Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In Your Eye America: GOP has Great Expectorations for YOU

Writing through his character, Pip, in Great Expectations, Charles Dickens, who knew a thing or three about what can go wrong for the lowfolk in a democracy, wrote the following:

Mrs. Joe was a very clean housekeeper, but she had an exquisite art of making her cleanliness more uncomfortable and unacceptable than dirt itself. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, and some people do the same by their religion.

I cannot keep that pristine passage in my mind without conjuring up the image of our U.S. Congressfolks awkwardly trying to sweep all of our fiscal problems (that they have created) under the proverbial rug while the voter's are off-stage singing in a drowsy chorus:

Mrs. Joe, the poor old shrew,
she just got her just due.
Hangin' chads by fall begone,
and lo you 'warmints' all will too.


Later, upon further delving into Dickens' masterpiece, I came across the following palaver between Pip and his would be paramour, Estella, concerning the merits of a certain Speaker of the House and his ancestry:

"Well," said she.
"You know he is as ungainly within, as without. A deficient, ill-tempered, lowering, stupid fellow."
"Well," said she.
"You know he has nothing to recommend him but money, and a ridiculous roll of addle-headed predecessors; now don't you?"
"Well," said she again; and each time she said it, she opened her lovely eyes the wider.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Personal Foul: 15 yrs and Loss of Down

Moving the Chains--At Last--Somebody threw a Flag...

These campus sex crimes are not generally abhorred--that is, until some slippery eel is finally netted and served up like a gutted fish with the scales of justice shining brightly upon the prize catch and the reluctant game wardens. A remedial course in Ethics ought to be a prerequisite for all new hires.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Eurogenius Zone: It's Not Greek To US

When the Eurozone was formed it didn't give itself the necessary tools to deal with the current crisis. The very foundation of its financial and political structure is therefore unsound. This fact is recognized by all of the suffering parties involved. It will be impossible to quickfix the problem without divine intervention, which has been in even shorter supply in Europe than known Greek taxpayers. The U.S. has a lot more options for regulating its fiscal policy, and with more than 50 state and territorial governments to answer to, it would probably welcome even more options. The Eurozone members must borrow from Peter to pay Paul, while the Americans who have raised Capitalism into an art form, merely borrow from themselves to maybe or maybe not pay themselves back when and if they ever get around to it. The 1st rule of Capitalism is: Thou shalt give thyself the edge.

It's not for nothing that Benjamin Franklin was a printer and has his picture on the C-note.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Western Civilization Has Gone From Plato to Playdough

Laurence Berns has scribed a work that every American ought to read with care, but probably won't. He didn't write it yesterday, but what he has written stands tall. Our Political Situation: Good Government, Self-government, and American Democracy is a primer for citizens to understand how our system of government was designed to work and what the responsibilities are of 'we the people' and those representatives that we, in our wisdom, choose to elect to govern us.

In the work, which reinforms us of what the founding fathers had intended, one can find such as the following where Berns paraphrases Plato from his Laws:

"...generally, there is need for a special discipline for learning how to counter the manifold ways our other desires have for frustrating the desire for truth."

As we now watch the ruling parties forego the will of the people and act solely in their unenlightened self-interest we come to understand that our 'great experiment' is taking a course far from what was originally intended. We the passengers on this wavering 'ship of state' are getting sick of this passage and the demonstrations currently taking place throughout the nation are but the symptoms of this malaise. From what quarter shall come the medicine that will either cure or kill us?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Invasive Treatment Needed NOW!

About that job shortage.

Clearly what we have are many huge structural problems that will require world-class problem-solvers, risk-takers, and strong, intelligent, bi-partisan leaders to solve.

The public lacks confidence that such leadership is forthcoming on the political horizon from  anywhere, anytime soon.

Here are just a few of the structural problems that come readily to my mind, although I rarely hear them being discussed anywhere:

1. Technological advances and changes in the past fifty years have automated the production of goods and services, thereby eliminating millions of jobs worldwide.

2. Since WWII, women have graduated from high schools and colleges in great numbers and entered this already destabilized workforce throughout the entire industrialized world. As the divorce rate has steadily climbed with the newly found financial and sexual independence of this major group of  workers, further pressure has been placed on the economy, families, schools, healthcare, law enforcement, and society as a whole. Much can be done to rectify this situation.

3. The globalization of manufacturing, and multi-national corporations  has increased the ability of non-social, non-governmental entities to relocate overseas, outsource jobs, and gather tremendous political and economic leverage over the sovereign nations in which they were created, and in the nations where they are permitted to operate. This has effects at statewide levels and localities, as well as internationally. These same entities cannot effectively compete, however, with those nations that partner with their own corporate entities in order to stimulate their internal growth and prosperity. There is no level playing-field for American businesses around the world. The persistent trade deficit is but one example of this. Our falling world rankings in health, education, and welfare are other examples.

4. The bargaining power of both private and public labor unions that were created to protect the rights of workers, and had formerly worked in partnership with government and business to train new workers through apprenticeship programs, schools, etc., has been severely weakened by laws and regulations that have prevented labor unions from doing that for which they were created: strengthening our workforce.

5. The democratic system of government cannot work without an informed, interested, and educated electorate. The participation of the American people in elections has been pitiable; the education of the American people has been pitiable. Despite this, education budgets are attacked by the majority of Americans. Much needs to be done to teach the values and the responsibilities of citizens living in a democracy.

6. The partisanship which is rampant in Congress is not a recent phenomenon, it has been a festering sore since the Republicans unanimously voted to impeach President W.J. Clinton. This sore has now reached cancerous proportions. Nothing can be accomplished without the willingness of all parties to cooperate.

Finally, other structural problems exist—large ones—which have been discussed to death by both politicians and pundits, but not dealt with by anyone. Some of these are our dependence on foreign oil and the lack of a comprehensive energy policy; environmental issues concerning global warming caused by industrial pollution of the atmosphere; our housing and foreclosure crises; our too big to fail financial institutions; our crumbling infrastructure; the runaway cost of a broken healthcare delivery system and healthcare insurance system which is paid for by the people who use the least; the ability of credit card issuers to charge what were once called usurious interest rates to good customers in order to cover their losses from the defaulting on loans they authorized to their bad customers.

The time to get serious about dealing with our problems has come upon us with a vengeance. I remain cautiously pessimistic that life as we know it will go on.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

...The More They Stay the Same

James Wilson, an original Supreme Court justice and one of the chief draftsmen of the U.S. Constitution had this to say about the pros and cons of democracy...

"The advantages of democracy are, liberty, equality, cautious and salutary laws, public spirit, frugality, peace, opportunities of exciting and producing abilities of the best citizens. Its disadvantages are, dissensions, the delay and disclosure of public counsels, the imbecility of public measures, retarded by the necessity of a numerous consent."

Winston Churchill famously said, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others."

Friday, August 5, 2011

The More Things Change...

One of my favorite writers, Paul Theroux, who like myself is only here, it often seems, as an observer, chose the following extract from a novel by Henry James to introduce his 1976 novel about declining and failing societies and civilizations, "The Family Arsenal". One needn't read between James' lines to see the similarities between now and then and way back when...the lines speak volumes for themselves.

"I determined to see it"--she was speaking still of English society--"to learn for myself what it really is before we blow it up. I've been here now a year and a half and, as I tell you, I feel I've seen. It's the old regime again, the rottenness and extravagance, bristling with every iniquity and every abuse, over which the French Revolution passed like a whirlwind; or perhaps even more a reproduction of the Roman world in its decadence, gouty, apoplectic, depraved, gorged and clogged with wealth and spoils, selfishness and scepticism, and waiting for the onset of the barbarians. You and I are the barbarians, you know."
                                       --HENRY JAMES, The Princess Casamassima

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Just Do It!

"A house divided against itself cannot stand," are not worrisome words to this Kamikaze Kongress; they would rather go flaming down in defeat next year than rankle the feathers of those Tea Party hate-mongers who locked and loaded themselves to send up these debt-defying clowns in November, 2010. The prime mission of this 'patriotic' fighter group is to remove any trace of Obama from the American DNA.
The folks who showed up to vote in 2008: the hopeful, the young, the tired, the poor, had better drag their sorry keysters to the polls next year, because so help them, this motley crew of lame-blame Representatives inspires only pity.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Conscience of a Conservative by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare might as well have been writing about Obama vs. the Republican stonewallers when he penned the following:

What stronger breastplate than a heart untainted!
Thrice is he armed that hath his quarrel just;
And he but naked locked up in steel,
Whose conscience with injustice is corrupted.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Death's Got Game

Proud missiles soar on wings of cheer
To claim the peace once claimed was dear

Seeds are sown that soon shall reap
Such grim that lurks so low, so deep

Earth's blood floods so black, so thick
Man's blood runs so red, so slick

Fortune's wheel starts and spins so
What chance death forever wins?

Monday, May 16, 2011

M. de Lesdiguières, the Roturier and The Robe

In the chapter entitled, fortuitously, "The Robe", Rafael Sabatini in his novel, Scaramouche, describes in detail the difficulty and the hazard befalling a person of lowly rank finding it necessary to appeal for justice from one whose inflated station in life has rendered him arrogant and ridiculous:

"André-Louis found him ridiculous. He knew pretentiousness for the mask of worthlessness and weakness. And here he beheld pretentiousness incarnate. It was to be read in that arrogant poise of the head, that scowling brow, the inflexion of that reverberating voice. Even more difficult than it is for a man to be a hero to his valet--who has witnessed the dispersal of the parts that make up the imposing whole--is it for a man to be a hero to the student of Man who has witnessed the same in a different sense."

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

bin Laden: A Hit and a Myth

If it be true, as Camus wrote, that "There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn," and if it be equally true as the Algerian then concluded, that "The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart," then the demise of Osama bin Laden ought to make men of all faiths, or none, happy.

Friday, April 15, 2011

April is the 'Cruellest' Month

From his collection, Nothing But Praise, POW Henry G. Lee's painful memory of April, 1942:

Prisoner's March
(Death of a Friend)

So you are dead. The easy words contain

No sense of loss, no sorrow, no despair.

Thus hunger, thirst, fatigue, combine to drain

All feeling from our hearts. The endless glare,

The brutal heat, anesthetize the mind.

I cannot mourn you now. I lift my load,

The suffering column moves. I leave behind

Only another corpse, beside the road.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Days of Reckoning: Entry No. '51, Play Ball!

"Little Weasel" ca. July 1951

You see, my old man, "Big Monte", was a Giants fan. He grew up in Harlem in the 20's and 30's.

By the 50's he'd sit on worn-cushioned iron high stools in joints like the Crossroads Bar & Grill and proselytize for Willie Mays as the "Best Ever Ballplayer" to any Dodgers or Yankees fan that dared breathe or hint otherwise. Myself, not far flung from the family tree, was dubbed "Little Monte" or more often "Little Weasel" by red-nosed imbibers like Crazy Mike, Timmy the Mop, Big and Little Milkshakes, the McKenzie Brothers, the O'Connor Boys, the Refugee, and Frank Bastogne. This was because I likewise campaigned for the canonization of No. 24 while I perched on the steaming stoops of the South Bronx or pranced around the teeming schoolyards of my youth.

It took me a long stretch of time to figure out why nobody's opinion ever nudged over so much as a fraction of an iota after one of those thousands, millions maybe, of lengthy and impassioned arguments over who was the best ballplayer, no matter how abundant or overwhelming was your presentation; no matter how glaring were your selected truths. The fact was plainly that Baseball was your religion, your Team was your faith, your Ballyard was your church, and your Hero was your, well you know, your God. Be he Willie, Mickey, or the Duke.

Play Ball!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wow, can you believe it?

The first spring training game of the 2011 baseball season was played yesterday.

What a delight to see folks sitting outside in their shirtsleeves smiling and happy in the grandstands.

So long, winter of our icy discontent! . . . Hello, sweet warm spring!

The Yankees and the Metsies down at their ballyards playing in the sun.

There is hope for us after all, for surely all is right in this the very best of all possible worlds.

From the playing fields to the fantasy farms, it’s okay again to kick back and relax.

Aren't they wonderful?

Friday, January 14, 2011


The river that flows both ways stands at your side like a scepter,
          though majesty belies your humble beginnings.
Once pushed hard and left for dead by the shifting tides
          of an ancient and icy Earth,
Your tousled peaks and windswept valleys now mimic that fortune,
          and savory tears of dew nourish us.

Your ample woodlands cradle crystal lakes, shelter songbirds, deer--
          all creatures of innocence.
O stony fortress, shield your living, your dead--
          for each night the stars shower you
                    --as if in awe--
Heaven seeks to mirror you.
Herenow, your sylvan smile shouts from point to point to point,
These hills are your heart, your home.
          Your Rockland.