Monday, November 24, 2014

Obama derangement syndrome

I've got some friends on the right who are really going to miss Barack Obama.

Without him, they'll have nothing to talk about.

Granted that the GOP found the last two-term Democratic president so illegitimate they thought they could impeach him for nothing, but not even Sick Willie roused Republican ire the way Obama does.

He's simultaneously a foreigner, a Nazi, a socialist, a tyrant, a traitor, a coddler of welfare cheats,  Muslim, the Anti-Christ  and a disrespecter of the flag. And it doesn't matter how many times any of these things are disproved, they never go away.

(By the way, if he's a socialist, Obama is the worst socialist ever. In his term, the stock market and corporate profits have skyrocketed, the  unemployment rate has fallen without increasing wages for working people, we bailed out the Wall Street companies that engineered the Great Recession, without imposing any new laws that would keep them from toppling the economy again and the disparity in wealth between the 1% and the rest of us has increased. Worst. Socialist. Ever. Maybe he should ask some tips from Sen. Bernie Sanders or the Nordic countries on how to do socialism right.)

It's Obama derangement syndrome.

It can make even the most sensible Republican, break out in spittle-flying, Tea- Party- worthy craziness.

Now, look, there's no question that  Bush Derangement Syndrome was a real thing too.

I know Democrats who believe George W. Bush was behind 9/11 and who think he invaded Iraq, for the oil.

(That's nuts, not even a member of the Bush family could invade a country for oil and see gas prices domestically climb close to $4. Wanting the country's oil would be a more sensible reason to invade Iraq than any the W Administration ever put forward. In fact, I suspect there's  pretty simple reason-- Saddam Hussein tried to have W's father - the sensible President Bush - assassinated. Regime change in Iraq was the subject of  a meeting on the first day of W's term of office, long before 9/11. Hey, I'm a vengeful guy myself, I can respect that.)

But no matter  how bad criticism of GWB got, it was never as ugly as what Obama has faced. I don't remember Democrats throwing the word "traitor"  around. There were a few undeserved Nazi references, but Obama has faced more. And there certainly wasn't the amount of racism that's been thrown around. I'm not saying anyone who criticizes Obama is racist. There are still real policy differences between the left and the right, and it's fair game to comment on them. However, Obama's presidency has apparently given free reign for down-low racists to emerge from underneath their rocks and engage in the kind of hate speech that most of us though died out in the 1960s.

And sensible Republicans and Conservatives should be -- but have not been so far -- the first people to step up and denounce that rhetoric. Just as many of us - and I include myself in this - feel that moderate Muslims  have a duty to step  up and denounce the actions that Jihadist Muslims commit in the name of their religion -- conservatives have the the duty to step up and denounce hate speech camouflaging itself with their ideology.

And they should relax and breathe. Liberal lived through Bush II, Conservatives will live through Obama's terms.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Throw backs? Why not just throw them away?

So..I'm watching a football game last weekend and the Green Bay Packers are on and it was their week to wear their "throw back" uniforms. They should have thrown them away.

The uniforms were dark green with an orange circle on the chest inside of which was the player's number. Plain orange helmet, which wasn't authentic because it had a face mask attached.

In that it was similar to the Steelers' even more horrid throw back uniforms, from the previous week, which were black with yellow stripes making them look like the Pittsburgh Bumble Bees.

Usually when teams plan their throw back uniforms -- which is basically a gimmick to sell more merchandise -- the reach back to the uniforms they wore in a successful era in the team's history.
So in the Packers' case the logical choice would be the Vince Lombardi era of the 1960's and the Steelers' logical choice would be the Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris multiple Super Bowl days of the '70s.

The problem is the two teams are still wearing those uniforms. They found something that looked good and stuck with it.

So for throw back uniforms they gone waaaaay back -- to the 1930's. In the Packers' case that makes sense -- they had a championship team back then, one of the strongest franchises in the league -- thus explaining how a nothing town on the "frozen tundra" of Wisconsin, with a population about half the size of Richmond or Arlington still has an NFL franchise.  In the Steelers' case it doesn't make much sense..they were pretty awful from the 30's to the 70's. In fact, those jerseys may date to a time when the team was still called the Pirates.

There are other teams with the same dilemma. The Cowboys' throw back uniforms are from their inaugural season in the league, when they got beaten like a red-headed stepchild. By the time the team got good in the mid-60's, they'd changed to the familiar uniforms they wear now.

And, of course the Cleveland Browns' uniforms  have been pretty much the same (boring) since they were formed in the 1940's. I think they may have worn white helmets at the start. The Colts have been wearing pretty much the same uniform since the Johnny Unitas era...despite the fact that they were stolen and moved to the Midwest.

There are a couple of teams that should ditch their present uniforms and go back to their old look. Three of the AFL's founding teams -- the San Diego Charges, New England Patriots (remember with the minute man snapping the ball on the helmet?) and the Buffalo Bills should go back to their roots.

And the St. Louis Rams should go back to the classy blue and white they wore in Los Angeles .

Maybe, they should go back to Los Angeles too, but that's a topic for another day.

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Jargon makes the world go round

One of the occupational hazards of being a journalist is drowning in jargon.
We have our own jargon in the newsroom and reporters -- much to their editors' dismay often begin speaking or writing in the jargon of those they cover.

Newspapers themselves are very jargon driven.

For instance, most members of the public who've heard the term probably think the first paragraph of a news story is the "lead." Actually, it's the lede.

A story that totally flatters its subject is a "puff piece." One that takes a more analytic view of an issue, examining not just what happened, but what it all means, is "think piece" or a "thumbsucker" or, due to the days that newspapers usually have the space for them,"a weekender."

Reporters learn the difference between "on background," "not for attribution"  and "off the record."  Background basically means the source is educating you on how something works, but doesn't want his name or his agency's name mentioned. Not for attribution means "you can't say I said that," leading to the use of "highly placed sourses." Off the record means, "you can't use this." Off the record information is more useful than you might think, because it's easier to get someone to go "on the record" about when you already seem to know about it.

I once had an editor who said that if there was one thing he hoped the general public never new about the newsroom it was the kind of black humor we engaged in. That leads to slogans like  "if it bleeds it leads" and newsroom comments like "Did anyone die? It's a better story if someone died."

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Monday, November 3, 2014

Warner will hang on, despite Puckettgate

There's no question that Mark Warner screwed up big time by injecting himself into the struggle over State Sen. Phil Puckett's resignation.

But it doesn't seem likely that it will cost him his Senate seat tomorrow.

Averaging the last two independent polls in the race, puts Warner ahead with 48% of the vote to Republican Ed Gillespie's 38% and Libertarian Robert Sarvis' 4%. That leaves 10% undecided, which is a figure I very much doubt.

It doesn't look, from this vantage point, like anybody on either side is very engaged in this, Virginia's off-off year election, except rabid partisans.

That means voters will probably go with who they know. They know Warner. They don't know Gillespie.

My prediction? Warner 52%, Gillespie 44%, Sarvis 4%.

That's a closer election than Warner anticipated going into this year. I don't think there's any question that his involvement in the Puckett matter -- he was trying talk a Democratic state senator from resigning and throwing the majority in the Senate to the Republicans, which meant that a Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act was dead -- has damaged Warner's brand. Republicans reportedly offered Sen. Phil Puckett a possible seat on the the Tobacco Commission and confirmation of his daughter as a judge. Warner, one of  a cadre of Democrats trying to keep Puckett from resigning, reportedly mentioned that Puckett's daughter might be a candidate for a federal judgeship.

State Republicans, stung by heir own ethic scandals involving Gov. Bob McDonnell, former Del. Phil Hamilton and current Del. Terry Kilgore, who is credited/blamed with offering Puckett inducements to resign, jumped all over Warner's role in Puckettgate -- as they should have. 

 Republicans nationally are pushing to take back the Senate -- Warner's seat was not one they really targeted. He was seen as a strong, popular incumbent  and they had enough opportunities to pick up seats that they could take control without winning Warner's seat.

And, I think they will. But, whoever wins the Senate, it will be by a very small margin. Probably continuing the gridlock we've been seeing in Washington for at least the last six years.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hurting Yourself For A Living

I'm off about baseball again, because politics is making my skin crawl again.

And something  I saw during the World Series gave me a painful feeling as well.
It was a slow motion replay of San Francisco Giants pitcher  Madison Bumgarner throwing his slider.
It hurt me to watch somebody's elbow turn that way and reminded me how unnatural pitching a baseball -- as opposed to just throwing one -- is. It hurt my arm to try to mimic that motion slowly.

And that's why the starting pitcher only goes every fourth or fifth day -- he needs the time off to heal the damage he's done to himself.

That's why Carl Hubbell, baseball's greatest screwball pitcher, shocked his colleagues in the Hall of Fame by showing up for the festivities each year with an arm permanently deformed by his pet pitch. With his arms hanging at his sides, the palm of his left hand faced outward.

It's why possibly the greatest pitcher in the history of baseball, Sandy Koufax, retired at 30 because he couldn't stand the pain anymore.

Because every pitcher injures himself every time he pitches.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Why the governor's apology doesn't clear the air

Tuesday Gov. Bob McDonnell apologized to the citizens of Virginia and announced that  he'd paid back loans that Jonnie Williams of Star Scientific had made to businesses owned by McDonnell and members his family to the tune of $120,000.

While the governor hopes that ends "Giftgate," it doesn't.

There's still the $15,000 Williams paid to cover the costs of catering at the governor's daughter's wedding, the designer clothes he bought Mrs. McDonnell and the $7,000 Rolex he bought for the governor at the first lady's request.

Looking at all of this in the best light for the governor -- there was no quid pro quo, he didn't technically have to report gifts to relatives, Williams was a personal friend -- it still doesn't pass the small test.

And it's not something voters can relate to. Which of us has "friends" who shower us with gifts of more than $100,000? What kind of man lets another man buy thousands of dollars worth of designer clothes for his wife?

The situation is weird and has an innate wrongness about it that anyone can recognize.

While the governor may not be found to have done anything criminal by the three on-going investigations, that doesn't mean his actions were ethical. And no one looking at the situation objectively can believe that they were.

Except perhaps the Republican leadership in the House of Delegates who reacted to the governor's apology like that made everything alright. And they promise a reform bill that will put caps and limits on gifts and require reporting gifts to family members.

Caps? Limits? Reports?

How about this -- no statewide government official, member of the legislature or their families is allowed to take any gift from anyone with interests before state government?

What positive purpose is served by allowing them to take even modest gifts?

Look, if they get the key to the city or plaque for being legislator of the year, they should get to keep those.

But designer clothes, hunting trips, foreign trips, expensive watches? No. There''s no reason to allow those, they give the perception of impropriety, even if there is no explicit quid pro quo. 

And this is not a partisan issue. Folks on both sides have been guilty of having their hands out in the past. And folks from both sides, those of us outside the "gift culture" of state government, should be able to agree that these gifts should not be part of the perks of public office.

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Talkin' Baseball

Those of you who know me well know that it there's one thing I'm more obsessed with than politics and public policy, it's baseball.

I'm such a baseball geek that when I have insomnia, which is often, I try to put myself to sleep by creating All-Time All Star Teams based on the player's last initial.

I got this idea from baseball guru Bill James, who said, without going through the whole process, that he thought the "R" team (three Robinsons, Ruth, Ripken, Rose..) would be hard to beat. But he said their pitching would be a little weak and maybe the Bambino would have to take a turn on the mound. With Ol' Hoss Rasbourne, Nolan Ryan and Robin Roberts at the top of the starting rotation and Marino Rivera in the pen to close out games, I don't see their pitching as all that weak. Their weakest position would be center field.

But the "R" team wouldn't be the best.

The "S" team (Schmidt, Sandberg, Speaker, Sosa, Al Simmons, Ted Simmons..with Spahn and Seaver for a lefty/righty pitching punch) would be awesome.

But the "M" team would be the best. It should be enough to say that the outfield would be Musial/Mays/Mantle, but the infield of Willie McCovey, Joe Morgan, Eddie Mathews and Rabbit Maranville (team is so good the shortstop doesn't have to hit) is almost as good. Thurman Munson would be the catcher.

Pitching? The rotation starts off with Christy Mathewson, Greg Maddux and Juan Marichal.
Definitely the best.

Before I wandered into this longish tangent, I'd been intending to talk about this baseball season.

I'm a Red Sox fan in the American League and a Cubs fan in the National League (My Cubs loyalty has been wavering since the Richmond Times-Dispatch decided to treat the Nationals like the area's home team), because I like to be equally frustrated and crazy in both leagues.

The Red Sox have been atop the American League East for weeks now.

I'm not buying it.

That's not just the knee-jerk pessimism of a life-long Red Sox fan. Looking at their roster I just can't see  a playoff team. So I'm expecting the Sox' typical summer swoon. At least it won't be the Yankees who beat us. They've got a better team on the disabled list than they can put on the field. The Orioles look to me to be the class of the AL East.

The real story in baseball this year is on the left coast. Both Los Angeles teams spent money as if they were trying to make the Yankees and Red Sox jealous in an attempt to field all star teams. As of today, the Angels are third in the American League West, 8 games under .500, and the Dodger are dead last in National League West, five games behind the fourth place team.

I'm happy to see the Dodgers floundered since they got about half of their "all star" team from the Red Sox in a late season trade last year.

The Angels are puzzling. This is the second year in a row they've signed the most sought after free agent, Albert Pujols in 2012 and Jeff Hamilton this year, only to field mediocre teams.

Since I'm sort of half rooting for the Nationals now, I have to say they need to get their act in gear soon. They are second in the NL East, but under .500. It will take a lot of wins to get in the NL playoffs this year because two teams in the league, Miami and  Houston, seem capable of losing 110 games apiece. Someone will have to win those games, so it wouldn't be surprising to see two or three teams in the NL pushing 100 wins.


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