There’s No Crying in Baseball, There are Tears on Saturn

The Business of Baseball, not in the public interest.

Let me preface this piece by saying I enjoy going to McCoy Stadium to watch Pawsox Triple-A baseball. t533_main_logoYet, public investment into private business is fraught with risk. This is compounded by the incestuous nature of Rhode Island’s political machine.

To engage in such an investment requires transparency, openness, and an informed, involved public. Something our history says we haven’t always practiced.

It would be a shame if the Pawsox left Pawtucket. Forty years of history, memories of so many rising stars refining their skills, and the untold numbers of people entertained there over the years would be a tragic loss.

But baseball, despite the moniker of our national game, is a business. If this were a purely nostalgic emotional choice, the new owners would look for the best place to invest in a new stadium in Pawtucket. Instead, they are holding out the team as a prize to be bid on. They look to the state and the taxpayers to soften the risk.

Government is not equipped or designed for such investment.

There used to be a team called the Brooklyn Dodgers, under baseball’s expansion they moved to LA  and are now the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Washington Senators split into two new franchises; the Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers.

No doubt the fans of the original teams mourned the change, but the teams did not ransom themselves to the highest government bidder. The team owners took the risk and reaped the benefit.

This concept of government/private partnerships is complicated. The potential for corruption high. The risk to taxpayers serious. Baseball, while still a favorite sport, is not THE most popular sport. To put public dollars into private business was not part of the purpose of government.  The government should ensure business practice is safe, legal, and ethical. Otherwise, it should stay out of the way.

I’ll miss Benny’s too, but tax dollars cannot be used to shift the tides of an ever-changing business world. Baseball and Benny’s are businesses, let the market make the choices.

Crying over a machine: the end of an Era 1997-2017

I realize most people may have missed this, but one shining example of what used to be the proud American space program died the other day.Casssini

The Cassini-Huygens Saturn orbiter died. Running out of fuel twenty years after its launch and thirteen years after it orbited Saturn, the probe sent the last of its millions of transmissions then burned up in the Saturnian atmosphere.

Many of the project scientists and engineers cried. I wonder if they were crying over the demise of the machine, or the knowledge that we’ve seemingly abandoned such efforts?

We have a country fixated on what kind of dresses the First Lady wears to view natural disasters, a President who is more concerned about comments by a sportscaster then dealing with major issues, and a culture that knows more about some B level star dancing with some relic from an old TV show than monumental accomplishments like Cassini-Huygens.

I recall watching every single launch of manned spacecraft in the 1960s and 1970s. I remember being glued to the TV when Neil Armstrong said his first words from the moon. Things that made Americans proud.

I wonder, given the state of our disregard for the value of science, if we’ll ever strive to achieve such goals again.

Invoking the Specter of Cheech and Chong

“Dave? Dave’s not here, man.”

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There’s an ad running on local media in opposition to proposed legislation before the Rhode Island General Assembly. (https://youtu.be/26E8TuLOPxM.) The legislation covers several areas, among them a higher minimum wage, legalizing the personal use of marijuana, and providing two years of tuition-free education at state colleges.

My favorite part of the add, invoking the ghosts of Cheech and Chong, follows.

“Hey Dude … I’m not feeling like working tonight at my part-time gig after smoking all that weed now that it’s legal. I’ll just take one of them new paid sick days, and get this: Those suckers still have to pay me that new higher minimum wage. Even my college is free.

“Man what a great state.”

The voice of Mike Stenhouse, CEO of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, follows asking,

“…if you think this liberal fantasy world will improve the quality of your family’s life … [If not] tell your lawmaker to oppose this progressive anti-family, anti-jobs agenda.”

I can certainly appreciate the opposition to paying a fair wage, making allowances for the human nature of workers, and allowing the great unwashed access to education. I mean, what’s next, equal pay for women? And the very idea of reefer madness is, well, madness.

I wonder if the General Assembly postponed Happy Hour to discuss this? It would seem a bit contradictory not to, but the hypocrisy is the point of this piece.

One would have to be a complete fool to think this is “giving” away free education without conditions. Taxes would fund the program. Taxes paid by people with jobs. Jobs that come with higher salaries linked to higher educational levels.

Every politician in the country touts job creation. The job market is changing. Whether you perform heart surgery or repair car engines, you need a solid foundation in computers, math, science, reading.

Teaching people to think critically adds to the quality of their lives. Critical thinking would help them see through the idiocy of this insulting ad.

As to the legalization of marijuana, this is not a slippery slope to legalizing all drugs. The so-called war on drugs was lost years ago. Not through defeat in battle, but through imprisoning generations of the very people we were trying to protect.

Some interesting facts about marijuana. Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the US with 18.0 million Americans 12 or older (more than 7% of the total US population) reported using marijuana in the prior month.  Nearly 49% of Americans have tried marijuana (just one claimed to not inhale.)  (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/04/14/6-facts-about-marijuana/)

Hospital visits related to the use of illegal vs. legal substances are overwhelmingly related to alcohol.  (https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/drug-related-hospital-emergency-room-visits)

Once again, my point is the duplicitous nature of this opposition. The opponents are trying to link a medical issue (substance abuse) to an issue of fairness and equitability in the workplace and undermine society’s vested interest in education.

Until we recognize substance abuse as a medical issue, not a criminal one, and put adequate effort into treating it, nothing will change.

And until we acknowledge that many of our fellow Americans occasionally “walk the dog” or some other such euphemism for smoking a joint or consuming a cannabis-laced brownie (which solves two problems at once I would think,) we are fooling ourselves at the pervasiveness of use.

The use of any substance; alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, caffeine, has risks. With maturity comes the tools to do so. To criminalize the actions of millions of Americans out of a misguided attempt to control the abuse by a small percentage is ludicrous.

And then there’s the higher minimum wage issue. I travel quite a bit. One of the first things one notices about the services industry in other countries is the limited amount of tipping. In some countries, tipping is considered an insult. The servers are paid a fair wage, they have a vested interest in the success of the restaurant because their salary depends on it not the vagaries of individual tipping practices.

As to the concept of free education, much of the same argument in opposition was made about the idea of requiring a high school diploma. The opposition is trying to mix the poor state of much of our public education system with the idea of paying for more of the same. Instead of working to find effective solutions to the problem, they choose to blame teacher unions and regulations.

When you go to a doctor, you follow the advice, you don’t criticize the AMA for the cost of health care. Why don’t we listen to teachers about what’s best for education? Instead, we claim, “back in the day” we learned this way and it was good enough for me.

It would take pages and pages to document all the “crap I learned in high school” (apologies to Paul Simon.) And I had great teachers, I was taught well but there were things taught then we knew were not true. Somehow, we chose to ignore the best resource we have, teachers, in finding ways to fix education.

If you don’t value what you don’t pay for, what does that say about how we value education?

It is all smoke and mirrors to the real issue they oppose, a more equitable division of income. Not socialism, fairness. Not everyone is the same, but everyone has the same opportunity.

I am not a big fan of Michael Moore, but one must give the devil his due. I would encourage you to watch his film, “Where to Invade Next?’ You might be surprised at how the rest of the world enjoys better minimum wages, health care, and free college education and manages to do very well in the process.

Here’s something to consider. According to Forbes magazine, workers at Walmart cost American taxpayers $6.2 BILLION dollars in public assistance. You’re supplementing Walmart profits with the current minimum wage. We have a company profiting on public assistance. How’s that for family values? Think about that next time you buy a 1000 pack of paper towels.  (https://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2014/04/15/report-walmart-workers-cost-taxpayers-6-2-billion-in-public-assistance)

The ad uses the word “progressive” as if it is some form of vulgarity. The base of the word “progressive” is “progress.” Progressivism arose from the Enlightenment. Something one would learn about in an effective educational system.

Immanuel Kant identified progress as being a movement away from barbarism towards civilization. Eighteenth-century philosopher and political scientist Marquis de Condorcet predicted that political progress would involve the disappearance of slavery, the rise of literacy, the lessening of inequalities between the sexes, reforms of harsh prisons and the decline of poverty.

I would argue these were worthy goals. I would also venture to say similar opposition was voiced then by conservatives and merchantmen (and they were exclusively men and white), and the wealthy; adverse to give up their debtors’ prisons, child labor, and workhouses or the socialist burden of a “minimum wage.”

The value of an education is not reflected in what it costs, but in what it can do for those who take advantage of it and to society at large. Education is not free. We need to do a cost/benefit analysis to craft the right system. Failing to offer an effective and efficient education including college has a higher long-term cost to society.

If sophomoric ads such as this sway people to oppose discussing such issues, it underscores my point. Anyone who takes this ad seriously should demand their money back from wherever they went to school.

Father Bob’s Fatwah: Inteference in the Political Process

The Rev. Robert L. Marciano, from the pulpit of his church, has chosen to interject himself and the power of the church into the presidential campaign. Many of the Catholic faithful applaud this. His dire warning that one’s “immortal soul” is in peril if one chooses to vote for Hillary Clinton received resounding support among the parishioners.

Aside from the fact that the good father offers no proof of such claim other than his faith, he has put himself and his church at risk of breaking the law.

The Catholic Church, as with most recognized religious sects, is a tax-exempt organization. As such they are restricted from certain types of political lobbying or candidate support in which they may engage.

The law is clear.

To remain tax-exempt under 501(c)(3), churches must abide by strict guidelines that prohibit election activity

  • Cannot endorse or oppose candidates for public office
  • Cannot make any communication—either from the pulpit, in a newsletter, or church bulletin—which expressly advocates for the election or defeat of a candidate for public office
  • Cannot make expenditures on behalf of a candidate for public office or allow any of their resources to be used indirectly for political purposes (e.g., use their phones for a phone bank)
  • Cannot ask a candidate for public office to sign a pledge or other promise to support a particular issue
  • Cannot distribute partisan campaign literature
  • Cannot display political campaign signs on church property

The test for such compliance is clear as well

  • “Whether the statement identifies one or more candidates for a given public office;
  • Whether the statement expresses approval or disapproval for one or more candidates’ positions and/or actions;
  • Whether the statement is delivered close in time to the election;
  • Whether the statement makes reference to voting or an election
  • Whether the issue addressed in the communication has been raised as an issue distinguishing candidates for a given office;

I would say the good father may have violated several, if not all, of these parameters. The church, like other groups, has engaged in behind the scenes manipulation of elections for years. It was one of the reasons for including the separation clause. To mitigate the power of religion over the faithful and its effect on secular matters.

Now, the good father may answer that he follows the teachings of a man who also broke the law. That is true. But, if one accepts the teachings of this man, he also accepted the consequences of his actions.

If you cannot the see the danger of such religious interference in the selection of political candidates you are blindly tossing yourself off a cliff.

I wonder how those who support these actions would react if an Imam issued a Fatwah against Mrs. Clinton? I bet the reaction of the Catholic faithful would be a bit different.

Same Sex Marriage and the Uncivil Arguments by Opponents

From a story in Providence Journal 5/2/2013

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Marriage has denounced the General Assembly’s passage of legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry in Rhode Island.

“Redefining marriage into a genderless institution to satisfy the demands of a small but politically powerful group is short-sighted policy that fails to take into account the rights and needs of the generations to come,” said Christopher Plante, regional director of NOM Rhode Island.

“Children deserve to know and be cared for by a mom and dad,” Plante said. “This law will intentionally deny children one or the other. “The full impact may not be seen next week or next year, but our children will be the ones who pay the price for this decision.”

“Without robust legal protections to allow these faithful people and groups to maintain fidelity in the public square to their religious beliefs, we’re likely to see a raft of lawsuits and governmental action such as license revocations, fines and denial of governmental contracts to these faith-based groups and individuals.”

When I read this statement, I was struck by the fact that Mr. Plante has chosen to ignore much of the scientific and social research into what makes a successful family and, therefore, promotes a healthy childhood.

There are millions of individuals, raised in “non-traditional” environments, that have gone on to successful, healthy, and productive lives.  As well as there are millions of individuals, raised in “traditional” environments that have gone on to wreak havoc in the world.

The key is a loving, supportive, involved approach to raising a child, not the presence of both genders.

I have no doubt Mr. Plante would be the first to scream indignantly if the Federal Government interfered with his right to practice his religion.

Yet, he demands the same government intrude on the right of same sex couples to the civil, legal, and moral right to marry.

Marriage, in spite of religious organizations claim to the contrary, has been institutionalized as a civil, non-sectarian, non-denominational, institution with legal and ethical benefits.

All of which I am sure Mr. Plante claims as his rights, but would deny others based on his particular religious bent.

There was a very good reason for the founders of these United States to specifically separate Church and State.

Mr. Plante said,

“Without robust legal protections to allow these faithful people and groups to maintain fidelity in the public square to their religious beliefs, we’re likely to see a raft of lawsuits and governmental action such as license revocations, fines and denial of governmental contracts to these faith-based groups and individuals.”

These words alone should be example enough that this is a battle over keeping Religion in Government, as long as it’s the “right” religion.  I wonder if the opponents would be so vocal if the government began requiring women to be covered in public, escorted by male relatives, and denied the right to drive.  All of which are enforced now by governments in this world.

Therein lies the danger of Governmental enforcement of religious doctrines.

Believe it can’t happen here?  There are those in this country that would welcome it.

No clearer example exists than this battle over defining marriage as Judeo-Christian believers would have it.

Opponents of same sex marriage want confirmation of the validity of their beliefs, and denial of those that hold different views.

This country prohibits polygamy, in spite of its well established holding in many flavors of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Mormonism, et.al.  I do not see the major religious groups arguing for eliminating that restriction on religious doctrine.

The basis of marriage under law is contractual.  It has requirements, benefits, obligations, and creates these between two people.

We enforce the law regarding polygamy to protect, primarily, women from subjugation.  No one can deny the moral, ethical, and legal rationale for this.

I do not deny Mr. Plante’s right to hold his beliefs.  The religious sect that he belongs to is perfectly free to deny recognition to Same Sex marriages within the framework of their doctrine.

However, they cannot demand the use of Federal, State, or any other governmental authority to enforce it upon others.

There was a time in this country when we restricted businesses from being open on Sundays. When those laws were rightfully challenged and changed, the same prediction of moral decay was made, and it failed to come true.

One of the concessions opponents to Same Sex marriage offer is to call the union of same sex couples a “Civil Union”.  I would propose an alternative.  Since Mr. Plante and others like him would be relieved by just a change in a name, why don’t they change Marriage under a religious ceremony to Uncivil Union?

It would be closer to the truth of what they seek to prevent.