Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Yankees Old Timer's Game

Toward the top of my "bucket list" is an Old Timer's Game at Yankee Stadium. I have attended games at the old Yankee Stadium before and after the 70's renovation, but never an Old Timer's Game. I have been a Yankees fan for 55 years. I grew up two blocks from Greensboro War Memorial Stadium which was the home of the Yankees Class A minor league team when I was a child. For me, that Yankee logo and those Yankee black pinstripes represent excellence and a host of childhood memories.

The tradition of Old Timer's Day actually began in the late 1930s as the Yankees had special days to celebrate the lives of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig as they became sick. One of the most memorable Old Timer's Days was when in 1939 Lou Gehrig gave what fans consider the Gettysburg Address of baseball when he said he was the luckiest man on the face of the earth, even in light of his ALS disease. Gehrig died at age 37 in 1941.

Above are photos from the 63rd Old Timer's Game held July 29, 2009 before a Yankee game with the Detroit Tigers. It was the first Old Timer's Game in the new Yankee Stadium. In the photos are Yogi Berra, Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage, and Whitey Ford. I hope I'm able to one day strike a Yankees Old Timer's Game off my bucket list.

A Funny But Tough And Solid VP

Joe Biden is tough, brilliant, honest, and has tremendous credentials, especially in the field of foreign policy. He is highly respected by leaders around the world. His reputation among his fellow legislators is that of an honest broker and a hard worker.
But, without question, he is subject to verbal gaffe. I think it results from confidence, openness, candor, and honesty. That is his only baggage, if you wish to describe it as such. He is highly worth it.

What is the Rage Really About?

The rage over the Health Care Reform bill is curious. The legislation was certainly a big deal, as VP Biden alluded to. But the bill does not erect a huge New Deal-Great Society-style government program. There is no one-payer system, no Medicare-for-all, not even a public option. One editorial last week observed that the bills prototype is health care legislation Mitt Romney signed into law in Massachusetts. It contains what use to be GOP ideas.

So why all the rancor? Why the level of incivility? Why the racial slurs, gay-slurs, viciousness toward Pelosi? Why Obama depicted as Hitler? The bullying, the threats, and the acts of violence following the passage of the bill have been amazing to watch.

One editorial observer sees it as an extension of the new familiar theme of "take our country back". The problem is that the country romanticized by the far right hasn't existed for some time. A Quinnipiac University poll released last week indicated that Tea Party member demographics are polar opposite of the direction in which the country is moving. America is becoming more diverse, less dogmatic, and college enrollment is through the roof. The Tea Party, a less educated, disproportionately white, largely evangelical, Christian group, is not the future, according to most demographic studies.

What we have, it seems, is a reality that is difficult for the "give me my country back" group to grasp. We had a woman (Nancy Pelosi) who pushed the bill through the House. The most visible proponents included a openly gay man (Barney Frank) and two Jews (Chuck Shumer and Anthony Wiener). The black man in the White House signed the bill into law. Using demographic comparison's as a guide, this group is a far-right Tea Partier's worse nightmare.

Hence, the frustration and the anger. There are certainly some legitimate concerns about the bill around taxation, role of government, etc. But the message is lost in the madness and in the Tea Partier's confusion regarding what is going on in America.

The GOP is going to have to distance themselves from the far-right. But it will be difficult. They want to use it politically for gain. They must because it is an important part of their base. Long term, this is a dead-end road for the GOP. America has changed. America is moving forward. One of the two major parties, if they want to be a viable part of the dialogue about the future, must figure out how to shed themselves of baggage which America is leaving behind.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Greensboro's Buddy Gist and His Jazz Legend Friend

It often fascinates me how differently we all spend our lives. For some, it is off to adventure in various parts of the world, for others a more settled existence closer to home. I am often moved when I read of those who "laid it all out there', and when the end comes, well, it's just the end. Such is the beautiful story that Jeri Rowe relates in the Spring Issue of the UNC-G Magazine about Greensboro's Buddy Gist.

In his later years, Buddy could be seen walking everywhere in Greensboro. Always in a sharp suit, as Jeri says, "he looked like a modern day Fredrick Douglas wherever he went." Buddy came from a prominent Greensboro black family. His mother ran Magnolia House, a hotel used by many prominent black entertainers during the Jim Crow era, where she introduced her family to the likes of Louis Armstrong. Rowe said, "Armstrong was said to love Mama Gist's ham biscuits with maple syrup." Buddy's brother Herman became a State Senator.

In his 20s, Buddy took off for New York City. There he went from waiter to entrepreneur. He sold cars and coffee and befriended some of the biggest names in Jazz. He knew Count Basie and Coltrane. Miles Davis became a close friend. A UNC-G grad student in Jazz loved Buddy's stories but always wondered if they were true. He went to see Bill Cosby at VCU in Richmond a while back, and afterward he caught up with Crosby and said, "Hey Bill, your friend Buddy Gist sends his regards." That stopped Cosby in his tracks. "Buddy Gist is still alive?", he said. Buddy was telling the gospel truth.

In recent years, Buddy donated virually his only possession, a Miles Davis' trumpet, valued at $1.6 million, to UNC-G, "because Miles would have wanted it that way", Buddy says. Also in recent years, Buddy became homeless and could be seen in sleeping in Center City Park before he was "rescued " by some UNC-G musicians and helped to a shelter and then to a nursing home. They come from all over to visit him. At age 85, he's in bad shape now.

His friend O. T. Wells, 78, and an attorney in New York City, who was talked in to going to New York City from Greensboro by Buddy in 1956, called Buddy the "bon vivant" of the scene in The Big City. Upon Wells arrival in NYC in the '50s, Buddy introduced him the Miles Davis and Wells remained Miles' attorney over the years. Wells came to visit Buddy before Christmas. Rowe said he visited Buddy's bedside and said loudly, Arthur Taswell Gist, this is O. T. Wells from New York City." Buddy didn't wake up . I'm sure they had an abundance of good times in the past, they and their other buddys in The Big City, those who chose "to lay it all out there".

This is a beautiful story. Please find and read Jeri Rowe's account of Buddy Gist. Well done, Jeri. Above is a photo of Buddy on the left, with his friend Miles Davis on the right, "out on the town". The other is a photo of Buddy and Miles' trumpet which he donated to UNC-G. The Miles Davis Jazz Festival is April 16 at UNC-G. It will feature saxaphonist Lee Konitz, who performed on Miles Davis' "Birth of the Cool in 1949. Should be something else.
Below is a Buddy "live" telling us about the Miles' Trumpet.
And if you are not familiar with Miles Davis:

Monday, March 22, 2010

Health Care Reform and Beyond

America took a huge step last night. Health Care Reform (HCR) will now become the law of the land. I am not sure how it will impact my business. Most of the significant changes will not take effect for 3 or 4 years. I do know, based on my daily observation as an employee benefit specialist, and based on my values, that it is right for America.

When Social Security was enacted in the '30s, I suspect that some of our grandparents had responses similar to the doomsday responses I am observing in some people today (although my facebook feed is full of celebration and affirmation also). The bill is definitely one of the most significant pieces of social legislation of the past 100 years, along with Civil Rights, Medicare, and Social Security.

Regarding what the future holds, David Frum, the conservative Bush speechwriter, said this morning to forget repeal of HCR. "Who will vote to re-open the "doughnut hole" in senior prescription drugs? Who will vote to allow insurers to deny pre-existing conditions? Who will vote to kick 25 year-olds off parent's coverage?", he says.

By the Fall of 2010 Frum speculates the economy will be improved. Some provisions in HCR such as pre-existing coverage for children, kids up to age 26 on parent's coverage, and no policy limits, will have kicked-in and be seen as favorable. In Frum's analysis, Democrats will likely be helped by all this in the Fall. He further observes that HCR will be a boom to cable news and talk radio as those audience will stay "stirred up". That's unfortunate.
What many have failed to observe is that this is actually a moderate bill. It is similar to Republican Sen. Chaffe's bill in the early '90's where the "exchanges" were first introduced. This bill is NOT a single-payer system, is NOT extended Medicare, nor does it contain a Public Option.

Hopefully we can move on to job creation, immigration reform, and climate/energy intitiatives. The real question will be how we (not the government) move America to the next "wave", or next level, of increased productivity in an effort to move the economy forward in a meaningful way. Previous "waves" have resulted from the introduction of the microchip, the personal computer, the internet, World War II, and the Industial Revolution. The next "wave" will likely be related to energy / climate / biotechnology / robotics, or fields which do not even exist presently. Put on those thinking caps.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Politics in America......Toxic

Today Rob sent me a picture of he and former Virginia U.S. Senator John Warner taken together at a function. I am reminded of what a great centrist Republican Warner was. He weighed issues on their merit, he listened closely to others, he was highly regarded by fellow legislators, and he cast many courageous votes. For example, he saw fit to oppose the nomination of Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court.

American politics has become so toxic today. There is no place for a John Warner today. Health Care Reform (HCR) has become no more than an "us versus them" exercise in Washington, regardless of the possible merits of the bill. Senator Jim DeMint has said that he will run on a pledge to repeal HCR, no matter how it looks, and the GOP said they will vote in unison against it, no matter how many of their ideas are included.

What if there were a leader or a President with whom most everyone agreed on virtually all issues? Is that the goal? That is probably not the goal. Healthy debate and constructive opposition is essential to developing sound public policy in a diverse democracy.

Drafting and passing effective legislation should be done based on sound, eternal principles. Those principles should be well-founded. They should be rooted in fairness and in the constitution. They should reflect wise precedent and be rooted in respect for the views of ours. To that end, the approach should be, as Dr. Covey would say, based on the concept of "seeking first to understand, then to being understood". This, and the keen understanding of the views of others which results, is the basis for effective interaction. What results will generally satisfy the objectives for well-balanced legislation, benefiting the largest majority of citizens.

The other missing ingredient today is trust. Legislators must build trusting relationships with each other. This was the case 50 years ago, but not today. Legislators 50 years ago would stay in Washington over the weekend and socialize together. They would ride the train together to and from Washington. They got to know each and each other's families. That relationship and that trust which developed was the basis for cooperation and it is missing today. It needs to be restored.

Let's keep encouraging and hoping for more balanced and effective legislation, and legislators, in Washington, both based on sound principles and trusting relationships. And Senator Warner, thanks for your life of service.... and the reminder.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Texas Textbook Controversy and Debacle

How scary that a right-wing faction of the Texas Board of Education succeeded last week in injecting their worldview into textbooks that could be taught to millions of students for the next decade. Although I refer below to a few of the particular provisions included or excluded by the Board, the most disturbing fact is that such action sets in motion a battle for control of textbook content for the future. (Apparently, Texas written textbooks are subject to being sold nationwide).

How ludicrous it is to have textbooks manipulated and skewed based on political and ideological bents of fanatical school board members at any particular point in time, be they liberal or conservative board members. The board is setting themselves up, each term, for the change of textbook emphasis and language based on political climate and make-up of the school board. In my view, this is just an extention of the polarization of American politics and attitudes which is preyed upon and exacerbated by cable news and talk radio entertainers and "clowns".

To provide a few examples (in addition to the links below) of what the right-wingers have done, first they have, in essence, excluded reference of Thomas Jefferson in favor of religious leader John Calvin. Teachers will be required to "not highlight" rationale for the separation of church and state and will be required to cover the Judeo-Christian influence of the founding fathers. Focus has been elevated and criticism tempered for Senator Joe McCarthy, and praise included for Phyllis Schaffly, the 1994 Contract On America, and Jerry Farwell's Moral Majority. Reference to the appointment of Justice Sonya Sotomayer was rejected by the right-wingers.

Below are a couple of significant new clips, one ABC News and the other CNN, which will help put the issue in perspective and provide more specific examples of the tampering. These news clips provide good summaries of the delimna which has developed as a result of the misguided action of the Texas school board.

This action bodes terribly for the direction of civil discourse in America. It should be of grave concern to all parents whose children might be exposed to this "information". Worse, it reminds us of the sad place we find ourselves in our attempt to be the diverse, yet respectful, "community" which I believe we were intended to be.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Scott Yost of "The Rhino Times" Reflects on Meeting Don McLean

As I have noted on my facebook page, I had a friend from my youth who died last week, Don McLean. His funeral was today.

I am pleased to have run into Don quite a few times over the years. I am especially happy to have renewed my friendship with him on facebook. We have exchanged quite a bit of information and opinion over the past months by way of facebook. Unfortunately, we intended to get together this Spring, but that will not happen.

While he had varied interests such as sports, beach music, golf, and politics, Don's life was centered on his faith and his religion. I consider myself a person of strong faith, so he and I often exchanged thoughts and views on our faith. We did not always agree on emphasis or focus regarding our faith, but I was pleased that we had this important facet of our lives in common. I was impressed by the committed nature of his faith and his views and, although we occasionally became frustrated with each other, I am certain we respected each other's perspective in the end.

Attached is a wonderful column that Scott Yost, columnist for The Rhino Times, wrote about meeting Don on a couple of occasions. As with Don, I do not necessarily agree with all of Yost's "take" on religion in the column. But for me, it is not a matter of agreeing or disagreeing. This is just a wonderful, thought provoking, perspective on faith, and on Scott's "accidental" meeting of my unique friend, Don McLean.

I hope you will read it. Don McLean was an interesting, well-informed person of strong faith...... and he was a good guy. R.I.P Don.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Snowy Mid-Week Again, As Fun Weekend Approaches

It is midweek, the week of March 1, 2010, and there is once again a couple of inches of snow on the ground in Greensboro. What an unprecedented winter. "Climate change" certainly seems to be a reality in my mind, but that's a discussion for another day.

I find myself looking forward to a busy weekend. We will be celebrating Bunny's Dad's birthday at sister-in-law Mary's house with a family dinner party. Andy is an 87 year old "trooper", and such a pleasure to be around. He is a proud 4th US Marine Division veteran and saw service on Iwo Jima and Saipan during World War II. Although quiet about it for many years, he is happy to reflect on those WWII days at this point, and it is a pleasure to listen. A family meeting, regarding a health update on in-laws, will be included with Bunny's 4 siblings.

Also, this weekend I will attend our annual meeting/show of the Southern Chapter of APIC (American Political Items Collectors). What fun this show always is, with collectors coming in from around the country.

In addition, Bunny and I were invited, by our Pastor, to a coffee and dessert with US Senator Kay Hagan. The coffee and dessert, an interfaith event, will be held at the local Temple, which is in our neighborhood. This will be a very enjoyable event with our Jewish friends and neighbors.

To top off the weekend, son Rob will be in town for most of the events of the weekend. It will be a joy to visit with him and catch up on his intriguing political work and his life in Columbia. (Daughter Elizabeth will be sorely missed).

Nice, unusually busy, upcoming weekend.

Blog Archive