Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Random Thoughts at the All-Star Break

The extended heat wave of early July has finally subsided in eastern Pennsylvania, at least for a brief moment, so I exhale a sigh of relief, comforted by the thought that for three days the baseball season begins a short hiatus to accommodate the annual All-Star game. Although the season is already several games into the second half, the All-Star Break is baseball’s unofficial halfway point. The Cardinals enter the break in second place in the National League’s Central Division, only one game behind the surprisingly strong Cincinnati Reds. The dreams of a glorious season that enraptured Cardinal Nation on Opening Day are tempered by the long grinding struggle that is, in reality, the 162-game baseball season. Cardinals’ fans remain cautiously optimistic, hoping for a second half surge that will end in ninth-inning walk-off celebrations, home plate mob scenes and ticket-tape parades. But nagging injuries – Ludwick’s calf, Freese’s ankle, Rasmus’s hamstring, Penny’s lateral quad muscle, and Lohse’s forearm, among others – transform our imagined glory into anxiety-ridden, inning-by-inning, nail biting misery. Such is the life of a baseball fan.

It is during these brief moments of sanity, in the quiet solitude of an off day, when I understand why those closest to me may mistakenly believe that my life during baseball season falls into an abyss of warped priorities. Waking up early each day, I catch the train into town and work in the office, often not returning until 7:30 or 8:00 p.m. Arriving home at the edge of dusk, I feed my daughter’s guinea pig, make dinner, and watch that night’s Cardinals’ game, which monopolizes my time until after eleven, sometimes approaching midnight. This of course adds severely to my cumulative sleep deprivations, which are particularly magnified when the Cardinals play on the West Coast. When I explain that “my team” needs me, that I am certain Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan rely on my telepathic instructions to Schumaker and Pujols to lay off breaking balls in the dirt; to Holliday and Rasmus to hit the cut-off man on throws from the outfield; and to Suppan and Hawksworth to keep the ball down, I am met with the cynicism of rolling eyes and shakes of the head. “Baseball is not necessarily an obsessive-compulsive disorder,” Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post has said. “You can be a truly dedicated, state-of-the-art fan or you can have a life. Take your pick.”

Adding to my “managerial” obligations are my many parental responsibilities – teaching Hannah to drive (which makes a hair curling, extra-inning drama seem like a relaxing weekend in Stone Harbor) and offering Dad-like advice to two skeptical, independent-minded teenage daughters neither of whom are much impressed with the demands of my unremunerated (and officially unacknowledged) internship with the St. Louis Cardinals Baseball Club. In my remaining spare time, when not cutting the grass or running errands, I agonize over the final touches of “Ehlers on Everything” and respond to the right-wing rants of my critic-in-chief and ideological nemesis, the infamous “Rich R.”, who tenders unsavory disputations on every word, phrase, or grammatical deviation that hints of liberalism.

So as I ruminate at the All-Star Break, confronted with three nights and no Cardinals games, I have a moment to reflect. Here, then, in no particular order, are some random musings and thoughts on the state of the world as seen through the eyes of a sleep-deprived and unpaid writer, political philosopher, amateur theologian, and baseball manager:

On Politics:

· Has America always been a house divided? As splintered and rancorous as America at times appears to be, is it really any worse than the state of affairs during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, when as a nation we were so intensely divided over the Vietnam War and civil rights that students were gunned down by the National Guard and our nation’s cities were the scenes of repeated rioting? It was a time when entire generations spoke past each other and our youth experimented to excess with newfound sexual freedom and drug use, when an anything-goes culture clashed with the staid conformity and repressed instincts of the fifties. By comparison, today’s blue state - red state divisions do not look that bad. Yes, we have Tea Party protests and disruptive town hall meetings, but there is an element of healthy debate in some of this. Compared to the early seventies, when the Weather Underground was blowing up public buildings and a segment of our youth was turning on and dropping out, there are some aspects of today’s political culture that, however screwed up, are an improvement upon forty years ago. A little less interesting, mind you, but distinctly healthier.

· Has anyone figured out what the Russian spy scandal was actually about? From what I can tell, the closest thing to a state secret revealed was the new menu offering from Wendy’s.

· Does Nicholas Kristof have a point? The liberal New York Times columnist has been on a pro-Palestinian kick lately; a thoughtful one, offered with his typical humanitarian flair, but in this instance I worry he has lost balance and, as is often the case with perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, a sense of recent history. I agree that the Israelis mishandled the Turkish flotilla raid that led to nine deaths, and they were right to ease the blockade of goods being imported into the Gaza strip, but the bad guys remain the leaders and members of Hamas. Until its leaders speak and act differently – acknowledge Israel’s right to exist and stop lobbing unprovoked missiles into the suburbs of Tel Aviv – I cannot generate much sympathy for them. It is unfortunate that the more reliable defender these days of the only democracy and glimmer of hope in the Middle East is not the liberal establishment but, rather, conservatives and evangelical Christians.

· Where is the outrage? Oil continues to spill into the Gulf of Mexico at alarming rates, killing fish and wildlife and upsetting ecosystems, disrupting the lives and destroying the livelihoods of tens of thousands of residents on the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. If the Deepwater Horizon disaster does not cause us to hesitate with further offshore drilling ventures, reconsider our energy policies, and recommit to green energy solutions, we are destined for a future of continued dependence on foreign oil, irreversible climate change, and economic troubles. As Gretel Ehrlich, writing for Sojourners, recently said: “We’ve forgotten that when we step down on the earth we are walking on a living membrane. Now we are wounded people recklessly pimping a wounded planet. We’ve turned away from a sacred view of the world, a deep openness in which we accept that all living things have value. We’ve drilled recklessly under the ocean floor for economic gain, and in the process exchanged a sense of well-being, beauty, hope, and wonder for the myopia of profit.”

· Is Rush Limbaugh serious, merely delusional, or a complete fraud? Limbaugh has repeatedly portrayed President Obama as an “angry black man” who is intentionally tanking the American economy in order to obtain “economic reparations” for minorities. Not only does this make no sense, it is so disingenuous that I find it impossible that the fat windbag actually believes most of the verbal trash he spews on the airwaves.

· Should we be worried? Chris Matthews warned last week that the Democrats should take Sarah Palin seriously, that she could actually make a credible run for the White House in 2012. Her unfavorable ratings still seem too high, in my opinion, for her to be a serious threat, and I do not believe she can withstand the intense media scrutiny that presidential elections impose. But Matthews knows a thing or two about American politics, so if he says she could win, it is a matter of concern for sane, rational Americans.

On Law:

· What’s in a lawsuit? The Department of Justice was correct to enjoin Arizona from enforcing its new immigration law. The doctrine of federal preemption renders the state law unconstitutional. This is a non-political, legally correct position that even the Bush administration would have had no choice but to assert as well. Federal immigration policy has national and foreign policy implications, it affects our relations with sovereign nations, international aid groups, and it requires substantial coordination of federal law enforcement resources. We cannot realistically have 50 different immigration policies scattered among the states, particularly when the federal government (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is required to implement the deportations and detentions that would result from laws like that in Arizona. That said, it is long past time for Congress and the President to enact comprehensive immigration reform.

On Life:

· Is the United States in the midst of a tattoo epidemic? Or is it only Philadelphia? The many and varied forms of displayed body art that I observe on my walks through center city remind me of building graffiti and subway art, except that the tattoos are less aesthetically pleasing.

· Why did I join the private sector? A recent survey of the federal workforce showed that 8 in 10 federal employees like the work that they do, and more than 90% think that what they do is important. This is how I felt for the nearly 20 years I worked in government, when I possessed a heightened sense of self-worth and the feeling that what I did mattered, that I was contributing, if only in a small way, to an effective criminal justice system and a functioning Constitution. Oh, yeah, the money.

On the Cult of Celebrity:

· Why should we care about the fate of Lindsay Lohan? Don’t misunderstand, I feel sorry for her in the way I feel sorry for any anorexic, drugged out, over-partied, spoiled brat with a bad father, but do we really need to devote that much air and print time to such a trivial story? Is she not just one more of the hundreds of examples, from Judy Garland to Gary Coleman, of child stars being consumed, exploited, chopped up and discarded by a narcissistic Hollywood culture of breast implants, glorified drug use, money and superficial glitz?

· Speaking of role models, is Cleveland really such a bad place to live? I am not sure whose idea it was for LeBron James to waste sixty minutes of national television time announcing that he has chosen “South Beach” (not Miami mind you) in which to spend the next several years of his NBA career, but he could have more easily and tactfully humiliated the fans of Cleveland with a press release.

I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. --Crash Davis in “Bull Durham”
As with changes to baseball’s grand traditions, social and political progress often advances gradually and in small increments. Just as with the elimination of artificial surfaces in most major league ballparks, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will eventually be repealed and John Edwards’ ego will eventually deflate. So, as you continue on your life’s journey, remember always the immortal words of former Yankees manager Bob Lemon, “The two most important things in life are good friends and a strong bullpen.”


  1. Random Thoughts on Random Thoughts

    Has America always been a house divided?

    · If you watched Fox News or Glenn Beck you would know that the inglorious 60's are returning. Although shockingly not the lead story of the main stream media and the New York Times, the New Black Panther Party is being given carte blanche by Eric Holder's Justice Department to bar non-Obama voters from the ballet box, when they are not busy advocating the murder of white crackers and their babies. But don't take my word for it. Famed civil rights activist Bartle Bull described Holder's despicable handling of the case as "100 percent politically motivated." As we have discussed previously, the White House is populated by 60's radicals and our president seems to have grown up with no exposure to people who actually like this country. So hold on to you liberal beliefs because we're in for some violent times created by Osama and Obama praising new radicals, who are being protected by old radicals.

    Should we be worried?

    · I used to think Sarah Palin had the potential to be America's version of the great Margaret Thatcher. Now I think she's in a race with Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and Senator Michele Bachmann. Any two in any order would make a great ticket for the next presidential election. Sadly, it seems right now that the real men in the Republican Party are women (and in typical Conservative fashion, they're hot! is it just me or do ugly women politicians seem to gravitate to the Democratic Party?).

    ON LAW:
    What’s in a lawsuit?

    · This is one way in which the Mexican Drug Cartel disposes of their victims: They tie the body (and I'm being generous in assuming the victim is already dead) by its feet and hands to stakes and then make numerous long cuts into the body. Then they wait for the vultures to do their job reducing the carcass to bones that are then hammered into small pieces and scattered over the countryside.

    · These are the people that kill Americans on the border and have turned Phoenix into the kidnapping capital of the country and, if not for Mexico City, of the world. The cartels have an al Qaeda-like affinity for beheadings and they are untouchable right now because they and other criminals have been protected by the inaction of President Obama and, before him, President Bush. Having abdicated their responsibility to protect Americans, Governor Brewer is doing what she must to fulfill her responsibility to protect the citizens of Arizona.

    · We know that the state's desperation is real and not a political ploy because the previous governor, Janet "The system worked!" Napolitano, was the first governor to put the National Guard on the border (this after saying she wouldn't because that is the job of the federal government). She also joined with the great American, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, in writing a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld requesting help from the Federal Government. Despite saying in 2006, "It is time to stop playing political games and get serious about the border," Dammit Janet!, as DHS secretary, has left Governor Brewer hanging.


  2. * As far as the governor's authority to enforce immigration law, she obviously has the moral high ground when the federal government refuses to do its job, and legally, despite your analysis, there still seems to be a disagreement. The current governor is under the impression that, "It is settled case law that states and local police may enforce criminal provisions of federal immigration law." And the moral high ground becomes permanent when you consider the president's despicable plan to hold Arizona's citizens hostage until the Republicans agree to destructive immigration reform. As Senator Kyl related, the president told him, "If we secure the border then [Republicans] won’t have any reason to support comprehensive immigration reform.”

    ON LIFE:
    Why did I join the private sector?

    · You would not be the first former AUSA who realized legal work in the private sector is boring and returned to the criminal justice playground. Come back! I can guarantee you that your legal skill is missed.

    Why should we care about the fate of Lindsay Lohan?

    · Here's a perfect example of the media's twisted priorities: Mel Gibson's racist rant and the far more dangerous racist rants of the New Black Panthers broke at the same time. Guess which story got much more airtime (except on Fox)? Some, like MSNBC, ignored it completely.

    · Imagine if the "New Klan" had set up a tent on South Street in Philadelphia to advocate the killing of black babies!

    As the establishment-hating radicals of the 60's continue to infest the current establishment and provide breathing room for the new establishment-hating radicals, remember the words of General Joseph Stilwell: "Don't let the bastards grind you down."


  3. Dear Rich,

    There is a reason we don't watch Fox News and Glenn Beck: They're idiots.


  4. Dear Hannah,

    That’s what is known as the liberal standard for argumentation. To raise it to a conservative standard, begin, “Fox News and Glenn Beck are idiots because...”

    Then list your reasons. Maybe there are some outrageous comments made by Beck (“Social Justice” has already been taken by your dad) or facts that Fox has gotten wrong. Maybe there are stories that Fox and Beck have failed to cover that the rest of the media is all over (like the radical group that wants to kill you because of the color or your skin AND, in your case, because of your religion – wait bad example, Fox & Beck are all over that. Maybe the Black Panthers denying Americans of one of their most sacred rights… oops, bad example again). Anyway you get my point.

    Now Fox is on 24/7 and Beck is on 20 hours a week, so that gives them plenty of time to stick their feet in each other’s mouths, so if they are idiots, your job should be easy to prove.

    By the way, where have you been? It was getting boring with just your dad. I’m getting so I could write his posts for him (I’ve been compiling research on topics I know he’s going to get to).

    Glad you’re back, now go for the throat, girl!

    Peace through strength,
    Rich R.

  5. Rich,

    I will admit that I have not looked closely into the New Black Panther Party case -- I promise I will, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it is not as significant a matter as you and your Fox friends are attempting to make it out to be. Before you explicitly or implicitly label the President and our Attorney General a racist, or a hater of America, or somehow sympathetic to anti-white speak, I think you better find a better source of factual analysis than Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. Now, obviously I do not know who in the Department of Justice handled the investigation of the alleged voter intimidation and the prosecution of the one New Black Panther member who was charged (the one with the stick), but I spent enough time in DOJ to know, and I worked for Eric Holder long enough to know, that Holder and DOJ makes enforcement decisions based on the merits, not on the race, gender, or ethnicity of the defendant or subject.

    Abigail Thernstrom, a conservative member of the Civil Rights Commission (and a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute) has called the case "small potatoes" and said that conservatives should pursue more important matters. She has also noted that the case implicates a rarely used provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act which has been successfully invoked in prosecutions only three times since its passage. Thernstrom said that she did not find the testimony of J. Christian Adams convincing. Adding to the problems of the case is the rather obvious issue that the so-called Black Panthers were standing in front of a majority African American precinct that had voted overwhelmingly for Democrats in previous elections and was not a prime spot for intimidating white voters.

    I point this out not to debate you about this case -- I want to look into it further and see what else we learn about the matter (as you well know, whatever is being reported publicly is, at best, a very incomplete picture, as the lawyers at DOJ are essentially muzzled and cannot disclose the details of their evidentiary review, analysis, and investigation).

    If you want to throw mud at people, I could give you a whole list of stupid, racist, and highly insensitive things that have been said by Limbaugh and company to prove that they are angry white men who hate most Americans. But except for my "fat windbag" remark and an occasional use of unflattering adjectives, I prefer not to impute the worst motives to people -- especially such honorable men as Eric Holder and Barack Obama and the many dedicated, patriotic, committed Americans working for them. Do they have a few bad eggs among them? It would be surprising if they didn't -- no different than Bush, Reagan, Nixon, et al. Disagree with their policies, conclusions, statements. But stop implying that the President and the Attorney General hate America, or white people, or that the administration is full of people who do. It is not becoming of your level of intelligence (however misguided it may be).

  6. Mark,

    Actions speak louder than words. You do need to do your own research and I suggest starting with the frightening videos. “Small potatoes” will be small comfort when innocent people die. Let’s remember when President Obama’s friend, Bill Ayers, was warming up, the Weather Underground had not gone underground yet. When they did, the bombs started going boom.

    You trust someone else’s opinion of the reliability of Adams instead of moving your mouse this way and that and clicking on his testimony to judge for yourself? When any federal employee leaves a sweet job that is not only secure but fun over a dispute on a case, I take the time to listen and I take their accusations seriously (as you said, you worked at DOJ long enough, so you should know how rare that is). History, as we have discussed before, does not support your high praise of Holder, otherwise Puerto Rican terrorists would still be in jail and Marc Rich would not have been pardoned before even being arrested and tried. Those actions and others (what’s this morning’s policy regarding the Mirandizing of terrorists – I mean man-caused disasterists?) have to be kept in mind when considering the light treatment meted out to a vile creature like King Samir Shabazz.

    You say you can provide a “whole list of stupid, racist, and highly insensitive things” said by Limbaugh. Considering that you have said numerous stupid and insensitive things since last August (in my opinion), I’ll settle for three in the only category that matters: racist. If you listen to Rush as often as you do Glenn, you might find that a tall order and I pray you don’t rely on liberal sites like CNN, MSNBC and ABC that attributed false quotes to Rush when he was trying to buy a sports team last year (if you do, I’ll gently correct you).

    As far as what sources I rely on, I think I’ve established over the last year that I utilize a wide variety of sources and have probably quoted Fox News and Glenn Beck, combined, far fewer times than you have quoted the New York Times. But more importantly, I do my own research (examples: actually listening to Jim Wallis’ entire interview – I may go to Heaven just for that -, or reading entire transcripts of government hearings, or reading court decisions) and I try to back track information to its source (including your sources- thanks, by the way, for making me spend money on a book to prove your misquoting of Milton Friedman).

    Now one last thing: “…I prefer not to impute the worst motives to people -- especially such honorable men as Eric Holder and Barack Obama and the many dedicated, patriotic, committed Americans working for them.” You have repeatedly accused President Bush and his dedicated and patriotic staff of sending men to their deaths based on lies, which, if true, has already condemned them to their own private room in hell. I disputed your slander with specific evidence and you replied by quoting a website. Please tell me what I have written that comes close to the baseless allegations you have leveled against these honorable men and women?

    And another last thing: Again with what I “imply”? Notice that I constantly quote you directly and then dispute what you say. Try that instead of jumping inside my head in an attempt to figure out what I really meant. You will be no more accurate than when you assured your readers that you knew what the president, a man you do not know, is “really about.”

    If I come to the conclusion that the president is a racist, I will present my evidence, beginning with, “I think President Obama is a racist because…”

    Rich R.

  7. Rich:

    Mark’s “Random Thoughts at the All-Star Break” was one of those delightful blogs that only someone with his depth of thinking could write. In the midst of a tremendously busy life with work that keeps him busy beyond reasonable expectations, with loving responsibilities as a single parent, with his tremendous concern as a responsive citizen to those less fortunate, with his voracious appetite for eclectically reading anything from “soup to nuts”, with his enjoyment of life including his sometimes irrational rooting for -- of all things -- the St. Louis Cardinals, his Mom and I are always pleased when he relaxes and expresses his humanity with all sorts of random thoughts on a variety of subjects. Along with his older brother and sister, each has responded to our parental love for them with all of the freedom that such love offers. For that, we give thanks to God.

    One of Mark’s many strengths is his ability to reflect on many different aspects of life. He introduces himself on his “Ehlers on Everything” web page as “a father, lawyer, student of life, baseball fanatic, part-time political philosopher, social critic, seeker of knowledge, spiritual nourishment, and an occasional laugh”. If you take the time to review the dozens of blogs which he has written since he began his web site last August, I am sure that even you, Rich, have been amazed at the variety of themes and subjects with which he has dealt in that period of time. One may disagree with some of his philosophies or opinions, but you’ve got to admit that he’s does his homework well! When you read some of his blogs, you get to know Mark along with his intellectual honesty and integrity, his humor and his value systems. Would to God that the rest of us could reveal ourselves with such skillful honesty!

    Rich, in your countless thousands of words responding to many of Mark’s political blogs, it occurred to me that – despite some seemingly impressive knowledge in your favorite ideology known by some of us as “right-wing conservatism” -- those of us who take the time to read some of your wordy responses really don’t know much about you.

    Who are you, Rich? I presume that you are married. Any children? Are they on the same wavelength as you are when it comes to politics or value systems? While I will readily admit that these things are none of our business, such info might offer us some insights into some of your more rational comments. What kind of books do you read? Fiction? Nonfiction? Biography? In addition to politics, what else “turns you on”? Do you enjoy sports, movies, theatre, music, etc.? Are your religious and cultural values in synch with your political values?

    Rich, I have a suggestion. Why not start your own website and weekly blog so that more of your friends might agree or disagree with you in their responses? If you have the courage to do so, it might also give some of us “liberals” a chance to understand who and what you are in this complex – and not so simple – society. And while you are at it, try some in-depth themes, other than politics, which reveal not only your head, but also your heart and your care for all of humanity. I dare you!

    Ed E.

  8. Rich

    All right. That’s enough. You are becoming a poor guest on Mark’s blog and I doubt you will ever figure this out on your own. I’m not talking about any position you have taken about politics. Whether or not I agree with you, there are times (less often lately) you actually make a good point. But that contribution has gotten lost in the way you do it -- increasingly over time. So, before this goes any further, you need to know a few things you are obviously overlooking.

    You insult Mark when you hijack his blog by psychotically long comments. These are typical: 9/6/09 - 13 comments; 9/28/09 - 10 comments; 11/15/09 - 17 comments; 12/7/09 - 7 comments; 1/7/10 - 10 comments; 2/16/10 - 14 comments; 6/29/10 - 12 comments. Two or three comments alone are usually longer than anything Mark has ever written on his blog. You do the math. Mark has tried on several occasions to gently suggest that you govern yourself, but you don’t just ignore him, you arrogantly cite the 1st Amendment or some other irrelevant claim of entitlement. When you recently described your entry as “your post,” that suggests to me that you are still missing the point. As someone who claims to value individual property rights, you need to be reminded that this is Mark’s blog, not your blog. You always have the right to start your own blog.

    You insult Mark when you respond to him as if he was a child or an idiot. Let me just state the obvious, which you obviously don’t get: Mark began this blog because he loves writing and wants to share some of his thoughts about things that matter to him with his family and close friends. He’s not trying to mold the conscience of a nation here. He has about 46 readers, very few of whom do not know him personally. He has never shied away from any debate with you or anyone. But he should be entitled to legitimate challenges, not attacks on his character in his own “house.” You know how to do this. You started out relatively good natured -- sometimes pointed, but not mean-spirited, bantering back and forth using 2-3 comments. But, neither Mark nor the rest of us followers need cultural reeducation or heckling from you. Most importantly, Mark doesn’t need to spend his precious little spare time responding coherently to your unresponsive ramblings about things he never wrote about, or mischaracterizations of what he did, challenging him to “prove” what he said. Who do you think you are -- his dissertation advisor? Mark is entitled to write this blog without a "duel to the death at 20 paces" each week. We read Mark’s blog because he is a great writer and we care about what he has to say. You once wrote to Mark that as “responder . . . [you] clearly occupy the coward’s role. The easier thing is to react to another’s writing . . . much harder is starting at a blank computer screen and filling it from scratch with something well-written and interesting. You should be commended for your impressive body of work so far” (Rich R comment: 11/15/09). When did you forget this? As my grandmother used to say, “If you can’t say something nice, chew gum.”

    Now I know you hate to be attributed with intentions that are not supported by your own words. But, what would you think about the person who said to you in response to your opinions of someone you actually worked with for years and knew personally, “I don’t know how wide your circle was to begin with, but full you have come, arriving just in time to jump in your jammies, have a glass of warm milk, listen to a bedtime story . . . before 8:46 a.m. rolls around on September 11, 2001.” Feb. 16, 2010. Maybe your opinion of Eric Holder is similar to Mark’s opinion of Rush Limbaugh or Glen Beck (the difference, of course, is that you don’t know either of those men personally). But reducing Mark to a childish image can only mean one thing - you think he needs to be treated like a child for having an opinion that differs from yours.


  9. Rich (cont’d),

    Because I don’t want to sound too conclusory or, God forbid, attribute anything to you that suggests an inference you didn’t intend (remember, the law allows a jury to attribute inferences from the evidence to convict), let’s get to it. I took the liberty of reviewing your own comments over these months to see how many other unsupported ad hominem attacks you have leveled against Mark. Leaving out the marginal ones, I found at least 12 others:

    1. “As is often the case, you ignore the tough questions.” (2/16/10)

    2. “Your time would be better spent baking brownies and taking them to Langley to share with these agents . . .you could take the opportunity to kiss their asses.” (2/16/10)

    3. “. . . I fear you wear your distain [sic.] for President Bush like a security blanket and [its] subsequent loss would be psychologically devastating. Still, if you’re a tenth as brave as our CIA agents, give it a try with one warning: stock up on brownie mix because you’ll be travelling [sic.] to Crawford, Texas with hands full and lips puckered.” (2/16/10)

    4. “Your post proves one thing beyond doubt: you have never watched a terrorist video of a beheading. No one who has would write this.” (2/16/10)

    5. “You have reduced the War on Terror to a game of checkers!” (2/16/10)

    6. “But give credit where credit is due; if there is a Liberal Hall of Fame . . . I would second your nomination as a founding member.” (2/16/10) (I include this only because I infer from the evidence that the word “liberal” is a curse word to you.)

    7. “Liberals love to announce that the science is settled and you have done that with homosexuality.” (2/6/10)

    8. “Regarding the idea that we are not a Christian nation, I am tempted to do another 2,000 word history lesson, but historical facts seem not to sway you (still thanking the town council for your privilege to own property?).” (1/7/10)

    9. “I think if you read it again without the pom-poms of hope and change fluttering in front of you . . .” (6/29/10)

    10. “How come I’m the only one that answers questions, even when they are not directed at me” (4/7/10).

    11. “You need to do your own research . . . instead of moving your mouse this way and that . . . .” (7/13 /10)

    12. “Considering that you have said numerous stupid and insensitive things since last August (in my opinion) . . . .” (7/13 /10)

    Mark has said “numerous stupid and insensitive things since last August” you say? Really?!! These comments show only one thing. You are becoming so full of your own self-importance you don’t know when you have crossed the line. I assume you would respond that there was tit-for-tat from Mark about your political opinions. But I doubt you will find any statement that attacked you as personally and demeaningly as you have to him.

    By the way, there is not a dime’s worth of difference between your research and factual citations and the imperfections you decry of Mark’s. Unless you have been an eyewitness to every hearing, battle, and historical event to which you refer as “fact”, you are relying on the accounts of others through the prism of their subjective interpretations and biases. If those are different accounts from the ones Mark cites, it doesn’t make yours fact and his fiction.

    I would recommend that you read your comments on his earliest blogs last year and compare them to your comments since the Eric Holder piece (2/16/10) which obviously affected you at a visceral emotional level from which you have never recovered. Hopefully, you can return to an appropriate and respectful dialogue. Physician, heal thyself.

  10. Rich,

    You claim that I once “misquoted” Milton Friedman and that you had to purchase his book to “prove” my apparent dishonesty or carelessness. Instead, this is for me an example of your rather loose and unreliable use of facts. I went back to check on precisely that to which you were referring. On November 22, 2009, in a comment by me (in response to one of your litany of comments relating to the piece I wrote on the need for jobs programs and lessons we could learn from FDR’s New Deal during the Great Depression), I said that “governmental restrictions on certain freedoms benefits a large number of people at the expense of a few. For example, I cannot sell heroin, weapons-grade plutonium or, given my particular training, veterinary or medical services. To me, the fact that people without medical training cannot sell medical services is a sensible protection of the consumer. Yet to Milton Friedman, it is undesirable coercion. (see Capitalism and Freedom, p. 158).” Although I did not actually “quote” Friedman, I am perplexed as to what you believe I misstated. I can only assume that you believe I misused the term “coercion.” In fact, an examination of his entire book (“Capitalism and Freedom”), in general, and his chapter on “Occupational Licensure” (pp. 137-160) in particular, shows that I accurately paraphrased Friedman consistent with the essence of his entire dissertation. Although I had read Capitalism and Freedom cover-to-cover when I was in college, this morning I re-read the chapter on Occupational Licensure and the first two chapters (pp. 7 – 36) (I do need to get a life).

    On page 158, which I cited in November, Friedman rendered his ultimate conclusion: “I conclude that licensure should be eliminated as a requirement for the practice of medicine.” Thus, he believes that there should be no restrictions on who should be permitted to practice medicine in the United States. Although he explained in significant detail why he came to this conclusion, it was essentially because medical licensure results in “reduced opportunities available to people who would like to be physicians, forcing them to pursue occupations they regard as less attractive; . . . forc[ing] the public to pay more for less satisfactory medical service, and . . . retard[ing] technological development both in medicine itself and in the organization of medical practice.” (p.158). Friedman’s objection to medical licensure is because “licensure is the key to the control that the medical profession can exercise over the number of physicians” (p. 150); “The essential control is at the stage of admission to medical school” (p. 150); this “control . . . [and] later licensure enables the profession to limit entry” into the profession (p. 151). According to Friedman, “licensure has been at the core of the restriction of entry . . . both to the individuals who want to practice medicine but are prevented from doing so and to the public deprived of the medical care it wants to buy and is prevented from buying” (p. 155). As is clear from a reading of the entire book, Friedman’s use of the words “forced”, “forcing”, “control,” and “restriction” all equate to forms of “coercion”, a term he also uses throughout the book.


  11. Rich (cont'd):

    More generally, Friedman equates governmental-imposed restrictions with coercion -- it is what his entire treatise is about. In Chapter I, “The Relation Between Economic Freedom and Political Freedom,” he states that “the market provides economic freedom” which he equates with “political freedom” (p . 15). “Political freedom means the absence of coercion of a man by his fellow men. The fundamental threat to freedom is power to coerce, be it in the hands of a monarch, a dictator, an oligarchy, or a momentary majority. By removing the organization of economic activity from the control of political authority, the market eliminates this source of coercive power.” (p. 15). In Chapter II, “The Role of Government in a Free Society,” he states: “To the liberal [here he is referring to himself, using ‘liberal’ in the classic, not modern, sense], the appropriate means are free discussion and voluntary co-operation, which implies that any form of coercion is inappropriate” (p. 22). He concludes the chapter listing “some activities currently undertaken by the government in the U.S., that cannot, so far as I can see, validly be justified in terms of the principles outlined above: . . . 9. Licensure provisions in various cities and states which restrict particular enterprises or occupations or professions to people who have a license…” (p. 35). Thus, as I stated back in November, “To me, the fact that people without medical training cannot sell medical services is a sensible protection of the consumer. Yet to Milton Friedman, it is undesirable coercion.”

    This is also precisely how John Kenneth Galbraith interpreted Friedman’s opposition to medical licensure. And although Galbraith was a “liberal” in the modern sense, he and Friedman were contemporaries who respected and paid very close attention to each other’s writings. I really do not believe that Galbraith misunderstood or “misquoted” Friedman either. There was nothing inaccurate or disrespectful about what I said regarding Friedman’s views on medical licensure. Indeed, Friedman is an interesting and very intellectual economic philosopher, made more so by his rather extreme positions.

    I point all this out in part because it demonstrates that problem with having to “respond” to every point/counter-point you raise. It takes too long and too much energy. I write this blog because I like to write and it gives me a chance to say what is on my mind, be it on politics, or baseball, or life in general. I do not see it as the case of Mark vs. Rich R. We are not in litigation. So, just because I do not respond to some point you attempt to make, does not mean I agree, or am stumped, or cannot find “proof” that you are wrong.


  12. Rich (cont'd)<

    Now, as for Limbaugh. In five minutes of research, I found the following six or so verified quotes of his that, in my opinion, appear to be racist, or at least have racist overtones:

    1. On March 9, 2010, in discussing the resignation of Rep. Eric Massa and the possibility that Governor Donald Paterson of New York would appoint his replacement or call a special election, Limbaugh said, “So David Patterson will become the massa, who gets to appoints whoever gets to take Massa’s place. So, for the first time in his life, Patterson’s going to be a massa.” http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/201003090035

    2. In 1992, on his now-defunct TV show, Limbaugh expressed his ire when Spike Lee urged that black schoolchildren get off from school to see his film Malcolm X: "Spike, if you're going to do that, let's complete the education experience. You should tell them that they should loot the theater, and then blow it up on their way out." http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2549

    3. When Carol Moseley-Braun (D-IL) was in the U.S. Senate, the first black woman ever elected to that body, Limbaugh played the "Movin' On Up" theme song from TV's Jeffersons when he mentioned her. And something I have heard him do several times, Limbaugh has occasionally used mock dialect -- substituting "ax" for "ask"-- when discussing black leaders. http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2549

    4. "Look, let it me put it to you this way: the NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips. There, I said it.” http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200910120009

    5. “Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals look like Jesse Jackson?” (acknowledged by Limbaugh) (http://www.snopes.com/politics/quotes/limbaugh.asp)

    6. “Take that bone out of your nose and call me back.” (said to an African American female caller) (acknowledged by Limbaugh). To his credit, he later admitted feeling guilty about this statement. (http://www.snopes.com/politics/quotes/limbaugh.asp)

    Whether Limbaugh is or is not a racist, I cannot say. I never thought his Donovan McNabb remarks were racist, just not very smart. But he has said things that, in my opinion, are racist (including the quotes I cite above). Likewise, the Tea Party is not a racist movement. But, as the pictures I sent you a few days ago show, there are definitely racist elements in the Tea Party movement.

    Finally, you continue to complain that I “imply” inaccurate meanings to your words. Yet, when you say things like “our president seems to have grown up with no exposure to people who actually like this country”, what exactly do you mean? Are you saying that President Obama hates America? Or only that all of the president’s friends/advisers hate America, and thus President Obama does not have the best interests of the country at heart? Or merely that the president has never been exposed to anyone who loves this country (which means that everyone from Rahm Emanuel to Joe Biden to Hilary Clinton to Eric Holder to Robert Gates hates America)? If your statement does not mean that, I would be interested to learn how it is that I have misinterpreted you. While I have disagreed strongly with many of President Bush's policies, I have never questioned his patriotism or said that his decisions were made in bad faith.

  13. Mr. E,

    It occurred to me while reading your comments that it might appear that Mark and I hate each other! Nothing could be further from the truth. I view Mark the way Rocky Balboa viewed Apollo Creed: Rocky fought to win but when asked if he had anything derogatory to say about the champ he replied, “Derogatory? Yeah, he’s great.” My sarcasm (which I can’t help – I was even thrown out of a S.A. meeting) might paint a different picture, but nothing should be read between the lines. I have great respect for Mark’s writing and his eclectic range and said as much in our exchanges over FDR and Turning 50.

    Now in case Mark hasn’t told you, he and I go way back to a time when we stood shoulder to shoulder battling other people, not that we still didn’t battle each other at lunch time. It was probably those lunch time debates that made him email me when he started his blog, asking for my input (a fact I won’t hesitate to bring up when he sues me for harassment). As I explained in my response to his “Turning 50” blog, I had been trying to overcome my innate laziness and start writing again when his email arrived. It was perfect timing and since Mark and I come from opposite ends of the political spectrum, the inspiration was guaranteed. I had hoped, as a matter of mental exercise, to comment on every post, even the ones that bored me, but I have failed at that due to my inability to go to my corner when the bell rings and Mark’s prodigious output that left me still fighting points two posts back.

    Mark, Andrea and Mr. E,

    This was how far I got when I became aware of Andrea’s post (or comment?).

    And now five minutes later, this is how far I’ve gotten. I’m at a loss. Do I apologize? Defend myself? Fire back? Even my sarcasm has abandoned me.

    Andrea, I’m tempted to say that no one told me the guidelines for - what should I call my response?, not post, I know that now – my contribution. But the truth is when a former aggressive federal prosecutor welcomes me to comment, knowing full well the ideological battles we used to engage in, I assume he’s looking for a challenge. I assume that he is using me, as I use him, to sharpen his writing and critical thinking skills. And I think that if you start again from the beginning you will see that his earlier writings were more unsubstantiated opinion and less documented fact, but as our battles raged, his thoughts, themes and points became sharper and more concise.

    I believe we did for each other what I will now try to do for you (you must know by now that I can’t help myself) and in the process, I will defend myself.

    Regarding Number 1 on your list, Mark advocated the government seizing more money from earners to give to non-earners. It is hardly an unsupported ad hominem attack to ask him if he would volunteer to donate extra money at tax time to help fund the government’s entitlement programs that he champions.

    In Number 2, you left out that he should give their asses a kiss from me, too. The comment had more to do with a pampered American citizenry that enjoys freedom without the appreciation for those who secure that freedom (that was also the point of the pajama line). Was it harsh? Yes, but I took offense to the presumption of guilt leveled against American heroes, while the presumption of innocence was maintained for the terrorists.

    Number 3 was a continuation of the theme from Number 2. Bush, according to Mark, lied us into war and good men died. Bush, in other words, did not keep this country safe, but instead engaged in war crimes. But returning to the brownie theme was nothing more than tying the bow in a literary sense (like I did above with Rocky and not returning to my corner).

    I’m not sure what to make of Number 4. Are you saying he has and did? I simply find it hard to believe that after actually seeing the barbarity of our enemies anyone would describe them as common criminals.

    (Continued… and I’m sorry about that)

  14. Number 5? Sorry, but that still makes me laugh and it still strikes me as a perfect description for how Liberals want to wage war.

    Number 6: “Liberal” is a curse word to me but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve the honor and doesn’t proudly and accurately represent liberal ideology. I just happen to disagree with it. If he wrote the same thing about me, suggesting that I could be a founding member of the Conservative Hall of Fame, I’d bust with pride regardless of how he meant it.

    The complete quote in Number 7 is “Liberals love to announce that the science is settled and you have done that with homosexuality, when you make the blanket statement that “sexual orientation (is) biologically and psychologically ingrained…” How in the world is this an unsupported attack? Especially when I go on to explain why the statement he made is false?

    Number 8: Now I had spent a lot of time explaining why property ownership is a right and not a privilege and Mark still disagreed, so instead of going through it again, I just offered up a few facts to support that the U.S. is a Christian nation, and in doing so I poked him in the ribs.

    Number 9 has to be lumped with Number 5 in the category of too funny to resist, but the point was, and it’s a point he has leveled against me, that I didn’t think he read carefully enough what I wrote because he is blinded to an extent by his fondness towards President Obama.

    Are you saying Number 10 is not a valid point? Heck, I was on my way to answering every question his dad asked, before getting hit with a broadside from the HMS Andrea.

    In Number 11 I simply restated what he admitted to not doing by illustrating that it would have been just as easy to get the information from the source as it was to search for someone else’s opinion.

    I actually hesitated writing number 12 because I thought he might take it the way you did and not see it as simply restating what he said about Rush and showing that just because he thinks Rush has said stupid and insensitive things doesn’t mean that others would agree.

    Now regarding your theory that I got mean after Eric Holder, I seem to recall an equally spirited debate that began with the Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam wars and slid into character assassination (or illumination) against Walter Cronkite. In this exchange I actually likened Mark to Michael Moore! And you think it got nasty with Holder? What could be worse than lumping Mark with Moore? Nothing. And I apologize for that. Now in this same post, Mark accused me of hating Americans and threw me in with “birthers and the black helicopter crowd” (it was at about this time that I discovered just how expensive therapy sessions are). In this same exchange, which you make reference to, I stated that Mark has the right to ask me not to comment on his site, and the second he does, I’m done.

    The truth is I could make the same list with Mark’s jabs at me, among them that I’m a warped, insane radical living in fantasy land, and I’d end with this quote: “I often wonder how the two of us even occupy the same planet, much less the same country. Obviously, I hit a nerve on this one. I do get some satisfaction in envisioning your head bouncing off the ceiling when you come across some of my zingers. . .”

    But this would only be in support of what my impression is of what Mark and I have been doing, which I will get to in a moment. But first let me provide my own list, which, when matched with your list, illustrates a very common male relationship and highlights, at least for me, the nature of our relationship.

    August 20, 2009: At the end of the day, just because I may think of you as a flaming liberal (or is it “progressive” these days, I lose track), I still value your opinions and friendship, and I will not be offended if you think me a right-wing conservative – in fact, I insist!

    October 11, 2009: That was a much better response than I had expected. Good job.

    (Continued… again, sorry)

  15. October 21, 2009: Mark, Thanks for those kind compliments and I feel the same way towards your efforts. I may not always agree with what you write, but I’m impressed with how you write it. As proof I’ll tell you this: several times a day I go to your blog hoping for a new post or a follow-up and am disappointed when I come up empty. In fact, I’ve been worried lately, as your past essays have come, on average, once a week and it’s closing in on two weeks now without one. Beyond your writing style, I’m also impressed with the breadth of topics so far: fiction, baseball, politics, baseball, pop culture, baseball, biographies, baseball, religion, war, baseball, social commentary, movies, baseball, race and, um, baseball. . . So now that we’ve man-hugged in print, get your ass in gear and publish! By the way: “Nemesis.” I love it!

    November 2, 2009: Mark, Excellent rebuttal! You stayed on message, ignoring the red meat and red herrings, leaving me nothing but petty points to fire back with.

    December 14, 2009: Mark, First a long overdue acknowledgment: Concerning our two roles – blogger and responder – I clearly occupy the coward’s role. The easier thing is to react to another’s writing, especially when it pushes the right emotional or intellectual buttons, and easier still to zero in on a sentence or two. Much harder is staring at a blank computer screen and filling it from scratch with something well written and interesting. You should be commended for your impressive body of work so far.

    January 10, 2010: Great post, Mark.

    April 7, 2010: Now I know some things about Mark the prosecutor, not least of which is that he is one of the best I have ever worked with. . .

    May 2, 2010: Mark, Just in case you're too modest to brag, I'll do it for you: Congratulations on the publishing of this story at Short Story America. http://www.shortstoryamerica.com/members_ssa/content/ssw_boy_rabbi/index.html

    June 16, 2010: Mark, Very nice. I'll get back to ya.

    July 14, 2010: You would not be the first former AUSA who realized legal work in the private sector is boring and returned to the criminal justice playground. Come back! I can guarantee you that your legal skill is missed.

    When you weave this strand of compliments with Mark’s strand of compliments and add our strands of insults and jabs you end up producing a cowboy’s lariat, not a schoolgirl’s jump rope. When I add in a previous strand about “challenging your opponent; picking apart his arguments, looking for flaws, making him think twice, while defending a position with facts and logic” and yet another strand concerning the long battle of ideas between Christopher Hitchens and theologian Douglas Wilson and how it relates to “our battles,” I’m left with the idea that, in typical male fashion, we were engaged in battle, each other attempting to advance and win our argument; we were attempting to prove our individual ideologies superior. That we either ignore or don’t recognize that a winner will never be declared is irrelevant; men seldom worry over what they will do with the bull once they’ve roped him – it’s the lassoing that’s important.

    Now I could be as wrong about all this as the drunk who sobers up in the morning and realizes that the lampshade he put on his head the night before wasn’t all that funny. If so, I will apologize and slink away. But either way I think you’ve mischaracterized the past year’s tone, suggesting that I somehow got nasty after the Holder post. As I mentioned before, the tone had become, on some occasions, impassioned long before that, and after the Holder post, we engaged in several spirited but calm debates (Guns & Violence, America & Energy, Nuke Free World, Glenn Beck and On Economics).

    (Continued… OK, getting embarrassing…)

  16. And now I’ve just read Mark’s reply! A detailed and impressive lawyerly response that either proves his point or Shakespeare’s, but at midnight I’m finding it hard to figure out which.

    Mark, you make the obvious point that you can’t respond to every challenge and I’ve always understood that. I ask questions to get you thinking and answer your questions because I like to. Of the 22 posts I’ve responded to, you have had the last word on 17, demonstrating that I understand the impossibility of you responding to every challenge.

    So we’re at an impasse. If Andrea is correct and your blog is simply a way to share your thoughts with a select group of friends and family, then I have not only stepped over the line but have wiped away any trace, for which I am sorry. If, however, you have grander ambitions for your blog and writing, as I have always assumed, and your actions suggest, we are still left with a problem. I am of the opinion that in regards to certain subjects you have your head firmly implanted in your ass. I accept, of course, that you feel the same way about my opinions (declaimer: this is guy talk and in no way should be misconstrued as an insult or an attack on Mark as a thinking, feeling human being, entitled to basic universal rights and respect), so if we continue, it will be impossible for me to express that opinion in a manner milder than what has gone before. In other words, I can’t jump rope. As Garth would say, “It's bulls and blood - It's dust and mud - It's spurs and latigo - It's the ropes and the reins - And the joy and the pain - And they call the thing rodeo,” or it’s nothing.

    To quote the sometimes great Bill O’Reilly, “What say you?”

    Rich R.

    P.S.: Andrea, If I was a liberal, I’d say, “Props to you girl, for having your man’s back!” But since I’m not, I’ll just ask, are you licensed to carry?!

  17. Rich,

    Very impressive comments. I think occasionally it is necessary for everyone to be reminded that this is a friendly, intellectual exchange (if I can accurately apply the word "intellectual" to a right-wing Republican -- oh, sorry, I couldn't resist!), but your comments are at times perceived as somewhat vicious, particularly when not coupled with your usual wit and humorous jabs (both at me and yourself). I very much enjoy our exchange, however frustrated I occasionally become with your lopsided wrong-headedness (oops, there I go again). I am glad that you recognize that it is not possible to respond to everything you write, or every fact you cite.

    In looking at the essay that got this whole thing started ("Random Thoughts at the All-Star Break"), I realized that I got one thing very wrong. I said, "The extended heatwave of early July has finally subsided in eastern Pennsylvania . . ." Say what? It is so %$#@!ing hot, no one can think straight. Keep commenting Rich, I would not want it any other way. Andrea will continue to pummel you over the head when you cross a line, but it is good to be reminded that we our fighting the battle of ideas in the spirit of friendship and respect.

    Peace brother,

  18. Rich,

    "LOL" ("laugh out loud," in the unlikely event you don't know it) is the first thing that comes to my mind, though I hate text-speak. It’s been too long since I've been able to laugh with you. I have really missed that. It is very hard to quantify the difference between a reasonable response and an unreasonable one when two macho intellectual men are squaring up. I knew you could match barb for barb and that you have paid Mark compliments (although it's been a while) along with barbs, as he has done with you. But what you didn't see was the effect of your comments on Mark's time and enthusiasm for his blog. Maybe your “challenges” have sharpened his pen, but at what cost. I was hoping that a "dope slap" would cause you to re-calibrate your priorities. Mark was not in a position to do that. And, clearly, I was not alone.

    You didn’t mention my protest that your comments were too damned long, but you are right that it was picayune of me to complain about your use of the term “post” vs. “comment.” Hey, I was pretty pissed off at you -- which is exactly the point. When writing is not injected with overt humor and mutual respect, one invariably crosses the line somewhere. This reduces the effectiveness of the message and makes it just not fun anymore. Your response here was terrific, the “early Rich” I was talking about. It was also terrific because it was short. Now that I know how much writing goes into filling two "comment" spaces (I didn’t even fill both), there is no excuse for you ever to fill more than two or three - one or two is better. I don’t care how many things you think you HAVE to say. The length of your comments has really gotten in the way of the dialogue and, frankly, that’s when your participation in Mark’s blog becomes oppressive.

    Finally, I don’t have a license to carry, but I sure-as-sh*t could get one. Keep that in mind while you are writing. (Don't worry . . . I’m still laughing).

  19. Dear Rich,

    My comment about Fox News and Rush Limbaugh being idiots was supposed to be taken as a joke, to lighten things up.... Though I do believe it, and could bring up facts. Doing so would take time I do not have and I would be preaching to the absolute opposite of the choir, therefore wasting time that, as I said, I do not have. And I do not appreciate you bringing up my religion. I could go on about this, but for now I choose not to, due to the lightness and friendliness of the comments before mine.

    I leave you with one last quote on your "uncontrollable" sarcasm:

    "Sarcasm is the protest of the weak."
    -John Knowles "A Separate Peace"