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A Light Fickers

Posted by Bob Kohm on September 20, 2013

This has been a week of hopeful words from unexpected sources, words that give succor to the soul but arouse unease in the intellect.

From Pope Francis I we hear words of hope, words that say that the Church has buried itself for far too long in doctrinal small sightedness which has made cynical the flock. A religion founded on the principles so well expounded in the tale of the Samaritan– tolerance for difference, kindness in the face of prejudice, the universality of the human condition and the amelioration of its woes– has submerged itself in fights over the denial of earthly rights and heavenly rewards to people over matters pertaining to their love and its physical expressions. From John Boehner we hear rumblings that the nihilistic campaign being waged by the Tea Party isn’t what is right for America, that being elected to govern does not equate with mothballing the government. From as unlikely a source as the President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, we hear words of conciliation and mutual respect in a call to welcome Iran back into the community of nations as a full fledged partner, and end to, as he refers to it, an age of blood feuds.

Three disparate sources, one overarching theme– reconciliation. It is impossible for people of hope not to be at least momentarily inspired by words such as these coming in a time as divisive as the one we now populate. Our minds, those cynicized organs so conditioned by the events of the past quarter century to ignore hope in favor of a darker coalescence of possibilities, for a moment lighten as we glimpse that flickering ember and wonder if it can be kindled into a generator not necessarily of heat but still of  tactile reality. The possibility can’t be denied, if even out of sheer desire for it to be real.

The reasons to think it is not real are, sadly, easy to enumerate. Francis is at the helm of a vast doctrinal bureaucracy heavily invested in the teachings of the previous Pontiff, Benedict, whose march to undo the moderatel influence on the Church of John Paul II and John XXIII became the hallmark of his pontificate.

Like the legendary grey men of the permanent British Civil Service, those doctrinally orthodox Cardinals, Bishops and functionaries understand that they will outlast the temporary leadership of their nominative leader; Benedict’s labors to restock the Curia and its various functional apparatuses with younger men are rewarded in that way. They know that they must publicly toe the line drawn by their Pope, but will they rush to enact his decrees or let them linger under study, under “timely” implementations and half hearted directives to the pastoral network, playing the waiting game in hopes of a new, older direction from the next Pope?

Francis and “His” Curia

I discussed yesterday with an old friend, a man of faith, character and intellect, whether the Pope’s words were actually aimed at the doctrinal staff or rather lower, at the grassroots network of parish priests and the faithful. Upon reflection I believe my friend to be correct, that Francis is trying to do an end run around his governing structure and enact change from the bottom by seeing his message preached from the myriad pulpits, thus forcing the Bishops into acceptance and then the structure all the way back to those supposedly closest to the Pope’s direct control in Rome. It strikes me as a desperate play by Francis, although not a hopeless one– my main hope in it is that he acknowledges that the system is broken and that he cannot fix the damage by decree, but must invest his power in the organizationally powerless and ask them, through faith and numbers, to right what is wrong with the Church.

Mr. Boehner faces a problem similar in theme if different in mechanics. Boehner finds himself the nominal leader of a Republican caucus not only badly divided but acting in a manner that is nearly unprecedented in the leadership structure history of his party, While the Democrats have always been a somewhat fractious coalition, earlier of Northern liberals and Dixiecrat conservatives and later of Blue Dogs, liberals, moderates, fiscal conservative/social liberals and various and sundry other ideologues practicing vaious and sundry different ideologies, the GOP has been a much more rigid, lockstep caucus. In the years since the Eisenhower Administration, with the slight aberration of the Gingrich speakership, the GOP in Congress has existed under the tight control of their Speakers and Minority Leaders with strong and able whipping by the lower leadership. It has reliably supported their core themes (at least in the way they’ve been somewhat misleadingly packaged)– lower taxes, smaller government, fiscal responsibility measures, the curtailment of the social safety net, opposition to abortion and the extension of civil rights, sometimes with the abetment of the fractious Democrats and sometimes without. The “Hastert Rule”, which stated that no bill be brought to the floor unless it met with the approval of the majority of the Caucus, seemed absolute.

The brashness of that lockstep record emboldened the Boehner/Cantor leadership to overplay their hand at the close of the first decade of the new century, legitimizing and deploying the proverbial war elephant of the Tea Party Republicans as a force they hubristically thought they could control and whose dynamism they never fully understood. War elephants, as I’ve written in the past, are funny things from a historic perspective– massive, intimidating juggernauts that can scare the enemy off of the battlefield, yes, but more often than not they proved to be unreliable forces of nature as apt to trample their own lines into dust as they were to scatter an opposing army. The elephantine presence of the Tea Party electees of 2010 has done precisely that to Mr. Boehner and Mr. Cantor’s leadership in the House and to a slightly lesser extent Mr. McConnell’s leadership in the Senate.

That leads us to the horns of Mr. Boehner’s dilemma this week– a caucus so out of control as to be characterized by its own members as being on a legislative kamikaze mission to hole the hull of our government. Mr Boehner has made a very poor secret of his attempts to rein in the caucus and to get them to focus on governance rather than on the destruction of the same– his sometimes tiresomely bellicose verbiage has moderated to calls for governmental foresight and moderation. Even speaking as someone who shares very little governing philosophy with Mr. Boehner, I respect his desire for moderation and sanity displayed this past week despite the typhoon of immoderation his previous actions have unleashed. I hope that he can somehow restore the genie to the bottle by force of will and backroom deals among the more pragmatic members of his party, but that hope is again, as is the case with Pope Francis’ hope, limited by the empirical evidence before us to the contrary. It is hard to undo a system that is behaving in a manner so optimally that it has subsumed the governors placed to control it.

Last is the letter delivered to the American people and to the world by newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. In a world set reeling by actions coming from the Middle East since the mid 1960s, what words could be more welcome than those calling for a legitimate peace from one of the nations that have so greatly fostered that reeling instability? Rather than suing for peace, President Rouhani asks for something even more intellectually appealing– and end to the “zero sum game” of lingering Cold War thinking, a new compact founded on a return to (or perhaps, truthfully, a novel) respect for the needs of other nations in the pursuit of the “win-win” scenarios that we all know are possible if the principals would moderate their definition of “wins” away from the absolutism of Berlin or the deck of the USS Missouri. An eminently rational appeal from a nation reputed in the West to be the home of irrationality, a land who sacrificed its children in the 1980s as human minesweepers and who has suckled nascent terrorist movements until they were ready to leave the house and wreak havoc internationally has a seductiveness of the mind almost too tantalizing to ignore.

Is this a deliverable promise–  or even premise– from an Iranian President, however? Is it a simple ruse to take advantage of American war weariness to further complicate our effort to deny Iran nuclear weaponry? Is it a truthful statement of Rouhani’s personal desires but ultimately a meaningless gesture as it is the Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, in whom all power is really vested by his control of the theocratic infrastructure, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and, especially, the nuclear apparatus?

In Rouhani, again we see the problem of a putative ruler who may have no control over his supposed domain– a rump ruler, a ruler in name only. In the cases of Boehner and Francis I, the issue is those whom they supposedly represent and speak for; in the case of Iran, it is those whom exist on a plane above the public face of the ruler. Same problem, different ladders. Can the conciliatory words of Rouhani, even if they are delivered with sincerity in the man’s heart (an open question), really amount to anything when Khameini’s IRGC and its al-Quds terrorist network are openly waging war in Syria in support of the Assad regime? Is it possible that, like Francis, Rouhani is trying to inspire the Iranian people to see a better path and institute change from below, perchance by a reinstitution of the Green Revolution that we saw in 2009-2010, a revolution that the US didn’t materially support despite our clear interest in doing so? Could Rouhani be seeking US support for its resurgence? A possibility.

We live in a world where institutions are breaking down and a trend towards anarchy is emerging, a problem illustrated, I believe, by this week’s hopeful words. The superficially unifying theme behind them is reconciliation, yes, but perhaps another darker unification emerges upon consideration of them as an interlocked whole rather than as discrete conversations– the recognition by our leaders that their leadership is in jeopardy and with it so too are our societal institutions. Are the leaders calling on the led to, in effect, dispose of the middlemen– the power of the institutions that have gone rogue, the power of the Curia and its apparatus, the Tea Party, the Iranian Supreme Leadership– in an effort to save not only themselves but their societies as they are currently defined? If so, what are the ramifications of these grasps at newly ethereal power?

I’m tempted to see these as the penultimate gestures from leadership– a rational, constructive and coalition based approach to restoration of the societal norms we’ve become accustomed to over the past centuries. Should they fail, the tumult of the ultimate gestures to retain power– gestures we’ve seen throughout history’s darkest times– seem to be likely as the leaders of our institutions all retain executive powers that they will surely try to use to maintain their power.

Are our societies so flawed that we should allow them to go through a period of painful redefinition at the hands of middle men, or should we hope for an enlightened leadership emerging from those who were perhaps responsible for those middle men attaining so much power in the first place? We’ve seen “middle men” take power so many times in so many nations in the personage of the ambitious Colonels, but this is a different scenario; this time it’s not a jumped up military officer looking to take power but maintain the institution, it’s a fundamental dismantling of the institution by the “Colonels” that is sought, perhaps not unlike the tumult of the move from Feudalism to Limited Constitutional Monarchy or Imperialism to Mercantile Democracy.

The world contemplates change subconsciously this week in the guise of hopeful words that hide situations redolent of the loss of faith. A flickering light burns, but whether or not to nourish the ember to fire– and what we feed that fire with– is becoming the central question of our time.

Posted in American Politics, Christianity, CongressCritters, Cultural Phenomena, Economy, Foreign Affairs, History, Iran, Middle East, Religion, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Problem With War Elephants

Posted by Bob Kohm on September 15, 2010

War elephants enjoyed a short vogue in the military history of the Mediterranean World , most famously in Hannibal’s Crossing. The very smell of the snorting, thrashing mountains of military might scared the hell out of even seasoned battle horses and caused outright panic amongst tightly ordered battle-lines from Sicily to Persia. Elephants held the potential to be a tremendously powerful weapon in an era where victory depended on maintaining a common front, but for all its power it had a major problem. The problem with the war elephant was that it was a danger to everyone on the field, not just the army putatively controlling it– war elephants released on the battlefield were as likely to inspire panic or trample holes through friendly lines as they were those of the enemy.

Ring a bell?

The GOP, party of the elephant, has for the past two years deployed to political battlefields its own snorting, thrashing mountain of militancy and might– the Tea Party. With the end of the 2008 campaign, it became clear that there was an undercurrent of serious dismay in American politics that the newly out of power GOP needed to tap into in order to regain political traction. After an orgy of disparagement against then-Governor Palin by the RNC regulars, it similarly became apparent that Ms. Palin had an uncommon staying power on the battlefield and that she would not be easy to corral. The logical thought was to energize and, more importantly, weaponize that staying power by connecting it to the undercurrent of anti-government feeling that was already present. The Republican War Elephants had been enlisted.

When the 2009 Congressional Session broke for its traditional summer recess, the GOP released its war elephants onto the battlefield. Across the nation the usually dull array of town hall meetings were set and held in home districts, but with one difference this year– they would be discussing an extremely expensive health care bill that had been demagogued by Sarah Palin and others in the newly emerging Tea Party movement as “socialist” and “unAmerican”. Into this fray were spurred the elephants, trampling headlong into town hall meetings nationwide, shouting down the speakers, panicking the supporters of the plan and the general populace with bellows of “Death Panels”. While the elephants were upon the field no order could be maintained, no line could hold. It was impossible to refute them for the sheer fact that their energy and their volume drowned out any response either in the meetings or in the media.

At the time, the war elephant looked the perfect weapon for the RNC. They made the mistake that so many generals from the Persian Wars to the Punic Wars had made before them– they thought that they could control their elephants. As we’ve come to see, they were wrong.

The 2010 midterm elections are the most critical battlefield the GOP has fought upon in more than a decade, facing the prospect of continued Democratic rule for the next six years if they fail to make an inroad into the President’s party’s control of the House & Senate. It is a year where a disciplined assault on the Democrats should produce large scale wins for the Republicans and, indeed, it appeared that the GOP was on course to precisely that goal in the spring. Bad things started happening, though– first in isolated incidents in places like Nevada, but then more frequently in spots the nation over. The war elephants of the Tea Party continued to break loose upon battlefields where their use was never intended and the panic they spread reached far beyond the Democrats in the lines and struck deep into the heart of the GOP establishment. Over the past few days we’ve seen Republicans all but abandon their hopes for a Senate takeover with the elephantine demonstrations of the Sarah Palin and Jim DeMint endorsed O’Donnell campaign in Delaware, culminating in the destruction of the GOPs party line in last night’s primary. New York GOP stalwart Rick Lazio was trampled into paste by Carl Paladino in the Gubernatorial Primary. In New Hampshire and even more chaotic battle of the elephants has broken out, with Jim DeMint backed Ovide Lamontagne still looking as though he might defeat Sarah Palin backed Kelly Ayotte in a case of elephants crashing into each other and giving the Democrat, Rep. Paul Hodes, bolstered hopes of picking up the retiring and oh so establishment Judd Gregg’s seat. With Sharon Angle off in the deserts of Nevada explaining why Social Security should be dismantled and Rand Paul continuing to be a gaffe factory (albeit a poll leading one) in Kentucky, the unpredictability and, more importantly, uncontrollability of these elephants unleashed by the GOP may prove once again why uncontrollable beasts are so dangerous to bring onto the battlefield; they are the embodiment of the law of unintended consequences.

Posted in American History, American Politics, Cultural Phenomena | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Pursuit of Happiness, Michael Vick Style

Posted by Bob Kohm on July 24, 2009

The question of just what the NFL should do with Michael Vick has been hotly pursued in many places lately, not the least of which is my favorite forum website.

One of the fundamental issues I take with those who favor Vick’s being allowed back into the NFL is the concept that Michael Vick has paid his debt to society and thus should be able to pursue reinstatement to the Commissioner. Perhaps I should restate that– I don’t have an issue with Vick having paid his societal debt or asking to be reinstated; I have an issue with the assumption that he should be granted the object of his pursuit simply for having asked after having served his time in Federal prison. Roger Goodell appears this morning to be leaning towards forsaking that duty and allowing Vick back into the league with a short suspension to be serve dat the start of the 2009 season if he signs a contract. It’s a poor decision, if it comes to pass.

Many, many people have pursued a playing career and have failed, from walk-on tryout dreamers to insufficiently talented college players to ultra-talented losers like Art Schlister. Although they failed to succeed in their pursuit for disparate reasons, they all shared one commonality– the NFL rejected them. That’s the major danger in pursuing a career in playing football– there’s only one source of good jobs in the field, and if you do something to make yourself unattractive to that entity, you will fail to make a living playing football.

For an industry as image conscious as professional sports, profiting from the intentional infliction of cruelty upon animals is not something likely to endear you to your single source employer.

Let’s take this out of the realm of the NFL for a moment to illustrate the sole employer problem. Let’s make Mr. Vick an intelligence officer in the employ of the CIA, instead, and have him arrested for the same crime, running and hosting a dog fighting operation. Would the CIA immediately hire him back as he had served his time, paid his debt to society, and asked sweetly to be rehired? The answer, obviously, is of course not. That’s a bit of a problem for Mr. Vick, as the CIA is an intelligence organ of the sole major employer in his field– the government– and the government, for various reasons, is not going to give Mr. Vick another job in his field of expertise no matter how sweetly he asks as he is a felon and could do significant damage to the employer if they took him back. This is almost precisely the same situation he potentially faces in football– he is constrained to seeking work with a limited number of franchises, all under the direct control of a central authority that may well deem Mr. Vick to be deleterious to its image. In short, he could very well be screwed.

Sadly (ahem) for Vick, there’s no other employer to really pursue this career path with.

Second chances are all well and good, but to assume that Vick is owed one or that the NFL should mindlessly take it on the chin to offer him one is a bit naive. There is a real cost to the NFL for letting Vick back in after his conviction on animal cruelty charges; whichever team hires Vick, if any one did, would be subject to protests, potential boycotts, and the continuing bad press both for the club and the league of having to put up with that sort of thing.

Yes, the NFL, MLB, and other leagues have in the past allowed criminals back into their sports despite the cost to the league. In some cases that is warranted, in others it has shown a sorry lack of convictions by the various commissioners and leagues. While people who have committed worse crimes– domestic abuse, assaults, even manslaughter or vehicular homicides– have been allowed back in, that should serve as no guide in this case nor, indeed, in any case. Each situation must be base don the the individual circumstances and potential for damage to the overall entity, not just on the severity of the initial crime. Like it or not, morally wrong or not, what Vick did excites negative public opinion much more than a domestic abuse or drug charge does and that must be a consideration in the NFL’s decision on Vick.

Were I in the Commissioner’s chair, I would view this solely through the prism of business, and that means that damage control is my primary concern. In light of that, there is no way I could countenance the reinstatement of Mr. Vick, societal debt paid or not, and subject the brand identity of the NFL to the damage that allowing this felon back into the league would entail; the duty to protect the brand’s already marred image far outweighs in my mind the questionable compassion of allowing Vick to resume a playing career in the league.

Posted in Cultural Phenomena, NFL | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Is the Sky Our New Limit?

Posted by Bob Kohm on July 17, 2009

I was at our pool club the other day when I heard a man of about 40 say those immortal words to an unruly child– “Back when I was a kid, we wouldn’t have dreamed of disobeying our parents!”. After my kids and his were out of earshot, I conspiratorially mentioned to him that back in my day I wouldn’t have dreamed of obeying my parents if I thought there was any chance of getting away with it, giving us both a chuckle at being the newest members of the I’ve Become My Father Club.

We often get lost and wallow in nostalgia when things aren’t quite the way we want them to be in the present; it’s probably our most commonly used emotional crutch and one we’ve all been indoctrinated in by the universal “back in my day…” musings of our forebears. Generally the facts don’t hold true to the sentiments– things weren’t really so peachy under Reagan or Kennedy or Roosevelt or Wilson when you get right down to it, no more or less so than they are in whatever present their names and eras were invoked.

There is at least one realm, however, where I can’t escape the belief that things were oh so much better in the early 60’s, and that is the sense of man’s unlimited potential. Watch this video and tell me if you can recapture that spirit right now if you lived through these events, or if you can even imagine it if , like me, you didn’t.

Billions of words have been spilt upon the 60’s, of course, and so I’ll limit mine to remarking how amazing the changes embodied in those 10 years were, from the unbridled hope and dreams of the early years to the tumult and despair of the ending years.

Space exploration seems the perfect metaphor for the dialing back of our dreams that happened during those years. The Kennedy proclamation that we were going to do the extremely difficult, that we were going to the moon within the decade, is the kind of proclamation that today would be immediately obliterated under the weight of words from the blogosphere, from the media and from the Congress. The discussion of going to Mars hasn’t captured the popular imagination– in fact, it isn’t something that most kids would even know was on the table.

The problem seems to be that we’ve become enamored of the incremental rather than the revolutionary. Kennedy proposed something that skipped so many steps as to be breathtaking– he didn’t get lost in the ephemera of cost benefit analysis or the reality of the many steps between the speech and the landing– he boldly declared an endgame and demanded a  process that would get us there rather than implementing a process that could someday find its way beyond our gravitational pull. In this instance Kennedy wasn’t a man invested in escaping the bonds of gravity, he was  a man who simply didn’t care to be bound.

Since July 20, 1969 we have been gripped by what we think of as reality but which might be more reasonably classified as a miasma of doubt. The day that Armstrong and Aldrin stepped upon the fine powder of a world beyond Terra was the day that an instantly fossilized footprint was laid in the lunar sand, not the day that our first bold steps towards the galaxy were laid. They were the high water mark of an era of hope which receded with the liftoff of the LEM back to the lunar orbiter, an era which, to be fair, had ended years before Apollo 11 ever lifted off. In the resounding roar of the engines of that Saturn V were the echoes of the post war ear of dreams, sounding across the Florida swamps and triggering not the vague stirrings of nostalgia for a distantly remembered past but the desperate grasp for one tantalizingly just out of reach, a ledge grabbed for an instant after the teeter became the fall.

The fall ended in a vat of goo that softened the landing but has clung to us and restrained our reach. The space program sank into the sludge that the rest of our country was submerged in as lunar landings became passe and the next great adventure, Skylab, never really became anything but a punchline. What started to pass for leaps forward weren’t manned strides out into the solar system but hobbled paces like the robotic probes and then the Space Shuttle. Each of those could have been important steps if they were indeed steps towards a goal, but in truth they weren’t. As dramatic as reaching out and landing on Mars for the first time could have been, Viking was an anti-climax– a robot that took a few pictures and died, fulfilling its limited design specs. Even the Space Shuttle was an anti-climax, literally a space truck that delivered satellite cargo into low orbit and landed to be refit for its next cargo delivery. At least it looked like a space ship, to an extent. It couldn’t go to the moon, it couldn’t take us to Mars, but at least it wasn’t just a conical tin can atop a rocket. It was something but, honestly, was never a huge reach. It led to the construction of a failed orbital station that has proven to be not even the modest next step it was supposed to be, a breakthrough-possible lab and perhaps construction station for extra-terran missions, but rather an expensive, orbiting Edsel that holds a very few people in orbit for a few months at a time.

To my mind the one bright spot, the one glimpse in my lifetime of the possibility of man as embodied by the reach into the sky beyond our own, was Hubble. Hubble allowed us not so much to dream as to wonder why we suddenly weren’t, a glimpse into the heavens and perhaps literally into Heaven, a Heaven of unsuspected and unimagined delicacy and grace where even the greatest celestial furnaces burning with a heat beyond the imagination of Dante were objects of breathtaking beauty. Hubble made us ask once more what was out there and reawakened in some of us a desire to find out, even if that quest led beyond our lifespan and into a dreamed future. It literally made the nebulous tangible.

Perhaps as important was the fact that we were able to service and improve Hubble over the years, demonstrating that space wasn’t outside of human reach but was in fact a place we could work, a realm in which we could do what we as humans fundamentally do– manipulate our environment. Four times we reached out to service and improve Hubble, recognizing the fundamental worth to mankind of dreams. Our waking eyes saw the costs and limits of space, but in the never-ending night of orbital space our dream continued to project its images into our lives.

That we had to debate the mission that extended the life of Hubble earlier this spring epitomizes the battle between those two existences, that of our budget conscious day and our limitless night. The bright lights of night won out, with caution and pessimism thrown to the wind and the mission, one of extraordinary difficulty and more than what some considered acceptable risk, executed perfectly. That the mission happened proves that the dreams live and that their value has won a column in the often seemingly heartless spreadsheet of our existence.

We have not overcome our incremental and limited existence, either in space or in our national life. The replacement for the Shuttle is a return to the conical tin can atop the rocket, a huge disappointment for most who love space and see a role for man in it, but one which may yet surprise and take us to a place where we touch the dream instead of merely glimpsing it on the fringes of consciousness. Private space travel seems to be becoming a reality, even if the suborbital flights of the Rutans of the world are a return to the days of Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepherd. It must be recalled that we went from Kitty Hawk to space in a span of 58 years; who knows how little time it might take the visionaries of the private sector to catch and exceed the realities of NASA, the ESA, the Russians and the other governmental space players even starting from the notional point of the 1961 push into space.

I refuse to consider the sky our new limit. I can only hope that others will, too.

Posted in American History, Cultural Phenomena, History, Space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Minor League Night

Posted by Bob Kohm on July 14, 2009

I am an unabashed lover of Minor League baseball, the “lower” the league the better. Last night I went to the Carolina League game between our local Potomac Nationals and the Lynchburg Hillcats with my two sons and a good friend who brought his son & daughter.

The differences between the full blown Major League experience and going to a minors game is the difference between spending a week at Disney World and happening upon a summertime Firemen’s Carnival out in the country, and I mean that in the best possible way. Every year I trek to a fair number of Major League games, be they in Washington or Baltimore or New York, and I love going to them, but they’re a production. The seats usually coast between $30 and $75, you get bowled over with $25 parking charges and confronted with Epcot-esque diversions and distractions. Baseball, which is to my mind the game that most benefits from an intimate setting, is being played on a magnificent field that seems to be miles away and is being ignored by 35,000 of the 45,000 people in attendance at the game. Sure you can get into it if you’re determined to in the way that I usually am and there’s few things better than a playoff game in a Major League park, but still, there’s just so much laid on top of the experience that finding the essence of the game, the idyll, is a task.

Last night, on the other hand, we enjoyed Dollar Night with the Potomac Nats in a “stadium” made out of aluminum bleachers and wooden walls adorned with the kind of cheesy advertising that only a Southern minor league park can bring you. Every Monday home game fro the P-Nats offers $1 general admission tickets that are at a distance from the field that would cost you $575 at Yankee Stadium and $1 grilled hotdogs– how do you beat that? The game experience itself is what baseball should be about– tons of kids rooting earnestly for “their” team, even if they don’t know who all the players are, chasing down foul balls and getting autographs from the players who willingly make themselves available to sign any ball, bat, program or napkin offered to them. The players run out every grounder, they dive for every out of reach ball; for the most part they’re job applicants rather than acknowledged gods of sport and their aspiration is emblazoned on their uniforms along with the team name.

Somehow it’s the antithesis of what Major League baseball has made itself into– it is pure. It’s an American experience from before the days of Walmart and The Olive Garden, and those are becoming so rare. One of the things I love about goign to these games is meeting the people around me and listening to their conversations. The Dads spend the game explaining the finer points of the double paly to young kids who don’t get it but sit in rapt attention, the Moms make jokes about the Dads, the kids just take it all in between bites of hot dogs and gulps of sugary drinks while dreaming of being on the field themselves. Between innings you get some of the cheesiest, silliest promotions– kids racing the mascot around the bases for a bobblehead prize, tricycle races, bowling with plastic balls down the first base line and, of course, the two staples of Minor League enticements– kids run the bases after the game and the Friday Night Fireworks.

It’s just right. It’s basbeall without commitment to a “huge” night, both financially and logistically. It’s baseball that a non-baseball fan can enjoy– heck, it’s something to do for a few bucks on a warm night, it’s silliness and laughs and bad for you food and some of the best people watching around. If you love the game, it’s a chance to see some great baseball played up close by guys who may just be on the cover of Sports Illustrated in a few years.

Go to a Minor League game. Trust me on this one; you’ll find out what the magic of baseball has always been about.

Posted in Baseball, Cultural Phenomena, Events | 3 Comments »

Mermaids and Centaurs and Minotaurs, Oh My!

Posted by Bob Kohm on July 14, 2009

Sam Brownback (R-KS) is, has been, and always will be one of my favorite Senators. Aside from a name evocative of a juvenile underwear joke, Brownback is so conservative and moreover so consistently goofy about his conservatism that he makes even serious DC conservatives cringe in amused horror. To understand how Brownback is seen by intelligent people in DC, you have to view him as the Republican Yogi Berra– you sit there just waiting for him to open his mouth because as soon as his lips start moving you’re going to hear something unbelievable. Today, though, we have a Brownbackian gem of staggering proportions.

Senator Brownback’s conservative Christianity has moved him to enter a bill which specifically defends us from the horror– horror– of mermaids.

Senator Brownback has never seen a crusade against science and technology that he couldn’t get behind, from space exploration to genetic manipulation of seeds to, and this is key to today’s mirth, stem cell research. While many principled conservatives have issues with embryonic stem cell research based on their opposition to anything even remotely tinged by abortion or even in vitro fertilization, Senator Brownback has picked a doozy here– he’s going on the record opposing stem cell research because it might be used to create human-animal hybrids… like mermaids.

Of course, his trail on this particular bit of inanity (insanity…?) was blazed by another guy who is getting a reputation for being a bit, uhm, outside the box, Bobby Jindal. Jindal jammed a similar anti-Mermaid bill through the Louisiana legislature earlier this year, making sure that the Bayous of Louisiana would never give rise to the dreaded manigator.

The scariest thing about this kind of legislation isn’t the time wasting aspect of it– I mean, really, Senators, nothing better to do while the economy is in a shambles?– it’s the fact that it will be viewed as a logical and needed step by many of Brownback’s, shall we say, less worldly constituents. That the good people of Kansas (and Lousiana…) see anti-Mermaid legislation as a cornerstone of keeping America a god fearing and holy land is a sad point amongst the undeniable humour of Brownback’s latest crusade.

Posted in American Politics, CongressCritters, Cultural Phenomena | 1 Comment »

Vegetables and Bloodlust

Posted by Bob Kohm on July 9, 2009

My son could make a Vegan cry. Which is good, come to think of it, because Vegans should cry. Here’s some bacon to dry their tears.

Marcus is a sweet kid; he’s compassionate to a fault, he has a greater weight in stuffed animals in his bed than he weighs himself, his teachers have used him to help the kids who aren’t getting along in class because everyone likes Marcus and Marcus can tolerate anyone.

Animals? If this isn’t the kid who grows up to actually become a vet I’ll be shocked. At three he decided on his own to run a lemonade stand and give the money to”whale scientists”, he fawns over his pets and talks constantly (and if you know him you know what “talking constantly” really means…) about animals.

Marcus had a new obsession this Spring– he wanted to plant a vegetable garden because “it would be good for the Earth”. Ten trips to Lowes and the local nursery, two weekends of ripping up old tree roots and building 12×10 garden boxes and a dumptruck load of topsoil moved up a hill a wheelbarrow at a time and voila, Marcus had his garden. He busted his butt working next to me to put the whole thing together and takes an extreme amount of pride int he whole endeavor. The daily “checking the vegetables” has become a sacred ritual.

Yesterday we came home form the day’s outings, pulled into the driveway and saw– gasp– a rabbit coming out of the garden.  Marcus’ usual reaction to seeing a rabbit runs towards, “Wow, a bunny! Do you think she has baby bunnies? Do you think we can have a bunny for a pet? Do you think we can have bunny babies?”, which generally goes on for about 20 minutes or until he sees the next animal.

Yesterday was slightly different. Yesterday’s bunny was met with a scream of “WHAT is that bunny doing in OUR garden?!?!?!?!?” He charged up the hill out of the van screaming the whole way at the formerly beloved bunny, which, of course, hopped away at Bunny Mach 3 much to Marcus’ consternation. He had turned into our family dog who bolts from the backdoor to chase squirrels that he never catches and wouldn’t know what to do with if he ever did.

With the immediate crisis passed, Marcus set about surveying the apparent carnage… which consisted of one of the first ripe tomatoes of the season and a not so ripe one partially munched. Hanging offenses if ever there were any in the court of Judge Marcus.

Marcus immediately set his mind to ways of keeping the bunnies at bay. He spent the next ten minutes designing elaborate bunny traps that would allow us to capture and relocate the offending lagamorphs to woodlands far from our own bordering woods or that would discourage the bunny from eating OUR vegetables. He decided that these would be unworkable, and things darkened.

The next set of ideas was decidedly more violent. “Daddy, maybe we could get Rob to come over with his bow and arrows and kill the bunnies!” “Daddy, how do rat traps work?” Finally, “Daddy, just leave Tonka out. He killed a snake, he can eat the bunnies!”

Wow. I guess it all goes to show that underneath all of the kiddy cuteness we’re accustomed to seeing in our kids beats the heart of the coldly rational adult… if you dig deep enough to find it. It’s so easy to take kids at face value and forget that there is so much going on within their little heads and hearts.

Especially when they get in touch with their inner adult and declare a rampage against cute little bunnies who eat OUR vegetables.

Posted in Cultural Phenomena, Food | 4 Comments »

The Spy Who Sagged Me

Posted by Bob Kohm on July 7, 2009

Just in case you think we Americans are the only ones who get themselves tangled in meaningless scandals and news stories that bear no resemblance to news, the Brits have really gotten themselves twisted over a pair of saggy Speedos.

It seems that the head of MI6, Sir John Sawers (that’s “M” to you, Bond fans…) wears Speedos while, like oh so many Euros, he clearly shouldn’t. The issue has slouched into the public consciousness by means of Facebook; it seems that Sir John’s wife has breached his, uhm, operational security by publishing a photo of her hubby in his full glory on her Facebook page, which was promptly found by everyone from the Murdoch papers to the BBC to… and here’s the earth shattering problem… the TERRORISTS!!!

It seems that some in the UK are quite concerned that the nefarious folks who wish to see the sun set ont he British Empire now have some advantage over Her Majesty’s stalwart spymaster because they’ve seen him hanging gut over his Speedos. The tight shot (…oh, how lamentably tight…), as you can see, shows Sir John, some sand, some rocks, and a few other people’s (better defined) legs. Apparently, according to The Mail, this blows Sir John’s cover… or at least exposes his need for a cover-up.

Of course, Sir John was publicly announced as the head of MI6, his home address is well known, and while most would’ve presumed he wore full swim trunks I’m not sure that his penchant for Speedos portends the official translation of “God Save the Queen” to Arabic.

Rule, Brittania.

Posted in Cultural Phenomena, Intelligence (and lack thereof), Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Where Are the Wizards?

Posted by Bob Kohm on March 17, 2009

It has been said that the line between magic and technology is located where the common person can look at a system and have no idea of not just how it functions, but why it functions. I cannot build an internal combustion engine (hell, I can barely change a spark plug), but I can look at one and figure out how it works, at least in broad strokes. Looking at a circuit board, however, isn’t going to provide and spark in my brain that will tell me how the computer I’m writing this on works, how my 46″ big screen is showing Handy Manny at this moment, or how I can talk to someone in Peru or Vietnam by dialing 13 digits into the phone the board may have come from. It is complex beyond my ability to ascertain, and I must simply rely upon it to work, to reply upon others to provide the networks upon which it draws, and to build be a new one when this one fails. Before it was retired in April of 2008, Air Force pilots had to rely upon their computers to make constant adjustments to the flight surfaces of their Stealth Fighters to keep the unaerodynamic Nighthawks in the air. Think about that– is there a higher presumed expert on the science and craft of flying than a trained US Air Force pilot? Even their skills and expertise could not keep an F-117 in the air; they had to rely upon a system with more expertise than they could ever hold. The trust inherent in relying upon these gadgets and systems of gadgets is awesome when you consider it, especially in those cases when even the “experts” are outside of their capacity in understanding and manipulating them, as in the Air Force example.

But is that trust warranted?

Much like my laptop and the Internet (series of tubes…?) themselves, our financial system is complex beyond simple understanding, even by the “experts”. The derivative nightmares that have crashed our economy were not the product of a bunch of execs sitting in a room trying to come up with a better way to make money but rather the end product of extraordinarily complex mathematical formulae that redefined risk in a way so out of keeping with realistic definitions of the concept as to have made these bundled junk loans look like an asset worthy of investment. Take those instruments and throw them into a milieu that sees incredibly complex markets interacting with complex personal decisions and trending, with overseas financial and security needs and philosophies, with complex logistical realities mandated by our “just in time” systems of inventory management amongst a host of other complexities and intangibles. Once you’ve done that, take a look at some of our experts on that overarching economic system– say Alan Greenspan, Paul Krugman, Larry Summers, Zhou Xiaochuan, and Daniel McFadden– and understand that they have wildly divergent opinions of not only how to fix the system but in fact on how the system works and exists at all.

This is a system so complex that, although we rely on it for fundamentals such as food delivery, power generation and medical care, nobody does completely– can completely– understand it. We are assured by many “experts” that they have a handle on this thing, that they can tame and manipulate it to our universal benefit, that they can shield us from its temper tantrums and benefit us from its soaring successes… they think.

The same is true of so many systems in the world in which we live– can the President be expected to understand and process the self-interests of the many nations on the planet when they are all just guessing at their own self-interests? And if we can not hold that expectation, then are we prepared to accept that judgements made on war and peace are made in a manner that must ultimately be accepted as uniformed?

We are at a point in our societal evolution where our artificial systems have merged with natural systems with ultimately unpredictable and uncontrollable outcomes becoming more the norm; it has long been a favored chestnut of science fiction writers, but the reality is truly emerging now into the public consciousness as a result of the financial crisis. What the implication of that will be for the future remains to be seen, but we cannot get to that point until we accept the concept that experts on these systems are not wizards and that while they can make educated guesses, they cannot speak with the authority that an expert on civil engineering can speak on bridge construction; to take anything they say as a firm prediction of probability may be a stretch; taking them as gospel is insanity.

It seems we have extended and expanded our reality right back to the point of trial and error. Welcome to the Nineteenth Century, circa 2009.

Posted in American History, Cultural Phenomena, Economy, education, Mathematics | 3 Comments »

We’re Losing Our Minds

Posted by Bob Kohm on March 17, 2009

Nothing can mess up a marriage like money problems; hell even Billy Joel has popularized that concept in Scenes From an Italian Restaurant. When money becomes an issue, everything else goes on the table– bitterness, greed, jealousy and the real killer, irrationality.

In the marriage between our government and the American people, money has become an issue, and irrationality is raising its head above the swirling currents of anger, frustration, and fear.

Take, for instance, this week’s explosion of craziness over the A.I.G. bonus payments. Yes, on the surface it is maddening– the American taxpayers are floating A.I.G. and they’re busy shipping TARP money overseas or handing it out in bonus checks to the idiots who were the engineers and mechanics of the train wreck that A.I.G has become. While many families struggle through layoffs and while houses are being taken by the banks at rates never before seen, the rich are getting richer; anybody can understand the anger that would generate. The problem is that we’re getting lost in that anger and risk doing serious, lasting damage to our nation as a result of it.

In today’s New York Times, Andrew Ross Sorkin charts a personally dangerous course in his Dealbook column under the headline The Case for Paying Out Bonuses at A.I.G. There’s a case for paying out these bonuses? Really? The man must be insane and be courting a Rushdie-esque fatwa called down upon his head by Imam John Q. Public. In this environment who could ever support dishing out more money to the boobs at A.I.G.?

A very prescient man, that’s who.

The contract is the fundamental building block upon which American business is founded. No matter how onerous a deal may turn out to be in hindsight, a contract is a contract and must be honored short of bankruptcy. Yes, you can always ask the other party to renegotiate a contract for the mutual good, but you can not simply walk away from the provisions of a contract because one party just doesn’t like it anymore– at least not without a lawsuit that will see the walker getting nailed for doing so and ordered to perform. Without that surety, there is no such thing as a credit market– a loan or credit agreement is a contract, of course, assuring the lender that the borrower will repay the loan with interest or else forfeit some valuable property in lieu of cash payment. The contract is as close to a sacred concept as exists in the profane world of business and economics. It’s preservation is paramount to our very existence, and one of the key roles of government is providing the tools in the form of the legal system to enforce and ensure contracts.

And now, out of anger, we’re demanding that the government set a precedent that will hopelessly erode the sanctity of the contract because, well, we’re damned angry and have a right to be. The bonuses that are the object of so much ire right now weren’t concocted last week as a boondoggle to enrich a few financiers; they were the result of employment contracts signed before the wheels came off of the economy between A.I.G. and its employees. Whether or not those employees deserve the bonuses in light of all that’s happened, whether or not we want taxpayer money funding those bonuses, whether or not we’re out of our minds with anger, these bonus payouts are mandated by valid contracts that have to be honored simply because they are valid contracts. To have no less an entity than the Federal Government try to abrogate these contracts because the American taxpayer is angry… well, that’s not an avenue any sane person would seek to go down, is it? The slippery slope is an old argument, but precedent is also one of the underpinnings of our society. If the government can step in and simply toss out the provisions of a series of valid contracts because the Congress doesn’t like them, what is the point of the entire system?

The counterargument most offered by bloggers and commentators to this line of thought– that simply tossing out valid contracts is rank idiocy that will be killed by the Courts as it should be– is that A.I.G. is now largely owned by the taxpayers anyway and would have gone bankrupt had the government not stepped in… and bankruptcy is the ultimate voider of contracts. All well and good, save one tiny flaw– that damnable phrase, “would have”. Yes, the government stepped in and the American taxpayer got the bill… to prevent A.I.G. from going into bankruptcy. We stopped A.I.G. from going bankrupt and collapsing because their existence, as twisted as this might seem, is integral at this point to the economic recovery. When we made that choice– to prevent A.I.G. from going bankrupt by, essentially, buying the company, we bought not only its assets but its liabilities and commitments, as well. We are now a party to the employment contracts that mandate these “retention bonuses”, and as a responsible party that is interested more in the overall health and resurgence of our national economy rather than the sideshow BS of the A.I.G. bonus flap, we must hold back our bile and sign the damned checks. To not do so is unthinkable and, should this hit the courts some day, illegal. You don’t have to have stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night to see that, even if like me you hate the concept of paying out this money.

Ditto the ire over A.I.G. taking bailout money and paying it to European and Asian banks rather than keeping it here int he States. A.I.G. owed debts to those institutions and needed to satisfy them under contractual obligation. We cannot give A.I.G. money with which to save itself and thus prop up our economy and then tell them that they can’t use it to satisfy their liabilities– what else would we be giving it to them for but to kill bad debts and satisfy other liabilities so that it may continue to function as a business entity?

Now, that doesn’t mean that we can’t ask for the money back, that we can’t publicly hammer the employees getting these bonuses in an attempt to shame them into not accepting them… but if they say no and want the money owed them, then it’s up to us to perform up to the terms of the contract.

There are no popular solutions to a financial crisis as deep as the one we’re in– the issues are too complex for the average person, myself included, to understand every intricacy and every interconnection. Moves that make sense may be counter-intuitive, and certainly may be the cause of immediate anger from the population. What me must use as our guide in determining sentiment is a baseline fundamental of common sense– do we want to live with contracts providing no surety? Do we want our employers to unilaterally change our contracts? Do we enjoy seeing products on the shelves of our stores, being able to borrow to buy a home or a car or a boat? Do we want to be sure that when we contract out a job that he job will be done? Of course to all of those, so, too, of course to paying out the bonuses contracted for. We cannot have one without the other.

Money can break up a marriage, but the one between our government and ourselves must be saved. We all need to take a deep breath, accept that there will be things that must be done that might not feel great up front but that must be done, noentheless, to get everyone back safe in their beds at the end of this long, dark day.

Posted in American Politics, Corporate Shenanigans, Cultural Phenomena, Economy | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

He Said What?

Posted by Bob Kohm on March 14, 2009

Because, if you’re like me, you’ve always wondered.

Come on, Eileen

Poor old Johnny Ray, sounded sad upon the radio;
Broke a million hearts in mono.
Oh our mothers cried, sang along, who can blame them?

You’ve grown (You’re grown up)
So grown. (So grown up.)
Now I must say more than ever.

(Come on, Eileen.)
Toora, loora, toora loorye aye.
We gonna sing just like our fathers.

Come on, Eileen,
Oh I swear (well he means) at this moment
You mean ev’rything.
You in that dress,
my thoughts, I confess,
verge on dirty.
Ah, Come on Eileen.

Come On, Eileen.

These people round here
Wear beaten down eyes sunk in a smoke dried face
So resigned what their fate is,
But not us (no never),
no, not us (no never),
we are far too young and clever.

(Remember)

Toora, loora, toora, loorye, aye.
Eileen, I’ll hum this tune forever.

Come on, Eileen,
Oh I swear (well he means)
Ah come on let’s
take off everything,
that pretty red dress, Eileen (Tell him yes)
Ah come on let’s, ah come on, Eileen,
Pleassse …

Come On, Eileen, Tooloorye aye
Come On, Eileen, Tooloorye, aye, toora.

Now you’re all grown (toora), Now you (toora) have shown (toora),
Oh! Eileen.
Said, you’ve (You) grown (toora) (it’s strange that our feelings have grown),
so grown (toora) (about how you feel)!

Now (toora) I (toora) must (toora) say (toora) more (toora) than ever,
things round here will change.

I said, Toora (toora), loora, toora (toora), loorye (toora), aye (toora, toora, toora).

Come on, Eileen,
oh I swear (well he means) at this moment.
You mean ev’rything.
You in that dress,
my thoughts (I confess)
verge on the dirty.

Ah, come on, Eileen.

Come on, Eileen,
oh I swear (well he means) at this moment.
You mean ev’rything.
You in that dress,
Oh, my thoughts (I confess)
verge on the dirty.

Come on, Eileen,
oh, ho, ho, (well he means) oh, ho, ho …

Posted in Cultural Phenomena, Music | Leave a Comment »

Blood On the Walls

Posted by Bob Kohm on March 13, 2009

I’m teaching this morning and don’t have the time to write this up– I’ll get to it this afternoon– but just in case you didn’t see Jon Stewart destroy Jim Cramer’s career last night, here’s the feed. The most brutal– dare I say best given that it was conducted by a comedian– interview I have ever seen. Jon, it may be time to drop the “fake news” thing and fill a void that is in very bad need of filling in our society. On the other hand, Jonathan Swift-style satire translated to the 2009 US vernacular probably looks a lot like what Jon Stewart does…

Posted in Corporate Shenanigans, Cultural Phenomena, Economy | 2 Comments »

Sometimes There’s Never a Right Time

Posted by Bob Kohm on March 12, 2009

I had an interesting email exchange the other day with a friend who just returned from his second tour as the commander of first an infantry platoon and then an infantry company in the Afghan Theater of the war. We were discussing the resurgence of the Taliban, their improving tactics and the general difficulty of fighting in Afghanistan when the quality of our own troops came up.

As a commander, he is quite satisfied with the quality of men and women that he commands in the field; morale is showing some frays over the issue of multiple combat tours that always seem to get extended just when people start to believe they’re about to go home, but that’s been true of America’s wars for a century. While on the topic of morale, I broached the third rail of personnel issues for the Army, especially– soldiers who are gay.

Don’t ask, don’t tell has become a punchline in the military and the popular culture both. Only fools believe that gay and lesbian personnel aren’t a part of every company, every ship’s crew, every squadron; simple math tells you that the demographic distribution of gay Americans mandates that gay soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are members of every sizable unit of our Armed Forces. More commonly known amongst military personnel as “Ask, Don’t Tell” for the way the program is actually administered, the policy has been exposed to the hypocrisy that lies at its foundation over the past several years of war, which have seen dismissals from the service under the Don’t Ask rubric decline from the pre-war years– when the military needs specialists who happen to be gay, it seems, they don’t quite pursue their dismissal with the vigor that they do in peacetime.

My friend is sympathetic to the overall cause of openly integrating the force, but he falls back on a common refrain amongst even progressive military thinkers on the topic– you don’t do anything that might cause upheaval within the ranks during time of war. On the surface, that is a seemingly eminently logical point. Wartime is not the time for social engineering, it is a time for boosting morale and getting maximum performance from the troops. Anything that distracts from that goal is an unwelcome distraction, indeed. Why dispose of a policy that, if flawed, has kept something of a lid on the entire situation for fifteen years now?

The liberal knee jerk response is “Because it’s the right thing to do”, of course, and in a vacuum they are right– we know that segregation and bigotry is a fool’s errand as witnessed by the racial segregation our own nation experienced between the Civil War and Civil Rights. Outside of that vacuum, though, that argument isn’t nearly as compelling– even Abraham Lincoln dispatched with a cherished founding stone of our nation, the writ of habeas corpus, due the the exigencies of the Civil War itself, so “because it’s the right thing to do” doesn’t carry as much weight during this time of war due to precedent.

That dismissal, though, is countered to an extent by the excesses of the current war that have found protective coloration in precisely the habeas corpus argument; Guantanamo, “enhanced interrogation techniques”, extraordinary rendition, denial of lawyers and “new” interpretations of the Geneva Convention as it relates to the definition of “prisoners of war” are all beneficiaries of the Bush Administration’s willingness to relax not only our Constitution but also our uncodified standards of conduct. We were collectively complicit in that relaxation, of course– it is far too easy to wash our own hands of culpability and assign the blame to an unpopular President while forgetting that he was elected by the people to represent us and that, truthfully, many of us were so outraged and so angry in the time following 9-11 that even though we may have talked about how much we hated what Bush was doing we went ahead and re-elected him with an even larger share of the vote. American Democracy has eroded as a concept due to the excesses of the Bush Administration, but we can at least stop it from eroding to the point of football, where all ills are blamed on the quarterback even if the fault lies with the coaching staff or the defensive line. Yes, I am amongst those who spoke out against the Bush policies as did many people, who worked or gave money for Kerry and Obama, who worked to elect progressive Congressmen and other elected officials, but I am also an American and that is the overarching reality of all of our lives– we are part of a collective, part of a nation, and we must see reflected in our own eyes its flaws as well as its benefices if we are to be honest with ourselves.

So too, then, must we recognize that there will never be a right time to deny rights, dignity, responsibilities and privileges shared by most Americans to any subset of Americans based on parochial beliefs or even what some might see as demonstrable facts. We are one people in blame as we are one people in right, and as one people it is beyond our honest ability to deny rights ostensibly shared by all to the few. Amongst those responsibilities and privileges is the ability to serve our country in uniform if one so chooses, a right and privilege currently denied any homosexual who chooses to live as themselves rather than in the closet. Yes, allowing openly gay members to serve in the military may cause some minor disruptions in the force structure, but we already have a much larger issue of integration to inform us as to what we can expect– the largely seamless integration of African American soldiers into “regular” units of the military during the Truman Administration. Naysayers predicted catastrophe as a result of unit integration– remember, this was a time when legal integration was still very much a reality in the American South, so making the military much less ready to accept black troops than it is to accept gay troops today. The predictions of mutinies, readiness level declines and other dire events never came to pass, of course, and assuming that they would today over integration of openly gay soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines is rendered even sillier given that history.

The military command structure itself has implicitly said this by reducing the number of dismissals for homosexuality during the war. The generals & admirals have spoken– dismissing gay troops would cause a greater force disruption than leaving them in place in many cases, as witnessed by the hesitance over the last four years in particular to make a dismissal cases against homosexuals, especially those serving in the technical, intelligence, and language sectors of the military where these men and women serve not only with honor but hold skills and talents integral to the successful waging of the current war.

There will never be a right time to integrate and accept openly gay troops into the force structure– there will always be a compelling argument made by those whom the layman is afraid to challenge on military grounds. The military, however, while being the ultimate guarantor of our safety is also the servant of the people of this nation, not the other way around. Those people must accept that there will never be a right time to deny basic rights to their peers; it is that peer relationship, that we are all Americans under the Constitution, that easily trumps any social, racial, or biological subset we may belong to with the exceptions for cause that are codified under the law (denying felons the vote, preventing the mentally insane judged a hazard to others from owning firearms, and the narrow like).

If a man or woman is willing to protect, defend, and honor their fellow Americans then we are not, as those Americans, too, in a position to deny them. To do so is to redefine the meaning of America in a direction which we have travelled too far and too easily these past seven years. It is time to reclaim our identity, and to do that we must accept that identity is a broad one that embraces all with a birthright to it.

Posted in American History, Cultural Phenomena, History, Human Rights, Social Justice, Warfare | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Shopping and Death on Long Island

Posted by Bob Kohm on March 10, 2009

I have friends, most of them female, sitting shiva in houses across Long Island. They’re losing an old friend, and I feel

The Temple of Shoppig on the Island

The Temple of Shopping on the Island

for them. While they adorn themselves in black designer outfits and pin rended bracelets to their breasts in mourning their husbands are trying to look sad and support them… but they’re all really sneaking downstairs to the family room, smoking cigars and toasting the departure with good whiskey when they say they need to pee.

The object of so much depression is the victim of the recession, not cancer or too much cholesterol. As the recession deepens it has become apparent that even the most sacred of cows is not immune from the abattoir’s knives, and, if you live or ever have lived somewhere between Montauk and Paramus you may have heard the bellowing and bleating coming from the stall in which Fortunoff’s has been dispatched, the dearly departed friend that has called the congregation to mourn together.

How to explain Fortunoff’s to those who haven’t  resided in the NYC Metro area…? OK, imagine a gigantic brownish concrete cube sitting along a road that can only be described as Dante’s Suburban Circle of Hell, then fill its parking lots with Mercedes, with BMWs, with Jaguars and most importantly of all with Cadillacs, lots and lots of Cadillacs, more Cadillacs than you’d see even in Fort Lauderdale around early bird dinner special time in mid-February.

Within the cube, cryptically referred to as “The Source” by its marketing team and by the come-latelies who have only known it as the flagship of “The Source” mall instead of as the stand-alone temple to Long Island taste it was for so many years, are enough high end baubles and textiles to make Martha Stewart not only need to change her foundation garments but to replace them with fine damask panties sewn from materials in the drapery department. Diamond rings available for $5,000 in Manhattan were consumed here like potato chips despite their $8,000 price tags;  sets of china destined to be eaten upon once a year and to otherwise reside in the future dusty basements of affluent newlywed shared floorspace with $3700 espresso machines. If time is money, the watches offered within the tens of yards long display cases cost too much to be bothered with keeping it– anyone who could afford them could surely afford to buy more time when needed.

The floors were packed with ladies, more in Yves St. Laurent or Gucci than in Dolce & Gabbana, ogling multi-carat emeralds, checking the time before their lunch reservation on their Cartier watches. For a store that doesn’t sell clothing but only housewares & jewlery the fashion parade was astounding. On the rare occasion that a man wearing a wedding ring was seen walking the broad aisles alone in any months other than November or December, you could be sure that he had recently been busted with either his secretary or his wife’s best friend; the number of zeroes on the price tag for the bracelet in his sweaty palms was a dead give away as to which.

All that being said, Fortunoff’s was an institution; whether it was so in the tradition of Dix Hills and Bedlam or in the tradition of Harrods is a fairly debated point. It followed the trajectory of New York and ultimately Long Island consumerism– when it started early in the century it was a Mom & Pop cookware store in Brooklyn that grew up and moved to the Island with its clientele (ever wonder how Lynbrook got its name? Reverse the syllables and you have your answer…). With the comfort and affluence that came with suburban life, Fortunoff’s became the much tonier forerunner to the Linens’n’Things that fill the market for housewares today– you wouldn’t dare to think of buying your draperies, your dishes, your bathroom tchotskies anywhere else for fear that Myrna might find a Macy’s label on something when she was rifling your linen closet while ostensibly using the powder room during a fondue party. With the Long Island boom of the Sixties, Seventies, Eighties and Nineties it became an excuse not to trudge all the way into the Diamond District of the city to buy extraordinarily expensive jewelry, completing the nightmare existence of Fortunoff’s for Long Island’s salary men. In time it came to be the arbiter of social standing– if you didn’t keep your wedding registry at Fortunoff’s it denoted you as someone whose friends couldn’t afford the finer things for sale on Long Island, the kiss of social death and surely the wrong way to start off in married life amongst the doyennes of Garden City or the Five Towns. It simply wouldn’t do, it just wouldn’t do at all.

Now, as Long Island’s unbridled economic consumerism seems as far away as the booms that the Concorde used to shed over its beaches, Fortunoff’s long run as the hub of that consumerism has come to an end, leavign a void to be occupied but never filled by Costco, by Macy’s, by Kay Jewelers down the road at the mall. Fortunoff’s is no more, and if you think I’m overstating the case, you should have seen the obituary given Fortunoff’s by last Sunday’s New York Times Long Island Section, complete with lofty quotes from the mourners beset by woe at the loss of their dear friend.

If Fortunoff’s was a temple to greed, excess, and AMEX Gold Cards during its lifetime, though, it was a 100,000 square foot torture chamber for the unlucky kids dragged from their peaceful WiffleBall and ATARI existences to serve at the altar. As one of the victims of sporadic Saturday trips to the Westbury flagship store, I have but one good memory amongst the pain of debates about draperies on the third floor and the endless circling of the kitchen department on the first– for some reason, one never adequately explained or even hinted at, there was an authentic Japanese pachinko machine set smack in the middle of a sea of Royal Doulton and fine Limoges China. Playing with its silver balls, watching them bounce through the pins, was the one thing that provided solace to the souls of the children called there to witness the acquisitive orgy taking place before the gaze of the twin gods Cuisinart and Patek Phillipe… and, in an exercise in cruelty that was the epitome of Fortunoffs to the nine year old boy, they put the god damned thing in the middle of an acre of breakable, wildly expensive dishes. That little boy wearing a CHIPS t-shirt, ToughSkins jeans, tube socks and Pony sneakers still cries out from within the man– Damn you, Fortunoff’s, damn you to liquidation!

Still, though, the passing of any chapter into history, no matter how cherished nor how silly, deserves respect. To those who will miss Fortunoffs, to my parents and the parents and grandparents of my friends, to my brother and sister-in-law, to the legions of little old ladies who struggle daily under the weight of the jewelry they bought there in better times… wanna head a bit down Old Country Road to Ben’s and toast the old girl with a Doctor Brown’s Black Cherry and a half sour from the relish plate, maybe a pastrami on rye? That much I can do for a store and an era in retailing the likes of which we will likely never see again.

Posted in American History, Cultural Phenomena, Economy | Leave a Comment »

The Man of Steele Bends

Posted by Bob Kohm on March 3, 2009

I just have to do a quick followup to yesterday’s story on Rush Limbaugh, the new face of the Republican Party. Apparently Mike Steele, the latest Chairman of the RNC, decided to take back what was supposedly his and fired on Maximum Leader Rush Limbaugh… with  predictable results.

While Rush was bloviating at the CPAC podium on Saturday night, The Man of Steele was sitting down with D.L. Hughley on his odd news-entertainment hybrid on CNN. Maybe Steele thought nobody was watching (not a terrible assumption, given the venue), but as it turns out at least a few folks had tuned in.

During the segment on Hughley’s show, the Man of Steele put on his RNC cape and leotard and let loose a mighty blast– he called Rush Limbaugh “ugly”, “incendiary”, and the big one, “an entertainer”. Memo to Mr. Steele– when you fill the role of a figure head, you do not call the eminence gris an entertainer or similarly minimize his role. It turns what was gris into a tres vive rouge.

A wise man once said that you don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind, you don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger and you don’t mess around with, uhm, Rush. Well, let’s toss that out the window since we now see that when the Man of Steele messed around with Rush that Rush had no problem tugging on his cape, wedgying his leotard and otherwise stuffing him back in the phone booth. You see, Rush, when challenged, tends to do what every bully does– he gets louder and louder until he drowns out the offender and gets his way. If you are the parent of a toddler, you recognize the tactic. As it turns out, the temper tantrum is an extremely effective tool of rule when you run the Republican Party.

Limbaugh has come back with his Kryptonite blaster blazing, effectively calling Steele a gutless wonder. From Mr. Limbaugh’s radio show yesterday:

“Mr. Steele, your spokesman sounds like the RNC wants ’em to fail, to me. You’re opposing ’em. You say the American people are growing weary of it, getting suspicious of it. But it’s not just Pelosi’s spending. It’s Obama’s. Where are your guts? Why can’t you tie Obama to these policies? They’re his! Where are your guts? (interruption) Strangely, they don’t want me doing the dirty work because when I go out there and, quote, unquote, do the dirty work, they try to cut me off at the knees for doing so. The point is, when you read that statement from Alex Conant, they’re opposed to the Obama agenda, too, they’re just too gutless to say so, and they get frightened when they hear the words, “I want Obama to fail.” “Oh, no, no, no, we can’t be associated with that.” “

Ouch. In one shot, Mr. Limbaugh, who moments earlier on the show said it was crazy that people think he is running the RNC for if he was he’d quit over the sad sack shape it was in, not only contradicts himself with that quote and demonstrates that he is actually running the Party and setting its message but also calls out the Man of Steele as a coward and too stupid to get out a very basic message– the the Republican Party wants Barack Obama to fail and for the national crisis to worsen.

What response dis this draw from the Man of Steele? Surely as the elected Chair of the RNC he would stand up for himself, put the “entertainer” in his place, assert his leadership and prove that the RNC, which has been accused of drifting for four years now with no sense of direction or overriding purpose, with the leadership it so clearly needs and wants. He is, after all, the Man of Steele, no? His response, via Ben Smith’s blog…

“My intent was not to go after Rush – I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh,” Steele said in a telephone interview. “I was maybe a little bit inarticulate. … There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership.” …

“I went back at that tape and I realized words that I said weren’t what I was thinking,” Steele said. “It was one of those things where I thinking I was saying one thing, and it came out differently.  What I was trying to say was a lot of people … want to make Rush the scapegoat, the bogeyman, and he’s not. I’m not going to engage these guys and sit back and provide them the popcorn for a fight between me and Rush Limbaugh,” Steele added. “No such thing is going to happen. … I wasn’t trying to slam him or anything.”

…or not. The Man of Steele bent in the howling wind issuing forth from the Maximum Leader’s mouth just as Congressman Gingrey and so many other have done before him. The fact is that Rush Limbaugh is running the RNC and that nobody is willing to challenge his overwhelming authority, not the Republicans in the House, not the Republicans in the Senate, not the Republican Governor’s Association… and certainly not the RNC Chairman.

Posted in American Politics, Cultural Phenomena | 3 Comments »

Rushing to the Forefront

Posted by Bob Kohm on March 2, 2009

Speaker of the GOP Rush Limbaugh

Speaker of the GOP Rush Limbaugh

All hail Rush Limbaugh, the intellectual leader of the New Right.

Did you just feel that vibration coming up from the earth, through the seat of your pants? It was Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and the rest of the 2012 GOP hopefuls quaking.

Yesterday morning Rahm Emmanuel provided a glimpse into the political strategy of the White House on Face the Nation when he acknowledged Limbaugh as being the face of and controlling influence behind the national conservative community. Limbaugh himself must be delighted with the Presidential imprimatur that comes with that acknowledgment as are many in the rank and file of Limbaugh’s listeners– the way to Limbaugh’s heart is clearly through his ego, as even a casual observer must note. Not so happy are the thinking members of the Republican Party and certainly the leadership of the Party; being labelled the intellectual acolyte of Limbaugh is not only gauling to them, it is also politically dangerous.

As the self proclaimed high priest of the “I Pray Obama Fails” clique, Limbaugh has set himself at a goal that is counter to what should always be the first cause of all Americans no matter their philosophy or political bent– the prosperity and well being of our nation and our people. That is the glue that holds our nation together as a cohesive unit, that desire for what is best for our country; it is, literally, the unifying concept that defines us as a nation. To come out and say in so public a manner as Limbaugh has that you hope our President fails and thus our nation’s situation and peril grow worse– that’s an unfortunate tack to be sailing. Today our nation faces its greatest financial challenge since the Depression, as we’ve all had ingrained into ourselves by the constant drumbeat of financial failure and fraud; Americans are losing their jobs at a horrifying pace, they’re losing their homes, they’re losing their children’s educational future. Our economy contracted almost seven percent in a quarter and our personal debt loads ever increase as lenders jack our credit card rates to stratospheric levels even while we are denied credit for cars, homes and emergency repairs– imagine for a second what it would be like for you, personally, if you suddenly needed to buy a new heating and cooling system tomorrow, or if you needed to do a major sewer repair costing thousands of dollars.

For political gain, Rush Limbaugh effectively is hoping that the situation grows even worse, that your pain increases, that the money now being spent is wasted to no effect.  What better time for President Obama to acknowledge his intellectual leadership of the Republican Party?

The GOP has fed the talk radio beast since the early 1990s and has enjoyed some extraordinary benefits from its advent and growth; it fueled the “Contract With America” programs of the Gingrich Congress, it promoted the culture wars ethos of the Religious Right, it weighed in, some might say decisively, on the 2000 vote recounts and battles that saw its favored son, George W. Bush, installed in the Presidency against the will of the majority of voters and then re-elected to a second term largely on the wings of a smear campaign against his opponent’s Vietnam War record. As a tactical weapon, Republican Talk Radio has been extraordinarily useful, and no organ of Republican Talk Radio has played louder or more consistently that Limbaugh, who now professes a desire for our President to fail in ending a crisis and for our national and personal peril to deepen.

It has often been said that an untrained person with a handgun is a greater danger to himself than he is to his assailant as the most likely outcome of a confrontation is that his gun will be taken and used against him. Rush Limbaugh is now that gun, and Rahm Emmanuel has grabbed it and pointed it very steadily at the GOP.

By making Limbaugh the public’s perception of the thinking of the GOP  Emmanuel has taken a group and philosophy that represents a large if shrinking portion of America’s voters and turned it into the preserve of fringe lunatics, praying for the failure of our nation and the increased power of our enemies and rivals. My brother, an Assistant District Attorney and trial lawyer, once taught me an important lesson about public perception– the one thing that nobody wants to be thought of as is “silly”. When in front of a jury, the one thing you want to impart is that in order to find for the defendant you must accept something that is “silly” and thus become silly yourself. That lesson is tailored to this situation; Emmanuel has pointed out how silly Limbaugh’s stance is while at the same time making it representative of the GOP; in order to support the GOP you too must be silly. It’s a deceptively powerful tactic.

The GOP has even further imperiled itself in this by its actions of a few weeks ago, when Georgia Republican Congressman Phil Gingrey was forced to apologize to Rush Limbaugh for daring to opine that it was easier for Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to talk about opposing the president than it was for a Congressman to actually do it. The pageant of shame that Gingrey was forced to play his very public role in was astounding– an elected Congressman being forced to publicly kiss the ring of a popular entertainer was horrifying to John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, but they also saw the necessity of doing it for Gingrey. In that vision, they saw their control of the GOP slip away and Rush Limbaugh’s role pass from cheerleader to Quarterback. That Obama and Emmanuel saw it as well and would eventually emphasize it was fait accompli.

As Rush Limbaugh, the Speaker of the GOP, calls for lockstep, unwavering opposition to a very popular President and what has rapidly become a surprisingly popular Congress and then takes it a step beyond in publicly calling for the failure of our nation’s policies and the deepening of our national pain there is no force in the RNC or GOP at large who can seemingly oppose him. The dog has taken control of the master as talk radio, with all its fuming opprobrium, displaces the hand on the dial that created and for so long controlled it.

The tactical move by Obama & Emmanuel is underlain by a strategic understanding of the situation in general that the GOP never did achieve; does anyone else recall the claims by many in the Conservative Media during 2007 and 2008 that the Kossacks and NetRoots would undermine the Democrats and the “weak” Obama in particular and draw them so far to the left that they would become unpalatable to mainstream America? Clearly the blogosphere and the New Media as embodied by HuffPo and TPM are the belated but extremely modern response to Republican Talk Radio, and surely the Daily Kos crowd has tried to stake a claim to running the ship it is supposed to be crewing. A funny thing happened on the way to that mutiny, however; Obama was elected on a moderate platform and appointed a bipartisan Cabinet that emphasized effectiveness and intellect over philosophical purity, much to the chagrin of the NetRoots. That disappointment should terrify the RNC as a repeat of their mistakes is not evidently coming for their rivals.

At this point no matter whom the GOP nominates in 2012 Mr. Obama will be running against Rush Limbaugh, not Mike Huckabee, Mark Sanford, Mitt Romney or Sarah Palin.  Of course, that might not make much of a difference as the eventual nominee will need the pre-approval of the GOP’s new maximum leader, Rush Limbaugh. All hail.

Posted in American Politics, CongressCritters, Cultural Phenomena, Obama Positions | 3 Comments »

Losing Our Heads Over Stereotypes

Posted by Bob Kohm on February 17, 2009

Muzzammil Hassan was tired of the post-September 11th stereotypes of Muslims being put into play by the American media, and rightfully so. At a time when it was all too easy to believe that most of the world’s Muslims were a blood thirsty band of maniacs just looking for an American to kill and with American televangelists calling Islam Satan’s religion, Hassan started thinking about a way to make a difference, a way to project Islam in America in a more positive light. Being a media-savvy guy, he had an idea– an English language cable channel featuring positive Islamic stories and Islamic lifestyles. This is America and people believe what they see on TV; why not give them some positive Muslim imagery to combat the dark stereotypes?

Hassan launched the hopefully-named Bridges TV in Orchard Park, NY, home of the Buffalo Bills and not an area renowned for its inclusivity or deep thinking on racial issues. His programming choices were guided by his founding ethos of portraying Muslims in America as they are– your neighbors, your shopkeepers, your friends.

Mr. Hassan’s message of tolerance, inclusivity– really, sameness to every other American– took a slight detour late last week when Mr. Hassan turned himself in to Orchard Park police for the act of ritually beheading his wife– the mother of his four and six year old children– who was in the process of filing for divorce from Hassan. The beheading, which took place in the studios of Bridges TV, was portrayed as an honor killing in Mr. Hassan’s confession. Apparently the beatings that he was delivering his wife in the months before her ritual slaughter– the police had been called to the hosue several times fo domestic violence complaints– were also designed to increase Hassan’s honor.

This abominable behavior isn’t characteristic of the Islamic community in America; the people who engage in this stuff who happen to be Islamic are no less of a lunatic fringe than Christians who blow up abortion clinics and murder doctors “in the name of god” or Jews who become ensnared by the insane teachings of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane.

Now if only the guy who was working so hard to get the message of Islamic “sameness” in America out there wasn’t also the same guy who ritually beheaded his wife in an honor killing we’d have a much easier task of convincing the average Christian American that all Islamic Americans aren’t practicing a religion that demands killing pretty much everyone else. That slap you just heard was the entire respectable body of Americans who practice Islam doing a face palm over this thing.

Posted in Cultural Phenomena, Human Rights, Jerks, Television | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

David Letterman At His Best

Posted by Bob Kohm on February 12, 2009

Joaquin Phoenix has apparently lost his mind but discovered recreational pharmaceuticals. The video is almost ten minutes; if you can’t watch the whole thing, watch a minute or two up front and cut to about 9.10, for Letterman’s money quote. Hysterical.

Posted in Cultural Phenomena, Television | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Alomar, Tejada and the Straw

Posted by Bob Kohm on February 12, 2009

We’re talkin’ baseball, but we aren’t talkin’ Willie, Mickey & the Duke. No, it’s time for the newest preseason ritual, not Pitchers & Catchers, the Caribbean Series or claims of fat and disappointing players claiming to be in the best shape of their lives– no instead it’s Preseason Scandal time!

We have a full crop this year, and it’s about to get fuller. ARod we all know about, Tejada has been indicted for lying to Congress (that’s a crime?), and Alomar either has erectile dysfunction, a history of anal rape and full blown AIDS or one very pissed off ex-girlfriend. Next up- Darryl Strawberry, no stranger to scandal he, is cashing in on his preseason controversies with a new book from Harper Collins, Straw: Finding My Way. Ironic title, given how many times the straw found its way up Straw’s nose in the ’80s.

But hey, at least he’s on the right side of his scandals– he’s making money off of them while the others are losing money. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, boys! Just follow the Strawberry Express.

The Alomar thing just has multiple book deals written all over it. Deal one to the girlfriend, who claims she had unprotected sex for three years with Alomar despite thinking that he might have HIV– he became ill and she constantly pressured him to have an HIV test, according to the suit she filed, but she kept having unprotected sex with him because he claimed he couldn’t have AIDS or HIV. For kicks, she included in the filing her uncorroborated claim that Alomar was anally raped by two Mexicans (you have to appreciate how she managed to toss in the ethnicity, to boot) when he was 17 and that Alomar suffers from erectile dysfunction… I’m sure that in her first interview she’ll also claim that Alomar has a two inch penis and that he enjoys wearing high heels and things. Whether or not her suit has merit is for the judge and jury to decide, but this one sounds like it may have, oh, a hole or six in it.

Book deal two is Alomar’s and its thrust could follow many paths. Will it be a book about how his ex-girlfriend tried to shake him down? A tearful recounting of his life with HIV? A Wilt Chamberlain “I screwed 13,000 women and none have any diseases” romp? How about the big kahuna, the Times #1 bestseller in the batch– for years Alomar was rumored to be gay and the infamous spitting incident has been alleged to be about umpire John Hirschbeck calling him “a little fag”… could we have our first potential Hall of Famer coming out in the pages of an “Out of the Locker: My Tortured Life Denying My Sexuality in MLB”, Oprah Book Club shoo-in? Editors are already camping out in front of his house in hopes of that one.

Now, not to distract from the salacious details of a lurid lawsuit filed against a player that people love to hate, but we do have one guy in this stew who may be in danger of a trip to Federal Prison. Miguel Tejada is your general baseball bad actor– an inveterate juicer, an all around schmuck, and now an indicted liar. The Al Capone irony of this one is rich– instead of going down for his own steroid & HGH use or even for lying about his own use, Tejada is screwed over his lying about the steroid usage of ex-prospect, current nobody Adam Piatt. In an interview with Congressional staffers, Tejada denied talking to Piatt about obtaining HGH and steroids, for which he is now being charged with lying to the Congress. Now I know a lot of Congressional staffers and it is true that making them look bad has negative implications for your life if they cacth you at it and can prove you did wrong, but this? Really? Is anybody sending a CEO to prison this month for lying to Congress? How about the entire previous Presidential Administration? How about every Director of Central Intelligence since Wild Bill Donovan? I’m no Tejada fan, but he’s getting reamed out of frustration by a bunch of Congress Critters and a US Attorney who can’t find any other way to cash in on steroid mania. This is just stupid. Maybe he’ll at least get a book deal out of it though, right? I imagine it’ll be published, or at least hyped, in February of, oh, 2011.

That brings us to the book being hyped now for release around Opening Day, Darryl Strawberry’s combination of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Bronx Zoo. According to publicity releases on this one, Straw talks at length about ballplayers in the ’80s using coke and speed, drinking beer to take the edge off of the illegal stimulants, and getting head in the clubhouse during games. New ground there, eh? Just in case that doesn’t hook you, there’s also the promise of details on the nightly three and four ways the Mets engaged in after a night in the bars and clubs… or you could just go out on the net and see the real thing at any porn site. I’m sure this one will fly off the shelves at Barnes & Noble outlets all over Queens and sell, well, less robustly everywhere else.

Maybe it’ll spawn a new book from some of the Strawberry-Alomar overlap women who can write that they gave Straw head in the clubhouse while having unprotected sex with Alomar and don’t have HIV. Coming soon from (extremely)Random House, I suppose.

Posted in Baseball, CongressCritters, Cultural Phenomena, Jerks, Publishing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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