Monday, March 27, 2017

Learning opportunities

Good Monday morning to you.

Perhaps I should state up front that it's a bit of a blue Monday here in the Big Blue Nation, as our beloved Kentucky Wildcats went down in defeat to the arch-rival North Carolina Tar Heels last night in a wild and highly competitive game.  Kentucky's team never really got going in the first half, owing to foul trouble for three starters, and that foul trouble and lack of rhythm carried over for the rest of the game.  Somewhat miraculous that Kentucky had the lead at a couple of points late, but Carolina's depth and experience won out.

Though my wife doesn't agree, that's pretty much the end of basketball for me this year.  I don't watch much other college basketball except to see who Kentucky might end up playing, so if they're done, I probably am, too.

My company is getting into a new aspect of business that you've probably seen and heard about, but because I don't talk in detail about work in this space, I won't elaborate, but to say that I'm pretty intrigued by some training I have coming up for my sales position.

Did you hear about the two young women who were prevented from boarding a United Airlines flight because they were wearing leggings?  You're reading that correctly, I did a double take when I first saw it.  There were three in a group traveling together, all on United passes that were given them by someone who works for the airline.  United claimed later that they have a "strict" dress code for those traveling on company passes and leggings are not allowed.  One of the women had a dress in her carry-on bag that she was able to put on over her outfit and was able to board.

Now, if you've been on a commercial airliner in the past five years, you've seen what I've seen.  People in sweatpants, yoga pants, leggings, pajamas, you name it.  Unless I am flying out and back in the same day I routinely wear shorts, unless it's a winter day.  I find it hard to believe that this was a rule that needed to be enforced.  Supposedly it was a gate agent who barred these women from boarding in their "objectionable" clothing.  Objectionable to whom? would be my question.

Saw something else that made me look twice.  The Atlanta Braves are opening a new ballpark next week, and they've announced some interesting menu items to be sold there, but at the same time also announced that they will not allow any outside food or drink into their new park.  As regular readers know, I'm an avid Cincinnati Reds fan, and have attended games in their last three venues, Crosley Field, Riverfront Stadium (later briefly known as Cinergy Field) and their current home, Great American Ball Park.  All have traditionally welcomed fans who choose to bring food and drink, within certain parameters (no glass containers, liquids must be in SEALED plastic bottles, etc.).  I can even remember walking into Yankee Stadium (the old one) several years ago with a bag of peanuts in open view of the tickettakers.  In NEW YORK.

The funny thing to me is that minor league parks stopped allowing outside food and drink years ago, but they charge a fraction of what the major league teams do for tickets. I always considered that the trade-off, that if you pay more to enter the game, they let you bring stuff to eat if you so choose.  This is a move that will further prevent many families from attending games.

Our former Vice-President has made a few public appearances recently and has said flatly that he now regrets his decision not to run for President in 2016, that he felt he was the best qualified and would have won the election.  No way to know any of that, nor can anyone who has never lost a child begin to comprehend the pain and grief Joe Biden and his family have experienced.  I've always liked Biden, despite his shortcomings he's a pretty down-to-earth and plainspoken man for a career politician.  I think he'll find his new place in private life and something to put his considerable energies into before too long.

My last comments are about the failure of the Republican leadership to pass their American Health Care Act from the House of Representatives, a body that their party controls.  Never mind the fact that there are three distinct factions within the Republican majority there, and that they also control the Senate and the White House.  This was their signature issue for seven years:  repeal and replace "Obamacare."  Ample time to craft a workable bill that would have fixed what they claimed was wrong with it.  But they couldn't.

Suppose they've learned anything yet?


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Then vs. now

Happy Wednesday from central Kentucky, where it's a balmy 17 degrees as I write this.  Every year we seem to get what I would call a "false positive" with our weather, as spring seems to come very early and then we have our average temperatures plummet, just to remind us that it's not actually spring.  This year appears to be no exception!

With our current President in perpetual crisis mode, there's been a lot of news coverage about the late former President Richard Nixon, who was in office when I was a kid, so that's prompted a lot of comparisons between Nixon and President Trump, and, in me, anyway, more comparisons of how things were back then and how they are now.

For instance, I had lunch with a friend yesterday, and we had a spirited discussion about the proposed reforms to the Affordable Care Act.  My friend is a Libertarian, says that our government should be small enough to fit into the trunk of his car, and is definitely opposed to government supported healthcare in most forms.  I lean a bit more progressive, and mentioned to him the social contract with citizens that began with FDR's creation of the Social Security system and continued in earnest with the creation of Medicare in the 1960s.  I added that during my childhood, if my mom took me to the doctor for anything, at the end of the visit, she'd write a check to the doctor's office for $10 and that was that.  No insurance was needed.  And if we had not had the $10, free healthcare would have been available at the local health department, as their primary role was to provide care to those without the means to pay.

See what I mean?  What was and what is are pretty far apart.

My friend also decried the lousy quality of so many items that are made in China, and it's clearly a case of cheap materials as much as anything.  My response was that it's often the only way for manufacturers of consumer goods and clothing to continue to provide items at prices comparable to what has traditionally been charged for, say, a waffle iron.  A waffle iron made in the U.S. would cost quite a bit more than one made in China, I'd wager.

And on it goes.

A sports media guy whom I follow on Twitter mentioned his sadness at going to the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament this week, with Mr. Palmer having passed away last year.  My response to him is that we have so few authentic heroes and legends still with us, and I recall having noted that in this space previously.  Same with John Glenn, there'll never be another like him.

Is it because in today's twenty-four hour news cycle that we're just bombarded by so much information on everything and everyone that we don't hold people in similar roles in such esteem anymore?  Maybe.  It might also be because those icons really were that special.

My wife and I speak often about how Hollywood has no fresh ideas, that much of what comes to the local metroplex is another sequel or reboot or remake of something that may have been great the first time around and really can't be improved upon.  That didn't stop someone from green-lighting a remake of "Ben-Hur," of all things, last year.  As I remember, it lasted a relatively short time in theaters.  I see now that Warner Brothers is contemplating a remake/reboot/reimagining of "The Matrix."  Why?

Even reality television is repeating itself.  How many different ways can the producers of "Survivor" reinvent what was a novel concept so long ago?  And the Food Network is resurrecting the "Iron Chef" concept, which is licensed from Japanese television many years ago, for a new sequence of "Iron Chef" competitions.  I'll probably watch, because I confess that I enjoy some of these competitive cooking shows (never thought I'd like "Chopped," either, until we began watching and found it mildly addictive).

So can it be said that what was once old is new again?  Sometimes.  And sometimes it's not so great, and perhaps it wasn't so great the first time.  Only in our memories, right?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Nearing the abyss

Friends, it's raining cats and dogs here in central Kentucky this morning.  Well, not really.  And who came up with that turn of phrase, anyway?

But it IS raining again this morning.  As someone who travels regionally for work, I tell myself how fortunate we are that this is rain and not snow, which tends to paralyze our area.  Easy to say that from inside the house, but when you get doused the first time you have to get out of your car and spend the rest of the day damp or worse, well, you get the idea.

Speaking of plans, it now appears that the Republican plan to "repeal and replace Obamacare" now looks more like a plan to change it to better fit the traditional Republican narrative of tax cuts for those who largely don't need them and making healthcare more difficult to obtain for those in need.  It's telling that the House of Representatives plans a vote a scant two days after the details of this bill were made public, which will not allow proper scoring by governmental agencies.

In the Senate, there are apparently four Republican senators who are already expressing reservations about this law.  I won't get into the specifics of this, but much of what Republicans have decried about  the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, will still exist.  But what's gone and significant in its absence is the requirement that all citizens purchase health insurance or pay a penalty.  Without there being any "musts" for individuals to access the health insurance market, however they would do so, the number of insured people will decline dramatically--one set of estimates I read was between fifteen and twenty million people will be without coverage.

I've also read quite a few treatments on the number of regulations that are being set aside or revised in the current governmental setup.  It's a large number, made more significant by the fact that these regulations cut across so many aspects of American life or business.  The mentally ill will now be better able to purchase a gun.  Golf course operators will not bear any responsibility regarding the quality of bodies of water that flow through their property, and salaried workers who were routinely expected to work many extra hours each week for no additional compensation will again be expected to do exactly that.

There's a systematic effort to undo more regulations, and what's worse, it seems that most of the cabinet secretaries who were nominated and confirmed were selected to help ensure that these regulations went away and in some cases to benefit personally from these changes.

I don't even know what to say about the White House and what's emanating from there via Twitter or third-hand leaked stories, but we can likely be certain that much of it is not accurate.  But as we're seeing, that doesn't seem to matter anymore, at least not to a certain percentage of our fellow citizens.

I know, as you do, that this is far from a perfect country.  Our flaws are too numerous to mention here.  Perhaps we lack a common goal, as we had in working in unity to defeat the Germans and their allies in World War II.  Or the lofty expectation of working to put men on the moon and return them to Earth safely.

I'm naive enough to believe that things can get better.  I also believe that if enough of us want them to improve, they will.  I just hope that there are enough people of like mind that it will come to pass.

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