Bound for the Floor

As you probably know, on Monday the FBI went in with a search warrant granted by a judge in New York, and confiscated materials from Micahel Cohen’s office, home, and hotel room in search of documents that could shed light on payments made to Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal, and information linking McDougal, Trump and the National Inquirer. This came after Trump, on Air Force One last week, told reporters that he knew nothing about payments to Daniels or any one else before the 2016 election. Once the news hit, our Tweeter in Chief went ballistic, and has threatened behind closed doors to get rid of everyone involved at the state department with the Special Council. It is just another week in America under Trump.

With the raid on Monday, it appears that Mueller is getting closer to Trump, and Trump is infuriated over it. He took to Twitter again, calling the investigation fake and a problem that is slowing things down in the White House. The New York Times reported Wednesday that sources noted that he was on the verge of a “meltdown” on Monday, and had to be talked down numerous times.

What concerns me in all of this is simply why he is so emotional over any of this. If he truly believes that he did nothing wrong, and his lawyer was raided – under the pretense that there may have been payments made during the campaign that were illegal, and Trump didn’t know about it – then Trump, the champion of justice, would want to see justice done, and would gladly cooperate with the Feds over the payments he didn’t know about for affairs he didn’t take part in.

It only makes sense to me.

But this is Trump. And nothing makes sense when it comes to Trump.

Since he has taken office, Trump has introduced an unorthodox style of governing – a unique way of understanding the job of President that has gone against all preconceived notions of the job. He’s been rash, bullish, un apologetic, and loud. His constant Tweets have given news media outlets plenty to dissect, discuss, and pour over looking for meaning and deeper cognitive reasons for his actions. There have even been hours of news anchors diving into the question of just how much they should cover his Twitter habit.

Outside of his social media addiction, his administration has baffled everyone as it makes not one or two headlines a week, but three or four a day on average. There seems to be no possible end to the ever continuing stream of news stories that pour out of the White House, leaving so many of us with our heads spinning as we desperately try to keep up.

And in some weird way, they all connect, all part of the same synchronistic thread that runs through the daily news cycle, water tank gossip, tabloid headline, newsfeed crawl of our lives.

One of my concerns with this administration is what will happen once it is over? Regardless of whether you like him or not, he has changed the role of the President and created a space that will never be the same again. Gone are the days of an administration that gains instant respect, a default honor to the American people. The next administration will have a hard time gaining normal back, it will not come over night. It is a task I do not envy.

For now, though, we can only watch as he, this President, re-writes what being President means. Autocratic or patriotic, either way he is changing the way the job is done. And the way he is conducting it, there will be no road map or template as he is making it up as he goes.

And frankly, that’s what scares me the most.

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State of Love and Trust

The problem with Facebook is Mark Zuckerberg.

Although I wasn’t able to listen to all of the hearing today, I was able to hear enough sporadically to understand exactly why we are so frustrated with the founder of Facebook. He is still mentally living at Harvard, trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes about what his social network really does. In the end, Facebook is not a social network that is designed to connect people in a digital community. Instead, Facebook is simply the new way that we experience magazines, books, news papers, and opinion driven pieces; Facebook is a publisher. And Mark Zuckerberg is making a killing with it.

Zuckerberg did lay out, several times after various Senators asked what data Facebook sold, how data and advertisers worked on the network. According to him, advertisers request a specific group that they want to target, Facebook builds the algorithm to target those people based on data Facebook has collected through what we decide to share, and then post the ads to our news feed and FB page. He continuously assured Senators, and those watching, that the data was never given over to the advertisers, nor is it sold to the advertisers but rather stays inside Facebook’s servers. But, as one Senator pointed out, Zuckerberg and his massive company still make money off the use of that data.

And that appears to be the lynch pin that sets off the bomb of what Facebook really is doing with the data they collect from those 2 billion users every day. Zuckerberg faced the question of what happens to the data once it is collected from several Senators in various ways, and each time he would not give a complete answer, even partly dodging the question of what actually happens to the data of a deleted Facebook page with a convoluted “there are several systems that are in place and it takes time to get through those systems” – in other words – “we keep it long enough to create a picture of what people are doing so we can adjust the algorithms, then we forget about it and it sits on our servers forever.”

What was clear, for me at least, is that Facebook is entering a new phase in its life cycle, and social media is about to change dramatically. Several Senators brought attention to legislation that addresses privacy concerns, ad control and regulations, and first amendment concerns in the digital space. There was also an overwhelming feeling that Congress has decided what Facebook and the public have not been able to do: Facebook is a media company, and it acts as a publisher in charge of author’s content.

If Congress acts on the idea of regulations, and how far those regulations will go, remains to be seen. Senator Thom Tillis made a plea to not only Zuckerberg, but to Google, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and LinkedIn to get together and come up with an independent agreement between them that would help keep Government handling out of the free platforms that we all use to communicate with. Whether the tech giants will do so, again, remains to be seen.

But in all of the questions of data, privacy, where the information is going, and so on, one thing remained clear (a point that Zuckerberg kept coming back to over and over again): the user ultimately is responsible for what data Facebook gets their hands on.

The reality of this whole mess is that when it comes to what information we have floating out there, we are the ones who put it there. Facebook remains as simply a platform that we use. It does not force us to share anything. We do so at our own risk, and at this point in 2018, we are well aware as a culture as to exactly what social media is and how it works. While Facebook, and all the other sites, have some liability, we are ultimately the ones at fault for what information is presented to the community. The one saving grace with Facebook is the privacy tab where we can determine who sees what, and if we as individuals do not utilize that tab, then we do not have a place to complain. In fact, it is by simply engaging with Facebook that we allow ourselves to be placed in the precarious position of having our identities compromised. Facebook does not make anyone join. Facebook does not force anyone to do anything they do not want. Once you click the “Ok” button to create your account, you have made the choice, not Facebook. It is hard to understand that sometimes as we live by the idea that we are all owed something, yet we do not want to accept the responsibilities of our actions.

The only real problem with all of this is as noted above: the guy we trust is still mentally living in a dorm at Harvard.

And we tend to ignore that simple fact.

Is it for Me…

“I think about the kids. I think we need to stay focused on what’s right for the kids. And I hope that adults would keep adult disagreements and disputes in a separate place, and serve the students that are there to be served.” This was Betsy Devos last Thursday (April 5) according to the Dallas News. The quote was in response to a question about the Oklahoma teachers who are in their second week of marching for better funding for their system. Devos, who has been out of touch with teachers and their concerns before, is missing the point of the marching itself, instead taking the typical Republican stance that has become the norm in America when it comes to education: education is not a priority any more.

In 2016, our President convinced a disgruntled rural populace that America had fallen too far behind in the world, and he alone could make America great once more (I refuse to use his slogan. I just can’t…). But the one thing, the one missing ingredient, that made us so great in the past was education. The fact that we as a culture have allowed the Republican elite from the Neo-cons to the Tea Party slowly destroy public education, and somehow convince the public that the failure of the system stems from the teachers who fight the daily war on incompetence and ignorance, is mind boggling and disheartening.

We love to point out how we were the ones who landed on the moon (which is constantly under scrutiny by right wing fringe conspiracy groups – go figure), won World War II almost singlehandedly, invented the Nuclear bomb (and in turn nuclear energy), was the country that gave the world the microchip and the iPhone, and so many more amazing accomplishments that have driven the world for over a century. And we yearn to return to those glory days of American abundance and technological and cultural dominance in the world. However, we refuse to recognize that it was through our education programs, public elementary, secondary, and private universities, that we were able to achieve such dominance. We will never return to the large stature of world leaders in innovation if we do not recognize the proven fact that a well-rounded liberal education is fundamental to cultural growth.

The term “liberal education” itself has been politicized so much that we forget what it exactly encompasses in its entirety. The term “Liberal” when associated with education does not mean left leaning political ideals in the class room. It means open dialogues, understanding what all sides understand, and how we interact with those sides. How science and math apply to real world issues and actions, how we interact with each individual we come in contact with, and how we operate as a culture.

But it has been politicized by those on the far right that see liberal education as nothing more than programming liberal ideas, an anti-God establishment bent on creating drones of immoral compasses that will lead our culture to Babylon and destruction. Meanwhile, they stand by and allow our society to decay into ruin through the advancement of a single ideology that damns any other way of processing the world as inherently evil and un-American. An ideology that proclaims itself as the only true ideology while condemning all others as holding no value. An ideology that questions anything that does not produce solid results, tangible findings that lead to profits.

We laugh at the humanities because they study the soft, the abstract, the things we cannot touch or define through any of our senses. In reality, it is the humanities that give us pleasure, hope, and faith; all abstract entities that we all covet and desire – something you will not hear a FoxNews pundit admit.

We overlook the Social Sciences as we just don’t understand why we need them. We are told to suck it up, but rarely are we given instruction on exactly what we are sucking up, and never are we given the possible consequences of sucking this unknown thing up. The Social Sciences give us both, and give us ways that others have dealt with that magical thing that lays out there in the either waiting to be sucked in any direction. Again, FoxNews would have you simply believe that we are all weak and vulnerable if we dig into the abstract nature of feelings and how we deal with the world around us. They refuse to celebrate failure, to celebrate the fact that strength and experience comes from, at first, a weakness.

Don’t think I’m just trying to pick on FoxNews, but to be fair, they loudly tout these stances, these archaic ideals that died when Kennedy was shot. The push back by the right on common sense is nothing more than an attempt to institute an ideology that has no productive future. Actions and ideas that appear to be nothing more than the obvious way to deal with issues are questioned, ridiculed, deemed as a way to destroy the family or society, and dismissed. For example: gay marriage. In what way does gay marriage hurt our culture as a whole? When people who sexually associate themselves with others of the same sex, do they not still spend money? Do they not still pay taxes? Do they not still work to earn money and contribute to the culture? If they do all of these things, and they do so with the same faith and confidence in the system as anyone else, why exactly is it evil to allow them to enjoy the fruits of what they work toward? Is it really because of some archaic rule that has been misinterpreted for 2000 years? Or is it really about fear – fear of change, fear of losing influence, fear of losing something that you never really had in the first place?

Education has been placed in the same box of fear. As time has progressed since we first constructed the current education model, we have seen our culture move from an industrial revolution to urbanization to modernization to the atomic age and finally through a digital age, but education has remained relatively the same. There has been little growth and innovation in education while the world around it changed dramatically, and the only explanation for it is fear. Fear of change and new ideas. Fear of what education will produce. Fear of a rationally thinking, critically engaged mind that asks questions about established pillars in our culture which leads to a larger fear of losing influence over large swaths of people.

Education is paramount to a great culture. Education gives us not only the Maths and Sciences that engineer the great achievements of cultures, it gives us the arts and social sciences that help us engage with our culture and represent our culture through basic human desires.

The strikes we have seen in Oklahoma, Kentucky, West Virginia, and soon Arizona are reactions to the larger problem of leaving education to its own peril. It is a way of thinking that has been dominant for more than 20 years. The voices are growing louder, however, and voices like Mrs. Devos will continue to lose influence.

If you want teachers to care for their students and their well being, Mrs. Devos, then your criticism should be directed toward your own political party who has, in the case of Oklahoma and so many other states in our great nation, gutted education to a point where it is not feasible to establish the future of our culture. A culture, by the way, that gave you the smart phone you carry, the fashion you style in your clothes, and the freedom to voice your opinion, even if it is ill informed and demeaning.

Mighty Casey

What is Baseball?

It is not just a game. It is a romance. It is a passion.

I have been a Dodgers fan since I was in little league. When I began my short career in Baseball, we didn’t have sponsors, so we played as MLB subordinates. I was an Oriole, but my friend was a Dodger. The hat won me over, and I have been a Dodger fan since.

My boys won the ’88 series under Tommy and Oerl. I watched it on NBC. I saw Gibson make his legendary homerun in game 1. I watched Oerl pitch nine innings in game 5. I laughed at the A’s.

I was 12.

Before the internet and smart phones, I had to follow my boys through the Winston Salem Journal and Sports Center. In the spring of 1994, when I was a naïve 17 year old senior in high school, I read and heard about an impending strike by the Player’s Association that would eventually lead to me exiting MLB Baseball until the early 2000s when my brother-in-law led me back to the low and away curve thrown at 3-2 in the 5th with a runner on second.

The ’94 strike left me angry and sad. The ’94 strike allowed me to see all the flaws in the MLB. The ’94 strike left me abandoned and alone in my love for a game that moves so majestically. The ’94 strike was King Lear and Macbeth all in a theatre of Romeo and Juliet while exposing the flaws of humanity that only Hamlet could expose. The ’94 strike was the ultimate tragedy that even Shakespeare couldn’t have seen. The ’94 strike was pointless and wrong. It was another nail in the coffin for Baseball.

I have struggled to find a reason why Baseball has captured my attention since that fateful spring, and subsequent summer, of 1994. It could be the single to right that lands the tying run on 1st. It could be the 6-4-3 double play that holds the lead in the 6th. It could be the sacrifice bunt that moves the winning run to 3rd where images of Jackie Robinson stealing home immediately come to mind. It could be the two out, ninth inning batter with a 3-2 count and a runner on 2nd. It could be the absence of Jeter chasing Ted Williams and the last .400 season. It could be the anticipation of seeing a no hitter by Kershaw or Bumgarner. Or it could simply be the thrill of hearing that wonderful sound of the ball hitting a wooden bat before it sails 369 feet at Wrigley field. It could be any of these. Or even more.

I have tried to explain how beautiful Baseball is so many times in the past. The simple fact is that it is poetry in motion. Art in sport. Strategy between a manager, pitcher and catcher – all against a batter who holds a .250 – .325 average against a lefty.

Show me that depth of strategy in football…

Football.

The NFL.

I was an avid Marino fan as a child. Duper and Clayton taking those 30 yard passes that ended in 6 points. Shots fired from that cannon Marino called a right arm that were thrown in mere seconds of the snap. Shots thrown with such beautiful accuracy that you often wondered how a fly would survive one moment within Marino’s range.

But Marino, who stared down 300 lb. defenses before rocketing a pass 20 yards through a plethora of backs and safeties, never stood on the mound in the 6th inning with runners on 1st and 3rd, a 3-0 count with a batter whose avg. was .321 and who had already doubled in the 2nd. That’s pressure.

That’s Baseball.

Cobb. Mantle. Robinson. Aaron. Williams. Clemmons. Colfax. Boggs. Rivera. Ford. Martinez. Henderson….Sr. and Jr.

And of course Ruth. Oh the Babe.

Even Jordan marvels at the icon that is the Babe.

Every sport has its greats, but the Babe transcends all. Can Kobe ever be Jordan? Can Brady ever be Montana? Can Federer ever be Laver? But none can be the Babe. Case in point – Roger Maris. Mark McGwire. Barry Bonds. All shadows. All asterisks. All fall short of the Babe.

Sure the Babe never played on the west coast or had the pressure of a 120 game season. But what if he had? What if Ruth had been placed against all the factors that today’s batters are placed against. Our stadiums are smaller now, and the pitches are more limited than what Ruth faced. I have no doubt that Ruth would not need supplements to guide the ball over the green monster in Boston. He wouldn’t need chemical help to push the ball into the river at San Francisco or Pittsburgh, because he was what baseball needed when he arrived. He was THE Babe. The only player who truly defined what a baseball player could be.

And no athlete has ever defined a sport the way Ruth did Baseball. Jordan redefined basketball. Gretzky redefined hockey. Unitas set the standard that all QBs would be held. Nicklaus created expectations that, even today, putters and drivers hold as religious law. But the Babe. Oh the Babe. Even now that most of his records have been dispensed, he still remains the standard. He remains the ghost in the shell of the system.

But so has Roy Hobbs, the legendary fictitious “natural.” In the original novel, Roy succumbs to the dark side of baseball. The thrown game. It’s an allegory based on the culture of betting in the years surrounding the Black Sox scandal. It critiques America’s love for the game and the game’s heroes.

But Hollywood redeemed Hobbs. Robert Redford redeemed Hobbs. No other Hollywood moment can compare to the walk off homerun at the end as he, after belting his biggest hit in the movie (while nursing an injury), shattered the lights and ran through the sparks that fell to the field as he single handedly won the pennant for “Pops.”

There’s also Crash Davis, the minor league catcher who breaks the career homerun record for minor leaguers after helping Nuke LaLoosh get to the majors in Bull Durham. “I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter.” So do I, Crash.

Major League brought us “Wild Thing” and Jake Taylor with his call to center before he bunts to bring Willie Mayes Hayes to the plate for the winning run. Cobb gave us Tommy Lee as the dying Ty Cobb, A League of Their Own gave us the greatest line in baseball lore (“There’s no crying in baseball”), and of course Walter Matthau has always been the greatest little league coach in the history of the game when he drunkenly stumbled through Bad News Bears.

And then there was Field of Dreams. The movie that didn’t celebrate baseball, but instead celebrated the love and lure of baseball. It’s not Burt Lancaster or James Earl Jones. It’s not Ray Liotta or Art LeFleur. It’s not even the fact that America forgave the Black Sox in a moment of nostalgic 1980s Hollywood magic. What Field of Dreams becomes is the same thing that The Natural becomes. A simple game of catch between a father and his son. Field of Dreams reminds us what baseball can be. It is our national past time. It is our history and our culture. As Mann notes:

“The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.”

Baseball is legendary folk songs. Baseball is the 7th inning stretch. Baseball is the smell of the ball park. A hotdog and a beer. Peanuts. Crackerjacks. The strikeout. The Double play. The crack of the bat. The first homerun sailing over the left field wall you ever see.

I don’t remember the first homerun I ever saw, but I remember the first my oldest son saw. Winston was the Warthogs at the time. We were at Ernie Shore Field. The batter swung, the sound echoed, and we watched as the ball sailed gracefully over the left field wall. My son jumped up and asked if that was a homerun. I simply answered “yes, it was.”

We saw two more that day, and my son learned the sound of a homerun when it comes off a bat. It’s a sound you never forget.

What makes this game so majestic and so beautiful is that within that small span of time that 9 innings cover, you see a game that hasn’t changed in almost 200 years. Yes, we have a DH now. Yes, pitchers don’t go nine innings much anymore. Yes, we’ve gotten rid of the spit ball. But in reality, the NFL changes more rules per season than Baseball has in a century. There is a wonderful feeling of knowing that one at bat has been the same year after year after decade after century. The pitcher looks in for the sign. The batter swings a few loose swings as the pitcher checks first. The wind up. The throw. And then it comes….that silence; that pause; that break in time and space as the ball sails from hand to home plate. That’s what makes Baseball beautiful. That’s what makes baseball timeless.

That is the poetry.