Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Fire in Baltimore


There is a fire burning out of control in Baltimore. But it is not one that can seen by the eye or touched by the hand. It resides deep within, in the souls of those faced everyday with a world that has turned away.

President Obama warns about us responding only when the external flames are the highest and most visible. And history teaches us there is little reason to believe otherwise. For in the aftermath of each  high profile death, with each protest march, with each anguished cry, comes little. When night has passed to day and only the embers of despair are evident, we act as though nothing has happened.

Why will Freddie Gray be  different? Why will Baltimore mark a turning point? There is scarce hope that, even a stone's throw from the capital of our nation, we will awaken tomorrow to a new and better reality. Until we treat each life as if it were our own, until we open our eyes and reach out our hands to see and touch the soul of the beleaguered the fire will continue to burn.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Hillary Clinton "Bad Person"

Mr. Brooks is making this a personal indictment of Ms. Clinton. While merely using polling statistics as reference, he leaves us with the clear impression that the putative Democratic nominee is the "bad person" in this scenario.

If I read the description of Mr. Brooks of this demonstrably damned leader who has to "push,bully, intimidate, elide the truth" then it is not Ms. Clinton but rather Governor Christie who comes to mind.
And who among the Presidents of the last 70 years since FDR  were the ones with the most "good private morality"? Would Truman, Ford and Carter all be on that short list? They were, from all external perceptions, decent people but lousy politicians.

So, I have issue with both the tone and content of the argument of Mr. Brooks. The Clinton machine is ruthless, and Hillary, more closely examined and known then possibly any other politician who has considered running for the Oval Office, certainly has her flaws. But was she an ineffective Senator or Secretary of State? Were there personal shortcomings, moral flaws, that made her a bad person and a bad leader? If so, show us chapter and verse.

For those who do not find Ms. Clinton an attractive option in 2016, and I would count Mr. Brooks among these, the former first lady appears an inviting target. But the truth is she champions causes for the poor and underprivileged and has demonstrated a caring and concern for others that is sorely lacking in the resume of the Republican candidates who will be soon be paraded before us. Such is the  morality that matters to me.

Mr. Brooks would have us read a book by the cover he puts on it. I think that does a grave disservice to Ms. Clinton and those who would follow his advise.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Bruce Jenner

Bruce Jenner is in fact a poster child. Emblematic of all of those who have been closeted, made to feel different in an ugly and cruel way, and yet despite the attacks to the very core of their being have come out. As Republican.

What is it about so many that allows them to align with a party that would not invite them to a party? Why would a gay couple host a fundraiser for Ted Cruz? And why would someone like Jenner, who will undoubtedly spend the remainder of her life advocating for one cause, look for  comfort, solace and protection from the group that has spawned the likes of Bobby Jindal?

Jenner has the opportunity afforded to a precious few in a beleaguered community to have a voice. And the next time she speaks, I would hope what we hear is the voice of reason, passion and determination. Of a Democrat.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Bobby Jindal - A Voice of Intolerance

("Holding Firm Against Gay Marriage")

Governor Jindal would suggest that his is a heroic stand against left wing liberals who would destroy religious freedom. I would suggest that what he intends to do is rather to give state sanction to intolerance and hatred.

What the governor fails to recognize is that these are businesses open to the public to perform a service. A musician, cake maker or photographer is not, in the course of his or her employment undertaking a religious role. Singing a song, baking a cake or taking a picture is not a fundamental exercise of a first amendment right. 

We are a country founded on the principle of protection of certain inalienable rights. What Mr. Jindal misconstrues is whose rights we are addressing. When we permit our worst instincts to permeate our government, when we take umbrage at efforts to insure that all men and women who are created equal are entitled to our equal protection, then we fail to abide by the basic tenets that make this country exceptional.

It is now a half century since segregation, under the cover of constitutional protection, was held to be without legal predicate. Mr. Jindal's misguided efforts to stigmatize and ostracize the gay community with government blessing, demonstrates not courage but only an updated version of moral and ethical bankruptcy.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Hillary and Out of Town Tryouts

Every candidate goes through periods of uncertainty and self-reflection on the campaign trail. Positions shift, subtly if done well, as the winds of fortune change. What works is embraced and the rest discarded like old uncomfortable shoes.

This is politics and these are political animals willing and anxious to sway as many uncertain voters as possible with whatever pablum it takes. Hillary's grandmother image will disappear quicker than John McCain's love for Sarah Palin if her numbers decline. Image, not substance, is the movie playing on the campaign trail over the next 18 months.

Cut Hillary a break. She is in out of town tryouts for her tour, testing out punchlines before she reaches the bright lights of Broadway. This show is merely in previews, and we should not give it a review just yet. There will be plenty of time for our condescension and criticisms. For now, we should just sit back and chill out.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Jeb Bush - Hispanic Male

I understand this gaffe may not cost Jeb Bush his chance to become the third member of his family to serve as President. But are we really supposed to accept the notion that his designation of himself as Hispanic was a matter of momentary distraction coupled with a blending of identities with his wife?

This was not a matter of perception, eg am I funny or clever or even am I conservative. In those areas, maybe the concept of husband and wife becoming a mixed enterprise could have meaning. But undisputed fact is not a question open to interpretation. Mr. Bush cannot possibly have confused his race with that of his spouse, even in the most generous attempts to explain his actions

Maybe Donald Trump should demand that Mr. Bush provide his birth certificate. Or even better, that Poppy Bush be compelled to take a paternity test, so that we can be certain of the true lineage of this person whom we all may have been fooled into believing was the son and brother of "family" members who occupied the Oval Office.

 Let us not create unnecessary fictions to protect candidates from their moments of stupidity.  It is unseemly and unwarranted

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Baseball and WAR


 ("Don't Let Statistics Ruin Baseball")

The issue is not whether an overabundance of numbers or calculations is causing a degradation of the national pastime, but rather whether the game itself is suited for our 21st century mindset.

We are a universe of distractions, of tweets and cellphones. We are overwhelmed with information, and most of us spend far too much of our focus and energy devoted to anything but what is directly in front of us. Baseball, with its own unique rhythm, allows us the luxury of time to contemplate and consider matters distinct from the action on the field.

The average major league baseball game is now more than 3 hours long. In a world where we expect everything immediately, where we are used to noise and hype, there are instead long moments of silence. Football and basketball are in your face, with high energy both on the field and off, as the scoreboard and sound system overwhelm our senses in a wall of sounds and images.

While the writer worries that too much attention is directed at everything but the play that is transpiring, I think, to paraphrase the great bard, the fault lies not in baseball, but in ourselves. If we can't slow down and enjoy the serenity and peace of a sport without a clock or constant demand we should look at our own possible shortcomings.

I don't believe most of those in attendance at these games are consumed by WAR. Yes, baseball could use some tweaking after all these years. And maybe it is a bit anachronistic. But while we no longer consider whether Mickey, Duke or Willie is the best center fielder in New York, or even whether Derek, Nomar or A-Rod is the premier shortstop, there will be another generation that will take the time to contemplate matters not overburdened with figures. These fans will be enveloped in the feel and texture of a sport that offers something far beyond numbers on a page.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Opening Day


Today is Opening Day for the 2015 Yankee season. The temperature will be in the mid 60's, the sun shining. So why am I melancholy?

For what seemed destined to last forever, the first ball and strike meant an afternoon at the park with my children. At 11 AM on each Opening Day, I would wait in my car outside my children's school. While the rest of the universe was tethered to their desks and to their everyday routines, for my son and daughter there was freedom from their bonds and joy on their faces. As they raced across the lawn, away from the mundane, running where they should have walked, my heart silently melted.

As they grew older, clarity of purpose and unfettered emotion gave way to the realities of everyday existence. But the tradition remained, an annual pilgrimage that continued for well over 20 years. As certain as the flowers blooming in spring, as welcome as the first hint of daylight at night's end.

This year is different. The days of wine and roses are gone, the romance of Jeter, Rivera, Posada, Pettite and Williams replaced with the pedestrian and the unfamiliar. But, worse than that loss of connection, is the realization that children do not stay young forever and the unbridled love that once accompanied this day is impossible to replicate in a world replete with responsibilities and schedules, deadlines and concerns, health issues and uncertainties.

And so, even as I sit in my office on this first day of the 2015 season, I know there are no smiling faces waiting outside my door eager to head off to the next installment of a never ending dream. And that loss, unlike any the team may suffer in the coming months, is something that indeed makes the beginning of this season one that is bittersweet..

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Religious Cover

("Interview with a Christian")

Religion is not the predicate but the justification for the behavior. In its worse form it allows hatred and bigotry a rationale, and serves as a distraction meant to turn one's eyes from earthly misdeeds.

Instead of looking inward to question why, those who perpetrate these wrongs do not involve themselves in self examination but merely invoke a higher being to serve as ready cover.

It is the same fiction, in different clothing, that excuses the actions of those who keep the poor and the minority from exercising their right to cast a ballot. Instead of calling upon some text to inform them not recognize the rights of the LGBT community, there is in its place the tall tale that our laws must be geared to stop the perpetration of non-existent voter fraud upon the public.

Or, in another context, there should be only grave disappointment for those who rail against undocumented immigrants as a plague upon our society, ones who steal our jobs and endanger our welfare. It serves as an answer to every question asked, and it requires nothing but blind allegiance to morally corrupt reasoning.

Whether it be religious text bent to fit a narrative, or the sleight of hand that makes fiction appear as fact on the political landscape, it is all but variations on the same theme. Mr. Douthat, by suggesting there is a true dilemma which could permit and excuse discrimination, does a grave disservice in the name of religion.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Obama and Iran

It has far too often seemed a presidency marked by a failure of hope. Newtown left its scars but little change. The fight for a sensible immigration policy has led only to executive actions that are challenged and castigated. We did not become a post racial nation after the election of Mr. Obama, but one in which fissures of hate in Ferguson and beyond reminded us how far is left to travel.

In foreign lands we have been unable to remove ourselves from conflicts of which we have grown weary and seemingly have no answers. Instead of watching democracy flourish, we have been witness to new and often unspeakable horrors.

So why is it that I believe President Obama may leave a legacy of greatness at the end of his tenure? Despite relentless opposition, he has moved this country forward from the darkness to provide health care to millions who have previously been brutally left behind to suffer and die while under an uncaring eye. Yes, Obamacare is far from perfect, a Rube Goldberg compilation that has many holes. Far too many are still left uncovered, but, as Joe Biden would say, it is a BFD. So many before him tried and failed. President Obama did not.

And being able to change the narrative with Iran is something that has seemed impossible for so many decades. Now, we are on the verge, of bringing the open hostility down to a simmer and giving us all the possibility of reducing the rhetoric and the hatred. Amidst the rubble we have found something good, something of which we can be proud. It is a tribute to a president who has not listened to the voices calling  for a conflagration. It is a statement of a president who has far better vision than his critics would allege.

Yes, we are not where we would envision ourselves, both domestically and abroad. But we must recognize that we are on the precipice of something very important. And if Mr. Biden could weigh in with his thoughts, I am sure they would echo what he has said at least once before.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Every Day Fools

In a shockingly blunt written statement, unlike anything else in recent memory, the governors of Indiana and Arkansas today jointly declared as follows:
APRIL 1, 2015

"After days of rampant speculation and wild conjecture as to the meaning and intent of the laws in question, let us, for once, be perfectly forthright. Ours is a society of politeness and political correctness where we must say little and do our work by way of subterfuge and misdirection. One need look no further than our actions regarding voting rights as prime example of creating fictions and roadblocks to prevent those who would oppose us from doing so.

 Now we are faced with yet another situation in which we are asked point blank if a law is intended to discriminate against a class of people with whom we share nothing in common. And our answer is Yes.
We are tired of having to apologize for our beliefs and those of the vast majority of people we represent each and every day. We don't understand gay people, we don't share their positions and we don't want to pretend that we are happy to be of service to them. So, we are doing whatever we can to distance ourselves from any connection to those for whom we have no respect..

Tomorrow we will return to being  pompous, self righteous bigots hiding behind nuance and ambiguity to do our dirty deeds. But this one day, April Fool's day, we come out from under the rock to bring forth our true intentions. For what better moment than now to reveal ourselves to the world.

We are endowed with certain inalienable rights. Chief among them is the right to say what we think no matter how distasteful or disturbing. In making this joint declaration we are calling upon the wisdom and greatness of our founding fathers in allowing us the freedom to make fools of ourselves in a most public and profound manner.

Thank you, God bless you and God bless the United States of America."