Tuesday, July 31, 2012


          I like all sports. I’ve played many different sports and I like to watch any sport, whether I ever played it or not. But I have a special place in my heart for baseball, not just because I was involved in that sport for several years as a minor league executive and then as the public relations director of two different  Major League teams, but because there is something unique about baseball.
          Any sport can be exciting for its fans to watch, and to excel in any sports demands athleticism on the part of the participants, strategic awareness, and a high degree of physical, mental, emotional, and attitudinal discipline. Natural ability is important, of course, but determination and hard work can sometimes compensate for a player’s lack of natural ability. Coaches appreciate players who are always hustling, always giving the best they have to give.
          What, then, is unique about baseball? For one thing, it’s the lore. To a larger extent than any other sport baseball lends itself to story telling. Again, I will agree that every sport has its lore —stories of its heroes and heroines, stories of its memorable characters and their crazy antics or incredible exploits, stories of impossible victories and improbable feats and indelible defeats.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Friday, July 27, 2012


Photo by James Reed/AP


(Sing along, you know the tune!)

Yankee Romney went to London
just to help his image
but he made so many goofs
he did himself much dimage.

Yankee Romney messed it up,
acting like a dandy.
Stuck his rich foot in his mouth
and found it wasn’t candy.

Yankee Romney went to London
to impress the British,
but because he flubbed the dub
his reputation skiddish.

Yankee Romney messed it up,
acting like a dandy,
as a self-styled diplomat
he surely wasn’t handy.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012



AP Wirephoto
          Jerry Sandusky will bear the penalty for his sins, but death spared Joe Paterno the shame of his disgrace. He did not live to see his once untarnished reputation destroyed. He never dreamed  that the mention of his long revered name would now evoke from many public observers only anger, bitterness, and disgust. He’ll hear no newsboy tearfully accost him with, “Say it ain’t so, Joe! Say it ain’t so!” The icon has been roughly yanked from his lofty perch and thrust into the shadows of shame.
         The fall of Joe Paterno is the outcome of an intense investigation by the law firm of former F.B.I. Director Louis Freeh, who was engaged by the Penn State Board of Trustees to conduct an independent investigation. The report concluded that Head Football Coach Paterno, Athletic Director Tim Curley, Vice President Gary Schultz, and President Graham Spanier did indeed conspire to conceal Sandusky’s behavior from the proper authorities. The report indicated that the iconic coach had twice lied to the grand jury in testifying that he was unaware of what was going on.
         The Paterno children understandably resent the vilification of their father. They wonder why the focus is not solely on Sandusky and what he did. One can understand their loyalty to their father. They like so many other Paterno fans feel the public outcry against their father is not only misplaced but unfair and without sufficient evidence.

Monday, July 23, 2012


Who shall separate us from the love of Jesus Christ,
the love revealed upon the cross when he was sacrificed?
Shall tribulation, persecution, famine, or distress,
or any kind of hardship, peril, sword, or nakedness?
No, no! In all these things we're more than conquerors through him
who loves us and whose love is the one light that will not dim.

For I like Paul am sure that neither death itself nor life,
nor angels, principalities, nor any kind of strife,
nor things at hand, nor things to come, nor powers, depth, nor height,
nor anything in all creation shall have strength or might
to separate us from the love of God in Christ our Lord.
        That is my faith, the truth of which by grace I am assured.

(by Richard Stoll Armstrong, based on Romans 8:35-39. NRSV)

Saturday, July 21, 2012


James Holmes
         After listening to the news reports today and this evening of the horrible massacre that took place last night in the Century 16 Cinema in Aurora, Colorado, I am struggling to sort out the conflict of emotions that are flooding my mind and heart.
         There is first and foremost the shock of hearing of another mass killing, with twelve dead and 58 injured, many critically, only fifteen miles from Littleton, Colorado, where the Columbine High School massacre took pace in 1999. The shock is accompanied by the heartfelt grief and sympathy that I share with the rest of the nation for the victims, their families and friends, their neighbors, their communities, and all whose lives have been so brutally shattered by this tragedy.
         Every such tragedy is also for me and all persons of faith a reminder of the preciousness and precariousness of life, which is a gift we can never take for granted. We can better feel the wrenching pain of the Aurora victims’ families, when we imagine ourselves or our own loved ones in such a situation. It reminds us that we ought to be constantly thanking God for the gift of life, and for every new day we have on this earth.

Friday, July 20, 2012


With some I am the more impressed
who do not on their laurels rest
but in their ripe old age have sought
to redirect their time and thought
to helping others, oft’ in ways
quite diff’rent from their younger days,
thus banishing my morbid fears
about the so-called “twilight years.”

Thursday, July 19, 2012


* * * * * * *


         In a recent speech in Roanoke, Virginia, President Obama made the very legitimate and eloquent point that any successful business person is indebted to others for help along the way. “Somebody helped to created this unbelievable American system that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you have a business, you didn’t build that.” The “that” referred of course to all the things that other people had done. Everybody in his audience understood what he was saying.
         But Mitt Romney, of course, took the President’s words out of context and accused the President of saying that business owners deserve no credit for their own success, which is not only false but ridiculous.
         But that kind of dishonesty from the Republican candidate is to be expected, not only because he does it all the time, but because he is desperate to change the subject from his own unwillingness to reveal his tax returns. So he follows the game plan: attack, attack, attack. Never give a straight answer to any question. Turn it into an attack against the President.
         Even many of Mr. Romney’s Republican allies and conservative supporters are urging him to reveal his tax returns. All agree that the presumptive nominee is digging himself into a deeper and deeper hole, and it certainly has diverted the public discourse from his favorite topic, the economy. Neither the media nor the President is going to let up until the former Governor complies with the growing public demand for him to reveal his tax returns. His refusal to do so has convinced many Americans that he has something to hide.
         What did Mr. Romney do to earn more than $100,000  a year for the three years following his supposed retirement from Bain, three years during which he was still the sole stock owner, President, C.E.O., and Chairman of Board of the Company? Now he is saying he retired “retroactively”! That’s a new one!
         As long as Mr. Romney uses his experience in the business world as his main qualification for being President of the United States, President Obama has every right to question his opponent’s business practices, including his off-shore accounts, his record as a job creator, and his relation to Bain Capital and the outsourcing of jobs to other countries.
         Will Mitt Romney release his tax returns? Some think Yes, some think No. If there is detrimental information in any of the returns, it could be disastrous for his campaign if he does release them. But it could also be a disaster if he doesn’t! That’s the dilemma he has brought upon himself.
         He says his accountants are working on his 2011 return, and that’s all he will release. Why are they working on his returns now? And what does “working on his returns” mean?
         You have a lot of explaining to do, Mitt.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

MY PERSISTENT PET PEEVE (for baseball fans only)

         The recent All Star Game stirred up a pet peeve I have been harboring for many years. I do not like the Designated Hitter Rule. I never did, I never will. Here’s why: a) it was established on what I believe to be a false premise; b) it eliminates decisions that make the game more challenging for the players and more fun for the fans; and c) it denies a whole group of players (pitchers) the opportunity to experience a most important aspect of baseball and to exercise a key skill of the game ---BATTING!
         Let me elaborate a bit on each of these points. The underlying premise is false. I don’t know any real baseball fans who feel that hitting is all that makes a game interesting and exciting. It is true that a home run is always a thrill for fans —when it’s a member of their team who hits it!  Hitting, and base running, and scoring runs are an exciting part of the game. But so are pitching, and catching, and fielding, and defensive strategy.
         There is nothing more dramatic than a good pitchers’ duel. The drama builds with each inning, and seeing a possible no-hitter in the making will keep fans on the edge of their seat. A spectacular catch can bring the crowd to their feet as quickly as a home run. Great fielding is exciting to watch and it demands tremendous athleticism. I always like to get to a game early enough to watch infield practice. The choreography of that universal, rhythmical routine is beautiful to see.
It’s not an either-or situation between the offensive and defensive aspects of baseball. Both are important, and to be a good baseball player one needs to be proficient at both. Baseball demands many different kinds of physical skills.
         And that’s the point. The designated hitter rule implies that hitting is more important and more enjoyable for the fans than the other aspects of the game, and that is not true for me and any other real baseball fans I know. What you like at the moment, and what you want to happen at the moment, depends upon for whom you’re rooting. If your team is at bat, you want hitting. If your team is in the field, you want good pitching and stellar defensive play. If it doesn’t matter to you who wins, you will admire and applaud offensive and defensive excellence on either side.


       Senator Mitch McConnell, who once favored legislation that required the disclosure of  the source of  large contributions to political campaigns, now opposes any such legislation. So he and his Republican colleagues filibustered again yesterday, thus successfully preventing the passage of the Disclose Act of 2012. The Act would have required the campaigns to report the source of any gift of $10,000 or more.
         No matter how they try to spin their actions, there is no legitimate excuse for not passing this Act. The American people have the right to know where the SuperPAC millions are coming from, but the Republicans don't want us to know who the fat cats are that are trying buy this election, and to whom they will be beholden.
         Their action is in keeping with their presumptive nominee's refusal to reveal his income tax returns. What does Mitt Romney not want the American people to know?    

Monday, July 16, 2012



         What is the most difficult skill to master in all sports?
         To be really good at any sports demands a high degree of skill from the players. But some skills are more difficult to master than others, and therefore more impressive. Every sport, furthermore, has its limits of achievement, a “possibility range, “ if you will, that no human being can exceed.
         Athletes are constantly striving to push the limits, to run faster, to jump higher, to lift more, to throw farther, to break whatever the existing record may be. To break any long-standing record in any sport is always a huge challenge and extremely difficult.
         But that’s not the kind of feat I have in mind. What I am asking is, of the routine skills demanded of the players in any sport, what is the most difficult to do well? Granted achieving excellence in any sport is extremely demanding, what skill in which sport is the most difficult to master?
         It takes a great deal of skill to play golf well, but many professional and amateur players do. The winners of tournaments break par consistently. Polo is a difficult sport. Having to hit a ball while astride a galloping steed is a daunting prospect, but skilled polo players manage it remarkably well. Wrestling, swimming, rowing, running, weightlifting are all physically demanding, but not inaccessible to the average person who is willing to train and be taught the basics.
         There are many sports that almost anyone can play, like tennis, bowling, volley ball, croquet, ping pong, badminton, touch football, and bocci ball, but not everyone plays them well. In every sport people’s skill levels vary immensely, but the physical demands are not prohibitive for the average person to perform at some level.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


         If there is any doubt about the G.O.P.'s lack of concern for low income Americans, it surely should have been dispelled when the Senate Republicans once again filibustered to prevent debate on the President's bill to extend the Bush payroll tax cuts for another year for those with an annual income under $250,000. That's 98% of Americans!
         Taxes for those earning more than that (the top 2% of the population) would revert back to the tax rate under President Clinton, which would have represented a modest increase. Unless Democrats can find a way to break the impasse, we're all in for a big tax increase next year.
         Yet the Republicans  call Barack Obama the "tax and spend" President! They've fought his every effort to lower taxes, to create jobs, to provide affordable health care for all Americans, to enact comprehensive immigration  reform, to help States put State employees back to work, to rebuild the nation's infrastructure, and everything else he has tried to do.
         And perish the thought that they should ever give him credit for all the good things he has managed to accomplish despite their obstructionism!
         Why don't the Republicans want this latest bill to pass? Because they care more about opposing President Obama than they do about helping their country.They even oppose things they traditionally favor, if in so doing they can thwart the President's agenda.
         Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made it clear from the start that their main goal is "to make Barack Obama a one-term President." They don't want to create jobs, or do anything to help the economy, because that would reflect well on the President. They want things to get worse not better, so they can go on blaming the President for "his failed policies."
          Don't listen to what the Republicans say. Watch what they do!

Friday, July 13, 2012



        I was shocked by the misinformation I heard from the lips of a good friend just recently. Having bought into the Republican propaganda about the evils of Obamacare, my friend was expressing his strong opposition to the Affordable Care Act. When I mentioned some of the specific benefits of the Act and asked if he opposed these provisions, he reluctantly conceded that “some aspects of the law are okay.”
         And when I asked why it isn’t better for all Americans to take advantage of the many good features of the law, with Congress continuing to work out the kinks and to make improvements which any such massive legislation demands, rather than repeal the Act, as the House Republicans have tried thirty-three times to do, my friend had no reply. How could he, when there is no logical reason to choose the latter alternative? I reminded him that President Obama has repeatedly said he will welcome any constructive suggestions for improving the legislation.
         But that doesn’t stop the House Republicans from spending some eighty hours of their valuable legislative time at a cost of nearly fifty million taxpayer dollars, repeating their fruitless efforts to repeal the law! What is even more reprehensible is that they have nothing with which to replace it. Congress would have to start all over.  Perish the thought!
         As people are becoming more aware of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, the polls are reflecting its growing popularity. It is becoming harder for Republicans to peddle their anti-Obamacare propaganda. Their misrepresentations may well backfire on them in November.
         In the meantime, I encourage my readers to go on-line and read for yourselves the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, and urge your friends to do the same. I am confident that any doubts you are now harboring about the Act  will be quickly dispelled. And I think you will agree with me that most ordinary people who say they oppose the law are speaking out of ignorance. Tell them to read the facts for themselves.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Some poetic reflections on I John 1:8 - If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

In pondering 1st John 1:8
I’d like to get my thinking straight.
Would you then tell me, if you please,
which one of these philosophies
describes your thinking more nearly:
that mortals fundamentally
should be considered  “bad,” or “good,”
as those two words are understood?
If you say “sinful, since the Fall,”                                                        
then you in fact agree with Paul,
and you can hold to that and still                                                              
believe in humankind’s free will,
while arguing that people tend
to disobey God in the end.
And yet would you not also say
there’s still much good in folks today?
It’s just that there has always been
no part of us not touched by sin.
That we are sinful to the core
is not acceptable, for sure,
to those who, by themselves esteemed,
feel they’ve no need to be redeemed!
If all are good, who would indeed
a summon’s to repent then need?
In that case one might wonder why
the Son of God would have to die?

I John 1: 8 (See also Psalms 106:6, Psalm 143:2, Romans 3:10, 23.)

“Are human beings bad or good?”
That’s not the point. The question should
be put less theoretic’ly,
for it applies to you and me!
Would any of us dare to claim
we’ve never done a thing to shame
the name of Christ, or failed to do
something that in our heart we knew
we should have done?  Have we not had
some feelings that we knew were bad,
or said things we should not have said
or harbored mean thoughts in our head?
The truth indeed is obvious:
there is much sin in all of us.
“There is none righteous, no, not one!”
the Bible states ---except God’s Son.

I John 1:9  - If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (RSV).

We may have pondered for the worse,
if we don’t factor in the verse
that follows. Oh my goodness, yes!
For John then says if we confess
our sins, that God is faithful, just,
and will forgive our sins, we trust,
and cleanse us from unrighteousness.
For that we must our thanks express!
In God our true salvation lies;
We need no longer theorize.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


       Who can unite the Republican Party? Not Mitt Romney! The gulf between the Tea Party and the “Old Guard” remains, and Mr. Romney, despite his chameleon-like style,  has not shown himself to be a unifier.
         Who speaks for the Republican Party? Not Mitt Romney! The Old Guard’s displeasure with his initial reaction to the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act proved that, forcing the Governor to do one of his classic back flips.
         Who is leading the Republican Party? Not Mitt Romney. He is too much of a flip flopper even for many Republicans. Too many of his own Party don’t like him or trust him. Ron Paul and his supporters are proof of that!
Congressman Ron Paul
         If Dr. Paul should win the majority of bound national delegates at the Nebraska State convention on July 14, he will have won five States, enough to be placed  in nomination and privileged to address the delegates at the Republican National Convention. He may not have much of chance of winning the nomination, but who knows what will happen?
         It should be interesting!

Sunday, July 8, 2012


Why do things always happen just when I don't want them to?
Why do I always do the thing I didn't want to do?
Why do the good things always stop before I've had my turn?
Why am I always tested on the part I didn't learn?
Why am I always overheard the times my tongue has slipped?
Why is it people always spot the numbers I have skipped?
Why is it I can't get away with risks that others take?
Why am I always caught for the one error that I make?
Why do I have the feeling Fate must have it in for me?
I am the victim of a law:  it's called "perversity."

It's easy for most anyone at times to feel this way.
St. Paul himself was wrestling with this problem in his day.
"I do not do the good I want," confessed Paul honestly.
"The evil that I do not want is what I do ---poor me!"
And then he asked "Who'll rescue me from such a wretched state?
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" ---our advocate!
There is the answer to the problem of perversity.
By grace through faith in Jesus Christ we're "superstition-free"!

Saturday, July 7, 2012


They were there to learn how to share their faith.
My host had opened with a Bible text
and a brief prayer, followed by a hymn,
which they sang with zest, a few announcements,
and then his most kind introduction of
yours truly, the morning workshop leader.
I began by asking the question which
I have often asked of church groups like this:
"How many of you who have come today
believe in God?"  Their reaction was quite
typical ---"amazed" would be a good word
to describe their common reaction to
my question, or better, bewilderment,
as if to say, "You can't be serious!
Of course, we believe in God!  Otherwise,
why would we be here?"  No one said a word
or even nodded.  So I asked again:


Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

         Yesterday’s report of the lower than expected number of jobs created in June and the continued 8.2% unemployment rate was good news for nobody except Mitt Romney and his Republican allies. Governor Romney wasted no time in using the latest government figures to blast President Obama, blaming him for the problem and accusing him of having no plan for creating jobs.
         That’s another one of the Republican candidate’s deliberate falsehoods. The President has a plan, Mr. Romney, and you know it. It’s called the American Jobs Act, the passage of which has been delayed by your Republican friends in the Senate!
         The American Jobs Act is much more specific than your vague generalities and platitudes. How dishonest of you to accuse the President of having no plan, when he has proposed an actual piece of legislation that would create nearly two million jobs in the first year!
         How? By providing aid that would enable States to rehire public sector employees, by increasing infrastructure spending, by cutting payroll taxes for small businesses, and in many other ways.
         When will you stop lying to the American people, Mr. Romney?

Friday, July 6, 2012


Photo by Carlos Osorio/AP
         Throughout the Republican primaries in every debate and whenever and wherever he spoke, Mitt Romney was unrelenting in his criticism of President Obama. In his response to almost every question he was asked in the debates, no matter what the subject, Governor Romney managed to work in an attack on the President.                                                                              
         Now that Mr. Obama has begun campaigning and is pointing out the differences between Governor Romney’s ideas and experience and his own, he is being criticized for being negative. I can hardly wait for the presidential debates, when the difference in the rhetoric and styles of the two candidates will be plain for all to see and hear.
         Let’s hope the moderators and panelists will hold both men accountable for their statements, and call to their and the viewers’ attention the inconsistencies, false claims,  misrepresentations, and flip-flops of which either one of them is guilty. There’s no question in my mind as to which of the two candidates has much more explaining to do!
         Following his bungling effort to explain why he opposes Obamacare when it was modeled after Romneycare, even his base supporters were wondering if Mr. Romney would ever get his story straight. After shocking them by declaring that the cost to those who opt out of the insurance plan is a penalty not a tax, the Governor caved in to them and did a complete about face. Even the Wall Street Journal has been critical of the Romney campaign’s confusion over the health care issue.
         As I pointed out in my June 14 post, Mr. Romney is in an awkward position. He can’t point to his one positive accomplishment as Governor of Massachusetts, his State health care plan, while at the same time attacking the President for instituting a similar plan for the nation.
         Governor Romney hopes to convince the American people that he can do more for them as President than can President Obama. He needs to be specific about what he plans to do and how he expects to pay for it.
         President Obama simply needs to point to what he has already done and show that the country has been moving in the right direction under his leadership. He is the first to admit there is more to be done, but he has much more to point to than does Mr. Romney.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


"Conservative" and "liberal" are labels I abhor.
         The way they're used today they have no meaning any more.
I hate it when somebody pins a tag like that on me.
         For labels put you in a slot you do not want to be.
Whatever people want to call themselves, they should feel free,
         but not too many folks I know do so consistently
on social issues, politics, religion, war and peace,
         the Bible, life-style, language, drugs ---the issues never  cease.
One may be quite conservative in some things, not in all.
         To pin that label on someone, then, takes "a lot of gall"!
I wish some self-named liberals would give more liberally.
         I wish some staunch conservatives would live more morally.      
More liberal in spirit is what we should strive to be.
         In life-style more conservative, on that can we agree?
So when we use those labels let us be much more select,
         for neither label is a proof that one's of the elect!


Smokers’ Rights groups, of which there are many, would not like my recent poem on smoking. Most smokers are more sensitive now to other people’s feelings than they used to be. That’s a happy result of the various bans and restrictions that have been placed on smoking in recent years. Many smokers were resentful, however, and even militantly resistant to those restrictions in the early years, and too many of them seemed determined to flaunt their “right to smoke.” I had them in mind when I wrote this poem during that period. The questions are still relevant!

Do smokers' rights include the right to jeopardize our health,
         or to ignore the smoking laws of any commonwealth?
Do smokers' rights include the right to foul the air we breathe?
         When people smoke in crowded rooms or offices, I seethe!
Do smokers' rights include the right to throw their butts or stubs
         on office floors or people's lawns, on sidewalks, roads, or shrubs?
Do smokers' rights include the right to take offense or grouse
         because non-smokers would prefer they don't smoke in the house?
Do smokers want to claim the right to lead their kids astray?
         For kids will smoke tomorrow if their parents smoke today!

(from If I Do Say So Myself)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


         Not Governor Rick Scott and some of his Republican counterparts!
         They are saying they will opt out of the Medicaid expansion provision of the Affordable Care Act, something they are permitted to do under the Supreme Court’s recent ruling.
         The program would cost the States nothing for the first three years. It is paid for completely by the Federal government. After three years the states would then kick in just ten percent of the cost.
         The governors would rather deny millions of their low income residents access to Medicaid than accept Federal aid! But that’s how they plan to oppose Obamacare. It makes no sense, and it shows the Republicans’ complete disregard of those who cannot afford health insurance.
         At some point the poor and the middle class are going to wake up and realize who’s on their side. It’s certainly not the Republicans!

Monday, July 2, 2012


Smoking is still a touchy subject with most smokers. Many things have changed since I wrote this poem about 35 years ago expressing how I felt about those who indulge that unhealthful habit. When the poem appeared in my book, If I Do Say So Myself, I found there were many folks who shared my sentiments, most of which are still relevant. Anyway, here's how I felt then and still feel about smoking:

I sympathize with those who have the habit and can't shake it.
I empathize with those with allergies who cannot take it.
I ostracize the ones whose tainted breath and clothes announce it.
I eulogize the folks who used to smoke and now denounce it.
I criticize those people who despite the risks still do it.
I agonize with those who've lost a friend or loved one to it.
I socialize with those who gave it up or never did it.
I patronize those restaurants and places which forbid it.
I chastise those who jeopardize the health of others by it.
I scrutinize the ads designed to make young people try it.
I minimize permission for those smokers who request it.
I maximize the use of signs, and if none, I suggest it.
I theorize no one would smoke who really understands it.
I sermonize the stewardship of life clearly demands it.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


What an old embattled "prexy" used to say
          was a logical assumption, in a way:
"If they're shooting at you from the left and right,
          it must mean that you're doing something right."
They're another explanation, I suspect:
         Maybe nothing you are doing is correct!

(from If I Do Say So Myself )