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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Cultural flip flop

I was driving home from work a couple of days ago, listening to Fresh Air on NPR as Terry Gross interviewed Ken Gormley, the author of The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr.

I'll tell you right off the bat, I just know that Terry and I wouldn't get along all that well. I like her show - she's a good radio interviewer, but she leans way too far left for my comfort. That said, her interview with Gormley was interesting fare.

I don't have a lot of time for recreational reading but Gross' interview on Tuesday night was inspiring enough for me to almost buy Gormley's book. You can read about the interview here, if you're so inclined.

What I got out of the interview is that whatever evidence of misconduct Ken Starr and others dug up about the once-Governor of Arkansas and then-President of the United States Clinton, the most important outcome of the Starr investigations and subsequent impeachment hearings was the polarizing effect they had on American politics.

In other words, it was purely incidental that Bill Clinton continued to live an immoral and unarguably adulterous lifestyle while rising to and occupying the most powerful office in the world. The largest apparent travesty was the violent wedge that drove Republicans and Democrats farther apart - and how that continued chasm colors every effort to pass legislation today.

Although I, perhaps naively, believe that our President should be above the moral fray - notwithstanding Carter's admission to Playboy that he had committed adultery in his heart - most people I spoke with at the time considered Clinton's dalliances inappropriate but nothing to get worked up about. Sort of a boys will be boys attitude; consenting adults, and that sort of thing.

Fast forward to the present...

Tiger Woods has been vilified in the press for pretty much the same behavior for which we gave our 42nd President a pass. Whoa. What changed?

Were Tiger's objets de l'amour consenting adults? Check

Was Tiger in a powerful, public position? Perhaps a check - certainly Tiger's brand and image made him the most recognizable sportsman worldwide.

Was a wife in the dark as to her husband's behavior? Debatable - who knows what Hillary knew? But the public revelations of said behavior certainly warrant a check.

Tomorrow, Tiger is making his first public statement since revelations about his numerous dalliances surfaced. It will not be a press-conference, per se; more along the lines of round one of seeking forgiveness, regaining public approval, and Tiger positioning himself to move on.

To Tiger I say, "Be patient."

Bill Clinton is all over the place these days. Raking in public speaking fees, heading up worldwide charitable organizations, hanging out with decision makers at international conferences.

Water off a duck's back.

People want to love Tiger. Everyone loves a success story. But if there's one thing I've learned about the always-fickle American public, it's this: As much as we root for someone to succeed, we are equally quick to turn on them like a pack a snarling hyenas. An ugly truth to be sure, but the ugliness doesn't make it any less true.

What's my point? If we can forgive Mr. Clinton for lighting his cigar in the nation's living room, certainly we can forgive a mere golfer; someone who makes his living hitting a little white ball.

I don't know. Am I crazy? What do you think?


Tuesday, February 16, 2010


A light has gone out in the literary universe. One might not put Dick Francis in the same conversation as Poe or Shakespeare or Dante or some other revered author, but for me, he
was a novelist - and a great one at that.

Dick Francis, courtesy of

Mr. Francis was a very successful National Hunt jockey in the UK. He won over 350 races and was champion jockey in 1953-1954. Upon retirement, he published The Sport of Queens, an autobiography, before going on to write forty-one bestselling novels. Among his numerous accolades, Francis won the prestigious Crime Writers’ Association’s Cartier Diamond Dagger and is the only three-time recipient of the Mystery Writer of America’s Edgar Award for Best Novel, winning for Forfeit in 1970, Whip Hand in 1981, and Come to Grief in 1996, the same year he was make a Grand Master (lifetime achievement).

In my early days of reading - we're talking junior high school here - Mr. Francis' works were ones that I devoured eagerly. My father's library had all sorts of highbrow fiction and non-fiction, but alongside Alistair McLean and Helen McInnes, Dick Francis novels like Nerve, Flying Finish, and Blood Sport were thrilling peeks into the world of (mostly) British horse racing - with a mysterious and often murderous twist.

Over the intervening years, I occasionally picked up a Francis novel, always knowing that it would be a rewarding and entertaining read. There are very few things in life that are a dead cert, but a Dick Francis novel is one of them.

Thank you, Mr. Francis, for all the hours of exciting reading you provided for myself and countless other fans.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Book plug Friday...

Just a quick plug for a great book, Seabird by Sherry Thompson.

Buy it here...

I read Seabird several years ago and am looking very much forward to the next chapter of the Narentan Tumults in the form of Earthbow - due out any day now.

You can read  R. L. Copple's review here and in case you missed last year's Seabird blog tour, check it out for great reviews and links.

What are you still doing here? Go and read Seabird!!

You'll be glad you did.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Top 3 SB XLIV Commercials

OK - there must be terabytes of print on the Internet about the Super Bowl today - if not more. Here is my contribution...

#3 - Focus on the Family: A lot of folks are tearing this one down, but I applaud Mrs. Tebow - she put her baby's life above her own. Isn't that what all mothers do?

#2 - Doritos Dog Collar - This didn't make most top 10 lists but I thought it was hilarious. I like dogs, I like Doritos and, well, I don't know - it was just funny to me.

#1 - Betty White Snickers: This is just hilarious. Betty White is so funny..."That's not what your girlfriend said."

Too much...

Honorable mentions: Puxatawnee Polomalu, Kia, Hyundai... What are your favorites? Which ones did you hate?


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Fair play isn't dead

For all the haters out there - you know who you are - that say soccer (football) is a sport filled with posers, hooligans et al, here's your sign!

Credit 101 Great Goals for finding this one and The Beautiful Game for highlighting it.

That's right, these are two teams from the professional league in Iran, as 101 puts it, 'one of the 'Axis of Evil'. Normally in football, if a player goes down, play is allowed to continue unless there appears to be a serious injury. In any case, it's usually the referee that blows the whistle to stop play (Rule highlight: That's why there is extra or 'injury' time at the end of each half).

In this case, the opposing keeper was down for the count and the loose ball fell to an opponent who had worked his way into space and was preparing to shoot into an open net. Instead, the striker kicked the ball into touch (out of bounds) and pointed to the injured keeper.

Fair play, indeed.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bad ideas seem to go together

Listening to NPR this morning, I noted that President Obama will be holding a town hall meeting in Nashua, New Hampshire to talk up his small business bail out. I suppose that compared to the Wall Street bailouts, $30 Billion can be considered small, but what will America ultimately get out of this latest effort to get the economy moving again?

I hate to be Johnny Raincloud here, but I'm guessing, 'Not much.'

I saw a quote on MSN Money the other day that said something like, 'If no one is lending, and no one is spending, the economy is in recession,' or something along those lines.

Think about that.

Let's say the President wins approval for his small business bailout and we inject $30 Billion into the coffers of community banks - the target of the money. What happens then?

You get a long line of businesses that aren't doing well lining up to borrow money so they can, ostensibly, expand and create new jobs. But if these small businesses are not doing well right now, what sense does it make to give them loans to hire more people?

Refer to the quote above - I don't care if we give $30 Billion and meet the party of the first part - i.e. someone is lending. Small businesses need people to buy their products. So no matter how much money we lend them, if no one has the money to buy their products, they will just go under later, rather than sooner.

At the risk of beating a dead horse, wouldn't it have been more stimulating to the economy to take the TARP money, this next $30 Billion and all the other bailouts and just divide it up among American families?

I'm no fan of the Government being everyone's rich uncle, but c'mon. According to this NY Times article from this time last year, the U.S. Government has spent a total of roughly $4 Trillion investing, lending, and insuring. that's 4 T*R*I*L*L*I*O*N dollars. And those are figures from a year ago. You do the math...

That's almost $13,000 per person in the United States according to the US Census Bureau population clock. If we take this a step further, there were almost 100 million tax returns filed in 2007 that were classed as taxable by the IRS (see stats). There were another 47 million returns classed as untaxable - I'm guessing people who had earned income but owed no taxes.

Under an individual bailout plan - as opposed to a corporate bailout - if we bailed out taxpayers who filed a return, you're now looking at about $28,000 to each taxpayer.

Which bailout do you think would have been more effective? Paying $28,000 to each taxpayer or bailing out the banks and other corporations? I don't care how much money we give GM and Chrysler, if taxpayers don't have money to buy cars, they don't make any money and a year or two from now, we're back in the same boat we were in before the bailouts.

By putting the bailout money in the taxpayer's pockets, they can get caught up on mortgages, buy new cars, etc. We remove a goodly number of toxic mortgages, the banks are healthier, people can afford to buy cars and other whole goods and companies don't have to lay so many people off - which in turn puts more tax dollars in the treasury.

I don't know, am I crazy? What do you think?