples of how success can save us without burdensome tax increases that stifle the innovative instincts of poor wealthy – the Job Cremators.

The Associated Press just this week reported that Mayor Francis Slay of St. Louis has cancelled mandatory furloughs for city employees.  These furloughs were long scheduled because of an estimated $2.8 million shortfall in the city’s budget.  Why were these jobs saved from the funeral pyre of the Obama Recession, my friends?  Was it because President Obama stole from the Job Cremators and gave to freeloading public servants as part of his massive redistribution and disincentivization scheme?  No, no – not on my watch.  These jobs were saved by the marketplace, saved by Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team.  Yes, that’s right.  He’s a legal Latino, and we love him, even here in Philadelphia!

(Pause for applause)

You see, according to Mayor Slay, the Cardinals playoff run has generated additional revenue of over $2 million to the city.  $2 million, my friends.  The formula to generate this windfall is simple as 1-2-3, or should I say, 4-6-3!  (Pause for laughs)  Millionaires buying luxury suite access, purchasing $8 domestic beers and $10 American made foam rally fingers spur economic activity, and the existing tax structure does the rest.  St’ Louis enforced the laws already on the books, and the jobs were saved.

Make no mistakes as to how this miracle happened.  It isn’t the ‘whoa-is-me’ 99% attending these games that is helping to lift all boats.  The welfare queens in the teachers’ unions aren’t saving those jobs in St Louis because they can’t afford to go to Busch Stadium in October, and haven’t for years.  They would rather mooch off the rest of us and watch the games on free TV, subsidized by the 1%.  It is the 1%, the unfairly vilified 1%, that is buying the tickets, staying in the luxury hotels and buying the exclusive memorabilia that generate the tax income that saved St. Louis.  They are the heroes of the little guy, and I for one applaud them for their patriotism.

 (Pause for applause)

In the St. Louis model, we have a roadmap forward.  If every baseball club in America could work a little harder, if they could all draft a little smarter, all teams could enjoy playoff success and generate millions for their host cities in tax revenue.  No one is standing in the way of these teams reaching the lofty heights that the Cardinals have reached this season, no one that is, except the government and its onerous regulations.  Cancel the regulations, we say, and unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of every franchise.  Stop pitting team against team – they can all win in this country, if only we give them an opportunity to win. 
You see, we don’t need a crushing, defeatist millionaires’ tax to fix America, my friends.  All we need are 32 Major League Baseball teams in the playoffs next season.  If they all work hard, they can achieve their dreams and save their cities by all reaching the World Series.  The explosion of good paying jobs as street vendors and food service technicians will start a renaissance in our inner cities unseen since the founding of our great nation.

Don’t let Democratic pessimists tell you that it can’t happen.  In America, everyone can win.  And so can you.  And so can I. 
(Pause for applause)

Hmmm, Cantor’s analysis of the way forward in this country demonstrates his exceptional grasp of common cents.  His grasp of dollars and cents is stunning.  I think he’s grasping a lot of dollars and cents.  Yours and mine.

Friday, October 21, 2011

He's History

“History is not merely what happened. It is what happened in the context of what might have happened.” – Historian Hugh Trevor-Roper

Moammar Gadhafi, or his alter-ego, Moammar Khaddafy, has been killed by U.S.-backed rebel freedom fighters, dangerous anti-American terrorists or President Obama. Depends. The demise of the Libyan leader was hastened with the support of NATO forces from above and perhaps some secret ‘assistance’ on the ground. Despite the uncertainty surrounding the circumstances, it seems clear that he is dead. We may never know the true story of what happened, but history will tell a story nonetheless. That’s what history does. Objectivity is very subjective.

While processing the news of the dictator’s fate, I’m conflicted on an intellectual level, and indifferent on an emotional level.

Intellectually, on the one hand, I question our right to continue the support of killing in the name of saving lives. There are admittedly many bad actors in the world (I’m looking at you, Tom Arnold) but I must question the degree to which we assign ourselves as Americans the preeminent role of global executioner. I am reluctant to place that kind of unchecked power in one man, or one government, regardless of party affiliation. As I have said, we cannot kill our way to victory in the battle against evil, although we can give it the ol’ college try. I am not sure that killing as many of them before they get us is a winning or a moral strategy. It’s cold and lonely here on the moral high ground.

Emotionally, my mood is best described as indifferent. I am satisfied that Gadhafi is gone, as well as bin Laden and all the other leaders of global terrorism for that matter. The world should be a better place without them. Satisfaction, however, is not the same as joy or happiness, and I do not feel the need to shoot my AK-47 off into the air in celebration. I might feel differently if my life was more directly impacted by this particular madman, but it wasn’t. I cringe at the scenes of any Americans exercising their patriotic duty cheering the death of anyone, even such a crazed maniac. I’m glad he’s gone, but that’s the end of it for me. Instead of taking to the streets and honking my horn, I think I’ll make a sandwich. (bin Laden was different – I felt tangibly safer knowing that guy was gone.)

Intellectually and emotionally, I have moved on from Gadhafi and I am preparing myself for the next battle, the battle to win credit for the deed. U.S. politicians will state that Gadhafi is gone because of their unequivocal and unwavering support for NATO and the rebel cause. Another set of U.S. politicians will begrudgingly acknowledge his death, and then remind the public that had everyone followed their preferred course of action, this would have happened sooner. Others still will hedge their bets and say, “Good job”, but let’s see how the next phase is managed before we erect any statutes. There will be no winners in this political battle for history’s judgment. Of this I am certain, since my daughter to this day is learning competing theories as to the fall of the Roman Empire. Almost 2 millennia later, you think we’d know for sure.

The results of revolutions like this are best measured in decades and centuries. We debate and score these events on nightly TV when it is impossible to know who is right. The unknowns are too numerous, the facts too fluid. It does help to pass the time, and sometimes it helps someone get elected.

Is the death of Gadhafi at this time, in this manner, a good thing or a bad thing? Despite the pundits’ air of certainty about the correct answer to that question, may I submit that they have no idea? The situation in Africa and the Middle East cannot be analyzed like a simple game of geopolitical checkers, or competitive game of checkers’ smarter cousin, chess. In chess, the pieces only move when we act on them, and the game itself is typically played on a flat board with two different colored teams. Real life foreign policy games exists in a world with a 3 dimensional board, pieces of all colors, and oh – guns and bombs. It is not as antiseptic as a classroom debate, and what we don’t know outweighs what we are told.

The currents of history are moving swiftly and violently so far in this century, driven by an historic shift of power from the institutions to individuals. Technology has played a large role is breaking down barriers to knowledge, information, and most of all, communication. Democratization is sweeping the globe, and the consequences of this shift will not be known for decades, maybe centuries. Arab Spring, the Awakening, Occupy Wall Street, the death of Gadhafi will all be brief mentions in the larger story that is not yet completely written about the Rise of the Individual. History is hard to understand from the front lines, and we are under attack by events.

When considering the Gadhafi saga, my conflict is both moral and historical. We won’t know what the right thing to do was for a long, long time. Maybe never.

Gadhafi is gone. So far so good.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Beauty and the Beasts

The 8th debate of the interminable Republican nominating season is in the books, and I for one, am tiring of the beauty pageant aspect of the entire exercise.  I am part of a shrinking minority that would prefer several debates that each last for hours delving into one topic at a time.  I fantasize about a debate on immigration, for example, where the press can fact check on the fly and challenge the candidate’s assumptions, biases, and misinformation.  I long for a press corps that will help the public separate fact from fiction instead of lazily amplifying whatever a candidate says as some gospel truth worth of broadcast.  By not challenging incorrect (ridiculous) statements, the press gives tacit approval of the nonsense.  If the press did their job, we’d have less shallow beauty contest hype and more of a ‘Plain Jane’ competition of ideas.  At least I would watch, and I am still part of a desirable advertising demographic for a few more years.

The political party nominating process, in many ways, parallels a beauty pageant competition:

The Unseen Regionals – For most Americans, the Miss America pageant begins once the 51 contestants (don’t forget DC – no Senator in Congress, but they do receive one delegate to the pageant) take to the stage in Atlantic City.  The competition begins before the curtain rises for the national audience, however.  We pay little attention to how the field that is presented is winnowed to these finalists.  There’s probably a beauty contest power broker in each jurisdiction that wields undue influence on the selection, but we’ll never know, and frankly, we’ll never care.

The public is similarly introduced to all of the potential candidates (it feels like there are 51 options) for the nation’s highest office by the media, which wields undue influence on the selection.  Magazines and talking heads will list all of the potential entrants into the next race beginning the day after this election is decided.  We don’t know how these lucky potential nominees are selected for initial consideration.  We may never know, and frankly, will never care.  Chances are good, however, that on one occasion or another, the person “looked presidential” or made a special interest group angry.

Meet the Contestants – The field of 51 beauties is given the privilege of walking uncomfortably to the microphone to state their name and state of origin, and then quickly dismissed.  Ten minutes into the 2 hour marathon program, we are told that the field has been unceremoniously reduced to 10 Finalists, and here they are.  Someone from Texas is always in the Top Ten.  We never get a satisfactory answer to the question, “What about Rhode Island?”  She could have been a contender, but her cheering section is limited by the small population of her state.  She didn’t stand a chance.  There is always one wild card in the Top Ten that leaves you wondering, “Is she in bed with someone powerful who could sway the results?”
In presidential politics, poll after poll after poll is released and dissected, and the field of potential nominees is unceremoniously reduced to 10 or less.  If the public doesn’t know your name, you are toast.  If you are from Texas, you always have a puncher’s chance.  We never get a satisfactory answer to the question, “What about Rep. Quietly Effective?”  He could have been a contender, but his cheering section is limited to the small population of his state, and his inability to shamelessly self-promote instead of working for solutions holds him back.  He didn’t stand a chance.  There is always one wild card in the Top Ten that leaves you wondering, “Is he in bed with someone powerful who could sway the results?”

The Swimsuit Competition – As we all know, beauty outside must mean beauty inside.  This is America, after all.  We need to undress the pageant contestants and fantasize what it would be like to be with them for 4 years, maybe more.  So we strip them down, ogle at them, unfairly magnifying any flaws, any weaknesses.  Usually we are deceived by focusing at only one part of their body of work, blinding us the totality of the package.  After careful and thoughtful analysis, the ugly contestants are dismissed.

As we all know, confidence outside must mean competence inside.  This is America, after all.  We need to deconstruct the frontrunner(s) and fantasize what it would be like to be with them for 4 years, maybe more.  So we strip them down, ogle at them, unfairly magnifying any flaws, any weaknesses.  Usually we are deceived by focusing at only one part of their body of work, blinding us the totality of the package.  After careful and thoughtful analysis, the ugly contestants are dismissed.

The Talent Competition – Some contestants juggle, some tap dance, and some do magic tricks.  This is the portion of the competition where we convince ourselves that we aren’t voting for one contestant over another based solely on looks and gut reactions.  The talent they demonstrate actually means something and will influence our vote.  Or so we tell our friends.  Then we rewind to watch the swimsuit event a second time.

During the fight for the nomination of their party, some contestants juggle, some tap dance, and some do magic tricks.  This is the portion of the competition where we convince ourselves that we aren’t voting for one contestant over another based solely on looks and gut reactions.  The talent they demonstrate actually means something and will influence our vote.  Or so we tell our friends.  We rewind to watch the YouTube parodies of their mistakes a second time.

In politics, unlike beauty pageants, there is one talent that carries more weight than the other factors – the ability to raise money.  Do rich people think you are “hot”?  You could say that evaluating the size of a candidate’s war chest helps determine how long he/she can stay in the contest.  Evaluating the size of a beauty contestant’s chest helps determine how long she can stay in the contest.  Both evaluations take up a tremendous amount of TV time, as well they should (it’s not called the boob tube for nothing).

The Question – We eventually need to know if these regional beauty queens have brains and how they perform under pressure.  We learn how smart they are in the most entertaining and least predictive way possible – we ask an overly broad question (or two), and judge the response not by depth of thought, but by the depth of conviction.  The respondent must look as if they truly believe their answer, right or wrong.  Extra credit is awarded for staying within the allotted 60 seconds.  No follow up is allowed by the judges.  It helps if “family” is worked into the answer somehow.  Shedding tears is encouraged.
During primary season, we eventually need to know if these regional beauty queens have brains and how they perform under pressure.  We learn how smart they are in the most entertaining and least predictive way possible – we ask an overly broad question (or two), and judge the response not by depth of thought, but by the depth of conviction.  The respondent must look as if they truly believe their answer, right or wrong.  Extra credit is awarded for staying within the allotted 60 seconds.  No follow up is allowed by the moderators.  It helps if “family” is worked into the answer somehow.  Shedding tears is discouraged, although it worked pretty well for Hillary in New Hampshire 4 years ago.

Crowning the Winner and Runner Up – Once the votes are counted, all of the non-first place winners (read: losers) rally behind the new Miss America, and she is showered on stage with confetti, balloons, and a popular jingle.  She struts her stuff on the runway, waves to the crowd, and prepares for her appearance the next morning on the Today Show with Matt Lauer.  Her reign begins, at least until some ugly skeleton is dragged out of her closet and the media jackals descend.  Set your watches!

Once the votes are counted, all of the non-first place winners (read: losers) rally behind the new party nominee, and he/she is showered on stage with confetti, balloons, and a popular jingle.  He/she struts on the podium, waves to the crowd, and prepares for the appearance the next morning on the Today Show with Matt Lauer.  The reign begins, at least until some ugly skeleton is dragged out of his/her closet and the media jackals descend.  Set your watches!

One more thing – competitors in both the physical and the political beauty competitions would like an endorsement from Donald Trump.

After it’s all said and done, it’s a pretty shallow way to pick a President, but it’s our way, and we are Exceptional and favored by God.   It is a good process for TV ratings, magazine subscriptions sales, and blog readership.  I’ll keep watching the contest as it unfolds, but until things change, I guess I’ll have to read some, too.

I might learn something.  I sure ain't learning from the beauty contestants.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

#Occupy Deja Vu

I ran across this old newspaper clipping in a box in my basement.  Almost 140 years old!

Atlanta Sentinel

October 18, 1871

#Occupy Peachtree Rally Reaches 3rd Week

By Farley Balanced, Staff Crier

Protesters gathered on Peachtree Road for the third consecutive week, expressing their frustration and at times anger at prevailing economic conditions that they claim are adversely affecting those at the bottom of the income scale in favor of those at the top.  The protests that seemed to have begun spontaneously in Atlanta have given rise to like gatherings in other cities and towns across the South, and local leaders are expressing concern.

While the message of the protesters has been described as “muddled”, the general consensus among those gathered is clear.  They claim that income inequality is grinding down the middle class, increasing the ranks of the poor, and threatening to create a permanent underclass of able, willing but jobless people.  Because they see an American economy that is not working for all of the people, they have dubbed themselves “The 3/5th-ers”, since 3/5 represents what they believe to be their value relative to individuals in the upper class.

Productivity among these low wage workers has risen during each year of the past decade, while the profits of the farming and food service industries has also grown.  The protesters, revealing their true redistributionist agenda, believe that as business prospers at their expense, they should realize gains in wages. 
“In Atlanta and across the country, thousands of Americans have taken to the streets, certain of the morality of their message: bringing fairness to Main Street,” one of the protest leaders, who preferred to remain anonymous for his own security, said. “The silent masses aren’t so silent anymore. They are fighting to give voice to the struggles that everyday Americans are going through.”

Local citizens were not sympathetic to the protester’s calls for economic change, and resented their calls for what they described as creeping socialism.

“These protesters shouldn’t rally against plantation owners because they’re the ones who create the jobs,” said one shop owner whose business he claimed was being hurt by the gathering.  “Don’t blame plantation owners, don’t blame the white man, if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself!”

Other passersby commented that the protesters did not appreciate the value of hard work, or the benefits already bestowed upon them by the government.  They pointed out that federal hand outs to the poor, like freedom and the right to vote, were creating a culture of dependency.

“Look, they are free to do whatever they want, and they don’t choose to work, like I did as a kid,” said Tyler Wendall Farnsworth III from his trusty mount.  “I had to work for some of what I got – no one handed me an opportunity to tenant farm.  I had to kill Indians for that right.”

“Corporate America brought them to this great country, gave them a place to live, 2 squares a day, and this is how they thank their country,” he added.  “Where is their patriotism?  By speaking up, they only serve to divide America.”

An elderly woman shouted to this reporter from her carriage, “I hear those protesters singing all the time, even when they are working.  No one sings unless they are happy.  I don’t see what all the fuss is about.”

Local authorities, fearing the worst, were bracing for violence by stockpiling guns, clubs, ropes, cannons, stones, whips, and more guns.  Police insisted that they were interested in only one thing – maintaining order, tradition, and the rule of law.

Colonel Hangum of the Atlanta Civil Patrol offered some tough words for the protesters and their sympathizers.  “This protest gathering is illegal.  They do not have a permit.  We are reasonable people but enough is enough.  If you are dissatisfied, you shouldn’t take to the streets.  You can bring your grievance to the courts, and get a fair and just ruling.  We have the greatest judicial system in the world, and my cousin, Judge Bobby, will see to it.”

“Perhaps these mobs would feel differently about their situation if they had some skin in the game.  Maybe they wouldn’t be trying to pit American against American.”  
One of the protesters commented aloud while being arrested and beaten, “I’ve been working 20 hours days since I was old enough to hold a stick in my hand, and the American Dream seems further away from me every day.  You know, I think the system might be rigged against us.”
Hmmm, the know, that guy might be on to something.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Fix Is In

As quoted several months ago from Joseph Stiglitz in Vanity Fair, speaking about protests in Europe and the Middle East:

“In recent weeks, we have watched people taking to the streets by the millions to protest political, economic, and social conditions in the oppressive societies they inhabit. These are societies where a miniscule fraction of the population – less than 1 percent – controls the lion’s share of the wealth; where wealth is the main determinant of power; where entrenched corruption of one sort or another is a way of life; and where the wealthiest often stand actively in the way of policies that would improve the lives of people in general. As we gaze out at the popular fervor in the streets, one question to ask ourselves is this: When will it come to America? In important ways, our country has become like one of these distant, troubled places.”

Ouch.  Like Nostradamus on a good day, Stiglitz might have been on to something.  Occupy Wall Street has spread to 60 cities in the U.S. within a month’s time, and shows no signs of slowing.

Conventional wisdom has that the Occupy Wall Street message is muddled.  Is it?  The New York Times summed up the issue like this:

“The protests, though, are more than a youth uprising. The protesters’ own problems are only one illustration of the ways in which the economy is not working for most Americans. They are exactly right when they say that the financial sector, with regulators and elected officials in collusion, inflated and profited from a credit bubble that burst, costing millions of Americans their jobs, incomes, savings and home equity. As the bad times have endured, Americans have also lost their belief in redress and recovery.”

When my friends on the Right rail with their Pavlovian revulsion to “spreading the wealth around”, I find it important to remind them that what is actually happening today is a consolidation of wealth into the hands of the few at the expense of the many.  That is documented fact.  We should not argue that the trend is dangerous for a nation.  We should only argue as to how it should be fixed. 

Again from the Times:

“Extreme inequality is the hallmark of a dysfunctional economy, dominated by a financial sector that is driven as much by speculation, gouging and government backing as by productive investment.”

Do you doubt the fact that income disparity is growing to dangerous levels? Median pay for CEOs in large corporations rose 27% in 2010, according to federal data, with the median salary now at $9 million, including $2.2 million in bonuses. Pay increases for private industry workers fell on average 2.1% during the same period, according to USA Today. Could it be that those private industry workers are lazy rabble, waiting for the next hand-out? Not so, according to The Wall Street Journal. For the two year period from January 2009 through December 2010, worker productivity rose at an annual rate of 4%. Corporate profits, it reported, rose 30% during the same period.

Please check out these amazing charts that summarize the landscape with great clarity.

Rest assured, protesters, your GOP is listening, and they have a new plan to fix what ails us!

Fix #1:  If only large companies had more money in the form of tax cuts, they could hire more workers.

That conventional Right wing thinking is not supported by any statistics, and flies in the face of reality. Let me paint the picture in more blunt terms: Pay at the top is up, pay at the bottom is down; company profits are up, but hiring is stagnant; taxes remain at the lowest level per capita in 50 years, yet the GOP Plan calls for another 10% reduction in the top rate…while crying about programs that assist the lowest 20% of the population. All this is happening in the shadow of the Citizens United court decision, allowing unlimited corporate money to influence political campaigns and ultimately government policy.

It’s demand, stupid, and tax cuts to corporations will not spur demand any time soon.

While we’re at it, let’s squeeze more out of the lazy poor that own a ‘staggering’ 2.5% of the national wealth.  That’ll teach them not to complain next time!  Nice fix.

Fix #2:  If only large corporations had fewer regulations, they could hire more workers. 
Great bumper sticker material, but this position is not supported by any credible research.  Facts are stubborn things.  For several years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has asked companies that are laying off workers if regulations are the cause.  Overwhelmingly, the answer is no.  The frequency of “regulations” impacting jobs is unchanged under the Obama administration when compared to the Bush administration.  The Wall Street Journal and the National Federation of Independent Business found the same thing.  Why are companies laying off workers?  Low demand.

Bruce Bartlett, former Reagan administration domestic advisor and George H.W. Bush Treasury official, correctly sums up the GOP position on government regulations thusly: 

“In my opinion, regulatory uncertainty is a canard invented by Republicans that allows them to use current economic problems to pursue an agenda supported by the business community year in and year out. In other words, it is a simple case of political opportunism, not a serious effort to deal with high unemployment.”

Isn’t one of the reasons we’re in this mess a lack of regulation within the financial services industry?

Fix #3:  If only we could drill more oil domestically, we could create more jobs.  
That’s a solid 20th century answer to a 21st century problem.  By the way, the Gulf region is back up to pre-Deep Water Horizon disaster levels of drilling and production.

The GOP has devolved into a party with knee jerk answers to complex questions:

Economic downturn?  Easy!  Cut taxes.  We’re holding back job creators.  Cut regulations and oversight.  It is holding back job creators.  Drill for more oil.  It will create jobs.

Economic boom?  Easy!  Cut taxes.  Job creators don’t need to pay any more.  Cut regulations.  The market is doing its job.  Drill for more oil.  We need the energy to continue the expansion.

I think we should be suspicious when the answers are always the same, regardless of the questions.

Disperse the protesters, or let their energy fade away.  The problem of income inequity will still be with us, and not because some work hard and some are lazy.  It is because the system is rigged.  The only thing that is “fixed” right now is the system, and the Occupy Wall Street crowd and their sympathizers are done placing bets when the house always wins.

Monday, October 17, 2011

4 For 4

MSRP is my shorthand for Music, Sports, Religion, and Politics, 4 topics that are of great interest to me, and 4 topics I enjoy sharing with others through my writing. The problem with such seemingly disparate categories is that I can usually only address one area per blog post, and on some level, that cheats you, the Loyal Reader.  On a particularly inspirational day, I can combine two areas into one post. There are many days when religion and politics mix, sports and music, politics and music. Rarely can a blog post allude to 3 of the 4 elements.  It therefore seemed impossible that I could find one discussion topic that combines all 4 elements of my MSRP blog, but today, the stars have aligned. 
The singing of God Bless America during the 7th inning stretch at Major League Baseball games combines music, sports, religion and politics.  I can exhale.

God Bless America became a staple at ballpark during the 7th inning stretch after 9/11, but the song’s connection to sports predates those uber-patriotic days.  As any Philadelphia Flyers fan could tell you, Kate Smith’s rendition of the anthem before Flyers’ games in the 1970s meant a guaranteed win for the Broad Street Bullies.  God was blessing America, and by extension, Dave Schultz, Bobbie Clarke and Bernie Parent as they beat up their opponents in the Spectrum night after night.  God loves a good hockey fight, and can you blame him?

As a song, its link to the topic of music is clear.  It is our most singable anthem (it competes with The Star Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful), and whenever someone mangles The Star Spangled Banner in public, the conversation invariably moves towards full-throated calls for a switch to God Bless America as the national anthem.  It is quintessentially American – simple, loud, and proud, just like us.  Remember, we’re a nation that thinks 9-9-9 is the perfect governing philosophy.  The easier the better, and God Bless America is easy to sing.  Even Roseanne Barr couldn’t ruin it. 

God Bless America has one other quintessentially American quality: it puts religion front and center.  Yahweh Bless America and Allah Bless America just don’t make the cut in these parts, for obvious reasons.  L. Ron Hubbard Bless America lacks a lyrical quality.    And now the song that combines music, sports and religion has to become political.  For that trick, God Bless the Values Voters Summit, held about 10 days ago, and in particular, Bryan Fischer. 
Bryan Fischer of the conservative American Family Association knows why there hasn't been a "Muslim attack" since Sept. 11, and he shared his knowledge with us, not on stone tablets, but during a speech:

"By God's blessing, we have not been hit by a Muslim attack since 9/11," Fischer said. "I suggest that in part, we have Major League Baseball to thank. You remember that the week after 9/11 Major League Baseball converted the seventh inning stretch from the singing of 'Take Me Out To The Ballgame' to the singing of 'God Bless America.'"

"Now 'God Bless America' is not just a song, it is a prayer. When we sing that we are inviting God to bless America, to stand beside her and to guide her through the night with a light from above," Fischer said.

"So for one brief, shining moment every night, Major League Baseball has converted our stadiums into cathedrals in which tens of thousands of ordinary Americans lift their hearts and voices as one and ask God to watch over and protect the United States," Fischer said.

"Ladies and gentleman, I think that those prayers have been heard and they have been answered," Fischer said.

Music – song God Bless America
Sports – Baseball’s 7th inning stretch
Religion - God
Politics - Value Voters Summit

You can tell I’m pretty proud of myself working all 4 into this post.  Anyway, here is my take:

May I suggest that anyone who believes that they understand how and why God answers some prayers and not others is a charlatan? Pretending to understand His purpose through an analysis of worldly events is a fool’s game. Where does it end? Is the opposite true? If one of your parents dies of cancer, even though you prayed with sincerity and humility that he/she survives, what does that say about you and your virtue in the eyes of God? What does that say about God?

Did God want the Flyers to win more than the Montreal Canadians?

Fischer’s point is direct: If we pray to God more, or if more of us pray to God, our nation will not be attacked.  Osama bin Laden asked his followers to pray that America was attacked.  Were his prayers answered?  Maybe we didn’t pray with the right words.  Maybe our actions angered God to the point where our words of prayer could not save us.  There are more Muslims in the world than Christians.  Maybe the Christians just need to get louder, and hope that the Muslims don’t start singing a pro-Allah song during halftime of a futbol match.

Maybe we have no idea.  Maybe Fischer is preying upon the religious right for political gain. 

The Lord works in mysterious ways. Let’s leave it at that.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Run, Forrest, Run

I read this week in The Week that Pinellas County, Florida has decided to stop adding fluoride to drinking water.  This decision has been made despite protests by dentists who point out that fluoridation has dramatically lowered national tooth decay rates.  Tea Party activists said fluoridation was part of a plot by “the world government to keep people stupid.”

If these activists had been raised on Pinellas County tap water, then I would tend to agree with them. 
Lord knows taking the opinion of dentists, who attend and graduate from college, med school and dental school, who spend their lives inside people’s mouths, over the opinions of people with tea bags hanging from the brims of their hats at public events, would be silly.  The science of dentistry is unsettled, and therefore we should reject any of its teachings.  Next, we’ll be told that 20% of dentists do not recommend sugarless Trident for their patients that chew gum.  Is there anything worth believing anymore? 
Medical science is being replaced by Internet rumors as the sole source of facts and knowledge, and our political class has gone all in.  Do I exaggerate?
Michelle Bachmann, darling of the Tea Party, claimed after one of the GOP/Tea Party debates that the HPV vaccination causes mental retardation in girls, because someone told her so after the debate.  She repeated the claim in 3 interviews, so this wasn’t an unfortunate slip of the tongue after a long day on the trail.  Bachmann’s anti-vaccine nonsense was confronted, not just by the Left looking for a cheap punch line, but by some liberal icons, such as Rush Limbaugh, the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, Bachmann’s former campaign manager, and the American Association of Pediatrics.

Bachmann heard the HPV claim somewhere, and it was therefore factual.  I am certain the woman who educated the candidate was sincere in her belief.  Apparently, sincerity is not enough, since this claim has been totally debunked, and would be a source of major embarrassment to Michelle Bachmann, if she and her followers stopped for one second to consider how dumb this is.

Nikki Haley, Republican governor of South Carolina, recently backed off the claim that 50% of applicants at a local nuclear facility had failed a drug test after admitting that she was told this by a random worker at the nuclear plant. 
"I've never felt like I had to back up what people tell me (emphasis added). You assume that you're given good information," Haley told Jim Davenport of the Associated Press.  "And now I'm learning through you guys that I have to be careful before I say something."  Her intellectual curiosity needs some refinement.

The erroneous “factoid”, which she used as a basis to develop a state policy to drug test the unemployed before granting benefits, was never checked for accuracy.  Gov. Haley, to her credit, apologized for accepting this worker’s statement as factually true, although to her shame, this did not cause her to change her policy position.  The silly made up stuff that supports her position does not require vetting, because it sounds true.  Therefore, it is true.  To a hammer, everything is a nail. (FACT: Less than 1% of the applicants failed the pre-employment drug screen over a period of years.)

Herman Cain, the latest Tea Party darling, boasts that he will not sign any law that is more than 3 pages long.  For a country that revels in excess shopping, eating and watching TV, we shouldn’t be surprised that reading isn’t on our list of things we need more of.  Reading too much is bad for America, and wordy legislation is like a mandate to read.  His 9-9-9 Plan, like an effective pizza promotion, has the virtue of being easy to remember; unlike an effective pizza promotion, however, it will not drive sales of his brand to the masses. 
He celebrates his lack of interest in learning about the world as a qualification for the office of President.  Cain went so far as to promote his ignorance of foreign affairs by saying, “And when they (the media) ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan I'm going to say, you know, I don't know. Do you know?”    I am certain that world leaders will be anxious to listen to his global economic recommendations over a thin crust meat lovers’ pie at his first state dinner.  Someone should mention to Cain that we live in a global economy with global players.  Maybe that factoid was slated for page 4 of his debate briefing book.

Rick Perry, the fast rising and even faster fading candidate from Texas, gets some of his biggest cheers when he revels in his own academic ineptitude. 
During a speech last week at Liberty University, Perry made the joke about what a lousy student he was.   Perry deadpanned that at his small high school, “I graduated in the top 10 of my graduating class — of 13.” The crowd laughed and applauded.  Poor grades in school are badge of honor among the GOP faithful.  Healthy skepticism of intellectuals I understand; full embrace of ignorance I do not.

Jennifer Rubin, a conservative writer at the Washington Post, said Perry’s speech “was, at least in part, a celebration of ignorance.” She added, “Yes, he was trying to be self-deprecating, but it’s disturbing to see that he thinks being a rotten student and a know-nothing gives one street cred in the GOP.” (from The Washington Monthly)

In just the last month, they cheered executions, booed gay soldiers, applauded the death of the uninsured, and every GOP candidate is bending over backwards to curry their favor.  The Tea Party was once branded as an independent movement with positions that sometimes conflicted with GOP orthodoxy.  Not anymore.  The national debates are advertised as the Republican/Tea Party Debates.  The groups are one in the same without pretense, and that’s too bad.  Where are the thinkers in the GOP?  Why isn’t it cool to be smart?

Forrest Gump once said, “Stupid is as stupid does.”  And now Joe the Plumber, the unlicensed ex-plumber and former surrogate for John McCain, is running for Congress.  Can you guess his party affiliation?  Run, Joe, Run.  We look forward to your unique contributions to the national discourse, and the premiere of your new reality TV show when the race is over.

We get the government we deserve, and if the Tea Partiers of Pinellas County have their way, the teeth we deserve, too.  Chew on that, while you still can. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Googling Yesterday

My son has found a new toy.  He recently downloaded Google Earth, the program that provides images of Earth down to street level views with amazing speed, clarity and precision.  I had seen the program before, but this was a revelation for young Thomas.  He couldn’t wait to show me how it worked.  Not wanting to be the Bad Father, and crush his enthusiasm with a standard issue, “Maybe later”, I indulged him. 
I stood over his shoulder while he navigated.  He zoomed into New York City to show me the streets we had walked together.  He zoomed into Nationals Park where we’ve seen dozens of games together.  He was most impressed by the program’s ability to provide a street level view in three dimensions, just as if we were walking down the virtual street.  With Google Earth, he could relive the experience of visiting new places with me again and again.  A safer version of Total Recall, you might say. 
As I said, I wanted to indulge the boy, and this looked like an opportunity for us to bond awhile longer in front of a screen other than the TV.  I decided to combine technology and narcissism to demonstrate to my son what Google Earth could really do.  I typed in the address of my boyhood house, and there it was. 
Home, home again.
I like to be here when I can.

There were the streets of my neighborhood.  I could see my grammar school where Sister Helen Catherine taught me math and Sister Agnes taught me to keep a clean desk (lest she dump the entire contents into the aisle).  I could see the backyards where I used to run and hide during epic games of war, armed only with my trusty pointed stick.  I was glad to see that there were still no fences between the houses to slow children down or herd them in.  From 5 miles above, everything appeared to me just as it did in 1971.  Nothing had changed.
My house was standing right where I had left it, but it was hard to fully relive the experience while staring at the digital roof from above.  I tried to rotate the image as Thomas had done with Nationals Park.  I wanted the 3-D version with a view of the front porch so we could take a virtual stroll up the stairs and through the front door. 
I discovered the limitation of Google Earth.  The front of my boyhood home could not be seen.  Everything appeared flat, without depth or detail, and it of course would remain so.  I was disappointed and deflated.  Looking at a current view of where I grew up was not the same as having been there, no matter how hard I wish it were so.  What had started as a fun Internet stroll down Memory Lane had reached a dead end.  I was no longer daydreaming on Memory Lane.  I was in my current house, 40 years in the future, and my back was starting to ache from bending over the keyboard, bossing around some innocent little kid with my freckles and (Lord, help him) my sense of humor.

That’s OK.  As I told my stories of boyhood, I realized that what Thomas was probably hearing was flat, one-dimensional tales.  He did not have the ability to rotate my recollections and make them three dimensional.  He hadn’t lived my life, and my words and body language, my tone of voice, my facial expressions could only give my youth so much depth or detail before the limits of my storytelling were apparent.  Just as Google cannot sufficiently replicate the street where I grew up, I cannot replicate the texture of my past to my son.  He’ll have to piece that view together with the insufficient pixels I allow him to see from time to time. 
The Google view was from 30,000 feet; my view was from 40 years ago, and both were somewhat blurry.  Google’s technology may improve with time, and things will come into greater focus.  I won’t be so lucky.
I guess those life experiences will have to remain mine and mine alone.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  I’ll just blog about it, and that will have to do, until the movie comes out (starring Jim Carrey).

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Change I Can’t Believe In

Another baseball post-season is in full force, and I am staying up much too late for games that, deep down, I couldn’t care less about.  They do not seem worthy of recording to watch at a more convenient time, but they are interesting enough to keep me out of bed when on live TV.  I cannot get past the feeling that if I don’t stay up, I might miss something, a Steve Bartman foul pop, a Don Denkinger blown call, or a Mariano Rivera once-in-a-generation melt down.  I don’t have a dog in the fight this year, as they say, but I’m hooked on the generic sport of baseball, and the playoffs are addictive.

I have been a fan of the game since before free agency, before the designated hitter, and before ESPN.  Heck, before cable TV.  Back then, Nolan Ryan was a hard throwing relief pitcher for the NY Mets who lacked consistent control, and was traded for Amos Otis.  Today, he owns the Texas Rangers and the record for most career no-hitters.  Go figure.  Players have changed, rules have changed, and divisional alignment has changed, while the basic core of the game has remained stable.  For the most part, I have no problem with that.

NOTE:  This is not going to be an old guy rant about the abomination that is the designated hitter rule.  That will be saved for another day, and it IS an abomination.

This is more of a musing on a variety of baseball irritations that have seeped into the game over the years, and this is my forum to wonder aloud, WTF?

Player Necklaces:  I’m sorry, but those roped necklaces that so many players wear today are embarrassing.  In 10 years, those same players will look at photos of themselves wearing those things with the same disdain that we ‘80s children look at our old photos featuring mullets, leg warmers, and Members Only jackets.  If the necklaces were made of candy, or steroids, I could understand.

The Underhand Put-Out:  When did pitchers decide that it is too risky to throw a ball to first base overhand?  These professional ballplayers have been throwing a ball since birth, sometimes longer, yet the 10 foot toss to 1st base on a dribbler seems to lock up their ability to function.  The shovel pass in football makes strategic sense.  The soft toss to the first baseman is plain childish.  Throw the darn thing – we’re paying you millions!  I blame Chuck Knoblach.   

The Walk Off Celebration:  I have no problem watching a team celebrate a walk off hit.  The walk off is one of the most exciting moments in all of sports.  I don’t remember when part of that happy celebration became an excuse to punch the hero in the gut until he runs away from his teammates.  A slap on the ass was good enough for a century, so let’s stop punishing the hero and pretending it’s fun for the victim.

The Pitch Count:  There was a time when a major league pitcher was not a delicate flower that was not allowed to throw more than 100 pitches every 5 days.  Cy Young won 511 games in his career.  I’ll bet he was over his pitch count a few times.  I can appreciate team trying to protect their investment, which in many cases represents millions of dollars, but perhaps – just maybe – these guys can handle more work.  Makes me long for the old days of unregulated HGH and steroids when injury recover was only an injection away...

Body Armor:  Ankle guards, elbow guards, helmet ear flaps – these guys are beginning to resemble Robo-Cop at the plate.  Get up there without all the specialty equipment and take your medicine.  Otherwise, there are semi-pro softball teams forming in your area soon.  “Thank you, for your cooperation.”

The Bullpen Cart:  God, I miss those golf carts with the team caps as roofs.  Those were cool.  Like the Zamboni, I always wanted to drive one of those during a game.  The bullpen cart has nothing to do with the actual game itself, but I did love them.  I am sure the relievers would enjoy the lift, especially those who are ‘waistline challenged’.

Starters Going 9 Innings (or relievers going more than 1):  See “Pitch Count”.

Little Chin Beards:  Grow one, don’t grow one, but make up your minds!  Half the league looks like their face could be found on an etching from an Egyptian Pharaoh pyramid stone.  I hate to defer to the Yankee policy, but clean shaven is starting to sound better to me.  It’s bad enough you spit into your gloves after every pitch.  The least you can do is shave those little Brillo pads off your faces.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the radio broadcasts of baseball.  The poetry of a good announcer creating the diamond scene in my mind continues to entertain, despite competing against high-def, 3-D, Pitch Trak, and the myriad of statistical pop-ups on the TV screen.  A good announcer can make all that noise superfluous to the action and the strategy and the drama of a hard fought game.  Love to listen to a game on the radio, and I hope that never changes. 

Hopefully Bud Selig won’t mess that up.