Friday, September 30, 2011

The Politics of Superficiality

This is a tale of two former female governors. Two kind of hot former female governors. One is a Republican, one a Democrat. One is well-known, the other not so much so. One who, whenever she opens her mouth, says a bunch of words that she hopes results in a coherent sentence by the time she finishes it. The other speaks with depth and with a complete understanding of the subject matter.

And you want to know what’s sad? The ditz is the one being courted to run for President.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Sarah Palin and Jennifer Granholm.

When Palin was picked by John McCain to be his running mate in 2008, there was a collective ‘WTF’ around the country and a scurrying to Wikipedia to find out who this person was. Fortunately (or not) for us, it became extremely apparent in short order who she was – a Mama Bear gun-toting God fearing Lamestream Media-trashing vacuous airhead. This is usually where my Conservative friends turn on me, which is fine. I imagine they are right now taking exception to my use of the term vacuous…or are looking it up. That’s why I followed it up with the word airhead. It was an intentional redundancy. They essentially mean the same thing.

Granholm was governor of Michigan for eight years. And let me just cut to the chase in order to contrast her to Palin on the intellect scale. She was seriously considered for the Supreme Court. Of the United States.


You Betcha.

So why am I doing this comparison? And further, why am I centering it around something as shallow their looks? To make a point. A somewhat general one, but there lies at least a portion of truth to it – they like us dumb – ‘they’ being politicians. And more specifically, Republicans. I use Palin as an example of this - many on the right are ga-ga whenever Palin speaks, but just ponder the messages being sent by the Republican party over the past decade or so. They like to over-simplify complex situations into sound bites – ‘You’re with us or with the terrorists…Cut and Run…Appeasement…Class Warfare…’ Part of this has to do with a necessary simplification for understanding, but it goes too far to the point of insulting. Take the ‘class warfare’ moniker. Republicans want us to believe that an attempt at having rich people survive at a pre-Bush tax rate somehow is deserving of the word ‘warfare’.

It is not only disingenuous, it is also vulgar to those that have served our country and truly know what the word warfare means, which has nothing to do with tax rates. But that’s how the Republicans roll. Oversimplify, then inflame. It is the only way to get enough middle-class and poor people to agree with them that making Rush Limbaugh pay more in taxes is anti-American.

Some may be saying okay Jer, but I am still missing the point of bringing Palin’s & Granholm’s looks into the discussion. Fair enough.

I am attracted to intellect. It is downright sexy to me. You can take a person with average looks but with a strong intellect and I am aroused. Conversely, you can take a very attractive woman who is a ditz and as soon as she opens her mouth it knocks the hot right out of her. Kinda like a stripper in a Steelers jersey.

And I swear, whenever Palin talks, either it’s that twangy Alaskan accent or the fact that it’s a mishmash of words and mixed metaphors, but it feels like nails on a chalkboard to me. Just the other night, on Fox naturally, when asked for the umpteenth time whether she was going to run for president, in her rambling sing-songy reply she actually said ‘If I decide to throw my name into the hat…’

Jeezus H. Christ on a chicken sandwich, woman. The phrase is throw your hat into the RING.

Granholm, on the other hand, has intellectual heft. Her sentences are thoughtful, let alone grammatically correct. Not to mention actually completing her term as governor. Whoops – make that terms as governor. She served two. Completely. I could go on, but a video is worth a thousand of my words. The following is an excerpt on an interview with her:

Now. Disagree with her policies if you must. But you have to respect the intellect.

Or not. Because in many Conservative circles, intellect is now a dirty word. But in my world, it is attractive.

But fear not, Republicans. Granholm was born in Canada so you don't have to worry about her running from president. She's disqualified.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Phrases That Tick Me Off

I can sometimes be kind of picky when it comes to the English language. Don’t get me wrong – I have my set of quirks, such as ending sentences in a preposition, as in ‘Where are you at?’ I am not referring to those kinds of practices, although I am sure many cringe whenever I let my Midwesternness come out with those kinds of verbal tics.

What annoys me are clichéd or misused phrases. Especially when used by people trying to appear smart when they really aren’t. Yeah I know, that targets me as grandiose or better-than, but at least I try to be what I am. I would just ask the same in kind – if you don’t know what a word means, please do not act like you do, okay Sarah ‘Refudiate’ Palin?

Anyway. Here is the first phrase that makes me go cold whenever anyone says it –

“The fact of the matter is…”

First off, the phrase is “The fact is…” to add in ‘of the matter’ is some lingual infusion in an attempt to relevantize the issue being spoken of. What it really is is redundancy. Further, I highly doubt the person using that phrase has any idea what ‘the matter’ is anyway. But beyond the awkwardness of the phrase is the assumed hubris of the person using it, because what usually follows is their opinion. Not fact, let alone fact of the matter. Opinion. Think about this – how many times have you heard someone say ‘Well ya know, the fact of the matter is, monkey can indeed fly out of my ass.’

Okay, probably never. Work with me here.

Politicians use ‘The fact of the matter is’ often as a precursor of their stance on a given issue. They are about to launch into how the feel or think of a situation. Those aren’t facts! Ah, but a politician’s job is to convince people that what they say are indeed facts, whether they are or whether they are pulling shit out of their ass. Chances are good it’s the latter. So in summary, ‘The fact of the matter is’ can be translated into ‘I am about to give you my opinion framed with a fancy pretense so you’ll hopefully duped into thinking that I truly am stating some irrevocable truth of the universe. Vote for me.’

Well you know what? The fact of the matter is, you’re ignorant.

Next –

“At the end of the day…’

Arrgh. This hits 10 on the cringe factor. Some use it as an attempt at finality, as an attempt to get people out of the weeds of a discussion and to fast-forward to the endpoint. As in ‘At the end of the day, we are all in this together.’ Gee thanks so much for your insight, Gandhi. Can we now go back to giving each other verbal wedgies? Cuz that was kinda fun.

But really, it is just an attempt at predicting where things will go. In other words, giving your opinion couched in a fancy-sounding precursor. Save us the tea-leaf reading and come get dirty with the rest of us.

Here’s what I do at the end of the day. I go to bed.



How many times have you heard someone start an answer with this word, then launch into a five-minute dissertation that can be called any of a number of things such as complex, circuitous, grandiose, mind-numbing, or making you want to jab pencils into both eyes? Their answer is anything but basic. Therefore it cannot be categorized as basically. So stop it.

Because basically, the fact of the matter is, at the end of the day I want to filet these people like a legal-sized snook and use their skin as protective clothing and their bones as drumsticks.

But maybe that’s just me.

Confessions of a Dweeb

I have trampled on this planet for 53 years now. And while I have hardly been a world traveler, I have been around a little bit. Grew up in northeast Ohio, lived in Houston, Miami and Orlando. Have done some cool things in my life but have not partaken in many others – for example, I highly doubt I will ever jump out of a perfectly good airplane. People that know me consider me, generally, as a nice guy that’s kind of cool and with it.

It’s all a façade. 

I am a geek.

I was born a geek and I have been a geek ever since I was old enough to realize that I loved Lost in Space and wanted to be Will Robinson because I wanted a silver space suit. While other kids were aspiring to be football players, I was building model rockets and launching caterpillars into low earth orbit. When puberty hit me violently hard and late at age 15, I thought the girls would be impressed by my Hot Wheels collection. I played professional Putt-Putt golf. At one time I wanted to be a ventriloquist. In school my favorite subject was math and reveled in understanding L’Hopital’s Rule. Google it.

Or not. Cuz it is about the most uncool thing ever created.

When I got to college and starting rifling through calculus, I discovered drugs and alcohol, which was wonderful at the time, because it mainstreamed me into society but also landed me on academic probation – which was considered actually kind of cool. Girls paid attention to me, because after a few Budweisers I dropped the geektense and was able to ooze out smooth comments about their hair or butt. Comments like ‘You have nice hair and a nice butt.”


During this time I let my hair grow out and by virtue of having grown about 6 inches in three months, was rail-thin. I looked like a Q-Tip. But for 1978, that was tres cool. And it was also the time of Disco, and being an aspiring head-banger (which was after being a geek fan of The Monkees until my really cool brother assured me they were a fake band of actors), I was able to at least understand that girls liked to dance and they didn’t like Led Zeppelin. So I pretended to like the Bee Gees. These actions were able to sufficiently suppress my inherent geekiness so I was able to get laid.

But I was not being true to myself. I looked cool. I acted (more or less) cool. But I was never cool. It was manufactured coolness with the aid of tight fitting pants, polyester suits, platform shoes, and marijuana. The geekness went into the closet, but it never went away.

My brother, bless his ultra-cool heart, tried to school me on coolness. He tried to impart upon me that girls didn't care about the capital of South Dakota or whether Johnny Miller won the 1973 US Open with a final round 63.  He tried to impart a modicum of bullshit into my persona in order to impress. For example, rather than saying I played miniature golf professionally, say I was a professional golfer. Or just flat-out lie to them. Say I was the bassist in Supertramp. They weren't going to check it out, and even if they did, it would be after I was able to tap that ass a few times.

I tried, I really did. Problem was (and still is), I am a terrible liar. That's another habit of geeks. The truth eventually comes out, usually about five seconds after the lie - "Hi. Yeah I'm a roadie for I'm not."

So here I am, 35 years later and much too old to care about such pretenses anymore. The problem is a re-re-programming to get back to my geek roots. This story is part of that process. Getting back to my true essence – reveling in knowing the last 50 US Open champions, understanding the value of regression analysis in determining transit ridership trends, and working on limiting the movement of my left foot in the backswing in order to keep from swaying off the ball. None of those things are impressive to anyone else. None are going to get me laid or invited to where the cool kids go. But I am too old to care now.

I am letting my Geek Flag fly.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Stop Before You Kill (Yourself) Again

In conversations I have had, many due to my recent blog posts, there seems to be a good number of people that are absolutely certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that Barack Obama has zero chance of being reelected. Okay. Let’s discuss.

Not from the standpoint of what he has or has not done, as that is obviously subject to a wide range of opinions. Rather, let’s look at it from another angle. The most critical angle, if you ask me –

Who will run against him?

Now do me a favor. Don’t say, “It doesn’t matter! Obama is such a total and complete failure that they could run anyone against him!”

Well, have you looked at the Republican candidate field? It pretty much defines the word ‘anyone’ – Romney, Perry, Bachmann, Cain, Huntsman, Gingrich…and Palin waiting in the wings. And to recap, Perry was urged to join due to disenchantment with the field…which was after Bachmann was urged to join due to disenchantment with the field…which was after Gingrich was urged to join due to disenchantment with the field.

And ya know what, apparently they are still disenchanted. The flavor this month is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Republicans claim, why, if The Big Man From The Garden State joins, look out Liberals! Next stop The White House! Just like they did when Perry threw his hat in. And Bachmann. And Gingrich. The way this thing is going, if Christie’s shine lasts more than a month it will set a longevity record for this latest round of eating of young that the Republicans are engaged it.

Here’s the problem with the Republican Party of 2011-2012. It’s been hijacked by ideological purists on the far right. And too many of the candidates are tripping over themselves to out-Tea Party each other. Well look, I’m not electorate scholar, but I know math, and if candidates are trying to appeal to an ideological fringe that represents far too small of a percentage of the populace to elect anyone on a national level, that is just not smart. It is a guaranteed-to-lose strategy. 20 percent of the vote means 80 percent did not vote for you. 80 is greater than 20.

Think I’m off base with that claim of far-right hijacking? Okay. Have you been watching the Republican debates? In one a gay soldier serving in Afghanistan asked a question…and he was booed by the audience. Doesn’t matter if he has honorably served his country – he is turned on by men so that disqualifies him from hero status in their eyes. A moderator in another debate asked a question about a 30-year old without health insurance facing a deadly disease – the audience yelled ‘Let him die!’ And in both cases, not a single candidate came to the defense of that war hero or that dying young man. Nobody chided the crowd for their response.

You stay classy, Tea Party.

The problem here isn’t the candidates. The problem is the people that have become the representation of their party. And it has become the problem of the candidates because they feed off such sentiments. Instead, the candidates, or at least one of them, need to step up and grab a hold of their party – the Party of Lincoln and Reagan.

Abe and Ronnie are rolling in their graves, gang. This party and what they stand for bear little resemblance to those giants. In fact, Reagan would be drummed out of this incarnation of Teapublicans as being too liberal – he raised taxes and compromised with Democrats for crying out loud!

To be fair, there is one Republican candidate that has tried to grab the wheel and veer this metaphorical car away from the cliff’s edge and back onto pavement. John Hunstman. Huntsman is actually trying to infuse sanity into his party’s self-immolation. So how is Huntsman and his pragmatic, center-right stance playing with the base? What do the polls say? Look down in the single digits. You’ll find him waaaay down there.

So yes. I feel extremely confident that Obama will be reelected. And it’s not because he has done such a wonderful job. I personally think he has gakked on a number of issues. The main reason that reelection is a near certainty is he has moved to the center that has been violently vacated by the Republicans, who are test-fitting their tinfoil hats for the enjoyment of their fringe supporters.

Makes for good applause sound bites in Republican strongholds but it ain’t gonna play nationwide. Barry Goldwater tried that schtick in 1964. He got the John Birch vote, the Tea Party of the day, but he got waxed by Lyndon Johnson in the general election. Just like Obama will do to whoever comes out of this ideological scrum the Republicans are presently engaged in.

So to paraphrase Mr. Goldwater, since it is a perfect fit for this political climate –

Extremism in the attempt to gain national office is no virtue.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Best Never To…

How would you like to play, or even follow, a dream foursome consisting of Lee Trevino, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson and Arnold Palmer? Four players that are legendary, all Hall of Famers. Would be totally awesome, to say the least.
What would you say if I told you that each has a glaring hole in their professional resume? Multiple Major winners, all, each capturing three of the four Majors. But they never won that fourth crown. And when you see this list of names, the mind boggles. Sam Snead never won a U.S. Open? Really?
So here we go. This list of players that, due mostly to the cruel winds of fate, never got that fourth big trophy:

The Best Never To Win the Masters: Lee Trevino. Lee Buck had a ‘thing’ about the Masters. For a while he bemoaned their deep south, genteel manner that did not look kindly towards minorities. He then changed his tune to say his game did not fit Augusta National. Let me tell you something - in his day there was not any course that didn’t fit Lee’s game. Many consider him one of the greatest ball strikers in the game, on a par with Ben Hogan and Moe Norman. Lee simply could not get his head straight when it came to the Masters. Thus, not only did he never win it, he rarely contended. He'd shoot 74-77, missed the cut and got the hell out of there.

The Best Never To Win the U.S. Open: Sam Snead. This falls into the ‘you gotta be kidding me’ category. Sam was born a golfer. God graced him with the most natural swing ever seen. Double-jointed, he could kick his leg over his head into his seventies. Literally, a freak of nature. Ah, but as God is wont to do, He placed Sam in rural West Virginia without a ton of smarts. Don’t get me wrong - I am not saying Sam was a dummy, but his tendency was to just keep swinging that amazing swing of his without much regard for the situation. Case in point, the 1939 U.S. Open where he had a one-shot lead going into the final hole, a relatively easy par 5. Par to win, a 6 for a playoff. He made an 8.

The Best Never To Win the British Open: Byron Nelson. To be fair, in Byron’s day not many American pros bothered to travel to Great Britain to play in the British Open. Was too expensive and the prize money was too low - this was before the advent of jet travel, so it involved taking a steamer across the Atlantic and three weeks out of your lose money. Most would rather stay on this side of the pond and hustle in cash games. To give you an idea of how hardscrabble it was back then, Byron won 18 tournaments in 1945, 11 in a row, and pocketed the paltry sum of $63,000 for the year. Which at the time was astronomical, but with today’s purses, Byron’s 1945 season would have netted him about $20 million. Lord Byron retired in 1946 at age 34 after he won enough money to fund his dream - a ranch in Texas.

The Best Never To Win the 
PGA Championship: (tie) Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson. Both of these are head-scratchers. Both had multiple chances to with the PGA but just got snake bit. Arnie being Arnie, he rarely played safe whether he was up 7 or down 7, and his legacy was one where he lost almost as many tournaments as he won. Well, count the PGA in that group. In Watson’s case, there was literally no reason for him not to win a PGA. He lost in a playoff to John Mahaffey in 1978, was tantalizing close many other times. It was simply a matter of the Golf Gods saying no Huck, you ain’t getting this trophy. Both Arnie & Tom made amends for this oversight by capturing the Senior PGA Championship.

And in the consolation category, I give you the Best Never to win any Major:
Colin Montgomerie. Sergio Garcia can be added to this list, but he still has time on his side. Monty’s days of serious contention are essentially over. Seven-time European Order of Merit (Leading money winner on the European Tour), Ryder Cup hero. Never won a Major. Only needed to make a par on the last hole from the middle of the fairway in 2006 to win the U.S. Open. Made double-bogey. In 1992 he was being congratulated by Jack Nicklaus for winning the U.S. Open when Tom Kite pitched in to steal it from him.
Gene Sarazen, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan, Tiger Woods. There is your elite of the elite group of players who have won all four Majors. Anyone else who has ever placed a ball on a tee has fallen short. Including that aforementioned group that came closer than anyone else.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I’ll Fix This

Okay. Yesterday I wrote a story about the huge debt this country is in. And I went on a singular approach on how to address it – raise taxes on the rich. A stance befitting of the bleeding-heart socialistic Marxist tree hugger polar cap melting person some believe me to be.

I would rather think it’s just common sense. The rich have an excess of what this country needs. Money. I do not see it much of a sacrifice if a person that brings in, say, $3 million a year net, has that reduced to $2.5 million net. Just have a hard time grasping the hardship of that scenario. The one-month vacation to France may get cut to two weeks. Maybe Junior will have to drive a Lexus to college instead of the Beemer.

But okay. Some think that to be class warfare. Some think that to be Un-American. Some think that to be penalizing those that succeeded.

It is a fiscal crisis, people! Time for sacrifice! The middle class has already taken it up the five-hole repeatedly. And the poor, well, they’re freekin’ poor. They’re not the answer, when the answer is money. You don’t ask a ballerina to play middle linebacker, don’t ask the poor for money.

So I have an alternative to forcing Rush Limbaugh to let go of more of his money that he will never spend. Here’s my proposal. One fell swoop, one law change, and this all goes away. Ready?

Legalize marijuana.

First off let me state this – I don’t smoke pot. This is not an entreaty so that I can personally enjoy burning tree. So spare me the ‘Suuuure Jer. Blaze on dude’ responses.

Legalizing marijuana will have a wonderful dual benefit. First off, the government can tax the shit out of it and it will still be cheaper than what the street rate is, which according to my, ahem, sources, is around 80 bucks for a quarter ounce. That’s $320 an ounce! More expensive than gold! I am not an agricultural expert, but I would assume that a pack of Jamaica’s finest, if legal could be produced at a cost in the range of North Carolina’s finest tobacco. Let’s say around $5 a pack. Sell a pack of 20 blunts for $50 and everyone is happy. Literally. Giggly happy, in fact, for the blazers out there.

The second benefit is a major cost savings. Prison construction, which in case you haven’t noticed, is about the only grown industry left in this country. There are tens of thousands of people incarcerated for the crime of scoring a lid. And for the life of me, and if anyone can elucidate please do, I do not see the societal benefit of this. How am I safer because some stoner that likes to get baked and watch Ren and Stimpy while gorging on Twinkies is caged up in some medium-security fortress? I don’t know about you, but I do not recall one single violent crime committed under the influence of crippy. It is, literally, a victimless crime.

So to recap, tax revenue goes up and public expenditures go down. Win-win.

Now here comes the outcry – what about the War on Drugs, you tree hugger!

News flash, gang. We lost that war a looooong time ago. Think of the billions that has been spent fighting that “war”. Now think how much harder it is to score illegal drugs. What’s that you say? It’s still as easy as texting your dealer to meet you behind the Circle K in ten minutes?

I rest my case. War on drugs: Drugs 100, Warriors zero. Scoreboard. Move on.

Okay, there actually is a downside that bears a few sentences. Inhaling toxic chemicals is a health risk. Odds are good that condoning a substance that is smoked will result in increased rates of cancer, emphysema, COPD and other physical issues. As such, we cannot in good conscience actually have such a substance being legal, can we?

Hold on. Let me ask the Marlboro Man or Joe Camel.

I know. Considering such a societal seismic shift is enough to make someone drink. Which, coincidentally, is another mind-altering substance that is perfectly legal to ingest. And if we are going to talk about how being under the influence of pot is such a bad thing, tell me how many times a man got baked then beat the hell out of his wife and kids? How many bar fights centered around who lost the roach clip?

Nope, alcohol has the monopoly of those activities. People drink, they can get violent. People smoke pot, and they forget whatever the hell they were mad about.

So let me end with this. Let’s be adults here. Spare me the moral lesson that some would advance to decry such legalization. Any Holy Rollers (or politicians) that would be against this, I say this: Let he without sin cast the first stone.

Mr. Marley said it best. Legalize it. Don’t criticize it.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Classless Warfare

Time to piss off my Conservative friends…
Which is sort of funny in itself, given that as soon as I refer to one of them as Conservative, they quickly correct me. ‘Oh I’m a fiscal conservative but I am Libertarian on social issues and a Vegetarian when faced with a steak from a mad cow…’
Whatever. I’m a Liberal. Bash away at such decisiveness if you must.
Anyway, my latest amusement has come from the Conservative’s latest sound bite that Obama’s proposal to raise the tax rate on the wealthy in order to help address the deficit, referring to it as “class warfare”.
Nice imagery. When I hear that phrase I picture a bunch of unwashed serfs storming a castle with pitchforks, torches and nooses screaming for the head of some gout-stricken Lord. A rise of the poor majority demanding blood from the rich minority. Hey, they’re using the word ‘warfare’, so don’t blame me if it evokes violent images. They choose their words carefully, and that is apparently the image they are trying to portray - that this is WAR.
Actually, no. It isn’t. It is an attempt at fairness. It is the president saying those that have the capability to give more should. We are not in a war, but we are, by everyone’s assessment, in a crisis. A fiscal crisis that has manifested itself in massive deficits from previous spending. Spending that included, yes, a stimulus package championed by Obama, but also two wars championed by Bush. The current situation is one of policies over the past decade. Bush started two wars and gave us (and decidedly, the rich) two tax cuts. And, that, pardon me my Conservitarianeral friends, is fiscal irresponsibilty - raising your expenditures dramatically while decreasing your income. It is a recipe for bankruptcy.
And here we are in 2011 awash in red ink.
So Obama says to raise the tax rate on the rich to be the same rate as the middle class. Sounds fair to me. But of course, I’m a Liberal, and as such I am naïve, right? I cannot possibly understand such complexities as managing budgets and fair application of fiscal policy.
Have I mentioned that I also have an MBA?
Anyway, this is not about me. It is about the rich paying their fair share. Oh but hold the presses - there aren’t any “Rich People” people in this country. The Conservatives now have a new phrase for them. They are “Job Creators.” Well okay, to an extent I imagine there is a scintilla of truth in there. Rich people do tend to have staff. Someone has to drive them around, cook their meals, clean their six mansions, nanny their kids.
And keep the serfs from storming the castle.
But they are not job-producing self-contained factories of middle-class prosperity. Why? Well, if these ‘Job Creators’ have benefitted so much from tax cuts in the past decade, why aren’t they singlehandedly pumping life into this moribund economy by employing all these people standing in lines looking for work? Their discretionary income has dramatically increased in the past decade while other income group’s has fallen. Go hire another chauffeur, for crying out loud!
Now, I can hear the blowback already - many rich people got rich by starting businesses, and many of them do employ people - the ubiquitous 'small businessman' moniker. Okay fine. I buy that. And in response I offer two things: One, Obama has cut taxes to small businesses, and two, you have to separate the income of the business from the income of the person running the business. What Obama is targeting is the personal income of people making more than $250k a year, not the income of the business itself.

So, in light of that reality, explain how a higher tax rate on Bill Gates's personal income is going to translate to more of a tax burden to Microsoft. You can't. Because it does not exist. Remember that when Conservatives bemoam taxing 'Job Creators' - their businesses are untouched by this proposal. So that covers the concerns of the true entrepreneurs out there - the Bill Gates & Warren Buffetts of the world who came from nothing and crazily prospered through hard work and innovation.

So back to the other category of rich people. Those that have perhaps inherited their wealth, maybe sports athletes who signed outlandish salaries, whatever. People that, hey, great for them, had wealth handed to them. Herein lies the fallacy of the Conservative argument. The clothes have no emperor. These rich people do not spur the economy. There is no trickle down. Money has flowed upwards, not down. So it is time to call them what they are - not the engines of the economy, but rather, selfish benefactors of recent fiscal policy. And for them to pay more in taxes is not any kind of warfare. I would, instead, use an entirely different term for the president’s request for more money from them:

Country first, right? Or have Conservatives discarded that phrase since it didn’t get McCain & Palin elected in 2008? It is hard for us Liberals to keep track of what their phrase du jour is anymore.

No wonder they think we're confused.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Life By The Smile

We all know how influential music can be to our psyche. You hear a song and you are instantly transported to another place in time. For me, if I hear Gerry Rafferty doing Baker Street, it’s the summer of 1978 and I am a 19-year old jammin’ around Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio in my black Camaro Z-28. If I hear Don Henley’s Boys of Summer, it’s 1986 and I’m drinking beer at Double Roads in Juno Beach, Florida, cliff jumping with my bud Gary. Kid Rock’s Bawitdaba is summer of 2000, and I am walking hand in hand with Carrie, my girlfriend at the time.
Powerful stuff, music. It time-stamps our memory. A System Restore checkpoint if you will.
Beyond evoking pleasant memories, every now and then a song comes out with a phrase that makes you back the tape (or cd or iphone) up to listen to again. When I hear such phrases, I tend to wear them for a while - Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…You cross a lawyer with the Godfather you get an offer you can’t understand (that was Don Henley, Gimme What You Got, from 1986 btw)…Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…
These aren’t time machine-variety memories, these are more credos we adopt, so they differ from that first set of examples I gave.
Then there are lyrics that make you stop, think and go, FUCK-IN-A YES!!! Transcendental thoughts or perhaps introductions to new way of looking at things. If I dare say, lyrics that make you intuitively handle situations that used to baffle. Potentially life-changing stuff. Well, in this category, I place the following lyric:
“I used to be disgusted. Now I try to be amused.”
This is from Red Shoes, by Elvis Costello, circa 1978. I first heard that when I was 19, and the resonance of it escaped me at the time, mainly because I lacked the perspective needed to truly grasp its depth. Or maybe because I was smoking a lot of pot. Whatever. Anyway, the other day I came across a Youtube clip of Elvis doing Red Shoes in concert when he sang that lyric, and I just froze. Then I chuckled.
See, since 1978, when I first heard that to now, I have been, let’s just say, around the block a few times. I have had enough life experiences - and been disgusted enough times - to recognize the inherent, timeless wisdom of that phrase. I lived most of my adult life disgusted. This person would tick me off or that situation. And I rebelled. I would let the world know - THIS ISN’T FAIR.
Well, there was my first lesson. Nothing is fair. Life is not designed with fairness in mind. The cosmos are not programmed to dole out fairness to Jerry, or anyone else. We get what we get. So the key, as I have found out, is how to deal with that. And one of the options is to be disgusted. Thing is, that does not change anything, except my attitude. It makes it worse. And as a result of that, I tend to do bad things to myself, let alone piss off everyone around me.
There had to be a better way.
Well, there is. And I will not go into the details of what that better way is, as it would send this story on another tangent. What I will say is I have taken Elvis’s advice. I now try to be amused.
The beauty of this is multifaceted. One, I am now smiling. Two, I am laughing at this world and all its dysfunction. Three, I am not responsible for any of it, only my side of the street, so I basically let the dervishes whirl. You all are now here for my entertainment, not my judgment. Now, that may not be the most spiritual way of looking at things, but it beats getting pissed off about it.
So the world will spin. To all the disease, hatred, wars, famine, clueless politicians, dopey people texting while driving, homeless people having their dignity robbed, crack babies, bosses with their heads jammed up their sphincters, Casey Anthony, Casey Anthony protesters, Casey Anthony’s attorneys, donkey poker players catching inside straights with 4-7 in the hole, here’s my request:
Amuse me.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Inconsequential Consequences

The other day I was having a chat with a coworker, who I discovered is, like me, a Democrat. During our talk, I mentioned that ‘we Liberals” think this certain way, when she interrupted me and said, “I am not a Liberal. I am a Progressive.”

That was a head-scratcher for me, as I had never really pondered what the difference is. She then explained that it mainly had to do with differing views on Democratic fiscal policy, where Liberals believe more in a safety net for individuals approach where Progressives advocate more of a safety net on a macro scale, such as regulations in the food and drug industries, for the public good.

Remember that phrase ‘public good’ – I will be coming back to that later.

I did some on-line research, based on our discussion, to delve further into the purported differences, because, quite frankly, I have only heard this label ‘Progressive’ being used in recent years. Back in the day, Democrats were Liberals and Republicans were Conservatives. Ah, but not any more – there are New Democrats, Compassionate Conservatives, Red Dog Democrats, Tea Party Conservatives and so on. So, while doing my research, I found that the real reason for the moniker ‘Progressive’ is that the word ‘Liberal’ has been demonized by the right – in other words, a different word was created meaning essentially the same thing that doesn’t have the sneer factor associated with it. Picture a 2010 Republican political ad – “Nancy Pelosi (invoke sneer here) Liberals in Congress…” It helps if you grit your teeth and snarl while you say it, for effect.

So if this is the case, that Liberal and Progressive essentially mean the same thing, then call me either. Just do so with a level of dignity, please. If you can, then read no further. If you cannot, then I implore you to read on, because that would mean you are a snarler.

I mentioned public good earlier. This phrase enrages the right, as to them it is a buzzword for Nanny State, Huge Government and the like. And the right abhors such things – recently-announced Presidential candidate Rick Perry, in his announcement speech said that, if elected, he will make “Washington as inconsequential to your life as possible.”

Well that’s uplifting. Elect him and he will embark on deconstructing. Hope your 401K rebounds before you retire, since Social Security will likely evaporate with that kind of mindset.

But that’s not the ‘public good’ I was thinking of. It is another one, and it has ties to both Perry and, more directly, Michelle Bachmann, another Republican running. It has to do with the HPV vaccine. For those that do not know, HPV is a virus that is rather prevalent in young women that could lead to cervical cancer. Well fear not, as there is a vaccine, which, administered to girls around the age of 12, can pretty much eradicate that possibility. It is a simple as getting a shot and removing the possibly heinous way of dying. Awesome.

Ah, but hold on a sec – Bachmann has inside information about this vaccine that apparently the medical world is not privy to. See, she was at a campaign stop last week when a person told her that a friend’s daughter had the vaccine and contracted mental retardation as a result. Stop the presses!

So let’s recap. We have the combined wisdom and research of the medical community versus what a Republican candidate was told by someone about someone else’s daughter. In a rational world, this is no contest. Unfortunately for them, Republicans left rational at the station when they jumped on the Tea Party Express.

So, why would anyone – even the far right – actually be against a vaccine that will save lives? Sadly, it is a simple answer, and one that should give everyone pause – to their way of thinking, giving young girls a vaccine that has to do with the cervix implies tacit approval of teen sex. And we all know that is bad. Ergo, in order to maintain their indefensible position they have to demonize the vaccine through the use of innuendo.

What does this have to do with Perry? Well, let me first state that I think if he is elected (which he won’t; our country has had our fill of Texas swagger in the White House, thank you very much) we are in serious trouble, I have to give him much credit for approving the use of the HPV vaccine for Texas schoolgirls while he was governor. Now that’s a Compassionate Conservative.

But Bachmann is not part of that cadre. Too Liberal for her tastes. And she’s twenty points down in the polls to Perry. So out trots twisted logic straight out of Ferris Bueller implying that since she heard from someone who heard from someone that was at 31 Flavors last night that the vaccine may have dire side effects we should immediately halt the administration of it. Let women die a horrible death for the purpose of political gain.


So to summarize, on one side of the political spectrum you have the belief of research and medical advances. On the other you have hearsay and innuendo that, interestingly, is anti-women. And anti-science. Well excuse me Mr. Perry, but that is hardly ‘inconsequential.’ And excuse me, Ms, Bachmann, but I don't give rat's ass what some wingnut told you in passing at a political rally. To me, that is inconsequential. And that it isn't to you, is alarming.

So remember this story. And remember public good. Based on that alone you cannot in good conscience ever vote for these people. Young women will die.

That is not inconsequential.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I play alone…

…YEAHHH with nobody else…

I gave up drinking alone a while back so that activity has been mothballed, but for as long as I can remember I have enjoyed playing golf alone. I doubt George Thorogood would get inspired by such an activity. Whatever. Go have one bourbon, one scotch & one beer, George.

I just got off the course after a solo round, mainly because My Man Mike cancelled out of our weekly round. Damn job of his. Since I had already packed my change of clothes I decided to press on in his absence. So after work I went over to Winter Park Country Club, a delightful, walkable nine-hole layout about ten minutes from work.

Now, I really don’t want to bore with details, but I am going to anyway. Mainly because it wasn’t boring. A number of things happened during the round that were just plain weird, funny, inspiring, frustrating. In other words, a typical round. So here we go. Now on the tee, from Altamonte Springs, Florida via Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio …


First hole: I arrive to the tee just as a threesome of elderly Jamaican men were coming off the ninth green, and our paths intersected at the tee. Now, etiquette dictates that players making the turn (them) must yield the tee to players beginning their round (me). They obliged, and offered me to play through, which I accepted, but the problem was I hadn’t warmed up yet. So I let them hit their tee shots while I swung two clubs tying to get my back to pop. Each one of them was a good player, and the last guy swung cross-handed; in other words, he played right handed with a left-hander’s grip. Very rare. He proceeded to smack it about 220 yards down the middle. They then stepped to the side of the tee while I caught one pretty good, about 240 yards down the left side. We walked down the fairway together and we chatted. They were from Kingston originally.

So the round’s off to an interesting start…if you think a threesome of elderly Jamaicans, one with a crosshanded grip, is interesting. I do. I pitch onto the green and have a six-footer for birdie that I struck well but it horseshoed out on me. Tap in par. Off to a solid start.

Second hole: Short par 3, about 150 yards. I pull a 7-iron that settles pin high right, about 20 feet from Webster Avenue. Now this shot is hard enough, but when you have in the back of your mind the nagging thought that a dump truck could t-bone you at any second it adds a wrinkle of difficulty normally not accounted for. I have to hit a major flop shot over a bunker & catch it perfectly. The ball stops 6 feet past the pin, so I have basically the same putt that I did on the first. This time I made it. Par.

Third hole: Straightaway par 5, about 440 yards. I tag my drive about 250 with a peel-cut off the trees on the right. With about 185 to the green, I take out my trusty 7-wood and proceed to hit a skank pull-hook that rattles in the trees on the right. Ugh. For the third shot I have to execute another flop shot that I stick to, again, 6 feet. I run in the putt. Birdie. I’m one under. At this point I am glad I worked on my pitching the night before.

Fourth hole: Signature hold of the course. A right-to-left bending par 5 of about 530 yards. Left is death. Literally. Because it’s a cemetery. The play is to stay right off the tee and on the second shot to set up a wedge into the green, which is exactly what I did – drive in the right rough, a 3 wood down the right side, a punch sand wedge. Two putts, a solid par on the toughest hole on the course.

Now, I’ve got four holes under my belt, which is a good check point as to how I am doing. Well, shit, I’m one under. Got no complaints.

Fifth hole: Straightaway par 4. Road on left, trees right. And of course, I hit it where I always do. In the trees on the right. I only have about 100 yards left to the green but have to punch & run it due to the hanging branches, which I do, but a touch too firm and it rolls off the back of the green. Now, it bears noting that right behind the green is the intersection of two busy roads, and the evening rush hour traffic is humming behind me. I take my sand wedge, ball back in stance, and hit a perfect pitch shot. It lands about 15 feet short of the hole and starts rolling…and rolling…and…plop. Into the cup. A chip in birdie! Now, I may be playing alone, but I still celebrate, so I give it a fist-pump “YEAH!’ when the ball goes in. The next sound I heard was a car horn, and a guy yelling “NICE SHOT!” from his car in the adjacent intersection. I hollered a “THANK YOU!” at him and a doff of the cap.

God I love this game. And I’m now two under.

Sixth hole: Pretty little par 4, dogleg right, trees all the way down the right. Two ways to play it: There's the safe play which is a hybrid to the corner & a flip wedge to the green. Then there is the stupid way: Try to carry the trees on the right, cut the corner to go for the green.

I’m two under. Time to get stupid.

My driver is well struck but a touch low. Any other hole it would have been perfect. On this hole it’s jail. The ball rattles in the trees, which mercifully spit it into the fairway. Good break, but I have to hit another punch shot to the green, which came out just like the one on the previous hole – a touch hot, the ball settling off the back of the green. A tickly downhill chip leaves me ten feet from the hole. I run the putt in for a well-earned par.

Seventh hole: Short par 3, about 125 yards. I hit a smooth 9-iron to the middle of the green. Two putts later I have my par.

Checkpoint time. Seven holes down, I’m still two under. And I’m starting to think about it. Not good.

Eight hole: Basically a repeat of the seventh. A 125-yard par 3. I settle over my 9-iron with thoughts of ‘Wow I would really like to shoot under par’…this is exactly what NOT to think. I swing and the contact makes a sickening thud sound that occurs when the neck of the club hits the ball. We call that a shank. The ball goes dead left about 100 yards. I’m not loving this game so much now, but I am laughing at how much of an egotistical dumbass I am. I find my ball in the rough and hack out a sand wedge just trying to get it anywhere on the green. I did, and two putts later I register my first bogey on the round.

Final hole: Dogleg left par 4, trees left, parking lot right. Now, I’m one under, and I could just hit an iron & a wedge to the green, get my par and bask in an under par round. Well, what’s the fun in that? Out comes the driver, and there goes my ball into the parking lot, featuring a nice high bounce over a car leaving the lot. Well I’ll tell you something right now – I am finding that ball, I don’t care if it’s in Ocoee, and I am playing it. I find it, about 25 yards past the green, and I have your standard garden variety pitch shot over the parking lot, palm tree & bunker. Kid’s stuff. Needing one more good swing, instead I blade the pitch and it goes screaming into the palm tree, which, in this instance, acted like a parachute, depositing my ball on the green about 15 feet from the hole. Two putts later, I make a wild par and shoot a very satisfying one-under 34.

So to recap, in an hour & a half I met three Jamaicans, had a honking gallery cheer my birdie, shanked a stock nine iron, and damn near took out a Lexus with one of my drives.

Just a typical day on the links.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Nine Eleven...Fifty Eight

So I got up this morning knowing that today is my birthday. In celebration, given that it’s a Sunday, my first act was sleeping in. As I trudged from bathroom to the kitchen to get a glass of juice & take my morning meds, I had a nice feeling knowing that, on my computer, there would be some nice messages from friends and family. Sure enough, there were. Seventeen emails, a couple of e-cards. People posted to my Facebook page their well-wishes. I read through them and I smiled. Then I turned on the television. It was 8:46 a.m. 

The moment the first plane hit the World Trade Center ten years ago.

And I got somber. Up until that moment it was a nice morning. It instantly switched to what the rest of the world knows September 11 as. I watched transfixed the moment of silence, followed by the President reading from the Bible. Then people took turns reading names of the deceased at the podium. Ten minutes later, they had only gotten to the B’s.

We all remember where we were ten years ago. It is one of the timestamps on our lives that we each will never forget. For me, I was celebrating my 43rd birthday with a morning smoke outside my office (I still smoked at the time). A man came out of an adjoining building telling me we were at war. I thought he was nuts. Going back into my office I found out the awful truth on the television. There were the smoldering towers, one plane crashed into each, eventually falling to the ground.

And I get selfishly mad. My thought was ‘These motherfuckers did this on my birthday.’

I am not very proud of that thought, as lost at the moment was the gross human sacrifice while my mind stayed self-centered on how it affected me. But that’s me. I am a contradiction of thoughts, as most are, and goddammit, this was about me, not about those poor souls who were jumping from the towers to their deaths. When the towers fell, I finally gave up any thoughts of it being a day of personal celebration and accepted the realization that the day that marks my entrance into the world concurrently marks the exit of 2,983 others at the hands of terrorists.

Prior to 2001, I used to tell people how to remember my birthday. It’s what you dial in an emergency. No such memory jogs are needed now.

So, on this and every September 11 from here forward and hence, you all will remember what this day truly means.

For me, it means another candle on the cake.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Happy Birthday Arnie!

Today is September 10. Tomorrow, September 11, is my birthday. Virtually the entire world knows September 11 for another event that happened 10 years ago, but I stubbornly refuse to get drawn into that since, 43 years prior to planes crashing towers, I was born. So I’ve been around longer than the terrorists. But as I stated, this is September 10. And 82 years ago today, Arnold Daniel Palmer was born. I’ve always been kinda proud that me & Arnie darn near share the same birthday.

I grew up in Ohio, and one of my personal heroes is Jack Nicklaus. Heck, I even named my son after him (no, not Jack, his name is Nicholas…different spelling but same pronunciation). Jack is widely known as the greatest golfer ever, as his record is unmatched. Nobody took hold of golf tournaments and finished them off better than Jack. When his name appeared on the leaderboard the rest of the field would do a collective ‘Oh shit’ and usually fold. Definitely the most respected and feared competitor ever to step onto a course.

But Arnie was the most loved.

I had the pleasure to watch Arnie play back in his heyday of the late 60’s and early 70’s. I remember my first impression of him was how big his forearms were. I was maybe ten years old, and my dad had pretty good forearms by virtue of being a plumber by trade, but after seeing Arnie’s, there was no doubt that he would destroy my dad in arm wrestling. They were huge!

The other thing I remember from that encounter was Arnie had a charisma and connectivity to the gallery no golfer has ever had. On one tee, hundreds of people, including me, awaited his arrival. When he came through the ropes, the applause was on a decibel level reserved for heads of state. Perhaps this is why his nickname is The King. Anyway, Arnie had this habit of scanning the gallery, looking people right in the eye. And on this day, he did that with me – for a brief instance, Arnold Palmer looked 10-year-old Jerry straight in the eye and gave me a slight nod of his head and a wink. At that moment I was in orbit and had my hero chosen. Arnie looked at me!

As I came to find out, this was a regular occurrence with Arnie. He played to the crowds, sometimes to the detriment of his game. Oftentimes he was goaded into hitting a shot he should not have tried because the gallery insisted he go for broke. Coincidentally, that was the name of one of his books – Go For Broke. In contrast, I cannot imagine Jack ever letting the gallery dictate what shot he was going to hit. For Jack, the course was the forum for him to strategically navigate in the fewest strokes possible. For Arnie, it was his stage, and he had the leading role. And he played it to the hilt. This is why, win or lose, Arnie was and always will be The Man to many.

Arnie had/has a homemade swing. Nothing technically correct about it, as he would essentially ‘muscle’ the ball with a low penetrating draw that never seemed to get more than ten feet off the ground. His strategy was pretty much one-dimensional – hit it as hard as you can, go find it, then hit it hard again. Jack, on the other hand, was the quintessential strategist – he would hit whatever off the tee he determined would result in the lowest score on the hole – it could be a driver, 3-wood or 6-iron. Arnie was not so nuanced. It was driver. Every time.

As a result, Arnie did not win as many tournaments as he should have. He won more than 70 PGA tour events but only seven Majors. That total should have easily been double. Specifically, he lost the 1966 U.S. Open when he had a 7-shot lead with 9 holes to play. And he even admits that, at that point in time, his focus was not on winning the tournament but of breaking the all-time U.S. Open scoring record of 272. Jack would have never let that kind of thought enter his mind. If Jack were up 7 on the 10th tee, he would make sure he was still up 7 on the 18th tee. Arnie’s tragedies on the course just endeared himself more to his fans. Eventually it was not a matter of him winning or losing, it was just him being there, swashbuckling his way around the course.

Go Arnie…BABY!!

There’s an anecdote, I believe penned by Dan Jenkins, which most accurately described the Jack versus Arnie dynamic. The Golf Gods turned to Jack and said, ‘You will be the most successful, feared golfer who ever lived’, and then they turned to Arnie and said ‘But they will love you more’. And that is exactly what has happened. Jack is respected. Arnie is adored.

Living in Orlando, Arnie sightings are a common occurrence during the winter months. He has a home in Bay Hill and plays golf every day. Funny isn’t it – his career was playing golf, and he retired…to the golf course. And the folks at Bay Hill say Arnie’s out there every morning slapping balls, trying to find the ‘secret’ that will make him better…at age 82!

So in about an hour I am going to go play golf with a couple of friends. And I think, in celebration of Arnie’s  birthday, I will try to pull off a couple of shots I have no business trying.

Happy Birthday Arnie. Fire at a flag.