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Monday, December 22, 2008

A Christmas Travesty ... old

I have endeavored (with a bit of help from Charles Dickens) in this ghostly little tale, to raise the ghost of an idea which shall neither put you out of humour with yourselves ... nor with each other ... nor hopefully with me ... may it haunt your minds delightfully ... "God bless you, merry gentlemen! May nothing you dismay!" ... Henry Beefeater had grown into an uncharitable and begrudging young fellow, along with being an accomplished thief, despite noble efforts by his parents Lamar & Mamie Beefeater to influence the boy to the contrary ... hence, Henry reckoned that the age-old proverb "better to give than to receive" was meant for every living mortal other than himself ... having therefore settled on that mistaken notion, Henry unabashedly presented his parents with his annual Christmas wish list, with intentions of then making a trip to the mall for the purpose of completing his Christmas "shoplifting" ... Lamar quickly glanced at the large piece of paper, Henry's demands and desires scribbled on both sides, then promptly squeezed it into a tight ball, before tossing it onto the glowing embers of the open hearth ... he then set about to explain to the bewildered nestling how that greed and lack of concern for others had finally caught up with him, and that he was to proceed straightaway to his bedroom, devoid of supper ... Henry, hurt and humiliated by his father's terse reaction, ran up the stairs to his room, slamming the door behind him, then diving headlong onto his squeaky bed ... it wasn't long 'till he began drifting off to sleep, but there were no visions of sugar-plums dancing in his head, just angry thoughts ... and images of dread ... Henry had barely commenced to snore, when he heard the sounds of what he thought was something fiercely struggling within his room ... then as mucky water splashed all over his favorite patchwork quilt, he bolted upright just in time to see a tremendous creature, it being nearly five feet in length, with glowering red eyes, and a rusty treble hook embedded in it's fat lip ... lying just inside the thing's jutting, lower jaw was what appeared to be a huge wad of waterlogged tobacco ... Lester Doolittle? ... how could it be? ... Henry's pappy had told him stories about those days when he and Lester were the best of childhood friends ... until Lester robbed the general store, and made off with all that tobacco, only to be turned into a slimy sea monster, doomed to swim around out there in some murky lake or ocean, all by his lonesome, for the remainder of his miserable existence ... Henry mustered up a bit of courage then enquired, "Lester? ... Lester Doolittle? ... is that you?" ... the writhing, scurfy figure paused for a moment, spat a nasty gob of black juice right onto Henry's bedspread, then hoarsely replied ... "Yes Henry Beefeater, I am Lester Doolittle ... first but not last, sent from the briny depths to dissuade you from lying and pilfering folks' belongings ... lest your end be of similar fate, hopelessly swimming alongside I as your mate!" ... Henry attempted a meek answer, but mercifully fainted, as the wretched menace suddenly vanished, after warning of Spirits yet to follow upon the clock's midnight knell ... was it a dream or no? ... again Henry sank into the nether throes of fitful sleep ... Off in the distance, as the pealing bell fell silent ... the curtains on the window cautiously parted, revealing a mysterious, transparent form crawling slowly over the sill and onto the floor ... "Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold me?" asked Henry ... "I am," said the voice so soft and gentle, and singularly low ... "Who, and what are you?" demanded Henry ... "I am the Ghost of Christmas Past," it announced ... "Long past?" added Henry ... "No, your past," it said ... as it spoke, it extended it's strong hand, clasped Henry gently by the arm, then hauled him from the bed so effortlessly and light, and down the narrow stairway to where those he foreknew sat looking much younger this night ... the walls and ceiling were arrayed with living green, where bright, gleaming berries glistened amidst crisp leaves of ivy, holly and mistletoe ... a mighty flame roared up the chimney, and out into the chilly air, threatening the stockings hung with great care ... in a corner stood a beautiful spruce, trimmed with sparkling lamps and shiny ornaments of all sorts, heaped beneath it lay piles of gifts, bound together with ribbons and bows ... in the kitchen sat poultry and great joints of meat, mince-pies, plum-puddings, long wreaths of sausages, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes and seething bowls of punch, that made the room dim with delicious steam ... on the couch sat Henry's mother and father, glaring proudly at a tiny baby rocking in a cradle at their feet ... "Who's child is that," stammered Henry ... "Why that's you," declared the Ghost, as a dull rap irrupted at the front door ... "My time has come and gone, and so for you," said the Ghost of Christmas Past ... "the Ghost of Christmas Present would now like some time with you" ... As Henry fearfully opened the heavy door, there stood an immense, albeit jolly Giant, with genial face and sparkling eyes, clothed in a simple robe bordered with snowy-white fur, who with a cheery voice proclaimed, "I am the Ghost of Christmas Present, sent here to remind you of those less fortunate than thee, and of those so desperately in need ... come go with me, and in all take heed" ... suddenly there sat Henry surrounded by gifts, while others had none ... his stomach bursting with food, as others begged for scraps ... resting in a warm house, dressed in the finest of clothes, while multitudes wandered homeless, naked and cold ... countless folks barely surviving in squalor and need, as Henry went about spoiled and ungrateful, his heart rotten with greed ... then near the Spirit's side stood a gaunt-eyed boy and a raggedly-clad girl ... "Who are they?" asked Henry ... "Why they are you, meet Ignorance and Want," said the rotund Ghost ... "Beware them both!" ... Henry could stand to see no more, and insisted the Spirit return him back where he had been before ... with a start, Henry was instantly back in his bed ... had this been a dream or no? ... or some poor, disturbed souls returned from the dead? ... he slept again ... Yet another Phantom silently crept 'neath the closed, bedchamber door, slowly approaching the foot of Henry's bed, like icy vapour spreading fright and doom ... shrouded in darkness, it's head and face concealed by misty blackness melding with the night, the frightful form rose to an imposing height ... the Spirit spoke not a word, as it lightly tapped Henry on the knee with an invisible, outstretched hand ... Henry bolted upright, as if unexpectedly seared by an icicle and cried, "am I in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come?" ... the Spirit answered not with words, just motioned for the terrified lad to follow ... "are you about to show me shadows of things yet to happen, but will happen in time before us?" asked the frightened boy ... the Spectre seemed to so nod ... "then lead on," said Henry ... "the night is rapidly fleeing" ... at once they were walking down a quiet lane, when passing before the window of a modest tenement house, Henry noticed a group of sobbing children gathered round a sparsely-lit tree, sadly there were no gifts beneath, nary a one -- right away Henry realized that it was he that had stolen those dear babe's hopes and dreams ... straightaway he and the Shadow were legging it amid throngs of humanity on a bustling avenue, and there sitting precariously on the curb was an elderly, decrepit man, wearing dirty, threadbare clothes unbefitting of the intemperate weather, and clutched tightly in his bony, shaking hand was a rusty, tin can, with words scrawled down the side which read, "a penny for my thoughts, a nickel for some coffee, a dime for a slice of bread?" -- somehow Henry knew this unfortunate soul was he ... as they continued along the now dimly-lit street, at their side, just beneath a tiny Shoppe's shattered windowpane, lay a corpse draped with a bloody white sheet ... "Who is that?" Henry asked ... the Phantom was yet to speak, as Henry saw a kneeling policeman pull back that sheet, revealing the lifeless heap sprawled before him amongst the fragments of broken glass -- to Henry's shock and dismay, that pathetic pile was he, shot dead by that officer while trying to loot the place ... sickened to the core, Henry went forth at a quicker pace, only to find himself standing in a most solemn and dreadful place ... brisk wind blew swirls of dried leaves all about the listing, timeworn headstones, which marked the final resting place for various and sundry souls ... the lonesome cemetery felt eerily familiar, as the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come led him to the furthest corner, where it pointed out a solitary, unmarked plot ... "and who lies within, sir?" -- but the Ghost had abruptly departed, and Henry knew that within that forgotten tomb rested the bones of none other than Henry Beefeater ... he began to weep uncontrollably, until he thought his entire being would meltdown to nothing other than a lifeless pool of salty tears ... Henry again heard the rings from the courthouse clock, as he opened his eyes to the gradually, dawning light ... had it been but a nightmare, or no? ... he waited for a few tense moments, but no more Spirits did appear ... he hurriedly got dressed, grabbed all the money hidden under his mattress, then ran downstairs to greet his mother and father, giving them big hugs, along with his sister and brother too! ... he then loudly exclaimed, "Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to all!" ... "I must hurry to the shopping mall, and purchase gifts for one and all, I've only a day or so afore the Yuletide doth befall" ... as he grabbed his coat and ran out the door ... Henry had the best day of his life ... buying gifts for family and friends ... food, clothing and toys to donate to those in dire need ... dropping cash and coins in every Salvation Army bell ringers' pail, even went out of his way to place a wad of money in an old man's tin can with words which read, "a penny for my thoughts, a nickel for some coffee, a dime for a slice of bread?" ... why ol' Henry had become as thoughtful and generous as that jolly fella named St. Nick ... the Beefeaters were finally granted their greatest wish -- at long last their son Henry had became the man of honour and character they had always hoped for and dreamed of ... Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight! ... I want to take this opportunity to genuinely wish one and all ... friend and foe alike ... a very "Merry Christmas, and a Happy Holiday Season!" ... I pray that my story has brought you a few moments of enjoyment and laughter, may you have many more ... although written as a provocative parody of Charles Dicken's classic "A Christmas Carol" ... it is fraught with hidden truths relevant to all ... Above all else, my heart's desire is that all remember the true reason for the season ... "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" John 1:14 ... the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ ... --sja

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Braves miss out on A.J. Burnett; Yankees continue Daddy Warbucks imitation

Matt Collier: December 14, 2008

Free agent pitcher A.J. Burnett agreed Friday on a guaranteed five year, $82.5 million deal. The Braves are believed to have offered 5 years, $75-80 million. Between Burnett and C.C. Sabathia, the Yankees have invested $243.5 million on two pitchers seen by most as the two highest-profile hurlers on the market this year. The question is not whether the Yankees can return to the World Series-baseball fans have seen this spending orgy lead to postseason failure with the Yankees before (Jaret Wright, Carl Pavano, etc.).

"Drunken Sailors? I don't see it! Psst, pass the grog, C.C.."

The question before baseball relates to the necessity and viability of a salary cap. With the Yankees spending like, "drunken sailors," according to Marlins president David Samson, should Major League Baseball implement a salary cap? ESPN's Buster Olney rejected such an idea, noting that the Yankees' payroll will actually drop by 10% in 2009 (after the salaries of Jason Giambi, Bobby Abreu, etc. drop off their payroll). In the opinion of this father of two during an economic meltdown, last year is irrelevant. The Yankees outspent everyone in Major League Baseball in 2008, to the tune of $207.1 million. The second-place New York Mets spent $137.4 million. By contrast, the Florida Marlins spent around $22 million, less than Sabathia will earn next year by himself

The question clearly is not whether or not MLB should institute a salary cap. The question is whether or not they will. On his radio show, ESPN's Erik Kuselias noted that while it should happen, the MLBPA fully supports the Yankees astronomical spending because it drives up all player salaries. Since the MLBPA is one of the strongest labor unions in American history, they will never allow a salary cap to exist. Even if they could be swayed, it seems unlikely that Commissioner Bud Selig would be a strong enough leader to force the issue.

"So, Hank and Hal, can I get a loan?"

So what is the answer for teams like the Braves, who have some financial resources but cannot enter the Yankees' atmosphere? There are two areas where the Braves could invest the $50 million that was earmarked for free agency. First, the Braves should sign a left-fielder who can hit and play respectable defense. Juan Rivera and Pat Burrell are two possible options. Second, invest in scouting and player development, especially in the international realm. Such investment will yield sustainable long-term success.

The Braves built their dynasty around home-grown players like Chipper Jones and Tom Glavine. Brian McCann, Kelly Johnson, Yunel Escobar, and even Jeff Francoeur continue that tradition. As the Braves bring up the next generation of pitchers like Tommy Hanson and Cole Rohrborough, they will return to the ranks of National League giants.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

End Of An Era? ...

The Doolittle clan had been peddling lemonade each summer for several decades now from a movable stand situated in the center of the town square ... an endeavor which had become a family tradition ... this industrious undertaking had always been an extremely profitable enterprise, until just recently ... the local economy had tanked, and folks weren't spending much money on lemonade these days ... at least they weren't spending it at the Doolittle stand ... which under such inauspicious conditions, appeared to be hanging on the brink of certain failure, and ultimate closure ... could it be the end of an era? ... Lester Doolittle was an indolent young fella, but had always considered himself to be a thinker of the highest order ... so Lester took it upon himself to think of a way to assure the continued existence of Doolittle Lemonade Inc. ... consequently, he settled on the idea of going before town council to request a huge monetary bailout ... he would simply tell them how important it was to the town's future economic vitality that Doolittle Lemonade not be allowed to go out of business ... no matter the cost ... On the day council members had gathered to hear Lester's urgent appeal ... he combed his hair, donned his best Sunday-go-to-meetin' suit, climbed on his shiny, new Schwinn bike and headed across town to council chambers ... to his surprise, as he wound his way through the tree lined streets, he saw numerous other lemonade stands with folks waiting in long lines to purchase tall, icy glassfuls of his competitors' lemonade ... the sounds of laughter, children playing and birds singing filled the balmy, summer air ... life seemed good ... how dare they buy lemonade from anyone other than a Doolittle! ... When Lester's turn came to present his petition before council members ... he nervously rose to his feet, gathered his composure, then sheepishly proceeded to explain how folks weren't buying Doolittle lemonade ... how the town's economy wouldn't be able to survive without the Doolittle lemonade stand ... how the Doolittle lemonade stand would have to go out of business unless an enormous bailout was awarded on behalf of the town ... finally, Lester surmised that if Doolittle Lemonade Inc. were allowed to go out of business, that certain doom and everlasting destruction lurked just around the corner for all of civilized humanity ... Senior councilman Smith cleared his throat, raised an eyebrow and began to speak ... "Mister Doolittle, your family has been operating a lemonade stand around these parts for as long as I can reasonably remember ... and the Doolittles have made a lot of money over the years" ... he continued, "I also recall that the Doolittles have always used bad lemons and cheap corn syrup when making their lemonade, while other lemonade stands use only the finest lemons and pure cane sugar as their ingredients ... the Doolittles have served their lemonade in small Dixie cups with no ice, while other stands utilize tall glasses with plenty of ice, and even a straw upon request ... the Doolittles were never dependable, only opening their stand when convenient to the Doolittles, while other stands are open on a regular basis ... other stands reinvest the majority of their profits back into their lemonade stands, the Doolittles never put any profits back into Doolittle Lemonade Inc. in order to improve Doolittle lemonade or to maintain the Doolittle lemonade stand, the Doolittles however do use their huge profits to purchase luxury items such as fancy clothes and shiny, new Schwinn bikes ... and last, but not least, the Doolittles currently charge a dollar for a small cup of so-called lemonade, while other stands are charging no more than a quarter for a tall, icy glassful of superior quality lemonade ... the Doolittles can only blame the Doolittles for their own precarious and long foreseen conundrum ... it would be neither fair to your competitors, nor prudent for the taxpayers of this town to subsidize the continued, extravagant and reckless existence of Doolittle Lemonade Inc. sir!" ... "the answer is emphatically NO!" ... Lester slowly ambled out the door bearing the stark realization that he would now have to go out and find another job ... the Doolittles had known for quite some time that their lemonade was deficient in quality and excessive in price, but they had never been genuinely concerned with the concept of customer satisfaction, and had done nothing ... the Doolittles were only interested in making a quick and easy dollar ... eventually Lester was able to obtain gainful employment selling lemonade for one of his previous competitors ... lemonade stands were still flourishing all around town, and the town's economy had not collapsed under the weight of the loss of Doolittle Lemonade Inc. ... the sounds of laughter, children playing and birds singing filled the balmy, summer air ... life seemed good ... the end of an era had come and gone with little fanfare ... A poll relative to this post is located in the sidebar --sja

Sunday, December 7, 2008

"A Date Which Shall Live In Infamy" ...

Just a reminder ... early in the afternoon of December 7, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his chief foreign policy aide, Harry Hopkins, were interrupted by a telephone call from Secretary of War Henry Stimson and told that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. At about 5:00 p.m., following meetings with his military advisers, the President calmly and decisively dictated to his secretary, Grace Tully, a request to Congress for a declaration of war. He had composed the speech in his head after deciding on a brief, uncomplicated appeal to the people of the United States rather than a thorough recitation of Japanese perfidies, as Secretary of State Cordell Hull had urged ... President Roosevelt then revised the typed draft--marking it up, updating military information, and selecting alternative wordings that strengthened the tone of the speech. He made the most significant change in the critical first line, which originally read, "a date which will live in world history." Grace Tully then prepared the final reading copy, which Roosevelt subsequently altered in three more places ... On December 8, at 12:30 p.m., Roosevelt addressed a joint session of Congress and the Nation via radio. The Senate responded with a unanimous vote in support of war; only Montana pacifist Jeanette Rankin dissented in the House. At 4:00 p.m. that same afternoon, President Roosevelt signed the declaration of war ... Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Day Of Infamy" speech is as follows: To the Congress of the United States: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with it's Government and it's Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack. It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions for hope of continued peace. The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu. Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack on Malaya. Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong. Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam. Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands. Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island. This morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island. Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation. As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. Always will be remembered the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again. Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger. With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounded determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God. I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December seventh, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire." --President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, December 8, 1941. *Information taken from the U.S. National Archives --sja