Saturday, December 29, 2007

Goals, not resolutions

Each year, countless people around the globe propose New Year’s resolutions. Particularly in the U.S., these proposals fixate on the physical—to lose weight, join the gym, eat healthy—while often falling short of their intent.

According to (glad to know my tax dollars are being put to good use—studying my fellow American’s top resolutions for the New Year), some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions are losing weight, paying off debt, eating right and drinking less booze.

Like many good intentions, these so-called resolutions will be long forgotten by the end of January. Like the co-worker who says he/she hopes to lose weight and then, over the cubicle wall, you regularly hear them rustling the paper of another fast food meal and smell the waft of French fried potatoes, these resolutions are born in weakness.

While I can’t say honestly that I’ve never failed to achieve success in my own resolutions, I can say in all honesty that I no longer make resolutions. Rather, I’m given to writing down goals, which serve as signposts for me along the road, during the upcoming year.

The practice of setting goals, versus making resolutions, might seem semantic to some. For me, however, it has been empowering. I can’t pinpoint the year I made this transition, but I think it was probably either 2004, or 2005. More than just speaking forth my goals, I’ve made a habit of writing them down, in a notebook, where I regularly refer to them. These provide regular feedback and help me to gauge my success, or help me to step back and reassess where I’m headed. A case in point—in 2004, I set forth a goal of researching and writing a book. In September, 2005, When Towns Had Teams was released. The book was well-received, won a national award in 2006 (an IPPY for best regional non-fiction title in the Northeast) and still continues to sell copies.

2007 has been a great year for me. In my personal life, relationships, work and writing, I’ve been able to maintain a focus in my life that wasn’t the norm, even five years ago.

Setting goals can be tricky, if you’ve never experienced success. That’s why it’s best to set realistic goals for yourself, so you can start achieving success, rather than setting yourself up for failure.

While life is rarely perfect and even in the midst of a good year, there have been disappointments and setbacks, I am confident that 2008 will be an even better year and that I’ll find success in hitting my targets on several fronts. That confidence helps breed further success. In fact, once more, I have a goal of getting a new book to market. I’ve tentatively set a July release date and have begun researching my subject and have already made some solid progress on the writing side. I may have to adjust the release date, but 2008 will see my second book in print.

In looking back over my life, I haven’t always felt this confident. Too often, I would be caught up in bitterness, resentment and blame others for my own shortcomings. Now, I’m much more likely, when confronted with a setback, to ask the question, “what are you not doing right,” or better, “what adjustments do I need to make in my approach?”

I encourage you to abandon playing “resolution roulette” and start practicing something more practical. Get a notebook, or a notepad and set down five practical goals to get you started in 2008. Periodically (after two weeks, one month and after six weeks) check back with those goals and see where you stand. If you’re not hitting your targets, what’s preventing you from doing so? If you are honest and accept responsibility for your own success, I assure you that you’ll start seeing some positive results.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holiday to all!

It's Christmas morn, the sun is shining and I'm just back from a brisk walk with Bernie, my 13-year-old Sheltie.

Soon, my wife, as well as our son and his girlfriend, will be opening our presents.

In the background, the Vince Guaraldi Trio is playing the familiar "Christmastime Is Here" (via Irene Trudel and WFMU). The cinnamon rolls are in the oven and all is well in our little corner of the world.

Wherever you are reading this and recognizing that hard times and tragedies strike, even during the Christmas season, I hope you all are able to have a joyful and peaceful day, with friends, family and other special people in your lives.

Regular posting will resume at some point, but I wanted to send out my heartfelt thanks to my regular readers for being here in 2007 and for others that may stop by occasionally and also, for new readers who might be passing by while surfing the web.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


John Winkin’s college coaching resume stretches all the way back to 1954. The legendary college coach, who piloted six UMaine teams to the college world series, suffered a stroke last Thursday. The latest reports are that Winkin is out of intensive care and is in fair condition at Eastern Maine Medical Center.

At the age of 87, Winkin is the oldest college baseball coach in the country. Now piloting the Husson Eagles, a Division III program based in Bangor. Maine baseball fans best remember this baseball legend as the man who put Maine college baseball on the national map. Winkin’s Black Bear squads made six appearances in a ten year span at the College World Series in Omaha, beginning in 1976, twice finishing third, during his 22-year tenure at Maine, which unceremoniously ended in 1996, when unpopular Athletic Director, Susan Tyler, chose not to renew Winkin’s contract. There are a myriad of stories and much conjecture about what transpired at the time. Some cited Winkin’s age at the time (76) as the primary reason. Others speculated that Tyler and Winkin didn’t hit it off and this ultimately led to his not being asked back. Whatever the reasons, Winkin’s dismissal was poorly handled.

If you’ve never been to Orono, Maine in the spring, you can’t appreciate having a Division I program located so far north, let alone one that was a national power during the Winkin era. Forced to practice indoors until they boarded a plane and headed to Florida, where they usually faced the elite programs in the country, Maine regularly took their lumps on their southern swing. Yet Winkin knew that the soul of his clubs would be forged during those trips and pay dividends once they began their conference schedule back on the frozen diamonds of New England.

Winkin, who hailed from New Jersey, before coming to Colby College in 1954, quickly came to appreciate the baseball talent that resided in the far-flung reaches of the Pine Tree State. Winkin recognized that Maine’s shortened window of opportunity for playing baseball wasn’t a detriment and that anyone who is willing to play baseball in April, in Maine, when temperatures are regularly in the 30s and snow delays are not uncommon, had a special toughness that a kid from Florida, or California couldn’t possess.

Each and every summer, while at Colby and then later, when he held the Black Bear job, Winkin would scour the diamonds of Maine, showing up to watch American Legion prospects and evaluate their potential to play Division I caliber baseball. Many a former high school star remembers the butterflies in the stomach and the whispers and nods that accompanied a Winkin appearance at a summer ballgame.

I remember seeing the slight of stature and deeply tanned Winkin, during the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. I was a 17-year-old hard-throwing right-hander, logging some serious innings for a very good and sometimes great Coombs-Mountfort Post 158 squad, during the summer of 1979. We had just won a Class B state championship at Lisbon High School I had gone 8-0. Winkin had obviously heard about my exploits and he came to see what the buzz was about.

I remember that first audition like it was yesterday. We were playing a very tough Topsham squad, made up of a combination of two Class A high schools in Mt. Ararat, of Topsham and Brunswick High. Our Lisbon squad, with a few additions from Oak Hill High School, in Sabattus, could hold our own with any squad in Maine that summer.

Trying to impress Winkin, I got off to an inauspicious start, giving up a leadoff home run to lefty slugger, Jimmy Thibault. Later, trying to throw, instead of pitch, I’d give up a solo shot to Amherst-bound Kyle O’Brien, who would one day play minor league ball. I finally settled down, however and started mixing my pitches. In the fifth, with runners at second and third, I blew a 2-2 fastball past O’Brien and pumped my fist on the way to our bench on the third base side of the diamond. My teammates would rally and I’d leave with a 3-2 win and heard Winkin say to with his typically understated style, “you did a nice job keeping your team in the game, young man.” For a Maine baseball prospect that was like hearing the voice of God.

At that point, other schools, like the University of Vermont, coached at the time by one of Winkin’s former players, Jack Leggett and Amherst, coached by another legendary coach, Bill Thurston, had shown much more interest than Coach Winkin. The baseball scuttlebutt was that he was interested in a couple of other pitchers from larger schools, which was typical of Winkin. He liked his Class A players and stud pitchers from Massachusetts. That would all change late in the summer, at Edwards Field in Brunswick.

Our summer club was talented, but for some reason, we were either red hot (two seven game winning streaks), or ice cold (two five game losing skids). In late August, not only were we looking at a second place finish in our zone, but we were in danger of not even making the state tournament, in Togus. Tied with Caldwest Post of Portland (Deering High players), we would take part in a one game playoff, to see who got the wild card slot for Central/Southern Maine.

The Caldwell team was stocked with some good high school hitters, including left-handed slugger, Anthony Cimino, himself headed to UMaine.

After a long summer and too many innings and a stretch where I had experienced a “dead” arm, the weather turned fall-like and warming up, my arm felt rejuvenated. I told my catcher, Mike Sawyer, that he wouldn’t need to be putting down anything but a single finger, for fastballs.

We lost the coin flip and would lead off as the visitors. We went down in order, 1-2-3. Playing at Edwards Field in Brunswick, a neutral field, neither team had a particular advantage. One good omen was that the mound was a bit higher than most, which I always liked.

I struck out the side on 11 pitches, all fastballs and I knew that if I could get one, or two runs, we had this one.

While I was pouring fastball, after fastball, past the Caldwell hitters, my mound opponent was mixing up an assortment of junk, keeping our hitters off balance. In the fifth, with a runner on second, I managed to get out in front of a breaking pitch and looped it into left-center and we were on the board. That was all she wrote.

We won the game, 1-0. I finished with a one-hitter and 18 strikeouts, throwing all fastballs, save about five breaking pitches. Coach Winkin was at the game and saw me pitch the best game of my life. With the win, my 10th of the summer, I had now won 18 games, since April, and had only lost twice.

I received a phone call from Coach Winkin the following week. Later, one of his handwritten recruiting letters followed.

My senior year was a bit of a disappointment. Unbeknownst to me, I had injured my shoulder and while I tried to pitch through the injury, it would get progressively worse. Later, at Maine, I would eventually quit the ball club in the spring of my sophomore year, after being red-shirted as freshman.

That was nearly 30 years ago. I can still see Coach Winkin, standing above the three practice diamonds at Maine, watching intra-squad games my first fall. He had his clipboard and never said much. Occasionally he’d call you over, but his assistants, Bobby Whelan (now coaching at Dartmouth) and Brian Cox ran things on the field.

I’ve run into Coach Winkin a couple of times over the years. Once at a state American Legion Tournament game and later, at a state high school playoff game, involving my own son. Coach Winkin was kind and obviously remembered me. He commented on my son’s ability as a hitter.

In the fall of 2005, while in Bangor, delivering copies of my book, When Towns Had Teams, I saw Coach running on Broadway, near the Husson campus. He regularly walk/ran three hours every day. I swear he hadn’t aged a day in the past 20. While 85 at the time, he could have easily passed for being 30 years younger.With his signature tan, close-cropped hair and trim physique, he looked like a little drill sergeant.

Like the men that I interviewed for my own book, Coach Winkin is a throwback to a different era. A time that, while far from perfect, was a time when integrity, honesty and loyalty mattered. Back in the days when he was just getting his start, major league baseball was not a lucrative career. Even the star players, like DiMaggio, Mantle, Williams and Willie Mays, while well compensated, still didn’t make an excessive amount of money. Players didn’t charge for autographs and a father could take his family to a big league game without taking out a second mortgage on his home.

He’s obviously been knocked to the canvas by the stroke. While no doubt serious, something tells me that if I was a betting man, it might make sense to put my money on seeing Coach Winkin, back in the Husson dugout at some point this spring. Baseball needs men like Winkin, now, more than ever before.

Here's a well-written article on Winkin that ran this spring in the Christian Science Monitor.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

As Maine goes: George Mitchell's example

A few years back, a Maine writer named Will Anderson wrote a book that he titled, Was Baseball Really Invented in Maine?: A Warm and Wonderful Look at the History of Professional Baseball in Maine and at Every Mainer Who’s Ever Played in the Majors.

Anderson has created his own veritable cottage industry, self-publishing a variety of books about baseball, as well as beer, throw-back diners, the history of high school basketball in the state and recently, Maine's own rock and roll history.

I own the book on baseball and it is a book that any Mainer that cares about the heritage and the colorful history of professional baseball in the Pine Tree State would get a kick out of. My purpose with this post, however, isn’t to review Anderson’s books. In light of Thursday’s release of George Mitchell’s report on steroid use in major league baseball, I got thinking about integrity, professional sports and men, like Mitchell, that epitomize what integrity is about, while also having a connection with the national pastime. Mitchell just happens to also hail from Maine. While baseball may not have been invented in Maine, a man like Mitchell, is an example of how one ought to live their life and if baseball ever intends to right itself and restore some credibility to the sport, Mitchell might be able to point the way the way back. Other men with connections to baseball in Maine are the late Harold Alfond and John Winkin, who suffered a stroke this week and at 87-years-old, has been grounded, at least in the short-term, from doing what he's done best, which is coaching young men in the finer points of baseball, as well asl life. As a former player of Winkin's, I hope to weigh in later in the week about another Mainer, like Alfond and Mitchell, with ties to baseball.

George Mitchell was born in Waterville, Maine, to parents of modest means. His father worked at Colby College, as a janitor. His mother, of Lebanese descent, worked in the local textile mills, which were numerous along Maine’s rivers, like the Kennebec. Mitchell’s mother never learned to read, or write, in English.

Despite the educational shortcomings of his own parents, the young Mitchell had the importance of education drummed into him at an early age. It was common for working-class parents like Mitchell’s to want a better life for their children, something better than the long days and physically-demanding work that they fell into. Mitchell would go on to Bowdoin and then, graduate from law school at Georgetown University, in Washington, DC.

After graduating, he fulfilled his mandatory military commitment, being stationed in Berlin, as officer in the U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence Corps from 1954 to 1956. In the mid-1960s, Mitchell served as an executive assistant to Edmund Muskie, who represented Maine, as senator (along with Margaret Chase Smith), at the time. No doubt, Mitchell’s time with Muskie had a profound influence on him, as he began making his way in the worlds of law and politics.

The 1970s found Mitchell running for governor of Maine (he lost to Jim Longley in 1974), serving as U.S. attorney for Maine and later, speding time as a U.S. district court judge. In 1980, Mitchell was appointed to complete the unexpired term of Senator Edmund S. Muskie, who resigned to become secretary of state. Before the 1982 election, Senator Mitchell trailed in opinion polls by 36 points. His stunning come-from-behind victory gave him 61 percent of the votes cast. Senator Mitchell went on to an illustrious career in the Senate that spanned 14 years.

In 1988, he was reelected with 81 percent of the vote, the largest margin in Maine history. In January 1989, he became Senate majority leader. He held that position until he left the Senate in 1995.

During his tenure, Senator Mitchell earned enormous bipartisan respect. It has been said "there is not a man, woman or child in the Capitol who does not trust George Mitchell." For six consecutive years he was voted "the most respected member" of the Senate by a bipartisan group of senior congressional aides.

George Mitchell modeled what it meant to be a public servant. Honest, forthright and respected, Mitchell was the perfect person to chair the historic peace negotiations, in 1996, between the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. Senator Mitchell led the negotiations for two years, work that ultimately resulted in a historic accord that ended decades of conflict between the two adversaries.

While many men in their 70s would begin slowing down, the former senator has found much to keep him occupied since leaving the world of politics.

Since 2002, he’s been a Senior Fellow and Senior Research Scholar at Columbia University. He’s also founded the Mitchell Institute, whose mission is to increase the likelihood that young people from every community in Maine will aspire to, pursue and achieve a college education and have a better life, just like he’s had. He’s a partner and chairman at DLA Piper, a global law firm and also serves on the board for Disney.

A lifelong baseball fan, Mitchell’s name has been mentioned many times as a possible commissioner of major league baseball. Since 2004, he’s been a director in the front office of the Boston Red Sox.

In March of 2006, Mitchell was asked to conduct a study of the allegations of steroid use in major league baseball, by Commissioner Bud Selig.

On December 13, 2007, Mitchell released his Report to the Commissioner of Baseball of an Independent Investigation into the Illegal Use of Steroids and Other Performance Enhancing Substances by Players in Major League Baseball, now often referred to as merely, the "Mitchell Report.”

While the 409 page report won’t necessarily close the sordid chapter on baseball’s “steroid era,” it’s unveiling serves as milepost to major league baseball. Given Mitchell’s record of integrity and success in bringing together disparate sides, baseball would do well to heed his recommendations. Baseball fans would also do well to side with Mitchell and not listen to the lies and obfuscations that have already begun coming from those Mitchell named, like Roger Clemens and Andy Petite, as well as accusations that Mitchell's report is tantamount to the McCarthy witch hunts of the 1950s.

It’s high time that these pampered athletes own up to what they’ve done. Mitchell isn’t recommending punishment, but a little humility and contriteness from the athletes would be nice. It would also be more in line with modeling the integrity that Mitchell has shown throughout his life and would serve as examples of what professional athletes, as role models, should be modeling.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A brief post on steroids

I wonder how it feels to wake up and see your picture plastered all over newspaper front pages, from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon, as the new poster boy for baseball’s steroid scandal. I'm sure Barry Bonds thanks you. I wonder if your family feels betrayed. Or maybe, the money you raked in, while violating the rules of fair play, have dulled their sense of right and wrong, while giving them a lifestyle and materialistic largesse that most Americans only dream about.

In New England, Red Sox fans have always had a love/hate relationship with Roger Clemens. For many, when the overweight and apparently, washed up former Cy Younger signed with Toronto during the winter of 1997, most felt it was a case of Roger going where he could get the most money. Many fans, tired of Roger’s demands and recent lack of success, were happy to see him go, with farewell intimations of “don’t let the door hit you in the ass.”

Then came back-to-back 20 win seasons, topped by another Cy Young, his third, in 1998. Boston fans began to feel they’d been taken. Talk show conversations on Boston sports stations talked about how Roger had let himself go his last few years in Boston and when he had some motivation again, tapped into the immense well of talent that he possessed, which was aided (so we thought at the time) by hard work and determination.

Then, along comes the Mitchell Report, which pulls back the covers on baseball and lends 409 pages of factual information, to what had been whispers and anecdotal material.

I hope to weigh in on this with a much more detailed post, over the weekend. But for now, it’s back to Maine’s snow-covered road ways and the outer reaches of my regional work territory. While on the roads today, I plan on taking in some talk radio. I can predict that for many of these announcers, Mitchell's documentation will now produce the effect of eliciting condemnation, but most have been like Commissioner Bud Selig, mealy-mouthed on the subject.
Just so readers know that I've stayed consistent and am no Jimmy-come-lately on the subject, here's a post I penned on the subject back in 2005. If you want to do some additional reading, here's another post, also from 2005, where I reference Don Hooten and a foundation he's started, to address the issue, as it pertains to younger athletes. Mr. Hooten lost a 16-year-old son to steroids and I doubt he'd think it was ok to slough the subject off, as some baseball fans will surely do.

Well, the car's warmed up and thawed out and it's time for me to depart. To fellow commuters, remember the words of Hill Street Blues Sergeant, Phil Esterhaus, that he used to say to his troops, “Hey, let’s be careful out there.”

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Nixon when we need him

I’ve been thinking about what purpose this current interminable campaign for president serves. No other nation in the world holds such a protracted, financially bloated circus for the right to lead. Are the 24 hour news networks so desperate for programming that every candidate’s move and whether they fart after they dine becomes the next line of scrolling text below the latest disaster or mass murder on the screen?

What purpose does it serve to hold debates with eight candidates on both the Democrat and Republican sides, when anyone with any experience following politics knows that at best, two, or maybe three candidates on either side, have a legitimate chance to win. I’m not sure that most casual voters could name more than one, or maybe, two candidates on either side. If pressed, they even might have a hard time knowing, for instance that Hillary Clinton is a Democrat and that Rudy Giuliani is a Republican.

In our recent political past, campaigns traditionally ramped up just after Labor Day, the year prior to November’s presidential vote. This year, candidates have been battling it out and visiting the key primary and caucus states since early 2007.

Personally, I think some of the most interesting candidates, are the ones towards the back of the pack. On the Democrat side, Dennis Kucinich is the most outspoken about bringing our troops home from Iraq. To those on the right, he’s just a “kook,” and he might be viewed by some on the left similarly. In reality, Kucinich is a principled candidate that in person is charismatic and very persuasive. Unfortunately, he’s short and has big ears, so he comes across less than telegenic. Actually, that theory is somewhat dubious when you consider Hillary, who is shrill and often comes across terribly on TV, or Giuliani, who is just plan “ghoulish” looking.

Speaking of television, Barack Obama has fully embraced the reality that politics is nothing more than entertainment on crack. The candidate that charges for access, has enlisted Oprah to wipe his ass and push his candidacy forward with all the brain-addled mothers and Wal-Mart shoppers of America.

Oprah is the personification of today’s entertainment-saturated culture. An African-American drama queen, no minority entertainer has so captivated white America like she has. All a book, movie, or new pop psychology theory needs to break it nationally, is an endorsement from the maven of mothers everywhere. It will be interesting if the candidate that charges for access gets the same bump politically, from Oprah's stamp of approval.

I can’t think of anyone that personifies our cult of celebrity and entertainment better than Oprah. Corporate America has no better shill for their products than the queen of afternoon programming. In our current cultural milieu; apparently all it takes is savvy marketing and pulling at women’s heartstrings to build an entertainment empire. Oprah’s kingdom is worth in excess of $1 billion.

Recently, I read an old Rolling Stone article written by the late Hunter S. Thompson, penned during the nightmarish 2004 campaign for emperor.

Few saw politics in quite the way that Thompson did. Thompson’s ability to write about the candidates, with irreverence, yet still accurately capturing the hubris, lust for power and blood sport that is the race for the American presidency, always made Thompson essential reading.

His article made me reflect back on Richard Nixon, a candidate that few on the left ever lionize.

Thompson wrote that, Nixon “looks like a flaming liberal today, compared to a golem like George Bush. Indeed. Where is Richard Nixon now that we finally need him?

If Nixon were running for president today, he would be seen as a "liberal" candidate, and he would probably win. He was a crook and a bungler, but what the hell? Nixon was a barrel of laughs compared to this gang of thugs from the Halliburton petroleum organization who are running the White House today -- and who will be running it this time next year, if we (the once-proud, once-loved and widely respected "American people") don't rise up like wounded warriors and whack those lying petroleum pimps out of the White House on November 2nd.

Nixon hated running for president during football season, but he did it anyway. Nixon was a professional politician, and I despised everything he stood for -- but if he were running for president this year against the evil Bush-Cheney gang, I would happily vote for him.

You bet. Richard Nixon would be my Man. He was a crook and a creep and a gin-sot, but on some nights, when he would get hammered and wander around in the streets, he was fun to hang out with. He would wear a silk sweat suit and pull a stocking down over his face so nobody could recognize him. Then we would get in a cab and cruise down to the Watergate Hotel, just for laughs.”

It’s a sad day in American politics when our current slate of hacks and wannabes makes one wax nostalgic for “ole” Nixon. But, I think that’s where we’re at.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Dumb politics

By now, it should be obvious to anyone with more than a passing interest in politics that the 2008 presidential horserace is comprised of a field of mostly mediocre and a few arguably, awful candidates. This may explain why much of the reporting coming from the mainstream has focused ostensibly on the horserace itself, rather than the issues. Or, maybe it doesn’t.

For anyone wanting in depth coverage that adheres to some traditional standards of journalism (if any still exist), there are a few places, mostly online, where the emphasis is placed on the side of journalism, rather than entertainment, in covering the candidates. Jay Rosen’s (What Are Journalist’s For?) project, Off the Bus, is one example. There are others.

Rosen characterizes the site as, “open platform campaign journalism,” and in fact, eschews taking a “horserace approach” to the coverage of the candidates.

There’s been an ongoing debate/concern about the role of television and how it has changed politics and campaigns. The late Neil Postman and others have argued that television, which emphasizes image, rather than substance, renders today’s politics more about selling a candidate, using emotion and evocative props and less about carefully crafted position papers. Of course, this is nothing new and was carefully detailed in Joe McGinnis’ book, The Selling of the President, about Richard Nixon’s 1968 campaign. Forty years later, things have only gotten worse.

It seems like new technology and gadgets get trotted out every four years. While it makes the media go “ga-ga,” rarely, if ever does it give voters a better sense of what the candidates stand for. Inevitably, it narrows discourse, which at this point, doesn’t seem like it could constrict any further, given the five-second sound bites that are the rage.

An example of new methods and technology would be the YouTube factor and specifically the recent YouTube/CNN debate. I ran across this letter to the editor in the Washington Post highlighting the issue and the writer closely captured my own sentiments about videos from snowmen and pro-gun questioners, “locking and loading” for effect.

Dumber and Dumber Discourse
Friday, November 30, 2007/The Washington Post

The dumbing-down of America continues, judging by the latest Republican presidential debate, presented by CNN/YouTube.

Candidates who surely have better things to do than to waste their time with trivia and nonsense fielded questions not from a knowledgeable, distinguished panel of journalists but from ill-dressed, offbeat, humor-focused "everyday" Americans who asked such "probing" questions as what type of guns the candidates own, whether they believe every word of the Bible and why Rudolph W. Giuliani rooted for the Boston Red Sox.

Although some of the questions were interesting, valuable and posed cleverly, many were pure fluff.

It is regrettable that the political process has degenerated not only into a perpetual cycle that is bound to disgust most people but into one that demeans and degrades the process and is an insult to the intelligent voter.

If YouTube and its "stars" are now to dominate the process, the process will have collapsed into slop.

Owen M. Spiegler
Upper St. Clair, PA

Speaking of technology, many of the candidates, at least on the Republican side, seem lost when it comes to discussing this subject. The Washington Post’s Garret M. Graff, had an article in Sunday’s Washing Post titled, “Don’t Know Their YouTube FromTheir Yahoo.”

The article highlighted the glaring deficiencies of Republican presidential hopefuls, when it came to understanding technology. Apparently, as we tunnel deeper into our technological bunker, our political candidates, all falling within a demographic, which tends to have phobias towards technology, are being left behind. Mitt Romney, who hails himself as “America’s leader” at every paid opportunity and who has a high-tech background (at least compared to other candidates), didn’t know the difference between YouTube (the fourth most popular site in the world) and MySpace (which is #6). Do you want this man making decisions at the presidential level?

In the rapidly changing world of the 21st century, which relies upon instant communication and whose economy is based upon technology, to have presidential candidates this ignorant of something as ubiquitous as technology is quite telling about where we are at, politically.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Storm report; winter's first major snowfall

[Appropriate sign for the day]

[6:00 am scene]

It appears, at least according to weather reports that we are set to set records for snowfall, with this morning's early season snowstorm. The former record for the Portland, Maine is just over 11 inches and Roger Griswold, of WCSH-6, is calling for 12-18 inches. 12 out of Maine’s 16 counties are under a winter snow warning. North of here and in the mountains, they may receive upwards of 20 inches.

In my front yard, I currently have four inches and the snow has begun to fall with greater ferocity. I just came in, after doing some shoveling, thinking I was going to try to attempt the trek to the office. While outside, my boss called and left a message, informing me that unless I had something pressing, to do my best from home. That’s all I needed to hear.

[Bernie and Santa]

[Luckily, most people are staying off the road...]

[...which makes me happy.]

When I worked for CMP, during the 80s and 90s, I had to go to work, inclement weather, or not. Spending over 10 years driving for my work, I have always considered myself a good winter driver. I’ve always had confidence in handling a variety of vehicles in all types of weather. As I’ve gotten older, however, I no longer enjoy being out on the road, when the conditions deteriorate. Oh, I’m still confident in my own abilities, but I find that as I drive according to conditions, slowing down, leaving ample space between my vehicle and the one in front of me, other drivers either don’t know about driving according to the road conditions, or just don’t care. Inevitably, I have someone hanging on my ass like a boil, or worse, passing and risking their life, as well as my own and the safety of other drivers on the road. As a result, if I can stay off the roads and let the other idiots drive foolishly and crash into one another, I prefer that alternative.

I planned for the worse and brought work home with me, on Friday, so I'm set to spend part of my day working on various projects. I'll also keep the fire stoked and probably venture out about midday and keep the pathways of the compound cleared.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Selective choice of topics

In Maine, there’s a local storyteller named, John McDonald. McDonald, who has acquired a measure of fame, spinning tales about life in the Pine Tree State, also hosts a Saturday/Sunday morning talk show on WGAN, Maine’s right-wing, AM blowtorch. He's done so for over a decade.

I’m assuming his show is popular, otherwise it wouldn’t stay on the air. McDonald, who bills himself as a politically independent, more often than not, comes down on the side of conservatives, at least that’s my take. In addition, the callers to his show, which are made up of a stable of the faithful, tend to be Bush-loving, gun-toting and I’d say, TABOR-worshipping.

I like McDonald. He’s funny, never takes himself too seriously and always manages to interject some story, or anecdote from Maine, which makes listening to his show worthwhile. Having said that, I do find many of the callers a tad over the top.

Take for instance today. I didn’t catch the start of his show, but the topic must have been Hillary Clinton, because when I tuned in after 8 am, caller, after caller, was offering their own version of Clinton-bashing, taking potshots at both the former president and his wife, who aspires to be president.

Personally, I’m no fan of Hillary. I think far too many Democrats are making a big mistake thinking that Mrs. Clinton has a chance against any Republican that gets the GOP nod. My problems with Senator Clinton, however, have nothing to do with her being a powerful woman, the fact that she’s running for president, or that she’s married to Bill. I also don’t go apoplectic when I hear her name, like most conservatives do.

My issues are with her policies on Iraq, the fact that I don’t think she’s far left enough and that she tries too hard to outflank conservatives on many issues. With that said, I don’t understand the vitriol and hatred that this woman (as well as her husband, for that matter) engenders from those self-identfying as conservative Republicans.

I found it interesting that while McDonald considers himself politically neutral, why he didn’t choose for his Saturday topic, the news about Rudy Giuliani?

What news am I referring to? Well, let’s start with the story that was reported a few years ago and subsequently disappeared down the memory hole, about then Mayor Giuliani’s expenses associated with maintaining an extra-marital affair with the current Mrs. Giuliani, while he was still married to wife #2. There were also some expenses "tucked away," related to his aborted Senate run, in 2000.

Back in 2000, the New York papers broke the story that the city had provided a security detail for Nathan, who became Giuliani's third wife after his divorce from Donna Hanover, who also had her own police security detail at the same time. Furthermore, it appears that many of the security expenses were initially billed to obscure city agencies, effectively hiding them from oversight, at least according to

These costs involved overtime and per diem costs for officers traveling with Giuliani to secret weekend rendezvous with Nathan in the fashionable Hamptons resort area on Long Island.

The Office of Comptroller first noticed these curious additional expenses back in 2001 and made repeated requests throughout 2001 and 2002 for records and information, but the Mayor’s office, under the guise of “security,” failed to turn these over.

Giuliani is claiming the release of this story is a “hit-job.” While that might fly with his acolytes, the former mayor of the nation’s largest city has this and numerous other “problems” from his days of running the city with an iron fist. These and the fact that he has real fascist tendencies makes me a little worried that he might get the GOP nod and end up running against Mrs. Clinton.

If you thought Bushworld is problematic, wait ‘til you see what a Giuliani presidency looks like.