Saturday, December 12, 2009

An Open Letter to Tiger Woods

Mr. Woods:

Your recent difficulties and admissions have pained me -- not because of the particular actions, but because of the nature of the reaction that has been triggered.

Yes, you did a series of bad things. Violating the bounds of marriage -- particularly such a public one (despite your best efforts) -- is not to be taken lightly. However, in a very significant way, either it or something that would would be similarly perceived was just bound to happen.

You began to become a star when the mere act of walking was still a novelty. Your progress through the ranks of junior and amateur golf is the stuff of legend. The record is well known. Soon after, not long into merely your third decade you leapt upon the scene as not only an accomplished professional in your chosen field, but as a singular figure, a brand -- a brand at the dawn of the age of serious personal branding.

And through all this you were hothoused. You were described by both your late father and others as "the chosen one" from whom much is expected. A level of maturity befitting one much older was not just expected but assumed. And you played the game, quite brilliantly in fact. The indiscretions of youth? Those things most of us do at one time or another, those small indiscretions from which we learn how to conduct ourselves over the course of our lives? Nope. No time.

Single mindedly, you pursued your goals rapidly, so rapidly, ascending the ranks of the best who ever played the game and almost single handedly raising the profile of the game (and with it its possible rewards) on an international basis.

But living in that bubble has its consequences. You were on a fairy tale path. You gave much of yourself and received rewards that would not have been possible in any previous era. And with those rewards came a certain complacency about the way of the world, about the rockier path that most must take to get where they're going, if they get there at all. It's understandable.

Now as you're in your fourth decade, the path to the historical top of your profession secure if not assured it seems you have fallen off the rather narrow path that got you there. Indeed, when the path has been so long narrow, the diversions from it are likely to be great.

As both a star and a brand the opportunities are ample. Being appreciated by millions is one thing, being "appreciated" -- and having the consistent opportunity to be "appreciated" in a deeply personal way -- is a more deeply human emotional need. And, there came a point, I imagine, where saying "no" got old. I can't imagine doing that myself, but at the same time, I can't imagine being a consistent position of having to make that decision.

You say you're taking an indefinite leave from the game. I think that's a bad idea. The game is your office. The pursuit of the next major, the next championship, the next hole, the next swing is what you do.

Leaving the promotional stuff behind for a while? Absolutely. The corporate outings? Yes. The various appearances for this or that. No doubt.

But not the game. If you're serious about this, it seems the two places you need to be spending time are at home, repairing the relationships with your family, and on the course -- the place that has given you all the opportunities you have.

Devoting yourself to those two things will give you the chance to make up for the fact that you never really grew up in a human sense. Understand that I don't say this in condemnation. Not at all.

You just never had the time.

At not yet 34 years of age, now you do.

I sincerely wish you the best of luck in all endeavors.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Horns? Really?

Quite amazingly, there are some people in this world, after sinking about as low as a person can go, suddenly acquire the ability to go lower. Here's this tidbit:

Then there's Barry Lynn, alleged "Christian minister," whose stock in trade is to denounce any mention of religion anyplace, anytime. Look, I'm a Christian minister, but even I have to admit that the sight of a kindergartner praying is terrifying to most folks. (The first person to post Barry Lynn's bar mitzvah photos or birth announcement (mazel tov!) wins a free copy of my latest book...
So let's see, since Mr. Lynn is not the type who would be part of, say, an Inquisition, he must be damn Jew or something -- is that what you're trying to say, Ms Coulter? (If it weren't for the fact that I'm reasonably sure that there's at least one person out there who's reading her screed and saying, "Yup, that's right. Uh-huh." I might not be so offended. But I am.)

Ms Coulter, I implore you to attempt an action that's generally believed to be physically impossible. But please do try.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Time to Kowtow!!!!

I am so damn tired about the perceived need to kowtow to the people who explicitly make their money off other people's labor.

Yes, such folks serve a necessary function in our economy -- indispensable, even. But still...

Stock markets are bad indicators of the overall health of an economy. Essentially they are at their highest when two things occur in tandem: Growing corporate revenues and growing corporate margins. The first of these does indicate health; the later, not so much. The two times when the percentage of corporate revenue that went to the bottom line (profits) were the highest? 1929...and 2007.

...and another thing: When the usual suspects complain about how much of the tax bill the top 1% shoulders, why is it that they don't complain about the amount of the overall stuff they have?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Paranoid Style in American Politics -- always worth a read.

This article, first published in the November, 1964 edition of Harper's Magazine remains as timely today as on the day it was written.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Looking Backwards -- and Forwards....

Though it is clear that we need -- and will likely continue to need -- some significant government spending in order to avoid the direst of potential consequences, that is at best a medium term fix. What really needs to be repaired (at least once we get past neglcted bridges and tunnels and roads and schools and all the rest) is the way the fruits of labor are distributed within our society.

Consider the loud, triumphant headlines much of the past decade, for example: "Productivity rises again!" "Corporate profits up!" Now step back for a moment and consider what this really means. We'll start with productivity. Let's see. When productivity rises, it means that more "stuff" is produced for a lower cost. Naturally, some of this can be attributed to the efficiencies created by investments in technology, but almost certainly not all.

No, there's something else at work here. 

Real wages have effectively remained static at best over the course of the last several decades -- all during a time when the economy, in aggregate terms, has grown rather significantly. Even worse, the "real wages" mentioned above are aggregates themselves; for many within our society, to have kept up -- or even close to it -- would have been a great improvement.

Now what has increased greatly over that time? Two things, mostly: Asset values in general (even when you take the last several months into account, for example, the overall price of housing in real terms has increased greatly). The kinds of things that enable the kind of class mobility that is so loudly and often said to be at the root of the "American Dream", things like healthcare, college tuition and the like.

No wonder we're leveraged to the hilt as a society -- and no wonder the blip in home values has brought us down so low, so fast.

It's really simple. When an ever larger proportion of the overall income of a country is placed in ever fewer hands it can't all go back into the economy. So it goes into assets, raising the demand for same, and hence raising their relative valuation. Since homes are the one kind of such asset that a significant percentage of people own -- and the only thing that kept up with the expansion of the overall economy (as opposed to wages) -- people will tap that asset to maintain a lifestyle. And then....

"Creative destruction" is the oft-heard term, something that is important for a capitalist system to keep on developing. And it's true. But, just as it is healthy for the growth of aggregates within an economy, the insecurity it produces among people is destructive. And, at a moment like this one, where unemployment rates are rising, the natural (and correct) inclination is to rein everything in, which, of course feeds upon itself. Given the dominant business philosophy of the recent decades, one where labor is a necessary evil at best, all this is unsurprising.

There's plenty of work to be done. Increasingly, there are plenty of people to do it. Unless and until those people find themselves in a situation where there's some reasonable confidence that they can make ends meet, put a little away and be able to do so on a consistent basis, every little bump in the road has the potential of turning into a large-scale calamity.

It's time to renew that American Dream -- again for the many, not just the few.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Two Commandments

It's pretty simple.

1. Be a mensch.
2. Don't be a chazer.

The rest? The rest we'll get to. 

Curse of the Bourbons

They still don't get it. And it amazes me.

I'm watching Gov. Sanford of South Carolina continuing to spew the same old line about how government should tighten its belt when things get a little bit tough economically. It's as if the kind of social spending that states (typically not exactly the most progressive of institutions; in general they can't be, it's too easy to move across state borders) engage in is some kind of luxury. You know all that over-the-top stuff: Libraries. Firefighters. Health clinics. 

No, as I've stated before, the way for government to behave is exactly the opposite; when things get tough it is government and only government who must step up to the plate. When things improve, that is the time to start cutting.

Explicit government for "the gots" -- coming to a state near you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Being a Fan

[A friend of mine on Facebook, posed a question about why one might be a fan of one team but not another; the following was my reply. I kind of liked it, so I reproduced it here (oh, and just for context, I'm a Yankee fan)]

Ah. What makes someone a fan of team A and not team of life's eternal questions.

For me, I think it was two things: First of all, I became aware of baseball in 1961, when there WERE no Mets. The other thing, as time went on, was the fact that the Mets were sort of the suburban team, the urban redneck team; they played way out in Queens, almost Long Island, out where city folks had run to to escape the changing demographics. It was the whole, "Well you can't go to Yankee Stadium, it's in the SOUTH BRONX!!!" thing.

Later, of course, as they became successful again (remember, they won no pennants between '64 (when I was 7) and '76 (when I was nineteen and in my senior year at Columbia) the Yankees had become a strange amalgam of NY high class and distinct urban funk while the Mets had remained, well, the Mets. The former, for many reasons was more attractive.

The Dodgers played their last game in Brooklyn right about the time I turned nine months old, 
so my only connection to them was that the greed of O'Malley had stolen what should have been a significant part of my youth -- and the soul of the place of my birth. Strangely, as I cried my way through the '63 World Series sweep, the old relatives would say, "What's wrong....the home team's winning!"

Also a quick note - both of my uncles on my mother's side, Brooklyn boys both, were Giants fans.

In early days I was a Jets fan; I liked the "upstart" nature of the AFL. Once they lost that and became more part of the Mets kind of universe, I went to the Giants.

The main thing about it, though, is that the beauty of being a sports fan is rather like the beauty of playing the game -- it's the most important thing in the world and utterly meaningless at the same time.

...but despite the fact that intellectually I know well what George Steinbrenner and now, his sons represent, the NY and the pinstripes just brings me back to first seeing them on 
the old black and white and then on the hallowed departed grounds (7/28/62) in full flesh and color against what seemed like more green than I'd ever seen...

In these times of performance enhancing drugs, billion dollar franchises and centimillionaire ballplayers can I justify it? Of course not. Fortunately, I don't have to.

I can sit back and share the same thing with my boys that my father shared with me...times at the ballpark watching some improbable occurrence or another, great performance or unimaginable blunder, times in front of televisions or by the radio either cheering for or yelling at men who can't hear you trying to do their jobs, playing a game at a level I never could -- at least if you exclude my dreams, day- or otherwise.

Does that sum it up?

Friday, February 06, 2009

Opposite behavior

I realized something. The right way for government to act in terms of spending is simple: Just do the opposite of what would be prudent for individuals! When things are good, rein it in, cut it back. When things are not so good, go to town!!!!

And it's that simple.

And some people will never get it. You know, the "a government should be run like a business" types. There's another name for them. But I won't use it here.

Shhhhh. It starts with an "R".....