B After The Fact

Monday, April 18, 2005

Take a Break

Pedro looked great on Saturday. He was everything that we hoped it would be. Mets fans, baseball fans in general, need to remember that in the business of baseball, that if Saturday turns out to be the turning point in the Mets' fortunes, then Pedro is worth what ownership paid him -- as a financial matter, not as a baseball matter.

That would be true even if Pedro's last year looks as bad as Mike Piazza's last year is beginning to look. It is clear to me that Piazza is not good for more than 100 games. Piazza was paid a lot of money to restore the franchise, and he did his job. The fact that some of that money is being paid out this year should not make much of a difference to the accountants. Or to the folks at WFAN

If I were the Mets, I wouldn't worry about trading Piazza. It is better theatre to let him play out the string. Besides, it is not that good of an era for catchers or for the relief pitcher that the Mets are going to want to trade Piazza for.

Saturday's game had almost a mythic quality to it. Superhuman power vanishing, embarrassing behind the plate, Piazza summons up the last bit of strength to get the ground rule double that redeemed himself and put the contest back to where the younger man could grab it and win it. What a last hurrah!

Unfortunately, that younger man, Castro, may have had his last hurrah on Saturday as well. He's not that good.

Hopefully, Floyd and Cameron can come back, and the Mets can trade one of them for the relief pitcher the Mets need. I kind of think that Victor Diaz will be able to play the outfield full-time.

Of course, after watching Danny Kolb melt-down on Sunday night baseball last night, it is possible that the Mets already have all the available relief pitching out there.

Back in the day, when you needed bullpen help, and you were serious about winning a pennant, you would take your fireballer out of AAA, make him your spot-starter and situational reliever. Even though the kid might need a little more minor-league seasoning, it was considered more important that he come up and help the big league club. The 1969 Mets had a guy like that -- Nolan Ryan.

Nowadays, they wouldn't bring him up. What if he runs out of options? What if he becomes eligible for arbitration a year too soon?

Ah well.

Meanwhile, with the Mets grabbing a positive headline for the first time in years, an eruption by Mt. St. George was inevitable.

Tim McCarver seems to be a persona non grata in my circle these days, as well as in many others. However, McCarver always used to say that when the 1968 Cardinals built a 3-1 lead against the Tigers in the World Series -- and did not win that series, the team never recovered. The best team in the National League in 1967-68, arguably (with the Dodgers) the best team in the National League from 1964-1968, they were a non-factor in 1969, allowing some new teams -- like the New York Mets --to emerge.

Could the Yankees be suffering from that sort of letdown as well?

Time to take a break. Back in May.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Politics of the Eldest Son

I am the eldest son. Virtually all of my close friends throughout my entire life have been eldest sons. In the Bible, and in England, the eldest son inherited the land, and was charged with preserving the family, and the family values.

Jacob was the younger son. Joseph was the younger son by a lot. Solomon was not the eldest son, and of course, Absolom was the favored child for a long time. The Bible features the younger son in part, I believe, because the society features the eldest son. That it is possible to suceed both in the world, and in the eyes of God, even if your brother has all the money.

In those days -- the myth goes, and my non-systematic reading through the years tells me that it’s true -- in those days, in Europe, the eldest son got the land and the youngest son became a priest. (Which might explain a lot about how and why the priest said this, and the people did that.)

Then later, the eldest son got the land and the youngest son scrambled for the ticket to America.

Conveniently for American mythmaking, George Washington was raised by his elder half-brother. You don’t see it much anymore, but I bet there was a lot of Jacob and Esau stuff (some Joseph with his brothers stuff?) running around back then in the legend of good ol’ Lawrence and George.

Benjamin Franklin was apprenticed as a printer to his much-older brother. He later escaped to Philadelphia.

And for those of you who don’t bother with the Bible or American History, or even movies about the same – in The Godfather, it was Michael, not Sonny, who understood what the whole thing was about.

A lot of founding American law reflects the point of view of the second son. Since the second son is aware of how much fortune depends on accidents of birth, the American estate tax is a founding principle of the Republic. It is based on the notion that to some extent the entire society, and therefore all the people who support the law and the society, are responsible for the creation of large fortunes that get accumulated into just a few lucky hands that happened to be born first. Therefore, it is only fitting that the law should demand a share of the earnings at the time when the wealthy SOB who robbed everyone to get the money is not in such a good position to complain about it.

Maybe, more importantly, in those days, everyone knew of fortunes that fell into the hands of feeble-minded or evil people just because of accidents of birth. Common people, to the extent possible, did not want their lives to be beholden to the whims of those sorts of accidentally rich people. And if you multiply that over a couple of generations (Insert favorite W- joke here.).

Since the second son is aware of how hard it is to make something out of nothing, the bankruptcy laws don’t penalize you too heavily if you try to make something out of nothing, and you fail.

Since, even in the United States, the eldest son often gets the business and all the cash and power that go with it, the rest of the siblings often have to, as Huck Finn put it, light out for the territories. That may be one reason why American laws don’t stress parental rights over adult children too much. The only place where the laws about parental rights over adult children are strong is in the area of enforceability of wills and trusts. If the will says you don’t get the money until you’re 50, well you better find a job until then.

What is taking place now, the repeal of the estate tax, the repeal of the bankruptcy law, the notion that the family has a higher place in the law than the individual, is not a return to the old values, unless by old you mean 17th century England. It is not part of the history of this country, except for certain parts of the plantation South. It is most definitely, and quite intentionally, not part of the law of the land.

So when Tom Delay (and you right-wingers, if you want to create something that will last, you better find yourselves another spokesperson and fast) complains about activist judges, he is, as he is in all things that do not relate to the blunt manipulation of law and position for his personal profit, dead wrong.

The laws reflect something else, and they reflect something else for a reason. If the reasons have changed, and you have the votes, change the laws.

Don’t blame the judges though.

America is finally mature enough economically that the second son now has what the first son had along. Now he understands why the first son had certain laws in place to keep it.

Woe be to all you have-nots. To all you second sons, wherever you were born.

Long live primogeniture.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

What We Are Talking About When We Talk About Popes And Judges And Terri Schiavo

Pope John Paul II

Abortion --- Opposed
Gay Marriage --- Opposed
Euthenasia (all related forms)--- Opposed
Death Penalty --- Opposed
War In Iraq --- Opposed

Major American Politicians Who Agree With The Pope On All These Issues


Minor American Politicians Who Agree With Pope On All These Issues

Haven't heard of any. Please Let me know.

Number of American Cases where The Court Awarded Custody Of Married 41-year Old Woman Back To Parents.

Haven't Heard of Any. Please Let me know.

Number of Federal Laws concerning Terri Schiavo passed on Palm Sunday where the Courts were instructed to overlook Florida law and either (a) demand that feeding tube be replaced or (b) return the custody of Married 41-year old Woman Back To Parents.


Number of Republican Congressmen who knew better but still told Fox News and parents of Married 41-year old Woman that a Federal Law concerning Terri Schiavo was passed on Palm Sunday where the Courts were instructed to overlook Florida law and either (a) demand that feeding tube be replaced or (b) return the custody of Married 41-year old Woman Back To Parents.

Too numerous to mention.

Number of Republican Congressmen who knew better but still told C-SPAN, Fox News and parents of Married 41-year old Woman that Judges will "pay" for following instructions written out in Federal Law concerning Terri Schiavo.

Too numerous to mention.

Number of Presidents who thought that they had an issue on Terri Schiavo but have found instead that they have ceded both the argument and the power to Congress, and in order to get that power back will discover over the next several weeks that maybe it is useful to have an independent federal judiciary to act as a bulwark against a runaway Congress.


Number of Republican Congressmen who said that they agreed with Pope John Paul II all the way down the line.

Too numerous to mention.

Number of Supreme Court justices who cited non American laws as a reason to limit death penalty to 16 and 17 year olds.


Number of Supreme Court justices who probably decided this death penalty case the way Pope John Paul II might have.


Number of Republican Congressman who said that they agreed with Pope John Paul II all the way down the line seeking the impeachment of "runaway" Supreme Court justice who probably decided this death penalty case the way Pope John Paul II might have.

More and more every day.

We want a judiciary that does what?

If we want a Judiciary that reflects Red State values, they don't get any red statier than the 11th Circuit that refused to overturn the Florida judges.

If we want a Judiciary that reflects the culture of life as Pope John Paul II defined it, then we don't run around threatening to impeach Justices who see things the way he might have.

If we want a Judiciary that does what the Congress orders it to do:


If we want a Judiciary that does nothing but reflect the will of the people as it manifests itself from time to time:

Have a President that is elected by the majority of the voters.

Abolish the Senate so that 52 Senators representing 18 percent of the population don't get to pass any laws on anything.

If we want to set up ridiculous situations to aid our fundraising efforts:

Keep doing what you've been doing.

A Piece Of Census Trivia

"52 Senators represent 18% of the population."

According to the April 2000 census , the population of the United States (not including Washington D.C.) 280,849,847

Total Population of 24 most heavily populated states (California to Colorado)230,938,671

Total Population of 26 least heavily populated states (Kentucky to Wyoming)

That is 82% to 18%

When you hear about filibusters and nuclear options over the next several weeks -- I don't know whether this raw numbers argument will come up.

But it should.

If Senators representing 18% of the people can claim victory in the Senate:

It doesn't sound like the will of the people to me.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Bush's Era of Good Feelings

I can't sleep because of the exciting anticipation of the day ahead -- in which I am expecting a delightful break in my mid-life crisis -- I will write more about it if it comes to pass.

In the meantime, in an act of shameless self-promotion, and intemperate finger-pointing, I am republishing my December 31, 2004 posting, written on a day where I think everyone else had something better to do.

I see a lot of blogs are publishing quarterly reports.

I prefer to just put out what I said then, and see how it is holding water.

Bush's Era of Good Feelings

The fact is that most people trust that W- will, all-in-all, do the right thing. I believe that the trust is misplaced, but my viewpoint lost the election. I think the trust is based, in part, on the fact that people still see this as a liberal government, a high-tax welfare state, a Gomorrah surrounded by two oceans, and that the Republican Party is just a corrective, a pruning against excesses, until the "FemiNazis" return.

But ---

From the time of FDRs election to LBJ's election --- 9 elections. 7 Democratic victories, 2 victories for a Republican (Eisenhower) who wasn't really a Republican.

From the time of Nixon's election to the time of Bush's re-election --- 10 elections, 7 Republican victories, 3 victories for Democrats (Carter, Clinton) who were Democrats in name only.

Any real opposition to anything Bush will do between now and Labor Day 2006, when the Congressional elections kick in, and Bush will become a lame duck, will have to be made by Republicans. This is Bush's Era of Good Feeling, and no amount of pointing at the liberal media can disguise the fact that the liberal media has not influenced an election in a very, very, very, very, very long time.

In the meantime, Democrats have to assist those Republicans who believe in the Constitution. I get a lot of flak when I say that Republicans do not believe in the Constitution. They think I am using code-words. I am not. I know that Republicans believe in freedom. However, as I have said many times before, it is my contention that a critical mass of conservatives, the movement conservatives that are in charge of the government and will be in full power over the next 21 months, do not believe that the Constitution is the single, most important vehicle for preserving that freedom. They are dead-in-their-tracks wrong.

To the extent that they believe in the Constitution at all, they believe in the slave-owners Constitution that died at Gettysburg, or they believe in the factory-owners Constitution that died on Black Friday. These new leaders believe that the clock should be turned back --- that the old days were better days, that they were more God-fearing days. They are wrong on every single count, including the notion that people in those times were more moral or more God-fearing than they are today. Because these people are in power, other people, including the sons and daughters of those currently in power, will live shorter, less prosperous, and less healthy lives.

It is the job of Democrats, short-term, to help those Republicans who believe in the importance of the living Constitution and the right to pray to the living God -- to insure that the United States preserves them both, and keeps damage from the political tsunami to follow to a minimum.

It is the job of Democrats, long-term, to ignore those who say that it is passe to support a Democratic Party whose primary purpose is to help working Americans work in dignity, and to help more-and-more people realize the American Dream.

If the Republican Party is stuck in 1863, if it stuck in 1929, the Democratic Party can surely be stuck in 1964.

My own wrinkle, and there is nothing new to it, although it is rare in today's Democratic Party, and which comes across more clearly in other things I have written in 2004 , is that the American promise of freedom, as set forth in the Constitution, in the Declaration of Independence, in the Gettysburg Address, in the Four Freedoms, is exceptional.

Freedom is, as George Bush likes to say, God's gift to everyone.

American Freedom, as set forth in the Constitution, and lived in this New Jerusalem, is not. It takes muscle to preserve it, and people living elsewhere simply do not get it, and cannot get it unless they are living here. A Democratic Party that is not taking its cues from the American Experience, and the American Experience only, a Democratic Party that turns a blind-eye to the nature of American Exceptionalism, the American Exceptionalism has a radically liberal view of the freedom of the working person to speak, read, pray, travel, and yes, to defend their own property, and maintain their own privacy, as he or she chooses, is going to find that America will turn a blind eye to it.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

A Living Will Would Not Have Made A Difference

In the middle of all of what went on last week, I asked Would A Living Will Have Made A Difference? .

I could not see how the people arguing for Terri Schiavo, in the manner they were arguing, could have possibly been deterred by a living will.

Andrew Sullivan agrees , linking Eric Cohen's article in the Weekly Standard.

Sullivan's money quote:

"My "what if?" is a real one. And the theocon right has answered it. They want an end to the "autonomy regime." They have gone from saying that a pregnant mother has no autonomy over her own body because another human being is involved to saying that a person has no ultimate autonomy over her own body at all. These are the stakes. The very foundation of modern freedom - autonomy over one's own physical body - is now under attack. And if a theocon government won't allow you control over your own body, what else do you have left?"

Friday, April 01, 2005

The Binding of Terri Schiavo

You know I love Bob Dylan, so in this most difficult of times, I will quote him again.

God said to Abraham
"Kill Me A Son"
Abe said to God
"Man, You Must Be Putting Me On."

Actually, no. In the version I read, Abraham said nothing at all. God asked Abraham to kill his beloved son, so Abraham binded Issac in the wilderness, and rose up his arm to slay him. The Lord sent an angel to stop the killing.

And most of the Rabbis say that Abraham had proved his love of the Lord by obeying his command. The Rabbis point out that the Lord was testing Abraham's willingness to follow the Lord. In the end the child was not in danger. Of course, it's easy to say that now. And it doesn't mean the Lord won't end your trial with a different result. How do you deal with your trial, and it will surely come? How do you live after you have succeeded or failed?

Some of the other Rabbis, and one of them must have taught me, make this contradictory point. Certainly, the Lord had Abraham's back through all his remaining days, but the Lord never spoke directly to Abraham again. They were once so chatty, and now, nothing.

These Rabbis say that the Lord was disappointed in Abraham. He was disappointed to think that Abraham thought that God was so mean-spirited that He would really expect a man to kill his most beloved child. That the Lord wanted people to blindly follow Him into senseless paths.

Abraham fought with God sometimes. He was able to convince the Lord to spare Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of 10. Of course, they couldn't find 10. But Abraham did manage to get Lot and Mrs. Lot out of there. Too bad Mrs. Lot couldn't hear the Lord as well as others.

Moses argued with God all the time. Sometimes God relented. All of the Prophets that I know of fought with the Lord. They were all in relationship with the Lord, and all relationships have their rocky paths.

The Lord of my understanding is comfortable with the complexity of adults, and comfortable with the knowledge and the wisdom that man has accumulated. Not everything is permissible, the Flood, the fire next time, the earth swallows you up, you develop leprosy, the children of bad seed come to bad ends, but God is too complex for the juvenile mind.

The Bible is too rough for Hollywood treatment. It is not even a "PG-13" book. It has an "R"-rating, as anyone who has ever read the Book of Judges can easily tell you.

If Terri Schiavo had any love for her husband at all, and I say she must have, she must have known that loneliness is an extraordinarily heavy burden for a young man to carry forever.

It is inconceivable to me that she would have wanted her husband to carry that sort of burden for the endless years. It is not possible that she had that little love for her husband. I can not believe that she was that selfish or that jealous.

That does not mean that Michael doesn't have to answer. But he does not have to answer to us.

That does not mean that Michael made the right decision for Terri.

That does mean that you can not disqualify Michael Schiavo from loving Terri, from being a good husband or a good guardian simply because he was unable to act in an inhuman fashion for decades on end. Because he could not carry a burden that you would never dare impose on yourself or on anyone you loved. Because he could not carry a burden that the Schindlers did not impose on themselves, but demanded of him. That the cheating pols suddenly posing as preachers demanded of him.

Because he could not carry a burden that I do not believe that Terri would have demanded of him.

Otherwise, what sort of love are we talking about?

What sort of God are we talking about who lacks such knowledge of his people and how they love?

What sort of God are we talking about who would instantly disqualify a human for being human?

A God who expects us, in service of Him, to turn our backs on so much that we know to be true?

A God who expects us to obey senseless demands? Like the God who stopped talking to Abraham for putting his God before his family?

That pre-supposes no answer. Now that we are at the end of the beginning, it is hard for me to imagine anyone wanting to live like a vegetable for decades on end. Even for the sake of her parents.

It is also hard for me to imagine that anyone would write a living will that says "Sure, deprive me of food and water for 14 days."

These are adult decisions. And I think that God wants us to be adults in dealing with them.

We speak as if the word of the Lord and the lessons of the Lord are G-rated tales, like something out of Disney, with only G-rated lessons. Or worse still, we believe that we do understand, but think that the neighbors are too stupid to comprehend anything but nursery rhymes.

And as long as we do that, we will keep binding our Terri Schiavos on the crossroads of senseless paths before the One we say is a God of Peace and a God of Love, but of whom we seem to expect something different. We seem to believe in an implacable and unforgiving God.

But to me, today, God must be looking around silently for a single adult in the room.

Rest in peace, Terri. And may the days ease the pain for the Schiavos, for the Schindlers, and for all of us.