Thursday, August 29, 2013

Dr. King and Common Sense

President Obama’s speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s, “I Have  A Dream” speech was truly eloquent. Made more so by his expression of the America Dr. King espoused, with freedom, liberty and opportunity for all. It was a refreshing respite from the divisive diatribes we hear with the president's every utterance. The rapid fire, platitudes he delivers with staccato, pin-point accuracy, as he deftly avoids stepping on his applause lines. The president is an accomplished campaigner who can’t seem to get off the stump.
Americans love heroes and Dr. King was a courageous and prophetic hero. As he paid homage to Dr. King, the president re-kindled a flickering ash of the promise that was once Barak Obama.

We know the president is a great speech maker. Unfortunately this is the only discernible world class quality he has demonstrated to date. After the wonderful and deserved tribute to Dr. King, I pray that the president’s incantation of Psalm 30:5: “Weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning,” finds fruition. But this morning I see worrisome issues: the economy, problems with the Health Care Reform Act, joblessness, Iran, Syria.

We stand on the precipice of more military action of one kind or another in the festering sore of the Middle East. It suppurates continually with no end in sight. Luckily, we are well stocked with band aids for all but, unfortunately, closure for none. Does anyone think this is going to turn out ok? Have we not learned the lessons from the last Bush administration? Or, more recently, the "Arab Spring?"

When we don’t really know who we’re dealing with, is it logical to expect a positive outcome even in the short term? We like to align ourselves with so-called rebel freedom fighters who stab us in the back after we arm them and do their bidding while simultaneously antagonizing an important ally that has stood by us through the years. This is dicey policy making.

Sure Syria’s Bashar al-Assad should go but I’ve had my fill of regime change. Moreover, where does it end. There are hot spots in every part of the world. How do we choose one over the other. How do we assess oppression? What is the metric?

Dr. King knew Vietnam was the wrong war, in the wrong place. I hope the president can be as insightful as he contemplates any future military options.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Selective Outrage

“I know my son, he’s a good kid,” so said Jennifer Luna, mother of one of the three Oklahoma teens allegedly accused of shooting an Australian baseball player to death. To Ms. Luna’s way of thinking I guess good kids get bored sometimes and resort to shooting innocent people when playing basketball and video games just won’t do.

Then last week a World War II veteran was allegedly killed by two Spokane teenagers; three others have also been implicated for rendering criminal assistance

Media hypocrisy is reaching critical mass as demonstrated in these latest violent incidents. It was nearly impossible for a day to go by without a sympathetic slanting of events by the media about Trayvon Martin. The racial hucksters were as plentiful as canine excrement in a dog run. They were out in force issuing demonstration logistics and innuendo. The president and many others weighed in with their less than objective views. Here, in these two cases, information about the attackers has slowed to a trickle. And worse where is the outrage? Do white victims deserve less sympathy?

These were cases of cold-blooded murder. In Oklahoma, Christopher Lane, an Australian athlete was cowardly stalked and shot in the back. In Spokane, Delbert Belton, barely 5 foot tall, an 88-year-old, World War II veteran, who was wounded in combat, was beaten to death and robbed. In the Martin case there was a self defense component; even though if it was widely disputed.

Trayvon was shot by a “White Hispanic” a term I had never heard before. In Oklahoma a white man was killed by a mixed racial triumvirate (two African-Americans and one white teen). How did these three idiots decide on their victim. Did the two African-Americans invoke a majority vote? Did they draw straws? Was the choice of victim unanimous? Did it matter that the victim was white? Was he targeted merely because he was? One might reasonably assume that the Spokane victim, Mr. Belton was targeted because of his diminutive size. But he, too, may have been racially targeted.
If the perpetrators were white and the victims black, we would see an outcry for the 21st century version of the lynch mob.

But justice being blind, I’m sure Attorney General Eric Holder will give these cases the same attention as the Martin case.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

New York's Finest?


The New York City mayoralty primary race is fast coming to a close. Let’s count our blessings. The candidates have spent the bulk of their time out pandering each other for the support of the ever growing number of fringe groups in the city. And last night’s debate stayed true to the script. The most salient issue being the “stop and frisk” policy that many minority groups feel unjustly targets them. And they’re right. They do.

But before anyone is stopped they have to fit a description of the perpetrator being pursued. And before anyone is frisked they are questioned first. Sure I didn’t like it either when as a young white man my friends and I were stopped and questioned by police but there were reasons for it: we were out very late, we were trespassing, or we were being loud and disorderly. We didn’t have the likes of the Rev. Sharptons of the world looking out for us enabling our bad behavior.

White people, albeit not in the same numbers as African-Americans or Hispanics, are also targeted for “stop and frisk.” Many white, limousine drivers, for instance, have been stopped and checked to see if they are carrying illegal firearms, especially if they have out-of-state license plates. Same goes for people in high drug selling and prostitution areas – they also, obviously, attract attention.

“Stop and Frisk” is not a perfect system and I’m sure there are many who are victims of unjust profiling but until someone comes up with a better solution, not more rhetoric, we should stay the course.

The proposed inspector general many of the candidates endorse to oversee the police commissioner will only hinder the great work of Ray Kelly or whomever his successor is. Will it mitigate the number of stop and frisks, will it improve the situation? That remains to be seen.

Once in a while I wish the greater good – what benefits the most – including minorities, would carry more weight  especially when all major crime statistics have been reduced significantly and the overall quality of life in the city has improved with the present programs in place.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The American Dynasties


When I think dynasty I think Julio-Claudian, Ming, Tudor. I think Old World. I think cobble stone streets filled with quaint little shops peopled by humble clerks  who say things like, “Yes my lord; yes my lady,” most of the day. They’re usually too busy curtsying and bowing to entertain any aspirations for a better life.

Ok, sometimes, too, I think of that highly successful  television show of the 80’s which featured the beautiful Joan Collins and the equally beautiful Linda Evans perpetually locked up in a vixen death match, one step away from the mosh  pit.

But Old World and beautiful  women aside, we can now look stateside to the relatively new  American dynasties. Sure we didn’t seem too worried about the Adamses, Roosevelts or Kennedys.

But with more and more frequency  we are seeing the kind of dynasties developing that our forefathers sought to escape when their forefathers left Europe for the New World. Members of the Bush, Clinton or Cuomo families would be happy to steward the ship of state for the next 25 years or so. We already know that Hillary Clinton is running for president in 2016. Can a Jeb Bush candidacy be far behind?

The whole of U.S politics has become inundated with the same career politicians and now with their broods as well. We’ve seen sons succeeding fathers, wives plotting to succeed husbands; sons and daughters of famous men and women running for whatever office avails itself. In many cases, they inherit the slick campaign machines and conscripted vassals of their elders.

No doubt the Clinton machine is  already searching the state of New York for a nice, safe congressional district from which Chelsea can launch her political ambitions. But be patient. That proclamation will come after the 2016 presidential election.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Record Chasers


Since no one has mentioned Alex Rodriguez in the last 10 minutes, I might as well. I really don’t care about his use of performance enhancing drugs that’s a personal issue that should be given the same respect of patient/doctor privilege; or, in this case: cheater/slime ball chemist privilege. It must be hard for anyone to pass up the opportunity to become better in their profession and reap greater financial rewards if all you had to do was put a substance into your body. But maybe the biggest lure in doing so is the dream of immortality.

A pattern seems to have emerged from this last A-Rod revelation. The people who are chasing personal records will go to any length to achieve those goals at the expense of their team, their sport and, in A-Rod’s case, his dignity.

For me these latest developments in baseball have cast more light on the past than the present.

Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds have tainted the most coveted records in baseball. Who among us respect these hybrid records? The only intrinsic value of tainted records is to make the original achievements more impressive.

McGwire and Sosa chased Roger Maris’ single season home run record in 1998 with McGwire winning out, compiling 70 to eclipse Maris’ record of 61. Bonds then went on to surpass that record with 73 in 2001; then Hank Aaron’s all-time home run career mark of 755 with 762 homers in 2007. But to baseball purists these two records are universally panned and rightfully so.

The list of suspected and outed users has increased over the last few years but except for Alex no one is close to surpassing a major milestone.

Alex has an outside shot at both the all-time home run and RBI records. Chances of breaking them now are slim, however, and will depend on the dispensation of his case and his eroding skills.

Record chasers invariably put themselves before the team and that’s the most egregious sacrilege of all. While Pete Rose was playing and chasing Ty Cobb’s all-time hit record, he gambled on baseball – the most sacrosanct rule in the game (See Black Sox Scandal 1919). He has been excluded from entering the Hall of Fame by former Commissioner Bart Giamatti for that infraction. Rose now claims, arguably so, that PED users are tarnishing the game far worse than he ever did. Does he have a point? Maybe. But given our steadily growing permissive society I wouldn’t be surprised if Rose’s exclusionary edict is overturned down the line.

One record chaser, though, who will never be restored to the saintly stature he once held is Joe Paterno. And this one’s the hardest to swallow for me, having been a graduate assistant at Penn State and, having met him. He was a good man who let unspeakable atrocities continue while he focused solely on besting Grambling Coach Eddie Robinson’s all-time victory mark. Had he retired when the university begged him to many years earlier, his statue might still be in the rarified air of Beaver Stadium instead of it having been unceremoniously deracinated and heaped somewhere in the Hades of sports history.



Wednesday, August 14, 2013

David vs. Goliath in New Jersey -- Limited Engagement

With their respective primary victories yesterday, Steve Lonegan will face off against Cory Booker in the special senatorial election next month. This contest will have more drama than a Tennessee Williams’ play. I can’t wait to see the fur start flying.

Does Lonegan, the former mayor of Bogota, have a chance against the charismatic, Hollywood crowd pleasing mayor of Newark. Ostensibly, no. But given the “perfect storm” sequence of events leading up to this election, well it could be very interesting.

The election is on October 16, three short weeks before a lackluster gubernatorial election that so far has failed to generate a numerical value on the excitement scale. Low turnout, just like in the primary, could also be a factor. Also, Mr. Booker offended some of the party faithful by openly challenging the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg for his senate seat before the ailing, World War II veteran decided on his intentions. At the time, Sen. Lautenberg said Booker “should be spanked” for his insolence but I think he had a more substantial punishment in mind. The Lautenberg family supported Congressman Frank Pallone in the primary. So there very well could be a faction within his own party whose support will be tepid at best. The protocol in political blood letting has always been for the next man or woman of good standing in line to step up for a chance to run for higher office when the opportunity presented itself. Booker could be seen as an upstart line jumper who could do with a bit of comeuppance.

Then, of course, there is his record of achievement during his six years in office. In describing that record, I’m reminded of an Abraham Lincoln quote. “It’s about as thin as the broth made from the shadow of a starving crow.” He has faced criticism from all fronts especially from the members of the Newark City Council.

Lonegan will face his share of detractors defending his conservative agenda -- that’s for sure--but can he sling enough stones to fell the newest Democrat darling?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Primary Colors

Today is primary day in New Jersey. Time to do our "ritual dance in the sun," John Lennon might have said, if he were still with us. It's early afternoon and I think about 13 people have voted at my polling place. I, of course, will do my civic duty which in the future will at least give me  a legitimate right to complain about our self aggrandizing government.
It's become more and more evident that democracy is government of the mediocre, by the mediocre for the mediocre.