Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The First Time Ever!

Starting tonight, at 8:00 PM Eastern time, 7:00 PM Central time, etc., people all over the world (not just Americans and Canadians) will be able to turn on their TV sets, mobile devices, computers, and so on, and experience something unprecedented:

They'll be able to watch live coverage of a World Series involving baseball's Chicago Cubs.  

Last Saturday night, Joe Maddon's club beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-0, to win this year's National League Championship Series, four games to two
...and, at long last, snare the team's first NL flag since 1945. (That year's World Series- won by the Detroit Tigers, four games to three, could've been the first time a television network brought viewers a Fall Classic...if a date almost four years earlier hadn't gained infamy and, among other things, halted the progress American TV had been making.) 

Well now, here in 2016, the Cubs- after losing National League pennant series in 1984, 1989, 2003, and 2015- have to push the American League's best team, the Cleveland Indians, out of the way to grab major league baseball's biggest prize for the first time since 1908.

In 1908, you couldn't even turn on your radio and thrill to the Cubbies' four-games-to-one triumph over that earlier edition of the Tigers. America's first radio station- KDKA in Pittsburgh, PA- was twelve years away from signing on for the first time. (To follow MLB back then, you had to trust your local newspaper.) 

Speaking of trust...I had more faith in Terry Francona's team to get to this year's World Series than was the case with Chicago's NL squad. 

Francona, after serving as the Philadelphia Phillies' field manager from 1997 to 2000 (285-363 and Philly good for no better than third in the NL East in 1998 and 1999), got the Boston Red Sox' job in 2004...and took them right to the top of the sport, guiding his new team to that famous four-game WS sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals to end that 86-year drought between World Series titles.

Boston proved it all was no fluke by going back to the Fall Classic in 2007, when the Red Sox swept the Colorado Rockies...one of the fourteen teams formed in the majors after the Cubs appeared in what turned out to be the Cubs' final World Series of the 20th Century. 

The Red Sox were Francona's gig through 2011 (he left Beantown 744-552 and with those two Commissioner's Trophies); two years later, the Indians hired him...and he was named AL Manager of the Year after he guided Cleveland [the team he played on in 1988; his dad, John (better known as "Tito"), was with the Tribe from 1959 to 1964] to one of the two AL wild-card slots.   

And so, while the 2016 Indians were sailing past the Toronto Blue Jays, four games to one (the clincher was a 3-0 win), to get their first AL championship since 1997, I kept looking at this year's NLCS- and how the Cubs blew NLCS leads in 1984 and 2003- and thinking: "I hope the Cubs win it...but I've got the feeling Dave Roberts' club's gonna pull it off."

The Dodgers didn't pull it off. 

This time, the team with MLB's second-oldest current park (the oldest facility in the NL by 47 years) came through.  

Maddon, like Francona, knows a thing or two about transforming a hard-luck baseball team.

After two interim spots with the California/Anaheim Angels (1996 and 1999; combined mark: 27-24), Maddon got hired by the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2006. Two years later, that club knocked the Devil out of its nickname, changed its team colors, and...won it all in the AL. (Okay, the 2008 Fall Classic didn't work out for the Blue and Gold; the Phils stopped them, four games to one.)

But Maddon won the 2008 AL Manager of the Year award, duplicated that in 2011, and left the Tampa-St. Pete area with a record of 754-705 in nine seasons in charge of the local American League team- the only winning record by a Tampa Bay skipper thus far.

Tom Ricketts and his team's general manager, Theo Epstein (the same Theo Epstein who helped the Red Sox get the 2004 and 2007 World Series titles as their GM), took a look at Maddon's record...and had him catch a plane to Chicago in time for the 2015 campaign.

Joe guided the Cubbies to a wild-card spot in his new league, an NL Division Series triumph over the Cards, and...was named NL Manager of the Year last year. 

And now, the Chicago Cubs are getting ready to take on a team that hasn't won a Fall Classic since 1948 (just the second WS berth ever for the Tribe; the first was in 1920)...and since 1948, got to the Series just three other times in the 20th Century: 1954, 1995, and, of course, 1997. 

Anyway...it should be an interesting World Series for 2016. 

Okay...that's a real understatement.

Especially if you're a Cubs fan.  

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The 84-Year Itch

I took a look at the opinion page in this past Sunday's Omaha World-Herald...and was stunned out of my wits. 

Then a smile crept onto my face. 

The paper's editorial staff decided to go ahead and endorse Hillary Rodham Clinton to be America's 45th president.

I don't know how long Nebraska's largest newspaper has made presidential endorsements, but I do know this: It's only the second time since the Great Depression began this month in 1929 that the World-Herald thought a Democrat would be better off calling the shots from the Oval Office than a Republican. 

In fact, the fact that Wall Street laid that egg on 10-29-1929 led the OWH's then editors to tell their readers that it was time to kick Republican Herbert Hoover out of the White House and put Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt in there for 1932. (Hoover- who died on this very date in 1964- was America's commerce secretary from 1921 to 1928; some historians feel he was the best chief this country's Commerce Department ever had.)

In the intervening 84 years- with one exception- the World-Herald went strictly with GOP nominees. (The paper's editors didn't endorse a presidential nominee in 1964.) 

When it came to 2016, editor-in-chief Terry Kroeger joined the rest of the editorial staff in biting their fingernails over Endorsement Time. 

They could've decided to sit out Endorsement Time.

Instead, Kroeger and his people made Clinton their choice...albeit with some trepidation. Sunday's editorial cited the fact that many Americans are still ticked off about Clinton's private email server from her days (2009-13) in charge of this country's State Department, all those deleted emails, and her handling of the 9-11-2012 attack at the US Embassy in Benghazi, Libya.

Kroeger and Co. even cited some Americans' anxiety over HRC stumping for a single-payer health-care system, American style. 

The 10-16-2016 editorial, nevertheless, said that giving 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to Donald Trump just wouldn't cut it. 

Trump's alienated too many people (especially those who aren't male, Caucasian, professing Christian, heterosexual, and/or wealthy), failed to show a real grasp of current events, and repeatedly shown a bent for lashing out whenever he's attacked.

Et cetera.

The World-Herald top brass gave Clinton the nod over her vast governmental and political experience...from her days as Arkansas' first lady all the way to her 2016 US presidential bid (her second one ever, of course). 

And the paper's editors thought that kind of experience would make the difference in a world whose most closely-watched land (yep, this one) has a debt of nearly $20 billion and whose Middle East region is once again a ticking time bomb.

To sum it all up, Kroeger and his staff said that the first lady-turned-US senator from New York-turned US secretary of state needs to show she's a uniter once she gets the job that her husband Bill once had (1993-2001).

I think she'll do it...as long as we help out.

And I congratulate the OWH staff for endorsing HRC instead of DJT.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Just in Case This Week's Debate Didn't Convince You...

First of all, she wants to get America's multimillionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share to invest in the country they loudly proclaim they love. (Her solution: A "Fair Share Surcharge" on their taxes.) 

She wants to use the proceeds from that surcharge to fund the nation's ambitious investments.

She wants to simplify and cut taxes for small businesses so that those firms can hire and grow.  

She'd like to launch a $7.5 billion fund for new federal-and-state partnerships so that local leaders can cook up programs to treat and prevent drug addiction...whether the drug is alcohol, meth, cocaine, marijuana, or anything in between.

She's got a 100-days jobs plan that emphasizes repairing America's infrastructure, bringing more manufacturing jobs to these shores, aiding small businesses, propping up research and technology, and making clean energy more of a reality for these fifty states.  

Speaking of clean energy...she's proposed a $60 billion program to not only promote clean energy, but also to cut carbon pollution.

She wants 500 million new solar panels up and in use by 1-20-2021.

She's out to give America's college students a debt-free experience.

What's more, she wants to make that college experience a safer one...by giving this country's institutions of higher learning more of the tools they'll need to end campus sexual assault. 

She wants $2 billion invested annually for research to prevent, treat, and- by 2025- find a cure for Alzheimer's Disease. 

She vows to end the heinous 2010 Corporations United (oops, I mean Citizens United) decision...and to get dark money out of US politics once and for all.

She'll vow to help the coalition air campaign against the Islamic State, increase support for local Arab and Kurdish forces, and use diplomacy to end Syria's civil war. 

She'll also work hand in hand with European intelligence officials to spot and stop those groups and individuals who've been funding and enabling terrorism. 

She wants a meaningful, healthy dialog with America's Muslims...a far cry from the stance taken by her biggest rival for the top spot in America's government. 

On top of that, she thinks it's a great idea to let the FBI stop gun sales to suspected terrorists...and she thinks it's cool to give the country's first responders all the help they need to fight terrorism on these shores.

There's a lot more where this came from (including said nominee's Website).

I'm going with the nominee who's got more government experience than the other three nominees out there for 2016 combined.  

Take it from a man who started 2016 going for US Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) as the Democrats' presidential nominee.

America's much better off going with Hillary Jane Rodham Clinton as the replacement for fellow Democrat Barack Obama.  

Don't believe all the lies you've heard about the former first lady/US senator/US secretary of state. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Moral Obligation

He's disparaged Mexicans, labeling them as murderers, rapists, and drug runners.

He's called African-American people lazy...and said "they can't help it."

He's talked about banning (or at least curtailing) immigration to America, and he doesn't want Muslims to travel to these United States "until we can figure out what to do with them."

He still wants to build that wall along the US-Mexico border. 

His weapons of first choice: Nuclear bombs. 

He's made dirty, rotten, filthy remarks about women of all colors. To say he's got utter contempt for women is an understatement.

He poked fun at a reporter (Serge Kovaleski of The New York Times) who's surviving cerebral palsy.  

He's made it clear that if you disagree with him in any way, shape, or form (especially if you're a news reporter), you'll suffer dire consequences. (Just ask the folks at The Washington Post. They're not allowed to interview him anymore.)

He still insists Barack Obama (who's got the job our subject is after) wasn't even born here in the US...despite planeloads of evidence showing otherwise.

He's got a cozy relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin...and thinks it's cool for the KGB to spy on Americans.

He's suggested that his chief 2016 US presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, should be murdered by Second Amendment advocates. 

As a real-estate tycoon, he's filed for bankruptcy six times and been sued 3,000 times. 

He's too darned chicken to disclose his income tax returns. 

He's been known to shortchange his rank-and-file employees and to stiff his contractors. What's more, he wants to see the nation's minimum wage lowered.  

All along the campaign trail, he's incited violence...time and time and tiresome time again. 

He's got too enormous an ego to compromise, to delegate...to actually do the job he's seeking. 

With his authoritarian bent, he isn't really running for the presidency. He's running to be the nation's first dictator.

He doesn't give a crap about the country's rank-and-file citizens. It's all about HIM, HIM, HIM. 

His whole campaign has been built on bigotry. 

With him in front of the Republican Party, the GOP continues to represent the biggest threat to any hope for democracy in these United States.

He's been treating his whole campaign as if it were another season of The Apprentice. 

The bottom line:

We Americans have a moral obligation to make DOGGONE SURE Donald John Trump doesn't give the next inaugural address.  

After all, the whole world is watching us.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Enjoying the Ride

That's exactly what a packed house at Omaha's Rose Blumkin Performing Arts Center did this past Sunday.

Doing the driving (courtesy of the River City Theatre Organ Society): Donnie Rankin, the 27-year-old Ohioan who's been wowing theater-organ audiences all over the world for the last nine years; and the Pathfinders, that award-winning barbershop chorus from Fremont, NE.

When Donnie climbed aboard the Rose Theater's three-manual, 21-rank Wurlitzer pipe organ (built in 1927) to deliver Busby Berkeley's "All's Fair in Love and War," he became the youngest performer to ever do a Rose Theater RCTOS concert. [He made club history a little after 3:00 PM (Central time).]

This year's program was titled "From Broadway to Hollywood," and Donnie made that message stick right off the bat. His next tune was George Gershwin's "They Can't Take That Away from Me," from the 1937 movie "Shall We Dance." And that was followed up by a number Michel Legrand and the husband-and-wife team of Alan and Marilyn Bergman penned 32 years later for a movie called "The Happy Ending:" "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" 

Donnie showed his sense of humor right from the start, riffing from time to time about the Rose organ rising from (or getting lowered into) the pit: "I'd better not move to my left, or I'll fall into the abyss." 

Speaking of movies...after Donnie played "What Are You Doing," he gave a little demonstration of just what a theater organ was supposed to do for a silent film. (That's why Robert Hope-Jones developed the instrument in the first place; the folks at the Wurlitzer Company originally termed these products as "unit orchestras.") 

We then got to see- and hear Donnie cue- "One Week," one of Buster Keaton's early (1920) silents. (Buster was trying to use the title span of time to put up a prefab house, and...well, uh...)

Donnie R. closed out the first half of the 2016 RCTOS-Rose extravaganza with "Petite Waltz." 

When he came back out for Part Two, the man from the Akron area fired up two disparate selections: "The King Kong March" (from the 1933 movie) and good ol' "Take Five." (The 1958 Paul Desmond tune that put Dave Brubeck on the map was my favorite number in the whole show this past Sunday.)

Then came the Pathfinder Chorus.

Jacob Ritter's 90-member a cappella group- one of the twenty best barbershop choruses in the whole world- lived up to the billing and more, stirring up the crowd with six numbers. [The standouts were "Good Vibrations" (that's right, that "Good Vibrations") and a medley consisting of this country's five service-academy songs.] 

The barbershoppers' sixth number was actually a Pathfinders-Rankin collaboration that also celebrated America.

After the Pathfinders received thunderous applause, Donnie ran the concert's anchor leg...where he delivered "Over the Rainbow," the tune the American Film Institute determined was the greatest of the 100 greatest film songs. 

Donnie closed it out by playing a "Star Trek" medley to celebrate the franchise's 50th anniversary. (That's right- on Thursday, 9-8-1966, Americans got their first opportunity to turn on their TV sets and watch NBC's new sci-fi series about James Kirk and his crew. And three months and two days later, the Beach Boys took their "Good Vibrations" to the top of Billboard's US pop chart.) 

Well, actually...the "Star Trek" tribute didn't close it out.

Donnie came back to knock out Milton DeLugg's "Rollercoaster," used in another old TV show, CBS' What's My Line? 

In all, "From Broadway to Hollywood" clocked in at about two hours and a half.

And the ride was so enjoyable the 150 minutes just flew right by. 

Thanks, Donnie! Thanks, Pathfinders!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Northwest Iowa, Haven't You Had Enough?

I was born in Iowa, raised in Iowa, and educated in Iowa.

And I'm ashamed that US Rep. Steve King (R-IA) was born in the Hawkeye State, too.

Matter of fact, I'm heavily ashamed.   

I remember when he decided he wanted to go out for a seat in this country's House of Representatives. 

The year was 2002, and King was seeking the seat that, at the time, was held by fellow Republican Tom Latham. (Redistricting sent Latham to head for another Iowa Congressional district to fight to keep his place in the US House.) 

The reconfigured 5th District- the prize King was looking for- included Council Bluffs. (Meanwhile, Latham ended up having to fight another Republican incumbent, Greg Ganske, for the right to represent Iowa's 4th District.) 

At the time, I read an Omaha World-Herald article that talked about one of King's early campaign stops...a church in Council Bluffs. In the article, it talked about how some African-American people were standing in the back of the same room where the then Iowa state senator was campaigning.

Storm Lake native King asked: "Is this the back of the bus?" 

I thought to myself: "Jim...can you say 'red flag?'"  

King (a state senator since 1997) went on to top three other GOP hopefuls in the 5th District's House primary; on 11-5-2002, he crushed his Democratic opponent, a Council Bluffs city council member named Paul Shomshor, 62%-38%. 

SAK grabbed every county in the district except Pottawattamie...the one that contains Council Bluffs. 

He went on to win the next four elections by landslides, winning reelection during that eight-year period by an average margin of 26.5%. In 2008 and 2010, King snared all 32 counties in his district. 

Then came 2012.

Because of the 2010 Census, a House seat was taken away from the Hawkeye State. (Iowa's population grew by 4% between 2000 and 2010- not nearly enough of an increase to allow the state to keep five places in the 435-member House of Reps.)

While the new 3rd District (Southwest Iowa) resulted in Latham having to fight Democratic incumbent Leonard Boswell for the right to represent it, the reshaped 4th District (Northwest Iowa) placed King in competition with Christie Vilsack, the former Iowa first lady who moved back to the state to try to kick King out of Congress. 

King went forth, 53%-45%; then in 2014, he mowed down Jim Mowrer, 62%-38%. 

You know what hurt about King's win over Vilsack?

Six months after launching his sixth term of office, the man who calls Kiron, IA home popped off about proposed immigration legislation: "For every [undocumented immigrant] who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds- and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert."

I cringed when I found out ol' Kingie said this.

*It wasn't the first time I cringed over something King said or did as a US representative. Three years earlier, King defended the use of racial profiling by law-enforcement officials: "It's not wrong to use race or other indicators for the sake of identifying people that are violating the law." 

*In an early (2005) House vote, King voted against the $52 billion package earmarked for victims of Hurricane Katrina. His excuse: "Whatever happened to fiscal responsibility?" 

I'll bet the next time a major atmospheric disaster hits Northwest Iowa, Steven Arnold King- if he's still in the House- will be the first to scream for money to repair the damage (especially if a tornado levels Kiron).  

*A lot of the information going into this post came from Wikipedia; because of wikipedia.org, I found out that King has a Dixie Swastika (oops...I mean Confederate flag) on his office desk. 

Didn't somebody tell this man that Iowa was part of the Union during this country's Civil War? 

*King's one of the many, many reasons the Republicans can't draw Latino/a/x American voters...thanks to remarks like this about HUD Secretary Julian Castro: "What does Julian Castro know? Does he know that I'm as Hispanic and Latino as he?"

Yeah, Steven.

And I'm Spongebob Squarepants.  

*And how about Steve King's recent efforts to prevent Harriet Tubman's profile from replacing that of Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill?
In trying to block this country's Treasury Department from modifying the currency, King called the attempt to put Tubman on the $20 "sexist" and "racist."

To him, it's not about the Underground Railroad's conductor. "It's about keeping the picture on the $20. Y'know? Why would you want to change that? I am a conservative. I like to keep what we have." 

It's a good thing King was in high school in 1964 (the year he turned fifteen)...when Benjamin Franklin's profile on the half dollar was replaced with John F. Kennedy's. (But then, King probably wrote a letter to the editor of his high-school paper to complain about the change.)

*If you're not cringing along with me right now, maybe this is the tip of the iceberg for you: King's equally infamous remarks delivered at last week's Cleveland Hatefest (oops...I mean Republican National Convention). 

Iowa's longest-tenured current US rep appeared on MSNBC's coverage of this year's GOP confab. He was part of a panel moderated by Chris Hayes (of All In fame); Esquire columnist Charles Pierce was there, too.

Pierce talked about how the 2016 Republican assembly could be the last one where "old White people would command the Republican Party's attention." 

The message made King bristle, so he said: "I'd ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you are talking about? Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?" 

Well, if this gun-rights advocate from Northwest Iowa had calmed down for a little bit, he would've realized the Chinese gave the world gunpowder. And he would've come to understand that we use Arabic numerals (that's right, 0 through 9) in our everyday lives.

Plus, King would've come to dig that the corn harvester (what's Iowa without corn?) came from the mind of Henry Blair, a Marylander who came up with this invention in 1834. 

Blair was the first African American (or one of the first) to receive a patent after coming up with an invention. 

And all that's just scratching the surface. 

So, there you have it. If you live in Sioux City, LeMars, Spencer, Storm Lake, Spirit Lake, or some other community in Northwest Iowa, ask yourself what Steven A. King has done for your House district...other than keeping it in the headlines. 

Are you really proud to get "represented" by the man InsideGov labeled as the least productive member of Congress? (What legislation of his has King managed to get out of committee?)

What keeps you voting for this proven bigot?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Real Pain

These last sixteen days have basically been the pits for me.

I'm still in pain...even if it's not the physical kind.

First and foremost, I'm grieving the loss of a friend from my Adult Children of Alcoholics days, Rosemary "Billi" Whelton (12-24-1944/7-21-2016), who went on to become a Great Plains Ragtime Society member. 

Here's how she looked in 1963, the year she graduated from Omaha Cathedral High School.

I really loved Billi's sense of humor...and her generosity.

Next, I'm hurting inside over the consequences of a corporate, job-related decision. (I'll just leave it at that.)

And I'm still unhappy about how this year's Ragtime to Riches Festival went. Billi didn't get to attend it, because she spent the bulk of 2016 in hospice after being diagnosed with the cancer that ultimately cost the former smoker and recovering alcoholic her life. 

On the run-up to R to R 12.0 (in fact, an hour before the event's workshop got started), I took heat over missing this year's World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest and Festival...the first one ever held in Mississippi after the previous 41 took place in Illinois.

My absence from this year's Memorial Day weekend get-together was labeled a "disappointment."


I emailed several other OTPP wheelers-dealers to tell them I couldn't make the trip this year.

To repeat: I'm to undergo cataract surgery in my left eye later this year (or early in 2017).

Before the surgery can begin, I need to pay the $165 I owe for the work done on that same left eye (12-14-2015) to repair its retina...and cough up an additional $1,500 before the clinic that did the retina work can touch my left eyeball again.

Yes, I've got health insurance through the place where I work...but it's useless in a case such as this.

It takes at least two weeks for people to recover from cataract surgery. I've got two weeks- ten working days- left here in 2016 to use as paid vacation time.

Because of the impending surgery, this year's personal paid vacation time is spoken and accounted for.

All of this on top of the University of Mississippi charging more than the Old-Time Music Preservation Association (the previous OTPP steward group) did not only to attend the contest, but also to enter its events.

Here's my question for those who've criticized my decision not to try to come to Oxford, MS, for OTPP 42.0:


You tell me.