Sunday, April 25, 2010

What I Meant to Say Was...

GENESIS 1:1-2:4 tells us that on the sixth day of creation, God made the animals and man. It states further that on the seventh day, He rested. Biblical scholars have recently discovered new evidence that reveals that on the seventh day, God looked back on His day six efforts and exclaimed aloud: "Oh me, (normally He might have said Oh God, but he was God you see) I've created a race of idiots and I need to send out a recall notice. It was then that God instilled in the mind of Man that built-in censoring mechanism that allows us to edit the thoughts we are really thinking to make them more socially acceptable before unleashing them in verbal form. Without this critical modification to the race of Man, the world would have surely ended on the eighth day. Some examples:

You are hosting a major holiday dinner. You plan, shop, cook, clean and prepare to serve a standout meal. Your guests arrive and you greet and seat them. All is ready, but couple is missing. You do your best to amuse those who arrived on time. You know your dinner is on the stove too long, but what can you do. Finally the late comers breeze in 45 minutes late. "We just couldn't get going today..." they laughingly declare, "...hope we didn't hold you up". WHAT YOU SAY: "Don't be silly, we were just getting started". WHAT YOU THINK: "I busted my ass getting this meal on the table. All we asked of you two a**holes was to get here on time, and you couldn't even get that right"!

Your teenage daughter's date shows up and he's everything you never wanted to see on your doorstep. Dressed in black leather with assorted body parts pierced, and looking like the centerfold for "Father's Worst Nightmare" magazine. He comes in to say hello, only because your daughter told him this was the proper way to pick up a date; he would have preferred to honk the horn by way of announcing he was waiting for your little girl. "I guess we'll be going now" he mutters. WHAT YOU SAY: "OK, nice meeting you, you kids have a nice time now". WHAT YOU THINK: "If you so much as lay a finger on her, I will find you and kill you slowly".

You're on line at the supermarket congratulating yourself on finding a line with only one woman ahead of you. You put the little plastic barrier on the conveyor that keeps her items from contaminating yours, and get your credit card out in anticipation of a quick checkout. Suddenly you notice the cashier looking for a UPC code on this woman's giant bag of pork rinds. And then the dreaded announcement: "Someone from snack foods to register 6 please". Dead, dead, dead. The woman looks at you sheepishly and says: "Sorry, this always seems to happen to me". WHAT YOU SAY: "Don't worry about it, I'm not in a rush". WHAT YOU THINK: "You fat cow, maybe this always happens to you because you're too stupid to check your items for price tags before inconveniencing everyone behind you"!

You work for weeks on a comprehensive presentation, laying out your ideas in a cohesive, sensible way for solving a problem your department is having. Your pitch to senior management is flawless, and you can tell from their body language that they are about to congratulate you for being so ingenious. Then the favored intern of the week (probably female or minority) chimes in with some inane idea pulled right out of his/her ass on the spur of the moment. The audience looks doubtful but your boss says: "That's an interesting approach Jamal, why don't you and Jim work together on that". WHAT YOU SAY: "No problem, I look forward to it". WHAT YOU THINK: "This was my moment, I worked hard and nailed the solution to this problem and you want me to share the credit with this clueless ass-kisser"?

God realized that Man could never survive if allowed to express unfiltered what was really on his mind. Otherwise that first conversation with Adam might have gone something like this: God to Adam: "Why have you eaten the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge"? WHAT ADAM SAID: "The woman made me do it, Lord". WHAT ADAM THOUGHT: "Geez God, if you didn't want us to eat the freakin' fruit, why put it there in the first place? Hello, am I supposed to be a mind reader?" And so God spared Himself the need to hear Adam mouth-off, and spared Adam's descendants the embarassment of having to live with the consequences of uttering what we were really thinking.



Sunday, April 18, 2010

No Free Lunch

I frequently rant about the evils of giving people something for nothing. I am in favor of helping those who are trying to help themselves, but vehemently opposed to lifetime entitlement programs that dispense money to people who not only make no effort to earn it, but who bitch when their entitlements are reduced. What is the incentive to work when every month, while people are out there struggling to make ends meet, the non-contributors in our society sit home watching "The Price Is Right" and waiting for their free money. If they refuse to get jobs, let the cities put them to work doing something constructive. No work, no money, it's just that simple.

America made a huge mistake when it allowed a big part of our manufacturing economy to be exported overseas. We now buy so many manufactured products from countries like China that we are deep in debt to them. Our economy relies heavily on loans from countries we once dominated economically. So many manufacturing jobs were lost; entire cities that once thrived on factory jobs are now ghost towns. People lost the dignity that honest work brings, and started looking to big government to pay their way. How could this happen? Who was asleep at the switch when our very livelihoods were stolen from us? There is plenty of blame to go around.

Let's start with labor unions. At one time unions served a valuable purpose when workers were abused and unfairly treated. At some point they not only ceased to be useful but actually became a big part of the problem. They made impossible demands for more and more benefits, refused to embrace even the most fundamental productivity improvements, and shut down industry after industry in the face of foreign competition, while paradoxically professing to protect local jobs. The classic example is the United Auto Workers Union whose inflexible and unyielding leadership saw the destruction of one of America's greatest industries. The rise of the $150,000-a-year assembly line worker signaled the demise of Detroit and the dozens of subsidiary industries connected to the manufacture of cars.

At the same time computerization and the resulting need for smarter factory workers was on the rise, America's educational system was in a death spiral. Once the pride of the world, our public schools began to fail on a massive scale. Academic standards were weakened to give the illusion of progress, but in reality countries like China, India and Russia were blowing by us academically. The weakening of the traditional family unit and children being raised in unstable homes with no caring parents contributed to the collapse. Technical jobs followed manufacturing jobs overseas because our high school graduates were not capable of doing them adequately.

Let's not forget the government. Instead of finding ways to help private enterprise do what they do best, creating jobs, the government moved into the cradle-to-grave entitlement business, and taxed the socks off businesses and individuals to pay the tab. They failed to enforce banking and brokerage regulations which led to a near collapse of the American economy, and wiped out savings for so many citizens. They looked the other way as millions of illegal immigrants entered our country and not only failed to stop them, but instead gave them full access to the entitlements normally reserved for legal residents. These illegals took cash jobs off the books, depriving the government of income tax revenue and cheating the economy out of jobs normally done by bona fide citizens.

Some of these Tea Party folks are a little too rabid and coarse for me, but I do understand their frustration. It seems like fewer and fewer Americans are working and paying taxes while more and more free riders are climbing aboard the entitlement express. We want the government to stop "redistributing" our income to people who have done nothing to earn it. We need to win back the jobs we've lost, put a lid on illegal immigration, hold our public school system and parents accountable for educating our children. Finally, we need to aggressively enforce the laws we enact to regulate our financial institutions. Somewhere we lost our way and we need to restore the work ethic that America was built more free money.


Children's Craniofacial Association

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Masters

For golfers, today begins the tournament known as the Masters, one of the four "majors" in the sport and the Holy Grail of American golf. It is the only major to be played at the same venue every year, the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. Some may think of the Masters, and golf in general, as elitist, and maybe at one time that was a fair assessment. The man who demolished that image, and who opened up the sport to blue-collar duffers was the great Arnold Palmer. Arnie walked out of the coal mines of Pennsylvania and reshaped the character of the game, lifting it out of the realm of country club snobbery to the fairways of public golf courses everywhere. Were it not for people like Palmer and the great Jack Nicklaus, who encouraged minorities to take up the game by refusing to play in tournaments where discrimination was practiced, there would be no Tiger Woods today. Homage must also be paid to early African-American players like Charlie Sifford, Calvin Peete and Lee Elder who endured humiliating treatment in their fight to pave the way for those who would follow.

Back to the Masters. One of golf's all-time greats was amateur Bobby Jones. In 1930, Jones won the British Amateur on the Old Course at St. Andrews, the British Open at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England, the U.S. Open at Interlachen Country Club in Minneapolis and the U.S. Amateur at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, PA to capture golf's Grand Slam. In 11 of the last 12 Open Championships he played, nine U.S. Opens and three British, he finished first or second. Incredibly, at the age of 28, Jones retired from competitive golf except for playing yearly at the Masters. Jones was far more than a golfer. He earned a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech , then completed a BS degree in English Literature from Harvard. He later entered Emory University to pursue a degree in law, passing the bar exam after his first year of law school.

Looking to provide a service to golf by hosting a tournament, Bobby Jones and his friend Clifford Roberts decided to hold an annual event beginning in 1934. Roberts proposed the event be called the Masters Tournament, but Bobby Jones objected thinking it too presumptuous. The name Augusta National Invitation Tournament was adopted and the title was used for five years until 1939 when Jones relented and the name was officially changed. A mutual friend of Jones and Roberts recommended a 365-acre property called Fruitland Nurseries. Upon seeing the property from what is now the practice putting green, Jones said, "Perfect! And to think this ground has been lying here all these years waiting for someone to come along and lay a golf course on it."

The Masters is a unique event in that is is organized and operated by the private Augusta National Golf Club. The club is not beholden to sponsors, television networks or anybody else. In 2003 a lawsuit was brought by feminist Martha Burke to force Augusta to accept women members into the all-male club. Augusta chairman William "Hootie" Johnson touched off a firestorm when he issued a strongly worded statement denying Burke's request. "We do not intend to become a trophy in their display case," Johnson said then. "There may well come a day when women will be invited to join our membership, but that timetable will be ours and not at the point of a bayonet." Whether you agree with the policy or not, I found it refreshing to hear Johnson say basically: Its our club and we will run it as we see fit, so piss off.

Neither does the Masters kowtow to TV pressure, and allows only two minutes worth of commercial messages in every televised hour, a dramatic departure from other televised events where you get more like 20-25 minutes of commercials. You can buy a hot dog and a beer for four bucks at the tournament because the club does not believe in ripping off people who attend the event. Augusta National donates considerable money and expertise to poor countries around the world to help grow the game of golf and make it available to youngsters who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to play. When Tiger Woods had a chance to hold all four major titles by winning the Masters, the club invited Lee Elder to attend as a tribute to black golfers who had paved the way. They did it not for publicity about which they care little, but because it was the right thing to do.

I am a golf nut and the Masters, with its rich history, and incredibly beautiful but difficult golf course is something special to me. The event echoes with cheers for past winners like Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Gene Saracen, Palmer, Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and yes, Tiger Woods. In an age where the likes of Plaxico Burress, Roger Clemens and Jason Williams are sad representatives of their sports, I am proud to be part of a sport that (Tiger Woods' recent shenanigans not withstanding) emphasizes honor and sportsmanship. Golfers call penalties on themselves when they break a rule, sometimes costing themselves a tournament. Nobody else witnesses these infractions, but the players know what the centuries-old traditions of the game demand of them. So go Augusta National, tell them all to go to hell and keep doing it your way.


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