Wednesday, January 30, 2013


With the surprising revelation that Alex Rodriguez may not have been actually forthcoming as to the full extent of his involvement with banned substances, startling news emerged on other fronts:

1. Donald Trump is considered egotistical by some.
2. Tuesday is still the day after Monday.
3. The Republican party is determined to make Barack Obama a 2 term president.
4. The sun sets in the West.
5. Mitt Romney is still alive.
6. 11 million people in America are not going to self deport.
7. It is far too long between seasons of Homeland.
8. It is not true that seven ate nine.
9. The human brain is capable of absorbing more than 140 characters.
10. Diets don't always have long lasting effect.
11. The Australian Open was already played.
12. Riding a snowmobile really dangerously is considered a sport.
13. Television has not run out of ideas for horrendous shows.
14. The pencil should be on the endangered species list.
15. The 2016 Presidential campaigns will begin right after the next commercial.
16. Hillary Clinton is contemplating another run for the White House.
17. Herman Cain is still alive.
18. Sarah Palin is no longer relevant.
19. It is 4 AM and the mind does not fully function at this hour of the night.
20. The Super Bowl is overhyped.
21. Rick Santorum is still alive.
22. There is abuse of the filibuster.
23. The Book of Mormon is a hit.
24. Mitt Romney's dog is no longer strapped to the roof of the car.
25. Leave it to Beaver was not reality TV.
26. Michele Bachmann is still in Congress.
27. Chris Christie is still a Republican.
28. There is no good reason that pitchers and catchers have to report first.
29. Some movie sequels should never be made.
30. Austerity is not all it is cracked up to be.
31. Clinton versus Bush in 2016 is a possibility.
32. Beyonce can still sing.
33. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will not be elected into the Hall of Fame next year.
34. Lance Armstrong was not the only abuser in cycling, he was just the most arrogant about it.
35. Gun control is a public health issue.
36. Texas has not seceded.
37. Global warming is not a hoax created by Al Gore.
38. I am older now then when I started to write this piece.
39. I am older now then when I wrote #38.
40. Jerry Seinfeld is rich enough that he doesn't have to work anymore.
41. Downton Abbey is not a documentary.
42. It is possible to watch Pawn Stars for hours on end.
43. Bill Clinton is a great public speaker.
44. I am still bald.
45. It gets dark way too early in the winter.
46. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera are future Hall of Famers.
47. Rick Perry will not be the next POTUS.
48. It is Christmas even where it is warm.
49. The debt ceiling issue is a Republican ploy.
50. $275,000,000 for 10 years for A-Rod was a lousy investment.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Shooting From the Hip

("Confessions of a Gun Owner")

"Statistically speaking, a gun represents a far greater danger to the its inhabitants than to an intruder. But not every choice we make is data- driven. It comes from the gut". This pronouncement of Mr. Cronin goes to the heart of this debate, and many of the battles that clutter our political landscape.

How can we ever hope to change minds when the facts are irrelevant to the discussion? It is why the NRA pushes to keep funding from government agencies that would study the issue and arrive at inevitable conclusions that those like Mr. Cronin don't want to absorb. It is why so much of our discourse gets sidetracked in hyperbolic nonsense.

The ugly truth is that guns are not the solution but accelerate the deaths in this country. And while Mr. Cronin may swell with pride at his daughter's ability to "rack her weapon", his reaction appears totally disconnected from the possibility of a far more harsh reality.

It is well past time that we stopped dealing from the gut, as one of  Mr. Cronin's fellow Texans did to this nation's long lasting detriment, and started paying closer attention to the numbers.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Evil Electoral Plot

("Rig the Vote")

In response to Mr. Blow's inquiry, the "evil lair" where this plot was hatched was in Massachusetts over 200 years ago. In the 1804,1812 and 1820 presidential elections, the congressional district method was utilized to determine the winner of the electoral votes in this state.

More relevant to today's events, in 1972 Maine adopted the "winner does not necessarily take all" approach to electoral vote counting, and  Nebraska followed suit in 1992. In fact, in 2008 Nebraska did split its electoral vote, as Barack Obama was the winner in 1 of its districts.

What makes the Virginia plan distinct from those other jurisdictions is its consideration of awarding 2 of its electoral votes to the winner of the most districts. In Nebraska and Maine, those extra electoral votes go to the candidate who gathers the higher percentage of votes throughout the state. Thus the Virginia method, and those that might follow suit, would be disenfranchising the urban areas which are more densely populated and typically Democratic leaning, but are congregated in fewer districts than Republican favoring voters residing in rural areas.

Virginia would face a particularly difficult challenge in sustaining this change since it is a state that falls under the watchful eyes of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. For states that have a history of disenfranchising portions of its population, any proposed voting change must be approved by the US Justice Department to insure it does not have a "retrogressive effect" on minority voters. Clearly, this scheme would suggest a malevolent intent to reduce the strength of the vote for those in minorities that tend to reside in the cities of Virginia.

The governor of this state has now spoken out against this proposal, and it may, in short order fall by the wayside. But, to the point of Mr. Blow, there will undoubtedly be another plan that emerges out of the minds of the Republican strategists to negate the voice and the vote of as many of those who oppose them as possible. Several of the "swing states" do not have the historical impediment of Virginia, and they may be the next in line for electoral vote splitting attention. It is a matter of when, not if, the next nefarious scheme will emerge.

Monday, January 21, 2013

What's the Big Deal?

("The Big Deal")

Even Mr. Krugman ultimately admits that his title is, at best, misleading. Yes, health care reform, even this watered down version that still leaves so many millions unattended, is a major milestone. But his assertion that inequality has somehow been even marginally addressed by the recent changes in taxes to be paid by the most wealthy is wholly inconsistent with the economic disparity that still threatens to wipe out much of the middle class and leaves the poor with precious little for which to be thankful. And if the standard by which we measure the success of financial reform is merely that Wall Street is angry with the President and has abandoned him, then we have sunk to a new low in determining what constitutes a "big deal".

The political landscape is littered with terms like "gerrymandering", "filibuster",  "Citizen's United" and "tea party". Maneuvering around these obstacles means that big ideas, and big deals, have little chance. Even Mr. Krugman concludes by suggesting that there were "limited" victories in the first term of the Obama presidency. Yes, it is nice to have a pep talk of what has been accomplished before we race head long to more fiscal cliffs, debt ceilings and threats of government shutdowns. But in the final analysis, what is truly a big deal is that there is so much more than we can do and so little hope that our dysfunctional system will permit us to reach any of these goals.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Of Myths and Men

It is a tale of myths and men. For those like Lance Armstrong it is an all consuming fiction of greatness and invulnerability. In recent years, we watched as Bernie Madoff's monstrous creation spun out of control, leaving in its wake a financial and emotional toll of epic proportion. For Madoff, like Armstrong, the tug between right and wrong disappeared as the crowd cheered for feats that seemed beyond human capacity. If there were victims along the way, it was small price to pay for all that glory.

Armstrong's talk of a level playing field does little to wipe away any of the disgrace. The first step in seeking forgiveness is to humble oneself, completely and without condition. There must be remorse and contrition, admission not only of the wrong done, but that what was done was wrong. For Armstrong, that remains beyond his grasp, as even now he clings to the remnants of the illusion. Until he fully lets go of the myth, the process of redemption can not commence.

Saturday, January 12, 2013



Re “For Each Age, Its Agonies,” by Frank Bruni (column, Jan. 8): 

Wait until you try 60 on for size. This is when you understand that if business success has not somehow fallen in your lap, it will take a miracle for it to appear from this point forward. 

When illusions concerning your physical being begin to recede even quicker than the few remaining hairs on your head. When the thought of dying is somehow no longer quite the abstraction it was before. 

When you are most likely a child now who no longer has parents, or if one is still alive, you are witness to his or her physical or mental dissolve, or quite possibly both. 

When you realize that your jokes are funny only to you. 

Wherever one is on the journey through life, that is the moment that appears more intense than any other age could possibly be. If I am lucky, I will get past 60, and when I find myself at 70, look back and wonder what all the noise was about. Just as I did in all the decades before.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Exclamation Points and Question Marks

For those like Bonds and Clemens whose greatness appears to have been artificially enhanced, their stature on the diamond and place in baseball history has been irretrievably diminished. These athletes reached for and received the highest of financial rewards, in part by cheating the system. In the process, they lost the right to be granted inclusion in the pantheon of baseball legends.

The Hall of Fame may be full of people of questionable character off the field, but it is reserved for those who, at least between the lines, gave an honest performance and whose achievement is noted with exclamation points not question marks.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

This One Deserves a Text

It is not often that I find myself doing the shopping for the family. Locating the right foods at the best prices is but one among the seemingly endless list of responsibilities with which I am not to be trusted.

Walking with a friend to one of the local groceries in our neighborhood, I suddenly found myself in unfamiliar territory. I called my son to see if there was anything needed for the house. " Pick up bananas and then go next door to the supermarket and get.....". I confirmed my understanding of the list. "Be sure to give them your phone number in case there are any discounts."

In short order the bananas were in hand and I was at the register. A young girl, maybe 20 years old, stood before me, ready to ring up my purchase. Next to her was an equally young girl who was bagging the groceries. As the bananas passed the register I asked  the cashier "Can I give you my phone number?"

Why, I thought to myself, are they looking at me so strangely? What is their problem?

It suddenly dawned on me.We were not members of this grocery. My son's explicit directions were intended for the supermarket, not here.

My son often says that he texts his sister when I experience one of my "I am not sure where I belong in this universe" moments. As I walked in the door all I said to him was "get ready to text your sister."

Friday, January 4, 2013

Too Early To Call Cast, Episode 1

Something a little different: I do a reading of some of my pieces from the previous year.

The Silent Filibuster Debate

 Life has been very stressful for all of us in recent months. We have been witness to savage storms of nature and human savagery of unspeakable dimension.We have been trying to avoid falling off cliffs and must now try to raise our ceiling if we are to avoid being crushed by the weight of our own stupidity. So how can we be blamed, amidst all this chaos and uncertainty for failing to focus our undivided attention on the one issue that, oh by the way, seems in many ways to be the root cause for much of the insanity that prevails in Washington. The filibuster.

The 113th Congress is now in session. Today, Friday January 4, is the one day when procedural rules of this body are most susceptible to overhaul.

It would seem to me that on this day, the New York Times should be an active participant in a debate about whether the "nuclear option" should be utilized so that 51 senators can vote to bring governing back into their body. But even as the Democrats propose certain changes to neuter the worst of the filibuster, and the Republicans counter with watered down reforms around the edges, there is little national discussion. And even less coverage in your newspaper. The senate appears doomed to more of the same old dysfunction that we all abhor. Our failure, and that of your paper, to focus sufficiently on this problem and force substantive dialogue on radical overhaul, is a missed opportunity.