Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bad Strategy, Lefties

Ultra-liberal Democrats over the past several months have focused on discrediting Sarah Palin, while she busily cashes in on her popularity with the Tea Party by promoting a profitable book, appearing on her own television show, collecting paychecks from Fox News, and accepting hefty public appearance fees.

Actually, any sort of liberal nowadays is either a Democrat or an Independent. When relics such as Senator Olympia Snowe move on, which will be soon, there will be no place in the Republican Party for anyone who is not a conservative of one stripe or another. Already, there is darn little room for the more moderate conservatives.

What a change from the days of my youth. The Republican Party was born in Wisconsin (at Ripon). I also was born in Wisconsin. My progressive Republican parents hated any government waste of taxpayer dollars, and they had equal disdain for the Democratic Party, especially its members of Congress from the “solid South” who fought vigorously against civil rights legislation. My parents backed public education, anti-trust legislation, and tolerance of all in religious matters, including those who had no religious beliefs.

We seem to have turned 180 degrees. Republicans started the trend that has given us the biggest federal government deficits in history. They have blocked, or tried to block, any advances in social justice. They have undermined public education with policies designed to aid alternatives. They have removed restrictions on business consolidations, thus curtailing the very competition they give lip service to. Conservative religions are A-OK with the GOP, but those with other views are vilified as un-American.

Democrats, who earlier included our worst bigots, nominated an African-American for president. They restricted government excesses and produced the only federal budget surpluses in recent years. They more recently passed legislation to restore some semblance of control over financial institutions that were running amok and nearly caused a world-wide depression with their actions. They back many social programs abhorred by conservative religionists. Sixty years ago, most members of conservative Christian churches were Democrats.

And now, the Democrats, last haven for liberals in our society, are making a big mistake. They are trying to remove Sarah Palin from the political arena with all manner of criticism at every opportunity. If they’re smart, they’ll rethink that activity.

Sarah Palin is the best thing that has happened to the Democratic Party in a long time. Liberals should stop demonizing her. They need her as a Republican candidate for President in 2012.

There is nothing to stop Palin from running for the Republican nomination except the liberals’ attack strategy. She has enough Tea Party followers to make her a candidate. She can be stopped only if the Demos succeed in portraying her as totally without qualifications to the extent that a large number of the less-rabid conservatives oppose her.

If Palin stays in the running and loses the nomination fight, which is likely, her campaign will have fractured the Republican Party, probably guaranteeing a Democratic victory. What if, against the odds, she were to win the nomination?

Can you image Sarah Palin in a nationally televised debate with Barack Obama? Poor Ms. Palin would look silly when squaring off face-to-face with Mr. Obama to discuss policy issues.

There are more independents, like me, than either Democrats or Republicans. I can tell you right now how most of us would vote after watching the spectacle of Palin trying to match wits with Obama. The vast majority would not favor Mama Grizzly.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Staying Power

I watched in disbelief as Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler stood on the sidelines nursing a sore leg while his team dropped the National Football Conference title game to the Packers yesterday.

Like Cutler, I suffered a leg injury just before the end of the first half. My left ankle cramped up as I jumped off the sofa when the Packers made a key defensive stop.

Nevertheless, I managed to hobble to the kitchen for another glass of wine to sustain me through the second half. A little leg injury wasn’t going to keep me out of a title game.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Sort-of Hometown Hero

I should have puffed up with pride when a photo of a ferocious-looking footballer appeared in the University of Wisconsin alumni magazine with this caption: “Mike Webster as a Badger: the Tomahawk, Wisconsin, native was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1974 and played seventeen seasons in the NFL . . .”

Like all small communities, my hometown hasn’t produced a big crop of famous people, so a legitimate hero means a lot. The trouble here is that referring to the man who became known as “Iron Mike” for stellar play that took him to four Super Bowl victories and a berth in the NFL Hall of Fame as a “Tomahawk native” is stretching things.

Webster’s parents were potato farmers north of Tomahawk, but Mike went to school and played high school football at Rhinelander, which is about 18 miles from my hometown. The Rhinelander High School stadium is named for him.

Although he ranks right at the top in discussions of the best center ever to play pro football, the sport did not treat Webster well. He suffered numerous head traumas, was hooked on painkillers by the time he retired, had bouts of amnesia, depression, and dementia, and died while still a young man. His family sued the NFL for disability payments in 2006 and won a $1 million judgment.

The lawsuit and attendant news stories did much to raise the level of concern about effects of concussions on athletes. The topic is on the front-burner today throughout the sports world.

The Webster family saw to it that Mike made a contribution to the cause of better protection for athletes. After he died, his brain was sent to the University of Pittsburgh. There, a pathologist did an autopsy resulting in the first diagnosis of CTE, a condition caused by years of absorbing blows to the head. That made Webster the first NFL player to receive that diagnosis, a research breakthrough upon which others are building as they study effects of repeated jolts to the head and how to prevent the damage.

Webster’s posthumous contribution may turn out to be his finest. He became a hero, hometown or not, once again after he died.

The pro football anti-heroes right now are the greedy owners trying to convince the players’ union to agree to expand the schedule by two for a total of 18 games. This is unconscionable with ample scientific evidence in hand that damage from repeated head-knocking is cumulative.

My favorite club, the Green Bay Packers, is a nonprofit corporation and thus has no greedy owner. We small-fry shareholders should be watching closely on this one to see what position our representatives take. Clearly, the players’ health should be the top priority.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Beck, Right and Wrong

Ultra-conservative television commentator Glenn Beck got the big idea right last week. But he stumbled badly on some of the key points in his analysis.

Beck was right on when he attacked the Congressional leaders who arranged a reading of the Constitution and then left out significant parts. Among the omissions were the original article that declared slaves equivalent to three-fifths of a vote and the amendment that forced Prohibition upon the land.

Beck said the sponsors of the reading were “cowards” for allowing the omissions “because they didn’t want to offend anybody.” I think descriptors such as “misguided” or “stupid” might have been better fits.

The whole concept of the reading was ridiculous. The representatives must take an oath to uphold the Constitution and many ran on platforms in the recent elections pledging to follow it literally, so we might assume they had a glimmering of an idea about what it says. The fact that only a couple dozen stayed around for the conclusion of the wasted hour and a half of reading testifies to that.

The sponsors of the reading did not exactly rewrite history, but they certainly twisted it seriously with the omissions. Any sort of historical revisionism is deplorable, whether it covers up the fact of slavery in our nation or takes the form of censorship of textbooks in Texas. Whether Beck was correct or not in charging there was an element of “political correctness” in the Congressional action, I stand with him in condemning revisionism for any reason.

An earlier news report said a publisher was in the process of issuing a “cleansed” version of Mark Twain’s classic “Huckleberry Finn.” More than one student of American literature believes this book is among the greatest American novels. Why? Because Twain was the first to abandon the stilted formal English of earlier novelists and have his characters speak the language as common people of the day did.

So now a publisher intends to rewrite the sentences in which Huck calls his friend Jim a nigger? Rubbish, I say. Not one word should be altered.

To wind up his tirade against the Congressional leaders, Beck obsessed about the value of the Constitution: “this document is great for one reason: they left in the scars.”

Poppycock. Our Constitution is great because of the foresight of its authors in creating a government with checks and balances and guarantees of basic freedoms that is flexible enough to accommodate changes in society, yet has kept would-be religious or political dictators from seizing control of our nation for more than 200 years. Scars have nothing to do with it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Our Promise 
The right mix for the USA

A Cocktail Party

The American Cocktail Party pledges, in all our activities, to vigorously argue against the policies of our opponents. We promise, however, to refrain from personal attacks on those who do not agree with us. We will discuss programs and proposals, not personal characteristics, and avoid inflammatory language and symbolism.

Now if the leaders of both traditional political parties and commentators on radio and television would join us in this pledge, maybe, just maybe, there would be no more Tucson massacres.

(Our best wishes for a speedy recovery to fellow blogger Ashleigh Burrows, who was shot three times by the perpetrator of the Tucson crimes.)

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Consistent Mystery

Every New Years Day, I look forward to two things. Gifts and good wishes from family are one. A birthday greeting from John “Jake” Jirschele is the other.

Once again, the family came through. So did Jake, at about 8 a.m. on January 1.

Jake Jirschele lived a couple of blocks up the street from my childhood home in Tomahawk, Wisconsin. He was in the class behind mine in high school. I haven’t seen him for about 50 years, but I remember him well. Obviously, he remembers something about me very well.

Jake was consistent, as I recall. He stroked every shot as hard as possible in Spike’s Pool Hall, whether it was a long one or a four-inch “gimmee.” He made a lot of them, and bounced a few cue balls off the walls in the process. He fired off shots from outside the circle (three-pointers nowadays) with reckless abandon on the basketball court. He made a few of them. When he itched, he invariably scratched. Where? Well, we won’t go into that.

When it comes to my birthdays, Jake has been equally consistent for a long time. We connected to the Internet as soon as that became possible. Early on, we added Jake’s addy to our list and knew he had ours, but we rarely corresponded. The first New Years Day we could receive e-mail, to my surprise, Jake sent me a happy birthday message.

How did he know? The first greetings arrived many years before my birth date became readily available to the world through this Blog and, more recently, via Facebook. Jake has remembered the big day every year—probably about 15 times—since his first message. Each time I ask him how he knew New Years Day was my birthday. He has never answered the question. Either he has a very long memory or a well-maintained calendar.

The Jirschele birthday message always includes wishes for good fortune in the year ahead. We’re planning on making those wishes come true.

Everything here is Jake, Jake.

For you youngsters, that saying is said to have become popular in the 1920s and still was heard often during my teenage years. “Everything is Jake” means “everything is OK.” I hope it applies to John Jirschele as well as to our present situation and our prospects for 2011. Maybe Jake will even answer my question this year.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Take Heart, Fellow Geezers

I’m not so sure all those experts who claim fully mature adults develop short-term memory losses are correct.

When I was 17, my high school baseball team traveled 20 miles to play one of our big rivals. Upon arriving, a frantic search revealed I had forgotten my catcher’s mitt

My son just phoned. He bought some herring to serve yesterday while we celebrated New Years Day at his place. It’s a family tradition. He forgot to serve the herring during the seven hours we spent together.

After all, it’s not a catastrophe to forget a few things at any age. I borrowed another guy’s mitt for the baseball game, and although that didn't work out so well at least I didn't have to rely on my bare hands.

We’re going to our son’s house in a couple of hours to snack on the herring. Some forgetfulness doesn’t spoil much of anything; it just extends the celebration.