Monday, May 27, 2019

A Cautionary Tale...

I just learned that a terrific ballplayer, Bill Buckner has died. In his 21 year MLB career, Buckner racked up some impressive, if not Hall of Fame stats. But in a twist of fate, he will forever be remembered for one unfortunate play. Many people including me remember exactly where they were when they witnessed the event live on October 25, 1986. The following cautionary tale whose motto, be careful what you wish for, was written in his honor a few years ago:

Bill Buckner 1949-2019

On October 26, 1986 I heard the following joke:
First Person: Someone told me that Bill Buckner attempted suicide last night.
Second Person: Really? That´s terrible.
First Person: Yeah, but he let the train roll through his legs.
So you want to be a big league baseball player? Well first you have to be good. Then you have to have parents or some kind of mentor willing to support your dream who will go the extra mile to play catch with you every day, teach you how to hit and throw the ball, pay for little league, then the traveling team, and be willing to get you to all the games, even if they´re two or three states over.

Maybe if you´re lucky, you´ll make the high school team and if you´re good enough, you could be the star of the team. If you´re exceptional, you might be able to get a scholarship to go to college and play ball, or if you´re phenomenal, you might even get noticed by a professional scout who just might sign you up for a tryout. 

Beware though, there are lots of ballplayers out there who´d love to be in your position and make one slip up, they will be in your position. But you´re really good, have a terrific attitude and luck´s been on your side up until now. You´ve worked your butt off for years, suffering through some real asshole coaches and you´ve finally made it into the minor leagues. Slowly you work your way up through the ranks, schlepping yourself and your gear onto buses for endless rides to podunk towns. 

Eventually you´re lucky enough and good enough to get your chance at the Big Show. It certainly doesn´t get any easier up there, the only exception being someone else gets to carry your gear and you travel from town to town by plane. And oh yes, there´s the money. Now, not only are lots of people hungry for your job, there are lots of others who are after your scratch as well. Somehow, by hook or by crook, despite the numerous injuries and the nagging pain you´ve been playing through for years, you built yourself a respectable career at the highest level attainable in your profession. Before you know it, you have more games behind you than in front of you and the twilight of your career is fast approaching. 

But you end up on a team with a shot at the Series and this might be your last chance to get a ring, the dream of every kid who ever picks up a bat and a ball. That ring is so close you can almost taste it, you´re two runs up, only three outs away. Then things start to unravel; they tie it up but no problem, you have plenty of time to get back into the game. Next thing you know, the ball is hit to you, an easy roller to first, all you have to do is move a little to your left, pick up the ball and make an easy toss to the pitcher covering the bag, inning over. It hurts like hell but your gimpy legs get you there OK, you bend down and get into proper fielding position, glove square on the ground. Somehow the ball just seems to skip past the glove, you don´t know, it all happened so fast. The ball goes between your legs and into right field, runner scores, game over.

Never mind that your pitchers gave up two runs after two men were out in the inning. Never mind the wild pitch allowing the tying run to score that your catcher could have but didn´t stop. Never mind that the batter was running so hard down the line you might not have had a chance to get him anyway. Never mind the team you were playing didn´t win 108 games that year for nothing. Never mind that your team had the chance to pick you up in the next game but didn´t. Never mind that your team probably wouldn´t have gotten there in the first place without you. It doesn´t matter, you will go down in history as the guy who lost the game and the World Series for your team.

In the end, despite having had a terrific career, you will go to your grave being remembered as the guy who let the ball go through his legs in the sixth game of the ´86 Series.

Remember son, for every one Bill Mazeroski or Joe Carter, there are dozens and dozens of Bill Buckners.


"How Republics Die"

This is the title of a very distressing article I just read written by Thom Hartmann for  the online magazine Salon. 

Hartmann suggests that the beginning of the end of our own republic might very well have been the horrendous 2010 Supreme Court decision known as "Citizens United" which eliminated the cap on the amount of money individuals and corporations can contribute to political campaigns. It doesn't take a genius to realize this opens the door to undue influence into the workings of our government. In other words: any hope of calling our system of government a democratic republic is dashed; Citizens United has enabled it to become a plutocracy, a government for sale to the highest bidder.

The truly depressing part is that according to Hartmann, as effective as it has been for over two hundred years, the US Constitution is not equipped to deal with this threat to its very existence. Hartmann says:

Our Constitution, in many very real ways, is rather weak when faced with parties or persons who flaunt its norms, or won’t use the tools it provides to ensure accountability.

Quicker can you say Jack Robinson, we are now faced with a president who is more than happy to be a norm flaunter, that's in part what made him so attractive to the people who voted for him. The other is the fact that he wasn't Hillary Clinton.

Hartmann gives us a laundry list of just a few of the ways this president has flaunted the norms that have served this nation fairly well for over two centuries:
  • Calling the press “the enemy of the people.”
  • Refusing to interact with Congress as the Constitution dictates.
  • Packing the courts with demonstrably unqualified ideologues.
  • Lying to the people on a daily basis.
  • Embracing autocrats while trashing traditional allies.
  • Breaking the law and flaunting a Nixon-era “guideline” from the DOJ saying that the president can’t be prosecuted, while he runs out the clock on the statute of limitations.
  • Bragging that he’s making money on the presidency and daring anybody to stop him.
  • Putting lobbyists in charge of public lands, our banking system, and our environment.
  • Embracing violent and hateful people and movements, both at home and abroad.
Hartmann calls these acts "symptoms of a republic in crisis."

Adding to the danger of it all, we have a political party who when given the choice between defending the principles of this nation as defined by our consitution, or kowtowing to their very wealthy benefactors, in every case chooses the latter. Even more dangerous are supporters of this administration who are bombarded with questionable (at best) information spoon fed to them by news sources which are funded by the same people who fund the politicians.

In my opinion, by far the most egregious threat to our nation is that this administration is doing its best to divide the country between his supporters and the rest, who has been deemed "the enemy." This weekend, undermining a statement from his own Director of National Security, the president tweeted that he wasn't the least bit concerend about North Korea conducting tests of ballistic missles, in clear violation of International Law. It seems the president is pleased with Kim Jun Un because Kim made some derrogatory remarks about Joe Biden, as we speak, Trump's most formidable oponent in the upcoming 2020 election. In other words, Trump is backing one of this country's fiercest adversaries, a ruthless, murderous dictator to boot, over a former vice president of the United States.

It's clear whom Kim supports in the upcoming election, And Donald Trump in one fell tweet has made it crystal clear where his loyalties lie, who his friends are, as well as his enemies.

Because of the above laundry list of dangerous and/or criminal actions this president has taken, not the least of which his unwavering support of Kim and North Korea, it should be clear to any reasonable person who values our democratic republic that this man needs to stop being president as soon as possible.

But here lies the rub. The strategy of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and many high ranking Democrats in Congress is that regardless of the many impeachable actions as spelled out by the Mueller Report and by his own words and deeds, actions directed toward the impeachment of this president might be self-defeating. As there is an intransegent Republican majority in the Senate, there is no chance of an impreachment resulting in his removal from office and in addition, Pelosi and others reason that impeachment and a subsequent acquittal by the Senate would only embolden and furthur empower Trump, helping to ensure his re-election in 2020.

On the other hand, by not taking forceful action to curb this president, Congress is weakening itself in its role as a crucial check to balance the power of any president now or in the future, not to mention one with tyrannical visions for himself who thumbs his nose at any challenge to his power every chance he gets.

The words "constitutional crisis" have been bandied about quite liberally these days to the point where they seem rather trite, like the proverbial words of the boy who cried wolf. On the other hand there are several "cracies" that can be applied to the current administration, plutocracy, kleptocracy, and idiocracy are just three that come immediately to mind. Unfortunately democracy is not on the list and neither for that matter is republic.

For those of us who value the "d" word and the "r" word, I think the time to act is now to enure that Trump (who won election in the 2016 election with a substantial minority of the popular vote), not only is not president for much longer, but that the damage that he and his ilk have inflicted upon the country will not be long lasting. How to do that is the qustion of the hour.

So how do you spell constitutional crisis?