Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Letter to The Tennessean

I read with great interest the column by Gail Kerr lambasting the efforts of one of our Councilman to enact law mandating ‘English-only’ in all Metro proceedings. I was most excited to share Ms. Kerr’s opinions with my hard-working neighbors so I am writing to ask you to send a copy of today’s paper in the following languages:
          Spanish, Mandarin, Farsi, Dansk, Magyar, Kirundi, Dholuo, Norsk, Kiswahili and Wolof.
Thank you for your efforts on behalf of ALL the American people. 

The Days of Wine and Rojas

During the summers of 1960-1964 my friend Rick Vargo and I would play a game we called ‘Strikeout.’ It was a simple game of baseball with a pitcher, a batter, a tennis ball, a broomstick and a strike zone painted on our garage door. We had a field, of sorts, that included my neighbor’s backyard, a maple tree and 2 telephone poles. One of us would pitch and the other would bat utilizing the painted strike zone (few arguments ensued) and the afore-mentioned boundaries. We also had zones for singles, doubles and homeruns. (Triples were too rare and too hard to create a zone for.)
Living in close proximity to Philadelphia I was a huge Phillies fan. Rick had family in Pittsburgh and loved The Pirates. So in our little fantasy league those two franchises played each other everyday and both of those teams were pretty good in that era. The Pirates won The World Series in 1960 and The Phillies wasted a great season in 1964 by folding terribly in the final stretch. But those teams had some wonderfully, colorful players whom Rick and I could emulate, both at the plate and on the mound. And the best fun we had on those brilliant Pennsylvania days was to wind-up, throw and bat like our heroes: Clemente, Face, Demeter, Mahaffey, Bunning, Friend, Haddix, Burgess, Mazeroski, Callison - even Bobby Wine and Cookie Rojas. No records were kept of those contests, except this one: I am writing about it 48 years later.
Rick – The Phillies won The World Series tonight.  I pitched a perfect game and you drove in the winning run - with a triple.  Miss you every day.


Once upon a time there was a place called Earth. It was a large sphere floating in space. The surface of Earth was covered with water, fertile soil, sand, massive mountains, ice, deep crevices and vast plains. On this Planet were many living things including both flora (vegetation that grows, replenishes, dies and even disappears) and fauna (animal life – including beings endowed with the capacity to think, perceive and communicate, on occasion.) 
According to the keenest thinkers Earth was very old. Some estimated that it had existed more than 4.5 billion years. Other fauna thinkers determined that Earth was shaped like a ball and calculated the distance directly through the middle of this ball to be about 8,000 miles. They called this the diameter. It was further determined that this most vulnerable sphere had been subject to violent revulsions, clashing land masses, exploding mountaintops, torrential fire storms and ravaging ice slides. In the most recent 2 million years of its existence it is said that this ‘Earth’ experienced approximately 12 ice ages and 12 warming periods. 
Earth resided in something called a Universe that included solar systems, galaxies, planets, stars, stellar groupings and nebulae. At some point and somehow someone figured out how to measure the size of this universe. It turned out to be so huge that normal numbers could not adequately define how big it was. So they made up a term called a Light Year to help make it simpler to understand. A Light Year is the distance that light travels in one Earth Year. A Light Year is equal to just under 6 trillion miles. A trillion has 12 zeroes. 
Now, here’s where this story takes the first outrageous twist. The best and brightest of Earth’s thinkers calculated that the Universe in which Planet Earth resided was 156 billion Light Years in diameter. So, to calculate the width (or depth) of this Universe the arithmetic looks like this:
6,000,000,000,000 x 156,000,000,000 = 
(I will be humbled by your kind correction but I believe this number is pronounced 93 sextillion, 600 quintillion.) Planet Earth, a massive 8,000 miles across, exists within a neighborhood that is 93.6 sextillion miles across. 
Onto Planet Earth arrived a fauna boy child who grew up reading books, put on a uniform, wrote words, read more books and then became the most useless form of all fauna – a politician. He had moments of brilliance as a politician, not the least of which was his early support of the development of the Information Superhighway that has enabled everyone on Earth to have access to instant communication, infinite information, pop-up ads, spam, unnecessary commentary called blogs, pornography and medicine that makes erect the male fauna’s withering flora. He is also to be celebrated for his role in establishing an environmental Superfund that was used to clean up toxic industrial waste at a place called Love Canal. However, after these heroic efforts Super Boy unraveled, falling to the utter depths of political addiction by attempting to become the leader of his country. It didn’t happen. 
At this point Super Boy got pretty steamed. In fact, he got hotter than Hell and decided that everyone else was too hot, too – including Planet Earth. So he gathered some friends and scientists and made an awesome film portraying his thesis on the culmination of 4.5 billion years of violent and catastrophic expansion in a universe 93.6 sextillion miles across and its impact on an orb 8,000 miles in diameter. For this he has become a modern day hero – receiving international acclaim including an Oscar and a Nobel Prize.
Some people think he’s full of shit. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Where Have You Gone, Ron Paul?

I’m one of the stupid people that many in the press can’t believe have yet to make up their minds regarding the upcoming presidential election in the United States. My liberal friends think I’m voting for Ron Paul because I told them I was. However, I learned this week that Mr. Paul is not listed as a candidate in Tennessee. Yes, I have the option to write him in but it seems a weak gesture at this moment in time. Although I fully support Ron Paul’s posture on very important issues (the abolition of the Federal Reserve, the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and the economy) I must face the fact that he is not going to win. I may as well vote for Mickey Mouse, Tony Romo or Terrell Owens. The battle is joined, as usual, between the two major parties and so it is there that I now turn to find some hollow meaning. Of course, we cast our votes for many reasons: social issues, economic issues, special interests, international relations, Supreme Court appointments, unions, education and more. I have measured my personal views on abortion, funding for public education, tax policy, lobbyists, terrorism, forthrightness, safe borders, experience and success in ‘crossing the aisle’ and the inevitable Supreme Court battles to come and the latest polling figures inside my own soul indicate that McCain has a lead that Obama cannot bridge – margin of error: zero. We live in an angry and dangerous world and I truly believe Senator McCain is equipped with the experience, fortitude, intellect and rationality to face the inevitable challenges that will continue to confront freedom and democracy on this planet. Oh, and as far as the VP issue is concerned – I submit this list and ask you to judge the impact these people have had on your life: Sparkman, Kefauver, Muskie, Shriver, Ferraro, Bentsen, Edwards, Lodge, Miller, Agnew and Quayle. Happy voting!


Irene Kelly is a gifted singer and songwriter whom I have known – only from a distance – for 20 years. Our paths crossed unexpectedly yesterday when I happened upon Irene and her two beautiful daughters at a fund-raising event on the lawn of my church. For reasons that are unimportant our brief conversation led us to the fact that we had recently become ‘Friends’ on the Internet site, Facebook. I told Irene that I had become frustrated with Facebook and would soon ‘logout forever’ because what was once a fun and friendly social site has become another portal for individuals to spew their political/social issue bile. In response to my comment Irene said something unusual. She said, ‘They assume.’ I must have given her a curious look, so she continued: ‘People assume that because I’m a folk-singer I must think a certain way.’ With a handful of simple words Irene had just expressed the essence of my afore-mentioned frustration. ‘People assume.’ As Irene and her daughters drove away I noticed a political bumper sticker one seldom sees on Facebook. It’s funny - I assumed I was the only conservative in the music business.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tom Cruise - Thetan

As I was signing on to my e-mail account last week I noticed a headline stating ‘Tom Cruise Is Not Dead.’ I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I read the article. Apparently a rumor had been spreading that Mr. Cruise had fallen to his death from a cliff in New Zealand. But it was just that – a rumor. Apparently he is alive and well and was spotted on the streets of Manhattan that very morning. What the article did not state is that Mr. Cruise continues to be an evangelist for Scientology. According to Scientology life after death involves continued rebirths until one consciously confronts all pre-birth, current-life and previous life traumas and realizes one’s true nature as a ‘thetan,’ an immortal spirit transcending matter, energy, space and time. So, it’s not a matter of life or death for Mr. Cruise; it’s a matter of the number life cycles he will have to endure to confront the fact that he espoused Scientology. (And then, perhaps, he will return as a good actor.)

McCain's "Air Quotes"

Much has been made of John McCain’s use of “Air Quotes” in the last presidential debate. The topic was abortion and discussion ensued between he and Barack Obama regarding the oft-repeated phrase “health of the mother.” We have been hearing these four words – “health of the mother” – in every debate, conversation and argument on the subject of abortion since the Supreme Court decided in the case “Roe V. Wade” in 1973. I would put forth that a general but accurate explanation of this phrase is that an abortion may not be denied under certain circumstances, one being a threat to the “health of the mother.”
Okay. Since abortion became a legal, medical procedure following the afore-mentioned Supreme Court decision and subsequent legislation, a little less than 50,000,000 (fifty million) abortions have occurred in the United States. That’s about 1.4 million per year, 4,000 per day or 1 every 21 seconds since 1973. If this does not astonish you then you are one of the people outraged by John McCain’s “insensitivity to the plight of women in this country.” Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement, "His disregard for women's health caused a national gasp, as McCain let slip the truth about his extreme position on choice -- a reality he tends to save for speeches to his far-right base. If women in this country are still undecided, they won't be after watching last night's debate." Actually, this is true – on the left and the right. For Ms. Keenan to read in McCain’s response ‘disregard for women’s health’ is selfish, one-sided, one-issue propaganda. Please don’t believe her! In fact, the article that quoted her went on to conclude: “McCain supports overturning Roe, letting the states pass their own laws, and eventually ending abortion through more adoption and prevention of unwanted pregnancies.” Irrational, extreme, far-right?
I wish to make 3 points about this incident: 
Point 1: Many in this country are oh-so weary of “politics-as-usual.” The stump speeches are predictable, the exchanges guarded and the party line scripted. And finally a candidate “shoots from the hip” speaking directly and openly about an exceedingly tender and important issue and “all hell breaks loose.”  So much for reality. 
Point 2: In the wake of 50,000,000 abortions a rational person may conclude that a percentage of the women and men directly involved with these decisions may have lingering regrets. I am not suggesting they should; I am suggesting that any medical procedure that impacts 16% of our population is going to have some reverberation – both positive and negative. It is likely that many have lived peacefully through the process and continue to believe they made the correct decisions. Given the “weightiness” of the decision it is also likely that there are those who struggle quietly. Why does our society not talk about this? 
Point 3: I both understand and applaud John McCain for doing something so simply, intuitively and accurately. This “health of the mother” exception is a farce that has been used, abused and stretched beyond anyone’s wildest definition. John McCain was not being “insensitive to the plight of women in this country.” He was being honest. 
Finally, to Senator McCain's point: those who believe that each of the 50 million abortions performed in this country were to protect the "health of the mother" are wrong, out-of-touch with reality, unaccountable, despicable, partisan and deceptive.  If 99% of these abortions were performed for the "health of the mother" that means that the law has been broken 500,000 times. Who stands in the dock for these crimes?  I'd like to know. 
If you wish to read more about those who are insensitive to a large number of women, I suggest you go to NARAL (Pro-Choice America) and Planned Parenthood. "NOW!" 

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Thoughts On the Final Debate

Given the press reports over the past week we were led to believe that one of these two sides needed to dig in deeply tonight, ‘hit a few out of the park’ and make this race a little tighter. Did it happen? Well, I was somewhat distracted by coverage of other less important events that were running simultaneously on other stations so I cannot offer a detailed play-by-play. However, I can state with confidence that it is now over. Phillies 5 - Dodgers 1.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Okay, Everyone Talk

Like most of you, I have been keeping a distant but keen eye and ear on the Presidential race. I care, sort of. At the same time I am keeping a distant but keen eye on the crash of the stock market; more specifically, the annihilation of my personal savings. In both cases, I have done nothing rash other than to turn down the volume on any electronic device that broadcasts what used to be the news. Have you noticed that there is no longer any quality, non-partisan news?
What we have now, especially on AM Talk Radio and cable news networks, is biased, loud-mouthed ranting by obnoxious individuals who claim to know the truth. Bullshit. Nobody knows the truth or, if they do, they don’t report it without a slant and that is not the truth. And that is the truth.
Just screw all of these people – especially Limbaugh, Olbermann, O’Reilly, Maddow, Hannity and more importantly, the networks that allow this vulgar bile to be aired.
And one more thing – tonight I was watching ‘this news’ over dinner with my wife and at one point four people were ranting at the same time. There was no decorum, no moderation, no give and take, no discussion, no communication, no discernable information shared. Just screw all these people…

No Shows

Several of my very dear friends embrace radically different political opinions than I. I love them and we have sarcastic and mean-spirited fun disagreeing. This past Tuesday most of these pals woke up before the sun, grabbed their signs, donned their t-shirts and joined several hundred other Obama supporters on the streets surrounding Belmont University in Nashville, TN – site of the second Presidential debate. When it was over a couple of my friends called me bragging about the fact that they saw no McCain supporters there. I told them they were all at work.