Archive | October, 2013

I’ll Have What He’s Having

31 Oct

As a life long Yankee fan, I’ve been in on more than my fair share of celebrating World Series victories. Even though I’ve never played in one for the Yankees, as a fan, I know that it feels like they were doing it just for me. So congrats to the Red Sox Nation for having your day in Beantown. And I mean that sincerely, although I know that you may not believe me.

And as a partner in previous celebratory crime I have to say…Aren’t PEDs great?! If only we could all afford to take them and be like Giants, real, imagined or the kind that Barry Bonds played for.

Because if he looks like Barry Bonds, large body, larger head and improved physical prowess, all at age 38…Hits like Barry Bonds, 11 for 15 with 2 HRs, 2 Doubles and 6RBI, with a slugging percentage at an unbelievable 1.267 while reaching base 12 times in a row…

and no one wants to pitch to him anymore no matter what the game time, place or situation…like they did with Barry Bonds…

And he is not Barry Bonds.

Then he is definitely using Performance Enhancing Drugs too.

Or have we learned nothing while watching Major League Baseball since the 1990s?

I just hope that when they induct this millennial group of ball players into the Baseball hall of Fame, which they inevitably someday will, they put their plaques in a special wing entitled:

“I’ll have what he’s having.”

What’s In Your Head?

29 Oct

During my 31 years as an English teacher I often had students complain to me about how difficult the subject of English was. For many it was often their most challenging subject and the one that they had the most difficult time passing. English was also one of the only subjects that all high schools require students to pass in each of their four years of high school. So if a student fails English during their freshman year of high school then for all intents and purposes they still have 4 more English classes to pass before they can graduate…and so on, should they fail another year of English.

     It’s also interesting to note that there is only one other class that high schools require each and every student to complete during each of the four years of a high school education. Can you guess what it is? Gym! Or should I say, Physical Education.

     Anyway, I digress because whenever a student would complain about how difficult studying English was I would always ask them what language it was that they had been speaking since birth. And of course they would answer, “English”. To which I would reply, “Then this should be easy! You’ve been speaking the language all of your life. Haven’t you been paying attention?”

     In many ways studying English should be as easy as studying Physical Education is for children. Does one have to learn how to use their arms and legs in gym class? Of course not! Does one have to learn how to speak English in English class? Well, they shouldn’t, but unfortunately many do.

     However, many of the students that I had in class during my many years of teaching were in fact second language learners. English was not their first language, so they were indeed learning something new, and consequently many of those students would have difficulty with grammar and usage and vocabulary…sadly just like many of  my English “first and only” language learners.  

     But when my ESL students complained or became despondent or frustrated with their work in English class I would always point out to them that this was their second language and all things considered they were doing quite well for after all I, their teacher,  could only speak one language and I couldn’t speak or write or understand any of their “first” languages so they should be proud of their accomplishments because they could all speak and understand English…not perfectly or exactly… but well enough to consider themselves successful students who should be feeling good about themselves and in fact are even ahead of the game because they can speak two languages while most Americans can only speak one.

     And here is my point. Many Americans, when they hear someone who speaks with a foreign accent, often consider that person to be of lesser intelligence, because of the way they sound. But in reality that person with the funny accent is speaking their second language, which for many American students is often unthinkable. Many Americans don’t even want to learn English, let alone a second language!

     This American propensity for English language chauvinism could prove to be our undoing in the not so distant future of a global economy and global workforce where people of all nationalities begin competing for the same jobs…as in fact they already are. Who would you rather employ? Someone who can communicate in two or several languages or someone who can communicate in just one?

     So the next time you hear someone conversing in English and with a foreign accent don’t be so quick to think of that person with the funny voice as having less intelligence than you… but rather think to yourself…”How many languages are in my head?”

The Everyday World Is Seriously… Getting More Expensive Every Day

27 Oct
It’s time for the Fall Classic…as in the Major League Baseball World Series… and along with it has come a new financial ranking of Major League Baseball teams by Bloomberg.com. and according to their recently released data there are now 10 major league baseball teams that are worth over 1 billion dollars! The New York Yankees (who else?) are first with a net worth of 3.3 billion followed by the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, and New York Mets all at 2.1 billion and then the Chicago Cubs rounding out the top five with 1.3 billion dollars of net worth.
 
What I found most interesting however, was that only 2 of these super wealthy teams made the playoffs this year (Boston and LA) with the New York Yankees falling just short and suffering a dismal season, but 2 of the 5, The Mets and Cubs were downright dreadful! In fact the Mets and the Cubs didn’t even bother to put much of a baseball product on their respective fields and really haven’t offered much in the way of baseball quality for several years now. The Cubs haven’t been to the World Series in over 75 years! But really, why should they bother? And the Yankees are considering not upgrading their team this off season but rather cutting payroll to get below the MLB luxury tax threshold.
 
And why not, because According to Bloomberg’s editors, sports are no longer just about ticket and concession sales, and how the game is played. Today it’s more about regional sports networks and cable television and putting your team brand out there where it can sell, sell, sell! But I suppose any junior, pee-wee, midget, little league coach and parent knows that by now too. “Come on kids. Let’s get out there and sell, sell, sell those boosters…then we’ll play!”
 
40 years ago George Steinbrenner bought the New York Yankees for 10 million dollars and today they are worth 3.3 billion! Not because he went out and bought the best players but because he created the YES Network – the most profitable regional cable channel in the U.S.A. That’s why the Yankees are far and away the most valuable franchise in the league. The money, say the experts, is in the cable, as in cable TV…because consumers now pay to stay!… at home and watch that is.

Watching sports has become America’s favorite pastime…not playing sports, unfortunately, which would go a long way towards solving our country’s obesity problem…but rather just watching (sigh). And we love to watch. So much so that even the Mets and Cubs in all their futility are still…and apparently…immensely watchable…go figure.

Why, We Americans love to watch sports so much more than we love playing them that baseball isn’t even the most lucrative sport that we have to watch. It’s football! While only ten of the 30 major league baseball franchises are worth 1 billion dollars or more All of the 32 NFL football teams are worth over 1 billion dollars!

in fact, 1 prime time televised football game costs the network that televises it…120 million dollars… just to televise! That’s as much money as movie studios will pay to produce 1 pretty big studio movie! So the money…is in…the television. Who knew?

Once upon a time television came freely into our homes over America’s airwaves. All you had to buy was the television set. Now your TV set receives absolutely nothing unless you hook another technological contraption up to it… and that connects to a cable…and that is what you have to pay for if you want to watch your TV.

You’ve got to hand it to the media moguls though. Owners used to have to blackout home games so we would have to get up, leave our homes and go to the ballparks where we would then pay to watch them play in person… but at least that got us out of the house. Now whether we realize it or not…we pay (and not just a little but a lot more) to stay at home.

and that I guess, is why they call it “smart” TV…as in the TV is smart…not you and me.

 

 

 

 

The Sound of Silence?

26 Oct

I just can’t seem to help it! Perhaps I am just watching too much TV (like most Americans) but today as I was switching through channels I inevitably crossed paths with Fox (how many channels do they have, anyway?) and their crap just seems to fly out at you like a broken sewer line so you can’t help avoid getting covered in their excrement just by passing by. Anyway, their lead news story came blaring at me just as I was about to click to the next channel…

“How much did the White House know about the Obamacare website disaster and why have they been covering it up? This story today and all night…exclusively on Fox News!”

Must Fox report everything that President Obama does as though it is part of a conspiracy? They have treated every moment of his presidency as though it were a planned terrorist attack on the United States formulated and put in motion at the very hour of his birth some 52 years ago.

In 1983, 90 percent of the American media was owned by 50 companies. Today, 90 percent is controlled by just six corporations: General Electric, News Corp., Disney, Viacom, Time Warner, and CBS. These large media conglomerates are continuing to get bigger and bigger and even in the era of the internet traditional media still dominates.  A 2012, study by the Pew Research Center  found that 55 percent of those surveyed said they got news from television and that people still spend more time on average getting news from radio than online.

If these conglomerates continue to get bigger our exposure to diversity of opinion, in a country that is about as diverse as any country can get, will become more and more limited. According to the FCC’s own data, women own fewer than 7 percent of television stations and racial and ethnic minorities own just 3.4 percent. That’s an amazing statistic when you take a moment to really sit and think about it.

Whose voices and opinions are we listening to? When you consider the statistics mentioned above, we are most definitely NOT listening to the opinions of every day, commonplace, hardworking Americans.

If this media trend continues then what will be the alternative to the opinionated, narrow minded and biased media outlets of our future?

Silence?

Who’s Gerry Mandering and What’s His Deal?

22 Oct

According to a new CNN survey more than half of Americans believe it’s bad for the country that the Republican Party controls the House of Representatives. The October poll found that 54 percent of those surveyed think it’s a bad thing that the GOP controls the House, and Just 38 percent say Republican control is a good thing. That’s a 13-point decrease from the end of last year.

Meanwhile, only 12 percent said that they approve of the job Congress is doing while 86 percent disapprove and yet, Congressmen enjoy a 90% reelection rate. So…nobody likes Congress but… everybody votes for their Congressman’s reelection…and that just makes no sense at all.

“We’ll vote the bums out!” Everyone says…and then no one does. Why is that?

We know that incumbents have always had advantages over challengers thanks to their name recognition, and the money advantage of interest groups who wish to curry their favor as well as the fundraising network they’ve built up from previous elections…but most importantly… there’s redistricting… or what has become known as gerrymandering, named after Elbridge Gerry, the 19th century Massachusetts Governor who had the diabolically clever idea to redistrict State Senate districts in Massachusetts, which resulted in the districts being changed in favor of the Democratic-Republican party.

And now fast forward to our last election more than 200 years later and even Governor Gerry would be amazed at how well his idea could actually work. Because in 2012, even though Democrats received 1.4 million more votes for the House of Representatives, Republicans won control of the House by a 234 to 201 margin.

How did they do it?

Well, back in 2002 Republican strategists like Karl Rove, created the Republican State Leadership Committee and their purpose was to focus on electing conservative Republicans to state offices. And according to Mr. Rove, “Republican strategists are focused on 107 seats in 16 states. Winning these seats would give them control of drawing district lines for nearly 190 congressional seats.”

Gerrymandering is not hard. The basic technique is to cram voters likely to favor your opponents into a few throwaway districts where you might lose lopsided elections. This is a strategy known as “packing.”  Then however, the party in power arranges the boundaries of other districts to favor their own base of supporters in such a way so that they will always have the majority of votes necessary to win close victories. This is called “cracking”opposition groups into many districts. And in today’s world with the help of computers and advanced software, figuring out how to draw these districts exactly to one’s advantage has become quite easy…and once done, almost impossible to undo.

Why? Because your party would have to lose the election, that now can’t be lost, in order to change the district maps.

Apparently 10 states have been affected so far by extreme gerrymandering. 7 of them favor the Republicans and 3 the Democrats (yes, they do it too, just not as well) And the result is that in those 10 states the Republicans receive 7% more of the votes than the Democrats do, but with the help of gerrymandering, they win 76% of the Congressional seats! 109 seats to 62!

How’s that for representation…without representation?!

So…unless a whole lot of Republican voters decide to not vote Republican anymore or the United States adds a few more states to the union, The Republicans will have control of the House of Representatives until Karl Rove dies, goes to heaven and returns on the back of Jesus’ great, white steed. I’m assuming we won’t need Congress anymore once Jesus returns. Don’t ask me why.

So, the moral of the story?

Here in the states, It’s going to be a long and bumpy ride for quite some time.

Ain’t “Gerrys” government grand?

“That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.”

19 Oct

Why is everyone on the Fox network always so happy? They go on and on about how President Obama is ruining our country and sending us into untold and inevitable disaster and yet they smile and laugh like it’s the best new that they’ve ever heard. Has anyone besides me noticed that?

For prophets of such doom and gloom they sure are an awfully happy bunch.

Even when they bring on supposed experts and impartial guests who always seem to agree with them those folks are always smiling and happy too.

“Yes, they say, The President is ruining everything!” and then they go into a long list of what he’s done wrong and what crimes he’s committed against humanity, all the while smiling and grinning and looking straight at the camera as if they’re selling a box of soap or cornflakes to their viewers.

In fact the only way I can believe in who the really impartial and serious guests and experts are is by watching their demeanor. If they seem serious, ill at ease, and can’t get a word in edgewise, that’s how I know they are not one of the Fox and Friends.

At least when I click over to MSNBC those folks don’t smile at all when they offer up their gloomy news about the state of our union. And when they disagree with Republicans they at least present the aura and look of someone who wishes we could all get along and make things work better.

Over at Fox they just seem to be much too overwhelmingly giddy at the prospect of division and dirty politics in America lasting for the rest of time.

Has anyone else noticed that but me?

And Is everyone at home who watches Fox news just as delighted?

How can 24 hours a day, day after day, of such terrible news about our President, government and the state of our lives in America… be so funny?

Methinks, “Therein lies the rub”

What do youthinks?

Death Panels?

18 Oct

As I was walking out of my town’s poling place for New Jersey’s big fat election this past Wednesday, I couldn’t help but think about why people support the politicians they vote for and why we do in fact vote for… who we vote for. And for some reason that got me thinking about “death panels” and how that phrase came about and why there are still so many people who believe that it is actually a true part of the Affordable Care Act and as a consequence are against the ACA and the Democrats who support it.

It all started back in 2009 when Sarah Palin coined the term and told the nation that if President Obama’s healthcare reform were passed it would create “death panels” of bureaucrats who would then be in charge of deciding if the elderly or infirm or disabled should live, rather than receive healthcare.

Of course it was immediately proven to be a false statement and an outrageous lie but that didn’t stop Ms. Palin and other right wing Republican politicians from repeating the claim over and over and over again. And to this day Ms. Palin still insists that the ACA establishes actual honest to goodness “death panels”… and polls have shown that a full 30% of Americans still believe her and name this as being a reason for their opposition to the ACA.

So I thought to myself…let’s just imagine for a wild and fanciful moment that their truly were such an outrageous thing as a death panel, approved and authorized by a government agency. Who would be the political party most likely to do such a thing?

Liberal Democrats? Really? We’d say, “Give them more food stamps! or Provide better housing and care and raise taxes to make rich people pay for it!”…wouldn’t we? Why would a “bleeding heart liberal democrat” sponsor legislation that would provide healthcare for everyone and then suggest that we also kill more people?

Wouldn’t a Conservative Republican Tea Party member, someone who wants to limit healthcare, is against food stamps, hates the very thought of undocumented immigrants receiving any kind of government anything, wants to privatized and limit Social Security, be more the likely candidate for such an idea?…someone exactly like Sarah Palin…more the kind of person who would think that a “death panel” could actually be a good thing, especially when it comes to weeding out the weak and impoverished and those who can’t “pay their own way” or “pick themselves up by their bootstraps”?

You know, the party that believes that 47% of Americans are freeloaders?

Yet the 30% who believe that Sarah Palin is still telling the truth, have it the other way around. They think that we liberals want death panels.

That just makes no sense to me at all.

Couldn’t you see Sarah Palin shooting illegals from a helicopter on national television as they try to run back to Mexico while shouting “You betcha you’d better run!” Or Ted Cruz at an anti Obamacare photo-op at the foot of a bed in a hospital’s geriatric ward where he says, “We’re not gonna let this old lady face a death panel!” Just as he pulls the plug on her life support?

Why would President Obama create a death panel? He’s the guy who likes to give things away, and tax and spend up the wazoo right? And besides isn’t he an illegal immigrant too? (23% of Republicans sill believe that one!)

The Affordable Care Act may not be the greatest legislation to ever come out of Congress but it’s a start and certainly a step in a better direction than we have been headed. And those who are against it are really in favor of keeping 50 million Americans in what already amounts to something of a death panel…that being America’s mega-rich insurance companies who have been deciding for years who does and who does not have the right to healthcare.

Death panels indeed! Who died and left them in charge?

 

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