Monday, May 28, 2007

If It Walks Like a Goose

Baseball’s Tampa Bay Devil Rays, a star franchise since its creation in 1998 (best season: 70-91 in 2004; all-time winning percentage: .399), is currently dealing with yet another shining moment. A restraining order has been granted to the wife of rookie outfielder Elijah Dukes, preventing the Rays’ player from having any contact with her. This comes after Dukes barged into the middle school classroom where she is a teacher to confront her. Dukes has also allegedly threatened to kill her and her children, and emailed a photo of a gun to her cell phone.

Dukes was benched for a couple of days, but was in the lineup for the Rays’ weekend games against the White Sox in Chicago. Manager Joe Madden recently asked Dukes to stop staring at umpires in a threatening manner when he disagreed with ball and strike calls.

Dukes is a graduate of Tampa’s Hillsborough High School, alma mater to such illustrious baseball names as Dwight Gooden, Gary Sheffield, and Carl Everett. A check of the Hillsborough High School web site shows the team nickname to be the Terriers. Rumors they are considering changing to the Assholes could not be verified.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

All Fecked Up

Feck-less [fek-lis]
1. ineffective; incompetent; futile: feckless attempts to repair the plumbing.
2. having no sense of responsibility; indifferent; lazy.

Craze knows how to post pictures to her blog; I’m not as advanced. If I were, I could have made a picture worth the seventeen descriptive words above, and posted a picture of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi side by side. It seems appropriate. They must have pictures of someone, or they wouldn’t have their current jobs.

Dubya won the 2000 election (depending on who you ask) with less than fifty percent of the popular vote, and proceeded to run the country like the Lady of the Lake had directed him to pull Excalibur directly form Dick Cheney’s head. “Dictator” is too strong a word; “king” is not inappropriate. Dubya considered the federal government his personal candy store. The only thing he would have changed would be to allow him to appoint Congress, not that either house gave him much grief.

Pelosi and Reid rode a groundswell of popular sentiment into their current jobs. The country had not been poised for a dramatic change since Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980. The war in Iraq was the key issue; ethics, pork, and the continual erosion of what we had all assumed to be ineradicable rights were close behind. Democratically majorities were elected in both houses of Congress, largely to effect change in those four areas. Pelosi and Reid were handed mandates to make it so.

Let’s see how they’ve done, six months after the election, with four-plus months of governing under their belts.

Iraq – We were promised no more blank checks for Bush’s war. This week’s emergency war funding appropriation bill showed how that worked out. Dubya rolled and bitch slapped Harry and Nan like a Baltimore pimp reminding two hoes who’s boss.

Ethics – There’s not a lot of noise being made about it, but Democrats are quietly debating to eviscerate their own bill. The end result will be some window dressing they can campaign on; nothing material will change dramatically.

Pork-barrel spending – The death knell for that reform was sounded before the Speaker’s an Majority Leader’s chairs had even been reshaped with new butt prints. Pork was included in the original emergency war funding bill, virtually the first piece of legislation they sent to the White House. “All previous emergency was appropriations had some pork,” they cried in their own (feeble) defense. True, but you were elected to be different.
Constitutional rights – Lots of hearings and hand wringing and finger pointing has taken place. Seen any legislation? This is the one freebie they got, as revoking the sections of the Patriot and Military Commissions Acts wouldn’t cost a cent.

Leadership? Hell, these two political bimbos can’t even follow directions.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Bust Out

Representative democracy is the most fragile form of government. Its survival depends on the good will and intentions of all its participants: voters, elected officials, appointed officials (who are, after all, elected officials once removed), and the hired help of civil servants, plus uniformed military and paramilitary organizations. (Think “police” when you read “paramilitary,” not “Posse Comitatus” or “Aryan League.”)

Disagreements and power shifts are inherent parts of such a democracy. The means through which these take place are what separates a legitimate democracy from a banana republic. Laws and ethics rules can only go so far. A level of common sense fair play must be observed by all participants for any democracy to flourish, or even survive for long.

The levels to which contract has been breached by the Bush Administration and recent Republican “leadership” are only now becoming evident. Today’s case in point: recess appointments.

Recess appointments serve a valuable function, allowing the president to replace sensitive positions while Congress is away, when waiting for their return would be detrimental to the nation’s interest. Not as important as they once were, when gathering a quorum might take a couple of weeks once Congress had scattered to the four corners of the continent, they still serve a valuable function.

It has recently been pointed out that seventeen 2006 recess appointments so blatantly disregarded their accepted purpose as to negate any protestations of good will by the Bush Administration, or their congressional dupes. (Click here for details.)

Creating a bogus forty-one second congressional session for the sole purpose of subverting established laws and principles can most charitably be described as despicable. It is abhorrent to the concepts of fair play and tolerance of opposing viewpoints that democracy depends on for its life blood. Key elements of the Republican party leadership – George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, John Boehner, Dennis Hastert, Karl Rove (unelected, but still culpable) – have treated the world’s longest-standing democracy, previously the gold standard for emerging nations everywhere, as their personal inventory, suitable for dispensing as they alone see fit.

The Sopranos would call it a “bust out.” The Mafia does it all the time. Weasel your way into a legitimate business by any means necessary. Order whatever you want, on credit, with no intention of paying the bills. Treat the inventory as personal possessions. Replace the workers with cronies and relatives. It doesn’t matter that the jobs won’t last long; they’ll just move on to the next feeding trough when the time comes.

Over two hundred years of democracy, treated with the care and respect of David Scatino’s sporting goods store. At least Tony Soprano tried to warn David off.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

If It's Good for the Goose

The Literary Correspondent and I often disagree on matters political. This one is merits a lot of thought as something I could sign on to and feel quite good about it.


(This is worth reading. It is short and to the point.)

Perhaps we are asking the wrong questions during election years. Our Senators and Congresswomen do not pay into Social Security and, of course, they do not collect from it.

You see, Social Security benefits were not suitable for persons of their rare elevation in society. They felt they should have a special plan for themselves. So, many years ago they voted in their own benefit plan. In more recent years, no congressperson has felt the need to change it. After all, it is a great plan.

For all practical purposes their plan works like this:

When they retire, they continue to draw the same pay until they die, except for occasional cost of living adjustments.

For example, Senator Byrd and Congressman White and their wives may expect to draw $7,800,000.00 (that's Seven Million, Eight-Hundred Thousand Dollars), with their wives drawing $275,000.00 during the last years of their lives.

This is calculated on an average life span for each of those two Dignitaries.

Younger Dignitaries who retire at an early age, will receive much more during the rest of their lives. (Editor’s Note: That seems a bit high. Senators currently make $165,200 annually. At that rate it would take 47 years to accumulate the $7.8 million figure notes above. Even allowing for cost-of-living and benefits, I doubt Byrd will be around that long. It’s still a substantial pension plan.)

Their cost for this excellent plan is $0.00. NADA..! ZILCH...

This little perk they voted for themselves is free to them. You and I pick up the tab for this plan. The funds for this fine retirement plan come directly from the General Funds.

From our own Social Security Plan, which you and I pay (or have paid) into, every payday until we retire (which amount is matched by our employer), we can expect to get an average of $1,000 per month after retirement. (Editor’s Note: Figure based on what an average wage earner has paid into the system. Does not include Medicare. Still, no one’s looking forward to retirement just so they can live on what Social Security will pay them, and everyone will take a pay cut. Except for Congress.)

Or, in other words, we would have to collect our average of $1,000 monthly benefits for 68 years and one (1) month to equal Senator! Bill Bradley's benefits!

Social Security could be very good if only one small change were made. That change would be to:

Jerk the Golden Fleece Retirement Plan from under the Senators and Congressmen. Put them into the Social Security plan with the rest of us.

Then sit back and see how fast they would fix it.

Editor’s Note: Given their jobs, and responsibility that comes with them, being generous to Congressmen isn’t a bad idea. However, the lives of elected officials have become so far removed from the daily regularities of their constituents, it’s not surprising many heralded “solutions” don’t work well for the general population. Letting Congress live with some of the same consequences of their actions as do the rest of us – let’s throw day care into the mix, as well – might be a nice way of keeping them attached to life as We know it. Getting rid of motorcades would be a nice, and inexpensive, start. Let them see what it’s like to have to live their lives taking into consideration how long it will take to get everywhere they have to go when they’re deciding what to do about transportation funding.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Home of the Brave?

I was recently in a government office building where I saw a sign notifying all employees to remove their identification badges when they left the building.

Has there been a spate of government employee abductions or attacks on the streets of Washington that the mainstream media has covered up? Or is this just another sign of America’s growing timidity? Even worse, is this an attempt by the Bush Administration to keep people just afraid enough to preserve that last, desperate thirty percent of approval?

I thought we were fighting the terrorists in Iraq so they wouldn’t follow us home and make us do things like this Stateside. If the United States is so unsafe that government employees should be afraid to reveal themselves as such outside a secure environment, maybe we should bring the troops home to defend us here.

I know, I’m a liberal pussy. At least I’m not afraid to wear my ID in public.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Irving Godt, 1923 - 2006

Irving Godt died on December 6, 2006. That name won’t mean much to all but a lucky few of you. Those of us who crossed paths with Irv are better off for it, whether we know it or not.

Irv Godt taught music history at Indiana University of Pennsylvania for thirty-three years. Those who had him for an instructor dreaded his class. Irv was notorious for the amount of preparation he demanded from all his students. The supplement he prepared for study purposes was over six hundred pages long. Not the book; the supplement.

I never had him for a class. I had a much better deal. Needing some spending money as a student, I got a job as Irv’s assistant, pulling down $1.75 an hour to help him to prepare and print the supplements, and be the music history departmental gofer. That meant I got to talk with him about a multitude of things beyond music.

I was too young to appreciate him completely. A small gargoyle of a man, Irv’s idea of big yucks was to gather half a dozen lounging students into his office, shut the door, and pass out dirty Elizabethan madrigals for us to sing. Much of what he had to offer went over my nineteen-year-old head. My loss. I should have been paying him, and a lot more than $1.75 an hour.

It always surprised us as students that the odd-looking little man in the basement office had an international reputation as a musicologist. Even today, Googling “Irving Godt” will return over 58,000 hits. He wrote books, gave lectures, and conducted the Pittsburgh Madrigal Society for years. He was far more appreciated away from IUP than in it, but he never left.

It was Irv Godt who taught me that you will never lack for someone to help you if they know you’re willing to do the work yourself. It sounds like common sense looking back thirty-plus years, but no one ever gave me a more valuable, or useful, piece of advice.

I was beyond lucky at IUP to get to work with some wonderful teachers, who had dedicated their lives to training young musicians, with skills and patience far beyond what would be expected from what some disdainfully call the “other” Indiana. Hugh Johnson. Dan DiCicco. Charlie Davis. Bob Lloyd. Charles Casavant. No one there taught me, or anyone willing to listen, more than Irving Godt. He was a rare person, one I hadn’t seen or spoken to (aside from a letter) in over twenty years, but I miss the idea than I won’t have the chance anymore.

Thanks, Dr. Godt.