Saturday, July 22, 2017

GOLFBALL

Friends have asked me why I haven’t been blogging lately. In addition to the interruption of my daily life by a nephrectomy of my left kidney (that was over a month ago, and is no longer a valid excuse for not blogging) I have been busy writing an essay about golf.

In its final form, the essay runs to 31 pages and something over ten thousand words.

I’ll summarize it in a sentence: it is an argument in favor of playing golf as a team sport -- all the way from little leagues for the kiddies, to professional major leagues representing the metropolitan markets that support professional basketball, baseball, and football.

It’s a big idea, admittedly. But then I have been known to dream big dreams, sometimes even with a modicum of success.

Anyway, the gist of my essay, entitled “Golfball Now” is that team golf should be played in a standard format; nine player teams playing nine matches over nine holes.

I call the game “Golfball.” That name fits with all the other major team sports: Baseball, Football, Basketball.

Tykes as young as 4 years old – that’s when little league baseball starts – can play golfball on a putting green. By nine or ten, they would be competing on pitch and putt courses and from ages 12 or 13 on, they could play on standard nine hole layouts.

The scoring of the game is simple. Your team gets a point for every stroke by which you win a hole. Thus, if player A makes a four and his opponent, player B, makes five, Team A gets one point.

But that is not all.

In Golfball, every ball must see the bottom of the hole. If A is on the green in three and B sinks a birdie putt for three, A must still putt, and keep on putting until he holes out. Every time he misses, a point is scored for B’s team.      

It is, I suppose, a diabolical scoring system, which punishes the yipes without mercy. But then, isn’t that the core genius of the sport of golf itself?

Certainly even four year old beginners will experience the pangs of frustration that torture their parents and grandparents.

Still, it is necessary, after all, that the each generation learns to cope with the exquisite pain of frustration. That’s the beauty of golf.

A lot is being said and written these days about the decline of golf in America. While it is still the most popular sport, in terms of player participation, it is true that the construction of new courses is at a practical stand still, that many courses and clubs are closing, and that the number of rounds of golf being played continues to decline as the average age of players creeps up.

I, for one, am sanguine. Golf has too much to offer in terms of exercise, fellowship, character development, tradition and old fashioned fresh air for it to disappear from our national culture.

Tournament golf: the Masters, the U.S. Open, the Players Championship, and a host of other established and popular tournaments are not about to dim the lights and close the doors. If team golf prospers as a professional sport, it will be in addition to those important events, and indeed will enhance and augment popular interest in golf at every level.  

The PGA Tour is dominated by young players. Eighteen holes a day for four or five days running dictates that players be in top athletic condition. Nine hole Team competition is best suited for popular players who no longer compete at the tournament level.

Indeed, I am convinced, and Jack Nicklaus agrees with me, that there will one day be successful and popular major league golf teams in all the metropolitan markets that now host the NFL, MLB, and the NBA.

And if I have anything to say about it, they will be playing Golfball.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

HOME IN HARBOR

Mid day yesterday, the last piece of new furniture for our new condo in East Lansing arrived. By half past one, we were in the car, heading North.

We haven’t had two homes since we sold the place in Florida a few years ago. That was easy to get your arms around. We lived in Michigan. Michigan was our home. We vacationed in Florida. We were snow birds.

We haven’t quite come to grips with having two houses in Michigan. Our children, God bless them, who insisted we acquire digs in East Lansing to be closer to family, are assuming that we have settled in, and are now officially, practically, realistically and emotionally residents of the Burcham Hills Retirement Community in East Lansing.

I am sure it was not arranged for our benefit, but the other morning the Michigan State University marching band staged a concert at Burcham’s main residential building, which was clearly audible at our condo.

Nice touch, but we still weren’t convinced.

The issue is simple, despite the confusion of names: are we residents of Burcham who own a cottage at Birchwood, or are we residents of Birchwood who own a condo at Burcham?

If there was any doubt, it was assuaged when our car merged from U.S. 127 onto Interstate 75 just north of Gaylord. The perfusion of green: trees, meadows, pastures and vistas too numerous to relate reaffirmed what everyone from Michigan will tell you: this is God’s country.

The magnificence of His artistry is overwhelming.

So here we are, home again.

It’s Sunday morning. Polly is still sleeping. I am at the computer, blogging, and soon will be writing a check payable to Holy Childhood of Jesus to be dropped in the basket at eleven o’clock Mass.

We live here in Harbor Springs. That’s what it says on my driver’s license. That’s what it feels in my heart.

We had dinner last night in the Casual Bar at the Club. Saw some friends who were glad to hear that my recovery from surgery is gong well. Perhaps on Monday, I will show up and see if Doctor Fred Hoffman can squeeze me into his Monday golf group.

There’s a lot of  misery in this old world. Just turn on the television and it oozes into the room and boggles your brain. Hardly a day goes by that doesn’t feature another senseless, diabolical shooting or bombing.

What passes for political debate is too often a harangue or high decibel quarrel in which anywhere from two to five people all talk at once, apparently in the belief that the louder and faster they talk, the more convincing they will be.

It used to be that the political party which lost the election would function as the loyal opposition, which could be counted on to serve as the Devil’s Advocate to keep the ruling majority from becoming dictatorial.

Since the election of Donald Trump, we have seen a different kind of opposition emerge. More resistance that mere opposition, it consists of a continuous stream of tasteless invective, snide ridicule, and outright hatred.

Leave it to Michael Moore, the filmmaking firebrand from Flint, who found fame dissing the leadership of General Motors, to grab the brass ring of opposition leadership by offering an anti Trump comedy on Broadway.

Scheduled to open on July 28, the show is called “The Terms of My Surrender” and is directed by Tony Award winning director Michael Mayer.

Advertised as a comedy show, it will in fact be a one-man diatribe by Moore himself, who has a talent for biting satire and a track record of taking on big targets.

Moore apparently believes that his poison tongue will be caustic and powerful enough to oust Donald Trump from the White House.

With such insanity floating around the airwaves and spicing the Internet, it is comforting to know that little old Harbor Springs, Michigan is still a safe haven for sanity, beauty, and friendship. It’s good to be home.

Monday, July 3, 2017

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

Here are 344 words worth memorizing:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.
The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

SHAMROCK NATION

It all began on Harper Avenue, just North of Downtown Detroit when, in 1928, Monsignor Van Antwerp invited the Congregation of Saint Basil, commonly known as the Basilian Fathers, to take over the Holy Rosary parish school and convert it into a boys’ high school. Above the door of that old school building was a statue of the Blessed Mother, and Mary was instantly recognized as the patron saint of the school.

The initial enrollment of 260 boys had more than doubled when, in 1934, the school was moved up Woodward Avenue to a site behind the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament at 60 Belmont Avenue. It then became known as Detroit Catholic Central High School.

The dream of a new building was fulfilled in 1951, when Catholic Central moved to 6565 West Outer Drive on the West Side of Detroit. It was there for 27 years, moving to Breakfast Drive in Redford Township in 1978, where it was often referred to as Redford Catholic Central.

But in 2005, the school moved again, reclaiming the name Detroit Catholic Central, honoring its roots in the motor city. This time, it is lodged in a spectacular academic and athletic campus in Novi, Michigan, on a street named after an Iconic Basilian teacher, Father Ned Donoher.

Last week, just 7 days after a radical nephrectomy, I prevailed on my dear wife to drive me to Novi, there to attend Mass and a luncheon and to mingle with other Catholic Central graduates of the Class of 1947, and of other years gone by.

There’s a certain sense of karma in a roomful of sixty, seventy and eighty year old men sharing memories, telling their stories and kvelling about the good old days when their voices changed and they sprouted into manhood.

One thing for sure. There were no losers in the room. Whether theirs was financial, professional, academic or personal, every alumnus had a similar story of success; fidelity to the code of Christian manhood instilled long ago by Basilian priests whose motto and goal was to teach goodness, discipline and knowledge.

Central to the occasion was the sixtieth anniversary of the priesthood of Father Richard Elmer. The man is a legend among the Shamrock community. With ebullient good humor, tireless perseverance, and genuine concern for young men and their families, Father Elmer has been the life line through which literally millions of dollars have flowed to Catholic Central High School.

The economics of private education have changed since I entered Catholic Central in 1943. Our tuition was $60 for the entire nine month academic year. In today’s dollars, that represents about $841.

Today, Catholic Central’s tuition is on the high end of private high school tuition in Michigan - $12,000 per year. To say that it is a sacrifice for working families, puts too small a tag on it.

It is a sacrifice, not only for parents, but also for alumni and friends of the school who recognize the importance of populating each new generation of Americans with Christian gentlemen, imbued with goodness, discipline and knowledge, and capable of assuming positions of leadership in every facet of American life.

Catholic Central has long been an athletic powerhouse. Many graduates went on to careers in professional sports. More importantly, the Shamrocks have posted winning records in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, wrestling, and golf, literally for generations.

But it is not just a school for “jocks.”

The Detroit Catholic Central Academic Team has been the model of excellence and consistency in the State of Michigan and on a national level since its founding in 1985. The team has won 19 Michigan State Championships and four National Championships and is the only program in the nation to have qualified for and attended every National Academic Quiz Tournament High School Championship and PACE National Scholastic Championship.

Are we proud of our high school? You’re damn right we are. And not the least bit embarrassed to tear up a little when the alumni choir sings ….

“Mary Alma Mater, your sons of Central honor, and trusting in your goodness, we hopefully implore; that by your grace we may every day prove that we are men of Mary Alma Mater; inspire us evermore.”

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

AFGHAN WAR



It was recently reported that President Trump has authorized the Department of Defense to determine the number of American troops to be committed to Afghanistan.

It strikes me as somewhat inordinate to expect Secretary Jim Mattis to set troop levels without first spelling out the military mission to be accomplished.

Just what are we doing in Afghanistan? Why are we there? What are we trying to accomplish?

Those are political, not military questions.

I had thought that fifteen years in Viet Nam with over 50,000 casualties would have taught us that trying to subjugate a hostile indigenous population is a fool’s errand.

We paid a terrible price to learn that Viet Nam belongs to the VietNamese. Why can’t we understand that Afghanistan belongs to the Afghans?

It took the Russians nine years to learn it. Acting under Leonid Breshnev in 1979, the Soviet Union sent more than 100,000 soldiers to Afghanistan. Nine years later, Mikhail Gorbachev brought them home, more in exhaustion and frustration than in victory. It was the end of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Our soldiers in Korea and Viet Nam used the word ‘gooks’ to define the locals. They learned that it was too often impossible to distinguish the good gooks from the bad gooks.

When we take sides in someone else’s civil war, we redefine our allies as traitors and our enemies as patriots.

When we invaded Iraq in 2003, it was on the supposition that Saddam Hussein, the fifth President of that country, had weapons of mass destruction which he was expected to use for no good purpose. Our goal was to depose him, and we did.

Then candidate Barack Obama decried the Iraq War as “dumb” and promptly dubbed the invasion of Afghanistan as a ‘smart’ war. By the end of his first year in office, President Obama had authorized upwards of 38,000 troops in Afghanistan, without spelling out exactly what they were supposed to accomplish.

By the end of his second year in office, Obama’s administration had issued a an awkwardly titled report called  “An Overview of the Afghanistan and Pakistan Annual Review” which earned the comment from Yale Law Professsor, Stephen Carter, that it “actually leaves us with less information about the goals and plans for the Afghan War than we had before.”

The Obama administration made much of the assassination of Osama Ben Laden. The American people were convinced, through media reports and public statements, that Ben Laden was responsible for the 9/11 attack.

Did Obama suppose that the American people thought the Afghanistan War was being waged for the purpose of killing everyone responsible for terrorist attacks in the United States?

Indeed is there any statistical evidence or other proof that our military adventures in the Middle East have in any way reduced the threat of terrorism in our homeland?

Certainly no thinking patriot subscribes to the notion that it is better for our young men and women to be maimed and slaughtered on the Arabian sand than for fans of the Boston Marathon or patrons of an Orlando night club to die on our soil. Indeed, nobody has ever a seriously asserted that our Middle East efforts represent a sacrificial offering to the Islamic terrorist demons.

What then? Are we committed to capturing the entire nation of Afghanistan and turning it into another Guam or Puerto Rico? Do we really think it possible to subdue the Afghan people and install a Vichy type government that will be agreeable to the United States of America?

The experience of the French people during WWII with the impotent government headed by Marshall Petain ought to convince us that puppet governments don’t last.

History is a wonderful teacher, if only we will listen.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

THE RUSSIA THING

The world of computer mischief is arcane beyond comprehension. I got a taste of it trying to get to the bottom of the much touted Russian invasion of the 2016 Presidential election.

Here is a sample of what I found:

On September 1, 2011, the Laboratory of Cryptography and System Security of the Budapest University of Technology and Economics discovered a collection of computer malware which used the prefix “DQ” to identify its files. The Budapest scientists wrote a 60 page report describing the computer threat and nicknaming its users “The Duqu.”

The Duqu were so skilled that they actually compromised the internal workings of Kaspersky, the Russian cyber security giant.

U.S. cyber intelligence nerds Americanized “The Duqu” simply calling the malware mischief makers “The Dukes.” A December 13, 2016 New York Times story attributed the hacking of the Democratic National Committee computers to The Dukes, describing them as “ a cyberespionage team linked to the Russian government.”

No authority for that statement was given.

In January of 2017, the CIA presented a “top secret” report to President Obama claiming that the DNC hack was the work of the Russian government. That report has never been made public, but the Russian government’s alleged participation was leaked to Reuters News by a source or sources who spoke “on condition of anonymity”.

The best explanation for the CIA opinion that the Dukes are Russian depends on such dubious indicia as the fact that the Dukes’ working day corresponds roughly with the normal work day in many parts of Russia. A similar analysis suggests that the Dukes are Israelis since, in addition to the normal work days and hours, the Dukes seem to take off work from Friday afternoon through Sunday.

The later proposition has further evidence; one of the Dukes’ first attacks was directed to Iran’s nuclear efforts.

In short, my study persuades me that the hacking of the DNC last year was not the work of the Russian government. That conclusion is backed up by the assertion of Julian Assange, owner of Wikileaks, who insists that his source was not any government.

My modest excursion into World Wide Web wickedness reveals that the Web, sometimes called “the wild” by its inhabitants, is much like the open seas or outer space; it is a place that is owned by no one, but belongs to everyone. Out there, everyone is pretty much on their own and free to do whatever they are able to do.

When you entrust your personal secrets to the Web, your only protection from having them purloined and broadcast is your password. That’s pretty good protection. Your Social Security number for example, consists of nine digits, enough to provide a billion unique numbers.

Still, emails are out there in the wild. Like ships at sea or rockets in space, they can be seen and examined by anyone who can find them. They get hacked by people who know how to hack.
So the real question that needs to be addressed by the American People is not whether internal emails of the Democratic National Committee were hacked, or by whom, but whether the information that came out was true and whether it made a difference or should have made a difference in the outcome of the election.

Candidly, I cannot recall anyone denying the reported contents of the DNC emails or internal communications that were revealed by Wikileaks and thereafter widely broadcast by all the mainstream media.

Did the Democratic National Committee favor Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders? Of course they did. Nobody denied it. Did that favoritism hurt the Party? Of course it did. Primary elections are conducted to give the people an avenue to participate in the democratic process. A political party controlled by insiders or bosses will not be popular with the average voter.

The vast basket of deplorable Americans who work with their hands, who build and buy, and grow and sell, who clean and carry and fix and install and who serve other people in a million ways don’t like closed door, boss-ruled political parties.

Did the hackers hurt Hillary and help Trump?

Of course they did. Did it matter whether the hackers were Russian or Israeli or just naughty college kids having fun with their computers?

Certainly not. The only thing that mattered to the American people was the truth. And the truth was that the DNC was in the pocket of the Clinton campaign.

Nobody denied it. Not then. Not now.

The current Congressional and News media flap over foreign influence in American politics is a false narrative. Other countries have always taken sides in American politics. In the 2016 election, for example, eighteen of twenty-three foreign newspapers endorsed Hillary Clinton, one favored Trump, and four simply opposed Trump.

As a private businessman, Donald Trump took his Miss Universe Beauty Pageant to Russia in 2013.  No one criticized him for doing so. Indeed, it was exactly the kind of private business interchange that was promoted by our national government from the time of Richard Nixon in pursuit of d├ętente, which led to the decline of the Soviet Union.

While in Moscow, Trump met more than a dozen top Russian businessmen, including Herman Gref, CEO of Russia's largest bank.

All of which makes me wonder whether the shrill accusations coming from the Swamp are not motivated by the fear that our new President may just be inclined to find common ground with our cold war adversary and lead us to an era of actual peace in every part of the world.

It would certainly be a disappointment to the Military-Industrial Complex that is responsible for so much of the Swamp.