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Hey, Abbott!

Hannity-Costello-Montage2

December 21, 2014 • Posted in: Uncategorized • Comments Closed

Defining Moments

unctuous

November 15, 2014 • Posted in: Uncategorized • Comments Closed

Baseball’s Hall of Confusion

Baseball Hall of Fame

Who belongs, who doesn’t?

In a few years the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown will be a mess. Tarnished. Unfair. Disturbingly inconsistent.

There will of course be the core collection of baseball greats, enshrined before the drug scandal exploded. Not entirely angels, as they include spitballers, corked-bat hitters, spike sharpeners, and ball scuffers, whose slap-on-the-wrist punishments weren’t considered disqualifying by baseball writers. Several players from those eras do admit that amphetamines were widely available and used in the clubhouse.

Now, here’s where it gets crazy. Undoubtedly there will be inductees who never would have made it to the Hall without PEDs, but never got caught. Steroids weren’t banned in baseball until 1991, and God knows how long they were used before that. Testing for them didn’t commence until 2003. So there could be a significant number of drug-aided players who were either inducted into Cooperstown or who siphoned off votes they didn’t deserve.

But here’s the real shame. There will almost certainly be honest, drug-free players who may never get in because they were blocked out by players who took PEDs, and did. Or, as mentioned above, were denied precious votes that could have put them over the top.

It’s important to note that players always have a lengthy window of opportunity to use new performance-enhancing drugs before tests are developed for them, and before the league orders and implements the tests. Once the tests are in place, athletes can quickly ditch those drugs and go on to new ones, always staying one step ahead of the enforcers.

Finally, there will be players who could have walked into the Hall of Fame backwards if they had not taken PEDs, like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. But overwhelming evidence indicates they juiced up, and thus, for the foreseeable future, will be denied entry.

The sad part is, we will never really know for sure who in the PED era deserves to be in the Hall and who doesn’t. There will forever be confusion, arguments, accusations, and bitterness associated with this once venerable institution. And brace yourself for even more controversy as players retire and the inevitable tell-all books and articles come out implicating other revered Hall of Fame stars or candidates.

Yes, the Hall of Fame will be a mess. About as credible as a museum that exhibits fake paintings. But has the infiltration of PEDs detracted from the excitement of the game itself and the current pennant races? For me, not a bit. I even find myself perversely rooting for that scoundrel A-Rod to do well before he serves his sentence, especially if he can help power the Yankees to a playoff spot.

How quickly we are given to look the other way in the face of superior talent and performance. Baseball itself did that for decades.

September 14, 2013 • Posted in: Uncategorized • Comments Closed

Why We Need to Bomb Syria

gassed-syrian-children

Recently Gassed Syrian Children

In the ultra-connected world we live in today, isolationism is not an option. Turning our backs on atrocities can be devastating to our global interests and thus our domestic. Yet we and the rest of the world quail and bicker and dither as a ruthless dictator sets a new standard of military horror, the mass gassing of innocent people. Have we forgotten our Holocaust pledge, never again?

In a week or more, Congress, in all likelihood, will effectively approve the use of chemical weapons worldwide by refusing to authorize a limited military strike, an unequivocal statement that we condemn such unthinkable acts. Regimes that might have held back for fear of retaliation will now be emboldened to gas their enemies, and their own, with impunity. The value of human life will plummet dramatically. Reports of chemical and biological massacres will eventually evoke no more interest, and become just as routine, as suicide bombings.

Not surprising for a country, and a Congress, that is systematically devaluing its own citizens. I can envision a day when a rebellion of the increasingly impoverished, disenfranchised, poorly educated, starving, and deemed worthless masses of Americans might be put down using our own remaining stockpile of chemical weapons. To save the plutocracy. Don’t for a second think it isn’t possible.

September 9, 2013 • Posted in: Uncategorized • Comments Closed

When Bullying Turns Criminal

bart-palosz.jpg

Bart Palosz and his older sister.

In Greenwich, CT last week a 15-year-old high school sophomore took his life with a shotgun after his first day of school, apparently in abject despair after years of vicious bullying and tormenting by fellow students with little or no intervention or help from anyone.

You’d like to think the bullies, especially those who on three occasions actually egged the boy on to kill himself, will feel horribly guilty and remorseful for driving a classmate to commit suicide.

They won’t. They and their parents, usually the source of their hate, will somehow justify it, as all humans do in order to live with themselves — protecting their own butts, spreading the blame or pinning it on someone else, even the poor victim himself, and be done with it. This, make no mistake, was a homicide. The tormentors should be criminally prosecuted.

The high school will blame the middle school, the middle school will blame the elementary school, and the elementary school will say “but that was years ago.”

Greenwich High School officials will decline comment “pending an investigation,” shrink from the press and culpability, and no one will say boo about who’s responsible for fear of being dragged into court by lawyers who are no doubt already salivating at how much they can rake in on this one.

Interesting how the crisis and support groups spring to life after the tragedy, not to support victims, but to help the bullies and all the silent onlookers and the enablers to “cope” with this. They shouldn’t be coping. They should be experiencing the raw horror of it.

This is the age we live in. People will grieve, feel genuine sympathy for the family, and move on. In a week it will be forgotten and we will deceive ourselves into thinking someone else, the imaginary “they,” will be doing something about it.

Rest in peace, Bart Palosz.


September 2, 2013 • Posted in: Uncategorized • Comments Closed

Accepting the Absurd

The recent mass shooting in Aurora underscores the absurdities we countenance in our society when we allow industries to buy off our politicians, write our laws, and bankroll lobbying campaigns to get them passed. All to “legitimize” the sale of products that annihilate us.

Making it easy for criminals and deranged individuals to acquire assault weapons that fire 100-round clips is lunacy. Yet there are lawmakers who would walk over dead bodies to protect a gun-crazed perpetrator’s “basic freedom” as Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin characterized it. Where does it stop? Nukes? Life, liberty and pursuit of nukes? We condemn Iran’s possession of weapons-grade plutonium. Would we defend the right of our citizens to own it?

But the lives lost in Aurora and all the other murderous rampages in recent times, tragic though they are, pale alongside the wholesale destruction of human life wreaked by other industries that rely on government complicity to thrive.

Take tobacco’s decades-long campaign to not only glamorize deadly cigarette smoking, but insidiously suggest it’s healthy. This mother of all preposterous TV ads, titled “More Doctors Smoke Camels”, is the perfect example of how companies try to gull us into consuming the agents of our demise:

The lung cancer deaths that mushroomed because commercials like these were allowed to proliferate until 1971 was tantamount to government sanctioned genocide. Somehow we found our sanity, overcame daunting forces of money and political power, however long it took, and stopped them.

People still smoke. They can still buy cigarettes. But since 1970 the percentage of Americans 18 to 65 who smoke has declined by almost fifty percent. No surprise, lung cancer deaths have dropped dramatically, too. Smoking is no longer the cool, fashionable fixture of life it used to be. Indeed, most people view it as a dirty, unhealthy habit and are all too happy to boot its practitioners outdoors to bask in their own noxious fumes.

If we accomplished this against big tobacco, we can certainly demand that reasonable restrictions be applied to weapons of mass murder. Wouldn’t you think?

July 27, 2012 • Posted in: Uncategorized • Comments Closed

Oh, the Hypocrisy of Us All

You and I, everyone, are hypocrites. All of us, in our lives, righteously disapprove of certain forms of behavior while wittingly or unwittingly partaking in them ourselves. We are imperfect beings, our words and actions sometimes at odds with the values we purport to live by.

Give you some examples. If you invest in mutual funds it is very likely you are a partial owner of, and thus stand to profit from, companies whose practices you might abhor: tobacco firms, predatory banks, industrial polluters, safety-violating employers, corporate swindlers. (Good idea to read prospectuses.) When you denounce a politician of an opposing party for extra-marital indiscretions, but ignore or underplay those your guy commits, you are a hypocrite. On the left, you have people calling for open national borders while safely ensconced in their gated communities. On the right, protesters railing against “socialism” while pocketing Social Security, unemployment and corporate welfare checks.

Hypocrites, and their hypocrisies, confront us at every turn. Overweight health practitioners who preach prudent eating habits. Smokers who light up while admonishing their children, “don’t you ever do this.” The Catholic Church decrying the mandate that its hospitals and universities provide health coverage for contraceptives, while the 98% of Catholics who have used them have scarcely heard a peep of remonstrance from the pulpit for decades. (There are far graver things that should be weighing on their conscience than family planning.)

Yes, we are all hypocrites. The difference is, to what degree? How hypocritical must one be before incurring the wrath and rejection of others? The short answer is: the extent to which countenancing or even defending another’s hypocrisy casts the spotlight on our own.

Herman Cain

"Blame yourself"

When former presidential candidate Herman Cain, a self-proclaimed pillar of family values, was accused by several women of groping and propositioning them, his poll numbers and campaign donations initially surged. This benefit-of-the-doubt bounce may have been less a belief in his innocence (his fuzzy explanations didn’t help) than a show of righteous indignation to cover the embarrassment of having fawned over an alleged serial womanizer and prevaricator—hypocrisy indeed. And for a while it worked, until a reasonably credible woman went public with the claim she had a 13-year affair with Cain, salted with infusions of financial support. Few wanted to back that pony. Cain plummeted in the polls and dropped out.

The takeaway from all this: political advantage trumps moral rectitude. To a point. The hypocritical tipping point.

The biggest enablers of hypocrisy, that is, the seductions that can cause us to ditch our values in a heartbeat, are sex, money, power, pride, and protection of the family reputation (as in parents who espouse strong school discipline going ballistic on the principal who dares to upbraid their own “misunderstood” child).

And that brings up an important insight into the nature of hypocrisy that ensures its long and healthy existence: the belief that our case, and our case alone, is the exception—a necessary and temporary aberration, the justifiable means to a worthier end. Self-endowed hypocritical privilege it may be called. And no subset of society is more likely to claim it, and claim it as frequently, as the politician.

So, as the 2012 races become ever more intense, the trick is to sort through the deluge of hypocrisies spewing forth from each camp and try to find the real candidate lurking beneath. Still, you can never be certain the advocate you voted for will show up if elected. One way to gauge future behavior is to analyze past behavior, for while people might ostensibly change their viewpoints, they rarely change themselves. Wafflers will continue to waffle, diehards will remain diehards, cavers will cave, compromisers will compromise.

Nor can candidates change what they’ve already done. They may try to disavow it with the feeble argument, “that was then, this is now,” but in most cases you can be pretty sure that what you saw is what you’ll get.

Thus, if you can look past the unprecedented hypocrisy, and hype, of this election cycle, and make a brutally honest assessment of how you think each candidate will perform if elected, you’ll have a much better chance of casting your vote here it counts the most for you.

June 2, 2012 • Posted in: Uncategorized • Comments Closed

Justify or Die: How O.J. Simpson Lives with Himself

O.J. Simpson Trying on Gloves

If the glove doesn't fit...

Humans are possibly the only animals on the planet who have to live with themselves. That is, deal with guilt, shame, embarrassment, and self-loathing for their unsavory actions. You don’t see dogs writhing in mortification after passing gas in the living room. You don’t see tigers agonizing remorsefully after mauling their trainers. Rather, they seem insouciant, guiltless, on to the next thing as if nothing happened.

We, however, aren’t so devoid of conscience. Things tend to bug the hell out of us. (Case in point, Dostoyevsky’s Raskolnikov, who didn’t think murdering an old lady would get under his skin. Wrong.) So we devise mechanisms to cope with the awful stuff we do, or fail to do, or countenance. In fact, evolution has endowed us with an arsenal of tricks for brushing off the misdeeds of ourselves and others.

One is simply to ignore them. Like not caring to know how our meat gets to our plate. (Read the book Eating Animals about the atrocities of factory farming.) It’s like the adage: you can wake up a person who’s sleeping, but you can’t wake up someone who’s pretending to sleep.

Another ethical avoidance tactic is to shift blame. (“She was dressed provocatively. She was asking for it.”) Then there’s “Everybodyism.” Everybodyism is the belief that if pretty much everybody is doing something, it must be okay. This false notion of acceptability spreads responsibility around so thinly, it leads us to condone some god-awful things in the world. Example: basically good people who work for bad companies that polute, make unsafe products or cheat people. (More about Everybodyism in a future post.)

Another convenient dodge is to invoke the passive voice: “Mistakes were made.” Or, “Could things have been done differently? Yes.” The passive voice has taken the rap for many a political crook and incompetent official.

Sometimes we shift the guilt to inanimate objects: “The gun discharged.” The fact that your finger was on the trigger is only coincidental. Jean Harris, convicted killer of Scarsdale Diet author Dr. Herman Tarnower, tried that one. Sorry, Jean.

But the mother of all ways to live with our transgressions is simply to justify them. Humans have an extraordinary capacity to justify just about anything. It’s how top executives at major corporations award themselves tens of millions of dollars in salaries and bonuses while workers are laid off and their companies drown in red ink. (“I put my heart and soul into this place. Sniff. I deserve every penny.”) It’s how we bomb the crap out of other countries, civilian casualties notwithstanding, in the name of national security, when it’s really the oil we’re after.

Justifications allow us to nudge aside nagging guilt and plow on, else we’d all be curled up under rocks, inconsolable wrecks. No deed seems too horrible to be minimalized a by a little creative rationalization. Which may explain how people like O.J. Simpson live with themselves. He must really have to reach to come up with a self-accepting rationale. But evidently he does. (Man, you know, hey, I just kind of snapped. It wasn’t me that night, it was some kind of devil got hold of me.)

Not unlike the tiger who takes a claw to his handler.

April 26, 2011 • Posted in: Uncategorized • Comments Closed

Where’s a Crotchety Old Librarian When You Need One?

Disapproving Librarian

No one dares to speak in her library.

Libraries are places to read. Work. Do research. And keep your mouth shut. Or, if you’re compelled to open it, speak in a whisper. That’s what I was taught. And got a sharp rebuke if I didn’t abide by it.

Today, entitled mothers and their entitled children evidently aren’t subject to such strictures. For them, libraries (and I’m not talking about separate children’s sections) are yet another public playspace to run, shout, shriek, whine, and otherwise terrorize shared reading areas. 

As one who escapes to such ostensibly quiet venues to write, I’m flabbergasted how loudly many parents, kids and even some librarians talk, laugh and carry on extended conversations, oblivious to people trying to concentrate on their work or reading materials. (Maybe I didn’t get the memo that declared the library will no longer be a sanctuary of respectful silence.) 

Lest I sound like a curmudgeon, let me assure you, I am not alone in shaking my head and rolling my eyes in disbelief. The boisterous behavior of a few can disrupt the peace and focus of entire rooms of library patrons. Largely, it’s the parents who deserve the blame. There is often zero awareness that the ruckus their offspring are creating might actually be disturbing to others. No appeals to “talk in our library voices”. No speaking sotto voce to set an example. No attempt to turn an unruly outburst into a teachable moment. (“See those nice people reading over there? Keep it up and they’re going to boot your obnoxious little butt out of here.”) I can only believe a generation of spoiled kids has grown up and is now passing the torch of inconsiderateness on to the next. 

Keeping the peace in a library shouldn’t require an armored division. One cantankerous old-school librarian who’s a stickler for rules is all it would take. Yet this apparently is not in the cards according to a pleasant but permissive young librarian I spoke with. “Today, we try to be service oriented and not offend anyone. You never know if the person is a library donor.” Hey, what about me? I’m a library donor. I don’t like being offended either. 

While we don’t need more dictators in the world, we do need more dictatorial librarians. Those who don’t quail before self-absorbed moms who believe their children are beyond reproach. Those who don’t fear a lawsuit for simply admonishing another’s child. Those who assert their authority to maintain order. And those who at least make an attempt to instruct parents that a library is a bastion of quietude and should not be treated as yet another annex of Disney World.

February 14, 2011 • Posted in: Uncategorized • Comments Closed

Is it true blondes have more anchor jobs?

Megyn Kelly of Fox News

Megyn Kelly of Fox News

Seems like it. If you do a cursory scan of FOX (no pun intended) News, CNN and MSNBC, you might notice a lot of flaxen heads staring back at you. Blonde female anchors, analysts and reporters appear to be proliferating. And, far as I can tell, no one’s complaining. Certainly not me. These are intellgent, articulate and confident women. Who also happen to be beautiful. How does the deck get so stacked in one person’s favor? Do they also run the hundred in under twelve seconds? (All genes are not created equal.)

Probably the goddess of all womanly reportage is FOX anchor Megyn Kelly. She’s every guy’s dream college girlfriend: so wholesomely stunning, at times she can take your breath away quicker than a breaking news story. Male counterparts must rue her rapturous appeal. (I can just see Chris Wallace pursing his lips in disdain.) But mesmerized as I am by her looks, her smile, her batting and flirtatious lashes, I don’t find myself tuning in just to see her. Or any of her towheaded colleagues. I only catch snippets of them when channel jumping to get different idealogical takes on news stories.

But obviously some viewers are more smitten than I, else why would news producers be weighting their staff with platinum members of the distaff? (Even though, if you get to the root of the matter, the color of their tresses is sometimes not their God-given one.).

The question is, are they the best people for the job they perform? Or merely the best attractive people? That may be answered when age fades their luster and the lines of maturity set in. Which ones will hang on to become the seasoned and respected Andrea Mitchell, Candy Crowley or Katie Couric of tomorrow? I think the fair-haired Dana Bash of CNN, a damn good reporter, has a decent shot.

Meantime, we’ll just have to settle for taking our news in goggle-eyed admiration of the messenger.

February 10, 2011 • Posted in: Uncategorized • Comments Closed