Saturday, August 11, 2007

Bonds' Shame Again Overshadows Accomplishment

I will admit that the scene surrounding Barry Bonds’ record-breaking homerun Tuesday night was special. But that’s the problem. It took about the time a batter needs to recognize a pitch—about 1.2 seconds for the gravity of the accomplishment to diminish. “Oh, yeah, this isn’t real. He used steroids” must have been the refrain from everyone in America not residing within the county of San Francisco .

It’s sad. This moment should have surpassed Cal Ripken running around Camden Yards slapping high-fives with the fans after breaking Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games streak. But it couldn’t because everyone knows the mark is a fraud, an evil machination of Bonds’ thirst for glory to the extreme. Ripken played everyday because of hard work and the fortune to avoid serious injury. His story rang true with every working man who ever woke up at the crack of dawn and defied the urge to call in sick. Ripken’s story reminded us of a time when that was the American ideal. Today, Bonds reminds us of something that makes us uncomfortable as a society.

The steroid scandal involving Bonds will be remembered by historians as a symptom of our country’s health. Whether it’s financial misdeeds like Enron or Tyco or our government’s dishonesty with the reasons to go to war or whether it’s Barry Bonds; it’s about cheating and how Americans have more or less found it acceptable enough to live with.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

MLB Website's Coverage Of Bonds More Balanced Than S.F. Chronicle


A few years back, many in the media questioned whether the official websites of the NFL, MLB and NBA would cover uncomfortable stories about their respective sports as fairly as traditional news outlets.

I suppose those naysayers were wrong because the's coverage of Barry Bonds's 755th homerun was far more measured than that of the San Francisco Chronicle, the newspaper whose coverage took the largest chunk out of the slugger's myth.

How do you think the two Chronicle reporters, Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada felt when their own newspaper splashed the numerals "755" in a manner befitting "WAR!" on the cover of last Sunday's paper. Williams and Fainaru-Wada nearly went to prision protecting a source and raised the awareness of the downtrodden paper ten-fold and this the incongruent coverage their own paper gives to a deeply troubling ballplayer and to the road and method he traveled to tie Henry Aaron's homerun record.

Undoubtedly, this is a big new story befitting above the crease coverage, but the story is not just a warm love letter to Bonds, but moreso, the story of a great player's greed to become even greater by cheating. The angle of how much fans across America have exhibited so much apathy towards the march to 756, at least, when they're not booing him, is far more honest than the Chronicle attempting to frame the story as a great American sports spectacle like Cal Ripken passing Lou Gehrig or even Aaron passing the Babe in 1974. It almost reeks of denial for a day. As if editor Phil Bronstein said we've tarnished Bonds's reputation with solid reporting, but just for today we'll praise the scoundrel thereby selling a load of papers at both ends., though, has provided even and tempered coverage of Bonds's record-breaking exploits that hasn't dissed him, but also hasn't placed him on a false pedestal. Today he's been featured on the front of the site with nearly the same importance as the Blue Jays plunking Alex Rodriguez and Tom Glavine's 300th win two days ago.

I suppose the Chronicle is truly the voice of the Bay Area, because its schizophrenic coverage of Bonds as of late mirrors Giants fans from the Sunset district to the Market Street. In this case and only in this case, it would be far more informative to read the corporation's account of this record rather than the so-called impartial press.

Home Foreclosures Are Killing Our Economy


With the burden of so many subprime mortgage loans hampering Wall Street, even some one like me who works in the banking business, has difficulty figuring out the morass that is mortgage lending.

Three detailed articles on consecutive days in the New York Times attempted to simplify (including charts and graphs) financial dealings involving buying and selling loans called "securitization". It's far too confusing for any layman and this is probably the reason why so many people who qualified for subprime loans are pleading ignorance when the notice for foreclosure arrives on their doorstep of the house they purchased with no money down and made interest only payments for the last two years.

In Monday's Times, this paragraph seems to illustrate the danger these lenders have propagated on many people and the nation's economy:

The bank that holds the note as trustee claims to have no information relating to the servicer or the loan originator in spite of the fact that documents show all the parties have been working together for ages. It insulates them from liability....Securitization has made it so complicated that everyone in the process is able to say that they don’t know what’s going on. The effect is, no poor person can afford to litigate this type of matter to bring it to a resolution, and therefore they lose their home.

It's well known that the banking industry has the loudest bullhorn when it comes to lobbying Congress and tactics like securitization are the unwanted answer to this incestous equation.

The home mortgage freefall needs to become an issue that Presidential candidates of both side of the spectrum need to addresss. Conspicious lending practices to people who can't afford the loan to its entirety is a recipe to our country's economic viability.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Playing Baseball With Four Leftfielders And Three Second Basemen


With all their injuries it’s amazing that the A’s are still just six games under .500. Take for instance last Tuesday. Against Detroit ’s Justin Verlander, coach Bob Geren fielded three second basemen (Marco Scutaro, Donnie Murphy, Mark Ellis) and four leftfielders (Jack Cust, Mark Kotsay, Nick Swisher, Travis Buck). Somehow, the plucky A’s beat the Tigers.

Those interested in adding Barry Bonds next season, presumably to play DH, should note the “audacity” of some borderline Major League pitchers who have dared to challenge the hobbled future homerun king. Many have been successful as of late in making Bonds look like the 43-year-old that he is.

The Tigers’ Brandon Inge may have less power and fielding prowess at third and hit around .250, but I would value his tenacity on my team more than the meandering Eric Chavez…I must have seen three Lenny DiNardo starts in person this season and he’s done of great job for the A’s but I just can’t help thinking that journeyman pitchers of his ilk represented those lean years in Oakland between 1993 and 1998. Remember Doug Johns, Wojciechowski, John Briscoe?

I wonder if this will be Mark Kotsay’s last season in Oakland because he doesn’t seem very happy lately. He’s been caught lazily throwing the ball back to the infield; including one this week after making a sprinting grab in shallow right-center he tossed the ball underhanded on the run high in the air and way off line of second base.

I’m glad to see the Giants playing Barry Bonds often on this road trip instead of “saving” him for a chance to break Aaron’s mark at AT&T Park . It would be the worst message possibly to the fans of San Francisco, in effect, saying management values this record more than they do about winning ballgames…Like the Frenchmen Alexis de Tocqueville a few hundred years ago taught us it’s sometimes better to see our country through the eyes of foreigners. On the World Soccer Daily podcast, which also airs on Sirius, two Englishmen in L.A. have it right when they talk about Bonds, steroids and baseball. Host Steven Cohen noted that controversy with Bud Selig in attendance when Bonds breaks the mark is “rubbish”. “They keep talking about steroids, but nobody has done anything about it” He notes that FIFA would have at least set a threshold where if you stepped over the line you would be punished, in baseball nothing has been done.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Will Bay Area Construction Firm Cut Corners On Bay Bridge Work?


Could one of the Bay Area's major bridges fall like the one in Minneapolis? Just as news of the disaster begins to settle in an article in today's San Jose Mercury brings to mind whether bridge safety and the speed of the builders can cohabitate.

Caltrans announced that the Bay Bridge will be closed over the Labor Day weekend. Three hundred fifty feet of the upper deck heading west to San Francisco will be demolished and replaced with a prefabricated section. This amazing construction feat will be performed by the Rancho Cordova-based construction firm C.C. Myers, the same outfit that miraculously repaired the Macarthur Maze interchange a few months ago a full month ahead of schedule.

Do you think they rebuilt that section of the freeway to the safest possible methods or did they cut severe corners to make the Governator look good?

Now in light of the Minneapolis bridge collapse should we be worried about a firm known for doing the job in such a quick manner?

Third-Tier Dems Come Up For Air


Sen. Joe Biden's time as a presidential contender is dwindling (was he ever anything but a somewhat plausible Secretary of State candidate?). When the star-driven press ran to Sen. Obama's comments about Pakistan, the gray-haired Delaware senator told the National Review's blog "The Hotline" that he's been saying we should get tougher on Pakistan for "five years".

Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, the other foreign policy elder also claimed he had already espoused such a strategy. So why aren't these two making more of a wave in the Democratic Party when foreign policy is what is driving front pages all over the country? Because we don't care about the big picture when it comes to the rest of the world.

It must bug the hell out of Biden and Dodd when pundits relegate their campaigns as vanity projects meant to be an audition for a spot in the future Democratic White House. But, Americans are isolationists at heart and despite our attention on Iraq and the Middle East as a whole, it's not what drives us to the ballot box.

Case in point, if Americans truly wanted a president like Biden or Dodd they wouldn't tell pollsters in droves that they want out of Iraq immediately. A more savvy electorate would understand leaving the region would set off a bevy of unintended consequences and disasters. That sort of appreciation of the complexities of foreign policy is nowhere to be seen in this country.

Despite our lack of attention to the rest of the world we also fancy leaders who represent something more than expertise in a part of the presidential resume. We want vision and someone makes tomorrow seem brighter than the day before. Two elders of the Democratic Party with little to say about anything other than Iraq belong at the state department not in the Oval Office.

Obama's Foreign Policy Isn't Naive, It's Honest


As president, Barack Obama says he’ll undercut Pakistani Pervez Musharraf's power if he fails to round up terrorists in his country. Would this be a good idea? No. Is it refreshing to hear any ideas regarding terrorism? Yes.

Foreign policy experts probably shrieked like scared little girls when they heard Obama’s statement yesterday and rightly so. As with immediately dismantling our military presence in Iraq, terminating Musharraf’s leadership is fraught with many dangers including destabilizing the Indian/Paki nuclear situation and most likely putting an unknown and far more dangerous extremist in charge of Pakistan.

I don’t believe a President Obama would seriously contemplate such a maneuver but it does signal an inherent difference between the senator and Hillary Clinton and that is a new perception of the U.S. in the world.

While Clinton in a more conservative view of the power of the presidency presumably because see witnessed firsthand how a president’s hands can be tied by numerous factors. This is why she refuses to disavow her votes to give Bush authority to invade Iraq and is open to attacking Iran if matters dictate such a response. This makes her seem like Bush-lite, but not because of her hawkish tendencies, but because her views are a muddle of middling foreign policy and cautious diplomacy.

When Obama said last week that he would gladly meet with rogue dictators around the world, Clinton attacked and belittled his comments as naive. Again, a President Obama wouldn’t open up the White House to criminal despots and certainly without hiding the good silver.

What these two major foreign policy comments say about Obama is clear. He’s the candidate of change. Hillary Clinton is not like Bush, but she does represent how things were done in the past.

George H.W. Bush and Hillary’s husband Bill never figured out our role in the world post-Cold War and W. screwed it up post-9/11. The Hillary Clinton train to the White House may be too formidable for any candidate. Most Democrats would welcome it, but deep inside we wish for change.

When Obama says he’ll talk to leaders of Iran, North Korea, Cuba or Venezuela he’s not telling those leaders to pick a date and wear something nice, but he is saying to us that there will be dialogue instead of silence. This is how all of us deal with each other interpersonally, why should leaders of nations be different?

When he speaks of Musharraf, he’s saying he won’t dupe us by taking a war outside the scope of the mission. If the initial problem is wiping out al-Qaeda then we will fight where they are; in Afghanistan and the mountains of Pakistan and not in Iraq where our actions fomented an explosion of membership to our enemy.

Obama took a hit for his comments last week and probably for yesterday’s. The media lead by Clinton’s attack dogs cast Obama in a naive light, but the subtext of his ideas resonate with the electorate.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Tour De Why

How long until this year’s Tour de France winner is found to be another doped cyclist? Alberto Contador is young according to recent newspaper articles. Young, in this context, meaning “a new breed of cyclist” bent on bringing back the honesty and honor of the old days if those characteristics ever existed on the tour.

Much as been made of this new cadre of cyclist like Contador and the Bay Area’s own Levi Leiphemier. Younger cyclists won all of the awards given out at this year’s Tour de France, but is it because they are up-and-coming or because most of the sport’s recognizable stars have left the Tour as EPO frauds (Floyd Landis), suspected cheats (Michael Rasmussen) or heroes hiding behind the misguided threats of legal action (Lance Armstrong).

The question is: why have a race through France if the eventual winner is going to give an even bigger black eye to the sport by way of dopin? After seven years of loud whispers over Armstrong’s alleged drug use and last year’s debacle with Floyd you would think there would be sufficient pressure from the Tour, sponsors, teammates and the court of public opinion to thwart another summer treat of dishonesty in France .

It begs the question, will these athletes ever stop cheating?