Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bravo, Red Sox Nation

The baseball season concluded with a 6-1 Boston victory to award the 2013 Red Sox their third World Series title in 10 years. No one expected they would have any chance of getting into the playoffs after losing 93 games last year under manager Bobby Valentine. Indeed the team seemed to implode under his leadership but there seems to be some indomitable spirit that lives in Fenway Park – it’s that old stadium, their fans and a feeling that any setback can be righted. With a resiliency rarely found in any other place.

The Boston Tea party launched our revolution against tyranny. Last April, two terrorist brothers, on welfare, planted explosives that killed and maimed. While this World Series victory won’t repair the broken lives of those Bostonians, it goes a long way in assuaging the pain and anguish suffered on that day. Moreover, it defines who we are as a nation. We never give up and we always find a way to victory.

So did the Bosox of 2013.

There’s been much written about the similarities of this team and the 1967 Red Sox. That "Impossible Dream"  team, too, conquered all odds and captured the American League pennant after losing 90 games the previous season. Just like this year, they were written off before the first pitch of spring training. In ’67, they lost  to  the St. Louis Cardinals in seven; this  time they won  in convincing fashion in six.

Over the last few years there seems to be a groundswell of support for the Red Sox. Even in metro New York/ New Jersey, they have made great inroads supplanting the Yankees as the AL team of choice. Many are just front runners jumping off a sinking ship (typical Yankee fans) due to the uncharacteristic ineptitude of the current Yankee roster. They have become a victim of their own haphazard spending sprees to the detriment of their once well-stocked farm system. Now it’s depleted and they are left with aging and brittle stars and at least one pompous ass who likes the spotlight as much as the Kardashians.

As a Boston Red Sox fan I enjoy watching the Yankees foundering almost like a glorified, expansion team. And, of course, for all the times they humiliated the Red Sox over the years. Finally good has triumphed over the evil empire. And the Red Sox with their ever changing cast of characters sit atop the world of baseball.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Habemus Papam


When the first swirls of white smoke unfurled from the Sistine Chapel and plumed the skies over St. Peter’s Square on March 13, 2013, signaling the election of a new pope the throngs of pilgrims waiting below cheered as they customarily  do for a new vicar of Christ on earth. It’s the most exciting ritual in the Catholic Church. Drama, intrigue, speculation all culminating in a medieval Baroque coronation.

With the installation of Pope Francis, there seemed a marked  difference from his  two predecessors. The obvious, of course, was that he was from South America and the first pontiff elected in the modern era from somewhere other than Europe. But he seemed humble, reticent.

John Paul II was an outspoken critic of  Communism. His contributions and  support for Solidarnosc, the Polish Union who resisted the Soviet puppet government of Prime Minister Jaruzelski nearly cost him his life. No one would question his leadership or bravery  during his tenure. Benedict XVI also made many contributions to the church.  His were mainly canonical in nature. Both, however, were intransigent ideologues, resisting any changes to the traditionalist tenets of Catholicism. Nor did they offer any prescient insights concerning the emerging issues facing the Catholic Church during their reigns, foremost: pedophilia, homosexuality, abortion and contraception.

Not only has Francis  shed light on these issues he has spoken up and  faulted the church for being “obsessed”  with gays, abortion and contraception. He has tasked himself with making the church a “home for all.”

"The church has sometimes locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules,” the pontiff has been quoted as saying. "The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials."

Nor do they want to see the wealth of the Church wasted on the shepherds instead of the flock. A story emerged recently when Francis saw a high-ranking church official  waiting for a car to pick him up. He asked the clergyman where he was going. When he was told of the destination, only a short distance from where they were standing, he asked him –can’t you walk?

The most egregious ostentation has now been noted in the Holy Father’s suspension of German bishop, Franz Tebartz-van Elst, the so-called “Bishop of Bling.” The Most  Reverend Franz Tebartz-van Elst, and the most profligate, is said to have spent $42 million renovating his residence in Limburg. Forty-two million dollars! How many hungry people could have been fed; how many children could have been spared from depravity and adequately clothed or cared for with such a sum? Is the clergy a calling or a career choice? Makes you wonder.

  Francis reflects the  lifestyle of a true pastor. He is a man who carries his own bags; lives a simple existence in a humble apartment eschewing the pretentious trappings of his office. I wouldn’t be surprised if someday we hear the chants of “Santo subito; Santo subito,” echo once again.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Wild About Harry, Why?


When I see the beedy-eyed, three-tongued Nevada Senator Harry Reid approach any podium to do his part to help steer the ship of state, my first impression is to look for the lifeboats. He lacks any semblance of leadership beyond flicking the switch  for  the robotic Oblivicrats who march in step to whatever forwards the “progressive” agenda. The path to bi-partisanship  is strewn with as much debris as the road to Damascus. And the Repudicans, headed by Mitch “I’ll make any deal you want as long as I can get an earmark out of it” McConnell,  are equally inept.

But since the Democrats control the Senate, Reid gets much more media face time to use to denigrate his favorite enemy the Tea Party for their collective gall for voicing their opinions. He would prefer instead  to hear the  concerns of the  Occupy Wall Street gang and other “progressive” groups.

Reid has as much integrity as a carnival barker on the midway at a state fair. He’s made so many smoke-filled back room deals he stands a chance of getting cancer from second hand smoke.

He had a  cinematic doppelganger in one of my favorite movies, Godfather II. He reminds me  of that nefarious Nevada (merely coincidence) senator who in the beginning of the film is throwing ethnic epithets at Michael Corleone only to become  a useful conduit for the mob. We knew what drove  that character: money and “those red-haired Yolandas.”  I apologize. I know much too much dialogue from that  film. What drives  Sen. Reid? Is it merely his  aspiration to control  power?

Since it’s getting close to Halloween and mischief night and I haven’t done anything mischievous for sometime might I suggest a little prank on Sen. Reid. How about getting some Tea Party front group to make a donation to his political war chest , then after his political machine accepts it, expose him for being a hypocrite. All politicians are hypocrites, some more than others; none more than Sen. Reid. Sorry I forgot about his sidekick, Congresswoman Pelosi. And Mitch McConnell and John McCain and…

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Changing the Nicknames of Sports Franchises

Every so often, usually when the NFL season is under way, we begin to hear how various Indian groups feel maligned about the nicknames of some of our sports teams. Most notably  the Washington Redskins. Perhaps that terminology does seem insensitive but that glorious warrior logo on the Redskins’ helmets on one of the teams I despise (being a Giant fan, though I hate to admit it this season) is an image that reinforces my respect for Native Americans. Likewise, I feel the same way about the Braves, Chiefs and Blackhawks. I do find the logo for the Cleveland Indians offensive. It wouldn’t be a bad idea, as has been suggested to start phasing out Chief Wahoo. His demise in Cleveland is already underway and that’s a good thing. But for the other logos and  nicknames, I don’t see any explicit racism.

This issue is again in the spotlight most recently since President Obama, the panderer-in-chief, weighed in on the subject of the Redskins, suggesting if he were the owner of the team he wouldn’t want to offend anyone. Bob Costas, once an ascendant sportscaster now relegated to finding controversial issues to weigh in on to thicken his exposure, also voiced his disapproval. But to his credit, Daniel Snyder, owner of the Redskins, has remained adamant in his intransigence not to change his team’s name.

Tucker Carlson, Fox News gadfly, a self-proclaimed Swede, transmogrified the situation when he said  he was upset about the  Minnesota Vikings. He didn’t want his ancestry reduced to images of murdering and plundering  their way to Valhalla as the nickname “Vikings” might imply. Haven’t yet heard any response yet from the Vikings on his suggestion.   

The tyranny of minorities seems to be on the upswing. Everyone is upset with something. How long do you think it will be before Somali pirates take umbrage with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Pittsburgh Pirates denigrating their proud tradition of kidnapping and murdering?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Kicking the Can


“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down half this wall; then we can discuss tearing down the rest of it.” Of course, President Reagan never uttered those words. He wasn’t fond of the so called “kicking the can down the road” approach to solving problems. He faced them head on and didn’t compromise on principle. These days two months of harmony rather than a definitive answer to our pressing problems  is far more palatable  to our elected officials in Washington. Moreover, it is considered a great accomplishment.

Last night as the president took the podium to announce the breakthrough lifting the debt ceiling and ending the government shutdown, he appeared as presidential  as he has in quite some time, rather than the  recalcitrant child  who refused to negotiate   in the weeks prior. No doubt under his breath, while he spoke of bi-partisan efforts and cooperation, he was crowing about his latest triumph over a rudderless Republican  party who can’t seem to get out of the way of themselves. Harry “Three Tongue” Reid was also magnanimous in his praise for his Republican counterparts who finally caved after some apocryphal polls surfaced  last weekend, placing the blame on the shutdown squarely on the GOP. When the polls were made public there was a run on white surrender flags and manufacturers were  having difficulty keeping up with Republican demand.

Last night the president also said that the government will have to work hard to gain the trust of the American people. This might be a bit tougher for you, sir. The convoluted Affordable Health Care Act has yet to impact the nation and no one seems to know for sure what those ramifications will be. The only consensus  is that the overall costs will be much higher than promised.

Still,  Mr. Obama is ready to press on. It was interesting last night  how he snuck in a reference to  another hot button item he is ready to address: immigration reform. It’s sure to be just as polarizing as health care reform. So expect a repeat of the gridlock that is a hallmark of the Obama presidency.

So a word of advice to banner manufacturers and weavers of white cloth better now to increase your inventories, the Republicans will be needing you soon.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Amnesty for World War II Veterans

If anyone still believes President Obama is trying to bring us all together, you’ve probably been in a coma for the last five years. Hopefully you’re ok now and, if you are, welcome back!

One of the most disconcerting things to happen since this ludicrous government shutdown was the exclusion of World War II veterans from the Capitol mall and the use of the mall for an  Immigration Amnesty demonstration. No matter what your politics, you had to be disheartened watching this story unfold. Any red-blooded American who fails to see the  gross disparity in this  needs a refresher course in world history and not the revisionist view now being fed to students in American classrooms.

I grew up in an atmosphere of pride in my father and uncles, and the fathers and uncles of my friends, most of whom served in the last great war. Some  marched  triumphantly through the streets of Paris  after the German war machine was destroyed. Others celebrated on VJ Day.

They were real heroes. They never  liked to talk about their war service. They didn’t want to re-live  all the atrocities they witnessed, bravely engaging the enemy to keep our country safe and free. In those days  that was considered merely doing your duty. Now that country, which will never see another generation like them, turns their back and excludes them from accessing a memorial in their honor.

Not only did the immigration demonstrators  fail to see how truly selfish they looked juxtaposed against the backdrop of these elderly former servicemen, they missed a rare opportunity to bolster their whole effort and possibly win over some of their opponents on amnesty. Just think for a moment if even a handful of demonstrators found their way to the veterans and joined with them in a show of solidarity; or pay them some type of homage in recognition for their service to this country. It would have been a public relations windfall for them  and a  great picture to behold. In America, though, we don’t see  great pictures anymore. We see hatred and division at every turn. You’re doing a hell of a job, Mr. President.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Booker-Lonegan II


As we look forward to the NJ Senate election next week we see two candidates in stark contrast. Lonegan, stressing the need for self reliance and individual responsibility and the other, Booker, playing the liberal violin about helping the downtrodden because they don’t have the tools to pull themselves out of the morass they find themselves in.

Booker’s message is getting tiresome and doesn’t resonate  any longer. After years, decades and now generations of failed social  engineering, the city of Newark remains an empty shell of what was once a great city. The Public Relations wordsmiths can change  the city's nickname anytime they like: “Brick City,” “Renaissance City,” but really the best moniker would be failed city. Can anyone really look at Newark and say the city has made great strides under the leadership of Cory Booker the last seven years? Booker can. He cites statistics showing how well the city is doing. But like any good football coach will tell you, stats are for losers; moreover they can be easily manipulated. Do we believe Mr. Booker and his team or our own eyes when we see Newark residents up in arms and worrying  about the safety of their families?

His sleight of hand has  distracted  from his lack of leadership and even his responsibility to help the citizens of Newark. Who would have  thought we would pine for the days of Sharpe James? Aside from all his faults, and there were many, he personified Newark. Booker, too, personifies Newark  a little differently,  with hat in hand as he slithers his way from talk show to talk show and cocktail party to gala reception. He has gotten some substantial help from his celebrity friends but I don’t think these friends will be so generous if he leaves City Hall. Then the taxpayers of New Jersey will again  be forced to pick up the shortfall to keep the city  on life support, as Lonegan   intimated in their final debate.

Booker is a new, “new age” politician. He’s attractive, well packaged by his handlers, focused group to the nth degree, subscribes to the theory that the more you can blame the tea party the more you help your chances of looking intellectually superior. The only item not required for the new age pol is accomplishment. Does he remind you of anyone?
Lonegan has been vastly outspent in this senate campaign  and yet he has kept the race close. Can he win? At least he has a puncher’s chance to pull it out and I don’t think anyone thought he’d still be on his feet in the 12th round.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Booker-Lonegan Debate

Well it wasn’t reminiscent of  the Lincoln/Douglas Debates but the first confrontation between Cory Booker and Steve Lonegan was substantive and even more importantly,  gentlemanly and civil. More than I can say for the myriad of debates that went on across the river during New York’s Democratic mayoralty primary debates.

Both Lonegan and Booker characterized the  other as extremist in their views. Both are diametrically opposed politically, of course. Lonegan is a real conservative and makes no excuses for his positions on abortion, gun control, reducing big government, Obamacare, entitlements and education. Likewise Booker, as you would expect, adheres to the Democratic mantra of helping the ever- growing list of constituencies that need some type of taxpayer  assistance.

But the best part of the debate was watching Booker point to his record of achievement in Newark. If it wasn’t for the fact that people in Newark  are in such dire straits his performance  would be great material for  a Saturday Night Live  skit.

Mayor Booker cited growth, expansion. Where? Okay a few companies have moved their headquarters to Newark, like Manischewitz and  Panasonic but did that put a dent in Newark’s  unemployment  rate? Or quality of life issues?

The mayor pointed to a balanced budget. Balanced after massive police layoffs and Prince John –like tax increases. In similar fashion President Obama could reduce our deficit  if we sold Alaska.

When addressing Lonegan’s barbs that he is an absentee mayor, Booker cited the need for his travels to attract new business to enrich his city. But, as Lonegan rightly suggested, the only one being enriched is Cory Booker.

Mr. Booker is just another store bought politician. Slick, smooth and all smoke and mirrors.

 One of the most telling parts of the debate was when Lonegan described how he worked his way through college doing odd jobs to help pay his tuition, coming from a one parent home – his father having died  years earlier. He looked at Booker and asked poignantly, “did you even have a job when you were in college?” Booker  stood there blankly with no answer. And he’ll have no answers for New Jersey just as he hasn’t had any for the city of Newark for seven years.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fight Nice

Remembering my childhood I often recall how my mother and aunts would assuage  one of the kids who came running to them crying because of some infraction perpetrated on them by one of the other kids. They would always dispense the same facetious piece of advice. “Fight nice.” This age-old sage advice would best be practiced by our less than sage plutocrats in Washington: Obama, Boehner, Reid and Pelosi, et al, as they continue to point fingers  of blame at each other for the government shutdown.

Both sides have genuine sympathy for folks being adversely affected. Somehow, the Republicans, though, always seem to get the short end of the stick in the PR War when something goes awry in the country. I guess the Obama administration has the media to thank for that and especially for  all the positive spin it got in getting the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed. But now the theory must become reality.

The Democrats remain adamant that they will not change a law that has been passed, though it passed without a single Republican vote. You would think they might have been just a tad more sympathetic to the other side of the aisle and sought their input. This was their flaw.

When the Clinton administration tried to pass healthcare legislation, one of the most intelligent gentlemen to  ever grace the senate floor, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, noted that significant legislation is passed in a bi-partisan manner or they fail.

After three plus years the law is still unintelligible to all but a few policy wonks, who when they explain it, make it seem even more convoluted. When the exchanges opened for people to shop for coverage on October 1, there were snafus of biblical proportions. Apparently the program is not ready for prime time. Will it ever be? Harry “Three Tongue” Reid had the nerve to say that these types of glitches also plagued Google at various points. The difference  is that Google can get rid of those responsible for inefficiency whereas the government will only add more bureaucratic blubber to try and fix it.

Why does the law grant waivers to the president’s staunchest supporters and Congress. If it’s good for the rest of us why not them?

I’m sure a compromise on the impasse can be reached. But the president will have to think about leveling the playing field if he wants the Republicans to go along with his budget recommendations. Until then, fight nice.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013



Since 9/11 there has been a burgeoning new category of entertainment programming dealing with the war on terrorism and the civilized world’s way of containing and preventing  another  catastrophe of that magnitude.  

There has been a plethora of titles both in film and television dealing with these issues: “Zero Dark Thirty,” “The Hurt Locker,” “The Kingdom,” “24,” “MI-5,”etc. But the best of these offerings is Showtime’s “Homeland,” which had its season premiere  on Sunday. The taut writing, dramatic story lines and characterization has made this show the  apotheosis  of the genre.

For the uninitiated, “Homeland” revolves around the lives of two star-crossed lovers. One a bi-polar, CIA Analyst, Carrie Mathison; the other, Nicholas Brody, a Marine turned  Islamic extremist while in captivity in Syria where  he sees first hand the atrocities perpetrated by his own country. This is the Stockholm Syndrome to the max.  Upon his  return home he is feted as a hero. The political establishment seizing on an opportunity to create a new star helps get him  elected to  a seat in the U.S. Congress where, unbeknownst to them, he continues to plot against his homeland. Or, has he seen the light, after being exposed and the requisite amount of threats, as his lover contends?

In last year’s season ending cliffhanger a bomb is detonated in front of a CIA facility killing more than 200 people. The bomb is planted in a car. The Congressman’s car. Was he complicit in the attack? Did he turn back to the dark side?  Don’t think we’ll know until the season plays out. But this psycho drama is most compelling.

I’m not sure what makes it so but I think (and I’m not a psychiatrist; never even have played one on television) it has something to do with our collective need to know that at any given time our people are out there keeping us safe 24/7 to best of their ability. Do we find solace in their efforts; or is it the revenge factor; does it help to provide some measure of closure for all our lost loved ones?

In episode one of this season, to atone for the attack on the CIA facility, six complicit bad guys are taken down on three different continents in a razor sharp operation.

Is it life imitating art or art imitating life? The line is blurred. And I think that’s what makes shows like “Homeland” so thought provoking and entertaining.