Category — Uncategorized
I watched in dismay on Tuesday as the president (above) hung his head and told an ABC reporter, “Well, if you put it that way, Jonathan, maybe I should just pack up and go home.”
President Obama had called a press conference to mark the first 100 days of his second term, and he was soon squirming under a volley of reporters’ barbs. Among the most pointed was a suggestion by ABC’s Jonathan Karl that the president didn’t have enough “juice” to get his agenda passed.
Obviously, President Obama’s response was meant to be ironic. He indicated as much when he followed up by paraphrasing one of Mark Twin’s famous quips.“Rumors of my demise may be a little exaggerated at this point,” he said.
But there’s a lot of truth in those rumors.
Barack Obama is the people’s president. Poll after poll shows he has the backing of a substantial majority of American voters. But this is not the people’s Congress.
This Congress is in the pockets of the plutocrats.
I must admit that I was naïve enough to be blindsided. I had hoped for better after Obama’s reelection. I had naturally expected the Republican members to do the bidding of their rich masters. But I had hoped the Democrats would have the interests of the country and the people at heart.
And no doubt, some Democrats do. But time after time, others betray the president, voting against key items in his agenda.
If this kind of thing happened in the UK, Canada or Jamaica, the government would fall and the prime minister would be obliged to call another election. But the American Constitution includes no such safeguard. Rogue members of the House and Senate are free to vote against their party whenever some lobbyist comes along with enough cash – or other incentives – to buy their vote.
The Republicans got so fed up with this kind of disloyalty that they closed ranks. Now, Republican members of Congress must toe the party line or face a primary challenge.
With that kind of discipline comes power – the power to stop President Obama in his tracks. The power to siphon more and more of the country’s wealth to the privileged few. The power to bring the American government to a halt and the economy to its knees.
Democrats have shown none of this resolve. Democratic senators even torpedoed attempts to end the filibuster rule that ensures no law can be passed without at least 60 votes in its favor. With the Republican senators committed to obstructionism and the kind of Democratic senators the president must depend on, that’s never going to happen.
Even when the president threatens to veto legislation, he is ignored by members of his own party.
As Karl pointed out, 92 Democrats joined the Republicans to pass a cybersecurity bill in the House despite President Obama’s veto threat. Democratic senators also sabotaged gun control, even after the bill was watered down to placate them and their campaign contributors.
With this kind of lackluster support from his party, Obama can only complain to the public, hoping we will shame our political representatives into some semblance of decency.
So I find it cruel and unfair when a usually supportive columnist like Maureen Dowd turns on him, accusing him of lacking the leadership his job demands. In her New York Times column today, Ms. Dowd declared:
The job of the former community organizer and self-styled uniter is to somehow get this dunderheaded Congress, which is mind-bendingly awful, to do the stuff he wants them to do. It’s called leadership.
He still thinks he’ll do his thing from the balcony and everyone else will follow along below. That’s not how it works.
Obviously, she doesn’t get the picture. The Republicans have only one goal: to prevent the president from achieving anything. They don’t care what harm they do to their country in pursuing this goal. And if that wasn’t daunting enough, disloyal Democrats are stabbing him in the back.
Yet Ms. Dowd thinks President Obama could solve this sorry mess by having that drink with Mitch McConnell he joked about at the White House Correspondents dinner.
I had thought better of Ms. Dowd.
May 1, 2013 2 Comments
You might not be feeling the effects of the infamous “sequester” that Congress has inflicted on us, but you will. The ham-handed budget cuts are already drawing blood and the worst is yet to come. Here’s how The Huffington Post described the situation earlier this month:
The grips of sequestration are just now beginning to be felt and the effects are already quite dramatic.
Organizations and companies have begun laying off workers, while many more have decided not to staff vacant positions. Schools on military bases are contemplating four-day weekly schedules. Food pantries have closed, as have centers that provide health services. Farmers have been forced to go without milk production information, causing alarm in the dairy industry and the potential of higher milk prices. Workers at missile-testing fields are facing job losses. Federal courts have closed on Fridays. Public Broadcasting transmitters have been shut down. Even luxury cruises are feeling the pinch, with passengers forced to wait hours before debarking because of delays at Customs and Immigration. Yes, sequestration is creating the possibility of another poop cruise.
We are told this kind of “austerity” is unavoidable because America is broke. And the right-wing politicians who brought us austerity – and are fighting tooth and nail to bring us more of it – blame social programs like food stamps, subsidized school lunches, Social Security and Medicare. I never hear them mention the billions squandered abroad in misguided and often corrupt programs.
In a detailed account this week, The New York Times tells of one such program – the CIA’s funneling of US dollars to Afghan President Hamid Karzai over the past decade. Suitcases, backpacks and plastic shopping bags stuffed with “tens of millions in ghost money” were secretly delivered to Karzai’s office, according to the article.
The CIA’s motive was – of course – secret. But it is logical to assume the organization hoped to gain access to Karzai’s nefarious “inner circle.” The Times charges that “much of the money went to warlords and politicians, many with ties to the drug trade and in some cases the Taliban.”
According to an unnamed US official, ”the biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan was the United States.”
As disheartening as this example of ineptitude and prodigality might be, it pales beside the billions squandered in Iraq in clandestine schemes and phony “rebuilding” contracts. But at least America was at war with Iraq and is still – inexplicably – at war with Afghanistan.
America is not at war with Honduras. Yet millions of US dollars were squandered on covert interference in that country’s politics. Honduras is not alone. The US is knee-deep in Mexico’s “drug war.” And, for at least a century and a half, Uncle Sam has financed coups and even “death squads” throughout Latin America.
You can bet the same kind of thing goes on all over the world. The CIA is a global – and virtually unsupervised – organization. Nobody knows what all those CIA agents are up to, and suspicion that some of them are involved in the drug trade and other illegal activities is widespread.
I do not know what the CIA’s budget is. That’s very hush-hush. But if it were up to me, that’s the first place I would look to find those savings the right wing is so obsessed with.
April 29, 2013 1 Comment
George Jones sang about love like nobody else that I can recall. We may never hear songs like his again.
Johnny Cash was similar of course, but he’s gone, too. Theirs was the kind of artistry that made country music so powerful. In the tradition of the great Hank Williams, they spoke from their hearts to ours. It was the real thing. No sugar-coated fairy tales. No Hallmark rhyming couplets. Their songs were gritty, sometimes painful, always memorable.
They sang about love and heartbreak as so many regular folks know it. The highs and the lows, the huggin’ and the fightin’. And George lived it.
George and Tammy, boozin’ and brawlin’, splittin’ and gettin’ back together. For a time, they lived right here in Polk County, Florida, and their fights were legendary. But so was their love for one another. Despite George’s alcoholism, Tammy could be counted on to stand by her man – for six years, anyway.
Fed up with George’s carousing,Tammy filed for divorce in 1973, but thought better of it. Two years later, she filed again, this time for real.
They produced hit songs together for several years afterwards. Tammy died in 1998. She was 56 years old.
There are loving couples who live tranquil lives together apparently never exchanging a harsh word. Sandra’s parents were like that. When her mother got Alzheimer’s and had to go to a nursing home, her father would walk across the churchyard every day and sit with his lifelong love, holding hands, even when she couldn’t quite recognize him.
And, for all I know, that’s the kind of marriage George found with his fourth wife, Nancy Sepulvado. He credited her with rescuing him from drugs and alcohol.
But that’s not the world George sang about.
In that world, relationships were like a three-legged race, a push-you-pull-you kind of thing that drives the participants crazy at times. Sometimes, the lovers can work it out; they make allowances, and when they need to, they make amends.
Sometimes -like George and Tammy – they reach a point where they can’t work it out.
George knew both sides of the story, and he sure knew how to share it with us.
April 27, 2013 3 Comments
Democrats face a dilemma in 2014. Do they stick to their principles and run off the pols who use the party to make a lucrative nest for themselves in Congress? Or do they tolerate the sleazy behavior of these members in order to bolster the party’s numbers in the House and Senate? For at least a generation, the party has ignored the “rat” in flawed Democrats in order to bolster their representation in Congress. But the debate over gun control seems to be changing things.
Progressives have gone on the offensive, running ads against Democratic politicians who oppose the regulation of gun sales. And gun control advocates are threatening to keep up the crusade through 2014.
That may be why Senator Max Baucus is retiring. The 72-year-old Montana senator was among renegade Democrats who voted against a bipartisan Senate bill expanding background checks for gun purchases. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee responded by targeting him in an ad campaign.
Baucus has been in Washington for more than a generation and has a reputation (among progressives, anyway) for disloyal – and questionable – behavior. PCCC co-founder Stephanie Taylor had this to say about Baucus’ retirement announcement:
Good bye, Senator K Street. Max Baucus has a history of voting with corporate interests and not the interests of Montana voters — taking millions from Wall Street, insurance companies, and lobbyists. Montana will finally have a chance to have a senator with its best interests at heart, and we hope [former Democratic Gov.] Brian Schweitzer jumps into the race immediately.
“K Street,” of course, refers to the area where Washington’s lobbyists congregate. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes both gave detailed accounts of the sordid relationship between Baucus and lobbyists. Among other abuses, the senator has an alarming number of ex-staffers working for lobbying interests; and his voting record indicates they exert an unhealthy influence on his policies.
To folks like me, Baucus’ exit is a welcome development. I hate it when Democrats stray from the party platform and side with their conservative opponents. I hate it when members of Congress vote for the interests of their campaign contributors instead of the interests of their constituents. And I cringe when politicians put their own re-election ahead of their country’s welfare.
But the way the old-line Democrats have looked at it, it’s better for the party to have majorities in Congress even when some of their elected representatives are not 100 percent in agreement with their principles. At least they will get agreement on some things, and half a platform is better than no platform at all.
As bad a Democrat as Baucus undoubtedly was, he did cast a critical vote in favor of President Obama’s health care reform bill, for example. (Of course, his motives may have been far from pure; he was accused of torpedoing the public option to do his health care industry donors a favor.)
The country is politically divided, and the majority of voters in some states do not accept the validity of traditional Democratic ideals. They’re dyed-in-the-wool conservatives who shudder at the prospect of same-sex marriage, oppose federal government involvement in health care and education, and regard abortion as a mortal sin. Even those who might not be socially conservative often distrust deficit financing and government welfare programs. Some Americans – a minority of course – are motivated by racist intolerance and xenophobia.
To get their vote, politicians – of either party – dare not seem even vaguely progressive.
Ms. Taylor might be overly optimistic when she cheers the departure of six-term senator Max Baucus in the expectation that former Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer could take his place.
A Republican could just as possibly claim Baucus’ vacant Senate seat. While Senator Jon Tester won re-election and Democrat Steve Bullock succeeded Tester in November, Mitt Romney won the state by 12 percentage points over President Obama.
With several other Democratic senators scheduled to retire, the party risks losing the slim advantage it has in the Senate.
The question is: Would the party accomplish more with a majority – even with some disloyal members – than by letting the Republicans control both houses of Congress?
It’s the kind of question that keeps voters like me awake at night.
April 25, 2013 2 Comments
I am not telling you anything new when I say newspapers are dying. The evidence is all around you. But you might not realize that “the news” itself is becoming extinct. Thinking back to the days of Walter Cronkite and before, I recall “the news” as a collection of reports that had been verified and weighed to ensure as much as possible that the way in which events were described would not be misleading.
Today, there seems to be no such “gatekeeping.” We live in an age when freedom of the press has reached a hysterical level. Fact and fiction flow unimpeded from “news” sources. Some of it is honestly mistaken; some is embellished to enhance its entertainment value; some is deliberately “spun” for propaganda purposes.
I suppose there always was manipulation of news reports to influence public opinion, but reporters of my generation did not participate in it. Not that I knew of, anyway. We had rules to follow and – for the most part – we did our best to follow them.
Watching the cable channels “report” on the Boston bombing, I could detect no evidence of those old rules. Apparently, nothing was verified before it was broadcast. Apparently, nothing was double-checked.
Attribution to anonymous “officials” was rampant and viewers were lucky if the “news” they were getting was even “single-sourced” – a cardinal sin in my day. Often it was sheer speculation. Sometimes it seemed to be the product of someone’s overheated imagination.
But that’s just television, you might say. And TV news is just entertainment. What about the more reliable print media?
Sad to say, what’s left of the print media didn’t do much better.
The New York Post went ballistic with reports of “12 dead,” for example. And it was among the host of media falsely fingering an injured Saudi national as being implicated in the terror attack.
Of course, the Post is a tabloid and tabloids march to the beat of a different drum: They actually make stuff up.
Especially when they belong to Rupert Murdoch.
Which brings us to the ownership of the media. Today, nearly all media outlets are owned by large corporations and are influenced by the best interests of the corporate elite. They can’t help transitioning into propaganda vehicles.
It’s a growing trend. I understand that the infamous Koch brothers, who have devoted billions to propaganda and political activism designed to inflict their radically right-wing views on America, are eyeing the Tribune newspapers, including the The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, and The Orlando Sentinel. They might also be exploring the possibility of buying Hoy, the second-largest Spanish-language daily newspaper in the United States.
So where will the America of the future get its news? From the Internet?
Saints preserve us!
April 23, 2013 2 Comments
Now that the army of law enforcement officers in their body armor and night-vision goggles have captured a cowering teenager bleeding to death in a backyard boat, we will hear endless paeans to their resolve, to the people of Boston and to the unsinkable American spirit.
You can’t beat us down, terrorists! We are America. We are Boston. We are David Ortiz and the Boston Red Sox.
There’s undeniable truth behind the bravado. America is resilient. Like New York after Nine-Eleven, Boston and the Marathon will prove indestructible. And, hear this, no terrorist will escape America’s justice. No terrorist can kill this nation’s spirit.
But we must not forget the little girl who lies legless in a hospital bed, the 8-year-old boy and two young women who will never see the sun or hear the birds sing again, and so many bereaved families who are left with an ocean of tears to shed.
Bereaved families. Including the mother and father of the suspected bombers – one dead and the other shot up so badly that he cannot speak.
How do we respond to such senseless carnage?
New York State Senator Greg Ball wants to torture the surviving suspect. “Who wouldn’t use torture on this punk to save lives?” the Republican senator tweeted.
He doesn’t explain how torturing 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev would “save lives.” Presumably, he thinks the young man knows of other bombs hidden across Boston, or across America. This fear seems quite widespread, and it has renewed the debate over the validity of torturing terror suspects.
There’s a “fight fire with fire” argument that seems to make sense. But it has no moral justification. If this nation insists on calling itself Christian, I would remind our politicians of this admonition from the one we hold to be the Son of God:
Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
My late mother – a devout Catholic – would likely remind us that St. Augustine told us to hate the sin but love the sinner.
Who could love the vicious beasts that so casually and mindlessly blew up innocent people? Who could feel pity for such scum?
You know who, of course. Christians pray for His mercy. “Forgive us our trespasses,” we pray, “as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
I know. Forgiving is not easy. Not when innocent people are sacrificed to a cause they have nothing to do with. Not when ingrates granted asylum by this kind-hearted nation turn on their benefactors with such utter ferocity.
But when we repay evil with good, we sow the seeds of peace in the long run. When we repay evil with evil, we fuel an endless fire that feeds on itself forever.
Blood lust begets blood lust. Revenge begets revenge.
In the end, it is love that conquers all.
Photos above show Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, left, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, the two Muslims of Chechen origin suspected in the Boston Marathon terror attack. Tamerlan, the elder brother, was killed in a police shootout; the younger brother, 19-year-old Dzhokhar, was captured and is in serious condition in hospital.
April 21, 2013 3 Comments
The American system of government has failed. Democracy has not failed. Freedom has not failed. These concepts remain as valid as they were in 1789. But the way in which America’s constitutional rights are interpreted is so deeply flawed that the nation’s government can no longer function properly. You might say it was bound to happen. No ideal, however noble, is impervious to human nature.
Power corrupts. Even when the power supposedly belongs to the people.
The media are agog over the Senate’s rejection of a bill to expand background checks for gun buyers. Polls had shown that the measure was supported by 90 percent of Americans. But the pundits shouldn’t have been surprised. As Jennifer Steinhauer observed in The New York Times on Wednesday:
The measure never really had a chance.
Ms. Steinhauer explains in careful detail why the bill was doomed and how the politics of it played out. But the short answer is that the gun manufacturers have bought Congress.
Washington is now completely controlled by money. America’s ruling class, working mainly through the Republican Party but with allies among Democrats, too, have rigged the political and economic machinery to give them almost complete control of the country. They have also succeeded in stacking the U.S. Supreme Court and gaining control of several state legislatures.
The simple explanation is that, applied efficiently, money can mold public opinion. Money elects candidates. There are exceptions, of course, but as a rule, the candidate with the most money has the best chance of getting elected. In a few instances, unions and other organizations have countered the flood of funds from Big Business by organizing massive field campaigns. They have knocked on thousands of doors and talked to millions of voters. But even these grassroots efforts don’t always prevail. The unions are being crushed, the progressive base is being eroded.
The rich are not only becoming richer, they are also becoming more politically powerful.
The simple solution to the mess in Washington would be to have limits on campaign spending – as they have in countries like Canada. But the US Supreme Court has taken the opposite approach, unleashing the full power of the Almighty Dollar through its historic Citizens United ruling.
There are reforms that could make the system a little more workable – curbing the Senate’s filibuster rule, for example, or imposing term limits on senators. But even these are impossible to implement. There’s just too much money opposing reform.
What’s ahead for America? I shudder to think. Unless Americans wake up to the danger facing their democracy and say no the raw power of money. It could happen. It happened just last November when President Obama was re-elected and Democrats made gains in the Senate and the House despite the hundreds of millions of dollars spent to oppose them.
Pray that this is what happens again in 2014. It’s America’s only chance.
April 19, 2013 2 Comments
I never thought it could happen to me but it has. Someone is using my Social Security Number. I found out on Tuesday, when an AARP Tax Aide volunteer phoned to tell me the joint income tax return filed electronically for Sandra and me had been rejected because another return was already using that number.
What followed was one of the most harrowing days of my life.
When I recovered from the shock, I looked up the IRS on the web and, after rummaging around for a while, found a number to call. Naturally, I had to spar with a machine and submit to endless mind numbing “music” before finally hearing a human voice.
But at last, a nice-sounding lady came on the line and told me yes, indeed, someone had used my Social Security Number on a tax return seeking a refund. But she said “something looked wrong” and the IRS had astutely refused to send any money until it received further information. Nobody had replied to the IRS letter requesting “further information,” she noted.
So, I asked, what do I do now? She told me to go get a pen and a sheet of paper. She would wait.
Once I was appropriately equipped, the nice-sounding lady painstakingly explained the procedure I had to follow.
I had to go back on the IRS web site and print out a complaint affidavit form, she said. I was to fill out and sign the form, attach it to my tax return – with copies of ID documents such as my driver’s license and Social Security card – and mail it in.
There was more.
There were phone numbers I had to call… the Federal Trade Commission, Social Security, and at least one of the major credit reporting companies. Of course she didn’t have to tell me to notify our bank. I could figure that out for myself. But she did, anyway. She also told me to submit a report to the local police department.
It might not sound all that harrowing, but I can tell you contacting all those places was no walk in the park. There was quite a bit of driving around involved. On the phone, I talked to several machines, and I listened to a lot of “music.”
The longest wait was for someone at Social Security. A taped message kept assuring me how important I was and apologizing for the delay. The machine appreciated my patience and wanted me to know I would be better off trying to get whatever information I needed through their web site. After at least half an hour of hypnotic “music” and taped apologies, I heard the voice of an actual human being. This lady asked me for my date of birth, my address, my phone number, where I was born and my mother’s maiden name before she would even talk to me.
Then she told me I shouldn’t have called Social Security; I should have called the Federal Trade Commission. “But,” I said, “the lady at the IRS told me to call you as well as the FTC.”
“I know,” she responded with a sigh. “They do that. But we aren’t the ones to call.”
So I called the FTC. They took down the requisite information and assured me they would “investigate.” I assured them that, yes, I would testify if they brought charges against anyone.
Meanwhile, Sandra called the bank for me, and they told her I had to go to their local branch and fill out a form.
But the young lady who greeted me at the local branch looked bewildered when I asked her for the form. She consulted a colleague, dialed several phone numbers – smiling all the time despite the repeated dead ends. Eventually, she managed to hit on the right number – and they gave her a number for me to call.
So what can the bank do about it?
Well, they can make it more difficult for us to get information about our account. From now on, Sandra and I will have to go to the local branch in person to check on any transactions.
Take that, you ID thief you!
April 18, 2013 3 Comments
There are no words to describe the horror of it. There is no way to make sense of it. Innocent people – even children – killed and maimed. To what end? Impossible to tell. Who would do such an evil thing? Such a pointless, mad thing? Perhaps we shall know who in time. But why? That we can never really figure out.
My sister-in-law Faye will surely attribute it to the Devil. She sees his hand in all of the monstrous wickedness that surrounds us. And who am I to say that she is wrong?
What human being, however depraved, would plant bombs to blow up runners and spectators at a marathon? What would they hope to achieve by doing something so random, so futile? Yet, while yesterday’s tragedy was a rare event in the United States, it is not rare in many other countries – Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Pakistan…
All around he globe, evildoers are at work, committing atrocities for no sane reason.
Faye would probably say we are living in the End Times, as prophesied in the Book of Revelation. She would cite the prophesy that the Devil would be fiercest during the closing days of the era preceding the return of Christ.
And who am I to say that she is wrong?
Surely, some evil influence pervades this earth. Is it worse now than it has ever been? Hard to say. Consider the atrocities of the past… the Holocaust… Rwanda…
The Americas have known their share of unspeakable inhumanity. From the time Christopher Columbus set foot in the Bahamas six centuries ago to the 1890 massacre of the Sioux at Wounded Knee by the United States military – and beyond – indigenous populations were ruthlessly slaughtered.
But today’s horrors seem to be more frequent than ever before. They keep on coming one after the other with relentless ferocity – each more senseless than the other. Before we can recover from the Sandy Hook massacre, we are faced with the bombing of the Boston Marathon.
Some day someone – someone much wiser than I – might come up with a scientific explanation for the phenomenon of evil. Someone might even be able to find a logical reason for the apparently pointless violence that wracks the earth.
But as far as I am concerned, it makes no sense.
Like the woman pictured above seeking the help of a higher power in the horror of yesterday’s atrocity, all I can do is pray.
April 16, 2013 4 Comments
I have always held The Masters in the highest esteem. I am as enthralled by its traditions as anyone. I am a big fan of Bobby Jones and revere anything connected with his memory. But the pompous millionaires who have hijacked the year’s first major make it increasingly painful to watch.
I can’t believe Bobby Jones would have agreed with the racist and sexist policies that prevailed at Augusta National Golf Club until very recently. And now that the “southern gentlemen” have relented and allowed Condi Rice – imagine that, a black woman! – to join their precious club, their dumb rules are making golf look ridiculous.
I’ve accepted their limits on the amount of TV we get to watch, and who can ask what and when. And I’ve put up with the windbags who interrupt play with obsequious tributes to Augusta National Golf Club and everyone who was ever connected with it.
But when they impose their nonsense on the game itself, they’re walking on the fighting side of me.
Of course, it’s not just Augusta that makes golf seem stodgy.
Some of the rules inflicted on golfers by the stuffed shirts who take it upon themselves to police the sport are patently absurd to begin with. And the way the rules are sometimes implemented make the game seem fit only for pedantic old men with fat wallets.
Take, for example, Craig Stadler’s disqualification at the 1987 Andy Williams Open. The Walrus had his second-place check ripped up because some jerks in the TV audience pointed out he had illegally “built his stance” by using a towel to protect his trousers when he knelt to play a ball that had rolled under a shrub. And Dustin Johnson, who lost the PGA Championship a couple of years ago because he grounded his club in a patch of sand that spectators had been walking and sitting in all week. Dustin later found out the scruffy area was designated as a bunker by the folks at the club.
And why on earth should you be penalized if the breeze rolls your ball while you are trying to putt? Or for moving a leaf that blows over your ball while it’s in a bunker? Or for moving a ball out of a divot in the middle of the fairway?
Perhaps the most infuriating rule is the one that cost Roberto De Vicenzo the 1968 Masters championship. He was booted because he casually signed his card without noticing his playing partner had recorded the wrong score – a higher score – on a hole.
There’s a new rule that opens the door to equally spurious rulings – the one about slow play. Sure, slow play is a curse. I hate standing around waiting for some duffer to plumb-bob a putting line. And it is true that slow playing pros set a bad example. But the cure can be worse than the disease. This dangerously subjective rule was applied in the most churlish way at this year’s Masters.
It cost 14-year-old phenom Guan Tianlang (pictured above with Tiger) a stroke in yesterday’s second round, and I can’t imagine anything more distasteful. The kid was trying to figure out one of the craziest courses in the world, and it’s unthinkable that some fat bully of a rules official would harass him.
Just as annoying – to me, anyway – was the 2-stroke penalty imposed on Tiger Woods. First the disclaimer: If Tiger wasn’t playing, I probably wouldn’t be watching. It wouldn’t be The Masters without the world’s number-one golfer, so I wouldn’t care who gets the Green Jacket. So you can imagine how teed off I was when he hit a picture-perfect shot to the 15th green and saw his ball ricochet off the flag stick and roll into a pond.
Why is the flag stick considered part of the course, anyway? Left to me, it would be in the same category as a power line. If the darned thing obstructs your ball, you should get to take the shot over. It’s not considered part of the course when you putt; you have to take it out of the hole. If you hit it with a putt, you’re penalized.
Tiger accepted his bad break and played another shot. He hit it within inches and sank the putt for a bogey. It was not until later that he became aware he might have broken Rule 27-1, which states that “a player must drop the ball as near as possible” to its original position. Apparently, he dropped it a few feet farther out.
Rules regarding water hazards are quite complex. If the hazard is identified by yellow stakes, for example, you must execute a different protocol than the rigamarole decreed for hazards bounded by red stakes. It’s enough to confuse anyone, even Tiger Woods. Especially when he’s still in shock from the rotten break he just got.
The Augusta Golf Club big shots took a look at the “infraction” and assessed a one-stroke penalty against Tiger. Then they took a second look and decided he had signed “an incorrect” score card so they disqualified him. Then they took yet another look (at the potential effect on TV ratings?) and reinstated him with a 2-stroke penalty.
I don’t think the myriad golfers that pack the world’s courses on a holiday weekend play by the arcane rules that supposedly govern the game. In fact, I know we don’t. And, I have news for the big shots who think they can dictate how the game is played: if you keep making ridiculous rulings, we might stop watching your tournaments.
I know I’m sitting here letting off steam, when I would normally be glued to the TV.
April 13, 2013 4 Comments