Friday, July 27, 2007

Why I'm Not Running

These are troubling times for the nation. Citizens have questions about the direction the nation is heading in, about emerging threats, and how we will
deal with them.

I also realize that in many ways, I am uniquely suited to lead my nation. And despite the fact that the campaign for president is in full swing, and despite the fact that I feel I am as qualified as many other candidates, I must regretfully decline to run.

For President of Red Sox Nation.

Having latched on to the once-hazy concept of a Red Sox “nation” with the suction of a mosquito on warm, wet skin, the Boston Red Sox ownership is now promoting a contest/campaign to award some lucky person the title of “First Fan,” and President of Red Sox Nation.

Spare me.

According to a team press release, “the ceremonial ‘First Fan’ would have an assortment of powers, privileges, and perquisites designed to unify the club’s unique global fan base.”

The President would also have a blog provided by the team. Presumably then, the President could compete with fellow Sox blogger Curt Schilling to see whose site gets more hits during a game.

(Even one or two hits would be more than J.D. Drew will get.)

“While this innovation is light-hearted, it is nonetheless real,” said Sox President/CEO Larry Lucchino in a press release. Yes it is real. Another real crafty commercial ploy all dressed up in team colors.

See, first the Red Sox decided in 2005 to offer paid membership in the Nation. A fan could buy a basic membership for $9.95. (And get a genuine membership card!) Now the team is offering packages ranging from the “Fan Pack” for $14.95, to the “Monster Membership” option for $199. You want perks? “Monster Membership” actually offers a “guaranteed opportunity to purchase two Green Monster seats.” A guaranteed opportunity to purchase tickets, mind you.
Wow. Heady stuff.

Guess what? You can purchase tickets without paying for the right to purchase them.

See, what Red Sox Nation really needs is not an orderly transfer of government but a full-scale insurrection. I remember when there was no “nation.” (A term first coined by the Boston Globe’s Nathan Cobb in 1986, then shamelessly appropriated by his colleague Dan Shaughnessy.) The Sox fan based more closely resembled the Balkans -- a disparate group of generally dispirited followers who expected their team to compete but lose in the end.

But that was also when the team was run by amiable bumblers with generally as little business sense as baseball sense. (They did, after all, let Carlton Fisk get away, yet traded for the immortal Jack “car collection” Clark.)

Today, it’s as if Forbes itself is running the team. All business, all promotion, all the time. A team mascot for the Boston Red Sox would have been unimaginable 20 years ago. “Wally” would have been hooted off the field and showered with boos to rival real-life duds like Dick Stuart and Jack Brohammer.

Hey, to be fair, under this regime the Sox threw off the bitter past and won a World Series. And they are having a great season thus far. But enough with the relentlessly promotional ploys already.

What Red Sox Nation needs is not a president but a civil war -- between the new, Johnny-come-lately fans who freely shell out a $100 bucks to sit and squeal on cue in their $150 team jerseys, and the real fans for whom baseball comes first and baseball promotions second.

No, I won’t be running for President of Red Sox Nation. And I’ll go further: If nominated I will not run, if elected I will not serve.


On the other hand, I remain always open to anyone offering free tickets.
Thank you, God bless, and vote your conscience.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

YouTube Debate: You kidding?

So we have now had history made with the first YouTube debate. What fun. What theatre. What horseshit.

How do I know history was made? Why, because CNN's Wolf Blitzer (CNN was the debate sponsor) said so.

Anderson--er, excuse me, "AC/360"--called the debate "groundbreaking." But he said that before a guy fondling an assault weapon asked a question about gun-control. That, I will grant you, was groundbreaking.

Don't get me wrong--there was a new and refreshing quality of people asking questions of the candidates directly. But "directly" here is a most relative term. CNN still ultimately made the decision of which YouTube questions were used and which were not. Which means that it would have been just as easy to have potential questioners simply email their video clips/questions directly to CNN, no? Or was it appropriating the supposedly young and hip mantle of "YouTube" that CNN was really after?

Either way, the debate had moments that stood out for sure. But Lincoln-Douglas it wasn't. Wonder how Abe would have responded to a guy doing a poor Mr. Bill imitation as the voice for a talking snowman worried about global warming. Here's an inconvenient truth: Just because a blogger is asking a question via a cheesy homemade video on YouTube doesn't mean we've witnessed a "What hath God wrought?" moment.

Yes, weighty issues like Iraq, immigration, education and gun control were covered. Or briefly raised, to be more precise. No candidate, Democrat or Republican, will be dramatically distinguishing themselves on any issue whatsoever in 60 seconds. Time enough to screw up, yes (think Obama would like to retool his thoughts on negotiating with Iran and N. Korea?); time enough to bend, beckon or breath through with voters, no.

But, baby steps, after all. The overall concept of trying to have voters/citizens more directly able to question presidential candidates is a good one. It can be made even better.

And give the Democrats their due--they all, for the most part, have a sense of humor. (Okay, I wouldn't want to tell a joke that Mike Gravel didn't find funny.) It will be even more entertaining to watch the Republicans have their YouTube moment come September. Maybe Lou Dobbs can moderate, and Tom Tancredo can sputter that he's for rounding up all undocumented snowmen. YouTube meets you boob.

Your thoughts, AC?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Harry Potter & Homeland Security

What a week. Tense. High alert. Massive security. Attempts to circumvent those security measures all over the world.

The latest Al-Qaeda threat?

No, just the release of the new Harry Potter book.

There are few more successful franchises in the world today than Harry Potter. What began some 17 years ago as an out-of-work effort by fledgling British writer J.K. Rowling, has now made her history’s first billionaire author. Aside from the more than 250 million books sold and six movies made, there are now plans for a Harry Potter theme park to be developed in (where else?) Florida. Move over, Magic Kingdom.

The release of the seventh, and what Rowling says will be the final book in the Harry Potter series (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”) has also generated a massive promotional blitz and buzz. The world has not seen this kind of build-up toward the roll-out of a new product since…well, since the iPhone’s debut a couple of weeks ago.

Hey, but still.

The book’s public release has been mapped out with military precision. On July 21, at exactly 12:01am (“Western European Summer Time”, no less), the book ships and goes on sale across each succeeding western-speaking time zone. (When does China get it, a week from now?)

No less impressive has been the extraordinary security put in place to forestall leaks about the book prior to its release. Yes, there have been breaches. Pages of the book appeared mysteriously on the internet, the front cover has been, well, uncovered for weeks now, and one unlucky distributor even shipped its allotment early, for which it is being sued. You don’t play around with Potter.

But for the most part, in a day and age when security measures seem to exist only as templates to be tested, the Potter Plan held. For example, workers described a near-Defcon-Five state of readiness, with guards standing 24/7 over palettes of Potter books in cordoned-off areas of a special warehouse. They didn’t even have to say, “Bring ‘em on.” Mission accomplished. For real.

Such flawless preparation and rigid security only served to inspire envy when the other story of the week involving security broke. That would be the unsettling story beckoning from the non-fiction section of our lives. The Bush administration’s own intelligence analysts reported that Al-Qaeda is not only alive and thriving, but is stronger than ever and still very much determined to carry out a large-scale attack inside the American homeland. All this a full six years after 9/11, hundreds of billions spent in Iraq and Afghanistan, nearly 7000 American lives lost, and countless more wounded and maimed.

That’s some security.

Maybe the Bush folks should talk to the Potter folks, who appear to have written the book on competent preparation and effective vigilance. After all, Harry Potter was secured and protected.
At least someone is.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

My Own Summer Of Love

Much as been written of late about the legendary summer of 1967.

How much was packed in to that magical moment 40 years ago? More than you may recall. There was the explosion of the hippie counter-culture, the emergence of the new national youth-magnet that was Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco’s “Summer of Love,” the release of the Beatle’s “Sgt. Pepper’s” album, and the gathering momentum of the Vietnam anti-war movement.

And to top it all off, my team, the Boston Red Sox, went from last to first and won the American League pennant.

It was a monumental summer indeed, and I was right in the thick of it all.
For an 11-year-old, anyway.

Most of my early counter-culture experience was gained through simply watching my older brother, who was 17 that summer. He had long hair, wore only jeans, T-shirts and “Jesus” sandals, and was teaching himself the guitar. Naturally. (In fairness, he did stay with the guitar, and is quite good at it even today.) I remember one hot Saturday afternoon that summer when my brother, new driver’s license tucked proudly into his macramé (or-whatever-the-hell-it was made of) wallet, took me on his first solo driving errand.

He was buying some new jeans and denim work-shirts, the erstwhile uniform of the well-dressed teen at that time. We drove into Cambridge, to Harvard Square, and a long-gone store called the Lodge. The square and the store were teeming with long-haired young rebels-with-whatever-causes they could find. I wandered around the store, trying on jean jackets, woven ponchos and granny glasses, and admiring my young hippie self in the mirror. A big, bearded guy in overalls walked by me and flashed the peace sign. “Peace, little brother.” I returned the gesture. I was happening.

I was also in love.

Her name was Jill Ronan. She was several years older than me, a friend of my older sister’s. Jill had no idea of my deep feelings for her. In fact, I am not sure she ever said anything to me. I did my best to impress her and look sexy and older than I was. Which is a real challenge when your wheels are a 3-speed Schwinn with a blue banana seat, your voice is changing, and you have to be home when the street lights come on.

Nearly every night after supper, I would hop on that bike, pedal the three blocks to her street and ride back and forth, back and forth, hoping against hope I would see her walk in or out. Once, I actually did see her come out and I almost fell off my bike before pedaling the other way. I did have a brief conversation once with her father, though. Opening his garage door one night, he said, “Hey, kid -- do you live on this street?” I shook my head. What was I going to say, “No, but I’m stalking your daughter?”

Fortunately, there was more requited excitement for me on the radio.

My beloved Red Sox, dead-last place finishers only the summer before, were in a 4-way dogfight for the pennant. Jill Ronan might be playing hard-to-get, but Yaz, Boomer, Jim Lonborg and Reggie Smith shared the joy with me, even from afar. As the “Impossible Dream” season took real and dramatic shape over that summer, I was as hooked on that team as I was on Jill -- my other impossible dream.

And the rest, alas, is history.

The Sox lost the World Series in seven games, and who knew then that our hopeful “wait till next year” would mean waiting another full 37 years?

Jill moved away, without our ever having had so much as a conversation. I blame it all on the bike. I truly believe a 10-speed might have altered the whole equation.

Now, 40 years later, there are some interesting parallels with that summer. Another senseless war is dragging on, and another deluded president dithers while kids die. The Red Sox are winning, with a 10-game lead, no less -- an unimaginable luxury in 1967, when they needed the last game of the season and help from the Angels (California) to clinch.

And I still ride my bike when I can. It has 18-speeds.
What do you think of that, Jill Ronan, wherever you are?

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Tony the Tuchas*

You want to talk Yiddish, Tony? I’ll give you Yiddish.

On Thursday, White House spokesman Tony Snow addressed reporters once more on President Bush’s controversial decision to commute the sentence of convicted perjurer (and former aide) I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

Specifically, Snow was responding to remarks made earlier by former President Bill Clinton. Campaigning in Iowa with his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., the former president acidly observed of the Bush administration, “They believe that they should be able to do what they want to do, and that the law is a minor obstacle.”

In noting that Bill Clinton had himself pardoned 140 people in the closing hours of his presidency (including fugitive financier Marc Rich), Snow said, “I don’t know what Arkansan is for chutzpah, but this is a gigantic case of it.”

“Gigantic case of it?” Tony, Tony, Tony…….

When you allow a former horse show administrator to oversee the nation’s response to Katrina, and then, when that response is an unmitigated disaster you tell the guy he’s doing a “heckuva job” -- that’s chutzpah.

When you take the nation dishonestly and unnecessarily into a catastrophic war, waste a trillion dollars, needlessly sacrifice more than 3000 young American lives, consistently make excuses for an Iraqi government too feeble to shoulder more of the burden, and then, when the war has lasts longer than our involvement in WWII, ask the American people for more patience -- that’s chutzpah.

But then, so many other Yiddishisms come as easily to mind as “chutzpah” when speaking of all these shmucks. Former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and jailed former U.S. Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham are just three of a veritable glut of goniffs and shnorers who have truly mucked up Washington with dreck for the past six years. Bush and Cheney’s relentless post-9/11 exploitation and manipulation of fear has given the entire a country a case of severe spilkes. It’s as if we all look forward to 2008 and a big, nationally-cleansing spritz to somehow rid ourselves of two terms of nothing but tsouris.

And Tony Snow? You’re a putz. And you can look it up.*

Monday, July 2, 2007

Mitt's Mutt

The facts are not in dispute. Mitt Romney's dog is dead.

Okay, not from the now-infamous ride from hell; that was nearly 25 years ago. (Though in dog years it might as well have been yesterday.)

Even if you aren't from Massachusetts, you may have heard about former Gov. Mitt Romney's former dog, Seamus. In 1983, the Romney family took off for a 12-hour drive to Romney's parents' cottage on Lake Huron in Ontario. Space in the family station wagon was limited because Romney has, like, 27 sons, each one with names like Chip, Chap, Nip, Nog.

Seamus, an Irish setter, was relegated to the roof of the car for the trip.

Reports are that he rode in a carrier which Romney had rigged up with a windshield, but to this point in doggie-gate, no photos of any kind have been produced to support this claim. For all we know, poor Seamus might have been splayed out between the roof racks, tied down with bungie cords with his tail flapping out behind him like one of those 50's antenna jobs. Only real.

It has also been reported that, at some point during the drive, the roof-bound dog developed diarrhea. (Apparently the Romney boys alerted dad that something was amiss because brown liquid was streaming down the rear window.) Guess what? You would develop diarrhea, too, if you were strapped to the roof of a an automobile hurtling down the highway.

Now, as more extensive digging dogs Romney, more sinister reports are surfacing that it wasn't Seamus at all who had diarrhea, but rather one of Romney's boys. (Tog or Tug, Chug or Chag--it's unclear which one.) With his penchant for efficiency, Romney, unconfirmed sources say, simply put the offending lad up there with the dog--problem solved, time saved from a long, drawn-out stop at a rest area, not to mention a time-consuming and expensive interior simonize.

True? Of course not. But the fact is, it's fun to find fault with Mitt "Robot" Romney. We here in Massachusetts have had years to have had it up to here with a guy whose blood seems synthetic, who exudes "Stepford," and who seems to wear perfection like so much after-shave. Like after-shave, it's put on.

And it's no longer fooling anyone; Romney's smarmy act stinks.