Not another Clinton – Bush election? Please!

April 10, 2014

Get ready, we may indeed see another Clinton – Bush election.  This time, Hillary Clinton, former First Lady and former Secretary of State pitted against Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida.  It’s like being Bill Murray in Ground Hog Day.  Ever get the feeling you’ve been here before?

Both candidates have something to prove.  Clinton wants to scrub her husband’s impeachment off the books and this would do it.  In a hundred years when some ten year old boy scans through the list and sees that Bill Clinton was impeached but his wife was elected president shortly thereafter he will make the ready conclusion, “The impeachment must have been political or else the country would never have turned so quickly to his wife.”  And Jeb Bush is running to prove, well, that not all Bushes should be judged by the last one.

How did it come to this?  There are three dynamics at work.

1.) Political dynasties are active in both parties simultaneously.

Normally, one can count on the opposition to raise a fuss.  If there was a Democrat dynasty the Republicans would howl.  If there was a Republican dynasty the Democrats would be outraged.  But now two have appeared at the same time.  No Democrat will raise the issue of corruption and attack the idea of the Bush family dynasty and risk alienating the powerful Clinton’s.  And no Republican will attack the Clinton’s and risk alienating the Bushes?  Even if the latter prove weak and Jeb Bush fails to show well in the primaries, the GOP nominee will have to have that powerful, fundraising machine supportive in the general election.

Now, in a very rare moment of history, the two dynasties have cancelled each other out.  As a result? There are dynasties gone wild. The electric fence is down and the cows are roaming all over.  The Cuomo’s, the Paul’s, the Kennedy’s, the Carter’s don’t get me started.

2.) Journalism is dead.

Normally, one can count on a vigorous Fourth Estate.  No less than Joseph Pulitzer railed against the idea of Robert Todd Lincoln running for president.  Throughout American history the media has been vigilant.  Attempts at family dynasties were always shot down.  This was America, not a monarchy.  After the Revolutionary War, when George Washington was presented a massive family genealogy by the English government he rejected it, pointing out that in these United States success or failure was determined by the choices of the individual not the bloodline.

This is not the Philippines.  This is not Indonesia.  This is not Panama, where fifteen families rule the country.

But in case you haven’t noticed, journalism is dead.  If a reporter can’t even pronounce Sevastopol what hope do we have that they are telling us anything accurate about Russia and the Ukraine?  We now live behind our own iron curtain.  News has become entertainment and the Clinton’s, Bushes, Kennedy’s all sell well.  Don’t expect any help from the media.

3.) Obama has failed.

Finally there is Barack Obama.  His election has been a great historic milestone but by just about any measure, including his own, his presidency is ending in disaster.  For example, the rich have gotten richer and the poor have gotten poorer at a rate that would make an Eastern establishment Republican blush.  The Nixon administration spied on its enemies but the Obama administration spies on its friends too and on its own political allies in the U.S. Senate.  Having tried an “outsider” like Obama, the American electorate is now more likely to turn to an “insider,” a Bush or a Clinton.  Better to have someone who doesn’t have to learn on the job.

While a Clinton – Bush rematch might just happen, almost any historian will warn that the idea of multiple presidencies in the same family is a recipe for abuse and disaster.  Having been in power and then spending time out of power, a family can muse about what might have been.  Who was loyal and who was not?  What should be done if given another chance?  How could the office have been better monetized?  Who should have been an Ambassador?  Whose corporate jet would be better appreciated and useful, added to the fleet of corporate jets loaned out to a former president?  What government contracts could legitimately go to whom and why?  How can the next family power contender be groomed?

America, already beginning to experience the corruption of a Third World nation, doesn’t need to grease the skids to fall any deeper into the abyss.  Clinton – Bush?  It may happen.  But if it does, expect America’s post constitutional drift to gain full sail.  The abuses won’t be pretty.


No war over Ukraine, please.

March 19, 2014
doug in kiev 2

Dooug Wead & translator speaking at the Olympic Village in Kiev, Ukraine, November, 2013.

The Obama State Department rejects the vote in the Crimea to rejoin Russia on the grounds that it violates the Ukrainian Constitution.  But according to the Ukrainian Constitution, the pro Russian president Victor Yanukovych should never have been driven from power in the first place.   Our feckless national media tells us that he was overthrown in a “popular uprising.”   Would that work here?  In the United States?  Obama’s support is now below 42%.  Can we demonstrate and force him out?  Is that okay with the national media? Don’t hold your breath.

Our hypocritical foreign policy calls for supporting democracy when it does what we want it to do, or what our national media wants it to do, but we easily dismiss it when it does what  we don’t.   Like Iraq and Afghanistan where we re-wrote the constitution the way we wanted it to be written.  Or in Egypt where they voted in the wrong man and so now we support the military.

I’m not against what we want.  Nor am I always against what the national media wants.  I like the women’s rights, for example, that we insist our newly created “democracies” enact.  But I am against sending our sons to die to try to force other people to do what we want.  Only to have it come undone later.  If we truly cherish freedom, let’s let other people have it and mind our own business.

No one was a bigger hawk during the Cold War than I but before we rush into war over Ukraine stop for a moment and consider these very different circumstances.  

1.) Communism is dead.   Has anybody noticed? The threat of a newly formed communist governments killing millions of citizens, including teachers , students, intellectuals and Christians is over.  Far from closing churches, there is a religious renewal sweeping the CIS.  

In the 1990′s the Russian government rebuilt the Cathedral of Christ the Savior that Stalin had burned to the ground.  It had originally been built to honor the victory over Napoleon and was the site of the world premiere of the Tchaikovsky Overture of 1812. When a rock band, Pussy Riot, climbed up on its altars and shouted and sang obscenities Vladimir Putin had them arrested.  American politicians, such as Nancy Pelosi said that this was suppression of free speech.  (Presumably, Pussy Riot is welcome to shout the “F” word and other obscenities in the well of the U.S. House of Representatives or maybe the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.)

2.) Kiev, not Moscow, was the first capital of Russia.

3.) Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union longer than Hawaii and Alaska have been American states.  Imagine banishing them from the union?  (Come to think of it, President Sarah Palin might like that.)  Russian soldiers and naval officers have been in the Crimean city of Sevastopol since 1784.

4.) The people of Ukraine, east and west, elected a pro Russian leader because the previous pro western presidents were incompetent and corrupt.  (Although Yulia Tymoshenko was a “looker.”)  The economy was in a shambles.  I had friends show up at their bank to learn that the government had taken half of their savings.  Money soon fled the banks.

Meanwhile, crime was rampant.  My translator and close friend was married twice and both times the spouse was murdered.  A Ukrainian teenager who attends a private school I help administrate in Oregon had a brother killed over a parking place.  Small wonder that during my annual visit a few years ago there were bumper stickers all over the Ukraine saying, “Give us your Putin.”  At least he could maintain law and order.

5.) The American television executives, who liked the idea of war with Iraq, may not support a sustained war against Russia.  The war in Iraq, however personal it was for George W. Bush, had the additional value of forcing America to jump into the frying pan with Israel and become a still bigger target of Islamic extremists.  Now Israel was not alone in the world.  It was Israel and us.  But will those same television executives be ready to  send hundreds of thousands to die for the people of western Ukraine?  These are the people whose grandparents ran many of Hitler’s death camps, like Sobibor.  Antisemitism is today stronger in western Ukraine than anywhere in the world outside of radical Islamic nations.  Keep in mind.  Until World War Two, western Ukraine was Poland.  And before that, some parts were in the Austria-Hungarian Empire.

Most of all, a war over Ukraine would cause the death of thousands and thousands of innocent people who are now our friends.  People with whom we work and love.  So let’s calm down.   Yes the Cold War is over and the Soviet Union is not coming back but a little tweaking of those borders based on language and politics is inevitable.


Why Rand Paul can beat Hillary Clinton

March 9, 2014

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky may be the only Republican who can beat Hillary Clinton for president in 2016.

Paul decisively won last Saturday’s CPAC straw poll with 31%, his neo-Libertarian sidekick, Senator Ted Cruz, was second at 11%.  Jeb Bush and the Karl Rove faction of the party registered 1%.  According to a recent column in The Washington Post, Rand Paul is now leading the Republican field.  This is showing up in some recent presidential preference polls. It is puzzling to many political pundits.
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Polls don’t usually mean much this early in an election cycle. It’s usually all about name recognition. Former Secretary of State and former First Lady, Hillary Clinton obviously leads among Democrats, with Vice President Joe Biden trailing far behind.  In the GOP contest, former Governor and FOX television star, Mike Huckabee polls well, so does former governor Jeb Bush and so does former vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin.  All the other candidates who ran for president last time register small numbers too.  But why Rand Paul?
Yes, his father, former congressman, Ron Paul, ran for president three times but in a career that spanned a whole generation he never led the GOP in a national poll. 

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Part of the reason lies in the fact that, if he wins the nomination, Senator Rand Paul will be the first nominee since Ronald Reagan to lead a political Movement.  In this case, the “Constitutional Movement”, which includes conservatives, libertarians and others across the whole left to right spectrum. In fact, it represents more than a movement it represents a new political re-alignment, the first of its kind in several generations.  
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During most of our lifetime the debate was about the role of government in the lives of the people.  Liberals wanted a “liberal” use of government involvement, conservatives wanted a “conservative” use of government, relying more on free markets.  But the point of reference was always the role of government in meeting peoples needs, it was in relation to that point that one was liberal or conservative.
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The U.S. Constitution was a factor, but mostly over the issue of the Second Amendment and in understanding the politics of the Cold War where conservatives were actually more liberal about spending for defense and liberals more conservative.  Conservatives said providing a common national defense is Constitutional. Liberals said all of this military spending was robbing the poor of this country and hurting our own people.
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Liberals accused conservatives about not caring for the poor.  Conservatives accused liberals about being soft on communism and flirting with national destruction.
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In the past, candidates were touted as liberal or conservative but only Reagan and Goldwater were considered to be actual leaders of an ideological Movement.  Liberal Movement leaders?  FDR?  Later, Adlai Stevenson?  Hubert Humphrey?  Maybe?  But not really.  All were successful politicians and thus too involved in the process to have the ideological purity of a movement leader.
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Today the old liberal – conservative argument is almost obsolete.  The end of the Cold War has been a big factor.  There is no life and death struggle about left and right.  We have settled on a range of responsibilities that government should be able to assume and are now quibbling over details. “You said I could keep my own doctor, you’re a liar.”
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Foreign observers can hardly tell a difference between Republicans and Democrats.  It is the Red team versus the Blue team, not really much of contest over ideas. Just a contest over power between two societies. Oh, it is passionate, like all internecine conflicts. And the public is emotionally invested, like they are with their favorite college football team. They may shed real tears or not eat for days if their side loses.
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A good illustration of how irrelevant the philosophical argument has become was the recent presidency of George W. Bush.  In his last year in office, facing a worldwide depression, this Republican president nationalized American banks.  It took Socialist President Francois Mitterrand to do that in France.  And yet we call George W. Bush a “conservative Republican.” Meanwhile, liberal Democrats build no statues to him and conservatives still defend him.  It’s two teams with bitter past histories.  Liberals never applaud conservatives when they do something liberal, such as George  H.W. Bush extending the first White House invitations to Gay activists.  And conservatives never applaud a liberal, like John Kennedy or Bill Clinton, for doing something conservative, like balancing the budget
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The Constitutional Movement represents a new realignment of the political landscape.  It includes a variety of voters from the left to the right and everything in between.
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The argument is less about liberal and conservative and more about getting back to the Constitution. It is about ending corruption.  The special deals.  It is less about left and right or even, up and down, the rich and the poor, and more about in and out. Insiders are seen to be gaming the system, taxes, Wall Street, the regulatory agencies, banking.  There is great cynicism about this and even despair.  It’s as if only suckers depend on a free marketplace.  The American dream is over.
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It is not lost on many that the rich got richer and the poor got poorer on a massive scale under Barack Obama.
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While many poor people and certainly all people of color celebrate the rise of Obama, now that he is passing, some on the left are wanting to get serious about doing what they thought a person of such humble origins would do, namely, reform the system. Stop the looting.  End the cycle of corruption.
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Hillary – as a woman – represents a dynamic cultural moment and that will be hard to resist.  The media will be transfixed by the idea of a woman following an African American into the White House.  But no one seriously believes that this woman, who in 1979 miraculously turned a $1,000 commodities investment into $100,000 within ten months, is going to do anything about reversing the corrupt system that has clogged our economic arteries. She can only win a Red-Blue contest.  It will only be an argument about who gets the power and which insiders get the taxpayers’ money.
If 2016 become a contest of significant ideas on how to end the corruption Rand Paul will win.  He is the only candidate who has any.
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(Clip from 2012, when Rand Paul was stopped by the TSA.)


Will Mike Huckabee Run For President in 2016?

March 3, 2014

Short answer?  Nobody knows at this stage.  Not even former Governor Mike Huckabee.  Well, maybe he knows at some unconscious level.

Yes, he is going through the motions.  He is visiting with supporters in Iowa, where he leads the field in the latest poll.  And he has made trips to South Carolina.  He will be back to both places for events again this Spring.  He has mended fences with Paul Pressler and the conservative crowd of leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention.  Their support of Fred Tompson in South Carolina, arguably, cost Huckabee the GOP nomination in 2008.  Yes, he has been connecting with evangelical leaders for the last six years, leaders he ignored last time around.  But that is all work he has to do to keep the option open.  It doesn’t mean he will run.

Republicans are famous for sending “the next man in,” that is, selecting the candidate who has earned his turn.  Nixon,
Ford, Reagan, Bush, Dole, McCain all benefited from that imagination deprived process.  And many would say that Huckabee is the next man on the list.  But the world “it is a changin.”  Not many see Hukabee beating Hillary Clinton and the national media in a 2016 fall election showdown.

In the race for the GOP nomination, Huckabee will have FOX NEWS as a friend.  They may not fall all over him like they did Giuliani and Christie but at least they won’t actively try to destroy him.  Some at FOX will probably now tilt to Paul Ryan but Huckabee will get his moments in the sun.

Huckabee’s problem has always been money.  Organically, the former governor of Arkansas  will be able to raise more money on the stump this time, because he is a television celebrity.  He won’t need Chuck Norris to tag along.  People will pluck down $1,000 for a picture with just him alone, the FOX NEWS star.

But there will still be a gap.  Evangelicals give to World Vision, Convoy of Hope, their local church and not much is left over for political candidates.  Specifically he needs a big donor, someone who will chuck in a few million to a Huckabee super pak.  Without it he is dead in the water.  Rand Paul will have it.  So will Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan.  To look at it another way, Governor Huckabee is only ONE person away from making a strong run at the GOP nomination.  He just needs one.  But that one must be a multi-millionaire.

It may be a temptation for someone to take.  History is full of things that turned out differently.  Hillary Clinton is not guaranteed the White House.  Just ask President Dewey, or President Muskie, or President Hart.  Anything can happen. And Huckabee would be there to pick up the pieces and his billionaire would be at the pinnacle with him, like Raymond Tusk.

He needs for Sarah Palin to stay out of the race.  She might get to thinking that a run would be a good career move.  Like Rick Perry, she may want to get into the debates to win back some intellectual respect.  Her involvement would suck a lot of air out of a Huckabee presidential campaign.

Then there is Karl Rove.  He and his powerful pak will be watching.  Ready to take out Huckabee if he gets too close.

Perhaps the best evidence of Huckabee’s chances are two numbers.  The presidential preference polls, which have him as the GOP leader.  And the bathroom scales.

If the numbers continue to climb in the GOP polls he will have to run.  It is a case of “good stewardship.”  A Southerner, raised with the Protestant work ethic cannot let such a moment pass without taking action.  

But if the numbers continue to climb on the bathroom scale his subconscious may be saying, “Don’t do this to me Mike.  You are rich and famous already and you won’t win.”  

This latter process can be easy for all of us to track.  Just keep Googling for the latest pictures.  If the Governor starts getting trim in spite of all that good food and the difficulty in exercising when you are living on the road, well, his subconscious might be saying, “Get with it Mike.  We’re going to do this things with or without you.”

Mike Huckabee can run but he can’t hide.


Chris Christie must now pay the butcher’s bill

February 15, 2014

“I am no bully,” said Governor Chris Christie at his January 9, 2014 press conference.  And then he proceeded to pummel to death his best friends and closest political advisers.  Now some of those advisers are coming back to haunt him.

Christie insisted that he knew nothing about the hardball, political pay back machinations of his own office which led to the shut down of traffic at Fort Lee.  It was allegedly payback to a mayor who had not supported Christie for re-election.  It tied up traffic coming out of New York City for a day.

The governor claimed that his staff was to blame.  They had  lied to him, he said, and what they had done reeked of “abject stupidity.”

Christie said he had immediately fired his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, and was ordering his two time campaign manager, Bill Stepien, to withdraw his nomination to lead the New Jersey Republican Party.

Christie went out of his way to distance himself from another aide who had long been considered a high school friend, David Wildstein.  “David and I were not friends in high school,” Christie lectured the press. “We were not even acquaintances in high school. We didn’t travel in the same circles in high school. You know, I was the class president and athlete. I don’t know what David was doing during that period of time.”

Richard Nixon had lost his presidency by trying to defend the Watergate burglars.  “We have to help them,” he said, even though he had not ordered the break-in at the Democrat National Headquarters.   It was the effort to get money to the burglars families that eventually implicated the White House in the scandal.  And when the cover-up extended to the highest levels and Nixon was forced to fire his top aides, H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, he told that nation, “I feel like I have lost my left and right arms.”  

Said Nixon, “They were two of the finest public servants it has been my privilege to know.”

Later, when Sir David Frost interviewed Richard Nixon he asked why the president hadn’t blamed his staff for their mistakes and fired them and kept out of the scandal from the beginning.

Nixon quoted the British Prime Minister William Gladstone who said that the first requirement for a prime minister was to be a good butcher.  Nixon answered ruefully, “I was a poor butcher.”

Not Chris Christie.  Promoted by pundits on the Fox News Channel as their new Catholic candidate (ala Rudolph Giuliani in 2008) Christie had no problem immediately excising his arms, legs, hands, or anything else that might come in the way of more power.   And he did so decisively.

Haldeman and Ehrlichman may or may not have been two of the finest public servants in American history but Christie’s appointees were “stupid” and “liars” who needed to be put down immediately.  This was one Watergate lesson Chris Christie had taken to heart.

No one stopped to ask why Christie had surrounded himself with “stupid liars” as his closest aides.  The Fox pundits, unperturbed, insisted that the incident was only a temporary setback for their man.

Anyone with experience working for a president or a governor knows that they are not ignorant of what goes on around them although they carefully nurture this idea to avoid blame for the things they can’t fix.  Former Governor Sarah Palin pointed this out.

Information is currency, it has value.  It is like finding a shoe box with hundred dollar bills that are disappearing before your eyes, you spend them as quickly as you can, while they still have value.  If you have information, any information, you get it to the president or governor immediately.

Picture the young staffer bringing in some requested paperwork.

“So what were they talking about at lunch, kid?” The governor asks.  “Why couldn’t they have the meeting here and what was so hush, hush?”

“You don’t want to know, governor, its some political payback thing and you need deniability.”

The governor smiles.  “Okay, what is it kid?”

And the young staffer coughs it up immediately.

“Huh,” the governor grunts, acting dumb, apparently engrossed in a memo.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” And the kid, if he should ever surface, would have to tell the grand jury that he can’t really say if the governor understood or not.

Usually, such a scenario is much too subtle.  Consider Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who talked openly about selling a vacant U.S. Senate seat.  But then, four of the last seven governors of Illinois have been convicted and imprisoned.

Now it turns out that David Wildstein, the Chrsitie appointee who ran the lane closing scandal is talking.  In a letter through his attorney he said that “evidence exists . . . tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the Governor stated publicly.”

Now we will see how Gladstone’s axiom really works.  Can a man cut off his arms and legs and still survive?  Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  And how are all of those arms and legs supposed to feel about what has happened?  Now, it’s time for Governor Chris Christie to pay the butchers bill.


Regina Noriega and “the era of women.”

January 30, 2014

Listening to the audio version of Ayn Rand’s classic bestseller, Atlas Shrugged, I was reminded of Regina Noriega.  She is the most recent sensation in a growing list of outstanding women in the field of direct sales.

This was the one field that men seemed to have to themselves, Mary Kay Ash being the anomaly.   Increasingly, in politics, journalism, education and business, women are doing the work.  Hillary Clinton appears on this week’s TIME magazine cover crushing a little man beneath her heel.  By the way, the new editor of TIME is Nancy Gibbs, a new star in her own right.  More and more, men are increasingly being seen as having only one exclusive function, namely, protecting women from other men.

Regina Noriega has built a career creating brands and, well, networking, building genuine relationships with people in the field of direct sales and network marketing.

Regina’s tenacity, drive, vibrancy and ability to be a leader is known and greatly admired in the industry. Everyone that’s worked with her on any level knows her standards are high to the level of perfectionism and that she expects everyone around her to operate on the same level. Mediocrity in any form is not an option.

Again, to use the Atlas Shrugged metaphor, she’s never taken the easy road.  Rather than ride the train, she thrives on building tracks and at the same time she’s comfortable swimming against the rip tide and can turn from defense to offense on a dime. Strategic is a word that describes her leadership skills.

Having spent 40 years as an amateur historian of the whole network marketing industry I’ve watched her face many professional challenges and tackle them with leadership skills that display not only strength but grace and courage. Her negotiation skills and work ethic is famous.  And always, she practices the golden rule.  (No, not that one, the real one.)

She’s usually the only woman, and minority woman at that, seated in the boardroom. She’s highly respected for her strategic mind and treats all around her with complete frankness, always thinking about the goals of a team above everything else. She talks hard and direct but always makes everyone feel like they are always in it together. She makes you want to drive yourself hard not only for yourself but for her. The best thing about her is that she is passionate about  helping people first and joining people in their personal development journeys.

I’m not sure where she is headed.  Will she take the route other woman business stars have taken and enter public life?  Will she be another Meg Whitman?  As a corporate executive she is legend.  So there is always that. And she is one of the rare corporate animals in network marketing who would thrive in the field.  Not many in that category.  It would be fun to watch for woman are increasingly proving the misogynist, American, MLM old fogies that they can build groups bigger and better than they.  Look at Natasha Yena in the Ukraine.

Which brings us back to the dilemma I first posed.  What does this all mean for men?  What will we do?  Fight wars you say.  But that work is increasingly falling on the shoulders of mechanical drones.  We may soon see women sitting before computer consoles in America and Asia, duking it out through surrogate metal hardware on the ground.  Yes, for that we may need little boys too, Ender Wiggins, who have quick eye hand coordination but even then we don’t need men.

In the  celebrated, famous, Greek democracy of antiquity, women could not vote.  They could not own property.  Their word was not accepted in a court of law.  They were not even counted in a government census.  Today, at least outside the Islamic world, they are emerging as a dominate force.  Their activism has changed education.  Their votes have changed world governments.  And they are in the process of changing business as well.  They are all over the ballrooms of Davos.  Oh yes, I forgot to mention banking and finance.  There is Janet Yellen, the new chairman of the Federal Reserve.

So here come  Regina Noriega, the bright new face in direct sales.  We should not be surprised.  She is yet another star in an ever expanding galaxy of women high achievers.


Duke Snider on steroids

January 26, 2014

It’s the end of baseball as we know it.  Stick a fork in it.  This month’s drama with Alex Rodriguez only underscores the futility of trying to make it work the way it once did.  If some use more drug enhancements and others less and still others none, and we only find out later in bits and pieces, then it has become more a game of deception and less a physical contest or a team sport.

       Old baseball, real baseball was a game of statistics.  Duke Snider could never have been on steroids.  In five consecutive years, averaging 500 or more at bats each year, he hit 42, 40, 42, 43 and 40 home runs respectively.  He was a left handed hitter in a lineup of right handed power that included Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella, Carl Furillo, and Jackie Robinson.  The Brooklyn Dodgers always batted Snider third in the lineup to make sure he got the most at bats possible for a power hitter.
       By the time the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles and finally built their stadium in Chavez Ravine they had become a pitching baseball team.  At one time they fielded a pitching rotation of five twenty game winners in a starting lineup, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Tommy Johns, Claude Osteen and Don Sutton.
       Their lead home run hitter in 1966 was Ron Fairly who hit only 14.  I saw one of those rare events at Wrigley Field in Chicago.  Later that year, in the same park, I saw Sandy Koufax and Dick Ellsworth pitch nine innings of shutout ball.  Both men were lifted in the ninth inning and neither one got credit for the win.
       The large expanses of Chavez Ravine purposely allowed plenty of room behind the plate to catch pop ups.  Even the powerful Frank Howard, who was biologically engineered to hit home runs, only managed one big year with 31.  Later, when he got was traded to the Washington Senators and a friendlier ball park he would hit forty or more home runs three years in a row.
       After Duke Snider won the National League home run crown in 1956, it would take 98 years for another Dodger to do it again, when Adrian Beltre would hit 48 but by then the modern age of steroid in sports was upon us.  Beltre would hit only 19 home runs the next year and in sixteen seasons he would never hit 40 or more home runs again.
       In 2000 a talented Dodger outfielder named Shawn Green hit 24 home runs in 610 at bats.  The next year he hit 49 in 619 at bats.  It set all Dodger records.  It blew Duke Snider, who as a left hander in a power hitting right handed lineup in the tiny Ebbets Field where the right field grandstands were only 257 feet away, out of the water.  For one golden year, inexplicably, he accomplished what no other Dodger had done since their beginning in 1884.  No one looked at Green’s spectacular year too closely.  We didn’t want to know.  But it’s hard to talk about Shawn Green and Duke Snider in the same sentence.  Baseball statistics are now meaningless.  And baseball without statistics, well, it is not the same game.
       The game has changed.  No one had to wonder if Ron Fairly was on steroids.
        It’s not just the players that are on steroids.  It’s the game itself.  And it is driven by the fans.  I thought this steroid age would spell the end of baseball.  The crowds would stay home, the television audiences would diminish, but it hasn’t.  It has evolved into some new kind of creature. You don’t have to wait for hours to see the home run or even the triple play. The waiting is all done for you and the finished product is shown in brief, exciting snippets, the whole day of events in the major leagues reduced to one half hour segments of video augmented by commentary and commercials.
       Baseball has become like genetically altered food.  It still looks and tastes the same, even better, but there is something creepy about eating chicken that comes to restaurant in tubes of pink dough looking substances or eating corn that isn’t corn and eating ice cream that is.
       Most young boys no longer play the game, unless electronically.  But the ones who do are well trained and groomed to perfection in little leagues, graduating upward.  In some respects they are better, more polished players than the kids who fought their way up from the sandlots and the back yard games of earlier generations.  It is still fun. But it is not a game.  It is a career track. And the people who become the stars cheat to get there.
       So what do they get?  For a time, if they are really good at cheating, they get money, a few years of adulation.  Then comes condemnation and in some cases an early death.  What do we get? Like fast food, we get fast home runs.  We don’t have to wait.  Baseball is no longer the nation’s favorite pastime. It has become something different.

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