Monday, January 26, 2009

Reporting the News

If you’ve read any of my previous posts you will understand that I slant toward the right. You are invited to dispute me at any turn. Certain things shove me away from the left – policies with which I heartily disagree; laws that I find absurd; liberal postures on social issues; heavy taxation on successful entrepreneurs and the redistribution of wealth. Another thing that gets my goat is the inability to hear, see or read any unbiased news reporting. I loathe Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity. None of this is news. In the same manner I detest Rachel Maddow. I will not even mention the entity from which she was cloned because he is unworthy of print. So, as you may presume from these statements, I am a reasonably fair man. Here are some headlines from American newspapers dated January 2004 and January 2009 regarding the inaugurations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama:
4 Years Ago: 
"Republicans spending $42 million on inauguration while troops die in unarmored Humvees"
"Bush extravagance exceeds any reason during tough economic times" 
"Fat cats get their $42 million inauguration party, ordinary Americans get the shaft"
Last week:
"Historic Obama Inauguration will cost only $120 million"
"Obama Spends $120 million on inauguration; America needs a big party" 
"Everyman Obama shows America how to celebrate"
"Citibank executives contribute $8 million to Obama Inauguration"
Is anyone listening? Is anyone really listening? 

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Terrible Towel and Why the Steelers Need to Win the Super Bowl

Members of the Steeler Nation know all too well the story of the Terrible Towel. 
 It was the brainchild of beloved and departed Myron Cope during the Chuck Noll
Dynasty. The magic of the towel lasted beyond the retirement of Chuck Noll, 
 maintained its staying power throughout the entire Cowher age, and is still going strong in the early years of the Tomlin era. The towels are manufactured in Wisconsin by Chippewa River Industries. Proceeds from the sale of the towels benefit Chippewa, which employs the mentally disabled, and helps to pay for their care. Myron Cope also collected royalties and donated all of them to the Allegheny Valley School, a special needs facility where his autistic son is a resident. Before he died, Cope bequeathed the Towel rights to the school, ensuring proper care for his son and many others. 
What you may not know is that greed has found its inevitable way in to this benevolent endeavor. The NFL is quietly working on a promotion to produce larger towels for every other team in the league besides the Steelers. They plan to unveil this gimmick after the conference championships this week and push it through the Super Bowl. The plan is to market these towels and capture the enthusiasm of the Super Bowl contestants. To get things moving, free towels were handed out at every stadium during the divisional playoffs this week. You may have seen the Tennessee fans waving those powder blue things. Did anyone notice the complete backfire? All the home teams lost EXCEPT the Steelers! 
 This is why the Steelers need to win the Super Bowl. The sanctity of the Terrible Towel must be preserved! 

Colin, Clarence and Condoleeza

During this ‘historic week’ I reflect on many things. I listened and watched, as our new leader, Barack Obama, became the 44th president of these United States. I’m all for it and am 100% supportive. Indeed, we do need change and my daily prayer includes a double dose of wisdom for President Obama and those who whisper in his ear. We have celebrated an inconceivable achievement: a gentleman of color – an African-American – has reached the high office of president of The United States of America. Oh, how far we have come!
Another reflection I have is that many of our leaders, judges, governmental appointees, military leaders, cabinet members, intellectuals, talk show hosts and guiding lights ‘of color’ have not achieved this kind of laud. The good news, I suppose, is that they were not judged by the color of their skin. The bad news is that they were conservatives. It is both appalling and remarkable that our citizenry has laid low, humiliated, dismissed and disregarded the commitment, intellect, service, insight and leadership of people like Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, Alan Keyes, Michael Steele, J. C. Watts, Armstrong Williams, Herman Cain, Rod Paige and so many other Americans…of color.
Is any one listening? Is anyone really listening? 

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Unity Prayer by The Reverend Joseph Lowery

‘Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right. Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.’
Two things really move me about this prayer: the reminder of everything that African Americans have done for the American Indians and the inclusiveness that I can look forward to when I embrace what is right. 
Is anyone listening? Please, is anyone really listening?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Inclusion Delusion

CAUTION: THIS IS HARSH COMMENTARY. It is hard to miss the daily updates regarding participants in Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration. I am particularly entertained by the conspicuous jockeying of political correctness related to the ‘religious’ figures invited to play a role in this mighty affair. The outcry from the gay and lesbian community against Pastor Rick Warren’s invitation to deliver an invocation has now been balanced by an invitation to Bishop Gene Robinson to speak the opening prayer. Rabbis and Muslim clergy will also be integrally involved in the National Prayer Service the day following the inaugural and the sermon during that service will be delivered by Sharon Watkins, president of a small, mainline protestant denomination, The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) – the denomination of which I am a member. Of course, never to be silenced, Dan Barker, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Now organization – an atheist group - has sued someone or something to keep any religious language from the inauguration, as it is an affront to those who do not believe. It is a very lovely proposition to ‘Imagine’ that everyone is right in his or her thinking about spiritual matters. The fact is that religion, like it or not, is a fundamental cause of so much of our trouble on this earth. It is an absolute joke to ‘Imagine’ that we will ever coalesce into a singular heart or mind ‘and the world will be as one.’ Rick Warren is adamantly opposed to the gay lifestyle on religious grounds and speaks out against it. Gene Robinson is an admitted homosexual holding a prominent position within the Anglican Church and has caused a significant and hurtful schism in that denomination. Orthodox Jews do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah and if Muslims and Christians are worshipping the same God/Allah they certainly get to Her/Him by very different roads. (Of course, never to be silenced there are those who do not believe.) Making room for this handful of disparate ‘believers’ is a very lovely gesture on the surface but it is a sign of politically correct weakness, indecisiveness and the delusion of inclusion. I know it sounds harsh in this oh-so-modern world to make the bold statement that all of these people can’t be right but all of these people can’t be right. Sometimes it just comes down to algebra. Consider this formula:
(RW/GR) + (Jew/Muslim) + (Luther/Pope) + (Believer/Atheist) = 0
Anyway, with all of this praying going on I hope one of them gets through - and humbly asks for that which we really need – whatever that is. And I hope they include me.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The UN versus YHWH

Following are four passages from four Old Testament books defining, in great detail, the boundaries of Israel. Keep in mind these were likely written between 1400 BC and 550 BC – thousands of years prior to the sanctioned State of Israel in 1948 AD. It is also worth noting that these are not edicts, acclamations, declarations, mandates or demands from the United Nations, The United Sates, The European Union, NATO or any other human organization; these are all quotes from YHWH – the Name So Holy as to not be uttered. Some of us call Him God. These boys will not go down. This land will not be overcome.

Portions of Genesis 13: The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, "Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you." 
Portions of Numbers 34: The LORD said to Moses, "Command the Israelites and say to them: 'When you enter Canaan, the land that will be allotted to you as an inheritance will have these boundaries: 'Your southern side will include some of the Desert of Zin along the border of Edom. On the east, your southern boundary will start from the end of the Salt Sea, cross south of Scorpion Pass, continue on to Zin and go south of Kadesh Barnea. Then it will go to Hazar Addar and over to Azmon, where it will turn, join the Wadi of Egypt and end at the Sea. 'Your western boundary will be the coast of the Great Sea. This will be your boundary on the west. 'For your northern boundary, run a line from the Great Sea to Mount Hor and from Mount Hor to Lebo Hamath. Then the boundary will go to Zedad, continue to Ziphron and end at Hazar Enan. This will be your boundary on the north. 'For your eastern boundary, run a line from Hazar Enan to Shepham. The boundary will go down from Shepham to Riblah on the east side of Ain and continue along the slopes east of the Sea of Kinnereth. Then the boundary will go down along the Jordan and end at the Salt Sea. This will be your land, with its boundaries on every side.' Moses commanded the Israelites: "Assign this land by lot as an inheritance. The LORD has ordered that it be given to the nine and a half tribes, because the families of the tribe of Reuben, the tribe of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have received their inheritance. These two and a half tribes have received their inheritance on the east side of the Jordan of Jericho, toward the sunrise."
Portions of Joshua 2: Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast. There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.                                                    
Portions of Ezekiel 47: This is what the Sovereign LORD says: "These are the boundaries by which you are to divide the land for an inheritance among the twelve tribes of Israel, with two portions for Joseph. You are to divide it equally among them. Because I swore with uplifted hand to give it to your forefathers, this land will become your inheritance. "This is to be the boundary of the land: 
"On the north side it will run from the Great Sea by the Hethlon road past Lebo Hamath to Zedad, Berothah and Sibraim (which lies on the border between Damascus and Hamath), as far as Hazer Hatticon, which is on the border of Hauran. The boundary will extend from the sea to Hazar Enan, along the northern border of Damascus, with the border of Hamath to the north. This will be the north boundary. On the east side the boundary will run between Hauran and Damascus, along the Jordan between Gilead and the land of Israel, to the eastern sea and as far as Tamar. This will be the east boundary. On the south side it will run from Tamar as far as the waters of Meribah Kadesh, then along the Wadi of Egypt to the Great Sea. This will be the south boundary. On the west side, the Great Sea will be the boundary to a point opposite Lebo Hamath. This will be the west boundary.


It was 9 degrees in Nashville yesterday – a mere 7 degrees warmer than the record cold temperature for that date set in 1972. Nonetheless, having committed to shedding some pounds and preserving gasoline in ‘09 I chose to walk 3½ miles each way to my job. Today it is a blistering 19 degrees and tomorrow it is projected to be 15 degrees. It is so cold that I have decided to stay inside this weekend and watch ‘An Inconvenient Truth.’

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Monopoly – As Played on Jekyll Island circa 1910

Nelson pulled out the board and arranged the money and deeds. Henry, Charlie, Ben, Frankie, Paul and some guy named Piat were eager to play. Nelson said, ‘Rather than go through the customary and proper steps I am simply going to shuffle these deeds and deal them out arbitrarily to each of you.’ They all agreed and the game was on.
The first roll of the dice landed Henry on a Railroad owned by Charlie and Henry paid the modest fee. Charlie rolled onto Baltic and Ben charged him $6. Ben landed on States – which he owned. The game continued and expanded to the point where improvements – in the form of homes and hotels - were beginning to appear on those properties properly managed – with no small sacrifice – by their respective owners. And then Frankie rolled onto one of Nelson’s properties with a hotel and suddenly owed him $950. Frankie, out of cash and unable to raise enough from mortgaging his meager holdings, asked for a moment to consider his options. He left the room, snuck out to his car, opened his own Monopoly game and came back to the table with plenty of cash to pay off his debt. No one asked any questions and the game continued. 
Piat and Henry happened upon North Carolina and Tennessee Avenues and also found themselves momentarily insolvent. In turn they each disappeared to their cars and infused the board with cash from their own games. So, once again, the contest was able to continue but everyone became disoriented; the nature of the game had been altered by this influx of ‘new’ and seemingly ‘legal tender.’ There was so much money that it began to lose its value. But everyone – whether wise or reckless – was still in the game. After a couple careful trips around the board Nelson suggested the bank raise the price of homes and hotels. Everyone had a seemingly limitless stash of cash so no one balked. Then they devised The Federal Reserve System. 

The Huie and Dewey Decimal System

I was just checking out today’s news headlines on the Internet and read this quote from an article in the Los Angeles Times: ‘Today, Hillary Clinton was questioned about former President Bill Clinton's foundation and the possible appearance of conflicts of interest in donations by foreign governments who might be seeking to curry favor with the new secretary of State. She insisted there would be no problem. Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton have already agreed to more transparency on donations.’ I was immediately reminded of a few events that make me suspicious of Hillary’s response: Whitewater, cattle futures, Zoe Baird’s nanny, The White House Travel Agency, Gennifer Flowers, Filegate, the tragic suicide of Vince Foster, the sudden appearance of the Whitewater billing records, Paula Jones, Al Gore in general, The Lincoln Bedroom, Buddhist Temple fundraiser, Web Hubbell’s mysterious income, The Lippo Group, Charlie Trie goes to China, ‘I did not have sex with that woman,’ Kathleen Willey, the China Chips, Juanita Broadrick, PBS fundraising, Susan McDougal, Henry Cisneros, Marc Rich, a failed health care initiative and, oh, impeachment. Now, any Clinton supporter will be quick to rebut that all of these flagrant displays of greed, dishonesty, corruption and lawlessness added together would not approach the vile acts perpetrated on our planet by 8 years of Dubya. You may hold that opinion, of course but, even though I disagree, that is not the point. The point is that Hillary Clinton, hand-in-hand with her hubby, was at the epicenter of many of these dark events and now she will sail through the show-boating process of being confirmed as our next Secretary of State. So now we have a future scandal in the making. The ‘Most Significant Donors List’ to the Clinton Library includes Saudi Arabia, Australia, The Dominican Republic, Brunei, Kuwait, Norway, Oman, Qatar and Taiwan. Then appear the ruling family of Abi Dhabi, The Dubai Foundation, ‘Friends of Saudi Arabia’, a Ukrainian tycoon, an Indian billionaire in the steel production business and a Canadian mining executive. Q: How likely is the possibility that one of these countries, organizations or individuals may try to ‘curry favor’ over the next four years? A: Very likely. Q: How likely is it that a Clinton can change his or her stripes? A: Very unlikely.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Fed versus The Infield Fly Rule

I was a bit of a conundrum as a schoolboy athlete. Among my physical deficiencies I am slow on my feet, I am possessed of small hands, have always been a bit of a pudgy boy and, regardless of my 6’1” frame, I have very little upper body strength. On the positive side my instincts for sports were keen, I could make contact with any baseball thrown in the vicinity of home plate, I could kick the air out of a soccer ball and was willing to try to tackle anything. But generally my skills were very average. I was always the last kid to get cut from all my school basketball teams. I grew weary of the drudgery of football practice and gave it up when I got to high school. But oddly, I played organized baseball until I was 19. Looking back that still surprises me. Through the late 60’s and into the summer of ’71 - a time of immense social upheaval, marijuana, weird and wonderful music and a general disdain for most things American (like baseball) I continued putting on the grays, lacing up the spikes and chanting, ‘Swing batta-batta-batta!’. I just loved it, I guess. It is a unique game. I won’t bore you with a list of the reasons it is a special game but I do wish to focus on one: the rules. If you’ve played or followed the game most of the rules make perfect sense. For those foreign to the sport it must appear to be absolute, reckless and rebellious nonsense. (The story is told that a Scotsman was attending his first professional baseball game with a few American pals who were doing their best to explain the game as it unfolded. A batter was ‘walked’ during his time at the plate and as he trotted down to first the Scottie asked, ‘He didn’t get a hit – why is he going to first base?’ A pal replied, ‘He has four balls so he gets a walk.’ The Scotsman said, ‘Four balls!’ and then stood and cheered, ‘Walk mate, walk with great pride!’) One of the oddest rules in the game of baseball is called The Infield Fly Rule. It has been part of the game since 1895 but is seldom utilized and thus is cloaked in mystery. The rule also involves some discretion on the part of the umpires that makes it even more peculiar. It’s actually a simple rule that was created to combat a sly, sinister and perfectly legal bit of defensive strategy. The rule basically states that if there are runners on first and second base (or first, second and third base) with fewer than 2 outs and the current batter hits a fly ball that would likely be caught with typical effort within the general area of the infield by any defensive player, the batter is ‘out.’ Prior to the imposition of this rule the infielders would purposely drop the ball (or simply let it hit the ground) pick it up and easily start a double play on the base runners who were ‘tagging up’ on their pre-pitch base. Which brings me to the Federal Reserve. In 1913, fewer than 20 years after the institution of The Infield Fly Rule into America’s beloved game, a few sly and sinister men devised and foisted upon our Congress the vilest rules of finance ever known to mankind. Unlike this odd baseball rule that actually enhanced the game The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 actually ruined our country – years ago – and it continues to trample the bloody corpse. To explain The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 to an individual unfamiliar with its design would be like using Aramaic sign language to explain the infield fly rule to an elderly woman who had spent her entire life in the Himalayas. I believe a most worthy celebration of the 100th anniversary of the FRA1913 would be its abolition and the incarceration of all those still living who have perpetrated its poison. Let’s not drop the ball on this opportunity!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Harry and The Blagojeviches

Our world is basically screwed. Economic shenanigans the likes of which have never been seen, in-fighting and prejudice on every corner, starvation, poverty, disease, dead-beats running the entertainment business, Jonathan Alter having a job as a journalist, drought here/famine there, retirements eaten up by greed, Robert Rubin having authority, Sarah Palin as a potential VP, Al Gore winning a Nobel prize, Bill’s library funding versus Hillary’s appointment, Arabs/Jews, up and down oil prices, pornography on the Internet, teen suicide, meth labs, high school drop-out rates, Rush/Rachel/Bill/Keith/Sean and ‘Billy Mayes here for the Seam-Mender.’ And now this quote from a man with tremendous authority in our government: "Mr. Burris is not in possession of the necessary credentials from the state of Illinois," declared Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. My Dear Mr. Reid – what casino or whorehouse gave you your credentials? From Springfield to D.C. you are over-stepping the law. The Governor may be an idiot but he played by the rules. See you in court, Harry.

Signs of Aging in the Music Business

Having spent 30 years participating in and observing the business of music I have watched and witnessed many friends and strangers address the event of aging. It became a very personal issue for me last summer when I had booked a live performance with 3 songwriter friends and had to replace 2 of them: one to be with his daughter at the birth of a grandchild and the other because the date conflicted with his hip replacement. 
Signs of aging in the music business are obvious, sad, amusing, pathetic and ironic. The irony is readily apparent in that the saddest and most obvious signs are the actions people take to appear younger. Lots of men get really big, really white front teeth. When I say white I am not doing the color justice. This is a white unlike any white I have ever seen. Glidden should have a trim color called Big Fake Front Teeth White – available in flat, satin and porcelain finish. The first time I noticed this dental phenomenon was 20 years ago when a country artist friend of mine walked into an awards dinner and flashed a big smile for an array of photographers. It was like staring at the grill of a ’75 El Dorado with its high beams on. These extra-white choppers are ubiquitous in Nashville – although not so much in the rural areas of Tennessee.
Hair, both on the head and the face, is another area in which aging entertainment folks make bad choices. For men, shaved heads have become as common in this decade as shoulder-length hair was in the 60’s. It seems to mean something but I don’t know what. The only thing I can figure is that many aging men begin to lose their hair and I suppose they figure it’s easier and hipper to simply get rid of it all. Fair enough. Other men have subjected themselves to the excruciatingly painful process of hair plugs. In a recent conversation with an old pal we fell upon this topic and he suggested that these ‘plugged’ heads remind him going into an attic and finding a doll from which the hair had fallen out. Other men have turned to product. Some, it appears, have covered their hair with Vick’s Vapo Rub and then spent hours in front of a mirror spiking it into bizarre and random patterns reminiscent of a child’s diorama of The Swiss Alps. Patches of unnatural, light coloring depicting, I suppose, the snow on the peaks, often accompany this spiked sheen. Other streaks of unexpected color show up everywhere on both men and women. And then there is the ponytail, the Fu Man Chu, the muttonchops, the monkey button and all other manner of facial embroidery. 
Tattoos and piercings are further and clear indications of age panic. Clothing is another I’m-getting-older-but-refuse-to-admit-it flag that some people fly. This area is not gender specific but appears a little sadder in women. Fish net stockings, low-cut tops, really high heels, ripped, ragged and studded jeans and too-short dresses – ‘Oh darling, you look…old…and…stupid.’
Now, I am the first to admit that this is a business built for and marketed to young people – teenagers, actually – ‘tweeners, actually. (Note the remarkable recent successes of Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus and The Jonas Brothers.) It’s always been like this. What do you suppose was the average age of the folks filling the dance floors in Brooklyn or Atlantic City when Benny Goodman was playing a show in 1938? I’m guessing it was 19. But there is another sign of aging in the music business that is sadder and most obvious of all: we have been quietly dismissed. There is no tattoo that can cover up that kind of heartache. 

Progress: Senator Al Franken

Amidst the sleight-of-hand financial maneuvering of our Federal Reserve System, the suspicious ballot recounts, the general obfuscation surrounding the Madoff case, the bizarre antics of the governor from Illinois and the muddled crisis in The Middle East that has been going on since Cain was cast from The Garden, it appears as though we may finally have some clarity on one issue: If Al Franken becomes the junior senator from Minnesota this will be the first time in the history of our country that a politician was identified as a clown before they arrived in Washington.