Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Trivial Pursuits: Baseball, Playboy, Politics

I was scheduled to be spending Tuesday night contemplating a royal flush in diamonds, or maybe spades, as part of a monthly poker game. Instead, I will be looking at a diamond flush with Royals of the Kansas City variety. 

I’m a Yankees fan, so I really have no vested interest in the outcome of the World Series which began Tuesday night in Kansas City between the aforementioned Royals and the NY Mets, except that I harbor three eternal memories involving the Royals and Yankees—Chris Chambliss breaking the Royals’ hearts in 1976 by smacking a bottom-of-the-ninth-pennant-winning home run to launch the Yanks into their first World Series in 12 years. Chambliss’ attempt to run around the bases, barreling over jubilant fans, added humor to the excitement (http://m.mlb.com/video/v2685726); 

KC’s George Brett going ballistic after his home run in the old Yankee Stadium in 1983 was invalidated and he was declared out because there was too much pine tar on his bat, a ruling subsequently reversed (https://youtu.be/PrTYdlaqtxE); 

and Willie Randolph being thrown out at home plate by Brett during the 1980 American League Championship Series. Randolph was waved home by third base coach Mike Ferraro. Owner George Steinbrenner wanted to fire Ferraro, but manager Dick Howser refused, leading to his own firing or retirement (depending on your point of view) and his subsequent hiring by the Royals, the team he led five years later to its only World Series title (https://youtu.be/3uRX9Jwqx-I).

Well, enough of Yankee history. This is, after all, a time to celebrate that other New York baseball team, not the one that has won 27 championships to just two for the Mets. I haven’t followed who the oddsmakers have labeled the favorite, but it would be hard to bet against the Mets given their starting pitchers and closer. The four Mets starters are as dominant as the bunch the Atlanta Braves trotted out during the 1990s and early 2000s and the Baltimore Orioles fronted in 1971 when they had four starters win at least 20 games. But keep in mind, The O’s lost the Series that year, and Atlanta won just one championship despite making the playoffs 13 out of 14 years and being in the World Series five times. 

If you detect a slight edge to my analysis it’s because I’m bummed out that the Mets have pre-empted poker. I even volunteered to host as a TV is next to my game table. But nooooo, my Series-starved Mets-fans compatriots are too hepped up to play and watch at the same time. 

Okay, I get it. But I do hope they care more for the future of our country. I hope they place politics above baseball and tune into the Republican Party presidential debate Wednesday night. Is that asking too much?

Barber Shop Blue: When I turned 40 Gilda threw me a surprise birthday party. Among the presents I received that night were a few copies of Playboy. During the party I went upstairs and saw 10-year-old Dan’s bedroom door closed. Curious, I opened it to find him and two friends poring over the Playboys. I discreetly closed the door before rejoining the adults downstairs.

My first exposure to Playboy was at Paul’s Barber Shop on Avenue X between East 21st and 22nd Streets in Brooklyn, a short 5-7 minute walk from our home on Avenue W. Paul’s was an old-fashioned barber shop back in the 1950s and 1960s. During my single digit years I was content to read the comic books supplied (mostly Superman and Archie) and finish off my haircuts with a free wad of Bazooka Joe Bubble Gum. 

But in my teenage years, with Frank joining the barbering staff and doing razor cuts to control my naturally curly hair, Playboys started showing up on the magazine tables. I don’t think I have to tell you, I did not read Playboy for the articles. 

Really? Here’s what ticks me off about Conservative Republicans—a friend of mine emailed photos of George W. Bush interacting with injured servicemen during his presidency with the following caption: “Have you seen any photos like these in the last 6 years? Me neither.” 

“Surely you jest,” I responded. “Please don’t tell me you are extolling the man who put our brave soldiers in harm’s way under false pretenses, the man who is responsible for more American military deaths than any president since Richard Nixon, the man who is responsible for two wars that have mired us in trillions of dollars of debt? 

“Please don’t tell me you applaud him. And please don’t believe that Obama has not interfaced with our troops. And let’s not forget that Obama has comforted too many of our fellow citizens bereft by mass killers that the NRA and its acolytes, including your friend George, refuse to stand up to.” 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Hillary Time, A Correction and More Debate Thoughts

It’s almost time Tuesday night for the beginning of two weeks worth of Hillary Time. Here’s what I’d like to see from Hillary Rodham Clinton during the first Democratic Party presidential debate and as the key witness in the interminable Select House Benghazi Investigation committee hearing next week.

During the debate, Hillary—by the way, I am as guilty as other sexist commentators who refer to her by first name instead of her surname as opposed to using her family name as is usually done for male candidates, except, of course, when referring to The Donald—anyway, Hillary needs to be assertive and engaging. She needs to clarify her differences with Bernie Sanders without antagonizing his supporters. She must explain how she would accomplish more than Barack Obama did when working (or should I say trying to work) with a Republican controlled Senate and House. 

I have nothing against Sanders except the belief that he is unelectable (as are the three other announced candidates: Lincoln Chafee, Martin O’Malley and Jim Webb—you’ll notice I did not provide any description of their past titles. If you don’t know what offices they held you can understand why I am skeptical about their chances. I’m not going to spend the time mulling over Joe Biden’s entry/non entry into the race. Back to Bernie—can you imagine what the Republicans would do with his self-confessed claim of being a Democratic Socialist? No amount of explaining the concept would mitigate the extreme slurs that would be imprinted on the electorate’s psyche. Shades of Willie Horton, for those old enough to know the reference.). 

That said, here are some questions I hope to see asked and answered during the debate: 

*Given the very real prospect that both houses of Congress will be controlled by Republicans in 2017-18, what specifically do you feel you can accomplish legislatively?

*How would you balance income inequality given the GOP congress?

*Will you run on the Obama record?

*What changes, if any, would you like to see in the Affordable Care Act?

*What specific piece of enacted legislation are you most proud of having been the primary sponsor?

*Specifically asked of Hillary—Given polling data, how will you build trust with the American people?

*Many of the questions I posed after the second Republican debate would be applicable, so here’s a link to that post: http://nosocksneededanymore.blogspot.com/2015/09/questions-for-next-debate.html

Time to Testify: Next week Hillary cannot allow the select committee to manhandle her. She must not equivocate and must not allow committee members to interrupt her testimony. 

Recent news events have made it obvious the committee is political hackery to the extreme. Hillary should take a page from history and vigorously defend herself the same way Joseph Welch, chief counsel for the U.S. Army, rebutted Senator Joseph McCarthy’s assault on the integrity of the Army and the suspicion it, and his law office, had been infiltrated by Communists.

“Have you no sense of decency,” Welch’s acerbic rebuke of McCarthy, entered the lexicon of American politics. 

If the committee hearing devolves into a one-sided inquisition, Hillary should sternly state her unwillingness to participate any further and walk out, even if the committee threatens to hold her in contempt.  

How ironic that the congressman who exposed the political intent of the select committee, to undermine Hillary’s candidacy, shares the Wisconsin senator’s last name—McCarthy!

Correction Time: I was tripped up in my religious reporting. Pope Francis gave Kim Davis a rosary, not simply a crucifix. A rosary encompasses a cross which dangles at the end of beads.

More Debate Thoughts: And now more words about The Great Debate—was Chase Utley guilty of an illegal slide that broke the leg of NY Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada? 

First, a confession: I’m a NY Yankees fan. I don’t like the Mets. My bias notwithstanding, I believe Utley played old fashioned hardball, the type played by Pete Rose, Frank Robinson, Ty Cobb, Jackie Robinson. 

They played to win, not injure. It’s unfortunate Tejada sustained a season-ending injury. Let’s keep the play in perspective. The most often printed baseball picture for many years was a shortstop or second baseman leaping to avoid a baserunner’s slide meant to plant him in the left field bleachers if a double play relay throw could be averted. 

Utley did his job. Major League Baseball should let the players police themselves. Utley plays second base. He will have to watch out every time he cover the base, especially when it’s a Met barreling down on him. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

My Tom Hanks Moment and Other Odds and Ends

Did you see the article or hear about Tom Hanks finding in Central Park the lost student ID card of a Fordham University undergraduate and then tweeting his discovery, “Lauren! I found your Student ID in the park. If you still need it my office will get to you. Hanx.”? 

Though we live during a social network age largely populated by the young, believe it or not Lauren did not have a Twitter account. She was thus oblivious to her star-savior until one of her professors sent her a link to Twitter. Now she’s into her 15-minutes of fame and has appeared on television.

I bring this to your attention because of my own quest to return a picture of a comely looking college student I found as I walked across the quadrangle of Brooklyn College one day in the fall of 1969. She appeared attractive enough to ask out (this transpired just weeks before my Gilda Days began, so please don’t think I was two-timing my future wife). 

Back then not everyone could marshall the resources required to find the pictured coed, whose name was either Judy or Linda—both monikers were written on the back of the photo. I, however, was editor-in-chief of Calling Card, the newspaper of the House Plan Association. I had the means and the moxie to print the head shot on the front page of our next issue under the headline “Lost & Found.” 

Sure enough, my scheme produced the intended result. Judy-Linda showed up a few days later at the Calling Card office. Alas, I didn’t ask her out. Her picture did her more than justice. 

No word on what she thought of how I looked.

Time to catch up on some recent newsworthy events:

Our long (two years, a looooong time for Yankee fans!) national nightmare is over. We are back in the baseball playoffs. Well, by the time I got around to actually posting this brief, our time in the playoffs was mercilessly brief. We succumbed 3-zip to the Houston Astros. 

Our beloved Bronx Bombers were flawed in more ways than I care to recount. But we still won more games than 11 other teams in the American League and 10 in the National League and that is good enough for me. Twenty of those other teams failed to make the playoffs.

Did anyone else see a similarity between the head of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, when she testified before Congress recently and Claire Underwood, the wife of the fictitious Frank Underwood of House of Cards? Tall, with short blonde hair and a self assurance that refuses to fade when confronted by men of intolerance and ignorance.

As the saying goes, it is hard to put the cat back into the bag once it is out.

It doesn’t matter who arranged the meeting between Pope Francis and Kim Davis, the rogue Kentucky county clerk who has denied marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Plenty of ill-informed people will believe the pontiff endorsed Davis. Like corrections buried deep inside a newspaper, the story line too many people will remember is the pope greeting Davis and giving her a crucifix, not that he was duped into meeting her by his representative in Washington. 

The lesson we can all take away from this affair is that even the Vatican is not off limits to political machinations (of course we knew that already but this was a very public display of a subjective agenda meant to undermine and embarrass a popular pope while advancing rigid church dogma not sufficiently supported in public by the leader of the Catholic faith).  

Let ’em Go: Government officials have admitted it is hard to stop American zealots from traveling to ISIS-controlled regions to join the Islamic terrorists. I say, “Let ’em Go.”

But with a caveat—revoke their American citizenship so they can’t return easily to the United States, or, at the very least, incarcerate them if they show up on our shores. 

Let them go to get killed in the desert. If they find living in this country so terrible, let them discover what life in the caliphate will truly mean. Let them go inflict mayhem on other Muslims if they can, not as some sleeper terrorist on unsuspecting Americans inside the U.S. I am not anti-Muslim. It’s just that it is time for the vast majority of Muslims to stand up for their religion and exterminate the cancer from within. Outsiders cannot do it without fomenting anti-Western civilization hatred.