Archive for July, 2011

Bye Bye Albert (If he passes the physical)

Two seasons worth of Albert Haynesworth should be just about enough for anybody. His largeness is theoretically headed to the New England Patriots ridding the Washington Redskins of their most annoying player ever and writing the final chapter on Daniel Snyder’s high-spending ineptitude.

For $100 million, the Skins got maybe a half a season out of him. Along the way he pouted about the team’s defensive system, complained about the coaches, failed physicals, got arrested a couple of times, got suspended, got taken off the field in a cart once after getting winded in a game, fell to the ground uninjured but seemingly exhausted during a play and stayed on the turf like a gigantic beached whale while 21 other players continued running, blocking and tackling all around him.

There are some priceless quotes from a few newspapers about all this today that I’d like to share. From the New York Times:

Now, apparently Patriots Coach Bill Belichick believes his magic powers extend to extracting…talent from Haynesworth, which means he spent his lockout time building a wand strong enough to move nearly 400 pounds of self-absorbed entitlement.

And the Boston Globe puts it this way:

Well, this will certainly liven up camp.

Patriot’s fans seem to be optimistic. The Boston Globe asks them what they think of the trade. Here are the latest numbers:

1) Love it, if anyone can straighten him out, it’s Bill Belichick 55%
2) He’s going to be more trouble than he’s worth 12%
3) I’ll wait and see before deciding 32%

Belichick will have to see if he passes the physical on which this trade is contingent. Albert didn’t too well with physicals at last year’s training camp, failing them three times. Pats fans will also be hoping Albert avoids incarceration after his August 23rd trial for misdemeanor sexual assault. Presumably he can afford some pretty good lawyers.

Redskins fans will be circling Sunday, December 11th on their calendars; the day the Patriots are due at Fed Ex Field and our first opportunity in DC to see the New Albert, the Old Albert or No Albert.

Assorted Thoughts on the Debt Ceiling Crisis

July 26, 2011 1 comment

Ok, I’m beginning to panic. The political system is broken but these people are gambling with our money- our retirement savings. Do I sit here like a moron, do nothing and just watch Wall Street collapse next week? Can we change to a Parliamentary system?

I’ve never seen anything like this. Congress is supposed to pass increases in the debt ceiling automatically. There’s been hardly a peep about this from lawmakers in the past. Oh, there have been a few symbolic votes against raising the debt ceiling by a handful of lawmakers including Barack Obama when he was a junior Senator. But the outcome was never in doubt and that’s why some took the liberty to make political points by voting nay.

But this time…is different. There are two proposals being floated right now; one by Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid. No one thinks it has the votes to pass the House. Republican House Speaker, John Boehner, has a plan that can’t pass the Senate and has been rebuked by the Tea Party folks in his own party.

There is currently no plan that can pass. Yet- since 1962, the debt limit has been increased 74 times. It’s been raised ten times over the past ten years. Routine votes. Not even a news story.

Now, Pandora’s box has been opened. Attaching conditions to something as important as raising the debt ceiling means either party not holding the White House will be using this tactic for their respective causes every time the nation needs to increase the limit on the national credit card. Why didn’t this President insist on clean passage with no strings, like every President has before him? Why did he allow this to become a political football? Maybe he didn’t have a choice- I don’t know.

But you can’t run a country this way. Much less a country whose currency and economy have been the underpinning of the world economy for the past 70 years or so. This is a recipe for economic catastrophe. Even if they burn the midnight oil all weekend as they’re expected to do and maybe solve it this time…what about next time? Is this going to become an annual event? Or maybe we’ll be flirting with economic ruin every six months. Or we could make it weekly and turn it into a TV reality show.

A New Form of Government?

Could our Founding Fathers have messed up with this system of government? Were their assumptions that lawmakers would eventually reach compromise a silly, altruistic notion? Did they not foresee a time when divided government might utterly fail the people?

With a parliamentary system- you cannot have such deeply divided government. A party wins a majority and its legislative leader becomes Prime Minister. That person stays in power until the day comes they can’t preserve their majority on one issue or another then there’s a vote of no confidence and it’s off to new elections. Or if a party can’t reach a majority, the plurality party cuts a deal with a minority party and they form a coalition government. They only stay in power if they work together.

And under a Parliamentary system, you generally have fewer national elections too. The way our system works, the presidential campaign season is basically every two years- and now lasts for two years. Most true legislative progress occurs between a Presidential election and the mid-term election because everyone knows that once the calendar turns on the two year-mark- the day after mid-term elections-it’s political silly season; all posturing, no substance.

And we can Americanize it. We can call the Prime Minister “President,” keep the Supreme Court and do away with the House of Lords.

So based on the current tea leaves that point to economic calamity next week, I am poised to liquidate my mutual funds and stocks then write my Congressman and beg him to introduce a Constitutional amendment to change the American form of government which is not working so well at the moment.

Final Historical Footnote

I pointed out the day after the mid-term elections last November that the last two occasions in American history that the U.S. Senate was controlled by Democrats and the House of Representatives was controlled by Republicans, the following happened; the American Civil War and the Great Depression. Go ahead, look it up.

Looks like we’re sort of getting both. No bloodshed, but a deeply divided nation and a potential economic calamity.

Blistering Heat & The Best Dog Walk Ever

(Suki the Commando Dog being held by a mysterious pair of hands in a primitive effort at photo-shopping)

I took a week off to do nothing but read, take leisurely dog walks and catch up on my premium channel favorites. Nancy’s back to dealing pot on Weeds, witches are now in full battle with werewolves, shape-shifters and vampires on True Blood and what a great week to stay indoors and in the AC.

Except for the three times a day I walk Suki the Dog. At 10am this morning in Washington, D.C., it was 94 degrees and the “humiture” was already 110 degrees. I love these “wind-chill” and “heat-index” stats. Not only do they tell us what it “feels” like but it gives you better bragging rights. I mean 110 sounds a hell of a lot worse than 94. And braving -10 degree wind chills is so much more impressive than bundling up against a mere 15 degrees.

Suki the Dog, by the way, does not need the heat index. She well understands that unlike humans, dogs only sweat through their footpads leaving panting as the only real way they can cool off. Accordingly, we just had the most efficient walk in modern dog history (at least since dog-walk record-keeping began in 1887).

By the end of the first 100 yards, she was already panting. At one point she looked up at me as if to say, “Yo, dude, this is wrong. As your dedicated man servant, I intend to make this walk brief but effective.” I love that look.

She was a peeing and crapping machine. She compressed her marking routine, spritzing delicately but quickly every 30 feet or so. No lingering at some mysterious patch of grass where no doubt another canine had attempted to claim ownership of the dog park an hour earlier. And there was no dilly-dallying on the major mission either. This was the kind of no-nonsense, no-frills, military-precision-like walk a Navy SEAL dog would have taken. Actually, this was a walk not as much “taken,” as it was “conducted.”

If I am estimating somewhat accurately, all the business “conducted” in a 20-minute walk was condensed to approximately 540 seconds.

The 3 o’clock walk should be real interesting. By that time the actual temperature is expected to be anywhere from 99 to 104 degrees and the heat-index will be 9 thousand degrees- hotter than the surface of Venus. I’m thinking we’ll cut off another 3 or 4 minutes in another commando power walk before high-tailing it back into the air conditioning and her well-deserved organic dog bone treat.

Me and Suki- we’re going to get through this.

Ruminating on Rupert

July 19, 2011 1 comment

No matter how tough a day I’ve had, and I’ve had a few rough ones recently, I can still connect to the World Wide Web and thank God everyday that I am not Rupert Murdoch.

I am going to assume you have read the daily developments and know each day brings news of arrests, resignations, back-room corporate intrigue, and tanking Newscorp stock prices- all stemming from the phone-hacking scandal in Britain. Tuesday brings his appearance before the House of Commons for which the private rehearsals have reportedly raised concerns.

I’ve read a lot about Rupert lately. Here’s a piece from Steve Forbes suggesting he’s a swell guy who will pass this latest test with flying colors. Ethically, Forbes concludes his column by revealing he has a show on the Fox News Network.

Then there is this by Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen. In comparing Murdoch to Citizen Kane and William Randolph Hearst, Cohen sees this melodrama as an instructive display of the dynamics of power-wielding. Cohen also points out the surprising fact that though the newspaper industry may be dying, tons of ink and reams of paper still provide those who control print media what they crave most of all- primal political power.

The practice of bestowing daily good press on “friends” while thrashing “enemies” on an equally consistent basis- still works! It creates the fear that leads to power and influence. There is one problem with this approach, however. Everything’s fine as long as you’re on top of the world. The second the world rolls on top of you, you discover you’ve made very powerful enemies along the way.

As Murdock is learning, those who were once in fear are now the ones to be feared. No one stays on the top of the world forever. Not even Rupert.

When the Moon is in the 7th House

July 11, 2011 7 comments

Lake Anne Plaza- Reston, Virginia (photo by Tim Farmer)

I don’t know if Jupiter was aligned with Mars or not but peace, love, hugs and kindness reigned at the great Reston, Virginia reunion of 2011 as the Age of Aquarius made its return for one lovely and memorable weekend.

It feels like the hundreds of us who have somehow remained connected in some way since the 60s and 70s in the idealistic Reston community, are riding a virtual spaceship, hurtling together through life and time, landing every now and again to share a few memories and cocktails and stay up way past our usual bedtimes.

I am personally very grateful to my friends for making the loved ones I dragged along with me feel so welcome and a part of the gathering. Significant-other, Millie, blended in so comfortably and my son, Charlie, paid the ultimate compliment as he repeatedly stated how fun it was to “hang” with these folks. Even Suki the Dog got her share of love as she cruised the Lake Anne Plaza like many of her canine predecessors have through the years.

A personal highlight for me was to get the opportunity to perform some music together with my good friend, George Pittaway and my son in an informal concert-like setting that turned into a kind of musical passing of the torch from one generation to the next.

Without a doubt, the most hilarious and expensive hug of the weekend occurred between me and childhood buddy, Paul Burneko. Poor Paul had his glasses dangling stylishly from his shirt pocket when the bear hug occurred. They’re missing a lens now and probably bent out of shape as well. If you’re reading this, Paul, I am formally offering to either get you a new pair or take you out to a dinner of equivalent value. I’m hoping you choose the dinner.

So—many heartfelt thanks to all of you guys for being the honest, generous, kind, down-to-earth human beings you are. We are blessed to be able to share life’s journeys like this and you are all looking very beautiful to me right now.

Until next time, dear friends…

Reunion Jitters

A massive reunion of old farts is happening this weekend in Reston Virginia, home to hundreds of us who grew up awkwardly but mostly happily in the 60s and 70s, in various states of consciousness. We’re all 50-somethings now and while the reunion is a great concept, it’s rife with degrees of anxiety.

First of all, I remember when I used to travel light. Not anymore. I will be attending the reunion with my girlfriend, Millie; my son, Charlie and Suki The Dog (turns out the Reston Sheraton accepts pets). My own friggin’ posse, for Christ’s sake.

Here are the questions and encounters I most fear:

So how you been?

This puts you in a position of sorting through 25 years of memories and life events and is not possible to answer honestly in less than three and a half hours.

Have you met your son, Levon?

You know, I remember that it might once have been cool to name your son after an Elton John song, but I don’t remember this particular kid. This can’t really be my son, right? Cute little fella (he’s now 34 and weighs 280 pounds). Funny! Ha ha! Buh-bye, now.

Remember that night on the 16th fairway of the North golf course?

This is when my girlfriend, Millie, shoots me a look full of daggers and I clear my throat repeatedly, hoping it drowns out the description of the actual event that occurred on the 16th fairway of the North golf course. Suffice to say nothing really good happens on a golf course late at night. Well, ok, it was good…then.

Remember when you drove your car ON the plaza early one morning?

This is when I check my calendar quickly and do some fast arithmetic to come up with the exact day the statute of limitations might have expired. It’s no longer acceptable to drive your car drunk on an actual sidewalk as I understand it, but for those remembering the alleged incident- it is, apparently, completely hysterical.

Remember the time we did mushrooms and jammed all night?

This is when my 19 year-old son, Charlie, shoots me a bemused look and I clear my throat repeatedly hoping it drowns out the description of what may have been ingested that night so long ago. I later point out to my posse how yummy Portobello mushrooms are nestled in a bed of lettuce and a creamy wine sauce.

Yes, the possibilities are endless. I may or may not report back.

Social Programs: Disconnect Between Congress and the Public

As Democrats and Republicans go hurtling toward draconian deficit reduction with their hair on fire- new polling suggests they do so at their own risk. Solid majorities don’t want anyone messing with the grand social safety net.

Here are the major findings according to Andrew Kohut, President of the Pew Research Center:

On the broad question of whether it is more important to reduce the budget deficit or to maintain current Medicare and Social Security benefits, the public decisively supports maintaining the status quo. Six-in-ten (60%) say it is more important to keep Social Security and Medicare benefits as they are; only about half as many (32%) say it is more important to take steps to reduce the budget deficit.

Most Americans also oppose making Medicare recipients more responsible for their health care costs and allowing states to limit Medicaid eligibility. About six-in-ten (61%) say people on Medicare already pay enough of their own health care costs, while only 31% think recipients need to be responsible for more of the costs of their health care in order to make the system financially secure.

So where is this great clamoring for deficit reduction that both parties seem convinced is rampant? And where is the anti-government fever that is also seen as a given?

Republicans face far more serious internal divisions over entitlement reforms than do Democrats. Lower income Republicans are consistently more likely to oppose reductions in benefits – from Medicare, Social Security or Medicaid – than are more affluent Republicans.

Overwhelming numbers of Americans agree that, over the years, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid have been good for the country. But these programs receive negative marks for current performance, and their finances are widely viewed as troubled.

The negative marks for current performance, by the way, come from those who haven’t actually been using these programs much. Those who do- the elderly- think they work just fine:

People ages 65 and older are the only age group in which majorities say the three major entitlement programs work well; seniors also overwhelmingly say it is more important to maintain Social Security and Medicare benefits than to reduce the budget deficit. Those 50 to 64 also broadly favor keeping benefits as they are. Younger Americans support maintaining Social Security and Medicare benefits, but by smaller margins than older age groups.

It’s ironic that most lawmakers seem to fear the wrath of the public if they don’t cut these entitlement programs. Based on these polling numbers anyway, what they may need to fear are the political consequences of creating gaping holes in the public safety net at a time of genuine economic uncertainty.