Making America Great Again: One Corrupt Act at A Time

Almost a great day for America.  The austere US Congress, a body of wealthy men and women (mostly men) whose health insurance is paid by the American people, came so close to repealing Obamacare.  Maybe tomorrow, (after enough palms have been greased) America can take another step towards greatness.  28 million people (Including me and Nancy) will lose health insurance but the freedom of pharmaceutical and insurance companies to extort huge amounts of money will be preserved.  Freedom to be poor, Freedom to be bankrupt, Freedom to be denied reproductive counsel.  God Bless America.  That’s the kind of greatness only a great leader like Don “the used car salesman” Trump can imagine.  Soon enough we can repeal voting rights act for blacks and women.  Soon enough we can deny senior citizens, who have worked their entire lives to have some peace of mind, the right to affordable health care in their final years.  Greatness is worth it.  A great beginning from the man whose first act as Command and Chief was to botch a military raid and kill civilians and a heroic Navy Seal.  So much greatness ahead, perhaps restoring slavery to antebellum levels.  So many great things sweeping the land.  You can feel it in the air!

Coming Round to Baby Jane

This is me with my first guitar in the background.  A 1935 wide neck Rosewood Martin.  We were touring, opening for Dylan in the Village before Dylan was Dylan.  We called him, “Juicy” cause he was always stealing candy.  I had a small hit that got some radio play called, “Coming Round to Baby Jane.”  It was before the smack overwhelmed everybody.  Lost Johnny Hotter and Cindy Lou Frances, my two closest friends, to some sour shit that ate us all alive after a gig in Newark.  Johnny’s mother always said it was revenge by the brotherhood but that shit didn’t matter much.  Dead is dead.  I started drinking Yoohoo after that and never touched the shit again.  Still have that jacket even if the moths have gotten to it.  Back side says, “Take me Alive!”  Funny thing was back then an eight year old kid couldn’t work a lot of the best places so I did a lot of street singing.  Kumbaya was a bad dream so we kept it real as we could but the radio stations said they couldn’t handle anything by kids.  Some say it was a hard life but it was all I knew.  Life is life, road is road and the Martin probably sits in some rich cats vault and never gets played.  I lost it to a hustler took me in tiddly winks after a hard night in a small college gig outside of Fredonia, New York.  Memories, now ain’t that what you try to forget.

Sorry for the grainy photo.

Early Days

Early Days

Journal Dump #1

Artists get to show their sketchbooks, where they practice. These are my sketches, where I practice, not fully formed thoughts, not even what I believe so much as how I arrive at that place.

1} Earth. 7 billion people. 6.9999999999999 billion people I don’t like.

2} Thinking about how target live outside of the system anymore I saw a hitchhiker in Creswell and no kind of a tough looking guy and I didn’t pick them up yellow tang of guilt about that but I didn’t pick him up and I was thinking he just getting harder and harder to live outside of the system that is a factor or may not be any outside of the system anymore and she is becoming this massive

3} Where is silence?

Where is innocence, virgin experience?

Unprogrammed, unrecorded or chronicled?

No legacy handed down in words or images.

4} Some years ago I was driving in the winter rain In the rolling hills near my home through the rain, listening to Miles Davis while passing cows: the invisible parts of where you live, the things that infuse your life with place and purpose. Most are mysterious; they pass with no notice, invisible to the demands a modern world, trees and animals and a month ago, again in the rain, the rain that alternately nurtures and torments us. Then a hitchhiker, a worn down sort, bearded, bedraggled, looking a little tired as I sped by.

There is a guide in my life that reveals the invisible, the homeless, the poor, the sick, the tired, the hopeless, I am they and they are me. The line that separates any human being from any other human being is so thin as to be meaningless. Fortune and misfortune are gifts and denials that hang on a razor’s edge.

In our county there are moss pickers and immigrants and drug users and dealers and nameless angels who go about their work. And who are we not to see them?

5} Darker Forces are Prevailing..

What protection do little people have against big people, if only big people control governments? And by the way, that is what I expect of my government, to work for peace and to protect me from the abuses of the greedy and powerful who without resistance wreak havoc and pain on others. It’s nothing new, been around for a long time.

Or as the Rolling Stones put it…

“Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name…”

With that cloudy introduction in mind, I  comment on three things. As I’ve said before, I try not to simply join the chorus of reaction that is common in our media driven culture, so I’ll explain each one a bit.

Torture is wrong, clear cuts are wrong, Nuremberg, justice, governments always hide behind security and self defense to rationalize their abusive and illegal actions. The difference between Nuremberg and now is who won. The powerful will seldom prosecute their criminals.

Don’t shoot and recipe for Lamb Shanks blog pieces

It’s not about the police, and it is. Mainly it’s about systemic and pervasive racism and how it jeopardizes the well being of black people. Instead of getting derailed into whether or not we, meaning the collective we, appreciate police, we need to stay focused on the issue. The issue is about how people perceive each other and how racist beliefs can alter a person’s reality to the extent that he sees a threat where there is none or heightens his response to a perceived or real threat. We are always fighting the embedded and pervasive racism that is part of the legacy of a country built on slavery. Rather Than point a accusing finger at Black athletes who show their solidarity with the issue, in no small part because once they leave their arenas they might he subject to the same racism, we should embrace this dialogue and set to fixing the problem. And it is fixable, and perhaps the single strongest way to fix it is have police forces that have the same racial make up as the populations they police. That alone would heighten compassion, awareness and sensitivity by the force, and it might just move the entire force to a greater sensitivity to the people they serve. Ferguson is a particularly unbalanced force, largely white member while policing a largely black population.   Beyond making police forces reflect the populations they serve, there is the deeper challenge of treating racism for what it is, a dangerous and damaging force that it is. These are hard but not impossible tasks, cultural sensitivity education is just one of the ways society deals with racism. There are others, and they all need to be embraced. Mostly, black people need to be made safe from the arbitrary and malevolent use of deadly force that places their lives in great risk. In this matter, we are all responsible, not just police, not just the communities where an incident happens, but everywhere, because the problem exists in every community in this country. We must be better than this, so I stand with my arms up and say, “Don’t shoot!” And I support anyone who does likewise.

I told ruby I was making lamb shanks for dinner. She said, “I don’t like shanks, they have too much of the stuff I don’t like to eat.”

As I prepared the meal, I thought about that, about why people like meat that has no connection to the animal from which it came. I have raised and killed many animals, and part of any squeamishness about meat that I had departed when I did so. When you raise an animal and tend to its needs, then kill it to eat, the blood, the guts, the connective tissue, all are part of the experience, and the essence of the animal transfers to you. It gets said a lot that most cultures don’t waste anything from the animals they eat, and for me it goes a step further. Eating meat is a ritual that embraces both death and slaughter and forces you to integrate all of the brutal or “icky” parts into your being. If you can embrace the killer in you, you can live a much more peaceful life, and one that will hold animals that you consume in much higher regard. Or, perhaps you can’t, and choose to be a vegetarian. That’s a reasonable choice too, but either way, you have to look at slaughter for what it is, and it needn’t be brutal, even if it is always a powerful experience of the meaning of life. A vegan relative if mine once asked me why I have a leather guitar strap (I also have synthetic ones, made from oil, by the way) and I said that I love that some cow that gave its life to become meat, lives on when wrapped around my shoulder, and in some small way is not forgotten. I’d rather have the cellular soul of an animal on and around me than a fabricated piece of petroleum with the human misery that is connected to it. But even that logic fails if you consider that oil was once alive too, in the form of trillions and trillions of plant cells.   I’m too old to respond to any challenge about meat or not meat, it’s not about that, it is about the most human engagement in life, slaughter, and death. So, bring on the shanks.

Einstein is dead

His brain sits in a bucket of formaldehyde.

Preserved by science

I saw it sliced into sections like a salami and put on display like the Elephant Man

“Ladies and gentlemen, step right up. For a mere twelve dollars you may witness the secrets of humanities greatest thinker. A man so powerful he could unravel the secrets of the world of physics while shaving without a lubricant. Step right up, step right up. Is he a man like you? Or is he a preternatural freak? Decide for yourself, step inside and be your own judge. Let your eyes answer your questions.”

Henry Kissinger was the architect of carpet-bombing a tiny but fierce Buddhist nation, North Vietnam, who had confounded the greatest military power on the planet’s attempts to defeat it. Kissinger believed that unleashing the destructive might and wanton killing from above would bring the Vietnamese to the peace table. He was right, the peace was declared, Nixon preserved American face, the South collapsed, the North prevailed, a million lives were lost and Kissinger and his Vietnamese counterpart were given the Nobel Prize for Peace. What the fuck!

Bill Clinton gets a blowjob outside the oval office

Leaves his genetics on a blue dress.

We don’t get health care.

Serbia gets bombed into rubble.

Rwanda exterminates close to a million of its people on Bill’s watch. As Billy fiddles, America burns itself in a fire of free market economics that plunges the nation into economic collapse at the hands of a tribe of financial hoodlums and the remaining vestiges of social reform on behalf of normal people goes up in smoke.

So persecuted is Bill by sociopath adversaries riding elephants, that he is able to charm the venomous snake of his misdeeds and retain the support of the very people he has betrayed.

Good man, Billy, able to rally the troops and send men to their execution. Good man, Billy.

6} Years ago, my daughter received a letter from a general in Washington DC, inviting her, then in high school, to a “gathering” in Washington DC/ After a few minutes of head scratching I Figured out that this was a recruitment letter from the CIA scanning promising young thinkers for the agency. Naturally, even the CIA has to scout for talent. Now, on the surface, I would not be the most supportive parent about the possibility of my child working for the CIA, but respecting my daughters’ judgment and independence said to her, “I wouldn’t want this, but you should think about it and make your own decision. The CIA needs good thinkers too.” And then a bit later, as an afterthought, I followed up on our conversation with some other thoughts. “Look,” I said, “I am committed to being a critic of our country. It is not just my right, but also my responsibility. It is what makes you a responsible citizen, if you are willing to point out when the country moves in the wrong direction, or does not honor its creed. But, let me say one more thing, never betray your country” and I explained, “Even when the country is misguided you must work to fix it. No other country is any different than ours and if you betrayed your own to another, you would lose your standing at home and the other would consider you a fool.”

And so, it begs the question of where does Edward Snowden fit in. I think you know I admire Snowden a great deal. I do not believe that Snowden betrayed the country. I consider Snowden a patriot in the best sense of the word, not in the lesser sense of a scoundrel draping himself in the flag. No, Snowden did not hand over missile telemetry and names of spies to our enemies. Snowden reminded us that we are a nation founded and constituted on principles and respect for privacy and that privacy is under attack by the very people sworn to uphold it. And, perhaps transcendent to that in the way only a few people ever can be, Snowden’s revelations asked us as a nation and as a world to come from the dark shadows of fear and surveillance, to look honestly at how we defend ourselves, and to stop destroying the very core of our being hiding behind the same false rationale that all tyrants invoke to defend their dark secrets, “We’re doing it to defend you.”

Shouting in the darkness

“Change the world”

“Save the world”

One hundred forty characters at a time

The global gossip rolls on

As barrel after barrel the syringe extracts ancient blood

Shouting in the darkness

“Look at me, I matter”

While meditating in the silence we fools prefer

The taste of an apple says winter is coming

7} Some years ago at a dinner party with friends in Spain, I mentioned that I wanted to see a bullfight and had been fascinated by it since reading Or I’ll Dress You In Mourning, the story of famed bullfighter, El Cordobés, when I was twelve. Within seconds, a friend of my hosts, a woman in her thirties who clearly did not share my feeling about bullfighting derided my comment by saying, “You probably think that women deserve to be raped also.”   Quite a leap I thought, and realizing there was little to be gained explaining my thoughts on the matter (not my normal response to an attack) took a few more lumps from her in silence before the storm passed and we all went back to eating a tasty beef stew.

All past is prologue, and here we are in the middle of a cultural shit storm involving football players in the National Football League, two convicted of domestic violence and one for child abuse. As I have listened to the opinions of countless this week, I was saddened that the responses to the acts more often than not were uttered in black and white terms. By this I mean absolutes vs. non-absolute positions, not racial black and white, though lurking beneath the surface sits the unavoidable racial component that charges all things in our country. More on that later. Fir now, the black and white i refer are comments vilifying Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson as if these acts make them less than human, barbaric, animals. To be clear, In my opinion Ray Rice got off too light for what he did and should have been punished more than he was. No violence is excusable or can be tolerated. I squirm as I write but, the but being that unlike even President Obama who used a time worn and ridiculous statement that “real men don’t hit women,” I have sad but not shocking news, real men do hit women, real men do hit their kids and in high and alarming numbers, and likely, so too have a few of the outraged college educated reporters (piranhas) that weighed on this weeks revelations. While the same piranhas calling for the dismissal of Goodell, the suspension of Rice and Peterson, were waving the moral flag, few words were said to address the underlying issue that generates violence by men in our society.

How do we reshape men into compassionate human beings, and how do we help the men who commit these acts to become better people, because by most accounts about both Rice and Peterson, they are genuinely decent human beings though Rice has a huge demon to exorcise and Peterson will likely face a huge rethinking about the role of violence in building his children’s character.

8} Technology has us by the balls!

Every day I hear someone talking about his or her inability to keep up with technology. In 1984 I was teaching teachers how to use desktop computers, both Apple and IBM had released the revolutionary desktops and the paradigm shift was underway.

Old-schoolers, my father included, he a PhD chemist at IBM’s prestigious Yorktown lab, did not know how to use a computer, though his semiconductor work was directly related to them.

Other old-schoolers, like the groups of teachers we were instructing, we’re doubtful of the new technology. I had one near-to-retirement teacher came to class with a magnificent hand written journal she kept to record four decades of rhododendron cultivation. She defiantly stated at the start of the class, “they tell me i need to put this on a computer, but I don’t see why I need a computer.” I responded that if I could keep a journal as she did I wouldn’t use a computer, adding, “you don’t need a computer, it’s just a tool to serve you, and if it doesn’t serve your needs, don’t use one.” I also made a point of bringing a baseball bat to the classes and would hold it in my hands without saying anything as to why, until someone asked about it and I would say, “Always keep one of these by your computer so that if it upsets you, you can remind it who’s in charge.” Which is all background to the point of this writing that technology is making us crazy and it’s okay, even healthy, to reject it.

At dinner tonight, we met a woman in her early sixties who told us about the problems she’s having with using her I-pad. The pad was only her most recent acquisition, having gotten an I-Touch, and I Mac previously. She said that she just scheduled two appointments at the Apple Store to learn how to get her address book on to her devices. Then she said, that she recently learned that there was an on off button on the device that she didn’t know about, always thinking the front facing button that awakens it from sleep was the on off. She had no idea how to use these things, though still wanted to. I told her two stories, the first about another senior friend of mine who struggles with the same technology that told me his father used a handwritten address book hi entire life, which served him well, and by the way, one which he inherited from his mother, thereby meaning the handwritten address book worked fine for over one hundred years! No upgrades, no incompatibility issues, no built in obsolescence to force you to by a new one: just a pencil and paper. Works fine. Story two that I told this woman, that when my father retired from IBM, he thought he should do some writing about his life, and he asked me what computer he should get to do so. I told him that a pencil and a yellow legal pad was the best way to start, but perhaps realizing that the computer ship was leaving port without him aboard, he impulsively ran out and bought a $2000 desktop Mac, plopped it on his desk, and then left it there ostensibly unused, as he struggled to figure out what the new dangled thing was all about. During one of my visits I taught him the basic operations if the machine, but it was abundantly clear, that he was not comfortable with this new way of doing things, and further, he no longer had an interest in adapting to the basic demands of the computer world (see baseball bat above). Well, touché for that. My stepmother, she a bit more tenacious did eventually learn to play solitaire on the Mac, making it one of the most expensive decks of cards in the history of the world.

My point? Despite its utility and joys, Technology has become too dominant in our lives and it is making us crazy. And, the incessant rapidly changing capabilities overwhelm and discomfort us. And, no different than Thomas Edison, who understood that he would never make money by producing light bulbs that don’t burn out, strategic obsolescence drives the business model of hardware and software companies alike. Minute by minute, day by day, week by week, “innovation” makes today’s must have gadget, tomorrow’s old piece of worthless crap, kind of like what are brains will be if we don’t take the baseball bats out and remind the little electronic sons of bitches who’s in charge.

(Full disclosure-I wrote this piece on my iPhone, will edit it using spell check, post it on my blog, then tweet it to my Twitter account.)

9} You can’t know anyone until you know his or her story. And you can’t know their story until you’ve heard it told more than one time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ode to Poor Uncle Dick

Poor Uncle Dick, all alone at the party hanging out by the booze, but cousin Jimmy was told not to serve him cause Uncle Dick’s on heart medicine, the kind that don’t mix well with alcohol.  Well, no matter anyway, everyone knows he’s a mean drunk so it’s best to keep him sober

Poor Uncle Dick.  Years ago, he lost one nut scaling a fence after trying to steal a car from a used car lot.  After getting inside the fenced lot he lit the place on fire when he couldn’t find the keys to any of the cars.  As he was leaving, poor Uncle Dick was surprised by an angry Rottweiler who chased him around the lot until Dick killed the dog with a tire iron.  He lost his nut when he got stuck on the fence on the way out.  That was a bad night for him, cause when he got to the bottom of the fence there was a police car waiting for him.

Later, he told the judge he did it to impress a girl, Janey Drinkwater, but she said she didn’t even know who he was, but she showed them a series of weird notes she had been getting anonymously from “some creep.”  They never could prove he sent the notes, but he did.  His father got him off in a deal where he could do counseling instead of jail time.  His counselor later said he was a very strange human being and that he shouldn’t be around children or animals. None of this surprised his father, who said his oldest son was always too happy to castrate the hogs and the bulls on the farm. Said his Dad, “The sight of blood never bothered little Dick…well unless it was his own, then he’d go running to his room and hold his hamster by its tail and listen to it squeal.”

Poor Uncle Dick.  Everyone is enjoying the party but him.  Every time he tries to get into a conversation it’s like the sea parts.  I guess people get tired of hearing about his gun collection and hunting exploits.  Jeeez, how many times can you listen to a guy talk about skinning an elk?

Poor Uncle Dick.  They say his mother couldn’t breast feed him because he’d latch on for holy hell until his she screamed for mercy.  Staring down at his malevolent little infant eyes she had the sense that he liked inflicting pain.  “Happiest day of my life is when we switched him to the bottle,” says his Mom.  “Truth be told, and I am not proud of this, but I used to add a little vinegar to the little monster’s formula hoping it might help with the colic.  Didn’t, but I kept trying.”  That’s what Poor Uncle Dick’s mother said, I swear, she told me that more than once.

Poor Uncle Dick still walks around trying to get everyone to look up to him, but Christ, the man is a piece of work if ever there was one.  Hard to tell what his children think of him, and I wouldn’t dare ask his wife.  She just about trembles in his presence.  Can’t hardly imagine what happens in their home.  It’s like he thinks that we all can’t wait to hear more about the battery in his chest that keeps his heart ticking.

Maybe that’s it.  Maybe his heart has to work so hard to beat that there ain’t no kindness in it.  Poor Uncle Dick.  Maybe they’ll find a way to finally get around the statute of limitations on that little mess he got into a few years back,  He says he was just defending his family, but even they say Dick wanted the people to come in the house so he could surprise them with his weapons.  Pretty shocking all the blood they had to clean up.  Two of them fellas still can’t walk, so they keep them in that special prison where they can get treated properly.

Poor Uncle Dick.  What can we do with poor Uncle Dick?

(How about we prosecute him for sanctioning torture and other crimes against humanity?)

William Pfaff Column on Torture

I share this column because it expresses exactly how I feel about the revelations in the Senate Report on Torture. Attached is the link to William Pfaff’s website and his excellent collection of columns.  Below is the full text of today’s column.  Pfaff has long been an intelligent voice about world affairs.

Truly, when we violate the basic codes and legal agreements of humainity and international law, we are no better than those we have condemned in the past.  Unless we bring our own criminals to reckoning, we have lost the core of what makes America meaningful.  And to be clear, those who approved, authorized, or conducted torture are criminals.

 

http://www.williampfaff.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=707

Columns : At Nuremberg They Were Hung.

Paris, December 17, 2014 –The wartime Western allies, their judges pronouncing on war crimes in the city of Nuremberg, ordered hung until dead eleven major World War II criminals at Spandau Prison in Germany on October 6, 1946. Those judged were not hung because their crime was that they were themselves torturers; they were too highly placed for that. They were people who had ordered that the gloves be taken off. It was the people under their orders who took the gloves off and tortured and murdered.

For many years preceding the second world war, torture of a human being was widely considered a heinous crime. It was not formalized in international law as such, because it was taken as part of the General Law of Humanity, which is to say law that was obvious to humans in Western Civilization.

Since World War II and the Nuremberg Tribunal, and other war crimes trials held in the months and years that followed, torture has been formally identified as an international crime in a number of conventions and treaties, and by such bodies as the International Red Cross, and of course the United Nations.

It has widely become adopted into national as well as international legal codes. It is part of the Laws of War as recognized by the United States Armed Forces.

The United States has also incorporated it into the Code which binds all men and women serving in the forces. This has added the rule that no soldier may obey an illegal order, such as an order to torture a prisoner.

This obviously places such a soldier in a paradoxical situation since the superior giving the order is assumed to issue only legal orders. The soldier would rarely be in a position to appeal over his head to a higher officer. In general it must be assumed that the soldier is in a position in which his own conscience must decide his act. It is exactly this which, with rare exceptions, is absent from the story we have read in the Senate CIA Report.

In the CIA case there is little record of employees of the agency refusing an order to torture. There is a record of people in this position denouncing the order to the press or to some civilian political authority, Congress, or the public. This typically has resulted in the legal prosecution and conviction of the truth-tellers, or — especially under the Obama administration (to the dismay of Mr. Obama’s admirers) to strenuous efforts to capture and prosecute these people for revealing the truth about what may be crime or malfeasance, as in the cases of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, and of course that of the self-confessed conscientious objector, Bradley (Chelsea) Manning — as well as a few others.

It has for years been known in police and intelligence circles that torture rarely produces useful and timely information from a captive. It typically produces lies meant to stop the torture, untrue information supplied to please the torturer’s apparent wishes, or murder of the victim by the torturer or the torturing institution, as at Guantanamo, and apparently at one or more of the Black Sites.

The most disturbing and basic question is why Americans officials seemed to want so badly to torture when to do so was known – even to the Agency – to be so unprofitable. Dick Cheney in an interview (on “Meet the Press”) stubbornly has insisted that the torture produced rich results, was not properly torture anyway, and that the CIA report published by the Senate was a deliberately concocted and politically motivated compendium of falsehoods by Democratic politicians and the liberal press — even though no doubt can exist that it was prepared from information inside the CIA by members of the Senate staff.

Within the Agency a pathology clearly has existed and prevailed, but it was initiated and promoted by Agency leaders and prominent members of the Bush administration. It was sustained inside the Obama administration by other such persons in official positions and in the Congress despite Mr. Obama’s forbidding of torture and his unfulfilled promise to close Guantanamo prison, where torture apparently continues even now in the form of forced feeding, which serves no defensible military or intelligence purpose at all, other than to debase prisoners (and obviously their jailers, as well as those officials who ordered it). These people have simply wanted, and still want, to torture people.

Apparently nothing is going to be done to change anything as a result of this Senate revelation, just as nothing effective was done about torture and assassination in Vietnam. In Vietnam we had the Phoenix program of assassinations of suspected enemy collaborators among the peasantry. I emphasize ‘suspected,’ having gone along, in a semi-official analytic capacity, on one such interview of a terrified family whose father was not at home.

The American civilian I accompanied was followed by a montagnard tribal executioner so that the job, if necessary, could be done on the spot. The American seemed to like his work. (I mention this — which for me followed several years of work with a CIA-owned international political warfare organization — so as to disabuse the reader who might think that what I am about to conclude is the fancy of an unsophisticated journalist. The episode was soon followed by the U.S. invasion of Cambodia, first of the American invasions of small countries which since have laid waste the Middle East, and which at the time inspired me to seek another way to make a living.)

In my view, those in the American government who ordered and conducted this program of torture by the CIA since the autumn of 2001 should be arrested, tried for self-evident common crimes, and if convicted, hung.

That would convince government officials for years to come that international legal prohibitions of torture and other readily recognized crimes against humanity, which have been ratified by the United States Executive Branch and Congress, shall be obeyed, and illegal orders to the contrary be disobeyed and denounced to the international public if necessary.

Regrettably, in this case in the United States, criminals are no longer hung, nor is the death penalty widely applied to other than the poor. Thus I would assure that the sentence be served in a common prison in the company of ordinary criminals, sharing the ordeal which is the common experience of that vast number of Americans condemned to penal servitude. In no case should it be served in the comfortable federal prisons reserved by our government for white-collar criminals. They should be made to think of Nuremberg.

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Thomas Eric Duncan

Thomas Eric Duncan died today of Ebola.  He was the Liberian man who came to Dallas, Texas, to see his son, and whose exposure to the Ebola virus in Liberia has triggered a massive public health response to contain any outbreak here.

Mr. Duncan was simply a man, like any other person, whose life was filled with hardships and challenges.  His aspirations were the same as any of us, and I am saddened at his death.

Ebola is not “their disease.” it is ours.  and each death is a loss, each sad ending.

Rest in Peace, Thomas Eric Duncan.

 

The Third Week of August

The third week of August has long been my salvation. The month in which the air finally has a hint of cold. The week in which Autumn peers through the madness of Summer and whispers “I am coming.” It is both a reminder to secure the firewood and complete the projects that lie strewn about without the threat of rainfall.

This Summer has been a torment. Two Osprey are nesting above the house in one of the tall fir trees and all day long there is a plaintive cry between them. Who would think Osprey could become annoying? AND, they joined by the ceaseless cooing of doves. Doves cooing as torture-that’s a twist. This morning some other as yet unidentified bird joined the choir with a whistle like staccato that hit the ears like drops of water in a prison cell. At least it’s all funny now that I write it, being tormented by nature.  Since I’m unloading, six weeks ago the heat turned my eyes into kaleidoscopes with double vision cluttering my world and flies made to look like jet planes. Relief is on the way.

And so it goes. Soon I will be cursing the incessant rain, but in truth these are small moments offered more for whimsy than formal complaint, this third week of August when the first cool air if Autumn promises a change.

Bye Bye Bud

Selig

 

 

Bud Selig

Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball is retiring.  Before he was commissioner he was the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers.  I’ve never liked Bud, initially because he led a group that deposed his predecessor, Fay Vincent, when they grew weary of a commissioner whose authority could place the interest of the game above their own.  Bud’s commissionership affirmed that in the new order the prime directive of the position was to make money for the owners.

LandisThe first commissioner of baseball, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, was hired by the team owners of that era (a flamboyant lot of cheats and scoundrels) to clean up the image of the game following the aftermath of the Black Sox scandal in the 1919 World Series.  That scandal is  often attributed to the eight ball players Landis banned from the game even though they were acquitted in a court of law.  That bit of history is well documented in two fine works, the book 8 Men Out, by Eliot Asinof, and the film of the same name, by John Sayles.  Landis brokered his integrity and credibility into a lifetime appointment that made him baseball’s supreme commander.  In varying degrees all subsequent commissioners had that authority and the game was frequently thought of as something more important than the selfish interests of both its owners and players.

From Wikipedia:  “Kennesaw Mountain Landis was an American jurist who served as a federal judge from 1905 to 1922 and as the first Commissioner of Baseball from 1920 until his death. He is remembered for his handling of the Black Sox scandal, in which he expelled eight members of the Chicago White Sox from organized baseball for conspiring to lose the 1919 World Series and repeatedly refused their reinstatement requests. His firm actions and iron rule over baseball in the near quarter-century of his commissionership are generally credited with restoring public confidence in the game.”

Restoring Public Confidence in the Game

After Landis came a string of men who to some extent followed that mandate, including Happy Chandler, who undid one of Landis’ greatest shortcomings-failing to allow black players into the game, when Landis did not stop the Dodgers from playing Jackie Robinson.  Commissioners occasionally ran afoul of a disgruntled owner when acting in the better interests of the game, but it was the accepted norm until Commissioner Bart Giamatti, a former President of Yale University, died unexpectedly on the job leaving a relative unknown and less powerful Fay Vincent to fill the position.  Seizing on the unexpected opening, a new breed of owners led by Uncle Bud understood it was time to have a Commissioner do their bidding even if it meant sacrificing the notion of upholding the mythical good of the game. Vincent was deposed, and leaving nothing to chance, Bud assumed the position.

Happy Chandler    Gen. Bill Eckert         Ford Frick              Bowie Kuhn

Chandler

Eckert Frick  Kuhn

 

 

 

Peter Ueberroth                          Bart Giamatti           Fay Vincent

Ueberroth

images

Vincent

 

 

 

If I can forgive Bud for his limited view of economics, I cannot forgive him for how he botched the response to the Steroid Era.  Like the owners during the post Black Sox scandal in 1919, modern day owners found themselves at the center of a moral storm that they were in part responsible for.  Their willingness to pay extraordinary sums to players with hyper-inflated statistics encouraged and rewarded the practice of using banned substances.  It is hard to believe that anyone paying those sums did so without knowing the chemical component to those statistical miracles.  Left to others, the steroid inquiry might lead up the food chain to owners so, when Bud had a chance to do something about it, he went all holier than thou and set about “to clean up the game”  restoring confidence as had the owners who hired Landis decades before.

 

This is my biggest gripe with Bud.

Instead of turning on his stars, he could have done something better.  He could have cleaned up the game of the harmful steroids while protecting the game itself, a mandate he didn’t seem to favor, and without turning the public against the players who made him and the other owners wealthy.

He could have thanked them for how much they excelled, how much they strove to perform the superhuman deeds we all applauded and paid for.

He could have said that he understood the pressure an athlete faces to perform.

He could have declared an amnesty for all prior use of steroids and established a window of time, say three years, in which all players would be asked to come forth and declare what and when they used.  Those players would be immune from any punishments, suspensions or impacts on their Hall of Fame credentials.

The game would have been clean, sober and revealed of the mysteries surrounding who did what and when.

Then, he could have lowered the boom and said that any player henceforth who either was proven to have used substances and not come clean, or who was caught using now would be suspended from baseball for life.

TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION.

But, Bud is not a Nelson Mandela and instead went all Crucible choosing to support an hypocritical witch hunt against players who dared to play the game better by getting stronger.  Bud threw some of the best players of the era like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez to the feeding frenzy.One scandal after another, one revelation after another rocked the game and robbed it both of its stars and its integrity, something it has not fully recovered from yet.  All this in a country that peddles enhancement in everything from our breasts to our penises.

Baseball, under Bud’s leadership, served up a crusade against athletes who got stronger. The American public was more concerned with Barry Bonds than bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan. The “Game of Shadows” was more important than the shame of two of the most ill-conceived wars in American History.

Further, while the bus was rolling over their discarded carcasses, scores of other players watched the big names take the fall while they went undetected.  Sadly, if you think the ones who have been vilified are the only ones who used, you are delusional.  While no one can cite a figure, it is likely there were hundreds of players using some form of banned enhancement.  I keep a personal and list of overachieving players whose anomalous statistics make me suspicious of their achievements, and most of them were not punished.

I had a high school teacher in the less than tolerant early 1970’s who was openly gay in a hostile all boys school environment asked impolitely by one of my classmates if he was a faggot (Sorry, I don’t use euphemisms when recounting real language) boldly replied, “Listen, stop wasting your time trying to figure me out.  If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and looks like a duck:  it’s a duck.” So to all the average players who morphed into Ruthian Popeyes, all I can say is, “quack fucking quack.”  I don’t know how you live with yourselves.  Thank you Bud for that sordid piece of history.

To be clear:  there are players who will be or have already been elected to the Hall of Fame who “used” and didn’t get caught, while the best ones like Bonds, Clemens, and Rodriguez will not get in.  The Baseball Writers, who vote for Hall of Fame membership, men and women who never played the game will uphold their perverted mythical status of the game, while in reality that status didn’t exist before, doesn’t exist now and will not exist in the future.  Like Buck Weaver in Eight Men Out, some of the greatest players of this or any era will find themselves on the outside looking in at a game they played so well.

Exhale…

In the low-level dialogue that constitutes the sports media, Bud is treated fairly well, even given credit for being visionary because of the handful of changes he brought to the game.  These are in no special order,

Realignment and the introduction of playoff wild card teams.

Interleague play.

Additional franchises.

An unbalanced schedule formula that heavily favors intradivisional play (2001)

Home field advantage in the World Series granted to the winner of the All Star Game in the same season (2003)

Stricter Major League Baseball performance-enhancing drug testing policy (2005)

World Baseball Classic (2006)

Instant replay used by umpiring crew to review disputed home run calls (2008). Expanded to all calls (except balls and strikes) starting in 2014.

These things make him visionary?

It seems to me that what Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Miguel Tejada, Nomar Garciaparra, Raphael Palmeiro, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettite, Roger Clemens, and the other so-called “cheaters” did along with the hundreds of other baseball players, using or not, that made a hard game seem elegant and simple gave more to the game than what Bud did.

I don’t think I’ll miss Bud but you never know. Just when you think the bar can go no lower… One day Uncle Bud may seem like a hero to us as we stew in our own maudlin juices recounting the fictitious Good Ole Days when the game and all those in it were pure.  One day, we may walk the halls of Cooperstown and see Bud’s plaque on the wall in place of the above mentioned players, and we’ll say, “That was Bud Selig, he introduced video replay twenty-five years after the National Football League did.  He was a genius.”

 

Unfolded Fortune Cookies

Les and Ken brought us a bag of unfortunate fortune cookies last week. A large bag of cookies that didn’t make it to restaurant tables because they didn’t get folded, but rather were flattened circles, though still tasty.  We took them to a dinner party and I wrote these fortunes to go with them.  I spent five minutes on this and if you get too serious about their meaning I will hunt you down and make you eat an entire bowl of Chinese mustard!

Do you seek beauty? Look into the eyes of children instead of mirrors.                        Lucky # 4567898924   Learn Spanish: Suerte=Lucky

Age, not an enemy, rather a friend all know.                                                                  Lucky #678407 Learn Russian: Nyet=No

Wisdom: better fed with silence than words.                                                                 Lucky #768734209 Learn Greek: Ichthys=Fish

Spare others from your passionate kindness.                                                              Lucky #733333334 Learn English: Republican=Angry White Man

See the people in front of you? Beware the cliff that follows.                                          Lucky #1674342 Learn Hungarian: Yanopote Keevanuk=Greetings.

Music is better than an eager surgeon.                                                                         Lucky #42 Learn Japanese: Tako=Octopus

You are not losing hair but finding skin.                                                                        Lucky #3.14   Learn Serbian: Xzlzxzlz=Shush

Fate will embrace you better than lust.                                                                          Lucky #999999999999   Learn Tagalog: Chow chow=chow chow

An afternoon nap is more refreshing than coffee.                                                            Lucky #11-45-78-908 Learn Spanish: Adelante=forward

Hatred: the flower from the seed of fear.                                                                      Lucky #911 Learn Arabic: Salaam=Peace

Righteousness: the pleasure of fools.                                                                           Lucky #1 Learn Yiddish: Shmendrick=fool

Me: the first word of many misdeeds.                                                                           Lucky #1345624960549 Learn Chinook Jargon: Klahowa=Hi

Clandestine food is consumed with relish. So are hot dogs.                                          Lucky #109086848 Learn Bantu: Lion=Run