Friday, December 30, 2016

262. Quick hits from the Browns to ‘optional’ red lights

I have wanted to try a “quick hits” column for some time now. Not all ideas or opinions need a full column devoted to them—either because it’s a popular topic or the subject matter doesn’t require much depth. It’s more water cooler talk and a chance to bounce around several subject matters.

My wife wonders why I continue to watch Browns games and, unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer for her. They are so bad that when I watch other NFL games I wonder if they are playing the same game. You would think that Jimmy Haslam would have learned something about continuity during his time with the Steelers. The turnover in the front office and among coaches and coordinators means that the team starts over every couple of years—with new players and new systems. Haslam runs the Browns like a spoiled rich kid who is CEO of a billion-dollar business his father founded—stomping his feet every time things don’t go his way. Although it has been painful to watch, let’s hope Haslam has learned his lesson and commits to the process.

I am convinced more than ever that Republicans just don’t understand economics. After spending the primary season of telling the nation how well Ohio is doing, Governor John Kasich is now warning that a recession may be coming to Ohio.  Tax cuts don’t help much when communities can’t afford to function and must raise local taxes to make up the difference. Republicans just keeping moving money back and forth, but ignore that the only way to ensure growth is to implement higher taxes on the wealthy. This money should then be reinvested into community infrastructure. The jobs this investment creates will further rejuvenate local communities by putting money in the hands of people who will spend it—creating even more jobs and generating more tax revenue.

The debate over “Merry Christmas” continues.  As a non-Christian, wishing me a "Merry Christmas" is like wishing me a “Happy Birthday" on a day other than my birthday. I regard it as a kind sentiment, presumably with good intentions and I am no way offended. It just doesn’t apply. However, wishing someone "Happy Holidays" is like saying “Have a Great Day!” It is inclusive and welcoming to almost everyone. I have a lot of obsessions but whether someone says "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" is not one of them. "Merry Christmas" is a bit presumptuous, but it is received in the spirit of the season.

In the words of Sarah Silverman, “You’re being ridiculous!” That’s what comes to mind regarding the several years’ battle over the Lorain County sales tax increase. When state funding to local communities is cut, there are only a couple of options—raise taxes (in this case only so lightly), reduce community services or lay off employees. I completely understand the stand against more taxes, but it is such a small tax and the money improves our community.

Polar bears, penguins and North Atlantic cod are three of many species that are in the most danger due to the consequences of global warming. Trump who once said one of the most oblivious things I ever heard about climate change, stating "They say, 'Don't use hair spray, it's bad for the ozone.' So I'm sitting in this concealed apartment, this concealed unit . . .It's sealed, it's beautiful. I don't think anything gets out. And I'm not supposed to be using hair spray?" Based on some of Trump’s cabinet choices, it seems he is trying to destroy the environment as quickly as possible. His ignorance is, quite frankly, appalling.

Did red lights suddenly become optional, or maybe merely a suggestion? I don’t remember seeing so many people not only running red lights, but also going through red lights after coming to a stop. One driver in front of me actually turned left while sitting a red light. The texting of drivers, both young and old, also continues to be a concern.  It is so dangerous and such an unnecessary risk, I just don’t get it. And, by the way, it makes other drives mad when “texters” are drifting into another lane, sitting at green lights or driving well below the speed limit. A little patience is worth the increase in safety and avoidance of “road rage.”

President-elect Donald Trump won the swing states (and the electoral college) by the slimmest of margins (less than the capacity of football stadium combined) and lost the popular vote by nearly a stunning three million votes. Only an oblivious narcissist would continue to say that he won in a “landslide.”

Thursday, December 22, 2016

261. The changing tides of 2016

As this year ends, so ends a remarkable year for Cleveland and around the country. For me, 2016 will be remembered as the year of sports and politics. This year had some moments of jubilation, while other events brought great despair.

For sports fans, 2016 will be the year Cleveland ended its championship drought when the Cavaliers came back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the heavily favored Golden State Warriors. The Warriors entered the playoffs with the best regular season in NBA history. I watched game 7 at sister’s house; we projected the game outside, she invited a few friends and it’s a moment we’ll never forget. Suddenly, when it came to Cleveland sports, the city could breath. My father was not a big Cavaliers fan, nonetheless, I wish he could have been there to share in the joy.

Cleveland hosted the Republican Convention after a wild primary season. No matter what Donald Trump did, didn’t do or was revealed about the man, he kept winning. On the Democratic side, things we also heating up as Bernie Sanders brought life and energy to the party. Like Trump, he packed venues with passionate supporters. Sanders finally offered everything I thought this country needed and I was very disappointed when he lost—due in large part to the undemocratic notion of Super Delegates.

The Cleveland Indians surprised the country when, despite several critical injuries, roared to a division title and through the playoffs. After taking a 3-1 lead on America’s team, the Chicago Cubs, Cleveland fans wondered—could we really win two championships in one year?

At the same time, it appeared that Hillary Clinton would be our next president. She was leading comfortably in the polls and Trump was busy embarrassing himself with one scandal after another. What could be better than two Cleveland championship and another Democrat in the White House?

And then everything changed.

I remember looking at the pitching match-ups for the last three games, two of which were in Cleveland, and being concerned. But I thought momentum was on our side—we needed just one win. Anything could happen.

Hillary wasn’t my first choice, but in comparison to Trump, there was no choice. It wasn’t until the Comey letter that I had much concern. Her campaign continued to lack energy, meanwhile each Trump supporter seem to have not one, but several signs in their yards. Trump supporters were digging in, but this country wouldn’t really elect someone like Trump, would we?

It was at this time that I felt the tide changing for both the Indians and Clinton. I remember going to work for a week with an uncomfortable and sinking feeling in my stomach. I couldn’t quite identify why, nothing bad had happened yet, but I could feel it. Trouble was brewing.

The Indians started to falter, eventually losing in extra-innings in game seven. Even though they overcame significant adversity and overachieved, to get that close was heartbreaking—though probably not as heartbreaking it would have been had the Cavaliers not won. And then, less than a week later the unthinkable happened. Whether it was due to decades worth of despise for Clinton, a referendum against intellectualism, racial tensions, misguided fear of terrorism or a rebellion against political correctness, voters in three swing states and by slim margins, decide to overlook dozens of person and professional character flaws and elect Trump.

To make matters worse, the farce continued after the election—with protests, broken promises to Trump supporters even before he takes office, deplorable cabinet choices and a refusal to take serious the conflict of interest his businesses present. Disappointed in the values and morals of this country, I have rarely watched the news since the election. After all, for the sake of ratings, the media created this monster. The future seems ominous and I feel empty inside. Thank goodness for Saturday Night Live.

Although it was not an uninteresting year, 2017 can’t get here fast enough. I can’t accept this “new normal” in our political landscape. We’re better than that and maybe our country will find its way again. And maybe Ohio State will ring the new year with a national championship, the Cavaliers will repeat or the Indians will finally win that World Series. Maybe, just maybe, the Browns will even win a game.