Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009


-How many US plus NATO and other nation’s troops are in Afghanistan right now?
ANSWER: 65,000 US + 38,000 NATO and other nations

-How many more US troops has President Obama committed to send there?
ANSWER: 30,000

-How many more NATO and other nations troops have been committed to Afghanistan?
ANSWER: 7,500

-What will be the total troop strength of US/NATO and other nations in Afghanistan?
ANSWER: 140,500

-How many fighters does the Taliban have in Afghanistan?
ANSWER: 25,000 (US Govt. report 10/2009)

-Say again?
ANSWER: 25,000

-What are the main weapons of the 25,000 Taliban?
ANSWER: small arms (rifles) and IEDs

-What exactly are IEDs?
ANSWER: homemade bombs

-What are the main weapons of the US and NATO forces?
ANSWER: a full range of all the most modern and most expensive weapons of war including advanced technology, artillery and the latest in fighter aircraft, both fixed-wing and helicopters, plus unmanned drones capable of dropping bombs computer/satellite guided in real-time from US bases 8,000 miles from the target.

-How much does all this cost the US?
ANSWER: billions of dollars a year

-How much does it cost the Taliban to keep its fighters in the field?
ANSWER: nobody knows

-How long have we (the US & NATO) been training the Afghans to defend themselves?
ANSWER: 8 years

-How much money has the US spent training the Afghans to “stand up”?
ANSWER: tens of billions

-Are the Afghans ready yet to “stand up” and defend themselves?

-When will the Afghans be ready?
ANSWER: nobody knows

-How much money does the Taliban spend training its forces?
ANSWER: there is no record or evidence of any Taliban training

- If the US has been funding and training the Afghans, which nations have been funding and training the Taliban fighters and where do they do this?
ANSWER: there is no record or evidence of any Taliban training or any funding

-Without a nation/sponsor or known funding, how then are the Taliban able to conduct a war for 8 years against the US and NATO?
ANSWER: nobody knows

-How much does it cost the Taliban to fight every year?
ANSWER: nobody knows

-Where does the Taliban get its money? (It has to have some money, doesn't it?)
ANSWER: supposedly from the Afghan drug trade - heroin

-But… isn’t the biggest “drug lord” in Afghanistan the President’s own brother?

-Is President Karzai’s brother or perhaps President Karzai himself helping the Taliban?
ANSWER: good question

-What about the "real enemy" al Queda – how many of them are in Afghanistan?
ANSWER: according to the US Government there are maybe 100 of them there

-Wait a minute! Did I miss some zeros in the last answer? 100? Really?
ANSWER: no missing zeros – only about 100 al Queda still in Afghanistan

-Why can’t 140,500 of the world's best-equipped military troops defeat 100 al Queda and 25,000 Taliban insurgents armed with rifles and homemade bombs who use donkeys, not helicopters, for transportation?
ANSWER: you tell me… nobody seems to know

-Why are we still in Afghanistan – and increasing our multi-billion dollar military presence there?
ANSWER: according to President Obama, we are there to stabilize Pakistan

-What? Are you sure that’s what he said?
ANSWER: yes, that’s what he said

-When will the last US soldier die in Afghanistan and all US troops come home?
ANSWER: nobody knows

Monday, November 30, 2009


In his 1945 novel “Animal Farm” George Orwell wrote: “All animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others…”

Today this is the guiding principle behind the National Championship of College Football’s Division I FBS. Div I FBS consists of the schools in 11 conferences plus 3 independents making a total of 131 colleges and universities that have Division I FBS football programs. None of the 11 conferences is designated as being better or deserving of higher ranking than any other and no individual school is predetermined to be a lesser member of Div I FBS than any other member institution. Nevertheless, some college football teams are apparently created more equal than others.

No other organized sport has such a consideration when it comes to naming its championship team. In the last Baseball World Series the Yankees were not diminished by their regular season victories over the American League’s weaker teams like Baltimore, Kansas City or Cleveland and neither were the Phillies downgraded after beating up on the National League’s lowly Washington Nationals or the Pittsburgh Pirates. Any win over a Major League opponent is equal to any other win. Likewise in the National Football League, the NBA and even in the NHL, no team is ranked as better or worse based upon which other teams they scored victories over during their regular season schedules.

But somehow this sense of fair play – not to mention reason - just doesn’t apply to college football. This season, of the 131 Division I FBS teams only 6 have played their season undefeated. All 6 have won every game they played. None of the remaining 125 teams have only 1 loss. The best record outside the undefeated teams is 2 losses. Thus, it would appear reasonable to say that only these 6 all-winning teams should have a shot at being crowned National Champion. Yet, since there is no playoff system, only 2 of the 6 can be matched in the so-called and self-proclaimed National Championship Game. What then of the other 4? What is the best way to pick the 2 teams to vie for the title and eliminate from consideration 4 others?

The 6 undefeated teams are: Florida, Alabama, Texas, TCU, Cincinnati and Boise State. This is the order in which these teams are now ranked by the BCS, which is the official ranking body that picks the 2 teams to play in the National Championship Game. Since the BCS ranks the Top 25 teams each week, how do the schedules of the 6 undefeated teams look against other ranked opponents?

Of the top 6, only 2 have played more than 1 opponent that also ranked in the Top 25. Texas (ranked #3) played and of course defeated 4 ranked teams – Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Oklahoma – while TCU (ranked #4) played and beat 2 ranked opponents – Clemson and BYU.

The #1 and #2 teams, Florida and Alabama only played 1 ranked team each. Both of them played and beat the same team, LSU. Still, Florida is ranked #1 and Alabama is #2. The #5 ranked team, Cincinnati, has only a single ranked team on its schedule, West Virginia.

The most alarming schedule analysis has to be that of #6 Boise State. While Boise State only met 1 other team ranked in the Top 25, how important should it be that the 1 team was the #7 ranked team, Oregon? After the 6 undefeated teams, the official college football rankings list Oregon as the next best team in the whole country. And Boise State beat them. If Boise State beat Oregon, and none of the other 5 undefeated teams has beaten any team so highly ranked, why is Boise State #6 behind all 5 of the others? That doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, does it?

Some analysts say that many teams prop up their record by playing weak teams outside their conference – and that’s been true. This year, Boise State played Bowling Green and it is fair to hold that up when evaluating them. Cincinnati also played a game against a very weak non-conference team, Southeast Missouri State. TCU, however, did not pad its schedule with any of the weaker non-conference teams, not one of them. Texas (remember they also played 4 ranked teams) only had one game against a traditional weak team, Central Florida.

But, look at the schedules for the #1 and #2 Florida and Alabama teams. Not only did they each play their only ranked opponent against the same LSU team, but also each of them added multiple weak teams to their non-conference schedules. Alabama, the #2 team in the nation, played and beat teams from Florida International and Tennessee-Chattanooga. The #1 ranked team, Florida, did even worse than that. Like Alabama, they also scheduled Florida International, plus they added outrageous patsies like Charleston-Southern and some school no one's ever heard of called Troy.

So, Florida the #1 ranked team played 25% of its games against the worst teams in college football. That would be like the Yankees, who won 103 games and lost only 59, playing 40 of their regular season games against Washington, which won only 59 and lost 103. Of course, the Yankees did not play any games at all against Washington, but had that actually happened, it’s unlikely anyone would have seriously considered the Yankees as the #1 team in baseball.

In the real world, #1 Florida Gaitors and #2 Alabama Crimson Tide meet next week in their own conference championship game and the winner of that game will play against Texas in the BCS National Championship Game. Based on who and how these teams have played this season, it doesn’t matter who wins. Texas should easily beat either one, Florida or Alabama. But that will still leave probably the best team in the nation, the real #1 college football team, Boise State, out in the cold.

All Div I FBS teams are created equal, but some teams are more equal than others…

Friday, November 6, 2009


Wait a second. Isn’t the astronomical increase in costs, seemingly unstoppable over time, one of the biggest problems we face in healthcare? Aren’t doctors and other service providers clamoring for higher reimbursement agreements, complaining about low payments from Medicare and insurance companies? Don’t we keep hearing the drug companies and medical equipment manufacturers warning us that a national healthcare program – apparently any kind of national healthcare at all – will drive them either into market-share disaster or outright bankruptcy?

Has anyone seen a hospital bill lately? Have you visited an Emergency Room? Have you been admitted, sent to a regular room on a regular hospital floor? Have you spent a couple of days as an in-patient? If you have you know how quick and easy it is to run up a hospital bill of $10,000 or $20,000. And if you’ve been really sick, you certainly are familiar with how fast those charges add up to a hospital bill of $100,000 plus, even $500,000 or more. Not sure I'm right? Go ahead, get cancer – have a heart attack or heart surgery. You’ll see.

Meanwhile these same hospitals call themselves non-profit organizations and constantly talk about the difficulties they face in terms of their costs – not yours – but theirs.

So, explain this - In today’s national edition of The New York Times, the full-page that follows the end of Section B – the part of the paper with the Sports section – is completely taken up with an advertisement saluting the World Series Champion New York Yankees – and that full-page ad is sponsored and paid for by “New York-Presbyterian OFFICIAL HOSPITAL OF THE YANKEES.” Imagine that, the Yankees have an “official hospital.” That’s not some kind of socialism, is it? I sure hope not.

No one can be absolutely sure what the cost of ad space is in The New York Times. The newspaper has fallen on hard times. Who knows what they’ll take for an ad these days? Things are so bad they’re even talking about bankruptcy. They must be starving, right? Ad revenue reported for The Times’ latest quarter is down from last year. This year it was only $570 million. Don’t you wonder how they managed to make it on about three-quarters of a million dollars – a day?

Most industry reports indicate that the full-page ad they bought probably cost about $189,000. Of course, New York-Presbyterian made a point – an expensive one too since it costs extra – of buying the “national edition” rather than just the local New York City edition of the paper.

What were they thinking? More out-of-town patients? Perhaps they’re counting on me telling the next ambulance that picks me up in an emergency to… “take me to New York-Presbyterian, and step on it, buddy!”

Last year, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, a non-profit, tax exempt 501 C-3 entity with multiple websites showing how many ways you and I can give them our tax deductible “gifts” – in 2008, this hospital pulled in $2,833,500,000 in patient revenue. Count the zeros. That’s more than $77 million dollars a day, 365 days a year. Puts The New York Times to shame. Cha-ching! Cha-ching!

Hey, what’s a measly hundred and eighty-nine grand to congratulate “Our Yankees”?

And one more question – What do you suppose it means to be the OFFICIAL HOSPITAL OF THE YANKEES?

I don’t know about you, but I sure feel better knowing we don’t have any sort of universal, socialized national healthcare. And I’m sure all the tax-exempt 501 C-3 doctors at New York-Presbyterian are doing a wonderful job treating all patients who are in need of medical services, right? Well, I don’t want to be one to tell you, but consider this – a report today in the publication American Thinker says that of the 93 doctors affiliated with New York-Presbyterian in the specialty of Internal Medicine, only 37 of them accept Medicare. Maybe the other 56 internists have to find a way to pay for their season tickets.

Go Yankees!

Friday, October 23, 2009


Copied below is an amazingly arrogant assessment of Iran's current nuclear situation. It comes from official Israeli governmental sources, Defense Minister, Ehud Barak. Basically, Israel would deny Iran any nuclear rights whatsoever. This, from a country which is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty; a country that does not allow international nuclear inspectors, or abide by IAEA policies.

Is there a serious person anywhere in the world who does not acknowledge that Israel not only has nuclear weapons but also a nuclear weapons arsenal? Western intelligence sources - backed by Israelis themselves who have worked on their country's nuclear facilities - estimate the size of Israel's nuclear arsenal at between a low of 150 weapons and a high of 500. Compare this with the estimate most experts have for North Korea - 4 to 6 weapons, or Pakistan - about 20, or India - approximately 50. Yes, none of these nations, even Israel, matches the tens of thousands of nuclear weapons possessed by the United States or Russia, or the sizable amounts - though way fewer than tens of thousands - thought to be held by England, France and China.

Nevertheless, Israel is an unquestioned nuclear world power - and Iran has no nuclear weapons at all. None. Not a single one. In fact, no one has yet produced anything more than a “fear” that Iran even has a nuclear weapons program. No proof at all. And still, Israel (fundamentally a nuclear outlaw nation) demands that Iran halt all enrichment of uranium. Why? Because they “fear” an Iranian nuclear weapons program - a fear they and others express without a shred of evidence that such a program exists. Does Iran enrich uranium? Yes. And they do so - just like some dozen and a-half other countries do around the world - for the purpose of supplying fuel for atomic reactors - reactors designed not to blow anything up but to provide electric power.

There is nothing new or unique about this. The world already has some 531 such reactors in use or under active construction and they are spread across the globe, located in 31 different countries. We, here in the US, have 104 nuclear power reactors and not a single one of them is connected to our nuclear weapons program. France has 59. Japan has 53 -and no one’s accused the Japanese of having nuclear weapons. In fact, there has never been any claim that any of the world's 500+ electricity generating nuclear reactors is a threat to the nuclear weapons peace. All they make is - electricity!

If nuclear power plants presented a weapons threat, the world’s major powers would not be the United States, Russia and China. Instead they would be ABB Construction Engineering, General Electric and Westinghouse.

Why is nuclear electric power not a threat to world peace? It's simple. Uranium enriched for use in making electric power cannot be used to manufacture nuclear weapons. It just can't. Much as your Honda or Subaru doesn’t scare the folks at NASCAR, so too nobody is going to make bombs from uranium enriched in Brazil, Australia or any of the 31 nations with nuclear power reactors.

It is exactly like nuclear medicine. We've all seen the signs in hospital corridors – “Nuclear Medicine.” Are you afraid? Of course not. Nothing used in nuclear medicine has any applicable usage in nuclear weapons. So, go ahead - do all the heart scans you wish. Nobody's in danger of being blown-up.

My opinion is that no reasonable and rational person would, ipso facto, deny nuclear electric power to anyone. Why would they? Would they deny food or water? Clean sanitation? Roads, dams, tunnels, airports? Of course not. Isn't everyone - no matter where they live - entitled to the use of modern technology for a better life? Can we enjoy all this and refuse to let others do the same?

And yet now officially, Israel would deny Iran any nuclear capacity of any sort whatsoever. Yes, a country that stockpiles nuclear weapons, with contempt for all world nuclear accords, is demanding that another country be denied modern electric power. Draw your own conclusions.
October 23, 2009

Israel Signals Concern on Iran Talks
JERUSALEM — The Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, said on Thursday that Iran must cease all uranium enrichment, a statement that reflected Israeli concern over a draft agreement taking shape in Vienna, where earlier this week Iran took part in nuclear talks with the United States, Russia and France.
Under the agreement, about three-quarters of Iran’s known stockpile of nuclear fuel would be shipped to Russia for enrichment to levels suitable for a peaceful nuclear reactor but too low for weapons. Such a deal would delay Iran’s ability to build a nuclear weapon for about a year, buying more time for President Obama to search for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff.
In the first response by a senior Israeli leader, Mr. Barak said what was necessary was “the cessation of enrichment by Iran, and not just the removal of the enriched material.” Speaking at a conference hosted by Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, in Jerusalem, Mr. Barak urged “all the players” that “under no circumstances should any option be removed from the table,” meaning that the threats of tougher sanctions and military action should remain.
The emerging deal with Iran, while not yet approved, is generally being treated here with caution and suspicion
One former Israeli official with intimate knowledge of the nuclear issue said that it was better to have the fuel shipped out than left in Iran, but that there may be more nuclear fuel reserves in covert facilities in Iran.
Iran is openly and vehemently hostile to Israel, but insists that its nuclear program is intended for civilian purposes only. Israel is believed to have a large nuclear arsenal but maintains a policy of nuclear ambiguity, neither confirming nor denying its status as a nuclear power.
Earlier Thursday, Israeli officials confirmed that Israeli and Iranian envoys participated in discussions at a recent multilateral forum on nuclear issues in Cairo, but they said the two representatives held no private meetings and played down the significance of the event.
A spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization also denied that any separate meetings took place between the Iranian and Israeli delegations on the sidelines of the gathering, according to the Web site of Iran’s state broadcasting authority.
The regional meeting took place over two days in the Egyptian capital from Sept. 28 under the auspices of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, a forum of experts established at the initiative of the Australian and Japanese governments. Israel was represented by Meirav Zafary-Odiz, director of policy and arms control for the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, and Iran by Ali Asghar Soltanieh, ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“There was a conference,” said Yael Doron, a spokeswoman for the Israel Atomic Energy Commission. “She was there and he was there, but there was no direct contact or dialog between them.”
Several other Middle Eastern countries took part in the discussions, including Saudi Arabia, which, like Iran, has no diplomatic relations with Israel.
The gathering was held behind closed doors, but details emerged last week in the Australian newspaper The Age.
The paper reported breathlessly that Australia had “helped accomplish the seemingly impossible — bringing Israel and Iran into the same room for high-level talks on nuclear weapons.”
The Web site of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Thursday published more details of the meeting.
But Israeli officials said it was not unusual for Israeli and Iranian officials to be in the same room and present their positions at international bodies and forums. The Iranian delegate, Mr. Soltanieh, has attended at least one such informal gathering with Israelis in the past.
The timing of the Cairo meeting may have added import, however, with the growing concern both in Israel and internationally over Iran’s nuclear program and a sense in Israel that time to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons may be running out.
In a separate development, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled for the first time Thursday in a case regarding a West Bank road where Palestinian traffic is prohibited by military order. Saying the measure caused disproportionate harm to the local Palestinian population, the court instructed the state to come up with alternative arrangements for the road — a thoroughfare south of Hebron — in the next three months.
The state argued that Palestinians were barred from using the road for the past eight years for security reasons, to protect the 150 or so Israeli residents of a Jewish settlement and an unauthorized outpost in the area. An Israeli human rights organization, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, petitioned the court in 2006 on behalf of 22 Palestinian villages with a combined population of some 45,000.
Several cases involving other so-called segregated roads in the West Bank are pending in the Israeli court.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Is this a joke?

Where is Barack Obama? Where is the mandate he won at the polls last November? Where is the Presidential leadership on healthcare reform? Why has Barack Obama abandoned his campaign pledges and promises on single payer, universal healthcare reform?

Four questions – all with the same perplexing answer: “I don’t know.”

Barack Obama got almost 70 million votes from the American people. He received more votes for President of the United States than any candidate who has ever run for that office. His personal mandate is both unquestioned and politically secure. This is especially true following a President who actually lost the popular vote in his first election and won a second term with questionable results. On top of Obama’s personal victory in 2008, his political party won huge majorities in both the House and Senate. In a partisan political system, the partisan debate has been settled. The Democrats won. The Republicans lost. Didn’t they?

Barack Obama and the Democratic Party have an obligation to those who voted them into office. They have a duty to lead not to conciliate.

If Obama and the Democratic Party are nowhere to be found on healthcare reform, who then is driving this policy question, forming this legislation, forging the future direction for the entire country on this literally life and death public issue?

That answer is sadly obvious: Senator Max Baucus and Senator Olympia Snowe. A senator from Montana. And another one from Maine. What about the rest of the United States of America? What about the will of the people as expressed in the democratic act of electing a President and a Congress?

The President represents all the states and all the people. The senators from Montana and Maine represent a tiny constituency. Baucus and Snowe each received fewer votes than Fernando Ferrer. Who’s he, you ask? Ferrer ran for Mayor of New York City – and LOST! But he got 503,219 votes. The winner in New York’s Mayoral election received more votes than Senators Baucus and Snowe combined. Why not let Bloomberg and Ferrer decide what sort of national healthcare we should have. All in favor raise your hands.

Again, I ask – Is this a joke?

Take a look at Obama’s mandate and compare it with the electoral voice Senators Baucus and Snowe speak with:

President Barack Obama 69,456,897
Senator Max Baucus 348,289
Senator Olympia Snowe 402,598

If this is a joke, the joke’s on us.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Propaganda was invented by the Catholic Church. Yes, it was. It was a long time ago - 387 years to be exact - in1622, when then Pope Gregory XV decided the Church needed a special section, a unit or body to institutionalize the dissemination of the “message,” to handle training of foreign missions. Five years later, Pope Urban VIII created the Collegium de Propaganda. A lot has happened in the last 400 or so years, but propaganda hasn’t changed much. Those in power use public information – that which we now generally refer to as “the media” – to further their agenda via the spreading of false or misleading information. The power of propaganda is unchallenged. It can be employed to murder millions or to shape the thinking of hundreds of millions – all with little or no regard for the facts.

In the last couple of centuries we have seen how the American Indians, European Jews and Gypsies, and various ethnic groups in the old Soviet Union have suffered the effects of propaganda campaigns. Many others have suffered too, albeit away from the attention of most Americans. Today it appears that propaganda is being employed on a widespread basis against Muslims in particular and others who have been cast as enemies – temporary or long-term – of entrenched western powers – the Axis of Evil threatening western civilization.

For example: Although there are nearly 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, the actions of only 19 of them on a single day, September 11, 2001, have thrown the western world into two wars and a fit that has already lasted more than 8 years. The West has entered into a never ending “War on Terror.” We are afraid of shadows, if those shadows have the glint of Islam about them. By comparison, no one seems at all concerned about young, blonde, white men – despite Oklahoma City, April 19, 1995. Most recent news reports are all about a supposed nuclear weapons program feverishly underway in Iran… dangerously, even precariously close to fruition. Condoleezza Rice’s vision of “a mushroom cloud” virtually haunts the airways.

Another example: In today’s newspapers, and on TV around the western world, we are being dealt the propaganda about North Korea testing missiles. Oh, my God! You can see the images on television – not of the missile tests in question (because no one has TV footage of those!) but stock video of awful and dangerous missiles being fired from… somewhere and of course designed to hit… something.


Remember, propaganda is false and/or misleading information. Consider the nuclear “situation” in Iran. No one has produced or presented any evidence or proof that Iran really has a nuclear weapons program or that any structural facilities Iran may have or may be building are intended for that purpose. What we have instead are claims, accusations and fearful conclusions – i.e., propaganda.

There is a story in today’s New York Times about the current budget crisis in the Iranian Parliament. Did you think we were the only country fallen on hard economic times? While we spend our tax dollars bailing out Wall Street and the banks, Iran is faced with spending 30% of its national budget on fuel subsidies so people can heat their homes this winter! That’s almost one-third of all their money just to keep themselves alive through the coming cold months. What’s left to spend on nukes? Don’t ask because that doesn’t fit the model for our newest campaign of propaganda.

And what to make of North Korea, you ask? No one denies they did fire a total of 5 test missiles the other day. We know they did because like other nations that also test missiles, the North Koreans issued an international advisory telling naval ships to avoid the area where the missiles were being fired. No secrets here. There are no laws against testing missiles. Many countries do it. And, you’re supposed to warn naval traffic – just like the North Koreans did. The question is: just how “dangerous” were these missiles? Why would we be so worried? Why would we even report it? You had to read through all the propaganda to find out. The range of the North Korean test missiles was… 75 miles. Yes, 75 miles. No, not 7,500 or even 750 miles. Only 75!

If the North Koreans mean to attack New York City with this equipment they better find a way to stack-up their rockets across the bay somewhere on the Connecticut shore or maybe launch them from someplace out in the Hamptons on Long Island. How likely is that?

Be afraid! Be very afraid! And while you’re at it – watch out for the propaganda.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Know who any of these guys are? Ever hear of any of them?

Charles Gobat – Ernesto Moneta – Alfred Fried – Fridtjof Nansen – Arthur Henderson – John Mott – Arthur Lutuli – David Trimble

Can’t say that you have? Well, they’re all men, aren’t they? How about a woman? Okay, let’s throw in Betty Williams? You know her, don’t you?

Still nothing?

They’re all Nobel Peace Prize winners. Every one of them. Sure, some of them won their Prize many years ago, but not David Trimble. He won the Prize in 1998. Almost yesterday, and he’s English too. Looks like us. Speaks our language. But you don’t know who he is or who they are. Some prize, huh? Really important. Marks a man’s life forever, right? Hey, it is the Nobel Peace Prize.

How much do you know about the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Martti Ahtisaari? Not much? Maybe nothing at all? Ahtisaari, who’s from Finland, was the key negotiator in the Namibian independence agreement from South Africa in 1990. In 1999, Ahtisaari was credited with convincing the Serbian leadership to call it quits in Kosovo. And six years later, in 2005, he successfully negotiated a settlement between Indonesia and the rebels in Aceh Province. He won the Nobel Prize – now you know why - and you’ve still never heard of him.

Perhaps you are familiar with these men - Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho. Who hasn’t heard of the likes of Russia’s Gorbachev, the Israelis Rabin and Peres, and of course Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat? A fine group of dictators, terrorists, insurrectionists, warmongers… even an international war criminal in this bunch. Surely none of them could be a Nobel Peace Prize winner. It is a "peace" prize. Right? Wrong. They all are. Everyone’s a winner. And only Le Duc Tho, from North Vietnam, had the good manners and common decency to decline the honor.

So, what’s the “Big Deal” about Barack Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize this year? The Golden Globes are just around the corner. Can the Oscars be far behind? Don’t they have something called the Teen Spirit Award? Doesn't country music have some kind of winners? When is the Miss America Pageant?

Saturday, September 26, 2009


What’s the difference between good reporting and hardly reporting at all? Look at this comparison of two different reports from the same newspaper printed on the same day – The New York Times for Saturday, September 26, 2009:

In The Arts Section, there is a review of the new ABC-TV drama “FlashForward.” No, that’s not a typo. ABC wants it printed as a single word despite the double capitalization. This is a futuristic, science fiction thriller, a drama with many more questions than answers, a plot rife with ambiguity and subject to varying interpretations from reasonably intelligent people with reasonably different points of view. As a brand new TV show the main question about it is – Will viewers be shown the answers by the season’s end? Look carefully at how The Times’ reviewer writes about this.

“… the producers (of “FlashForward”) have said repeatedly that almost all of the questions posed in the first episode – “virtually” all of them, Mr. Goyer said – will be answered by the end of the first season. Virtually? It is an important caveat.”

Now, that’s good reporting. Why? Because the reporter recognizes a caveat, a qualification when he hears one. And furthermore, the reporter clearly understands his obligation to point out the implications of such a statement. There is doubt there – about the show’s outcome - and the reader knows it because The New York Times has done a good job of reporting.

So much for popular culture.

What about the really important stuff? What about the life-and-death matters of today’s perilous world situation? How does The New York Times report on such weighty affairs of state?

The #1 issue of the day – today’s front-page story - is the disclosure of Iran’s newest uranium enrichment plant. “Deception” cries The Times’ 5-column wide headline, together with a photo of the US President backed by the serious faces of the French President and the British Prime Minister. The New York Times story begins its second paragraph this way:

“In a day of high drama…”

No reader could possibly doubt the seriousness of the situation, which is to say the nuclear threat posed by Iran. After all – no nuclear threat… no “day of high drama” … no frowning faces from the traditional Great Western Powers.

Then… buried a little deeper in the article we find this tidbit:

“American intelligence officials say it will take at least a year, perhaps five, for Iran to develop the full ability to make a nuclear weapon.”

Unlike the reviewer of ABC’s “FlashForward” The Times’ front-page reporter fails to see the caveat, the qualification or the possibility for doubt. Anytime someone uses the phrase “at least” don’t they lose the high ground when measurement is in question? What does “at least” mean? Not to mention the inclusion of “perhaps five (years).”

Which is it – one year or five? That’s some “at least,” some leeway don’t you think. Four years! And if not one, “perhaps five” - why not six or seven or eight or nine… or fifteen? How many years must pass before any reasonable focus is completely lost? We’ll never know because The New York Times doesn’t bother to mention it.

And what do they mean by “full ability to make a nuclear weapon” – huh? What exactly is “full ability?” And does the phrase “to make” mean they “will” make? Does it mean they already “have made?” … or what? If some 31 nations already have operating nuclear power plants and some 14-18 countries openly admit to enriching uranium, right now, today – does that means that they all have the “full ability to make a nuclear weapon” while Iran does not?

Later in the same story, The Times reports this questionable logic about the Iranian enrichment plant’s supposed purpose:

“Moreover, its location (the enrichment plant still under construction), deep inside an Iranian Revolutionary Guards base about 20 miles from the religious center of Qum, strongly suggested it was designed for covert use in weapons, they (intelligence officials) said.”

Where’s the caveat here? Where is the qualification or the reasonable explanation?

Imagine that you were about to build something – something beneficial to yourself but harmless to others – something that many others all around the world already have in operation without controversy – and imagine that the Vice President of the most powerful country on earth publicly favored bombing you and the “something” you wanted to build. Imagine too that your near-neighbor (itself a nuclear power!) also wanted to launch a “preemptive attack” against you. Now, imagine where you might decide to build this “something.”

Does deep underground, perhaps even on a military base, begin to make any sense?

Does that “strongly suggest” a weapons use? Or does it just suggest you might want to keep your “something” from being blasted to smithereens by the mightiest military power on the planet, a country that was already bombing and occupying your most immediate neighbors on both sides of you? If you didn’t put your “something” underground, you’d be pretty stupid, wouldn’t you?

Imagine one more thing – imagine if the front-page story about Iran had been written by the reporter who reviewed the new television show “FlashForward” while the TV review had been written by the front-page reporters for The New York Times.

Then you would know the difference between good reporting and hardly reporting at all.

Friday, September 25, 2009


The Western/Christian/Jewish fear of nuclear power in the hands of Muslims is a great threat to world peace and an offense against reason and clear thinking.

The Presidents of the United States and France, together with the Prime Minister of Great Britain, appeared this morning to admonish and warn Iran about something they called Iran’s “secret nuclear facility.” But, it was hardly a secret. Everyone knew about it already. The US and other western intelligence agencies are quoted freely in today’s press and on worldwide TV about their knowledge of the this “secret Iranian nuclear facility” - for as long as three years – or since construction of it was commenced. So, apparently it wasn’t a secret at all. Not ever.

As well, the Iranians themselves advised the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the facility in a letter on Monday, four days before the Presidents and the PM made their dramatic TV appearance this morning from Pittsburgh.

Let’s set the record straight – so far as we know it. The Iranians are presently building this facility to enrich uranium. They have been constructing it for at least three years and completion is “at least” another year away. Who knows how long “at least” means or how long it will be before the enrichment facility is ready to actually produce enriched uranium? It seems nobody knows? But, then, despite this morning’s dire warnings, nobody is claiming this nuclear plant is anywhere near ready, or will be finished anytime in the near future.

President Obama did say that the facility’s “configuration and size” were not consistent with the peaceful use of atomic energy. What evidence did he produce regarding the facility’s “configuration and size”? – none, absolutely nothing. I am not saying President Obama is wrong. I am only asking for some proof. If he’s right, he should have such proof, shouldn’t he? How else could he make such a charge? If Iran has any capability to make weapons-grade enriched uranium, let’s see some evidence of it.

Has Iran violated the IAEA rules about disclosure? It seems they have. If they began construction three years ago, they were obliged to disclose that. They failed to do so. Is Iran unique in this failure? Have other countries done the same thing Iran has done? Sure, we all know about Israel, but forget about them for a moment. You might be surprised at who else rejects their legal obligations to the UN and to the IAEA. Countries you may never think of have failed to comply. But the response to those nations was nothing like it is today.

For example… On October 22, 2004 Brazil refused entry to IAEA inspectors at their nuclear construction site in Brazil. Did George Bush and Tony Blair go on worldwide TV to warn Brazil? What was Brazil building? A nuclear facility to enrich uranium. Did Brazil eventually allow the IAEA in? Of course they did. So, they gave in, right? And when did they do this? When did Brazil allow the IAEA inspectors inside?

In February 2009.

It took Brazil four and a-half years to comply with the IAEA rules for inspection. Do you recall the Presidents of the United States, France and the Prime Minister of Britain holding a press briefing in October 2004 to admonish and warn Brazil? No? I didn’t think so. What about 2005 or 2006 or the year after that? Or 2008? Or ever?

About a dozen and a-half countries openly enrich uranium to feed their nuclear reactors and those of other nations as well, reactors that make electricity for consumer and commercial consumption. The latest figures show there are currently 484 working nuclear power reactors in the world producing electricity in 31 different countries around the world. 104 of them are in the United States. France is second with 59. Japan has 53. Russia has 31 and South Korea has 20. A total of 26 other nations also have working nuclear reactors. There are also 47 nuclear reactors now under construction. China, which has 11 active reactors, is building 13 new ones. India, which has 17 active nuclear reactors, is building 6 more. In the years to come, China and India will have as many nuclear facilities as France and someday they will rival the number here in the United States. Almost a third of the world’s people live in China and India. Barely 5% live in the US. So, it makes sense that someday – maybe soon – they will have more nuclear power plants than we do.

Although more than 21% of the world’s population lives in Muslim countries, instead of those nations having about 100 nuclear power reactors (which would equate to statistical equality), they only have 2, both in Pakistan – That’s only 2 of 484. The IAEA is on record showing that 1 nuclear power reactor, for the purpose of producing electricity, is under construction in Iran. It has been under constant monitoring and evaluation. Iran has cooperated with the IAEA on this.

Of the total of 531 nuclear plants, active and/or under construction around the world, the new one being built in Iran would bring the total in the Muslim world to 3, or about one-half of one percent of all the world’s nuclear reactors. There are almost 1.5 billion Muslims. How long can they be denied the benefits of nuclear power?

The irrational fear of peaceful nuclear power – for the purpose of making electricity – in the hands of Muslims has gripped the non-Muslim western world – the Christian and Jewish western world – It holds tight like a powerful wrench ready to turn on a tiny screw. Except we are not talking about a wrench or a screw. We are talking about the mightiest nations on earth preparing a possibly violent reaction to something that seems so normal and so acceptable in 30 other – non-Muslim – countries.

The nuclear power double standard is more than simple hypocrisy. It is a danger to world stability; to peace among nations; and it is an affront to common sense.

Friday, September 18, 2009


I have a heart transplant. Yes, the cost of the transplant itself was enormous. And yes - here in America many people who need one can't get one because they simply have no way to pay for it. The Internet is full of "bake sales" and other fundraisers trying to raise enough cash to get people on the waiting list for a heart transplant. You see... you can't even get on the waiting list unless you can prove - in advance - that you can pay for the operation. The US is the only place in the civilized world where this happens.

And then, what is often neglected, hardly reported on at all in our national press, is the plight of those who actually get a new heart and later die because they cannot afford the lifesaving immunosuppressant drugs they must take daily for the rest of their lives. Yes, after paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for a heart transplant, some successful transplant patients suffer and die without the necessary maintenance drugs. I take two such drugs. They are Cellcept and Prograf. Cellcept is manufactured by Roche Pharmaceuticals, a company based in Switzerland. Prograf is made by Astellas Pharma Inc., a Japanese corporation.

A 90-day supply at my dosage level costs more than $5,400 for Cellcept and a mere ten bucks less than $7,300 for Prograf. A small price to pay for staying alive - if you have it. A $12,700 death warrant for those who don't.

In England - where they also do heart transplants and where they have socialized medicine - a 90 day supply of Cellcept costs less than $100 US or 1/54th the cost for a patient here in America. You read it correctly - less than a hundred dollars for three months. In France where they also do heart transplant operations and where they still have private doctors and hospitals but a highly regulated healthcare system, the same 90-day supply of Cellcept costs half of what the English pay - only $51 US.

So, that's $5,400 here in the US. $100 in England. Only $51 in France. Makes you want to stand up and cheer, doesn't it? USA! USA!

Prograf, the other immunosuppressant drug I take every day costs $7,291.22 in the United States for a 90-day supply. The same prescription in England costs $517.50 and in France it only costs $284.62.

Neither Roche nor Astellas refuse to sell their products in the countries where universal, highly regulated or outright socialized medicine exists. Nor do they claim to lose money there. Look closely at those dollar costs again and decide for yourself if the cost of selling these drugs in America can possibly be so much more than they are in England and France.

Numbers can be dull and boring... unless your life depends upon them. Regardless of income or assets, a citizen of France can get a heart transplant when and if they require one, and the cost of staying alve afterward is $3.72 per day. In the United States of America only those who can prove in advance they can pay for it get a heart transplant and then their cost of survival is about $141.02 per day. That's a hundred and fifty bucks yesterday, today, tomorrow and every day for the rest of their lives.*

* If there was the usual small print disclaimer here - the kind often seen in drug company print advertising - it would have to say that these prices are based on today's costs in 2009 and are not guaranteed to remain the same - because we all know drug prices never remain the same. They go up. They increase in price. They do not - ever - go down. So, who can say what it will cost to stay alive next year and the year after that, and the year after that? Every heart transplant patient in the US worries about this. Our compatriots in the Rest of the Civilized World live under no such stress.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


A couple of weeks before the Presidential election of 1964 - on October 21, 1964 - I heard the Accidental President, Lyndon B. Johnson, say this:

“We are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.”

I voted for Johnson. He won. He did exactly the opposite of what he said he would do. It would be ten more years, 57,000 dead Americans and a number best estimated at 4 million dead Vietnamese before the damage of that unfulfilled promise was halted.

Four years later, in 1968, I refused to vote for the nominee of the Democratic Party for President of the United States. He had been Johnson’s Vice President. How could I believe anything he said?

Forty years later I voted for Barack Obama for President largely because of his position on healthcare reform legislation. In 2003, while campaigning for John Kerry in New Hampshire, then Senator Barack Obama said this:

“I happen to be a proponent of a single payer universal health care program.” That’s what he said. I was glad to hear it because that is what I want too. He was also savvy enough to understand what was required in order to get a single payer universal health care program. In the same speech, he also said this:

“We may not get there immediately.”

Now, why did he say that? What’s the explanation? What did we need to accomplish first? Here’s the rest of that statement:

“Because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House.”

You got that? Obama understood. Take back the Presidency and the Congress and then what? Then we can have a single payer universal health care program.

Those were the words of Barack Obama. He repeated that pledge in his campaign for the Presidency in 2008. He promised Change We Can Believe In. I supported him and voted for him. He won. Democrats also won the House with a wide majority. They also won a numerical super-majority in the Senate.

So, we’re getting a single payer universal health care program, right?

No. All we are getting now is the Second Coming of LBJ. We never even got a shot at a single payer universal health care program and the so-called “public option” has now been scuttled too. The Change We Can Believe In has turned into either No Change At All or worse - a bill designed to further enrich the healthcare insurance industry, the pharmaceutical manufacturers, doctors, hospitals, private laboratories and all the other associated special interests that comprise the health care segment of our economy.

If the point of partisan politics is to win public office – as Obama pointed out so well himself – what then is the point of winning if you never get what was promised?

I understand you may not be able to get 100% of everything immediately. For me, 100% means a single payer universal health care system, or Medicare-for-all. I am ready to achieve that in steps. But if this Obama administration fails to pass a health care bill with at least a viable public option for health insurance, I will not vote for a Democrat for the House or Senate in 2010 and I will not vote to reelect Barack Obama in 2012. Why should I? What difference does it make?

Looking back, I’m not so sure Hubert Humphrey would have been any different than Richard Nixon and it sure looks like this country may end up no better off with Obama/Biden than had John McCain and Sarah Whatshername won.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Isn't it bad enough that a tiny percentage of the 300 million+ Americans get such massive TV coverage when they show how crazy and stupid they are... "Keep the Federal Government out of my Medicare!" "I want my country back!" "Obama's just like Hitler!" "Socialist!" "Communist!" "African Muslims are taking over!" They are free to say what they please - I don't want to stop them - but do we have to treat these morons as if they represent a serious segment of the American people?

And now... a Member of Congress can go nuts and nothing happens? We have three coequal branches of government - technically. When a President speaks to a joint session of Congress, he is the guest of the Congress. Even small children know how to treat a guest in your house. But it seems a Congressman can do anything without any penalty at all - nothing. Well... nothing except he too, like the Town Hall nutcases, the "birthers" and the bigots, gets famous by being on TV constantly telling everyone why he didn't really mean to apologize and how he was right all along. And then he raises more than a $1 million from fellow traveler-crazies who think he's the New Hero Of The South, a true Son Of The Confederacy, come Home to wave the flag once again. If "the South will rise again!" I suppose it will look like Rep. Joe Wilson.

It always has. Why change now?

My question is: Doesn't the House of Representatives have any Security? Why didn't The Speaker, Nancy Pelosi use her microphone to instruct the Sgt. At Arms to physically remove Wilson from the House? After his outburst, why did the Leader of the Congress just let him sit there?

I have been in the House chamber. Perhaps you have been there too. I am positive that had you or I been there that same evening and either of us shouted "You lie!" from the gallery seats, we would have been ejected before you could say... "Joe Wilson."

It looks like it's a free ride for the crazies in this country... and if you don't know how dangerous that is, you're not paying attention.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


If healthcare reform will have a personal effect on 304 million Americans and if it is so important it must be bipartisan, why have we abandoned any pretense of representative government in the making of this legislation?

The truth about “representative government” in our “democratic republic” is this:

We are being screwed because the healthcare bill – if there is to be one at all – is being negotiated by people who represent the tiniest fraction of Americans, none of whom live anywhere near anyplace that would be called a major city or even a large metropolitan area.

We have put our medical futures in the hands of people most of us wouldn’t elect to a city council or a Homeowners Association board. Instead of making use of the best and the brightest, we have selected the weakest of the weak – and no one seems to care.

We are a nation of more than 304 million and we are letting our most important domestic agenda be set by… the guy who lives in the middle of nowhere, someplace you need one of those GPS systems to even find it.

The top 5 metro areas in the United States have a total population of 53,585,000. These places are well known to us all. They are: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Philadelphia. No elected official from any of these cities or metro areas is drafting the healthcare bill.

The next 5 most populated metro areas have a population of 26,408,000. They include Atlanta, Washington DC, Miami, Houston and Boston. No official representing any of these places is on the so-called “Gang of Six,” who are actually writing the bill.

That means that 80 million Americans who live in the top ten metropolitan areas are depending on strangers from small towns thousands of miles away for their medical care and their lives, plus the lives of their loved ones.

How many metropolitan areas in these United States have a population greater than 1 million people? Many. The answer is – 53 – ranging from #1 New York with 19.006 million people to #53 Tucson with 1.012 million residents.

Why is this important?

Because not one of these 53 million-plus metro areas has a single senator involved in the negotiations for the healthcare reform bill currently being worked out by the US Congress.

The “Gang of Six” can hardly be said to be representing all of America.

Among the 3 Republicans who hold the fate of this legislation in their hands – Grassley of Iowa, Snowe of Maine and Enzi of Wyoming – they have the following as the largest metro areas that they actually represent and from which they have been elected to the US Senate:

#243 Waterloo, Iowa, represented by Grassley
#269 Bangor, Maine, represented by Snowe
#421 Cheyenne, Wyoming, represented by Enzi

Let’s be serious about this. Mike Enzi of Wyoming – a senator who doesn’t have constituents who live anywhere near the top 420 most populated areas in this country – is deciding exactly what your healthcare will be! That’s plain crazy. Under normal circumstances you wouldn’t put him in charge of your grocery shopping.

The 3 top GOP represented metropolitan areas – Waterloo, Bangor and Cheyenne - have a total population of 397,000 people. Let’s put this in a meaningful perspective. Port St. Luci, Florida has a population of 400,121. What do mean you don’t know where Port St. Luci Florida is… or you’re not sure you’ve ever even heard of it before? Well, three senators who represent less people than live there are deciding your future healthcare.

But… you say… at least the Democrats have a majority on the committee debating this bill and they really do represent America – don’t they? Take a look and don’t hold your breath. The 3 Democrats selected to “make the deal” are – Max Baucus of Montana, Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Jeff Bingaman from New Mexico.

The largest metro areas these Democrats represent are:

#59 Albuquerque, New Mexico, represented by Bingaman
#214 Fargo, North Dakota, represented by Conrad
#266 Billings, Montana, represented by Baucus

These metro areas have a total population of 1,185,000 people. More than the Republicans’ 397,000… but really… is this the best we can do?

So, maybe this tiny fraction of Americans who have been tasked with this job are there because the committee hasn’t got any members from more populated states? Could that be so?

Yeah, sure!

Senator Charles Schumer from New York is a committee member. He represents 19.3 million New Yorkers – every one of them an American citizen – every one of them having a need for and an interest in healthcare. Also on the committee is Senator Bill Nelson of Florida. He represents 18.1 million Floridians. I’ve heard that the millions of people living in Florida occasionally go to a doctor. On the GOP side, there is Senator John Cornyn of Texas who represents 23.5 million Texans. Wait a minute. You mean to tell me the Republicans had a Texan at their disposal and they turned instead to a guy from Wyoming? Yes they did.

And yes, you are right – do the math – the same committee that selects six of its members to negotiate the healthcare bill – six who represent a combined total of only 10.3 million Americans, overlooked three other senators on the same committee who represent more than 61 million people! Half as many senators – six times as many people – who needs them?

And, the US Senate as a whole is not off the hook here. In all its legislative wisdom it neglected to include on this committee any senator from the states of California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan or Illinois. The senators from these states only represent some 83 million American citizens.

What is going on here?

If you listed the ten most important things you have to do in your life, you would not allow a single one of these “Gang of Six” to handle any of them – not by choice you wouldn’t. But America’s healthcare? Sure, why not? Hand all that over to Max Baucus, Chuck Grassley, Mike Enzi and Kent Conrad.

What have we done? What will we have to say for ouselves when these guys give us exactly what we deserve?

Where is the public outcry against this obscenity perpetrated upon representative, democratic government? There is no outcry, no outrage, no protest. None I’ve seen.

Call it “Change We Can Believe In” or call it what it more likely seems to be – Bullshit! – But c’mon now. Isn’t it silly to let senators from Iowa, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Maine and New Mexico determine the future of healthcare for everybody who lives in the United States of America?

Friday, August 28, 2009


To mark the date - August 29th - four years now since Katrina hit New Orleans resulting in the ruin of one of the world's great cities, I am re-posting something from earlier this year. As Americans we should all be ashamed to have allowed this to happen. We should be horrified that we have spent more money rebuilding cities in Iraq than taking care of our own.


Car dealers have a word for it – a term that accurately describes what New Orleans has become. “Almost walking” is what they call it. When a customer drives onto a car lot in an automobile obviously on its last legs, that’s what the salesmen say – “He’s almost walking.”

You can’t see it from the air. The path into New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong Airport takes you over the northern portion of Lake Pontchartrain, so you get no view at all from above the city of New Orleans. And the cab ride into town from the airport has also been arranged to block any sight of blight, disrepair, abandonment or damage of any sort. All along Interstate 10 they’ve built high walls of beautifully contoured, richly toned cement complete with the famous Fleur De Lais logo. You’ve seen walls like these before on highways in residential neighborhoods. They are usually constructed to block the roadway noise from local residents. In this case, it’s pretty obvious. They’re designed to hide the results of the recent unpleasantness, the ugly residue of Katrina. They have to do that because if you could see it, you’d know.

New Orleans is “almost walking.”

Our first morning there we went to the Café Du Monde down on Decatur Street, along the river, for your traditional New Orleans breakfast – beignets and coffee. If you’ve ever been there you know the Café Du Monde is a huge place, open aired with a roof but no sides, no walls – just a mass of small tables, a bunch of waitresses running around in constant chaos, and a jazz band to liven the atmosphere. The coffee is pure Louisiana – with a hint of chicory, lightened with heavy cream and sweetened just a little too much. The beignets are special – hot from the deep fryer, overwhelmed with powdered sugar, three to a plate. It’s a breakfast fit for kings.

We never even sat down. You didn’t have to be or even remember Doris Troy. Just one look was all it took. What you saw was the dinning room in a nursing home. Walkers, wheelchairs and the “almost walking” themselves were everywhere – to the exclusion of everyone else. At first glance, we thought we had stumbled into an outdoor, early morning Bingo game. So, we hightailed it across the street and up a couple of blocks to a tiny joint I’d been in years before called simply, Café Beignet. The coffee was just as good. The beignets were even better and if there were a dozen people in the place that was a lot. Perhaps, I thought, the Café Du Monde was an anomaly. Could the remnants of the John McCain campaign be holding a reunion? Maybe it was a Billy Graham meeting. But it wasn’t.

All over New Orleans, no matter where we went, it looked like a field trip, an excursion for the nursing home set. In the hotels. In the restaurants. On the riverboat jazz dinner cruise. In the French Market. Everywhere we went. there was the Social Security crowd. Where, I wondered, had all the young people gone? Even the middle-aged were missing.

Among the great sights in New Orleans has always been the young people – drunk, high, smiling, laughing, parading up and down Bourbon Street with painted faces, bare midriffs, halter-tops and scary T-shirts. Not this time out. Bourbon Street was still crowded. They still don’t allow any cars on it. But, the walking wounded looked angry, frustrated, sick and tired, and some just plain mean. The happiness and joy was all sucked out of them. Bourbon Street was noisy with music, but it wasn’t alive; it was different. The music was recorded and most of it was hip-hop. The old joints with their own local bands – the brass bands and jazz quartets, the horn players and blues guitars – all gone. Sure, the sixteen-ounce beers, at three bucks a pop, were still there. The sex-show barkers were still pitching hard. But the context that made it all so attractive once was missing. It was Bourbon Street and yes, it was The French Quarter, but it might just as well have been Pittsburgh or Buffalo, Boise or Tacoma, Little Rock or Albany.

The French Quarter is “almost walking.”

The hotels are open. The lovely, elegant place we stayed at, in The Quarter, had weddings both nights we were there. Two receptions. Two bands in the courtyard. Not a black musician in either band and not a single player under the age of fifty, or so it seemed. The restaurants too are open. The famous ones – Antoine’s, Commander’s Palace, Brennans’s, The Rib Room at the Royal Orleans – they’re all full. But The Quarter is also full of Realtor’s For Sale Signs and hand lettered posters in windows saying For Rent. After a while you begin to notice the enormous number of abandoned residential buildings and when you gaze through the gates back to the courtyards, you see the grass hasn’t been cut and the fountains aren’t working. Nobody’s home. The people who lived there are gone. A truly American culture has been dispersed, perhaps destroyed.

We saw no street musicians, no dancers, no jugglers, no mimes, no painted people, walking works of art, no happiness and no joy. Even the horses fronting the carriages lined up in front of Jackson Square looked like they’d rather be elsewhere, out to pasture than lined up to pull the nursing home crowd around the narrow streets of the French Quarter.

We stayed the weekend. We ate well. No doubt about it. We bought a couple of T-shirts for the grandchildren – realizing as we did that we were as old as most of the others around us. We don’t feel like it – and maybe the other oldsters trotting around New Orleans think of themselves as their younger selves too. I did hear one old man ask the old woman he was with, as they finished their lunch, “Are we ready to rock ‘n roll?” She said, “Yes,” but I’m not sure.

Ernie K. Doe is gone. So is The Fat Man. Donna’s Bar & Grill is closed. You might hear “Stagger Lee” but it’s some fifty-five year old white guy singing it, not Lloyd Price.

I was hoping to see Old Charlie on N. Ramparts and maybe catch some Sunday Cajun square dancing at Tipatina’s. No more. Ain’t it a shame.

New Orleans is “almost walking.”

Thursday, August 27, 2009


The two most important aspects of organized sports - money & winning - separates professional golf from the four major pro sports – baseball, football, basketball and hockey.

The first aspect is a plus for golf – an underappreciated and under promoted plus. There are no “overpaid” players in professional golf. Why? Because there are no paid players at all! They all start from nothing – even Tiger Woods. Every dollar a pro golfer makes – he earns. On the PGA Tour it’s all about: play well, earn well. Play poorly and you might walk away from a tournament with nothing you didn’t bring with you. If you fail to make the cut on Friday, you don’t even get to tee it up on the weekend and you leave town without a nickel to show for your efforts. Appearance money – payments to top players just to enter a tournament – is forbidden by the PGA. A pro golfer makes his money the old fashioned way. He earns it.

Can you imagine a Major League Baseball player – say, Alex Rodriquez of the Yankees – being paid that way? A-Rod’s contract pays him $27,500,000 per season guaranteed. That’s his salary. He gets it whether he hits or not, whether he plays or not. So, he is earning $169,753 for every game the Yankees play – even if he doesn’t – even for those contests he sits out because he or his manager thinks he needs “a rest.” A rest? For that kind of guaranteed money, who needs a rest? A-Rod has averaged 4 at-bats per game over his career, including walks. That works out to $42,438 for every time he steps into the batter’s box. If he hits a home run - $42,438. If he grounds into a double play or strikes out – the same $42,438. What kind of pressure is that?

In professional golf every swing of the club means actual money in the pocket of the player taking that stroke. A good shot means more money. A bad shot can cost thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands. One poorly played hole can make a million dollar difference. Imagine how well A-Rod (or any MLB player) would hit under that kind of pressure!

The second is a distinct minus for PGA golf. It has no definitive, season-ending playoff to determine the unchallenged winner, the acknowledged Champion player for that season. In the other major sports, the second best team always loses its last game and is rarely remembered as “second best.” Lose a World Series or a Super Bowl, the Finals in the NBA or get beaten in the Stanley Cup and your season is a disappointment to most of your fans – and also to most of the losing players.

What has golf got to match that? Some nonsense grouping of a few otherwise meaningless September tournaments they call the FEDEX Cup. Who cares? Can anyone tell me how a player gets into these so-called “playoff tournaments?” Can you tell me how the ultimate winner of the FEDEX Cup is determined? Of course not. Not even passionate golf fans can understand (or care about) this foolish FEDEX Cup nonsense.

If the PGA wanted to make its FEDEX Cup really mean something – to the fans and especially to the players who are the participants – they would set it up this way:

1. Okay, still play your regular season with golfers earning points each week according to their finish in the last tournament.

2. Have the top 100 golfers in the points play the first Playoff Tournament with only the top 50 qualifying for the next one. No prize money at all for Round One.

3. When the top 50 compete in the second Playoff tournament, only the top 25 move on to the next week. Again, no prize money is awarded for Round Two.

4. In Playoff tournament #3 only the top 4 make it to the Final Championship. Yes, only 4 players survive! And yes, there is no prize money given for Round Three.

5. Play the Finals as a foursome (just the way most of the millions of golfers play their golf) and play it on a Winner-Take-All basis. Yes, give all of it - the entire $35 million prize to the winner!

The TV ratings for a weekend of the four top PGA golfers playing for this kind of Winner-Take-All, $35,000,000 prize would be amazing. And the golf would be like nothing we’ve ever seen. There’s no point to playing safe – none at all – unless you’re leading… and if you are in front you’ve obviously not played safe to get there. Instead of a golfer hitting 20 or 30 feet into the middle of the green to avoid a hazard or a difficult pin placement, you’ll see them all taking direct aim at the flag on every hole! Can you see the back nine of Sunday? How hard would it be to pull that putter back if you were stroking a 10-foot putt… for $35 million dollars... and absolutely nothing if you missed?

No team plays safe in the World Series or in the Super Bowl. Safe is the same as second place, and second place is worth… nothing. Most fans don’t realize that baseball, football and basketball players actually make less money in the playoffs than they do for their regular season paychecks. For the top paid players, they're almost playing for nothing. Thus, in the playoffs, they only play to win.

But, last season on the PGA Tour, the Runner-Up prize in the FEDEX Cup was $3 million. That’s three million dollars for failing to win, for finishing second. Even the fifth place finisher took home a check for $1 million. As a player, if you were anywhere near the top five, would you be hitting the hard shots, taking the chances necessary to finish First? Not with that kind of money still available if you only made to fifth place. Why, the last place FEDEX Cup finisher made more money than most Americans earn in a whole year of work.

If the PGA wants to take pro golf to the very highest level, for the fans, for the players and for TV, do it my way. I’d bet all $35 million in the FEDEX Cup kitty that these playoffs would rival those of the other major sports – and maybe even beat them in the TV ratings.

Friday, August 21, 2009


"Our freedoms rest on a moral consensus, enshrined in law, that in a democratic republic we work out our differences through reasoned, and sometimes raucous, argument. Free elections and open debate are not rooted in violence or the threat of violence." - E.J. Dionne Jr. in The Washington Post 8/20/2009

You think so?

If, as Papa’s co-contributor Valentine Marofsky “Himself” has proclaimed – “It is better to be uninformed than misinformed.” - There can be no better example of this than that of Mr. Dionne Jr. If he really believes that "our freedoms rest on..." anything that bears any resemblance whatsoever to the rest of his sentence, or the assertions in his second statement, then Papa must ask – “Where has E.J. Dionne Jr. been all his life?”

First of all... when have we ever had a "moral consensus" on anything in America? Slavery? The Constitutional deprivation of rights from Americans who are female? The annihilation of the East Cost and then the Great Plains Indians? The mass imprisonment of innocent American citizens of Japanese heritage? The use of nuclear weapons? The rape of the world's resources? Not to mention more recent events. Has any or all of this sprung from a "moral consensus"?

Second... we do not live in a "democratic republic." Just isn't so. In fact, the two terms are antithetical. A democracy is no republic and neither is a republic, democratic. This sort of liberal, nonsense-intellectualism is as stupid as the right-wing nut cases who scream and shout, "I want my country back." Neither knows what they're talking about.

Third... "We work out our differences through reasoned, and sometimes raucous, argument." Really? Has Mr. Dionne Jr. never heard of The Civil War? 600,000 dead (in what was then a tiny country) dwarfs our casualties in any foreign war or armed conflict this nation has ever participated in... And all we were doing 150 years ago was killing ourselves. Hardly what could be called reasoned argument by any rational definition and how silly is it to say that such widespread death and destruction was merely raucous?

Fourth... what exactly is our American history when it comes to "free elections and open debate...?" Is further elaboration necessary?

Without regard to the merits of the right-wing's, anti-Obama, anti-healthcare, anti-everything/government movement, their open love of and packing of firearms IS what the American tradition is really all about. There is little if any distinction to be made between early American vigilante law enforcement and the empowerment of the frontier "bad guys" as the official authority for law & order, and today's Blackwater contractors who make war around the globe in the name of and in the pay of this American government.

And as for guns and Presidents.... quick.... list all those Presidents who were shot at! Quite a list, wouldn't you say? That's what our history is — like it or not. Not much reason. Hardly any real debate. Few and far between when it comes to free elections. But... lots of guns and lots of violence.

The E. J. Dionne Jr.'s and the Obama-Loving-Upper West Side-Soy Eating-Liberals have it all wrong if they think that a reasoned, democratic approach to their opposition will win out in the end. They need to stop pretending.

Papa thinks that those who actually want to get something done are coming to believe that we might be better off if Rham Emanuel (or the ghost of LBJ) and not Barack Obama was in charge.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Here’s the thing about voting – elections have meaning.

Here’s a fact – A majority of American voters voted for a federal government to be run by the Democratic Party. Here’s another fact – Nobody voted for “bipartisanship.” It wasn’t on the ballot – not in any state, not in any Congressional district, not for President or Vice President. Our political system is “partisan” not “bipartisan.” We have winners and losers, not group hugs.

You need proof? The Democrats have wide majorities in both houses of Congress and there is a Democrat in the White House too. The Legislative and Executive branches are both controlled by the Democrats. That’s the government, folks!

Sure, the Democrats may not control the lobbyists. More likely, it’s the other way around. Perhaps they don’t control these so-called “town meetings” or whatever they are. But, where the proverbial rubber hits the road – where the power is and the votes are taken – where actual laws and regulations are made, the Democrats are solidly in charge.

A reminder – They are in charge because a majority of voters put them there.

Now is the time for all good Democrats to come to aid of their party. By good Democrats I mean the President, the Democratic members of the House of Representatives and those Democrats in the Senate. If they do not mean to govern, why in hell did we vote for them? And if they will not govern, we will not vote for them again. No one else will either.

If the only goal of the Obama administration and the Congressional Democrats is to compromise in an effort to appease and attract a few possibly willing Republicans to vote with them – then all is lost. We voted to put the Democrats in charge of things. And those who ran as Democrats – starting with Barack Obama – promised to govern if elected. They did not campaign on a platform of kissing Republican ass once in office. A majority and a mandate are one in the same. More specifically, Obama and all of the other Democrats who ran for President promised they would introduce and pass into law a national healthcare program.

The time has come to make good on that promise. No excuses. No deals with aging Republicans from tiny states who have no sincere desire to cooperate in the first place. No bullshit about the virtues of bipartisanship.

The Democrats got elected. Now they have a job to do. Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid ought to take a lesson from the folks at Nike.

“Just do it!”

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


This Thursday Afghanistan will have its second “democratic” election under Western occupation. In recent years we Americans have lost track of what it means to occupy someone else’s country. Some Americans have even come to believe that occupiers are the same as liberators. Seventy years ago, many Germans labored under similar delusions.

Right now, there are forces from 9 foreign countries stationed in Afghanistan. They are occupiers. They include the nations of NATO in Europe – the same major powers involved in World War II (Britain, Germany and Italy). Strange as it may be, even Singapore has people in Afghanistan. Of course, the largest fighting force there comes from the United States.

No country under foreign occupation has ever conducted an election that had any historical international credibility. How could they? Just as the German army was in charge of French elections in Nazi occupied France, so too the US military conducted the Iraqi elections and is now in charge of “security” for the elections in Afghanistan. In Iraq, even the ballots themselves were printed in the United States.

In the first occupied Afghan election, in 2004, 15 of the 16 candidates for President actually withdrew claiming widespread election fraud – before the votes were cast! Guess who stayed and then guess who won. Now guess who is running for “re-election.” Guess who’s going to win again.

Russia’s Stalin said it was not “who voted” that mattered so much. In any election, Stalin said, the important people are those “…who count the votes.” According to reports broadcast on the BBC today, the votes in Afghanistan have already been counted – 2 days before the election takes place. Look it up. The BBC is online, on the Internet. Anyone can access it. Don’t waste your time looking for this BBC investigation in the US press or on US television. Although, to their great credit, there was a small mention of it on the CBS website.

Did we invade and occupy Afghanistan so we could hold corrupt elections? Is that really why we went there and why we’re still there? Have Americans died for this?

Do you know how long we’ve been there? Can you remember when this Afghan “war” began? The date was October 7, 2001. That’s almost 8 years ago. This war in Afghanistan is now the longest foreign war ever fought by the United States. Has it been worth it? Is it still worth it? Do you remember why we went there in the first place?

To catch and kill Osama bin Laden.

Have we done that, yet? Yeah, sure. In fact, we don’t talk about it anymore. Osama bin Laden? Who’s he? He was just the one who attacked the United States on 9/11. No, it wasn’t anyone from Iraq or from Iran who flew airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It was a bunch of terrorists (most of whom were from Saudi Arabia!) who were headquartered in Afghanistan. We had every right to go after them – there and then… in Afghanistan, in October 2001.

Bush never caught them. He said he would. He said he’d get Osama “Dead or Alive!” He said he would “dig him out of his hole!” Have you forgotten that? That’s why we went there.

So, what the hell are we doing there today? What is the point?

On this one, Obama sounds just like Bush. New boss – just like the old boss. Only yesterday our new, Democratic President said we had an obligation to give the people of Afghanistan the chance to decide for themselves what kind of government they were going to have.

Excuse me? We do? Why?

Obama didn’t say a word yesterday about catching or killing Osama bin Laden. Even George Bush never said we were invading Afghanistan to give anybody who lived there a chance to decide for themselves what kind of government they wanted.

Barack Obama campaigned saying he would get us out of Iraq. He hasn’t done that yet. He also said we had lost focus on the real objective and that, as President, he would “win” in Afghanistan. He said he would go after Osama bin Laden, even if that meant chasing him into Pakistan. He hasn’t done that either.

During his campaign, Barack Obama often said that he wanted to be “the President of the United States of America.” And then he would say why. He told us what he wanted to accomplish in that office. I was impressed. I voted for him. However, I do not recall Obama ever saying that he wanted that job so he could obligate American lives and American treasure to the task of bringing Afghans whatever sort of government they wanted.

If he had said that – or anything remotely like that – I wouldn’t have voted for him.

Monday, August 17, 2009


If it's really reform of American healthcare we want, that reform is really very simple. There's no bullshit, no complications and no socialized medicine. Keep your doctor - keep your hospital - keep your prescription drugs - keep all your present healthcare providers and suppliers, if you wish.

Just change the law to allow anyone - yes, anyone! - to buy into the existing Medicare program. The key word here is "allow." Don't make it mandatory. Just make it possible.

Single-payer (which is exactly what Medicare is!) does not equal socialism. To actually have socialized medicine, you must have government provided medical care. The providers must either work for or be completely under the control of the government. This is hardly the case with Medicare. Medicare does not "provide" any healthcare. It pays for it. All Medicare is, is a single-payer program. It is not a single-provider program.

So, pass a simple chan ge in the Medicare law. Change Medicare eligibility to include anyone below age 65 who wishes to buy into the system. That's all. Healthcare reform accomplished.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Recent op-ed pieces in The New York Times have discussed the difficulties facing Israel and the Palestinians with regard to reaching a two state solution. One state, Israel, is already there. But there are many stumbling blocks to the establishment of a Palestinian state, and by far the greatest obstacle is the totality of Israeli settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

It is often hard for Americans to put this problem in an understandable perspective. Many Americans, particularly American Jews oppose the settlements – in principle – and are not in any manner of speaking Zionists themselves. They do not believe in or support the Zionist concept of a Greater Israel. They fervently support Israel but within its internationally accepted borders. However, many look at existing Israeli settlements and tend to favor a gradual or partial reduction. And some do not support any reduction at all, only a cessation of future construction.

Such a position completely disregards Article 49 of the Geneva Convention that forbids an occupying power from moving civilians onto occupied lands as permanent residents. Both Israel and the United States have signed these Geneva Accords.

What are the true mathematical implications of the Israeli settlements?

Official Israeli figures show that 304,569 Israeli Jews are now living in settlements on the West Bank – land that is not part of the State of Israel. Additionally, although no official figure is made public by Israel, it is generally believed that another 190,000 Israeli Jews live in East Jerusalem – in the Arab section – in housing that was forcibly constructed after removing existing Arab residents. These unofficial Jerusalem settlements bring the total of Israeli Jews living outside the borders of Israel, in occupied Arab territory, to almost 500,000.

How can we, as Americans, comprehend the meaning of this number? After all, remember we are paying for it.

There are 5,593,000 Israeli Jews. About 8.84% of them are now living on land that does not belong to them or to their country. What if we, as Americans, were doing something similar?

The US Census says there are 304,059,724 people living in the United States. Imagine, if you can, that 26,878,900 citizens of the United States decided to move and go live in housing projects built on Canadian land – against the wishes of the Canadians – and then imagine that the US government took the position that all or nearly all of them should remain in Canada – forever – not as new Canadians, but as Americans! How would you feel about that – if you were a Canadian?

And now think about what is called “natural growth.” Human populations are not constant. People die and new people are born. In Israel the growth rate is currently 1.8% per year. However, in the settlements the rate is much higher. It is 5.7%. The settlers are younger and more determined to increase their strength of numbers. They are having babies on purpose for reasons that go way beyond family planning. Their rapid growth is religiously political.

That means by next year there will be almost 30,000 more Israeli Jews added to the existing settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem - all without a single new settler moving in.

If you have a mortgage with a rate anywhere near 5.7% you already know that means the actual price of your home will be about 3 to 4 times the original loan amount within 20 or 30 years. So, if we had a Palestinian state established today, and if no more Israeli Jews moved into this new state – but those already there were allowed to remain and reproduce at their current rate – there would be a million and half to two million Israeli citizens – Jews not Arabs, Israelis not Palestinians – living in a Palestinian state in less than a generation.

That is the consequence of “natural growth.”

Do youthink the Canadians would like to have 100,000,000 US citizens living in their country in 2040.

Ask yourself a simple question: If you were a Palestinian Arab, could you start your own nation in 2009 or 2010 while having 500,000 citizens of another country occupy your land while actively growing themselves to almost two million in number by 2040?

When viewed properly, the math seems simple enough. There can never be a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem so long as any Israelis continue to occupy the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Let Israel be Israel – but also let Palestine not be Israel too.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


No, not Scarlett Johansson. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the US Secretary of State.

For the second time in only six months, Secretary Clinton has gotten herself lost in translation. It’s embarrassing and worse – it’s a sign of real incompetence and a serious lack of attention to detail. Plus, it defeats the very idea of diplomacy.

In March, when she was still brand new on the job, Secy. Clinton visited Russia. The purpose of her Russian trip was to “reset” relations between the two great powers. She said that – not me. And that’s just fine. Nothing wrong with that as a diplomatic objective. As a symbolic gesture in that direction she gave the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, a gimmick gift. It was a button – a red button somewhat reminiscent perhaps of a nuclear launch button – only this one said, in English beneath the button - “RESET.” Just above the button was supposed to be the same word in Russian. That’s what they thought anyway. This official present, from the United States Secretary of State, used the wrong Russian word for “reset.”

Foreign Minister Levrov looked at the gift and promptly told Secretary Clinton that the Russian word she used was incorrect. It was actually the Russian word for “overcharge” as in paying too much. What Mrs. Clinton had actually done was tell the Russians that while we were “resetting” our approach to them, they would find this new diplomacy very costly. Not exactly what she had in mind.

Mr. Levrov, thankfully, spoke perfect English and did not require the services of a translator to notice this error or to realize it was a mistake. Secy. Clinton, like all her predecessors, spoke no Russian at all. Her attempt at humor had been undercut at best and turned into a diplomatic disaster at worst by whoever had been entrusted with the translation. The moment, naturally, was ruined. Lost in translation.

Another such moment was ruined yesterday in Congo in West Africa when Secretary Clinton – who also speaks zero French – thought an African student had asked her a question about her husband, President Bill Clinton, when in fact he had not – he had asked about the current President, Mr. Obama, not the former one. As Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton is the spokesperson for the current President and therefore such a question was perfectly in order and completely appropriate. However, since the Secretary received a bad translation, she ended up losing her composure and scolding the student for asking about husband. If you’ve seen the video, you know she also ripped her translation earphones from her ears and was thus unable to hear if the translator made the proper correction. We can hear the student trying to do that, but he was not speaking English so how could we expect Mrs. Clinton to understand? Instead, she blew her cool.

“My husband is not the Secretary of State,” she angrily barked. “I am.”

It was embarrassing… again. Lost in translation.

The fact that Americans, especially those in sensitive international positions, rarely if ever speak any language except English is not a new development and translation problems, as a result, are also not new.

Remember Khrushchev’s famous 1956 rant in the UN General Assembly, “We will bury you!” He didn’t really say that. Instead he used a very familiar Russian idiom, one any Russian would have recognized, as “We will outlive you!” Under the circumstances of the Cold War and the superpower nuclear standoff, that’s a pretty big difference. Lost in translation.

When President John F. Kennedy made his stirring speech in defense of West Germany's Berlin – he too was mistranslated. He did not shout out, with gallant defiance, “I am a Berliner!” He did not signal his oneness with the adoring German crowd. That’s not what he said at all. The proper German translation would have been – “I am a jelly doughnut!” Forget the American media myth. That’s the truth. You could look it up. Good thing he wasn't in Hamburg. Lost in translation.

Or, how about President Jimmy Carter’s faux paus in December 1977 when he arrived on a State Visit to Poland. Carter had wanted to say, “I am excited to be here in Poland.” But of course, he spoke not a word of Polish. He relied totally upon his translator. Rather than bring along a Polish language expert from the State Department – assuming we had one – President Carter gave the Polish translator job to the young son of a family friend. I’m not kidding. He really did. Yes, he did.

So, in his Polish airport arrival remarks, the President of the United States said – according to the correct Polish translation – that he was so “excited” to be in Poland he stood before them with an erection, a hard-on, a woody of diplomatic proportions. It was all in the choice of Polish words for “excited.” Lost in translation.

American business has no better record than do our diplomats or Presidents. General Motors was unable to sell its Buick LaCrosse sedan in Quebec, Canada because the French word “LaCrosse” was commonly used in that French-speaking province by young men to signify their desire to jerk-off. Buick scampered to withdraw the brand from showrooms across Quebec, but not until it had been lost in translation.

Similarly, the corporation selling the toothbrush substitute, Waterpik, tried to market it in Denmark with devastating effect. Why? The Danish translation they employed was Vandpik, a literal choice of the Danish word for water – vand – together with their own pik. Unfortunately for them, to the Danes the word vandpik referred to the kind of erection men commonly have when they first wakeup in the morning. It was very funny – to the Danes – but they didn’t run out and buy the product. They were not eager to put the Vandpik in their mouths. Lost in translation.

Perhaps you’ve seen the nerdy Frank Perdue who serves as the ad spokesman for his family’s chicken business. The company slogan was “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken.” They banked on the rough-edged slogan and the high nerd-quality of Mr. Perdue to produce the necessary irony. Worked just fine where consumers spoke English. But, in Mexico irony has a different name and the translation that appeared on their television and on billboards across the Mexican landscape said, “It takes a hard man to get a chicken aroused.” Lost in translation.

Perhaps the most arrogant of all such examples is the Nike television ad – shown here the United States – in which a bunch of Sambura tribesmen from Kenya are shown running in the Kenyan hills – as the Kenyans are world famous for – all of them wearing Nike running shoes. As the group of Kenyans runs past the cameras, one of the runners shouts out something in his native language. Nike left that piece of audio in the TV spot they ran on American television. What did the African runner yell out? “I do not like these shoes,” he said. “Give me my own shoes!” Nike, of course, figured no one seeing the ad here in the USA would ever know what the man really said. Lost, more like vanished, in translation.

Our Secretary of State – currently Hillary Rodham Clinton – has an obligation to get it right. She is traveling around the world representing us. The least she can do is make sure she brings along an adequate translator. Otherwise, American diplomacy and – in this instance – her own personal dignity gets lost in translation.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Put me down as #1 in the Tim Clark fan club.

After yesterday's round at the World Golf Championship at Firestone Country Club was completed — scorecards were signed, accepted and tallied to set-up pairings for Sunday's final round, Tim Clark was in 3rd place and in plain view of a very big payday. He had at least a fighting shot at the $1 million+ first prize money and certainly figured to be in the thick of things for a check of $300,000-$600,000. However, after reflecting on his round, Clark remembered he made a placement mistake with his ball on the 16th green. He moved it legally but failed to replace - which is against the rules. Nobody else saw him do it or knew about it and no one but he could have reported it.

He did report it to tournament officials. He called in his own 2-shot penalty... after the fact... and now he begins today's final round in 14th place. No doubt now he will have to battle his way to earn anything near 6 figures. We'll never be able to say exactly how much this voluntary act of honesty will have cost him... but hundreds of thousands of dollars is easily in the balance.

And let's not forget — they call them professional golfers for a reason. They do play the game for money! The nonsense you so often hear from sportscasters about how they "play to win" is just that - nonsense. This is how these men make a living This is how they pay the mortgage, put their kids through school, eat! They don't hand out prize money at PGA events as an afterthought. And they pay a lot more for Third Place than they do for Fourteenth Place.

Following this demonstration of personal integrity, I started thinking about the new NFL season already beginning with all the fuss about training camps opening and the nerve wracking decisions among ownership about which just released felons and newly indicted criminals to put on their rosters and which of them to shun. Talk about personal integrity - the NFL wouldn't recognize integrity if it blindsided them, rolled over a league meeting like a bulldozer. One of the doctrines of pro football has always been "If you ain't cheating — you ain't trying!" How many wide receivers trap a ball and then jump up celebrating like they caught it - when they KNOW they didn't? How many great runs from scrimmage owe their gains to teammates' holding and illegal blocks? "If you ain't cheating..."

In baseball too there are many such examples - the phantom touch of a shortstop's toe on second base during a double play... the just as nonexistent tag on a steal of second base... the trapped ball on the outfield grass... the swing that's pulled back and the hitter's act which follows to show he didn't REALLY swing - when he knows he did... or the catcher who quickly pulls in an outside pitch to fool the umpire and get the called strike.

How about the NBA... if you counted the double-dribbles, palming the ball violations and the steps - Oh, my God .. THE STEPS! Walking is a regular play now in professional basketball. All the best players seem to get 3 steps to the basket before anyone even thinks to call a traveling violation.

Golf is the only sport played on a major level with big, big prize money at stake where total fidelity to the rules of play is honored by the players themselves, often at great personal cost. No real golfer WANTS to win by cheating. Just look at what Tim Clark did. His action isn't much different from someone who finds... say a quarter of million dollars lying on the ground somewhere and rather than take it home they bring it to a police station. How many people would really do that?

So, I'll be rooting for Tim Clark this afternoon. I hope he shoots 60 and wins, but of course that's not likely to happen. But I will remember his integrity and his strength of character a lot longer than I'll remember whoever does win and I'll be pulling for Tim Clark the next time I see him tee it up in a golf tournament.