FlagBaseballThe designated hitter was just the beginning. Thank God I am a National League fan and get to watch the final remnants of the bygone era of a strategy-minded thinking man’s game where critical decisions have to be made when the pitcher is due to bat—just let him swing and make the best of it, sacrifice bunt with less than two out or suicide squeeze with a runner on third and less than two outs, or pinch hit even though he is pitching a good game just to get a tying or go-ahead run across the plate. Likewise, to let a tiring pitcher due to bat first, second, or third in the order next inning to pitch on fumes just a little longer so that you can pinch hit for him next inning; or pull a double-switch to allow a pitching change that changes the batting order so the new pitcher is not due to bat next inning. I would like to argue for the abolition of the designated hitter and have the NL protocol be the law of the land in both leagues—especially now that you have fifteen teams in each league and a minimum of one interleague game virtually every day is now a necessary evil in order to complete a 162 game schedule in six months. The younger generation may prefer the added offense of a DH in both leagues. But there are much deeper blows to the aorta of baseball purity right now.
A far more radical change in the game is giving the manager the option to challenge the umpire’s call and using video in some control room in Manhattan to possibly overturn the umpire’s call. Bill Klem, Tom Gorman, and Doug Harvey—going along the generation continuum, would never surrender their power to rule the game with an iron hand and allow video cameras overturn their calls which were once almighty even when a mistake is made—the so called human element of officiating. This generation of umpires does not want to rule the game; after all, the challenge-review rule was their idea. Truth be told, umpires made just as many mistakes in yesteryear as they do today; before high def television and other technology, many went undetected. A fan sitting in the upper deck at old Shea Stadium, closer to the airplanes than the field, or around the Pesky pole at Fenway Park with a grandstand column obstructing their view could not always find such a miscue. Neither could a snowy black-and-white TV running on rabbit ears or a first generation Zenith Chromocolor with a screen the shape of an eye-ball. This generation of umpires, many of them who resigned on September 1st, 1999 to protest the suspension of Tom Hallion and for some reason were allowed to come back the following year, chose the white flag over the black suit and now it takes four hours to complete a 3-2 nine-inning game.
The Internationalization of the game is another big difference between then and now. I commend the players and owners in 2002 for not going on strike and working out the revenue-sharing via payroll tax to give small-market teams a fair shake. One of the big differences is the Yankees cannot buy a championship as easily because the payroll tax keeps enough money in the pockets of most of the other owners to retain their star players. This is another generational shift because there was a time when the best players in the game would do whatever it took, even a small pay cut, to wear the pinstripes and play for the most storied sports franchise in the history of the world. This generation of players will stay with their teams as long as their current teams offer them the most money. The loophole Hal Steinbrenner has chosen to answer the retirements of Mariano Riviera and Derek Jeter and the aging team is to look overseas for superstars in other countries such as Masahiro Tanaka and populate the roster with the best foreign lands have to offer. As much as I hate it when the Yankees buy championships, I give Hal credit for the idea and if I were playing his chess pieces, it is a good move on the board. The biggest problems are (1) he was one of the few owners that can afford to pay the fees required to raid foreign rosters such as Japan and (2) if foreign players outnumber natural-born American players on the roster, is baseball still our national pastime? I don’t want to sound stogy because somebody had to do something daring to break the color-line in effect from 1900-46 as was the case with Branch Rickey signing Jackie Roosevelt Robinson; duly noted however, Jackie was a natural-born American. The fact that today’s players are more interested in making as much money as they can rather than a World Series ring or playing in New York, the baseball capital of the world, which once allured many players to the Big Apple either to the Yankees or one of three New York National League clubs over two centuries (Giants, Brooklyn Dodgers, and now the Mets).
I’m afraid the times, they are a changing. Let’s just hope the game can still be the pastime God intended for America.

Republican ElephantWhen I first launched The 7 Train, my first blog entry was on the flat tax. Since then, conservative talk show and advocate Sean Hannity talks about the movement to repeal the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution which gives the federal government the right to tax income. The first income tax was enacted in 1913 and was a flat tax. Replacing the federal income tax would be what is called a consumption tax, which would work like a national sales tax but would involved higher percent rates on more expensive items. One would pay a higher consumption tax on a Mercedes Benz than on a Chevy Cruise. While both tax reform options offer similar advantages to the American people, the consumption tax is a little more problematic.
The main advantage to going either direction is that you could shut down the IRS. This is a big victory to those of us who want to see a balanced budget in our lifetime without putting people out on the street, metaphorically speaking. Before one considers making cuts to Social Security and Medicare, which will hurt a lot of Americans too ill or too late in life to start over and build an American Dream, or cutting Big Bird, which will not generate enough revenue savings to make a dent in the debt in a $17T deficit, you eliminate the IRS instead; the one government agency nobody likes; Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, rich, poor, or middle class. The complete absence of an income tax would make the IRS completely superfluous and the same is true with a flat tax since everybody’s withholdings could be set the tax flat rate, say 9%.
While the consumption tax and the concept of Americans keeping every hard-earned penny without sharing it with the federal government is an easier sell for a political sales representative, as it were, it operates under the assumption that Americans will always consume at a predictable rate. The main reason I prefer a sales tax engine of revenue over an income tax at the state level is it gives the taxpayer more elasticity in the event of hard times, such as a layoff or a need to give up a job to stay home and take care of an ill or elderly relative, or for a woman to have a baby and be a stay at home mom. Such a taxpayer can buy less, including affordable items that are purely wants and not needs. A Subaru Outback station wagon to cart the kids around in bad weather where all wheel drive is desirable instead of an Audi A4, Lincoln Navigator or BMW X-5—you get the idea. But if the federal [national] government goes that route, America becomes prone to more recessions and deeper ones that take longer to get out from under.
The number one source of consumption in the United States of America is retail sales. The number one retailer in the United States right now is Wal-Mart, and Wal-Mart is currently reporting a decline in sales. As long as Wal-Mart exists and the middle class outnumber the rich, it is fair to postulate an axiom stating as Wal-Mart goes, so goes the nation. The logical conclusion is we are headed toward another recession, not predicted to be as bad as The Great Recession of 2008. Although it will not significantly affect the buying habits of the top one percent or even the top twenty percent following the old 80-20 rule, the global decline in consumption will adversely affect revenue from a national consumption tax. It will also mean more frequent recessions because it will deter consumer spending, even in good economies.
As much as I loathe the concept of taxing earned income and as much as I want to see the return of The American Dream in my lifetime, I think the flat tax is the better alternative. I like the 9% figure because it is one percent less than a tithe so it keeps the federal government and all corrupt politicians who make it up from ever putting themselves ahead of God. Ultimately, the recovery of America as a great nation and the revival of The American Dream are in God’s hands and he cannot allow either one to take place as long as he sees the necessity for American to be punished for its sins, consistent with the Book of Deuteronomy. Simply withhold 9%, no more, no less, from every American’s paycheck and wire it directly to the Treasury Department and you do not need the IRS. It is simple and with the wealthy paying 9% of a bigger number than the middle class, and with a more limited government, I believe it will put America on the road to recovery.

American-Flag1 It’s the VETERAN, not the preacher,
who has given us freedom or religion.
It’s the VETERAN, not the reporter,
who has given us freedom of the press.
It’s the VETERAN, not the poet,
who has given us freedom of speech.
It’s the VETERAN, not the campus organizer,
who has given us freedom to assemble.
It’s the VETERAN, not the lawyer,
who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It’s the VETERAN, not the politician,
who has given us the right to vote.
It’s the VETERAN,
who salutes the flag,
who serves under the flag,
ETERNAL REST GRANT THEM O LORD,
AND LET PERPETUAL LIGHT SHINE ON THEM.

Republican ElephantOn a recent interview with CBS News correspondent Nora O’Donnell, Cardinal Timothy Dolan made reference to how he admires Pope Francis and what he intends to achieve for the Catholic Church.  Although it is unlikely the Catholic Church would ever anoint an American as Pope, many people feel Dolan would be a logical choice and could do the job.  One of the highlights of the interview is he gave a quasi-endorsement to Jeb Bush, should Jeb choose to run.

I must give a disclaimer that I am not an expert in the finer nuances that separate Catholism from other sects of Christianity other than those that get the most attention such as their stand on divorce.  So on Easter Sunday 2014, I am posing a question that I will only attempt to answer and hope it will satisfy both supporters and critics.  The question is: Did the cardinal violate the principle of separation of church and state by his “endorsement” of Jeb Bush for President?

First of all, cardinals and other high clergy are human beings just like the rest of us.  They are not immune to temptation and even if they make it to Sainthood, will still fall short of complete glorification of God and still need their commitment to the Lord and Savior if they want to go to Heaven.   Dolan spoke of how Jesus says we must forgive even our worst enemies and although he does, he finds it hard with some people.  Forgiving Adolph Hitler or Osama bin Laden?  I can see his point.  And we have all been victims on the local level of somebody doing something unforgivable to us.  But scripture clearly says if we do not forgive our enemies for their sins against us, we have no right to forgive God to forgive us for our sins (against others and against HIM).  So if a cardinal of the Catholic Church has difficulty with this fundamental principle in the Book of Matthew, imagine how it is for the rest of us.

Second, Cardinal Dolan is also in American citizen.  He is within his rights to have opinions although he may be restricted on acting on some of them.  Answering questions on an interview is merely taking the talk; not walking the walk.  Nobody will actually see the ballot he casts as he will not see ours.  However, God is watching when we are in that privacy booth with our ballot and I would hope we would all cast a vote for Godly candidates if there are any on the ballot.  Dante said in The Inferno, The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who remain neutral in troubled times…  The give his eminence credit for wanting to show up at the polls on Election Day and cast a vote for the candidate he thinks is best suited for solving the problems.

Finally, as I have said on many communications in the past, few Americans really know the true definition of separation of church and state.  Many people think it means religion and government are never supposed to cross paths.  That is as far from the truth as you can get.  If that were the case, why does every session of Congress start with a non-denominational prayer?  For those of you who missed it, Separation of Church and State is by definition the prohibition of any local, state, or the federal government to establish any one religion as the local, state, or national religion, because The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion.  It does not in any way state that government at any level must operate devoid of religion or religious beliefs.  It is bad enough government is filled with believers who sin and who instigate sinful policies; the last thing anyone wants is for our towns, cities, states, and this great nation to be run by atheists.  Therefore, Cardinal Dolan did nothing wrong in expressing his opinions and stating Jeb Bush is his first choice for the next person to lead the secular government of the greatest nation God allowed to inhabit Planet Earth.  Just remember, when you are all alone in the privacy booth at your polling place, God is still watching you.

Rush Limbaugh, talk show host and conservative advocate has the Rush Revere series to teach children how America was founded?  Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, a drugged-out rock and roller wrote Gus and Me about his first guitar.  Who would you rather have your children reading?

 

Republican ElephantThere are five items that impede the rebuilding of the American Economy and the American Dream.  In many ways, it is a conundrum or catch-22.  It is not going to be easy for America to spend money it doesn’t have but I’m not sure any other way.  For the time being, let us adjudicate on the five items.  One starts with D and the other four start with E.

Debt: Goes without saying.  $17 Trillion on the way to $20 T before the end of the decade—you have heard this on many past blogs and at this point, to use the bully pulpit, as it were to elaborate on the problematics of the national debt would be preaching to the choir.  The national debt is in the backdrop of the four Es that require the attention of all concerned citizens.  If congress and the president will not aggressively pursue spending cuts, even those I don’t support whole-heartedly, yet see as Hobson’s choices, I don’t know what else anyone can do.

Education: This is the biggest conundrum that has to be faced in the rebuilding of the American Dream.  In order to compete in a world economy, we need a world class educational system such as Japan and most of the European Union nations.  Our educational system has been on the decline since the early 1960s and needs to be revamped in every possible way.

I am not just talking about educating doctors, lawyers, and white collar professions that require a bachelorette education or higher, which starts in grade school.  In this high tech world, for the most fundamental component needed to repair the U.S. economy, bringing back manufacturing, a high level of education is now required.  Assume you can bring back manufacturing, there is no longer a direct proportion with respect to manufacturing to manufacturing jobs.  If you are going to use robotics, you do not need assembly line employees, you need highly educated computer programmers programming the computers that run the robots.  Even factories that do require human hands, such as a company in Nevada that makes bolts for airplane seats, requires a certain precision and a lot of higher mathematics is required of the workers, not just the engineers, because decisions have to be made on the fly with respect to the nature of the beast.  So we have a skills gap.  No matter how desperate they are to higher workers, they can never just hire anyone.

What this means is no matter how deep we are in debt, we cannot bring back manufacturing to a significant degree unless we invest in education.  And here lies the conundrum; you cannot invest money you don’t have.  It is like a stock broker confronting a family of four with the father laid off from work, living on unemployment compensation which runs out in 99 weeks, to give up his last dollars he needs to put food on the table for his family, to buy stock.  We would have to be willing to raise the debt ceiling to invest in education.  It would take three generations to pay it off and still may never be paid off.  I don’t have an answer at this time.

Entitlements: When it comes to responsible spending cuts and a balanced budget, here is where the rubber meets the road.  Before the New Deal, we were a nation of opportunity, not entitlements.  It should be a no-brainer to cut spending and phase out the entitlements build a model for the United States of America based on pre-New Deal rules.  Most welfare recipients would much rather have opportunities than make welfare a life sentence.  One thing you cannot due is eliminate all entitlements and leave people high and dry—even the preamble of the Constitution does not allow for that.  We are now dealing with the third generation of the welfare state and too many people were born into it and it created a comfort-zone squelching one’s dream or even one’s ability to dream.  Our Founding Fathers would spin in their graves to see a class system established in the great nation they built; they knew haves and have-nots was the price we would pay to have a free nation, but they wanted there to always be opportunity for the have-nots to overcome and join the haves.  The saving grace is there is a bridge between caring for those who cannot care for themselves and limited government—privatization.  The challenge is getting both sides of the aisle to agree on a privatization plan.

Economic Globalization: This is a metamorphosis George Washington, the man who preached isolationism for America, did not see coming.  The easiest way to force manufacturing and manufacturing jobs back to America is to go back to George Washington and isolate ourselves from the rest of the world.  If we cannot manufacture products that compete with on the global marketplace immediately, until a revamped education system can be implemented and the first kindergarteners are prodigies of the new system cradle to grave, as long as the products suit us, we are good to go.  But this is highly problematic.

Natural Resources: Not only have we depleted most of our natural resources, some of these resources, such as manganese used to harden steel, were never abundant in North American soil.  We have no choice but to have permanent working alliances with nations rich in such resources.  We cannot manufacture without raw materials, no matter how qualified our workers are.

Foreign Policy: Our alliance with the state of Israel, established as a sovereign nation in 1948 and the hostilities of the Arab Middle East surrounding the Hebrew state have put us on the spot. My father’s side of the family was raised in the Jewish faith and I have had the good fortune to be surrounded by great relatives.  Besides which, both the Jewish and Christian bibles make it clear God will always defend Israel.  One of the unfortunate consequences, i.e., the price we pay to be a free nation doing the right thing in life pertains to how we deal with the world hostile to America.  No matter how we develop our domestic energy sources, we will always have to buy some oil from OPEC, from Arab nations who oppose us and Israel.  As much as they hate America, they love American money.  The only reason they get any American money is because we purchase oil from them.  If we ever reach a nirvana where we no longer need a drop of Arab oil, how do we stop a global jihad?  The best we can do is develop domestic energy sources so Arab oil can be strictly supplemental.

Corporate Outsourcing: We need an economic policy known as America First.  Corporate America must make it a policy to always hire Americans before outsourcing labor to foreign countries.  I know it will cost more, but it will pay off in the long run as unemployment declines in America and more Americans have buying power to buy Americans.  But no one can hire Americans if there are no Americans qualified—back to the concept of skills gap.  This brings us back to the problem of investing in education with no money to invest.  And American-made goods are not truly made in America if they are made in a factory of non-American workers.  Also, Americans have to be willing to take such jobs.  Nobody builds an American Dream to work in a factory.

Ecclesiastic Degradation: Few Americans put God first in their lives anymore.  Politics and corporate greed notwithstanding, it is God that calls all the shots.  We have unscrupulous politicians and corporate business owners that are who they are because they are oblivious to God’s principles.  Though neither I nor any other mortal man can judge them, it is popular belief that if they don’t pay for their sins in this life, they will pay in the next.  Capitalism is not perfect, but it beats every other everything else the world has to offer.  John Locke made it clear that all power inevitably corrupts and even people who start out in the world honest and Godly can be corrupted once empowered with a lot of power and money.  It says in The Bible it is harder for a rich man to get into Heaven than for a camel to stick his head through the eye of a needle.  But with God, all things are possible.  It is the un-Godliness of that top 1%, not their wealth, that the 99% should be concerned with.  The humanistic philosophy of John Dewey in the 1920s is a major player in the secularization of the United States of America.

It is stated in Proverbs 14:20 that poverty is a curse and Deuteronomy 23:19 that those committing usury will not inherit the Kingdom of God.  These versus coming from the Old Testament before the birth of Christ.  This puts into perspective the real reason America cannot find its way back to fiscal responsibility and balance the budget.  There may very well be politicians and other players with real solutions and relatively honest and Godly—but God will not allow them to get elected because America may not be done paying for its sin of usury.  America may never be finished paying for that sin and we may be in the seven year tribulation period right now, in which case the saved people will benefit from a thousand years of peace and prosperity soon enough.  The point is America as a nation, the greatest nation God allowed on Earth and let freedom ring across it so people could freely surrender to God’s principles, must become more Godly and seek his blessings before any political or pseudo-scientific solution can be allowed to work.  Did it ever occur to you that every session of congress begins with a non-denominational prayer but your children cannot pray in a public school?  What happened to the Ten Commandments posted at school entrances?  Do people realize that separation of church and state does not in any way state the state must operate devoid of religion?

A D and four Es make up the fundamental principles needed to rebuild this great nation under God.  Time to make it happen.

As the evidence mounts that Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 ended up at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, as tragic as this, Malaysian Airlines could have been a little more tactful in notifying the families.  They notified the family members with a short and not so sweet text message.  How would you feel about receiving a text message that a loved one of yours is dead?  At least in the days of red letters, people gave more thought for what they inked on paper.

With all the other possible fatalities due to texting and answering text messages in situations like driving a car, driving a train, and operating heavy machinery, the last thing we want is to have to expect text messages to keep informed of both global news and news of right back home.  American society must find a better way to communicate.

My condolences to any families of those lost on MH 370.   

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