It’s all hands on deck

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On the first day of this new year, I met up with a cousin I hadn’t seen in a very long time. He was in Chicago with his family, and we met up to see a few sights and–in true Chicago fashion–have some deep dish pizza. It was a great day, and I was happy to begin 2017 by renewing an old acquaintance.

As we were talking over dinner, I mentioned that I write a blog. My cousin asked if it was political, and I replied “It can be.” I didn’t start writing this blog for that reason, and baseball and family and rock and roll–the things that really matter to me–are my principal writing muses. But here in 2017, politics  appears to have crowded out everything else. These times don’t allow for much else besides a discussion of our government system and how to protect it against a despot. For progressives like me, this is our moment of truth.

The fact remains, no matter what is said to the contrary, that Hillary Clinton received millions more votes than Donald Trump did. He entered the presidency with that hanging over everything else, and the tens of millions of people who saw Donald Trump’s name on the ballot and voted for somebody else have a right to feel betrayed by the electoral college. We all were.

The ties to Russia and the hacks directed by Putin and the Kremlin on Trump’s behalf further clouded the matter of Trump’s ascension. How many votes would Trump had lost if this information had come out before the election? We’ll never know for certain, but it’s fair to say at least a few Trump voters may be feeling some buyer’s remorse at their decision.

And then there’s the actions Trump has taken since that dark and desolate Friday, just ten days ago. The immigration ban is by far the worst one, striking at the heart of what America has always been for the rest of the world. Those tired, huddled masses yearning to breathe free have been replaced, inside Trump’s warped mind, with a bunch of angry jihadists. The countries where the terrorists actually came from–Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and a couple more–are left alone, while seven countries that are far less of a threat statistically are left out. So what if those seven nations aren’t lucky enough to have a Trump golf course or high-rise within their borders? That’s just a happy coincidence, isn’t it?

Trump’s nominees, from Jeff Sessions on down, must now receive “extreme vetting” by the Democrats in the U.S. Senate. And what about the Supreme Court nominee, who is expected to be announced as early as tomorrow? That needs to be a war like none other that has ever been seen. Clarence Thomas should wince by the time that process is over, if it ever does come to an end.

I love the sight of protests in airports and peaceful marches through cities and towns of all sizes, and all around the world. Trump’s presidency has awakened something that I had always hoped was there: the defiant mood of a people who realize that America is worth fighting for. And fight we must. Resistance is the watchword of whatever number of days or weeks remain in Trump’s presidency. I’m not suggesting violence in the streets, because Trump and the strongman facade will spring into action if that happens. More restraint will be needed, instead. But the cause couldn’t be any more important.

The time for remaining silent probably ended before Trump’s inauguration address. As Thomas Paine once wrote, “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the struggle, the more glorious the triumph.” A Mike Pence presidency doesn’t seem like too much of a triumph to me, but we have to get Donald Trump removed from office. Every day his presidency reaches new depths, the likes of which Jefferson and Franklin and the others in Philadelphia could scarcely imagine.

I long for the day when this blog goes back to trivial things like guitar solos and baseball games. But on January 31, 2017, we aren’t at that point. A hard struggle lies ahead, and I’m in for whatever happens along the way.  The continued viability of America is at stake.

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About that wall…

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The first week of the new presidency has shocked and alarmed everyone that I know. It’s an onslaught on the nation that still is, and will always be, my home. Since I love America, I’m willing to fight for it. I won’t sit and watch as our water is imperiled, our openness to immigration is shut down, and our treasury is further depleted in the name of “securing the borders.”

Simply put, the wall won’t work, and building it would be a terrible and unprecedented waste of resources. But Congress has become nothing but a servile accomplice, and they seem to be willing to appropriate whatever amount of money is requested. And they consider themselves to be fiscal conservatives? That’s a good one.

So in all the debate over building this ill-advised wall, the obvious issue is one that I haven’t seen raised anywhere, by anyone. Since this blog is my soapbox for addressing the world, I’m going to ask the question myself:

Does anyone truly believe there won’t be massive corruption involved?

Because I sure don’t. With that much money involved, and apparently no Congressional oversight being contemplated, the opportunities for graft are almost beyond description.

Will there be a bidding process to acquire materials at the lowest possible price?

Will land acquisition costs be paid fairly, or will politically connected people receive massive windfalls, instead?

Will contractors be selected for the quality of their work, or will their political allegiances carry the day?

And most importantly of all, how much of this $12-20 billion will end up in the pockets of Donald Trump?

These are questions that must be answered, but they haven’t even been asked yet. In the service of the great nation that I love, I’m willing to throw these out into the vastness of cyberspace. The wall is a terrible idea, which also threatens to become a swindle of epic proportions. We must not allow that to happen.

#Resist

Shut down Volkswagen

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My parents had a light blue Volkswagen Beetle like the one pictured above when I was a kid, and I called it a “Vopiad” because I couldn’t say “Volkswagen.” It’s a happy memory for me.

But those warm fuzzys have been abolished forever by the way Volkswagen has behaved since 2009. They installed software that was specifically designed to beat emissions testing into many of their models, but which then shut off when the car was not being tested. Their cars thus spit many times the allowable limits of pollutants into the air, which I and everyone else on the planet had to breathe.

Volkswagen is paying for their deception, as they should. But the settlement funding seems to be directed to the people who bought these cars in the first place. Those of us who breathed in foul air over these past few years apparently won’t see a dime in damages.

I frankly don’t want any money from Volkswagen, but I do want them to pay. And the only fitting penalty I can imagine is to have them shut down for good, permanently unable to soil our environment with their products ever again.

This won’t happen, of course, but it should. There’s nothing Volkswagen can do, and no check they could ever write, that will undo the environmental damage they’ve caused through their subterfuge. May the people who dreamed this scheme up–and who knew and did nothing about it through the years–be criminally punished for what they have done. And may the name “Volkswagen” forever be synonymous with irreversible environmental damage. They’ve certainly earned it.

Everybody wants to rule the World

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A song by Tears for Fears encapsulates the 80s for me like few others do. And the irony now, all these years laters, is that it was probably in the air when a high school teacher and coach named Hastert was doing some terrible things to trusting young kids.

He went from Yorkville High to third in line to the presidency. He literally did help to rule the world, at least in theory, and made millions in the process. Some of those millions would later be funneled to those who he abused when nobody knew his name. That’s punishment enough for what he did, right? If only if were that simple.

I never knew any of the people involved in this tale, so perhaps it’s not my place to say anything about this. But the good teachers and coaches who want the best for the kids they work with will bear the brunt of Hastert’s actions, far more than he ever will. And that is beyond unfortunate.

High school sucked for me, and I’m not the only one who felt that way. When adults in position of authority and trust use the circumstances of this difficult age of transition for their own benefit, in order to sexually prey on those who are still trying to figure out their own place in the world, all of us suffer, in ways that we may never realize. I’m grateful that nothing like this ever happened to me, but I can easily understand why others were not so fortunate.

After a long and financially rewarding stretch in the halls of power, Coach Hastert’s past finally caught up with him. He paid off his prey, but money alone can’t make everything OK, either for those he molested or the rest of us, as well. He’s old and going to die soon, so perhaps he’ll get what’s coming to him when that happens. But here on earth, his request for probation is an affront to anyone who’s paying attention.

His “family values” and likely unstated opposition to the very behaviors he engaged in as a wrestling coach makes him an outsized hypocrite. Sending him to prison won’t make him any different, but the idea that he can do this and slink off with nothing more than his own shame and humiliation seems wrong, on some level.

I have no doubt he feels bad about what he did, but this is only because it came up again. The abuser can forget his actions however he wants to, but the abused cannot. And to protect those who need it, neither should the rest of us.

I got a bridge for sale

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So the Governor of New Jersey says mea culpa, but not really. After all, he didn’t know the first thing about it. Some underling ordered the Code Red against Fort Lee, to teach that mayor a lesson about what happens when you don’t do what the governor says. Case closed, end of story, right?

Not so fast. In the first place, his underlings wouldn’t order the Code Red, or traffic study, or whatever else it was supposed to be. That order came from the top. Anyone who believes otherwise is invited to buy out my share in that very same bridge. Even though I could get a lotta dough for it now, seeing that it’s famous and all, I’ll let it go for a reasonable price. Serious inquiries only, though. Leave me a message below and we’ll talk terms.

And secondly, I know that the Republicans are foaming at the mouth to see Christie rough up Hillary Clinton in 2016. That’s what this is all about, isn’t it? Governor Soprano’s gonna tell the ex-Senator and ex-Secretary of State how it is, and we’re all supposed to fall in line with his brutishness, or something like that.

But it’s really gonna be the other way around. Governor Christie isn’t going to get to create positions in the federal government for all of his stooges to carry out their boss’ bidding. That bridge nonsense is just a taste of what Chris Christie would do to this whole country, if given the chance. But the people aren’t going to let him play that game.

Everyone hoping to move on to this, or shift the focus back onto Benghazi, is hoping that the rest of us will miss this point. If Christie will use a bridge to settle a score against his enemies, what’s he gonna do with interstates and national parks and education funding? And the Pentagon? In that guy’s hands?

Fugeddaboutit.

Such folderol as this

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Unless I miss my guess, few people know about William Sidney Porter. He was a guy who loved to write, and he did it over and over again in the course of his lifetime. Wrote lots of interesting things, too. He coined a widely-used term, and wrote a story that just about everyone knows about. But I’ll get to those in a second.

One of the stories that Porter wrote is called Sixes and Sevens and in it, humanity is divided into three groups: Barons, Workers, and Troubadours. Porter then went on to identify anyone reading his story–which he termed “folderol“–as a Troubadour, since Barons had no inclination to read such things, and Workers had no time to do so. Anyone with the time and inclination to spend on reading had to be a Troubadour. And a Troubadour, to Porter, is a person who sings, acts, dances, writes, lectures, or paints. And I’m guilty of the writing part, at least.

So if you already know about Sixes and Sevens, you know that William Sidney Porter is better known by the pen name O. Henry. Porter went to prison for embezzlement, and yet he still continued to write and send his stories to a friend for publication. The writer’s urge was just that strong in him. I’m glad that I learned of his own story, and I hope to read more of what he wrote in the weeks and months ahead. There’s certainly a lot available, and I’m grateful for that.

Porter wrote the story of The Gift of the Magi, which is about as well-known a Christmas story as there is. And he also coined the term “Banana Republic,” which not only describes a political dictatorship, but also a very popular clothing brand, as well. If only the people wearing that label knew more about the man who coined the term.

From one Troubadour to another, thanks for reading this.

My ordination day

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Today I discovered a website dedicated to making the Dude into a religious figure. And  turning a buck, of course, but that’s to be expected.

The website offered me, and anyone else who wants to take the time to enter their name and today’s date, the chance to become an ordained “Dudeist Priest.” Here’s the link for anybody who wants to do it. I suppose I’m proselytizing by sharing the link, but whatever. This is one of the things that makes the Internet fun.

So now I’m a ordained minister (or what have you) in a made-up religion based on a fictional character from a movie. Given that the religion my parents raised me in now finds itself leaderless, mired in scandal, financially bankrupt, and rooted in a worldview that’s centuries in the past, I can only say that I wear my new affiliation with pride. So help me Dude.

Bringing 62 back

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When I was a kid, Roger Maris’ 61 home runs in a single season seemed like an unbreakable record. Even getting to 50 was nearly unheard of, and nobody even came close to 61 until the mid 1990s. But then Ken Griffey Jr. came close a couple of times, and Mark McGwire seemed to threaten the number with some hot starts to a season.

And then in 1998 it all came crashing down. McGwire was there, as usual, but Sammy Sosa came into the picture as well, and the two seemed to drive each other to new heights. And when McGwire finally broke the record on 9/8/98 with a line drive that just cleared the fence in St. Louis, the unbreakable record had finally fallen.

I was teaching when the 1998 home run chase was going on, and in my classroom I had a picture of Mark McGwire, and some red construction paper, and his home run count posted in large black numbers. And on the other side of the room, I had a picture of Sammy Sosa, and some blue construction paper, and his home run count, also posted in large black numbers. It was my side-by-side tally board, and updating it was something I looked forward to doing every day. Both players were in uncharted territory, home run-wise, so I was doing my humble little bit to get in on the fun.

But Sosa and McGwire, and then Barry Bonds, began a four-year assault on Maris’ record. Bonds broke it once, McGwire twice, and Sosa three times. And then the party was over. McGwire admitted steroids use, Sosa was reported to have failed a drug test in 2003, and Bonds, well, if you believe his story about flaxseed I have some really good season tickets in that nice ballpark out in San Francisco available to sell you.

But it was all revealed as a mirage, and in the 12 seasons since 2001, nobody has come close to hitting 62 homers in one season. That’s just fine with me. Like a field that sometimes goes unplanted in order to refresh  the soil, 62 homers has had enough time to go back to being an impressive, and even an improbable, amount of home runs for a single season.

And so, with this, the 62nd post I’ve written in this space in January of 2013, I’m willing to declare that Maris’ record has been restored, at least in my eyes. Let a player make a run at 61 home runs again, and it will be as if that four-year home run explosion from 1998 to 2001 never happened in the first place.  And what better way to rebuke baseball’s Steroid Era than to ct as though it never existed in the first place?

Merry Hypocrite-mas

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I read the news that a U.S. senator was arrested for drunk driving with great amusement this morning. On the one hand I thought there, but for the grace of god, go I. But on the other hand, it’s likely not the first time that this Mormon–and presumed tee-totaler–has done such a thing. He tells his people, both in his church and in his state, one thing and then goes out and does the exact opposite.

As an enthusiastic drinker for many years, I can’t judge him for his liquor consumption. I hope that he would cut others the same slack, but I don’t know what’s inside his heart. But what’s wrong about this is that the people he represents in Congress were actively misled. And whether he apologizes or not–and he has–that doesn’t change things one little bit.

He’s one of the Republicans who routinely obstructs things in the Senate, and will continue to do so, regardless of how this plays itself out in the legal system. The honorable thing to do, after being publicly revealed as a hypocrite, would be to resign his Senate seat immediately. But he won’t do this. He’ll make some insincere apologies, and then check himself into a rehab/detox program, with the expectation that when his turn at re-election comes up in 2016, the voters in Idaho will forget this ever happened in the first place.

I’m willing to be proven wrong on this, but I don’t think that will happen.

Still worthless

I picked my daughter up at school today, and then we proceeded to drive home. Along the way, we stopped at a red light, and there was a restaurant off to my left. I glanced at the TV screen inside the restaurant, and was greeted by Brian Williams doing the NBC Nightly news. I couldn’t hear him, but still my eyes remained on the screen while the red light was in effect.

The screen then changed, revealing an image of Barack Obama on the left, shaded in blue, and Mitt Romney on the right, shaded in red, with 47 percent under each of their smiling visages. I tried to get my cameraphone working in order to capture the image, but before I could the light changed and it was time to move.

Back in July, I wrote something on this issue and sure enough, things haven’t changed a bit in the three months since then. It will be 47% for each candidate, right up until the time the election takes place. Why? Because the media that produces the content that fills our airwaves needs it to be so. They need a horse race, and so they give us a horse race. And they will never give us anything but that. The only thing to do is to recognize it for what it is, and turn away from their profits-driven, democracy-killing game.

Vote for Obama, vote for Romney, vote for any candidate you want, or don’t even vote at all when the time comes. Just don’t expect the media to ever provide anything other than the 47%-47% horse race that they always do.

It’s good to split

[Image from securemyvote.com]

Some time ago, I indicated in this space that I was unhappy with Coca-Cola for their participation in a shadowy legislative group known as ALEC. This group was responsible for introducing laws in states around the country, with the assistance of lawmakers who went along with their program. One of these laws was the “Stand your Ground” law that directly led to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida.

I was, and still am, outraged that this law allowed a man to shoot and kill an unarmed teen-aged kid. The case is going to trial, and but for the public outcry at the particulars of this case, no charges would have been brought against George Zimmerman. I’m curious to see how the trial goes, but I’m also heartened that it’s reached the point that it has.

In the wake of this shooting, and the revelation of Coke’s role in ALEC, I decided to move what little bit of money I have invested in stocks out of Coca-Cola. I felt good about doing it, but then the question became what to do with the proceeds from the sale. Coke withdrew from ALEC soon after I sold my shares, and rather than taking a chance on a different stock, I decided to sink the money back into shares of Coke.

In the end, I was out a couple of broker commission fees, but the money that I made from the sale, and will make from dividends received in the future, will more than offset that. And I hasten to add it’s really just a de minimis amount, anyway. If it were anything more than that, I doubt I’d be writing about it like this.

Today I learned that Coke’s stock (listed as KO on the NYSE, if you’re curious) will be splitting 2 for 1 as of August 13. This isn’t related to Trayvon Martin at all, I’m sure, but it feels a bit like good karma for putting my money back into Coke, rather than looking for some other investment. It seems that my vote of confidence in the company has been rewarded, on some level.

Regrettably, nothing that anyone says or does can change what happened to Trayvon Martin. However, the power of ALEC has been reduced by the withdrawal of Coke and others from their membership rolls, and public awareness of what they do has also been raised, which are both helpful. I especially love this parody of the “I’m Just a Bill” video from Schoolhouse Rock. So ALEC isn’t what it used to be, which is at least a step in the right direction.

The name was a clue

The story of Roberto Hernandez, who for more than a decade was known as “Fausto Carmona,” is more interesting to me this evening than the Ryan Braun story. Today’s ruling has declawed the testing procedure, and means that the juice will probably be coming back to baseball. Is somebody now going to hit 60 home runs this season? I wouldn’t bet against it.

But back to “Carmona” for a moment. The Indians may or may not have him back this season, but the revelation that Hernandez is actually three years older than “Carmona” was thought to be can’t be welcome news in Cleveland. I’d say this season, if he pitches, will be Hernandez’ last one with the Tribe, since the team has options on him for 2013 and 2014. Think of the upcoming season as his going away tour, two seasons before he would have liked it to occur.

I took out a pen and indicated on the back of the above card that “Fausto Carmona” is really just an imaginary construct. The card was a lie, just like Hernandez’ entire life has been since about 1990. The Faustian bargain that Hernandez made was designed to acquire the most valuable currency that any player has–time. Three extra years in a baseball career could have meant millions of extra dollars in “Carmona’s” pocket. Millions more than he has already made, that is.

Similar questions about Albert Pujols’ age have also been raised by some, and they will only intensify in the wake of the “Carmona” revelation. The Onion-style parody Cubs newspaper The Heckler also got into the act on Alfonso Soriano, in a light-hearted way. But the truth of the matter is that identities can be created to hide a player’s real age, and the incentives for doing so–millions and millions of dollars’ worth of incentives–virtually guarantee that this will continue to go on in the future. And “Carmona” just proves–whether we wanted to admit this or not–that it has been going on for some time already.

The feel-good story that led to a scam

The State of Illinois, in an attempt to raise a few extra dollars in revenue, allows vehicle owners to show their allegiance to a college or university. For a small fee (of which I’m sure each school gets a cut), motorists can go beyond just having a window sticker, or a license plate frame, and take the full-on plunge of using their license plates to declare school loyalty. There are eighteen colleges and universities available for Illinois schools, and the only non-Illinois school available is Notre Dame.

I understand why Notre Dame participates in this program. The sale of merchandise with their logo and name on it must be worth a fortune to the school. I want to believe they use this money for more than just their athletic program/football team, but what they do with the money isn’t really my concern.

A few months ago, I was driving in the streets of my neighborhood when I spotted an SUV with these  Notre Dame plates on it. They also had the window sticker, and the license plate frame, and whoever owned the car was either an ND alum, or a really big fan. Notre Dame seems to have those “subway alums” in a way that no other school does. Maybe it’s the Irish thing, or a loyalty to Catholicism, or some combination of the two, but it’s definitely real.

The Notre Dame plates that I saw on the SUV had the letters “RUDY” on it, no doubt in reference to the movie about the life story of Daniel “Rudy” Reuttiger. The movie was a Hollywood underdog story about a little guy who followed his dream until it came true. One of those feel-good stories that plays on our deeply-rooted belief that anything can happen if you want it badly enough. And, as a bonus for some, it’s set against the backdrop of Notre Dame football.

I was able to snap a picture of the RUDY plates with my Blackberry before the SUV drove away, but the image is buried inside a phone that doesn’t work anymore, and it will never see the light of day again. Trust me when I tell you that such a license plate really does exist.

Getting back to the story of “Rudy,” the story ended on the screen, but the real-life “Rudy” had to keep on living. He presumably made some money on the movie rights to his story, and cashing in is certainly the American Way. But “Rudy” wanted more. He was willing to trade on the notoriety that the movie brought him, in order to find an even bigger payday. Again, there’s something uniquely American in parlaying one good thing into something else that’s even bigger.

And so “Rudy” founded Rudy Nutrition. Perhaps if you drank “Rudy’s” drink, you, too, could achieve results. That’s how the thinking went, anyway. “Rudy” made claims that the drink “Outsold Gatorade 2 to 1” and tried to lure investors into buying stock in his company. But this was all a scam, and anyone who bought stock in Rudy’s company found this out the hard way. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) shut Rudy Nutrition down, but not until $11 million dollars had been swindled from unwary investors. “Rudy” himself paid nearly $400,000 to make the claim go away, although none of that money will go to those suckers (technically they’re called “investors”) who believed that Rudy Nutrition was for real.

The University itself did not get involved with Rudy Nutrition, so there’s no harm done to their name in all this. The feel-good story that Hollywood put up on the screen will continue to endure, as well. But the “Rudy” story has been tarnished by the fraud and deception of the person behind it. I hope that whatever amount of money he made (less whatever amount he had to pay to his lawyers and to the SEC) was worth it, for the shame and humiliation that he brought upon himself and his family.

I wonder if the RUDY license plates will remain on the SUV I saw on the streets of Chicago. I have a feeling that they will, for no other reason than that the fees have already changed hands, and the State of Illinois (and Notre Dame itself) aren’t going to be offering any refunds.

The story itself will make headlines for a day or two, and will then fade away. Life goes on, and Rudy (the movie) will be streaming on Netflix forever more. This is the only real chance to make any comment on the story, before it fades away into the category of “old news.” That’s what the 24-hour news cycle has done to us as a people.

The notion that government is “meddlesome” in the free market has taken root in the mind of the general public over the past few decades. Government regulation is a burden, the thinking goes, and by eliminating government oversight, the free market will flourish. But the perpetrators behind Rudy Nutrition needed to be reined in somehow. And if it took a government agency to put a stop to this scam, then the answer must not be less government oversight.

If anything positive comes out of this story, in my mind, it’s that the government has affirmed its role in bringing these sorts of fraudulent activities to light. It’s cold comfort to anyone who lost money on Rudy Nutrition’s stock, but it’s worth noting just the same.

Say it ain’t so

Unlike a lot of people who pay attention to these things, I was supportive of Ryan Braun’s recent MVP award. Matt Kemp of the Dodgers had a better statistical season than Braun–only a fool would deny that–but the award isn’t really about that. What the award is about is up to the individual voter, and that’s what makes it so controversial sometimes.

The bottom line for me is that making it into the postseason trumped stats that were amassed for a team that never got a whiff of meaningful games in August and September. The people who don’t buy this position, and feel that Kemp was more deserving of the award, are all over the revelation that Ryan Braun failed a drug test and is facing a 50-game suspension as a result. It’s certainly a setback for the game’s efforts to climb out from the muck of the Steroid Era.

Ryan Braun has embraced, as well he should, his standing as a role model for young kids. The “Hebrew Hammer” has a compelling life story, and his long-term contract in Milwaukee means that he will be a fixture in that community for years to come. And that’s why this is such a big deal for the game’s image. There’s no good reason why he should have synthetic testosterone in his system, and if it was, in fact, there it makes a mockery of those who play the game clean.

For too many years, the powers that be at MLB ignored the players’ use of these substances. Canseco, McGwire, Bonds, Ken Caminiti, Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, Brady Anderson, and on and on. What about Brady Anderson, you might ask? He hit 16 homers in 1995, 18 homers in 1997, and 50 in the year in between. Hank Aaron never hit 50 home runs in a single season, but Brady Anderson did. You need to have a strong sense of denial to accept that at face value.

My point is that Braun has disabused us all of the notion that testing has scared the users away. He is entitled to due process, and I want to believe it’s all a mistake. But that doesn’t seem likely at this point. We all have to accept–like the little kid who confronted Joe Jackson when the Black Sox scandal broke out–that people will cut corners, and do things in a dishonorable way, just to get ahead. It happens in life, and it happens in baseball too.

Old-time corruption in Chicago

The man pictured here is 86 years old. Many people don’t even get to live eighty-six years (only one of my grandparents did), and the ones that do should count themselves lucky. But–and I’m sorry if you or a loved one is 86 years old–there are just some things that 86 year-olds can’t do. And protecting an airport and the people who use it is one of them.

The Chicago Sun-Times told the story of one such person. He’s not the same man as the one shown here, but it’s reasonable to assume that even the fittest 86 year-old has lost a number of proverbial steps over the course of his or her lifetime. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just nature. The man in this picture uses a cane, and he’s probably lucky that he can even get around on two legs in the first place.

The man in the story probably didn’t want anybody to know that he was collecting a $56,000 yearly paycheck for working security at an airport. I wonder if he’s allowed to wear a gun. I hope not.

This octagenarian security guard (and doesn’t that sound awkward?) has been suspended four different times from his job, including a 29-day stint for leaving his post to go to the bathroom last year. Perhaps that should have been an indication that something wasn’t right. Most people, after the second or third suspension from a job, don’t even have a post that they can leave anymore. But he was somehow allowed to keep his job after all those suspensions. Something really stinks here.

There’s another issue with whether this man is even supposed to have the job in the first place, since he lives in a suburb and claims a made-up address in Chicago as his residence. I’m not really taking issue with that claim here, but it is in character with this guy who thinks he can protect an airport at his age, and also for whoever knew of these suspensions and still allowed him to show up for work. There’s simply no defense for it, that I can see.

I applaud the newspaper for ferreting out this story, and holding it up for the public to see. This man is a retired police officer, and he gets a pension check for the work that he did long ago on the city’s streets. That’s fine, let him get by on that amount (it’s a shade under $33,000 a year, according to the article). But to more than double that amount by putting him in a job that even I’m not capable of doing (and I’m half his age) is just wrong.

There must be many more cases like this out there, and exposing them is the best work that a newspaper can do. I trust that it will bring these abuses to a swift end. In this sense, one old man’s loss would be an entire city’s gain.