Thursday, September 30, 2010

"The Saturday Night Massacre"

For me, one of the most intriguing and amazing bits of contemporary American history is the "Saturday Night Massacre" during Watergate.

To briefly summarize, it was brought to light by Alexander Butterfield's testimony before the Senate Watergate Committee that there was a taping system in the White House that taped all conversations in the Oval Office. Crucial conversations between White House Counsel John Dean and the President had taken place regarding the Watergate coverup, conversations which were taped.

Watergate special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, renowned Attorney and Harvard Law Professor, was appointed by the White House to investigate Watergate. Cox subpoenaed the tapes when their existence was revealed. Nixon refused to turn them over, siting Executive Privilege. He told Cox to drop his subpoena. Cox refused.

Nixon's loyal Attorney General John Mitchell had resigned and would later be sentenced to prison for conspiracy, perjury, obstruction of justice. On Saturday night, October 20, 1973, Nixon ordered then Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Archibald Cox for his refusal to drop his subpoena. Richardson refused. He resigned as Attorney General. Nixon then ordered Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox. Ruckelshaus refused. He also resigned from the Justice Department. The number three man in the Justice Department was Robert Bork. Bork fired Cox. Quite a Saturday night.

In Bork's defense, some say that Bork had to be persuaded to fire Cox, and he did so, partly, as to not bring further damage to the Justice Department at a crucial time in history. Leon Jaworski was appointed Special prosecutor to replace Cox. He continued to demand the tapes. Nixon agreed to release transcripts of large portions of the tapes. The transcripts he released contained the infamous 18 and one half minute gap. He rest is history.

It is amazing how orderly America came through Watergate. We were very close to the brink of disaster. Martial Law was a real option for the White House. On the tapes at one point, Nixon tells John Dean, "They have the Marshalls. I have the Army." Nixon became very dangerous to the nation, and to himself. Only a great and strong people, and strong system, could have withstood Watergate. America prevailed.

The "Saturday Night Massacre" is quite a piece of American history. Above, Archibald Cox is pictured on the left, and Robert Bork on the right.

Picture of the Day

This is great shot of my friend Ken Willard. Ken was an All-American running back at UNC in the 60s, and a multi-year NFL All-Pro running back with the San Fransisco 49ers. Ken was recruited out of high school by the Boston Red Sox and offered a $100,000 bonus to sign with them. Ted Williams came personally to his house in Richmond to recruit him. In the end, his decision to attend UNC was a great one.

Ken is an insurance executive. He is a pioneer in the payroll deduction, voluntary benefits and enrollment services business. I have worked with him several times over the years. He is a great professional.

Photo by Hugh Morton.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Picture of the Day

Babe Ruth signing autographs in 1923.

Quote of the Day - From Frederick Douglass

Quote from the great American, Frederick Douglass: "If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without the thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters."

After escaping slavery in 1838, Douglass became the leader of the Abolitionist Movement. He was know for his dazzling oratory and his incisive anti-slavery writings. His classic autobiography, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, is one of the best known accounts of American slavery.

In 1872, Douglass became the first black nominee for Vice President of the United States
as Victoria Woodhull's running mate on the Equal Rights Party ticket. At the 1888 Republican National convention, he became the first African American to receive a vote in a major party's roll call vote.

Douglass was a major and courageous figure in the history of America.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Democrats Losing the Congress Could Help Obama

The following is an interesting take on the 2010 off-year election I have heard discussed which I think has merit: The best thing that could happen to Barack Obama may be a Republican takeover of the House, or the House and the Senate.

Obama has had major legislative success in the first year and a half in office. But the GOP seems to be winning the communications battle with rank and file, mainstreet America. There is nothing to indicate that that would change if he continues to enjoy Democratic control of both houses. The President needs to change the dynamic. He may need a negative, GOP controlled Congress, attempting with to turn back legislative achievements, against which to campaign. This could be the event to change the equation and the dynamic as he approaches 2012. Interesting. We shall see.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Everyone Get Out and Vote - Let's Close the "Enthusiasm Gap"

There is an interesting dynamic going on in most polls which has been picked up by commentators. It revolves around "registered voters" versus "likely voters." Most races are "neck and neck" among "register voters." When "likely voters" are polled, most races favor Republicans heavily.

This indicates an "enthusiasm gap" which is favoring Republicans. Today, it appears that Republicans are much more likely to vote, and are much more enthusiastic about voting than are Democrats (and those who would vote Democratic). This would likely indicate contentment among Democratic voters, and eagerness among Republicans to get out and vote the incumbent party out of office (a dynamic often seen in "off-year" elections). In addition, low enthusiasm among Democratic leaning voters has to do with an "off year" election in which their party, or preference, is in power with the leader of the party, the President, not on the ballot.

When reading polls, better ask if they are polling "likely voters" or "registered voters." If the dynamic holds, this does not bode well for the party in power, the Democrats. I would encourage everyone to get out and vote. Vote early if you are able to. Good government depends on it.

1957 UNC Basketball National Champions

The top photo is the starting line-up of the 1957 UNC National Championship team. The team finished 32-0. The starting lineup pictured above: Coach Frank McGuire, Lennie Rosenbluth, Pete Brennan, Tommy Kearn, Joe Quigg, and Bob Cunningham.
The championship game was played in Kansas against the Jayhawks. Their center was none other than 7'2" Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain (pictured above). The game was televised. I was 9 years old but I remember it well. I think everybody in NC watched it! Nice memory. Great team.

Picture of the Day

The Beatles, in front of the "Old Well", during a stop in Chapel Hill in 1964.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Picture of the Day

Street Festival in Little Italy, New York City, Spring of 1912.

(Compliments of friend Neal Roberson).

Yes, We Are Influenced By Good Communications

In America, the selling of ideas, products, services, and points of view are, many times, as much about effective communications as about the validity and reliability of the product or message. Certainly, in politics, the point of view which is best packaged and communicated, most times, becomes the winning or prevalent point of view.

I strongly disagree with the premise of the above ad. To allege that the Obama Administration is to blame for current negative circumstances in America is outrageous in my view. But the framing and delivery of the message in this ad is brilliant. Some of my liberal friends will be upset that I posted it. Not that I am good at it, but I have an interest in effective communications.

As Kathleen Parker points out in her review of the ad, "sometimes when everyone is shouting, only a whisper can be heard." This is the thought behind this powerful, anti-Obama ad that seeks to tap, not into the nation's anger, but into the country's sadness. Echoing closely the text of a Reagan ad, "Morning in America", the ad plays off 15 million Americans being out of work, businesses closed, 2900 daily foreclosures, debt being passed to children, etc.

Of course, the question we must ask ourselves, after enjoying the brilliance of the short ad, is how could Obama be responsible for these near-dire circumstances? How, only 20 months in office, could a President be held responsible for such a dilemma. I would make the case that America is far better off due to the economic emergency response of the Obama Administration.

We are in the throws of a major, worldwide economic transition. Return to economic stability and strength is quite a few years away. If the President is guilty of anything, it may be that he bit off more than the country had appetite for presently. But his economic team would say, as FDR's team would have said in 1933, incremental repair was much more dangerous based on the circumstances in which they found themselves on January 20, 2009.

Nonetheless, my interest is in the brilliance of the communication of this quiet, "whispered" message of sadness and mourning in America. Whether we agree on the premise of the ad is beside my point. How we frame the message of our product, our service, our idea, and how we communicate it to our constituents, our customers, our students, our congregation, or yes, our families, in many cases, is as important as the message itself. And yes, unfortunately, it can be as important as the validity of the message.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Picture of the Day

A New Orleans jazz club in 1945. Photo taken by the prolific photographer Hugh Morton while on his honeymoon.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Charlie Justice - Otto Graham - Eddie LeBaron

Now did somebody wonder if Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice was for real? Well, here he is, on the left, after a Cleveland Browns versus Washington Redskins game, November 30, 1952, at Griffith Stadium in Washington. He is with Otto Graham, the great Browns quarterback, and Redskins quarterback, Eddie LeBaron. Wow.

(Hugh Morton photo).

Picture of the Day

A man pulls a two-wheeled cart (wearing flip-flops, no less) loaded with chairs in Shanghai, September 1, 2010. And you thought you were productive.

(Getty Images - Philippi Lopez, photographer)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Picture of the Day

Great photo of legendary UNC All-Americans from the late 1940, post WWII era, Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice, and Art Weiner. They both lived and worked in Greensboro for many years after their college careers. Justice was an insurance executive and Weiner was with Burlington Industries.

Southern Politics

Political party affiliation in the South over the years is a complicated subject. The second photo above, taken at the 1960 Democratic Convention, is indicative of the South's anger over the civil rights plank in the party's platform. Civil rights, as part of the Democratic Party platform, dated back to 1948 when Strom Thurmond walked out of the Democratic Convention and formed the Dixiecrat Party.

Democratic party affiliation in the South dates back to post-Civil War days. Resentment ran deep in the South as the Republican "North" imposed "Reconstruction" on the South in the late 1800s. As a result, strong Democratic ties were carried well into the mid-20th century in the South. It was not until after the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that Democrats in the South began to peel off in numbers and move into the Republican column. It was accelerated as Republicans co-opted the George Wallace strategy and message in the South in the late 60s and 70s.

Strategists in the GOP then began to combine the themes of race and religion, as Jerry Farewell's Moral Majority came on the seen. Then, Ronald Reagan appeared and it was all tied together with the "restore America" focus, along with lowering taxes and reducing social programs, and the South, by the mid-80s, became largely Republican.

That is a simplified version of what has transpired in South regarding political parties since Reconstruction, but I believe it captures the essence. As JFK is nominated for President, the second photograph above of Senator Sam Ervin, surrounded by southern anti-Kennedy sentiment, illustrates the mood in much of the South in 1960.

The irony, and the greatness of Governor Terry Sanford and North Carolina, is reflected in the fact that Sanford was the first southern governor to embrace both John Kennedy for President and the civil rights movement. As a result, Sanford was asked to deliver Kennedy's seconding speech at the 1960 Democratic Convention, which he did (he is shown doing so in the top photo above). America, the South, and life, are fulled with both irony and contradictions.

"What'll It Be!?" the GOP Diner!

Although the menu violates my commitment to attempt not to contribute to the uncivil political discourse in America, it's such a cute photo I could not resist posting. DISREGARD THE MENU (although the theme of the menu should give pause). Nevertheless, you never know who'll show up at the GOP Diner!!

Friday, September 17, 2010

As We Approach the Midterms, I'm Perplexed

As we move toward the 2010 mid-term elections, are you as perplexed as I am? I am referring to the candidates for major national office who have surfaced? I am also referring to the rationale that very conservative folks are using to support them. Put politics aside for a moment. Observe if you will, the quality, the depth, the nature, the values, the demeanor of some of these people. I do not think we would elect many of them PTA President in my town.

I have been looking through the UNC political photo archive collection of 20th century leaders in North Carolina. The stature and quality of the people who led our state and nation was impressive. Having watched the Tea Party develop over the past months, I am astounded. There are certainly some good, solid conservative candidates running for office, such as Nikki Haley in South Carolina. But I am referring to the recent emergence of Tea Party reactionaries such as the GOP candidate for governor in New York, and candidates for the U. S. Senate from places like Delaware, Kentucky, and Nevada.

As I listen to the reasons given by those who support these people, I am similarly perplexed. They say it generally has to do with government spending and national debt. Just 10 short years ago, America had a huge surplus and strong economy as we transitioned from Clinton to Bush II. As this economy inevitably returns to strength and revenues increase as a result, and as we wind down senseless wars, get health care costs under control, and return the upper bracket tax rate to Clinton era rates, mainstream economists all are confident that we can return to a position of budget surpluses.

We are in a very deep, worldwide economic turn down and adjustment. The percentage of Americans in poverty is greater than ever. Unemployment is over 9%. This is hardly a time to pull back on spending and stimulus. All economists, accept the most conservative and fringe, recognize that economic stimulus is critical to helping America through this economic transition.

One thing is certain. All studies point to the fact that the changing demographics of America will not sustain a Republican Party/Tea Party as it is developing. A narrow, angry, Southern-based, white, ultra-conservative demographic does not fit, nor reflect, where America is, nor where it is going.

In my view, the Democratic Party set back in November will be a temporary dump-in-the-road. America will continue to maintain a strong and cooperative relationship between the public and private sectors. America will continue to be unique in it's ability and willingness to attend to all it's citizens, while free enterprise will continue to be the engine that drives us forward.

The world's economy, and certainly America's economy, is in transition, moving into what one author calls "the great reset", as we make quantum adjustment in terms of how we live, how we work, how we drive, how we consume, and how we interact with other nations. But my prediction is that America we not turn way from what made her great. Americans of good intent will continue to turn the ship of state, all so slowly, in the direction she was created it go.

As Bobby Kennedy once said, "few have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in total all of these acts will be written the history of our generation." May we observe closely what is going on around us, and help bend America toward her ideals.

Picture of the Day

The Great Bambino, George Herman "Babe" Ruth, and the great French heavyweight pugilist, Georges Carpentier, taken June 26, 1921, Manhasset, Long Island, New York......both looking dapper.

(Compliments of my friend Neal Roberson)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Adlai Stevenson of Illinois

Great photograph of NC Governor Luther Hodges and Adlai Stevenson of Illinois. Stevenson, known for his intellectual demeanor, eloquent oratory, and promotion of liberal causes, ran unsuccessfully for President against General Eisenhower in both 1952 and 1956. This wonderful image was taken in Chicago by the great NC photographer and civic leader, Hugh Morton.

(UNC Photo Archives)

Picture of the Day

What a great picture of President Harry Truman, North Carolina Governor Luther Hodges, and future President Lyndon B. Johnson. They are at a $100. a plate Democratic fundraiser in 1960.

Looks like a few stories are being exchanged. I would bet that there is a wealth of "stories" to be told among those three......three great American statesmen and patriots. Wonderful photo!

(Photo by Hugh Morton)

Three North Carolina Treasures

Above is a wonderful photograph of Billy Graham, "Doc" Watson and Joseph Bryan. This photo was taken during a North Carolina Public Television Awards evening.

Billy, of course, is a world renowned Christian evangelist. He was born on a dairy farm outside of Charlotte and has lived most of his life in Montreat NC, in the Great Smokey Mountains. His impact on, and contribution to, the world is immeasurable.

"Doc" Watson was born in Deep Gap, NC. He has won 7 Grammy Awards, as well as the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He is a prolific bluegrass, country, gospel, blues, and old-time mountain music composer and performer.

Mr. Bryan, who died in 1995 just short of his 100th birthday, was a Greensboro philanthropist, insurance executive, and broadcast pioneer. He began his career as a cotton broker in New York City before meeting and marrying Kathleen Price, the daughter of Greenboro's Julian Price, the founder of Jefferson-Pilot Insurance Corporation. His benevolence is evidenced by the UNC-G Bryan School of Business and Economics, the Bryan Alzheimer's Research Center at Duke, and Bryan Park Golf Course in Greensboro, among much more across the state. Mr. Bryan was a Charter Member of Augusta National.

(Photograh by Hugh Morton)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Picture of the Day

This UNC Head Coach Carl Snavely, #22 Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice, and ABC Radio play-by-play announcer Harry Wismer. They are at the 1949 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans as UNC takes on Oklahoma.

(UNC Archives: Hugh Morton)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Man!.....Archie Bunker

My thought is that Archie would have made a great Tea Party officer! Aw shucks.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Picture of the Day

The Beav and Eddie the great Father Time marches on.......

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Picture of the Day

What a great caricature of the great Yankee infield: Teixeria 1st, Cano 2nd, A-Rod 3rd, and Jeter SS. Pretty fair infield I'd say.

By: Ed Murawinski

The Art of Caricature

For me, the art of caricature has always been very cool and geniusly creative. Atop here, we have House Speaker Pelosi being approached by "the orangeman", potential House Speaker Boehner (if the GOP were to takeover the House; I would put the odds at 50/50 today). Next we have a great piece of JFK, RFK, and EMK, three of the 20th century's great Progressives, at their eternal flame at Arlington National Cemetery. Lastly, we have three of our great presidential orators, fighting over a microphone.

These are compliments US News and World Reports Whispers Caricatures. I hope you agree that they are quite enjoyable!

(Artist: Ed Wexler).

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Today They Call It "Flip Flop"

This is a very cool recording from 1948 as Ronald Reagan strongly endorses liberal candidates, policies, and positions. Isn't that ironic?

Regarding the Reagan era, I guess it depends on your perspective. It was the '80s when federal budget deficits soared and became the rule. In addition, as luck would have it, Mikhail Gorbachev and the Soviets came to realize, based primarily on the collapse of oil prices which could no longer sustain the Soviet economy, that their economic model was not working and, hence, the collapse of the Soviet Union. Let's just call it an interesting, complicated era, but well short of the model economic period our conservative friends would have us believe.

Regardless of your view of history, this is an intriguing piece of American history.......the conservative icon himself, in 1948.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Greensboro's Miles Wolff - He Has Re-Shaped Baseball in Our Lifetime

On a Saturday night in 1961, his program lucky number was called and he went out to home plate between innings and threw the ball through a hole in the middle of a large piece of plywood which had been placed at second base. He was amazed at a game in '60 when a Boa Constritor snake was given away on Tropical Pet Night as a fan promotion. He was fascinated in the late '50s when baseball clown Max Patkin came and entertained while coaching first base, and he seemed to watch with interest as local companies bought large blocks of tickets to give away to employees and customers.

He didn't play on many teams growing up, but I recall so clearly one night at the ballpark when, at about age 14, Miles Wolff had the foresight to tell me, "Bobby, I can tell you now, I am going to stay in this game the rest of my life." Today, 50 years later, Miles is considered the father of the rebirth of minor league baseball, was named by ESPN as the 8th most important sports owner of the past 25 years, and was recently named the 79th most important person in the history of baseball by The Baseball Encyclopedia.

Miles and I sat together at Greensboro's War Memorial Stadium what seemed like every summer night from 1958 to 1966. We both lived in walking distance of the stadium. We loved the Greensboro Yankees. We had on-going arguments about who our best players were and which opposing teams and managers were most worthy of concern and fear. Manager Jack McKeon at Wilson was always high on the list. But Miles was always a close observer of operations as well as the game.

As we grew older, Miles went off to college at Johns Hopkins University in the early to mid-sixties. I played on a State Championship American Legion baseball team, and played at Elon College and in the Cape Cod League. Miles went on to earn his Masters Degree at the University of Virgina in Southern History.
Miles began a career as a baseball executive in 1971. He became General Manager of minor league teams in Jacksonville, Fla, Savannah,Ga, and Anderson, SC. He was named Sporting News Minor League Executive of the Year in 1973. His first job in baseball was as the play-by-play radio voice of the AAA Richmond Braves.

In 1980, Miles turned his attention to ownership. He purchased a Durham franchise in the Carolina League for $2,417. and restored the Durham Bulls who had been idle for 10 years. He turned the promotional skills he had been exposed to years earlier at Memorial Stadium into what became a new wave of success in minor league baseball. Ten years and a one Hollywood movie later, the Durham Bulls were a national phenomenon. In 1993, Miles sold the Bulls to Jim Goodman and Capital Broadcasting for between 3 and 4 million dollars.

Miles, a developer of the independent league concept (no big league affliation), went on to create the Northern Independent League. Today he is commissioner of the Can-Am Independent League and the Central Independent League. Miles owns teams in Quebec City, Quebec and Burlington, NC. For 18 years he owned and operated the weekly Baseball America publication. In the past, he has owned the Raleigh IceCaps and various other minor league sports franchises in Butte, Mont., Asheville NC, and Utica, NY, among other places. Miles has written two books, Season of the Owl (1980), a baseball novel set in Greensboro, and Lunch at the 5 and 10, an account of the 1960 Woolworth sit-ins in Greensboro. He is co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball.

Miles simply loves to attend baseball games, and he has learned, and taught others, how to make baseball entertaining, enjoyable, and affordable in America. And he has learned to do it on a very profitable basis. To attest to his love to simply attend games, above is Miles and me at the last game at Greensboro's War Memorial Stadium in 2004. He has been with me to NewBridge Park in downtown Greensboro as well.

Miles Wolff......... such a good guy and such a success story, as he has brought the game he loves to towns and families across the same wonderful fashion that he and I experienced it at War Memorial Stadium........ some 50 years ago.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Greensboro Yankee Jim Bouton - Summer of 1960

I personally took this photo of Jim Bouton standing in the tunnel to the dressing room at Greensboro War Memorial Stadium in 1960 (Woo! That's 50 years ago; I was age 12). Bouton was a 20-game winner for the G-Yanks, who were Carolina League Champions that summer. Phil Linz was the shortshop. Bouton went on to have a nice career with the big Yankees.

Bouton, quite a maverick (I like mavericks), went on to write the first "tell all" sports book....... "Ball Four". He also was a TV sports anchor in New York City for a time, and he is an old sports stadium preservationist. Bouton actively opposed the successful minor league effort in Greensboro to leave War Memorial Stadium.........which I could relate to, although I was supportive of efforts to build a new stadium.

Jim Bouton, one of those characters who adds uniqueness and color to the game.

Let's Debunk Those Obama Myths

According to the results of a study on facts versus beliefs conducted at the University of Michigan and discussed in an August 25 blog on ThePoint, the debunking of myths and lies about President Obama may not fit the belief system many Obama detractors have developed. Therefore, many of these detractors will continue to believe these myths in order too justify and support their incorrect belief system about Obama.

The accurate facts about Obama may have little impact on these people, and in fact, according to the study, the corrected information may act to more strongly reinforce the incorrect and inaccurate views of these detractors. The study found that people tend to interpret information with an eye toward reinforcing their preconceived notions, and then, when shown correct information, sometimes tend to "dig their heels in" for fear of being proven wrong.

But we will review the myths and the CORRECT information (provided by Jonathan Alter in Newsweek cover story this week) anyway and see what happens:

Myth #1: President Obama was born outside of the United States. Fact: All tabloid "proof" has been debunked as crude forgery. A clear copy of his State of Hawaii birth certificate, with seal, has been provided by the press. I have a copy saved on my computer hard drive.

Myth#2: President Obama is a Muslim. Fact: He was raised by an atheist and became a practicing Christian in his 20s. He spent 20 years in the Christian congregation of Rev. Jeremiah Wright in Chicago.

Myth#3: President Obama's policies are socialist. Fact: He explicitly rejected advice to nationalize the banks and has stated clearly that he wants government out of General Motors and Chrysler as quickly as possible.

Myth #4: President Obama is a warmonger. Fact: He promised in 2008 to withdraw from Iraq and escalate war in Afghanistan and has done both.

Myth #5: President Obama is a coddler of terrorists. Fact: He has already order the killing of more high value al Qaeda terrorists in 18 months than his predecessor did in 8 years.

Myth #6: He is a coddler of Wall Street. Fact: His financial reform package, while watered down by Republicans, was the most vigorous since the New Deal.

Myth #7: He is an enemy of American business and small business. Fact: He favors tax credits for small business, which were stymied by the GOP to deprive him of victory. Sunday, the President of the National Small Business Assoc. endorsed Obama's small business jobs bill which provides $12. billion in tax relief to small business.

This is only a short list of the many myths about the President.

There is no problem with us differing politically and philosophically about how to approach the problems of the world. But let's try hard to be intellectually honest with each other and to not let our emotions blur fact and blur our best judgement.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Uh-Huh Guy

I feel a close and warm kinship with Uh-Huh Guy. Baseball has a way of doing that. I have only met him in person twice, but what a pleasure. He is the crowd motivator for Kannapolis's minor league team and occasionally does road trips with the team to Greensboro. Uh-Huh Guy greets you, and bids you farewell, with his trademark.....Uh-Huh!

His tee-shirt reads, "UH-HUH! (uh-huh). adv, interj. 1) yes, 2) Paul Buchanan's spirited expression of life! 3) used to express agreement or positive affirmation. 'You bring life to this place.' John 10:10." (Uh-Huh is a retired elementary school principal).

After a facebook post this morning by Uh-Huh and me on the fb wall of Jim Scott, Public Address Announcer at the Hoppers games, Jim wrote,

"Uh-Huh Guy, you're the pageantry of baseball, especially minor league baseball. Characters are endemic to the game. Without characters like you and Spaz and without baseball historians like Bob, and all the other inimitable characters who populate the great American pasttime, there'd be something missing in baseball's DNA. Cheers to you all!

I could not agree more. As you see from the above comments and characters, the quality of experience and person at ballparks across America is something to behold. Pure Americana. Uh-Huh!

Pay Attention!! The Stimulus Is Changing America!

I know. The conventional wisdom is throw the bums out of Washington. And yes, it appears there will be a big swing toward the party out of power in November's off-year elections. For the record, my prediction is that Obama will be fine in 2012, as the opposition will be terribly fractured and split, having little talent to compete against a politically skilled and savvy Barack Obama. Americans will have awakened by 2012 to Obama Administration efforts which will have had very positive impact on our nation.

More has been accomplished in Barack Obama's one year in office than many previous whole administrations. From The Recovery Act (which we will discuss below) which has helped stabilize the most unprecedentedly shaky and scary economy since the Great Depression, to stabilizing the auto industry, overhauling the entire financial sector, beginning efforts to finally reform health care, and ending an unpopular war and refocusing efforts on another war front, this Presidency is already very accomplished.

The area getting least attention is the way The Recovery Act of 2009 (The Stimulus ) is changing America. For starters, the Recovery Act is the most ambitious energy legislation in history. It basically converts the Energy Dept. into the world's largest venture-capital fund. It is pouring $90. billion into clean in the energy grid, electric cars, renewable power from the sun, cleaner coal, and advanced biofuels. It is financing energy research through a new government incubator modeled after the Pentagon agency that fathered the Internet.

Additionally, there is a tenfold increase in funding to expand access to broadband. There's $8. billion for a high-speed passenger rail network, the boldest transportation initiative since the interstate highway system. There's $20. billion to move health records into the digital age.

A career bureacrat said, "there's been more reform in the last year than we've seen in decades and we've spent very little of the money at this point. It's staggering how The Recovery Act is driving change."

Times Michael Grunwald says, "the stimulus passed just a month after Obama's inauguration, but it may be his greatest signature effort to reshape America, as well as it's government." After decades of neglect, $11. billion is going into the reshaping the power grid, which could shape trillions of dollars in future utility investment according to Grunwald. Money is going to deliver high speed Internet to rural areas, as well as the for high speed rail link from Tampa to Orlando.

The Administration is financing the world's first electric car plants. It will be financing the building of sedans powered by electric batteries built at plants in Deleware and electric trucks built in Indiana. The stimulus will boost the number of U. S. battery charging stations by 3200%. The stimulus is helping scores of manufacturers of wind turbines and solar products expand. It will fund construction of the first American nuclear plants in three decades. The Recovery Act is weatherizing 250,000 homes this year alone.

The stimulus is retrofitting 4 huge federal buildings. The U. S. government is the nation's largest energy consumer. It is retrofitting factories and power plants and funneling billions into state and local energy efficiency efforts.

Conservatives are concerned with where the money will come from. We must make investment in America. The money will come from scaled down war efforts in the middle east, increasing tax rates on those earning in excess of $250,000., and improving revenues as we move out of a sluggish economy. The stimulus is changing Washington as well. Every contract and lobbying contact is scrutinized. There is a Recovery Board overseeing every dollar spent. Billions have been saved by the board as projects such as 260 skate parks, picnic tables and highway beautification have been blocked.

Polls suggest that the contents of the Recovery Act are very popular. But the idea of the stimulus remains toxic. My view is that the majority of Americans have no idea of the positive effects the stimulus is having on America. The "Right" is winning the war of communications as they distract and demagogue the issues.

People should remember that the first infusion of $800. billion into the financial sector was the result of TARP, a well-advised effort of the Bush administration. Barack Obama inherited an economy completely in the ditch. As his campaign theme will emphasize, please, let us not give the car keys back to those who drove the car into the ditch. Let's stay on track with leadership and policies which will slowly but surely return America to greatness.

(Source for some of this piece: "How the Stimulus is Changing America", Michael Grunwald, TIME).

Friday, September 3, 2010

Picture of the Day

JFK and Jackie on the streets of Georgetown (DC) in the late 1950s.

(Photo compliments of Robert Swan).

War Memorial Stadium

War Memorial Stadium, Greensboro, North Carolina, built in 1927, was built to honor and memorialize veterans of World War I. It is no long used for professional baseball, but is actively used by youth and college teams. It will soon undergo renovation, but the beautiful and historic facade will remain intact. I grew up a block from the stadium. I love the stadium.

Painting by William Mangum.

Minor League Season Ends.....As My Friend Jack McKeon and I Look On

We drew over 8,000 last night for the final minor league game of the season. That draw was on a school night and with the team, The Greensboro Grasshoppers, having no chance at the playoffs. That number pushed our attendance to over 2.5 million in six seasons at NewBridge Park, making Greensboro one of the top minor league cities in the history of baseball.

My friend Jack McKeon is a regular fan. He has managed 5 different major league teams, and most recently he managed the 2003 World Champion Florida Marlins. A New Jersey native, Jack started his career in the minor leagues after leaving Elon College.

Most memorable for me, Jack managed the Wilson Tobs of the Carolina League when I was young, 1960-63. He had great teams there. He had many players of color which was unusual and progressive for the times. He tells the story of managing in the Cotton State League (east Texas, La. and Miss.) in the late 50s. One night the league officials ran all of the African American players out of the league. Jack left the league as a result and took all of the black players with him to Wilson. He had great and talented teams there.

Jack and his teams were always great to watch. You could always count on excitement when his teams came to town. One Sunday afternoon Jack got into a fight with the opposing manager before the game even started. They were at home plate exchanging line-up cards and going over the ground rules with the umpires when it started. It had to do with "bad blood" from the night before.

Another great memory is Jack and Carolina League Umpire Tom Simon constantly arguing with each other. After a night game once, Jack ran Simon completely out of the umpire's dressing room. Jack laughs as he recalls the story and other tiffs with Umpire Simon and his sidekick Umpire Shives. Jack smiles as he says General Managers would often ask him "to stir things up" when he came to town to help bring out the fans.

In October 1961, Jack and his great black catcher Chuck Witherspoone, were batterymates for a home run derby at Greensboro War Memorial Stadium. Participating in the HR contest were Roger Maris, Harmen Killebrew, and Jim Gentile. I worked as a vendor in the stands due to high tickets prices. I was age 13. What a great night at the ballpark.

At the last game, Jack recalled the names of players he has managed who are in Baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. They include Harmen Killebrew, Rod Carew, and Tony Gwynn. Jack is considered as one of the old-school, good guys in baseball. He was the third oldest manager, at age 73, to manage in a World Series (behind Casey Stengel and Connie Mack). At age 80, Jack is as feisty, exciting, and interesting as ever to be around. Jack and I wish a great off-season to everyone. See you in the Spring!

UPDATE: June 21, 2011: Jack has once again been called into service as Manager of the Florida Marlins. At age 80, he becomes the oldest manager in the history of baseball, except for Connie Mack, who owned the team. No member of the Marlins roster was born when Jack managed his first big league game in 1973. Jack broke into professional baseball as a minor league catcher in 1949......62 years ago. This call of Jack by the Marlins is unprecedented in sports and an amazing human interest story. Very best wishes and Godspeed, Jack. See you at The Grandstand when you're done.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"Those Good Old Days?" - No Thanks

It always interests me when my conservative brothers and sisters long for the "good old days." As they view our nation today, they seem to want to return to days past. Although I am not sure what they are referring to (but I have an idea), nor am I certain of the particular era they are longing for, the "good old days" were not always so good.

For example, in those "good old days", women were basically second class citizens. They generally were encouraged to train as nurses and secretaries, if anything, outside of the home. Of course, if you go back to the early part of the 20th century, they could not vote, and even farther back, they were considered property.

Prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, "Jim Crow" laws and traditions in the South were the rule. In my hometown, lunch or a cup of coffee downtown for a person of color when I was growing up was out of the question...... let alone the opportunity for a decent job. Racism was rampant. If you go back far enough in America.......well I don't need to tell you what it was like for people of color.

Mentally challenged members of families were sent away to confinement in the "good old days" in many families. Depending upon the era to which our "take me back to the good old days" crowd wants to be taken, sweatshop conditions, child labor, and high rates of accidents were prevalent in the workplace. There were "work farms" and "county homes" where poor people of no means and "vagrants" were sent. Those were the "good old days."

In 1950, the mortality rate among children under age one in America was 3300 per 100,000. Today, it is still high among western industrialized countries, but it is 693 per 100,000. Prostitution was so pandemic after the Civil War that a number of cities seriously considered legalizing it. Crime and police graft was rampant in the first half of the 20th century. Food and water was unsafe and hospitals were unclean and unsterile. Epidemics were commonplace.

In the 1920s , according to the Brookings Institute, 60% of American families did not earn enough to satisfy basic human needs. 40% lived on less than $1500. a year. New York City has 20,000 homeless people today. In 1884, 43,000 families in the city were evicted from their homes. Half the city lived in slums.

Today, thank God for Social Security, for Medicare of the elderly, for Medicaid for the poor, for school lunch programs for hunger kids, for safe working conditions, for a clean environment, for health care reform efforts. Thank God for a nation that is moving forward, for a nation struggling daily with how to become a more effective economy in a transitioning world economy.......but for a nation that is moving forward. As a progressive, I love this country and I look for it to be moving forward, not backward.

Our standard of living is up, our productivity is up, our life expectancy is up, and great minds looking to plant seeds of prosperity in America continue to come here. Amidst our tremendous challenges and our political bickering, I have great confidence, and I am encouraged by American ingenuity and intellect.

One of the 20th century's great reformers and progressives, Robert Kennedy, put it this way, "All of us might wish at times to live in a more tranquil world, but we can't. And if our times are difficult and perplexing, so are our challenges and opportunities." Let's not give in to those naysayers who harken back for those (so called) "good old days." Be a part of moving America forward.

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