Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Roman Polanski

We are not a people who take losing easily. This is only magnified when it appears that our noses are being rubbed in it. That being said, stop chasing Roman Polanski.

Yes, he pled guilty to a crime and ran on the eve of his sentencing. Yes, he has studiously avoided putting himself in a position where he would be subject to extradition. Yes, he continues to try to obtain relief through our court system, still claiming misconduct by the judge in his case. There is certainly a knee jerk response that would say we will get you no matter how long it takes. But that would serve no useful purpose.

32 years is long enough to chase this fugitive. Mr. Polanski's victim has long since forgiven his transgressions. He has a distinguished career in his profession. He has even been awarded an Oscar in the intervening years. This does not excuse his wrongdoing, but we are not chasing a lifetime criminal. We are pursuing a 76 year old film director.

Being angry at Mr. Polanski does not justify the attention being directed at him by the authorities. It only makes them look petty and evil.

Mr. Polanski should not be perceived as a victim herein. But neither is he to be hunted and prosecuted further. For once we should close the book on a bad chapter and move on. For once, and forever, after over 3 decades, it is time to let it go.

Monday, September 28, 2009

3 For The Money

With the advent of free agency in the 1970's, we all learned to view the baseball horizon very differently. No longer did teams need to build through their farm systems or by way of trades. If you had money, and were willing to open your pocketbook, the possibilities were endless.

The Yankees have spent the last 35 years showing us the good and the bad of free agency. In the early years, signings of Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson and Goose Gossage turned a team that had wandered aimlessly for a decade into world champions in successive years.

Yet, through the years, for every signing of a Mike Mussina, Hideki Matsui or Jimmy Key, there were the epic disasters like Carl Pavano, Kevin Brown or Jose Contreras. Many have produced mixed returns, like Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield or Randy Johnson. Sometimes, opportunities like Johann Santana have not been acted upon.

When it comes to free agency, there are no guarantees. General managers can look brilliant one moment, and not-so-brilliant the next. That is why this year's signinga of CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Mark Teixeira by the Yankees, and the immediate results they produced, are so unique. Granted, a long term commitment of $423 million will give you a greater chance at success. And I understand that over 100 regular season victories still may not translate into World Series victory 27.

But, the Yankees had been floundering at the top of their rotation for several years. Chien Ming Wang seemed a less-than-intimidating leader of the Yankee rotation. The everyday lineup was starting to age and was in need of a true complement to A-Rod. With CC and AJ, there is now a chance to compete and win in a playoff series where having 2 top flight pitchers becomes of paramount importance. Maybe A-Rod will be also live up to his abilities during the post-season, now that not quite as much of the limelight shines upon him.

The long term benefits of these free agent signings are still unknown. A short and unproductive post-season would tarnish the image we now see. An injury or a sudden falling out could quickly reverse the Yankees' good fortunes. But, for now, it appears that this year's free agent signings were the best in recent memory.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sleeping with the enemy

Normally, when we have guests, we want to make sure everything is perfect for them. If they haven't stayed with us before, we fret over the weather forecast, the food we serve, if the bed is too hard or too soft, and almost anything else you could imagine that would detract from the experience. We want them to walk away glowing. We have guests with us this weekend. I am very conflicted about how good a time I want them to have.

Shirley and Pete took the bus down from Springfield, Massachusetts to New York City yesterday. Shirley is our hero. Several years ago we were forced into a situation where we had to find a home for our 3 pets, including a blind dog, an old dog with bad hips and an obese cat. Shirley came to our rescue. Thus, for us, she can do no wrong. Well, maybe I should qualify that. Shirley is a Red Sox fan.

We picked Shirley and Pete up, walked them through Times Square at 5PM on a Friday, took them to Zabars and Fairway and overloaded their minds and their stomachs. We sat out on our terrace in Fort Lee, on a beautiful evening, staring at the bright lights of the city. This was as close to perfect as possible.

This morning I woke up to find Pete and Shirley once more on the terrace. Wispy clouds hung over the city. I picked up bagels and the newspaper for them.

It is all too idyllic to last. I know that once Richie, Pete, Shirley and I get on the bus this afternoon and head to the Stadium for the Red Sox-Yankee game all those good vibes will fade. Once we take our seats and CC Sabathia throws the first pitch, my admiration for Shirley will recede into the background. The first good moment for the Sox, if Shirley or Pete cheer, I will glare at them. A Red Sox victory might mean a ride back to New Jersey in complete silence.

Shirley and Pete are relaxing this morning, blissfully unaware of my thoughts. They most likely consider me, for the moment, a perfect host. This afternoon I am not a host but a Yankee fan. I hope this doesn't lead to the end of a beautiful weekend. Maybe combining a visit to us with a ballgame at the Stadium was not such a good idea after all.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

More on Serena


When competing, especially on the field/court, it's very hard at times to keep one's emotions in check. Yet that's exactly what is expected, especially of the people whom we pay to watch and make millions playing a sport. But honestly, it's just not human nature. You can't expect someone to play as hard as they can, want to compete and win at all costs, wear their heart on their sleeve, all the while doing so in a gentlemanly manner and making sure that they're being proper.

Professional athletes are like you and me, just performing better in their chosen arena. But because they're more proficient than us at the sport, does that mean they need to become emotionally non-human? One cannot expect someone not to react to a terrible call at a crucial moment, a hard foul, a bad line call, a tough penalty, a bad miss, etc. If we are being totally honest, most fans, in similar circumstances, would likely react the same way.

Now, without a doubt, I do believe that professional athletes need to conduct themselves in a certain manner and should be held accountable for their actions, but people can't expect them to be robots. This is no more evident than in tennis.

Tennis players are out on an island by themselves dealing with the opposing player, the conditions, their own play, emotional and physical situations and circumstances, etc. It's just them. No coach. No caddy. No teammates to lean on or to be substituted for if they're having a bad day. No plays being drawn up or timeouts for rest or to stop momentum. The individuals must figure out how to win, how to weather the storm, how to navigate through the match and come out the victor all by themselves

They wear their heart on their sleeve and bleed on the court. And it's done in front of the thousands or millions of people watching.

This is not an easy task at any level, let alone when you're talking about the top players in the world. There is much on the line--from money to pride. But we, the fans and the ruling committees, believe that the athletes must always be on perfect behavior. It's just not realistic.

We say that we want someone to be polite and proper on the court. Pete Sampras was polite, quiet, proper, and oh, possibly the best player of all time (at the time) but apparently that wasn't good enough and he was called boring. People wanted him to show more emotion, be more vocal. Johnny Mac and Marat Safin were the opposite. They were too emotional and vocal, but they're entertaining. Even Lleyton Hewitt, who mostly just yelled “Cmon” and not anything of the negative sort, was said by some to be a little annoying.

And herein lies the problem: We ask athletes to walk such a fine line emotionally while competing. Be polite, but not too polite that you're boring. Be vocal and emotional, but not too emotional that you come off poorly.

I'm not saying one way is right and one is wrong. Athletes must handle themselves in a certain manner. Mac and Safin, in my opinion, were/are overboard and athletes like these should conduct themselves better. And yes, maybe Sampras could have shown a little more emotion at times. But most athletes are not on the extremes and outbursts are not the norm. There is definitely room for emotion to be displayed, and it is at times. If it's too much, the chair umpire will make that call and probably deservedly so. But you know what, whichever side they may fall, that's just who they are. That's just the athlete, the person, being human, being themselves and trying to navigate to win. That's the end goal and what we cheer for, right?

Now, I believe Serena went way beyond appropriate in her reaction but I understand a response to the call. If she just stopped at the initial yelling, no problem. Natural frustration at a ridiculous call (unless it's blatant, especially at that juncture). Most of us would react similarly. But to carry on like she did does deserve some sort of penalty. To end THAT match on a point penalty, I didn't agree with it. Not there. Not after a controversial foot fault call. Not a match like that. But if not, a financial penalty is surely deserved.

I agree that it looks poorly at times and we don’t want children to mimic these bad attitudes. And I understand that when it happens, it’s definitely a talking topic. But I think it's time for many of us to stop acting holier than thou. For people to stop whining, writing a bunch of articles about someone’s character, and making a huge deal when a person whom we ask to do whatever it takes to win, to bleed on the court, to kill themselves, to be great, and to expose themselves to all watching, once in awhile acts a little like the rest of us.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mental Battles

(In response to Maladies of Interpreters - NY Times, 9/22/09) The most complicated problem that confronts our country as we muddle through a seemingly endless Iraq and Afghanistan effort, is that war has become as much a mental action as a physical one. We increasingly talk about making progress not by eradicating an enemy, but by talking nicely to those we would like to be our friends. How can we possibly define victory?

If we thought trying to find Bin Laden is hard, it is child's play compared to the mysteries of dealing with these territories. We appear adrift as we wrestle with ideas that are as foreign to us as the people. We don't understand their culture and we don't understand our role. As unpopular as our actions are here at home, the critical public opinion is the one on the street in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Before we increase our troop presence in Afghanistan, let us be honest in our assessments. If interpreters are key to success in Afghanistan, then maybe that's the surge we should pursue.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dear Mr. Trost and/or the Chief Operating Officer of the New York Yankees

To Lonn Trost and/or the Chief Operating Officer of the New York Yankees-

Thank you so much for your notification, which I received today, regarding the 2009 postseason and the 2 Preliminary Pre-On-Sales (henceforth abbreviated Pre-Pre-On-Sale) and the 2 Pre-On-Sales that will afford me the opportunity to attempt to acquire 2 tickets to either and/or both of the first 2 rounds of the playoffs.

You must have hired a very adept attorney to help craft the clear letter and the accompanying Terms and Conditions of the opportunities available to those of us who hold at least 1 Partial Plan (i.e. Ticket Licensees with a 20 game plan, 15 game plan, 12 game plan and/or an 11 game plan in their ticket account), but not those who hold either a Full Season and/or 41 game plan in their ticket account, to purchase post-season tickets. As clearly indicated, those who purchased Full Season and/or 41 game plans are NOT eligible to participate in the Drawings, the Pre-Pre-On-Sale, or the Pre-On-Sale but are, I assume, forced to buy tickets when the general public clamors for them, after us lucky Partial Plan holders.

Thank you for telling me to carefully review the new Terms and Conditions of the Pre-Pre-On-Sales and the Pre-On-Sales as you advise they differ from prior years' Pre-On-Sale Terms and Conditions for postseason games, which changes you so thoughtfully do not highlight in the already lengthy letter and accompanying Terms and Conditions, perhaps in the interest of brevity and clarity.

I found it particularly illuminating that you provided examples discussing the weighted system of the Drawings with each Eligible Licensee being assigned a certain number of entries (each an "Entry," and collectively, the "Entries") determined by multiplying this times that. I am grateful that you advised in bold lettering that there is no guarantee that any Eligible Licensee's Entry would be drawn in the relevant Drawing regardless of the number of Entries the Eligible Licensee may have. Otherwise, I might have thought I would automatically be drawn based on the fact that this times that must equal the other.

I think that you already held the first Pre-Pre-On-Sale Drawing today, if I understood the Terms and Conditions correctly, though I have not yet received an email notification with the results of said Drawing, as also indicated in the Terms and Conditions. I therefore wait as the clock approaches midnight, with breathless anticipation, to find out if I am eligible for the Pre-Pre-On-Sale or just the regular Pre-On-Sale. I am glad that, either way, "Pre" will precede my ticket purchase time window, unambiguously denoting that I get to buy tickets before other people buy tickets, but not necessarily before some other people get to buy them first, pending the outcome of the Drawings.

Most importantly, if I understand you correctly, whether or not I am in the Pre-Pre-On-Sale or just the regular Pre-On-Sale, I may or may not be eligible to attempt to purchase 2 tickets to either 1 and/or 2 of the first 2 rounds of the playoffs, if the Yankees advance that far. I am assuming that if I am selected and/or the Yankees advance through the first 2 rounds, I will have, at my own discretion, the choice of attempting to buy tickets to 1 and/or 2 rounds of the playoffs.

Again, thank you so much for taking the time to explain in such detail and with such clarity the great benefits that I may or may not receive as a result of being a Partial, but not Half or Full, season ticket holder.

Very truly yours and/or not very truly yours,
Robert Nussbaum and/or Richard Nussbaum

P.S. We greatly appreciate that you sent us an email after we attended a game on Saturday September 26, in which you thanked us for buying tickets and presented us with a coupon toward a future ticket purchase--with an expiration date of September 10.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Lessons from Lincoln

I thought that quotes from one of our most highly respected former Presidents, with one assist from another held in high renown, had clear application to today's contentious environment. See if you agree.

If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how - the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what's said against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.
Author: Abraham Lincoln

-If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will.
Author: Abraham Lincoln -

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.
Author: Abraham Lincoln

Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.
Author: Abraham Lincoln

No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.
Author: Abraham Lincoln

I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.
Author: Abraham Lincoln

He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.
Author: Abraham Lincoln

What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself.
Author: Abraham Lincoln

The time comes upon every public man when it is best for him to keep his lips closed.
Author: Abraham Lincoln

Repetition does not transform a lie into a truth.
Author: Franklin D. Roosevelt

Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.
Author: Abraham Lincoln

I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.
Author: Abraham Lincoln

Quarrel not at all. No man resolved to make the most of himself can spare time for personal contention.
Author: Abraham Lincoln

When I am getting ready to reason with a man, I spend one-third of my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say and two-thirds about him and what he is going to say.
Author: Abraham Lincoln

Truth is generally the best vindication against slander.
Author: Abraham Lincoln

I don't like that man. I must get to know him better.
Author: Abraham Lincoln

It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.
Author: Abraham Lincoln

We should be too big to take offense and too noble to give it.
Author: Abraham Lincoln

We live in the midst of alarms; anxiety beclouds the future; we expect some new disaster with each newspaper we read.
Author: Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fair or foul

Emily give me the ball back.

That was the first thought that ran through my mind as I watched the story unfold on tv. It seems a dad caught a ball at a recent Phillies game, handed it to his 3 year daughter, who promptly threw it down to another level in the stands. The shock and dismay was soon replaced by a warm and loving embrace of father and child. This morning, the Dad, daughter, with the Mom and other child, formed a perfect picture, as the Today show and the Phillies showered them with baseball related presents.

I figure I have been to at least 700 Yankee games over a span of decades. During that time I can count on 1 ungloved hand the close encounters with a baseball. The ball my dad caught that Yogi Berra hit in his 2000th game is still in my firm grasp. A friend next to me grabbed an Oscar Gamble foul ball in the playoffs. A Paul O'Neill line drive into the stands left a welt on my hip for days, but the ball eventually caromed 50 feet from my grasp.

Then there was the one and only. I do not recall the opponent or the batter. I do not know why I was there just with my friend Tom and his young daughter. My children were probably away at camp. What I do know is that the foul ball headed directly at me, or more precisely at the empty seat next to me where my jacket was taking up space. In an instant, I dove for the ball and smothered it in my body and clothing.

I must have watched 150,000 pitches at the games I have attended. There are several reasons I am drawn to the ball park. Taking home a souvenir and a lifetime memory is one of them.

I do not know why I exhibited a generosity of human spirit that day. Without thinking, the prize slipped from my grasp into the tiny hands of young Emily. That was the last time my fingers would ever grasp the stitching on that ball.

It is almost 20 years, I think, since that moment in time. Emily has now graduated college and is living in New York City, working as an NBC page. She has moved on with her life and has probably long ago left behind the ball with other dusty mementos of her youth.

I don't know if that instant will ever repeat itself. If I am lucky enough I will go to 700 more games and see another 150,000 pitches. Emily, I love you, but if we are sitting together when that ball heads towards us, you are on your own. The next one you have to earn.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Say it ain't so, Joe

In the spring of 1954, Senator Joe McCarthy was on a witch hunt. In televised hearings regarding alleged Communist ties to the military, McCarthy attempted to attack a young colleague of another Joe, Joe Welch, the Army's chief lawyer. Welch, speaking for many said words that echo chillingly true 55 years later: "Until this moment Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty, your recklessness."When McCarthy protested, Welch responded quickly and forcefully: "Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last, have you left no sense of decency"?

In December of that year, the Senate finally issued a long overdue formal rebuke to a member of its body that had brought disgrace to its doorstep.

Yesterday, the Congress challenged the action of Joe Wilson, the Congressman from South Carolina, in response to his action of open disdain for the President during his speech to their body and to the nation last week.

The reply of this latest Joe, "hero" to many, was to say to the Congress of the United States that he was done apologizing for his outburst. Joe Wilson had the chutzpah (I know he must use that word around his house all the time) to tell us it was time to get back to the business at hand. 166 Republicans voted that Mr. Wilson was right, and that a rebuke was unwarranted.

In the early days of the 20th century, American baseball was rocked by allegations of throwing World Series games. Another Joe, Shoeless Joe Jackson, was at the center of this inquiry. In an incident, maybe more fiction than fact, a young boy goes up to his fallen hero and asks in pleading and bewildered tones: "say it ain't so,Joe".

We have a right to ask, and demand that this Joe say it ain't so. It is a slap in the face of the President that the rebuke of Joe Wilson was not unanimous. There is a sense of decorum and respect that comes with holding the most difficult job in the country. Wilson's outburst was inexcusable for its assault on the sanctity of the office. There is no excuse and no rationale that would permit this action to go officially unchallenged or unpunished.

When Simon and Garfunkel viewed a land that was losing its compass, they spoke of a Joe, who was the picture of grace, civility and dignity."Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio. Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you?''

When I hear the words of Joe Wilson, see the support of him by so many, and find that almost every Republican has voted that Wilson's words did not demand formal reprimand, I am reminded of the response to the songwriter's inquiry:
"What's that you say Mrs. Robinson, Joltin Joe has left and gone away?"

There is no room in our most precious house for actions of the likes of Joe McCarthy or Joe Wilson. We need to demand in a united voice, in that hallowed ground, on this day and forever, that Joe say it ain't so.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Foot (in mouth) fault

The words of John McEnroe must have been resonating somewhere in the back of Serena William's mind as she heard the foot fault call at the most critical of moments in her match with Kim Clijsters. You cannot be serious!!! But the linesman was, and the USTA certainly was. After one of the ugliest, most profane outbursts in recent tennis history, Serena Williams, and her chance to once more capture the US Open title, faded into the night.

It was an inexcusable, reprehensible response by Ms. Williams. I am certain that once the moment passed, she was mortified by the level of her anger. She has not spent a career like this. This was not in keeping with her persona. Her action demanded swift reply by the gods. The question was whether the penalty fit the crime.

Sports has long lived by the unwritten rule that an umpire, referee or linesman should not decide the outcome of the event. In crucial moments, let the players play unless there is 'clear and convincing' evidence of wrongdoing. When a basketball player drives the lane in the last seconds of a 1 point game, the referee should swallow his whistle if there is ANY doubt whether the defender has done wrong. In football, that holding call by the lineman should go unpunished on the last play unless a blind man could see the penalty. Can anyone who follows baseball and its histrionics forget the outburst by George Brett directed at the umpire in the famous pine tar incident, for deciding the game winning homer was in fact an out because of excessive goo on the bat?

The pressure of the defining moment in individual endeavors, like tennis, can only be magnified. Serena, spending an evening battling her game and her composure was ready to boil over even before this call. She had done in a racket at the end of the first set, prompting a 'warning' that now put her on double secret probation. One more outburst, and a point penalty would be the automatic result.

When the call was made, all the emotion of the evening poured out. It was a combination of frustration, anger at herself, and the breaking of the unwritten rule, that set Serena off.

I grew up in an era with the nasty boys of tennis, Ilie Nastase, Jimmy Connors and most famously, Johnny Mc. Referees and linesmen must have run for cover when they learned of being assigned to handle the matches of one of these players. They were boorish, immature and generally (truth be known) somewhat entertaining. One was never sure whether to laugh or cry when one of these moments surfaced.

We have now lived through an era of Mr. Federer and all that is proper and wonderful. In fact, for some time his attire on the court was almost formal wear. We have come to expect civility.

Yet, in balancing the crime and the punishment, I feel that we, and Serena were cheated. Let her finish the match. For the fans watching this epic struggle, it was an unhappy and uncomfortable ending. For Kim Clijsters, let her complete the task at hand. She wanted the battle to go on.

There were other ways to make the point with Serena. Default her from the doubles final she was to play with her sister. Default her from next year's US Open Hit her hard in her pocketbook, even if that has little true meaning to one in her financial position.

I know that rules are rules. I know that we cannot have standards only when it is convenient. But, I also know there is an unwritten creed to let the players decide, in the most excruciating of moments, who wins. The linesperson should not have called a questionable foot fault. The USTA should have allowed play to move forward, uninterrupted, and for the moment, forgiven the unforgivable. We could have enjoyed the end, one way or the other, to the most compelling match of the women's tournament. We could have taught our lesson to Serena in the days to come. I think everyone lost when Serena Williams was forced off the court.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Point, Counterpoint: In Sickness and in Health

POINT by Robert (Dr. Know)

When President Obama uttered his "I do's" on January 20 of this year, we all knew he was marrying into a tough situation. His constant companion over the upcoming months and years was not going to be peace and quiet. He was going to wake up each morning facing a cacophony of noise, both at home and abroad.

This has been a difficult union. No sooner has the President turned his attention to one crisis, then another one surfaces. First, the imminent financial collapse gathered all our attention, and most of our life savings. Then, as this disaster eased just a little, the President has faced a summer of talk relating to the sickness of our health care. Looming always in the background has been one foreign disaster after another, from Israel to Iran to Iraq to North Korea to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

What has emerged as a troubling pattern, is that the President says much of what we want to hear, but then leaves its execution to another day, or not at all. He talked the talk about the problems in the financial sector. The overhaul was to come so that we would not be faced with an enemy from within in the days and months to come. If the financial markets are not the same old, same old, then where has the radical change occurred?

This week, we all heard the soaring rhetoric and the passion of our President. He spoke of taking no more nonsense and of being the last President to attack the health care disaster. He has pointed out the fallacy of continuing down a path of financial destruction in the current system of health care. Yet while his words say I am mad as hell and I won't take it anymore, too often the resulting actions have not. It seems inevitable that we will get some watered down legislation that leaves the truly hard work and hard choices to the future, perhaps even to another President.

He will soon enough turn his focus away from domestic issues, and try to tackle foreign diplomacy head on. But my fear is that once more his actions may not match his thoughts.

I do not challenge the concepts or the oratory of the President. I believe in what he believes. His words are majestic. However, if this is to be a lasting marriage with the American people, it must be about more than this. We must see the concrete results of the abstract. There must be something we can point to definitively and say that this is what this man is about. Otherwise, this may not be a marriage that can last in sickness and in health (care) til death (the end of 2 terms) do us part.


The president is on an endless campaign trail, and what has “emerged as a troubling pattern, is that the president says much of what we want to hear, but then leaves its execution to another day, or not at all.” That’s a fine assessment Dr. Know, but you do not take it far enough nor do you give us specific examples. He is a great orator, in love with the sound of his voice, and “his words are majestic.” However he is not a good leader and he does not take action, as you also say.

He campaigned on “getting us out of Iraq” and we’re still there escalating the war in Afghanistan as well. He promised he would be “going over the federal budget line by line” but take a closer look at the pork-laden $787 billion stimulus bill. He promised “an end to partisan politics” but we’re now witnessing a witch hunt against former aides of George W. Bush (CIA). In nine months of speaking at the American people, instead of listening to them, he has squandered so much of his political capital, written $1,800 billion in checks the country cannot cover, spoken in vague generalities in an age where facts can quickly be checked and tried to Rahm a healthcare bill no one understands down the throats of Americans in two weeks without debate.

When my children were little they loved to hear fairy tales, get expensive gifts and have ice cream someone else paid for. But when all was said and done they really wanted Dad to be a Dad and give them the real scoop, even if it meant going to bed early.

Bottom line, Dr. Know, is the American voter is getting tired of being told what they want to hear.

Point - Counterpoint

Civility in discourse is a lost art form. It seems like a concept suited to another time and age. Recent discussions have been particularly animated and ugly. All pretense has vanished in a stream of accusations. Of course, I am merely referring to the comments that footnote many of the posts on my blog.

Well, I have decided to go Obama. I am going to try an experiment with a friend of mine who has been a consistent reader, and a mostly consistent critic of my political ruminations. I have extended my hand and am opening the pages of this blog for some joint postings with him. I have suggested that we do a point-counterpoint on topics of the moment. He has graciously accepted.

Instead of your always getting my viewpoint and then deciding whether to click on the comment section if you wish to read what those in the 'no' are thinking, you will have right and wrong together at once.

My son and some of my friends are drawn to watch or listen to those on the right who seem to gather the most attention, like Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh. They are bewitched, bothered and bewildered by what they hear and I tell them just to turn it off. But, truth be known, that is just me being intellectually lazy. To be dismissive of 'the other' does no good, and does not bring the argument any closer to resolution.

So, like the President, I will try to open my mind (and my blog) to the possibilities that maybe there is another way to look at certain issues. I know you may be thinking that this is just a sign of weakness, almost like deciding to hold talks with countries who have repeatedly held us, or our views, in disregard. Well, I have always been an advocate of such discussions. I cannot be a hypocrite in the way I handle my own conversations.

In the days and weeks ahead, look for 2 old guys shaking hands and coming out swinging on these pages. I will be easy to recognize. I am the one with the halo over my head.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pride, Tradition and Men of Integrity

A guest post from my friend Jack in tribute to Derek Jeter.

Seventy years ago, in his very last game, the captain of the NY Yankees, 35 year old Lou Gehrig, got his 2,721st hit. Last night, the present captain, 35 year old Derek Jeter, got one more than that to become the all time franchise hit leader. When my wife heard I was writing a post for Robert’s blog about this she said: “You must be nuts, he’s just another high priced athlete.” Or words to that effect. She makes a good point, but the topic of high priced athletes should be left for another time. Derek Jeter, however, is more than just another athlete, and for those reading this that have no interest in baseball, stay with me because this is about more than just baseball. Baseball, the great American pastime, is a part of the fabric of our society and culture, and in many ways a reflection of the way we live. The game I love has been tarnished of late by the cheaters, liars and thieves who used performance enhancing drugs to gain advantage. Likewise, it seems there is no shortage of cheaters, liars and thieves on Wall St., Washington D.C. and corporate board rooms.

Derek Jeter is representative of all that is good for baseball and America. I continually ask myself: who should our kids look up to, emulate and idolize? They need positive role models setting the standard for good citizenship. Research shows that the role models who are followed, meaning trusted are those with the following characteristics: they possess strength, they possess likeness (to the ones following them), they are warm, and they are imperfect. Jeter has a lifetime batting average of .317. That means 68.3% of his plate appearances end in failure. He displays strength through the exhibition of competent performance while integrating imperfection with overcoming adversity and that gives other people a point with which to both identify and be inspired by.

This is not to glorify Derek Jeter. When he retires after amassing many more records the Yankee organization will do that very well. He’ll be placed alongside the other immortals in Monument Park: Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle and DiMaggio. When I asked my wife who our kids should idolize she responded without a moment’s hesitation: “the thousands of teachers, doctors and nurses who give a million percent every day to make the world a better place.” Or words to that effect. She makes another good point. The immigrant parents of Lou Gehrig scrimped and saved to send their son to Columbia University to become an engineer. Initially they were very unhappy about his choice of baseball. Had he chosen engineering we would have been deprived of one of the greatest inspirational speeches of the twentieth century when he faced amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the disease that bears his name and killed him at age 37. It’s interesting to note that Derek Jeter’s father is a doctor and his mother is a teacher. If you watch Yankee baseball games you see them in various cities from coast to coast. To get the last word in with my wife (without having to say “yes dear”) I reminded her we met at an ALS fundraiser.

8 years and counting

As the names of those that perished 2920 days ago are once more read aloud, the horror and fear are renewed. Senseless deaths of 2975 are recalled. As a civilized society, we recoil.

The people of the Islamic world have witnessed 8 years of a response to the events of that day. Our leaders have seen fit to take us into Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan in a continuing search for something that eludes them. In the wake are left thousands of bodies of American soldiers and countless thousands of lives lost or forever altered of those who have had the misfortune to live in the path of war.

What have we gained? We have learned that our foray into Iraq was without basis or justification. Our efforts in Afghanistan have only produced a sense of growing failure, despite continued escalating troop involvement. We have made limited efforts, and limited inroads in Pakistan. What have we gained?

We have not brought back the 2975. We have not brought peace. We have not brought goodwill. We have not brought answers.

Adding death to death cannot be how we move forward. We who lived through the events of 8 years ago know that our enemies gained no advantage by their actions. All they did was diminish themselves and in the process diminish our world.

I believe that the President understands the futility. He speaks of building up, not tearing down in Afghanistan in particular. It is very hard to be considered a positive force when people see you as an unwanted intruder. It is impossible when they see you as an instrument of death.

8 years later we read off the names of the fallen. If we were to read off the names of those, both friend and foe, who have fallen as a result of the events of 9/11, we would be shaken to our core. We should be.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Right and wrong

While the party on the right, sat on their collective old white hands, the party on the left stood and applauded.

While the man on the right, in the wrong, shouted at the President, the many on the right would have, if they could have, stood up and left.

The lady of the left shed a tear for her man who had tried to do right. The many without rights were sad he had left.

Left, right, up, down, back and forth we go.

The health of our nation was on display last night. We are sick and we are sick of this. We know better. We are better than this. We are dying, yet not dying to do what we must to do better, to be better.

Well, they said, well he can do better. Well, we said, well we must get well. We are sick and broken. We are sick of being broke. We must not bankrupt our poor lest we bankrupt ourselves. We are rich with possibilities but we are closer to nothing than ever.

We are poor and getting poorer by the minute. The hour is upon us, but we pour over the minute. We are drowning in a sea of words.

It is all full of meaning but it all seems so meaningless. It is watching the sounds of silence from an otherwise very vocal minority. It is watching as the chasm between left and right, wrong and right grows deeper and wider.

I listened to the President talk last night. Many on the right were there but did not hear.

There is very little right these days. The big question is what is left to do.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

As thoughts turn to the fall (classic)

At the beginning of the season, I raged against the machine. The prices charged were absurd. The treatment given those who were only well to do, was disgraceful. Yet spring turned to summer, and with fall soon here, different thoughts now control. It is all about getting tickets for the baseball playoffs.

After the hiatus last year, following a 12 year run, the postseason is all but assured for my Yankees. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and the return of October baseball brings both relief and joy. Last year was a blow to the sternum. This season, to date, has been a time of chest pounding. We are once again who we are.

So, the scramble to buy those few seats that seem available to the public for the post season, will begin in earnest in the coming weeks. Richie and I have positioned ourselves as well as we could, given the limitations that the state of the economy, and the escalating charges at the Stadium, placed upon us. With our smallest of partial season ticket plan in the nose bleed seats, we are on the bottom of the list of those that have priority to tickets. If past practices hold, we may be eligible to buy 2 tickets for one game in each playoff series, in the hours just before the masses swarm. It takes quick hands on the computer at the precise moment the imaginary gates open on the screen. Choose quickly and choose wisely or go home empty handed.

It is small recompense for a half century of unfettered love, but it will have to do. Richie has (knock on wood) seemed to have the magic touch in years past, always able to push the right buttons. Sometimes it is tickets for game 7 and the series ends in 6 games. In the worst of times it has been tickets for the worst of games (was there anything worse than the loss in game 7 to the Red Sox in 2004?). But we have witnessed magic more than once.

I have always had a strong dislike for opening my wallet. This has become a core belief in these days where less is not so bad as the alternative. But, I will brush this sentiment aside and will relish the opportunity to become a little poorer if it allows me to spend another few hours in the presence of both the team and the child (either son or daughter) so close to my heart. There are a lot of things that money can't buy these days, but there is one thing it can. I count down the days for the chance to soak it up and take it in. Fall and the classic are around the bend, and life, at least in that very small corner of the world, is once more full of excitement and hope.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Death insurance

"New Exotic Investments Emerging on Wall Street"-
While the battle wages around the country on health care reform, and allegations are raised that the President is looking to 'off' grandma, Wall Street is now hoping and gambling on grandma dying sooner. It sickens me that we are seriously discussing an industry whose main goal is to assure the earliest possible death of the insured.

What message are we sending out when the major fear of investors into the securitized pool of life insurance policies is that there will be medical advances made so that the life of those they are betting on dying, outlives their formulas and charts.?

No generosity of human spirit is the catalyst for this business. If it were so, then perhaps there could be other avenues undertaken, such as loans given to the owner of the policy that would be paid back to the lender (with generous interest or other inducement) from the proceeds of the policy at death. Rather, for those who need an infusion of quick capital, a lifetime of payments to try to protect family in the future, is irretrievably lost.

If this industry becomes as large as predicted, then there will be those involved who want to slow down or terminate completely programs that might be aimed at prolonging life, thus cutting into profits. There may well be 'death lobbyists' whose sole mission is to make sure cures for certain diseases are delayed or papered into submission.

There are those who are willing to package and bundle anything and everything as long as the result is pyramiding profits. It seems perverse that death has now become a commodity that can be bought and sold for gain. It is not an image that should make us proud.

Friday, September 4, 2009


A.L. is coming home today. Her mother and father love her dearly, passionately, but have been dreading this moment. A.L. is a special needs child, who is no longer a child.

We live in a world of bureaucratic double talk. We are papered to the point of exhaustion. We can study and live an issue, try to comprehend every nuance and still feel helpless to stop the onslaught. So it is for the parent of a special needs child who is no longer a child.

A.L. turned 21 this past December. For the past 3 years she has resided in a facility where she was treated with dignity and compassion. Her surroundings were breathtaking. For parents who suffer each and every day while coping with their child's enormous range of problems, it was a gift. Their child would not be getting better. Her life was never going to be easy. But, maybe, it just wouldn't be so hard.

The facility in which A.L. resided is outside the state of New Jersey, her home state. Thus, while all would agree that the care given is the best that A.L. and her parents could hope for, a different government agency is in charge of paying for A.L's treatments as an adult. Their requirements mandate that the monies have to be paid to a New Jersey facility. The costs related to A.L's care are extraordinary. With control of the dollars, comes control of the life. Whether this means a diminished existence for A.L. is of secondary concern.

We all complain each and every day about the complexity and complications that envelop us. Tell me something I can understand, that makes sense. For the parents of A.L. the world stopped making sense a long time ago.

These are people whom I have not once heard ask why they must wake up each morning to the reality of 2 special needs children, A.L, and her 18 year old autistic sibling. While their situation takes your breath away, they have always continued to breathe. I am forever amazed.

They heard yesterday from the Supreme Court of New Jersey, turning down their request to keep A.L at her present location, until a reasonably suitable alternative in New Jersey could be found. They were not asking for everything, just a little more than the very little they were being offered.

We went over to their house last night, to offer some consolation, or at least some advise. A.L.'s parents were better than I expected. Maybe it is that they have learned to live in a world of diminished expectations. Maybe they are still in shock from the events that swirl around them.

A.L. is coming home today. She is a sweet, pretty young adult. We welcome her with open arms and with broad smiles. But really, we wish the system permitted us the luxury of visiting her at the home she has grown to love over the past 3 years. We will smile, but behind the smile will be tears, disappointment and anger.


Fear and the unbalanced

'Obama's Plan for School Talk Ignites a Revolt' ( NY Times, September 4, 2009)- Is there no end to the lunacy? Just when we thought it could not get any more bizarre, we were proven wrong. The right wing attacks are now mounted against the President's upcoming speech directed to school age children. The crazies are out in force once more.

Why do we have to debate these issues? I can only imagine a stunned White House staff huddling together, trying to find a way out of the Twilight Zone.

We are advised that the President intends to use this opportunity to speak to the children of our nation as to the value of education. Where is the subversive message hidden? For the people who find enemies and danger in every corner, paranoia rules.

In a world where we no longer filter our information or our views, where everyone at every turn has something to say, we have lost any sense of our equilibrium. Reason and logic are in very short supply. Fair and balanced has been replaced by fear and the unbalanced.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The power of persuasion

We are being told that something good, or at least less bad, is starting to happen. The fear of a depression has faded. Certain of the institutions that received monies from the government have repaid these sums, with interest. Unemployment figures, while still deplorable, are not growing so rapidly. There is much additional stimulus money that has not yet found its way into the system. Those monies should further assist in reversing the slide.The cash for clunkers program has breathed a hint of life into an otherwise dying auto industry. The frightening tailspin in the stock market has been halted and the bulls have begun to run once more. At least on a modest level, there are signs that the effort has produced results. Why then does everything seem to be so bad?

The message that is being delivered to us is of a government that is not in control of our destiny. The health care reform fiasco, the uncertainty surrounding how we proceed in Paki -Afghanistan, the lack of contrition by, or punishment of the wrongdoers in the financial upheaval, the do we or don't we attitude involving chasing down perceived criminals in the Bush administration, all contribute to a general uneasiness.

We are not being persuaded that there is a method to the seeming randomness of what is happening. Is Obama really like the Wizard, hidden behind the curtains and pulling strings that we just don't see? I know he is brilliant, but show me that he is a brilliant strategist and not just another politician playing a game that we don't approve. We see the answers to some of these questions and we know, or believe, that he has the same sentiments. Why then, don't we hear the confident assertive tones that were so prevalent during his run up to the presidency?

I keep telling myself to be patient. We are inherently a people that are not willing to take our time. We are a fast food, fast talking, fast answering bunch. The President has counseled us that all does not come easily or quickly.

The President's approval ratings are plummeting, as do all Presidents once the brief honeymoon after taking office has ended. I know he can't govern to please all of us, every day. But, for the sake of our well being, please just give us a morsel we can chew on to feed our worried souls. Come out from behind the curtain.