Sunday, February 24, 2013

Arizona's Big Advantage

Recently, the Arizona Republic featured the latest in a series of articles that pop up every few years highlighting Arizona's economic "advantages" over California.

Ha Ha Ha.

The articles always boil down to two things: lower taxes and lower wages. As in "please move your business to Arizona, where you'll pay less taxes and you won't have to pay your employees a decent wage!"

So please overlook the fact that our public schools are battling it out with Alabama and Mississippi in a close race to the bottom. Please forget that our legislature is controlled by gun nuts, birthers, and the "build the dang fence" Tea Party crowd. Please forget that our health care system is broken and our arts organizations are always on life support.

Because those things don't really enter into "quality of life" now do they?

No, the important thing is that if you come here, you'll pay less in taxes and less in wages and imagine what that will do for your bottom line!!

Gee, I wonder what kind of employers that sort of thinking attracts?

And I wonder what that does to what's left of the middle class? 

And the roads and schools and all the other services that taxes pay for?

But, as my late mother used to say, "beggars can't be choosers", so what the hell, Welcome to Arizona!!!"

Sunday, February 17, 2013

"Is There No One Else?"

The various Republican responses to the State of the Union speech brought something sharply into focus: Every time the Grand Oligarch's Party sends someone out to debate, attack, or counter President Obama, I'm reminded of a scene from Troy.

Early in the movie, Achilles (Brad Pitt), is to battle, mano y mano, with the best the other side has to offer. Of course, because he's Achilles and Brad Pitt,  he dispatches his larger, seemingly more powerful rival with shocking ease and an almost carefree nonchalance. Then, he stands facing the rest of the enemy army and says, challenging and mocking them in the same breath, "Is there no one else? Is there no one else?"

Mitt "I Really Didn't Want To Be President Anyway" Romney?

Marco "Always Remember To Hydrate" Rubio?

Rand "Yes, By God, I Believe This Shit!" Paul?

John "Weepy" Boehner?

Mitch "Corn Pone" McConnell?

John "Did I Mention I Was A POW?" McCain?

Lindsey "Belle of the South" Graham?

"Is there no one else?"

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Cold Day In Hell

It should by now be obvious to anyone who follows these things that only very, very rich people can afford to own sports teams.

It should be equally obvious to anyone who has followed the story of the Phoenix Coyotes that their latest prospective owner is not very, very rich. And it's that extra "very" that makes all the difference in the world.

Even with a guarantee of $15 million per year from the City of Glendale for "managing" arena, and a year's time to get his investors lined up, Mr. Greg Jamison couldn't get the necessary jack together to satisfy the NHL and become the latest in a long line of folks who thought they could do something despite all the available evidence to the contrary.

My late father-in-law used to say that "if you take a laborer, and beat all the sense out of him, then you have a truck driver." I mention this only because Mr. Jerry Moyes, owner of Swift Trucking, lost by his own estimation $200 million trying to keep the Coyotes afloat. Of course, he had a lot more dough than Jamison (but not nearly so good a deal with Glendale, by the way. Curious that.) But the old saying "throwing good money after bad" applies even to the extremely wealthy.

So, for the time being at least, there's still a hockey team in Glendale, Arizona--many miles away from the majority of its fan base in the East Valley, owned by the league, drawing half filled arenas most nights--that sensible people won't even consider investing in unless the good citizens of Glendale agree to subsidize them.

Glendale got into this pickle thanks to the visionary Mayor, Elaine Scruggs. She is gone now, of course. And, naturally, on her way out the door, crawling from the wreckage as it were, she voiced her disapproval of the city's deal with the Coyotes. Once again, I am reminded of Eisenhower warning about the dangers of the Military Industrial Complex after standing by for 8 years while the Military Industrial Complex took root. But better late than never, I guess.

Anybody know a sucker who's also a billionaire?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Only Thing You Need To Know

The only thing you need to know about the Republican Party as it is currently constituted:

When you are crazy, you don't get better.

You don't get saner all of a sudden.

You may, however, at any given moment, get crazier. Much crazier.

And that's when the fun begins!

Once upon a time, there was only one political party, "the property party", as Gore Vidal memorably described it. Oh, the Democratic wing was a little more liberal and the Republican wing a little more conservative, but they both had essentially the same vision of and for America.

Now...? Well, now one "wing" has been taken over by a bunch of anti-government, anti-tax, anti-minority, anti-union, anti-science, anti-education, anti-progressive, antediluvians.

That's a lot to be against. Most of the 20th Century, in fact.

What are they "for"? They are definitely pro-gun and pro-Bible. Oh, they claim to be pro-life, too, but what they really mean is pro-patriarchy/anti-women. You know, "Barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen."

They accept no "facts" except their own. They accept no history except their own. And, because of this, they believe all sorts crazy things.

But, as I was reminded while watching The Who in concert last night, you shouldn't try to go backwards. It can be very painful.  More importantly, it is, ultimately, pointless.

The world moves in one direction. And nostalgia can be deadly. Especially when the things you are so nostalgic for never really happened--at least not in the ways you imagined they did.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Pitching, Defense, and 3 Run Homers

Earl Weaver believed that baseball was "pitching, defense, and 3 run homers." This won him a lot of games, but might have cost him two World Series. A bunt here or there may have beaten the Pirates in 1971 and '79.

Because of a family connection (my mother was a first cousin of his, but she was 12 years older and there were a lot of Weavers, so they weren't particularly close), I met Weaver in 1969, just as the Orioles started their great run.

We would drive over to Anaheim for the Orioles' yearly visit to play the Angels. We stayed at the Grand Hotel, same as the team, and would often share a meal, usually breakfast, with Earl.

Coors and tomato juice. Cigarettes. And flirting with the waitress. Those are my most vivid memories of breakfast with Earl.

Then there was the evolution of his personal style. When I first met him, he sported what looked to be a suit from Sear's and a haircut from the corner barber shop. Fitting for a minor league "lifer". As the years passed, and the Orioles became the team in the AL, the suits became more tailored, the shoes sported exotic leathers, and, for awhile there in the 70's, I'm pretty sure the hair was permed.

Weaver was the first manager to rely on an in-depth statistical breakdown of every pitch thrown, every ball hit, every possible match-up, and how they might affect his strategy. He used this knowledge to put players in situations where they had the best chance to succeed.

Other managers platooned before him. Hell, Casey Stengel won a bunch of pennants with the Yankees by mixing an ever changing assortment of role players and spot starters with DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra and Ford. But if Stengel used any charts, they were all kept somewhere in that amazin' head of his.

Nowadays, every team has a room full of sabre metricians working around the clock to crunch numbers, looking for that edge, or that undervalued player. Every pitch and every swing are recorded, cataloged, and endlessly analyzed. Weaver's success paved the way for much of that.

Weaver, and his contemporary--and sometimes bitter rival--Billy Martin, were also two of the greatest umpire baiters in major league history. Thank God for You Tube, where some of Earl's best work in this field has been preserved for eternity.

Earl Weaver's Orioles played the game the right way. They seldom beat themselves. For 15 plus years they were always in the race. 6 division titles, 4 pennants, 1 World championship.

He probably wouldn't last nearly as long these days. The umpire baiting, the drinking, it would be too easy a target for these TMZ, 24 hour Sports Center, times. He'd spend his time apologizing or on probation.

Rest in peace Earl, the world is a duller place without you.