Of bat flips and trump

For the past 24 hours, the baseball media has been in a whirl about Goose Gossage’s comments about demonstrative celebrations in baseball. The Hall-of-Fame closer for the Yankees called Jose Bautista a “fucking disgrace” for flipping his bat after hitting a decisive home run in last year’s playoffs. Gossage also took exception to the celebratory antics of Bryce Harper, who himself has railed against the stodginess of baseball.

While my sympathies lie with Gossage (maybe the only time this Red Sox fan will ever say that), he might as well save his breath. Celebrations are in baseball to stay. We can only be thankful that at least the players are still only celebrating great plays, unlike in the NFL where there is a celebration by someone at the end of almost every play, even though the celebrants have only just done what they are paid to do. But don’t worry, it is only a matter of time until that kind of pedestrian chest thumping will work its way onto the diamond.

I played interscholastic football for five years. One game I intercepted a pass and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown — the only time I ever scored in any way on the gridiron. When I crossed the goal line I just dropped the ball. Suddenly I was swarmed by teammates who wanted me to spike the ball or otherwise celebrate. Even though I was young at the time, I thought to myself, “I just scored a touchdown on a 60-yard interception return. Doesn’t that accomplishment stand by itself without me having to add a little dance?”

As I see it, this is precisely the problem with celebration. It attracts attention AWAY from your achievement. Ask ten baseball fans if they remember Bautista’s bat flip and I’d bet at least nine will say yes. But ask them the situation when the bat flip occurred and I’d be surprised if half of them could tell you. A year from now, while the flip will be remembered, 90% of those asked won’t know exactly why.

It would be easy to blame young people for this change, but I think it is part of a larger societal shift away from content and meaning to attitude and gesture.

It’s why so many divas strain the lyrics and melody of the National Anthem before games. They are not concerned with the words or music, but only with demonstrating their powerful vocal gymnastics.

That’s why Donald Trump can run a successful campaign without making one substantive policy statement. Instead, he’s risen to the top of the GOP candidate list by saying one outrageous thing after another. This is an extension of the sound bite media culture, but taken to another (lower) level. Formerly, sound bites at least had some actual, if abbreviated, meaning. Now Trump can build his lead in the polls simply by promising to “Make America great again” without defining what “great” means or how he will actually achieve this goal. The Trump campaign is so reliant on empty gestures, it’s like playing a football game without the plays and only the celebrations.

So, if you’re a baseball fan, brace yourself for more whoops and hollers and flips of bats. The game is America’s past time after all.


Apple maybe not the evil empire after all

Sometimes it feels like Apple behaves a lot like the antagonist in its ground-breaking 1984 commercial that introduced the Mac, playing Big Brother over how its products are used. But I feel good in supporting Apple with my hardware purchases after seeing this article about how Apple CEO Tim Cook rejected push back from a conservative think tank on climate change:

If you want me to do things only for [return on investment] reasons, you should get out of this stock.

The think tank criticized Apple for hiring Lisa Jackson, formerly head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and for focusing on sustainability efforts. Nothing better reflects the morally bankrupt philosophy of radical conservatives than the response from the think tank:

After today’s meeting, investors can be certain that Apple is wasting untold amounts of shareholder money to combat so-called climate change.

These conservatives care more about money than they do about people or the planet. Not to mention that sustainability is good business anyway.

Some thoughts about the marathon bombings


It was just one week ago that the Tsarnaev brothers savaged the Boston Marathon with that most cowardly of dastardly acts: an anonymous bombing. Much has happened in the intervening seven days, a lot of which is actually good (that being the way the country came together to support Boston, the way Bostonians rejected the notion that they were victims, the capture of one Tsarnaev and the killing of the other). I’ve had a few thoughts rolling around in my head about this whole affair and I just need to get them out. So if you’re looking for some coherent discussion of this topic, you’re probably going to be disappointed.

Anyway, here goes:

1. There are lots of things wrong with the United States, and I’m not shy about pointing them out. But we do welcome immigrants and we do give them a new opportunity… which is exactly what the two bombers had. That’s the sad irony of the whole thing. Both brothers, but especially the younger, had real opportunities to have good lives here.  Heck they DID have good lives here. They, as much as anyone, should have appreciated America. Reading and hearing the paranoid assertions from their parents in Russia (or whichever former republic they are now living in) and their aunt in Canada, it makes me wonder what their upbringing was like. How sad and pathetic to have your greatest aspiration to be to kill people indiscriminately from the shadows of an anonymous bombing.

2. I am not usually moved by mass displays of patriotism, but the scene at Fenway Park on Saturday was remarkable. I think what made it get to me was how genuine and sincere it appeared. The “Boston Strong” thing started almost immediately (and it seemed to me to start with Will Middlebrooks of the Red Sox, though that may have just been an illusion of Twitter). And it didn’t feel like just empty sloganeering. There was a true sense of community strength from all corners, and I found that very touching and encouraging.

3. I should not be surprised by this, but nevertheless it still amazes me that the Republican party can almost unilaterally block background checks on firearms purchases based on Constitutionality, but they are the first ones to criticize the FBI for not doing a deeper background check on the older Tsarnaev brother:

Representative Peter King of New York, a Republican member of the House homeland security committee, asked whether the FBI could have done more. “Did they move too quickly by letting this guy off the hook?” said King, quoted in Newsday. “Should they have looked more carefully?”

As bad as the bombings are — and I am in no way arguing that they are not horrible — the bombs killed three people, whereas Adam Lanza killed 27 people in Newtown with firearms. You can not seriously pretend to actually care about the welfare of Americans and block every effort to control who has access to guns. That’s hyper hypocrisy at its Republican best.

4. This is not criticism of the authorities involved, but I find it a curious circumstance that they locked down the community of Watertown all day Friday while they did a pretty intensive search. But it wasn’t until they lifted their “stay indoors at home” order, that the fugitive Tsarnaev brother was finally located — because a man came out of his home and noticed blood on his boat. They probably would have captured that kid much sooner and with a lot less fuss if they hadn’t ordered everyone in doors in the first place. But who knew?


As it turns out

A few weeks ago I expressed my ambivalence about casting a vote for Barack Obama. I thought I’d prefer to vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein. As it turns out, Stein wasn’t even on the ballot in Vermont (how can the Green Party not make the ballot in the Green Mountain State?). Regardless, I had already decided I would add my support to the President, because the election was more about repudiating the far right, which has taken control of the Republican Party, than it was about endorsing the centrism of Obama. So I held my nose and filled in the circle beside the incumbent’s name.

Why I am not supporting Obama (at the moment)


In my previous post I tried to make a point about why I was expecting more from President Obama in his debate with Mitt Romney last week. And I’m not talking about the so-called “performance” factor. What I want is a solid refutation of Mitt Romney’s vision for America. If I don’t get that in upcoming debates, I’ll sincerely consider voting for Green Party candidate, Jill Stein.

This disturbed at least one reader, who took issue with this stance in the comments section. I would like to respond to that person in more detail here.


Dude, really? You’re not going to vote for Obama because you hate the right so much that you’re going to help them win? Jesus Christ, I thought Ralph Nader voters were irrational.

First of all, voting for the candidate who best represents my views is not irrational. In fact, it is the essence of democracy. Second, there is a world of difference between the 2000 election where Nader votes may have cost Al Gore the election. Al Gore had never been president. We didn’t have a track record to judge him on. Speaking for myself, I was glad to give him a chance. But in 2012, we have almost four years of Obama presidency to judge. And I find the president’s record wanting. I need from him some assurances that the next four years will be different. It’s my right to ask that.


Quoting me: And if enough liberal voters turn away from Obama, it won’t be us helping the right win,

Baloney. It’ll be exactly that. You can imagine otherwise, but the result isn’t going to be that the next Democratic candidate will move more to the left, but that the next Dem candidate will even further to the right, to try and pick off folks in the middle. The result will be that you and your ilk will have helped Romney win, all so you can imagine that you *protested* something.

What this commenter wants is for me to swear allegiance to President Obama no matter what the President does, simply because the alternative would be so much worse. This is nothing short of extortion really: Do what we say or there will be dire consequences. That’s hardly democratic. Worse though, doing as the commenter urges is relinquishing ANY leverage I have to influence Obama. If Obama knows he can count on my vote no matter what he says or does, then I have no chance of moving him more toward my views. I’m not suggesting that I alone have any such leverage. But if there were enough of my “ilk” who could affect the outcome by voting for a third party candidate (as the commenter surely fears), then maybe we all would be able to change the substance of Obama’s campaign and of what he might do with his next four years.

That the commenter is so willing to surrender any such ability to influence his* candidate is sad. It is this mindless support that candidates count on.

When it comes down to it, I may vote for President Obama. But withholding this support until I get into the voting booth is my right and it is my obligation. And I like Jill Stein.

*I’m assuming this commenter is a male mostly from the insulting tone adopted.

UPDATE – MONDAY, OCT. 8: If you want the evidence of what I’m talking about regarding Obama, just read this article about the future of Social Security and the non-difference between the President and his opponent.

Dems fightin’ words (or not)

Dear President Obama,

Some time ago I had vowed that I would not vote for you, even though I personally like you. My reasons closely parallel those of Conor Friedersdorf.* But Robert Wright’s response to Friedersdorf convinced me to change my mind.

After your lackluster performance in the debate this week, I am on the verge of changing my mind yet again (and voting for the Green Party Candidate, Jill Stein). Look, I didn’t even watch the debate. But I’ve been reading about it for the past few days and by all accounts you sucked. It isn’t that Mitt out-performed you that matters to me. It’s that you left most of his lies unchallenged.

If you want my vote, you’re going to have to fight those lies, because it is those lies that harm this country. I am assuming that you had some sort of strategy in mind with how you approached the debate. You probably wanted to seem presidential or some shit like that.

But that’s not good enough. Because it isn’t just good enough for you to win. You have to CHANGE this country. And you can’t do that if you let the mythology of the right go unchallenged. I’m not voting for you just to make you feel good about yourself. I don’t care if Michelle has to go back to tending the flower boxes at your Chicago apartment or wherever it is you live when you’re not in the White House.

I want you to be a strong opponent of all that I loath about conservative, right wing philosophy. And you just really don’t seem to be that right now.

So, you’ve got a couple of more chances to change my mind yet again. Maybe your idea in debate one was trying a kind of Mohammad Ali rope-a-dope strategy, letting Mitt flail away at you in the early rounds before peppering him with jabs and upper cuts. I sure hope so.

Next round, please knock Mitt and his lying piehole into palookaville.

*You can also include your failure to make any substantive change to how business is done on Wall Street, and your failure to treat global warming as a major threat to life on earth.

The myth of Mitt Romney, continued

An article in the latest edition of Rolling Stone burst another Romney bubble. It shows that, rather than being a financial wizard for getting Bain & Company through hard times in the early 1990s, he was actually more a wizard of working the system and getting big chunks of bailout money from the American people.

…government documents on the bailout obtained by Rolling Stone show that
the legend crafted by Romney is basically a lie. The federal records, obtained
under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal that Romney’s initial rescue
attempt at Bain & Company was actually a disaster – leaving the firm so
financially strapped that it had “no value as a going concern.” Even worse, the
federal bailout ultimately engineered by Romney screwed the FDIC – the bank
insurance system backed by taxpayers – out of at least $10 million. And in an
added insult, Romney rewarded top executives at Bain with hefty bonuses at the
very moment that he was demanding his handout from the feds.

Is there an honest bone in this man’s body?

Update: Apparently the answer to my question is no. Mitt is simply lying about Obama’s record on wellfare reform to tickle the racism in the typical all too common Republican voter, a racism Romney’s team has identified and is counting on.

Romney just like a power outage at Ohio rally

Earlier in August, Mitt Romney held a “rally” at a coal mine in Ohio. It appeared all the miners were supporting Mitt and his promises to support coal. Turns out the miners were cooerced into attending and lost a day’s pay for it.

The Pepper Pike company that owns the Century Mine told workers that attending the Aug. 14 Romney event would be both mandatory and unpaid, a top company official said Monday morning in a West Virginia radio interview.

This has to be the perfect example of the emptiness of Mitt Romney’s vision for America. The whole Romney program is a smoke screen intended to look as if the common man, the blue collar worker will benefit. But just like at this rally, a Romney presidency will ONLY benefit owners of mines, while their employees get the shaft.

I mean, just listen to the mine’s chief financial officer:

Moore told [radio talk show host] Blomquist that managers “communicated to our workforce that the attendance at the Romney event was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend.” He said the company did not penalize no-shows.

Yes, it was mandatory, but no one was forced!!! What a fucking weasel! Giving douche bags like this free reign to treat his employees like shit is the dream of a Romney presidency.

Because the company’s mine had to be shut down for “safety and security” reasons during Romney’s visit, Moore confirmed workers were not paid that day. He said miners also lose pay when weather or power outages shut down the mine, and noted that federal election law doesn’t let companies pay workers to attend political events.

It’s no surprise that a Romney rally has the same effect on these workers as a power outage.

A vision of a Romney America

For a preview of what a Mitt Romney America might look like, read this story over at Bloomberg:

What’s clear from a review of the public record during [Romney’s] management of the private-equity firm Bain Capital from 1985 to 1999 is that Romney was fabulously successful in generating high returns for its investors. He did so, in large part, through heavy use of tax-deductible debt, usually to finance outsized dividends for the firm’s partners and investors. When some of the investments went bad, workers and creditors felt most of the pain. Romney privatized the gains and socialized the losses.

Romney’s investors do well. Everyone else, not so much. And just who is investing in a Romney presidency? People like this.

Are Mitt Romney’s values really the right ones for America? Or the world for that matter?

Proof Romney can’t be good for us

Okay, if a douche-bag like Sheldon Alderson Adelson wants to give $10 million to help get Mitt Romney into the White House, you know that can’t be a good idea for anyone else. This same guy is alleged to have approved prostitution in his hotels among other dastardly deeds.

As the New York Times puts it:

[Adelson] is the perfect illustration of the squalid state of political money, spending sums greater than any political donation in history to advance his personal, ideological and financial agenda, which is wildly at odds with the nation’s needs.

Mitt Romney: Sock Puppet of Corporate Greed and Corruption.