Step Right Up, Sucker!

Step Right Up, Sucker!

By Patrick F. Cannon

Illinois has both an official slogan – Land of Lincoln – and nickname – The Prairie State. It also has much to recommend it. Chicago is one of the country’s great cities, despite its problems. Illinois is bordered by two great bodies of water – Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River. It has many fine state parks and a National Forest. Two of America’s top universities are in the state, the University of Chicago and Northwestern. And if you like corn, Illinois is heaven on earth.

            It also, I’m sad to say, has perhaps the most dysfunctional politics in the country. Just the other day, yet another Chicago alderperson was indicted by the Feds for taking bribes. She joined literally dozens of her fellow legislators in being caught with a greedy hand in the till, including one whose wife is the Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court (which, strangely enough, has prevented any number of citizen’s initiatives to improve things from getting on the ballot).  And need you be reminded that in my lifetime, no less than four former Illinois governors have gone to jail?

            Lincoln, who was after all born in Kentucky, might well agree with me that it’s high time we changed the state’s motto back to one that was in common use early in its history, when Illinois was commonly known as the “Sucker State.” Other than the obvious reason, why was this so?

            Various derivations were explored in a 2004 article by Dave Kulton in Springfield’s Illinois Times. One posits that it came from the practice of early inhabitants of the prairie of thrusting hollow reeds into crawfish holes to get water (I can’t recall ever being that thirsty). A just slightly more plausible explanation says that many of the early settlers were from the tobacco growing states of Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee.  It seems that the sprouts around the main stem of the tobacco plant are called suckers. Bear with me here. The sprouts were stripped off and discarded lest they sap the plant of its nutrients. As we know, immigrants have always been looked down on as somehow inferior, and the more established Illinoisans assumed they would fail and perish, much as the suckers on the plant did.

            The most accepted explanation involves the discovery in 1824 of lead in the northwest corner of the state near Galena. Much like the later California Gold Rush, hordes of men rushed to the area in search of work. Most were from Missouri and Southern Illinois. They would arrive in the Spring, work through the Fall and return home. Most travelled to Galena (which now mines tourist dollars instead of lead) up the Mississippi River. Missourians took to calling them “suckers” after a fish of that name that also migrated upstream each Spring.

            Revival of the “Sucker State” motto would recognize the millions of Illinoisans who, despite the dismal record of the Democratic Party that has governed the state since 2003, continue to cast their votes for Democrats, both those who have  gone to jail and those who may or may not be honest, but who all go along with a leadership that has spent the state into near bankruptcy. Perhaps you noticed that the state’s Inspector General, Carol Pope, resigned on July 14 in frustration with her lack of power to actually investigate legislators. Anyway,  you gullible Illinois voters, thanks for continuing to vote the rascals back in.  They’re amusing, if nothing else.

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon

The Age of Revolution

(This is the latest installment in my ongoing History of the World. Truth-seekers need not bother to go elsewhere.)

Chapter 10

The Age of Revolution

By Patrick F. Cannon

While many revolting things have happened throughout history, big time revolutions only began to occur in the 18th Century.  The French, being French, have tried to convince the world that their revolt against King Louis XVI in 1789 – when they stormed the Bastille (I tried without success to find it during a recent trip to Paris) – was the grandpere of all revolutions. In actuality, it was the prodigal son. As every sensible person who can do the math knows, the 1775 revolt by the Americans against the British was numero uno.

            Sticklers may remind us that Spartacus led a slave revolt against Rome in 73 BC, and got crucified for his temerity. And who can forget the Glorious Revolution of 1688, when the British got rid of the Popish King James II, thus ending the need for altar boys to learn Latin.. But these events were only named Revolutions later, while in 1776, Thomas Jefferson was clearly heard to yell: “let’s Revolt!” Or did he actually say: “That King George, he’s revolting!” In any event, in 1789, Robespierre was clearly heard to yell: “Je me Revolte!”  

            The American Revolution was all about tea and stamps. Once the British had gotten the colonists hooked on tea by making sure all the coffee was shipped to Turkey or Arabia, they hatched a plot to pay for King George’s plan to redecorate all his palaces by slapping a new tax on tea; and requiring them to buy stamps to lick and stick on newspapers, magazines, pamphlets and toilet paper (this last was an inspiration of the hated Lord North).

            Being British, they thought they knew best, so didn’t think it was necessary to check with their North American subjects first. The Adams Family – John and Sam – huddled in the Back Bay of Boston, did some brainstorming, and came up with the catchy slogan: “No Taxation Without Representation!” They then printed it on a flag and ran it up a flagpole to see if anyone saluted. Hands went to foreheads in the thousands, and soon the new slogan was on the lips of patriots from Maine to Georgia.

            Some of the bolder lads, dressed as indigenous Native Americans, boarded a ship in Boston’s harbor, and tossed chests of tea into the murky depths. As they danced, whooped and hollered, folks ashore were heard to say” Look, they’re having a party!” Funny how great events get their names. I’ve often wondered what would have happened if the be-feathered patriots had tossed dried peas into the harbor. I doubt if something called the “Boston Pea Party” would have changed the course of history.

            It’s hard to fathom now, but tea was an expensive commodity in those days – think Beelooga Caviar today – so the loss of the cargo got the British stiff upper lips to quivering.  They dispatched Lord Howe and an army of hundreds to Boston, bent on teaching the cheapskate colonists a lesson. Suffering from the gout himself, he dispatched one of his minions to Lexington and Concord to teach the upstarts who was boss.

            How was Howe to know that church sexton Robert Newman and Captain John Pulling were keeping watch in the belfry of the Old North Church (not to be confused with the New North Church, which was several blocks away)? Each had a lantern at the ready. In the meantime, silversmith Paul Revere had gone across the river and into the trees to await the signal that would tell him whether the British were planning to travel by land or sea. He was passing the time by brushing old Dobbin’s mane when he saw one lantern suddenly appear in the belfry. “One if by land,” he remembered, so lept upon his trusty steed and rode into dawn’s early light to warn the Minutemen along the road that “The British are coming, the British are coming!”  Soon enough, one of the Minutemen took aim at an advancing Redcoats and squeezed off the “shot heard around the world.” It’s unlikely that it was heard in Concord, but even then politicians were inclined to exaggerate. Soon enough, the famous Battle of Bunker’s Hill took place. We now know that it actually took place on Breed’s Hill, but the local Puritans didn’t like the sound of it, so Bunker’s Hill it became (and, of course, old Mr. Bunker was of their persuasion).

              The rest of the Revolutionary War is quickly disposed of. The British won most of the battles, but ended up losing the war, much as the USA later did in Viet Nam. The British commander, General Charles Cornwallis, was trapped between the American and French armies on one side and the French fleet on the other. Knowing the jig was up, he surrendered on October 17, 1781.

As was the custom with the British, he was rewarded for losing by being ennobled as First Marquess Cornwallis. He was also made a Knight of the Garter and named a Privy Councilor (“a man’s privy is his castle” was his motto). Unfortunately, he couldn’t manage to lose another battle, so never became a Duke. As a footnote, he had a younger brother, William, who became an Admiral of the Red (don’t ask). Because he never lost a battle, he was never ennobled, but had to settle for a knighthood, as Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath. I didn’t bother to check to see if his Bath had a privy.

Communication being desultory in those days, it took two more years for a peace treaty to be signed.  In the meantime, things were starting to fester in La Belle France!

(Sometime soon, when I get around to it, you’ll find out the real truth about the French Revolution in “The Frog Eaters Revolt!”)

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon

Tax Those Fat Cats!

Tax Those Fat Cats!

By Patrick F. Cannon

I’m on record as saying a modest increase in the top income tax rate would not be the end of the world for our highest earners. At 37.9 percent, the rate is historically low. I also think the earnings limit on the payroll tax (Social Security, Medicare, etc.) could also be raised.

            The tax code is complicated, which has little effect on taxpayers such as yours truly, but often enables folks like Jeff Bezos to pay at a rate much lower than that 37.9. Were I Mr. Bezos, I would pay as little as I had to. In his case and others (Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and their ilk), people confuse taxable income with wealth. The fact that Bezos may have a total fortune of some $180 billion or so has little to do with taxable income.

I don’t know what his taxable income was last year, but most of his  wealth is tied up in Amazon stock. Were he forced to sell it all, his capital gains tax would be $36 billion (it’s much more complicated than that, but let’s make it simple). President Biden’s proposed budget is $6 trillion. Let’s look at the zeros: 36,000,000,000 vs. 6,000,000,000,000. For the record, the current national debt is 28,500,000,000,000, and will climb to at least 30,000,000,000,000 if President Biden’s 2022 budget is approved.

By the way, Amazon employs approximately 1.3 million people. Because of job market pressures, starting wages for entry level warehouse workers are now about $15/hour, depending on the area of the country and market forces. It’s hard work, but those who persevere can expect to get raises and promotions. Benefits for full time employees include health care, disability and life insurance, education reimbursement, and a 50% match IRA program. Bezos, who is not the kind of man I’d like to play a round of golf with, doesn’t do any of this out of the goodness of his heart. He does it because he has to. He is responding to market pressures. It’s how capitalism works. (For how Socialism works, see Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, USSR, Nicaragua, etc.).

We hear a good deal about income disparity, and it’s true that the gap between the highest and lowest paid has widened. However, those high earners pay more than 70 percent of the income taxes; the lowest earners not only do not pay any income taxes, but actually get cash from the Federal government; not to mention food, rent and medical subsidies, among other benefit programs. Before the pandemic hit, the poverty rate was the lowest in our history, and will almost certainly go down again as the economy continues to recover.

By the way, the average hourly wage for Americans in June is not $15, but $25.68. And you won’t hear this from our left-wing friends, but real wages for Americans – adjusted for inflation – have risen by 32% in the last 30 years.

Hatred and envy of the rich is as American as apple pie and baseball. Who can forget those rapacious “Robber Barons!” But while we’re remembering them, and their contemporary descendants, let us also remember their contributions to the common good. While I am a member and financial supporter of several cultural and social service agencies, I am under no illusions about who founded and  continues to provide the bulk of their support. Some of them no doubt did so out of a guilty conscience. Whatever works!

Like Andrew Carnegie before him, Warren Buffett is on record as committed to giving away most of his (currently) $90 billion fortune to worthy causes. All without a Federal bureaucracy taking its usurious share. And should I mention that the folks I’ve cited actually succeeded because they had better ideas and worked hard to make them pay?  And that the  stock prices that have made them super rich have been known to tumble?

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon .    

Let’s All Move to Shangri-La!

Let’s All Move to Shangri-La!

By Patrick F. Cannon

If the immediate past president of these United States could be said to have a  theme song, it might be one from the 1951 film, Royal Wedding, which starred Fred Astaire and Jane Powell as brother and sister musical performers. Music was by Burton Lane, with lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner. One of the songs began:

            “How could you believe me when I said I love you

             When you know I’ve been a liar all my life?

             I’ve had that reputation since I was a youth

             You must have been insane to think I’d tell you the truth.

Yet, against all evidence, a credulous audience in Ohio cheered Trump on as he peddled the same lies he’s been selling since November of last year.

            Now, Ohio is considered a “battleground” state. Unlike my own Illinois, it seems to be divided between liberals and conservatives (we true conservatives are thin on the ground everywhere). As with most states, it has its share of white supremacists, neo-nazis, gun toting militia members, and other far right malcontents. These form Trump’s core constituency in most states.

            To these folks, add a sizeable number of Republicans who should know better. To them, Trump can lie all he wants as long as he either raises his middle finger at the established order or heaps abuse on any Democrat, but especially at “sleepy Joe, or the “gang of four,” or is it “The Squad?”

            Many of my cynical friends would claim that all politicians lie, or at least shade the truth to conform to their perceived constituents wishes. True enough, but in his four seemingly endless years in office, Trump has retired the “Liars Club” all time trophy.  Even if the Washington Post was guilty of counting the same lie every time he told it in their total, the final number of 30,573 probably exceeded the total for all of Congress during the same period. Surely, a breathtaking achievement! Knowing Trump, he’s probably proud of it.

            There are times when politicians are required to lie, during war time for example. Winston Churchill said about World War II: “In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.” After the 1942 bombing of Tokyo by Jimmy Doolittle, which was launched from an aircraft carrier, President Franklin Roosevelt, when asked by reporters from whence the attack was launched, replied “Shangri-La,” a mythical kingdom from James Hilton’s bestseller of the time, Lost Horizons. (By the way, a later aircraft carrier was named USS Shangri-La.)

            While Trump inherited wars form previous administrations, for which he cannot be blamed, he can be blamed for initiating his own war on the truth and on democracy itself. The thought that there are still people who would vote for him again is one of the great mysteries of the age. Maybe they should all move to Shangri-La.

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon

Just the Facts, Mam

Just the Facts, Mam

By Patrick F. Cannon

Based on my own education – which began 77 years ago and continues – I can tell you that there was just a smattering of African-American history taught until I got to college. I can’t pretend to know what kids in the South were taught, but even in grammar school in Pittsburgh and Chicago, we were made aware that slavery was an evil and that the Emancipation Proclamation and Civil War ended it, and that was pretty much it.

            By the time I graduated from college, I had a much better appreciation for the appalling effects of slavery; and I grew up with the civil rights movement of the 1960s and later. The problem with Americans is not that they are ignorant of African-American history; rather it is their abysmal ignorance of American – much less world – history in general. Here’s a depressing fact: only one in three Americans were able to pass the citizenship test, which requires only that you answer 60 percent of the questions correctly.

            To me, the answer to this is not teaching more African-American history, but actually mandating that children be taught, in appropriate stages, the entire history of their country, warts and all. Frankly, I don’t think it’s healthy for the kids involved to single out any particular racial or ethnic group for special attention. On Monday, I was informed by the Chicago Tribune (or what’s left of it) that Illinois schools would be required to teach Asian-American history. What next? Native American history? Armenian-American history? Where does this end?

            I won’t go into the subject of “critical race theory” except to say that if factual history were taught at all levels, then an intelligent person would discover on his or her own that it has mostly been better to be white in this country than black. At certain times, it has also been better to be from Western Europe than Eastern; and Protestant rather than Roman Catholic; and anything rather than Jewish. Similarly, courses in world history should not exclude any part of the world. Then, if you’re interested in further exploring your own racial or ethnic background, there are plenty of sources available.

            Although one should be careful about making blanket statements, it seems to me that these mandatory courses are more indoctrination than anything else. How else can you explain little white kids being made to feel guilty for their skin color, as if the mere fact of it means they are tainted by systemic racism at birth. Is racism really genetic?  Some people seem to believe it is.

            And just who teaches our kids history? Or is it “social studies?”  I would be interested to see how many primary grade teachers could pass that citizenship test. In high schools, no one should teach history who was not a history major in college, and who can’t pass a test on the subject he or she is teaching. Not a test on theory, but on subject knowledge. And no teacher should go into a classroom with a political bias. And no teacher should be taught that they are part of a social experiment. As Joe Friday (a legendary TV detective on Dragnet; look him up) was fond of saying: “just the facts, mam.”

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon

Voting Simplified

Voting Simplified

By Patrick F. Cannon

Because of the pandemic, last November many people chose to vote by mail, if that choice were offered in their state. Because of this, the former president cried foul and said this resulted in the election being swiped from him. No substantial evidence has been found to support his claims (yet numerous goofballs in Congress and some of their constituents continue to rail on).

            Absent a good reason – and the pandemic was certainly one – I personally believe people should vote in person. In Illinois, where I vote, it has always been possible to cast an absentee ballot if needed for health or when out of state on election day. I doubt the state is very strict on investigating ones reasons for requesting such a ballot, other than requiring you be registered to vote, which you can do in person or online.

As far as I can recall, I have been registered to vote in Illinois since 1960, except for stints in the Army and in Minnesota. My registration has been continuous since 1970, and I have voted in every election since then. As I understand it, you only need to prove citizenship and residence to register in Illinois. It can even be done on election day. Actually showing up in person is symbolic and insures that you are casting a secret ballot – a hallmark of real democracies. It’s also possible to vote in-person early, also in a private booth.

Proof of citizenship is strangely not required in some local elections, but is required by Federal law. Illinois requires presentation of a valid driver’s license or a Social Security number. Absent one of these, I suppose you could supply a birth certificate or a valid passpoort. On election day, you need only sign your name.  

No state should require more, particularly if their intent is to restrict certain kinds of voters (i.e., members of the other party). But in this, as in so many things, states can go their own merry way. The pandemic is only one example of “state’s rights” run amok.

In case you think otherwise, it’s not really possible to eliminate election fraud completely. But it’s also naïve to think it’s the province of only one of our political parties. In  this regard, let me tell you a story.

I once had a couple of years of interesting employment as director of public information for Chicago’s Department of Public Works. I left after discovering that Mayor Richard J. Daley wasn’t particularly interested in the public getting too much information. One of my associates was an old campaigner who had worked many elections for the Democratic party. He told me they used to buy cases of half pints of cheap whiskey to pass out to the denizens of Skid Row in exchange for their (Democratic) votes. It was also well known that cash also changed hands to insure a high turnout.

When I questioned the legality of this, he pooh poohed my concerns by saying these tactics were only necessary because they knew that downstate Republicans were stealing an equal number of votes! In his mind, it was only good defense!

Anyway, going to the polling place – usually within walking distance – is the best way to both exercise your democratic rights and of getting your vote properly counted.

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon

Does it Really Always Get Through?

Does it Really Always Get Through?

By Patrick F. Cannon

In 1775, Benjamin Franklin became our hopeful republic’s first Postmaster General. He was a logical choice, since he had held essentially the same job for the former colonies. In those days, most mail within the colonies and the young country moved by horsepower – either by horseback or coaches. As I recall, you could count on a letter from Boston to New York taking just a few days. Transatlantic mail – there was much between America and England – was subject to the vagaries of wind and weather. Air mail was unknown, since it hadn’t yet occurred to anyone to train pigeons.

Until 1950, American homes got two deliveries a day; businesses as many as four. Now, if we’re lucky, we get one, and Saturday deliveries may soon go away. Many of you will recall going days without getting mail during the last winter. In 1999, the Postal Service had 787,538 employees; in 2020, 495,941. Mr. Louis De Joy, the current Postmaster General and CEO, is not a fan of overtime, so is unconcerned if the mail sits around for an extra day or two. And I don’t imagine he spends much time in line at his local Post Office, waiting to be served by the single clerk on duty. He did rouse himself when it became clear that he would be blamed if mail-in ballots didn’t arrive in time for last November’s election.

The Postmaster General was once appointed by the president, and the Postal Service was a government department, just like the State and Defense departments. This changed in 1971, when it became a quasi-government “business,” expected to be run as such and even turn a profit. Vain hope. More often than not, it loses money. Its package business now has stiff competition from the likes of UPS and Fed-Ex, whose stockholders expect them to turn a profit, which  they do. With the possible exception of Christmas and other holiday cards, few people use the mails to correspond with relatives and friends. Like most other folks, I use e-mail and the occasional text to keep in touch.  The Postal Services only response to this is to raise the cost of First Class Mail, which might just further discourage its use.

I think it was a mistake to “privatize” the mail. It should be a service government provides to its citizens. Is the Department of Agriculture expected to make a profit? The Defense Department? The Department of State? While we might think we spend too much money on them, we don’t suggest they be run as businesses. Why the Post Office?

After World War II, many governments – notably the British Labor party – decided to nationalize important industries (steel, rail, coal, power, etc.). The total failure of this trend caused later governments to reverse it, as the government-run industries not only lost money, but market share and reputation. This trend toward privatization no doubt caught the Postal Service in its tide.

Most Americans frankly don’t care what happens. But as someone who still pays a few bills by mail, I do. A case in point: a couple of months ago, I sent a mortgage payment about two weeks before it was due, and three weeks before a late fee could be charged. The check arrived a day after the late fee became effective. So, it took three weeks and a day for a First-Class letter to travel from Chicago to Iowa, which you may know is right next to Illinois.

And just a couple of weeks ago, my wife got a card that was postmarked more than a month before we received it. And finally, let me mention that law-abiding citizens who live in high-crime areas in many cities are forced to go the post office to pick up their mail because letter carriers refuse to deliver it. Would any of this happen if the Postmaster General had to report directly to the president instead of some commission? Hell, the taxpayers are on the hook for deficits anyway!

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon

Soak the Rich?

Soak the Rich?

By Patrick F. Cannon

Unless you’ve stopped keeping up with national politics (and who could blame you?), you may have noticed that President Biden wants to return the top income tax rate to 39.60% to help pay for his six trillion dollar budget. Even with this tax increase on folks making $400,000 a year or more, deficits are still going to be about $1.2 trillion a year. Yikes! Of course, if projections hold true (!!!), the budget will be in balance sometime around 2035.

            For the record, the last year we had a budget surplus was 2001, the year Bill Clinton left office. Good old Bill; for all his many faults, he even produced some surpluses! The top tax rate during his entire term was the same 39.60%. When the first income tax was levied in 1913, the top rate was a staggering 7.00%! When we entered World War I in 1917, it jumped to 67.00%. It settled in the 25.00% range for most of the 1920s. It jumped to 63.00% and higher during the Depression, then peaked at 94.00% in 1944-45 to help pay for World War II. As late as 1963, it was still at 91.00%. (Of course, because of deductions and loopholes, no one really paid the top rate, nor does now.)

            Reganomics reduced it to a low of 28.00% by 1988; since then it’s been in the 30s. If you look at the history of the top rate since 1913, it has mostly been higher than today’s 37.00%, which was lowered by the Republican Congress to please what’s his name, and their donors. In addition, the top corporate tax rate, which had been between 45 and 50% since World War II, was reduced in 2018 to 21%.  President Biden wants to increase the top individual rate to 39.60 (i.e., roll it back) and the corporate rate to 28%. This would please some of his “progressive” voters who are always happy to soak the rich.

            The problem is that it won’t make much of a dent in actually paying for his proposed budget. For that, he would do what both Democratic and Republican administrations have done for far too long: borrow the money. As people who have bought a home in recent years know, interest rates are very low – not much more than 2.5% for a 30-year mortgage. The Federal government is paying even less interest for the dough it borrows, currently about 1.5%. From what I could find, it seems the Biden plan projects interest payments might slowly rise to 3.2% by 2030. Rose colored glasses? Since 1988, interest rates have been higher than 6% more than they have been lower. What would happen to the president’s projections if the rate rose to 6% rather than three?

            Everyone knows, or should know, that the national debt now exceeds the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). It is now 129% of GDP, even higher than it was in the last years of World War II. You can find economists who think this is hunky dory, but is it really?

            If we had two rational political parties, we might find a way out of this growing dilemma, but we don’t. One wants to redistribute the country’s wealth, but doesn’t have the guts to go all the way, while the other just says “no.”  At my age, I may not live to see the comeuppance. You know, when we turn into Greece.

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon

My Trip to Washington

My Trip to Washington

By Patrick F. Cannon

Some of my friends and I decided to take a trip to our nation’s capital. I had never been, and thought it would be a good chance to see the sights. At the same time, we would be able to hear our beloved president, who would be giving another of his eloquent speeches. As everyone knows, the election was stolen from him by turncoat Republican traitors, who must have been paid off by those rich Hollywood commies.

            Anyway, we boarded our bus in Columbus, and after a long day on the road, we arrived at the Motel Six in Bethesda. After a hearty meal at a Chick-fil-A, we had a few brewskis at a local biker bar, and turned in so we would be ready for a full day on January 6.

            Bright and early the next day, we boarded our bus for the trip into DC. We had a little time before hearing the president who made America great again, so the bus driver took us around the city a bit. Everything looked pretty much the same – white with columns like the capital in Columbus – but the driver said one building was the Lincoln Memorial, but I forgot to take a picture. Darn phone never works when you want it too.

            We had to park the bus a ways from where the rally would take place, an area they called the Ellipse. Not sure what that means, but we made sure we were early enough to hear our great leader. I won’t tell you what our noble president had to say – you’ve probably memorized it by now anyway. At the end, he suggested we might want to visit our representatives to express our opinions as patriotic Americans about the recent election, which, as everyone knows, was stolen by the oligarchs who run the country of behalf of old guys like Joe Biden.

            I had made a nice sign that said “Trump Won!”, which I had attached to a sturdy steel pole. I didn’t know it, but it later came in handy. I wasn’t right up front, but apparently some of my fellow patriots had to remove some barriers from in front of the Capital, which must have been put there by mistake. When I finally got to the Capital building, I was shocked to find the doors locked! It must have been a mistake, so I decided to use my steel pole to break a window, kinda like when you lock your keys in the pickup. I guess some other folks had the same idea, as it was pretty crowded inside. For some reason, there were some cops trying to stop us, but I guess they didn’t know we were entitled as citizens to visit our property.

            Some of us decided to stop by to visit our hero, Congressman Jim Jordan, but were surprised to find that all the congressmen had left the building (some folks said they “escaped”). One fellow patriot suggested we go to Nancy Pelosi’s office and arrest her for treason. But she was gone too. Since we were there, we decided to take some souvenirs, as mementos of our visit. I snagged me a nice desk set; it looks great on a shelf next to my Moose antlers. Funnily, there was a guy in her office dressed like a Viking, horns and all. Must have been a Swede from Minnesota!

            Eventually, we left, escorted by some soldiers. We got back to Ohio later in the day, and I had a lot of stories to tell my buddies! You can just imagine my surprise when I got arrested by the FBI.  It turned out I had posed for a few pictures, including when I broke the window. I’m sure the jury will take my side. If not, I wonder if former presidents can issue pardons?

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon

More for Your Money?

More for Your Money?

By Patrick F, Cannon

In 2020, the average Major League baseball game sucked three hours and 6 minutes out of a fan’s life. In 1915, the game was also nine innings long, but the average game took one hour and fifty three minutes. The average time has been increasing relentlessly – in 1940, two hours and 7 minutes; in 1970, it was two hours and 34 minutes; in 1990, two hours and fifty one.

If you go to a game, you can expect to devote most of the day to watching pitching changes; and batters who hitch, scratch and adjust their hitting gloves between each pitch. If you watch the game on television, you might have written the great American novel in the same time. Pitching changes are frequent and annoying. Here’s a statistic for you. In 1910, Walter Johnson pitched 36 complete games; in 2020, two pitchers shared the major league lead with two. And as if the pitchers have become too delicate, it has become common for position players to pitch in late innings when the game seems out of reach.

In football, the average NFL game consumes three hours and 10 minutes. Actual playing time remains at one hour. Teams can take three minutes of timeouts per game (injury timeouts are only charged if within two minutes of the half and end of game). The rest is taken up by official timeouts (read “commercials), challenges and other stuff. When I played high school football, games didn’t last more than two hours, including half time.

Then we have golf. In my experience, the average foursome of duffers will take four hours or less  to navigate 18 holes. On  the PGA tour, two golfers who would need far fewer strokes for those 18 holes, will often take 4-1/2 to over five hours to do the same. Here’s a typical scenario. After hitting a drive into the fairway, the golfer and his caddy will walk up to the ball and stare at it for several seconds.  Then the golfer will reach into his back pocket and retrieve a notebook, which will contain notes on that hole and its characteristics.

At the same time, the caddy will do the same thing, presumably with his own notes. Each, lost in his own thoughts, will look from the book to the remainder of the hole, then repeat this ritual another two or three times. Finally, they will look at each other and begin to compare notes. How many yards is it to this? How many to that? What is the state of the wind? What of the barometric pressure? What is the best club? Then, of course, we have the practice swings before deigning to actually hit the ball. When the ball finds the green, the process is repeated.

Of course, there are rules governing how long all this should take. Every once in a while, the commentators will inform the audience that this or that group has “been put on the clock.” I believe, humans being a perverse species, that the offending players then take even longer! Baseball also has rules about time. Since games get longer instead of shorter, they obviously aren’t enforced.  I am reminded of a friend of mine who was leading a group of French tourists. His words in English were relayed to the group through an interpreter. When he was giving the ground rules, he noticed that the interpreter wasn’t relaying them. He brought this to her attention, and was told: “You don’t tell adults what to do!”

Apparently, the same holds true for the modern athlete. What was once considered “bush” is now celebrated. Woe betide the coach or manager who can’t “relate” to the modern player. After all, it takes time to preen and hot dog.

Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon