Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Take me out to the Ball Game

Today's baseball game was a tonic. The Tigers won 10-3, and Miggy hit one of those home runs which you knew was gone off the bat. All you have to do is just sit back and enjoy such magnificent feats. Jarrod Saltalamacchhia had three hits to cross the Mendoza line, one a home run of his own, and Daniel Norris got the win despite not being at his best. Even Anibal Sanchez had an easy Ninth, despite his troubles with the gopher ball the last two seasons. The homeboys were in control all the way.

Yet more than that. I was with good friends who appreciate baseball (and are good friends otherwise), and met a new friend along the way (his rum luck). We jived each other, and we talked baseball even though there were no balks. That last part is an in-joke which I do not choose to explain at this time by the way. But it was the kind of day which, at the very high risk of hyperbole I must admit, made me appreciate life.

Baseball does that. I won't say that other sports cannot do that, but I do believe that other games are hard pressed to the task. Baseball is not so fast that it can't be followed, not so complicated that it can't be readily understood, not so brutal that you risk life altering injuries playing it. It is the game of summer. And summer is of course the high point of the year.

On this day, I needed that tonic. Explain it as you might: dame fortune, good luck, the planets aligned; Providence. But I needed today. And I was not failed.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Yes indeed I'm walking

I've known for years that I need to be better about my health. So for about the last two months I've been regularly getting out the door and walking for an hour. It's reached the point where I wake up looking forward to it.

What's wrong with me?

I never expected to actually like exercise. When I've made myself exercise before, at times for several months at a stretch before running out of steam, it was a chore. I had to make myself do it each and every day. Even with activities I like such as curling, it isn't the physical part of the game I like. I never looked forward to a hard sweep. But then this morning when I popped awake at 4:12, I was immediately disappointed that it was too early, too dark yet, to take my walk. Huh?

In fact I'm actually reached the point of challenging my body, of pushing myself further, and wanting to do it. When I began I was walking about 3 1/2 miles in roughly an hour. Then I made up my mind I would ramp it up to 4 miles per hour. Now I'm approaching 5 MPH, just walking at a brisk pace. This morning I hit 4.6 miles in 61 minutes.

While I'm impressed with my efforts I'm also perplexed. Who in the world other than sadists truly like exercise? Here I had been been looking forward to second childhood. Now I'm walking 2 days out of 3 and wanting to. What is happening to me?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Is history truer are time goes by?

In my most recent blog post before this one, I spoke of how new scholarship has shone a better light on Detroit Tigers great Ty Cobb. Yet this is not the first instance I've come across of history taking a different view of someone, especially years after they're gone.

Cobb died in July 1961. That's enough time, isn't it, that we ought to be getting a clearer view of who he was and what he did. This phenomenon first came to my attention when I was working on a major term paper on second President and major Independence mover and shaker John Adams. The earliest primary source which I read, published in 1801 (regretfully I can't recall what that was, as I wrote the paper 35 years ago and can't easily find it) and right on the heels of his Presidency thought him little but scum. But as the books and articles about him accumulated over time, it seemed that by around 1900 people were admitting that he wasn't all that bad. By the 1970s, Adams was actually rising into the camp of a 'better than average' President in the eyes of the majority of historians.

Indeed we can extrapolate this point further when referring to even newer biographies of Adams. David McCullough points out that a quote about Adams, used in the musical 1776 as a citation against the Massachusetts lawyer as 'obnoxious and disliked', can be found only in a self-description of attitudes toward him in a letter I believe to his wife Abigail. McCullough finds Adams spoken of that way by no one else. Judgment of Adams by history continues to tick upwards.

When I was still teaching, I rarely went past World War II in my lectures and assignments. My justification was that things which have happened too recently aren't history yet; we're too close to the events to think about them objectively. True, there are those history will likely never treat kindly. I can't imagine Hitler, Stalin, or Mao becoming saints over the coming decades. But it does appear that history looks kinder upon the more mainstream people and ideas as time marches on.

I do wonder if it would be fair to argue that it's not history if we've lived it. Or at least, not a full and true history.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Ty Cobb, a Tiger redeemed

I hate biographies. The guy always dies at the end. Yet a biography I just finished, which I stayed up far beyond my normal bedtime to finish, my normal bedtime being around 6:30 these days, and as my computer tells me that it's 1:28 AM just now and well beyond that parameter, tells a story about me. Books snowball as I read them; the deeper I read into those tomes which enthrall me the more I simply must finish them as soon as possible. So I have been so entranced with Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty, a book my daughter and son-in-law gave me for Father's Day this year. I've read the last 150 or so pages since around 7PM yesterday, staying up very late to do so, because I reached the point where I just had to finish the book.

All right, I took an hour to watch the Classic Star Trek episode Friday's Child from 9 to 10 PM on MeTV. Yet so my obsessive compulsive disorder goes.

It is a fascinating book in that it redeems a hero of mine. That is nowhere near a complete vindication of his life: Cobb's life in baseball and without is still full of holes, errors which I now suspect even he regretted. Perhaps that is where his tale is most human. He knew he was flawed.

The rest of the world? It seemed ready to accept the common narrative that he was a monster, using the word author Charles Leerhsen employed as he approached his study of the Georgia Peach. He thought he would only reaffirm what the world already knew: that Cobb was a terrible human being.

But he only found that Cobb was a human being. Relatively easy research (in his own words, roughly paraphrased here) showed that Cobb was not the Supreme Evil. It showed that he was flawed and, again, and perhaps more importantly,knew he was flawed. Beyond the fact that many of Cobb's actions were reprehensible, Cobb himself knew, on reflection, that they were reprehensible. He knew he had failed his standards, standards of actual right and wrong. The standards of what is right and proper.

It is a good book. It is especially good if you want to know about regular people just wanting to do what they ought to do. You know, people just like you. And me.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

What are the hidden costs of recycling?

My wife and daughter are very into recycling, and that's okay. There's certainly nothing wrong with it, and they do it all themselves, so it doesn't even really affect me.

Still, our son while on leave from the Army commented on it in a way I had never considered. Watching his mother prepare tuna cans and milk jugs for recycling he remarked, as she was rinsing the items out and even putting the cans through the dishwater, "So we have to wash our trash?"

Which leads me to my point. Do we really need to recycle things for which there is no demand? Steel, aluminum, copper; these things all get paid for by people who have a real use for them. They're worth money, therefore they get recycled. Paper, plastic, even tin cans aren't worth anything and therefore do not get recycled so readily.

Unless the government encourages or demands it. Many recycling projects are underwritten by government or commanded by it through things such as curbside pickup. In short, they wouldn't exist without coercion. Things worth doing get done without any hint of force.

Think of that when you're washing your tuna cans, using extra water, or burning extra gas to take things to a recycling center. Are we really doing anything worth such effort?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Rudeness at the gas station

I've opined before that I'm intent on becoming a curmudgeon; indeed, that I welcome it. Something which I saw this morning only solidifies that desire. I witnessed something which just plain infuriates me.

Actually, this same thing has happened several times over the years. It's just kind of coming to a head lately.

As I pulled into the neighborhood gas station, not for gas but for a coffee and a paper, I dutifully and rightfully pulled into a parking space over to the side. As I walked to the door, this inconsiderate boor, also not buying gas, parked right in front of the door, to run in a grab a pack of cigarettes. This action effectively blocked access to half the gas pumps, as well as semi-blocking the station door.

Again, this has happened often over the last several years. The more I see it the more it rankles me. It's. Just. Rude. The world ain't all about you, dude. Be considerate of people; park to the side where you're supposed to if you aren't buying gas.

This missive surely doesn't fully express my ire. But if I'd had a walking cane, I sure would have been waving it at him malevolently.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Registering cars and guns

Gun control is at the top of the news lately, and obviously because of the Orlando murders. Myself, I am a firm believer in the Second Amendment. And while I admit (as a personal belief) that I don't see the reason to have rapid fire weapons either for self defense or hunting, I don't see how the nation can logically ban them without violating the Constitution. The debate ends there, so far as I'm concerned. If you want it different, you have to work for an amendment to that Amendment.

Many of the ideas about banning or regulating guns and gun ownership and/or purchase are bandied about just the same. One such argument goes that, well, we have to register our cars with the government. Why can't the government effect gun controls that way? My response to that is, maybe we need to reconsider whether we ought be made to register our cars.

To keep track of ownership, perhaps? But why should the government care about that? If I don't want to title my car I must believe that I should not have to. The government has no right whatsoever to know what kind of car I drive. For a similar reason this is also why I am increasingly opposed to an income tax of any type at any level. Enforcement means having to tell the government how much money I make, and that, quite frankly, is none of the government's business.

To get tax money? That's the only real reason I see for annual vehicle registration. And we do money for the roads. Yet we can get that without title fees or registrations: through sales taxes at the pump. The more you drive, the more you pay for the highways and bi-ways. That seems reasonable enough to me.

For the purposes of fighting crime? Making people have license plates might make solving certain crimes easier, so the argument would go. But isn't that a form of guilty until proven innocent? It presumes that if I own a car I will use it for violence. I've always thought that violated my rights.

Really, though, my overriding point is that simply because we allow the government to do some things in some areas of civil life doesn't mean the government can act similarly in any and all areas of civil life. It may be merely that we've come to accept so much of what government does without question, that we've hit the point where we try to justify new government acts in new areas solely on the fact that government acts likewise elsewhere.

Given a moment's thought, it is really a rather shallow argument.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sublime, ridiculous, or overthought?

I'm not sure if this qualifies as sublime or ridiculous, or neither. But I think it might qualify as one or the other. Be that as it may, I'm always a bit astounded when such things happen.

I like tonic water. Yes, jokemeisters, I don't mind it with gin either, and a twist of lime. But I like to drink tonic water by itself. I like the vaguely chalky taste. And I held a bottle in my hand on this past Sunday morning, Father's Day, as I stood in the aisle of the grocery store I was in. I hadn't had any in awhile and thought I might buy a couple bottles. But I didn't, just, well, because I didn't.

Several weeks ago, I read an article about a new biography of Ty Cobb, the famous Detroit Tiger and perhaps the greatest hitter in baseball history. It was written by one Charles Leerhsen, and purports to shed new light on the supposedly disliked Cobb. You can read the article here: https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/who-was-ty-cobb-the-history-we-know-thats-wrong/ My apologies if you have to copy and paste; I have yet to learn how to embed links. Anyway, after reading the article I thought, I want to read that book. Then I promptly forgot about it.

Upon arriving back home my daughter and son-in-law asked if I wanted my Father's Day gifts. Sure, why not? I said. I like gifts. And they handed me two bottles of tonic water, and a copy of Lerrhsen's Ty Cobb, A Terrible Beauty.

The tonic water I get: they knew that I liked it yet hadn't bought any in months and figured I wouldn't mind a bit. My question is: why would I have not bought it earlier that day? Why we were somehow, someway, on the same wavelength?

As to the book, to my knowledge I hadn't even told anyone that I'd read the article much less wanted the book. Somehow, then, they found the book and figured dad, being a baseball wonk and huge Tiger fan, would be interested in it.

I realize there are many quite plausible explanations for each of these instances, not the least of which is the happy accident scenario I just offered. I am also aware that there is a bit of a quality to them which doesn't quite register. Sublime, or ridiculous? Or merely overthought?

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Question thyself

Be proud of yourself. Be satisfied with yourself. Be happy with who you are. Be you, despite what other people think of you. I hear those vapid platitudes so much that I want to scream. I want to ask, I want to yell at the top of my lungs, 'But what if you're an asshole?'

It is shallow thought my friends. No one, and I mean no one, is justified in what they do only because of who they may think they are. The unexamined life, it is said, is not worth living. And it is not. If I must question myself, and I most certainly must, then why not must you question you?

Answer that question to my debit, and I might allow that your chosen lifestyle may be valid. Yet so long as you direct that question only at me, then I am playing fair to point out that you are merely selfish. And that is not fair to conservatives like me.

F Troop better than Game of Thones

The grim reality of the 2010s versus the goofball racism of the 1960s. I wonder which is worse?

I'm watching the old TV show F Troop this morning and imagining how terribly offensive it must be considered today in some quarters. With its jokes based, in this case, on Red Indians and Japanese culture I'm surprised it's on free TV let alone cable. From Karate with Love is this particular episode, if you care to look it up. F Troop has also parodied Germans, French Canadians, Mexicans, Russians and, shockingly, the US Army. Horrors.

Now let's compare this to the currently popular Game of Thrones, a gore fest in the name of realism, where also an actress has publicly complained that the amount of male nudity must equal the amount of female nudity. There is a double standard here which much be addressed, we are told. And we are not expected to be upset or concerned with such flippant attitudes about propriety anyway.

I don't know about you, but I think screwball comedy mocking almost everybody and anybody without regard to feelings superior to presumed high art made for prurient interests. Give me honest lampooning over gritty reality any day. Quite frankly, it's more honest with itself.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Is vivisection always right?

I remember reading an article years ago about South Korean scientists who had added gene material from another creature to a beagle puppy, causing it to glow red in ultraviolet light. The dog was named Ruppy as I recall, which was short for Ruby Puppy. Cute.

Cute in and of itself only, I should add. There has always been at least moderate debate in the scientific community about the value of animal experimentation, vivisection I believe it's called, and well there should be. Ruppy was part of a series of experiments designed to make dogs more like humans genetically in order to use them in researching human diseases. I am not sure what to make of this. I have no particular qualms about using animals to seek cures for human ills. Yet I have to question the point of a glowing dog, even in that context.

Perhaps it was inadvertent; I don't remember whether the team of researchers intended that effect, or I missed the reason. Maybe it was simply to see what kind of genetic alterations could be effected, as a step on the ladder towards more useful experiments. I can live with that second point; but if it was the first reason, I am not so sure I would agree.

As a moral rule, doing something just to do something, doing 'science' just to see what can be done, is not particularly defensible. That's not to say that such actions are necessarily wrong, only that they seem little more than a waste of time. Especially in areas where public money may be being spent, I would go so far as to say they may be in fact wasteful of the taxpayer's cash.

Not to mention the effects on the animals. Again, I don't mind animal experimentation for the legitimate pursuit of ending diseases. But I don't see where we have the right to experiment on them merely to play with their DNA. If there is no, or within reason expected to be no, real help for human or even animal lives, I cannot see where it is right to mess with any given animal simply to do so.

Perhaps I am speaking out of turn, as I am admittedly shooting from the lip. That said, we must remember that we are not God, even when it comes to our treatment of the lower creatures with whom we share this planet. We have no right, in this area as well as almost all others, to tinker merely to tinker.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

What facebook told me on this very day

Hey Pops,

I rolled out of bed at 1:30 this morning to go to the plant, as you had done for so many years and we had done together far too little. I ran through the shower and had a shave to wake myself fully, then thought I'd check my e-mail and facebook right quick before I left. In its 'On This Day' reminder feature it had me remember that three years ago today you had had your surgery. Dang it facebook, you can be a jerk sometimes.

Well by then I had to read my post asking for prayers, feeling sadder every second. Then of course I had to read the comments, well over 40 by the way, of friends promising prayers and comfort. And as I read those posts I actually began to feel better. I saw how many people were in your corner wanting the best for you, even a bunch who never met you. I saw too that there was a support system in place for old Marty. That same support system that got me through the difficult months which followed.

I logged off, and grabbed CDs by Tom T. Hall and Johnny Cash. I thought they'd make good listening today. Nothing like the Storyteller and the Man in Black when out on the highway, right? We sang a couple of their songs together as the dawn broke on route 68. Then I met Mark at the Cracker Barrel for breakfast and we told each other many of the tales you told us over the years. Coming back home I took a big order which I just happened to be able to fill with the stock I had picked up from the factory.

So it's ended up a pretty good day after all. I really can't wait for the next one.

Until then, see ya Pops.

PS: I think you better whisper something to Mom. She's on a fix it kick and carries a hammer everywhere she goes. And as they say, she's eyeing every problem like it's a nail.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Orlando murders

The murders at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando are not worse because the majority of the victims were gay. Murder is murder; there is nothing worse than wantonly taking innocent human lives. That's the bottom line. There is nothing further below that. Those who were murdered had the right to life as human beings, not as homosexuals. The matter cannot be made any worse. The situation had already hit its lowest possible point.

Hate no matter how lowbrow is not a crime. Motive can never be criminal; that's simply Orwellian, like it or not.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

I wish I had read more

Many people say this, and I don't doubt that most truly believe it. But the older I get the more I wish I would have read more. I read a lot now but, unless I'm on a short vacation as I am as I write, I don't seem to have enough time to read all I want.

My reading tends to be almost random. For example, since Thursday I've read The Football Hall of Shame (a book about less than stellar or impressive events in the game), and Till We Have Faces, an novel by C. S. Lewis (the second time I've read it, and I liked it better this time). I read The Murderer is a Fox, a decent yet not the most satisfying of the Ellery Queen mysteries, and am nearly finished with Joe, Rounding Third and Heading for Home, a biography of Joe Nuxhall. He was a longtime Cincinnati Red both on the field and in the booth for the team. Did you know he was the youngest player ever to appear in a Major League Baseball game? He was 15 years and 316 days old when he pitched 2/3 of an inning for the Reds against the Cardinals. He was okay until the great Stan Musial lined a single to right off him and rattled him so bad that he walked 5 batters after that. But hey, even in war depleted baseball, for someone just shy of 16 to record two outs at that level of play is not bad at all. And I read the newspapers each day, becaise the Internet is spotty up here in Hessel, Michigan.

So I guess my taste in books qualifies as eclectic. I like mysteries of the more traditional type such as Sherlock Holmes, Ellery Queen, and Lord Peter Wimsey. I can devour most anything about baseball, and I adore C. S. Lewis. His The Abolition of Man is perhaps the greatest nonfiction work ever, quite frankly. Be that as it may, I'll finish this post and go grab a Sunday paper and read some more. And when I come back up north in about 8 weeks, I'll bring several books and start all over again.

So, my advice to you is read, and to read in different subject areas. I find it quite rewarding anyway; you never know what my tickle your fancy.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Mulberry season 2016

Funny, isn’t it, how we sometimes identify people with certain times, places, or things.

In the alley behind our old family repair shop there is a row of mulberry bushes which have been there for years. My grandfather would, in the late spring or early summer when they were in season, always stop and treat himself to a few of the little fruits as he went to and from work.

Little? Well, mulberries are small compared to most fruits. In context, they’re like raspberries who have spent a lot of time in the gym; a scant few are a handful. They’re juicy and sweet, and Grandpa Joe liked them. I remember vividly his picking and popping them into his mouth as he made his way down the alley, as though he were a kid again.

Time passes, and so, sadly, did Grandpa Joe. Yet the mulberries still grew, and I couldn’t help over the years but develop a liking to them myself. As I hike to and from work nowadays I’ll stop and have a few. As it were, my daughter also came to know and like the mulberries too. Often we’ll take bowls and go fill them with the little purple black fruits, snacking as we pick, and my wife will make pies out of those which make it back home. I like the idea that three generations of a family have been able to enjoy those berries ripening on the same bushes.

Now, I’m not all that naive; I know that Joe Cosgriff was ornery and arbitrary, with a hair trigger temper. I know it from the tales my Dad and his siblings have told, and from the personal experience of having worked with him for a good 15 or 18 years. I know too that there was a part of him which was somehow kind and appreciative, and that there were moments when these came out despite, perhaps, himself. There were good times and trying ones, and lasting impressions. I find as I grow older that, in the end, it is the good times which matter more than the difficult, even if it seems there were more tough days than easy. I believe too that the smallest, almost innocuous, memories can also be the greatest insights into the honest character of someone.

What prompts me to write this? It’s June, and the mulberries are in. And I’m thinking about you, Joe.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Not what the doctor ordered

Dad's doctor, whom I'll call Dr. Smith simply to be generic even as it unlikely any of you would actually know the man, one day walked into the examination room where Pops waited for him, looking down. "Why so glum, Doc?" the old man asked.

"Oh, my wife and I had a little spat last night," He replied. "I arrived home from a long day at the office and she immediately went into a long diatribe on her day. She went on and on and I just stood there staring at her. Finally she asked, well, are you going to say anything?"

'In a minute, I replied," said Dr. Smith. "I first have to determine the important from the unimportant information." He looked at Dad and said, "Not a smart thing to say to your wife, Bill."

"I imagine not," Pops laughed.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Remember June 6

D-Day: June 6, 1944. Seventy-two years ago today began the largest amphibious landing of an armed force in world history. As Allied troops hit the beaches at Normandy in the wee hours of the morning, at points code named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword, the liberation of Europe was begun. The high point of the Greatest Generation was underway.

The Greatest Generation stands now at its wane. Its members are virtually all in their 80s now. The celebrations of their accomplishments are becoming fewer, smaller, and less intense. Even with improvements in medicine and diet, only a mere handful will still be around in fifteen or twenty years. Many if not most of their numbers are gone already.

It is no small compliment to call them the greatest. Has their been any other challenge successfully met by anyone else in any other time? True, we are dealing in immeasurables when we say such things. Yet it's still pretty clear that nothing anywhere close to the magnitude of World War II has occurred in all of human history. Might a greater threat and a greater harm possibly rise? Yes, of course. But to date this is it.

What can we learn from these people? We can learn perseverance, we can learn faith; we can learn to believe that, when a serious threat to home and hearth nears, humanity can rise to meet and defeat it. We can learn the humility which so many of the Greatest have displayed when speaking of their efforts in later years. We can learn that all of history teaches us to respect and remember what those who have gone before us have done for us. We can remember that our lives are here today only because of what they did with their lives, and against terrible odds under unspeakable conditions.

We can learn to respect heroism. We can learn to revere the heroes.

Never forget.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

It's sometimes okay to patronize

As I walked into my tire store (well, not *my* tire store, but the tire store I frequent) wearing my Chief Wahoo Cleveland Indians baseball cap, the guy behind the counter said, "Chief Wahoo, huh? Named after Wahoo Sam Crawford, the ballplayer from Wahoo, Nebraska."

"Really?" I replied. "Interesting. I just wear it because I like it." It was a nice icebreaker that morning as I went in for a tire. And there was only one thing wrong with it. Chief Wahoo is not named after Crawford. He is simply a logo for the Cleveland baseball team, and I knew that.

So, why not correct him? I would rather ask, why correct him? What purpose would that serve?

All right, in not correcting the guy I was patronizing him. Yet I don't see what's wrong with patronization in such a context. He was only making conversation, and I didn't see why I should stick a pin in that. When dealing with innocuous items like the exact nature of a baseball symbol, let him have his fun. There's just no harm done.

Sure, I would kindly correct a friend or family member. But that's a little different; a new angle has been added. Why would I want to allow friends and family to be put in a potentially embarrassing situation of being called out by a stranger on an unimportant point? This guy was only my tire guy. I conversely did not want to embarrass him, so I let it go without censure.

In short, I see no evil in patronizing someone if the circumstances, I will say, merit it. There's no reason to be a know it all, and no reason to burst bubbles, with small talk. Only just don't patronize me by saying you agree with this if you don't.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The bitterer the betterer

I have taken a great liking to IPAs, India Pale Ales, to the point that I begin to wonder whether they're better than stouts. Further, the more I try double IPAs the more I think those wonderfully bitter quaffs may be even better. The best ones are bitter. Noticeably, tongue bitingly bitter.

I also like black coffee. Heavy, deeply bitter black coffee. I similarly like dark chocolate. Dark brown, bitter chocolate. I sense you may know where I'm going with this: I wonder if at heart I'm a bitter guy.

Although I don't believe in it I would be interested to have myself psychoanalyzed just to see if there's something to that thought. In the mean time, pass me that dark chocolate IPA stout please. And make it snappy, lest I find another reason to be bitter.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Words, words, words

There are many things which no one seems to oppose. We're all for peace, correct? Education? The environment? Observing the Golden Rule, perhaps, if such references are not too religious? Yet so often these claims ring hollow. They must, you see: for peace and education are just words. By themselves, they really mean nothing.

It is critically important that we bring up and discuss the questions which must follow these words if our actions are to mean anything; indeed, if the words themselves are at some point to be of value, of good use. WE must ask: peace under what circumstances? Peace for whom? Because of course peace in the sense of a lack of war was very useful for Hitler yet was a rather poor mantra for Austria.

Simply put, the next time someone asks you if you are for peace, or education, or the environment, ask them relevant questions before you answer. Ask them, peace under what conditions? Education to what purpose and in what manner? The environment for whom and how? Before these issues are addressed we have nothing but a shallow and insipid pool of vacuous semi-thought. Yet afterwards, we may actually accomplish things.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Smoke filled rooms

Donald Trump is the GOP candidate for President despite what Republican Party regulars want. Democrats are faced with infighting because the party choice, Hillary Clinton, is locked in battle with socialist Bernie Sanders. What gets unnoticed is that none of this would matter if the parties chose their candidates without public input through primaries and media debates. I wish that were true, that there were no primaries, no caucuses. I want a return to the old system of smoke filled rooms.

Don't be bothered by the quaint idea that the electorate has the right to choose their preferred candidates. It doesn't. The voting public has the right to choose from among whomever the parties select, or from among whoever runs as a candidate on their own. But the voters do not have the right to tell the political parties who to nominate.

Political parties are essentially private entities. They should not be public toys. Such a situation only lends itself to mischief. The parties will have forced upon themselves the occasional extremist who ends up 'representing' the GOP or the Democrats the Party itself doesn't want. Or, as is more prevalent, crossover voters who are actually either a Democrat or Republican voting in the wrong primary (so to speak) trying to get a poor nominee for their true party's candidates to run against.

Further, it weakens the ideology of the parties and thus is less likely to give voters a real choice at the general elections. We would be better off to have purely Republican candidates facing wholly Democratic candidates in general elections as party bonds would be tighter. As it is, we get watered down political philosophy in lieu of real and decided choices, real differences between among those running for office. We would get political parties with real teeth, because candidates would have to tow party lines rather than simply be individuals who don't really need to prove loyal to the cause of the group they purport to represent.

Voters have the right to select from among the candidates offered in a general election. They do not have the right to tell private organizations who should represent them. We need the parties working out details in smoke filled rooms.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Stacking the deck

I spoke a few days ago about how Dad like to play poker. Well, once years ago when he and his brothers and friends played regularly he found himself on a hot streak which lasted several weeks or more. As most games were played at his house, Pops was teased a lot about marking the cards before the guys arrived for a game. So he decided one day to, I guess you'd say call their bluff.

He bought a brand new deck of cards to use for the next Saturday's game. He left it in the plastic wrapping until time for the first deal, which would be his. Dad was going to make a show of how that game would be fair by opening the cards in front of the guys.

So Saturday night came, everyone sat down, and Pops pulls out the new deck. You can all see for yourselves, fellahs, that this is a new set of playing cards which are obviously untouched, he says, or something similar. He gets a knife and cuts the clear plastic wrap, opens one end of the box, and triumphantly fans out the red-backed poker cards for all to see. Well, they were red, except the one blue-backed card (which happened to be an ace of spades) amidst all the others. Sure, Bill, you don't mark deck.

Even Dad got a belly laugh out of that. As poker players might say about such things, 'What are the odds?'