Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A little of this ... and a little of that

For the the first time since I started this daily discipline of writing every morning, I sat down to do it ... and nothing came out.

Horrible feeling, that.

Right now, my world is one of two extremes. Either I could go off on a rant on a variety of different topics, or I could sing the praises of my wonderful life. There's plenty of both.

Instead, I offer these observances, with the hope that I do a better job, from hereon out, of identifying topics to approach.

So here we go ...


Someone tell me how the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is Barack Obama's fault. All we hear about (and I'm sure it's from people still smarting from the amount of heat George W. got) is how this is "Obama's Katrina."

No, it's not.

Hurricanes careen around the tropics for days, and longer than a week, before they hit the U.S. If there's a good one brewing, there's ample warning. Maybe we don't always know the exact path they ultimately take, but we know they're going to hit us somewhere.

There's a reason we have a federal government ... and it's not just to come up with ways that it doesn't have to function as a vehicle in people's lives. One of them is to prepare for, and deal with, natural disasters. If Katrina hit Miami instead of New Orleans it would have been just as devastating ... perhaps in a different way, but a disaster nonetheless.

There was no sense that the government was ready to hit the ground running once Katrina hit land. And the results were catastrophic. Whether the Bush administration wants to own that or not, the fact remains we were woefully unprepared even to do things we were capable of doing.

There was no "advance warning" about the oil well blowout, the 11 deaths that resulted from it, and the ensuing gusher into the gulf. Moreover, there's no precedent for it. At least with a hurricane, there's precedent.

And the spill is not a natural disaster (at least in the sense that it arose out of a natural set of circumstances). It is an ecological nightmare, caused by an accident that may, or may not, have been caused by the negligent of British Petrolium. That remains to be seen (a criminal investigation is about to start).

I have no problem with the Republicans holding Obama's feet to the fire on issues over which he has some degree of control. But bitching at him over this seems unnecessarily vindictive, and it's just one more indication that our government is perilously close to becoming dysfunctional.


LeBron James says the Cleveland Cavaliers have the upper hand for his services come next season. OK, then, save us all the aggravation, the used bandwidth, the imperiled trees, and the breath of thousands of sports talk show get-a-lifers and sign with them already.

Either James wants to win a championship with the Cavaliers, which may mean taking a hometown discount so that the team can also pay other players, or he wants to strike gold in New York or Chicago, where his status as an NBA god will mean money that extends beyond his contract.

Understand that should he choose the money, it doesn't make him a bad person. The shelf life of any professional athlete lasts only as long as the cartilage in his knees holds out, or bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles hold out. You can't fault athletes for fighting for every cent ... not as long as there are so many owners willing to give it up for them.

But don't be a hypocrite. If you're only in it for the money, say so. Spare us this charade of how much you want to win. Tom Brady was never hotter than he was after the 2005 Super Bowl, and he left all kinds of money on the table so the Patriots could put players around him so that they could keep winning. I doubt he'll do that this time, not at his age (33 by the time the season starts), and with one ACL already torn and rebuilt. This could be his last contract, and he's going to want to cash in.

And, of course, there will be all kinds of screeching and hollering from get-a-life fans who just seem incapable of understanding how the modern-day pro sports process works.

James is only 25. Unless he's struck down with serious injury, he has many years left. The window to win, and make himself into an NBA legend on a par with Bill Russell or Michael Jordan, is wide open. Either he chooses to do this in Cleveland, where some of the parts are already in place, or he goes to the highest bidder.

But ... he does that and he runs the risk of upsetting the balance of his new team. The New York Knicks couldn't win with Patrick Ewing because they were dysfunctional at the top. They're no less dysfunctional now.

The Bulls might be a better fit for him, but, again, how much are they going to have left after paying him? Enough to surround him with the players he needs?

I say stay with Cleveland. Jordan won six NBA titles because he was good, but also because he had Scottie Pippen -- the ultimate hardwood second banana (who knew it) playing alongside of him. Larry Bird had Kevin McHale. Russell had Bob Cousy (and Cousy, Russell) and, later, John Havlicek. Shaq had Kobe (and Kobe Shaq, and then Dwayne Wade).

Nobody can do it alone. Perhaps LeBron should remember that.


Today's the day the Boston Firefighters get their hearing in front of the Boston City Council on the contract decision made for them in binding arbitration.

The arbitrator may have engaged in a bit of quid pro quo when he awarded the firefighters a 19 percent raise strung out over four years (retroactive to 2006) while, a the same time, forcing mandatory drug testing on them.

But the mayor of Boston, Thomas Menino, claims the contract will cost the city over $75 million in an era where all cities are scrambling as much as they can to keep from sinking in the current recession. The arbitrator puts the figure at closer to $40 million.

Most of the time, I'm with unions. I shudder to think of what where we'd be without them, even if, sometimes, unions seem to be woefully out of touch with what's going on around them. And that's probably more the case with public employee unions, because they get their money from you and me, and because you and I end up paying for it either by increased taxes or decreased services. And because you and I are scrambling, too.

And while I'd hate to live in a city without a fire department, it's important for them to understand that their survival, especially when it comes to manpower, has to be contingent upon available money. Nothing aggravates me more than to see a firehouse in my city closed down (and they always put up a sign that says the station is closed due to budget cuts) and then see a list of salaries for firefighters.

Find the happy medium here. I don' know a whole lot about the city of Boston's financial condition, but on the surface, it would appear to me that 19 percent is excessive. It would behoove the firefighters and the city to come to an agreement.

Otherwise, they'll get their money. And we'll be seeing those signs on firehouses all over Boston.


Firefighers' salaries, however, are not Boston's most pressing issues. Of much more importance is the fact that 14-year-old boys are easy prey for gangbangers and there doesn't seem to be a damn thing the city can do about it.

Twice, in two weeks, gangstas have murdered 14-year-old boys. Let's dispense, for the moment, with the customary tongue-clucking about the total lack of value these criminals place on human life. That horse, tragically, has left the barn. Let's also dispense with the armchair sociologists who would blame either liberal politics or a tough urban environment. Those horses have also escaped.

What is the problem? Why has it become so necessary to kill babies (comparatively)? Is it because these kids, out of total innocence of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, have witnessed some other heinous criminal act, and are now deemed to dangerous to live?

Is it because word has gotten out (again, what word? And how credible is said "word?") that these kids were going to rat them out?

I understand that there's all this "inconvenient" stuff called "constitutional rights" and "due process," et al, but even within those parameters, there has to be a way to curb this senseless carnage.

But so far, nobody's come up with one. Sometimes, my more primal instincts go back to the days when I was a kid ... and when the perfect solution to this situation might have been to take these punks out out back -- before they became so bold that they'd kill little kids in broad daylight -- and beat the ever-loving shit out of them.

You can't do that, of course ... and far be it from me to advocate such brutality.

But wouldn't you like to see it anyway?


Finally, Go Celtics! There are three ironclad rivalries in Boston sports: The Red Sox-Yankees, Bruins-Canadiens and Celtics-Lakers.

Of the three, I only have a true, white-hot hatred for the Lakers ... fueled, these days, by my utterly insane hatred for Kobe Bryant.

Why? Because I'm tired of people comparing him to Michael Jordan. He couldn't carry Jordan's jock.

So, Celtics, beat this turkey. Prove to the world, once again, that he was only as good as Shaquille O'Neal was in his prime.

"Kobe, how my ass taste?"

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