I am awash with shame.
Yesterday was Abe Lincoln’s birthday, and I didn’t remember until late last night. This is the inevitable result of Presidents Day, the lazy combination of Lincoln and Washington’s birthdays into one floating holiday that lumps all our Presidents together as if they were equally laudable. (They are all laudable, but not equally.) Thus Franklin Pierce gets as much love from our calendar as Abe and George, which is ridiculous. ( President Pierce’s birthday I remember, because it’s the same date as my wedding anniversary, November 23.) In the old days before the blight of Presidents Day, school children would spend both February 12 and 22 learning about and doing projects related Lincoln or Washington. Without either of these great leaders, we probably don’t have a nation today, or if we do, it would be a vastly diminished one. Our first and Sixteenth Presidents tower over the rest in leadership ability, vision, and impact on our history and culture. Both deserve their own holiday, because every American should take at least a day out of every year to remember these two icons and honor their essential contributions, at great sacrifice, to the existence of the United States of America as well as the welfare of all of its citizens, past, present and future.
Today, most Americans couldn’t describe what Lincoln said at Gettysburg, and that’s not a recent phenomenon. In the classic movie “Ruggles of Red Gap,” a barroom full of Americans in a Western frontier town are unable to recall Lincoln’s message, but the very British butler, recently immigrated, can. Charles Laughton, who played the butler, continued to deliver Lincoln’s masterpiece throughout his career after that scene became the highlight of the movie. You can watch it here—I’d embed it, but there is no YouTube version.
1. Self promotion dept. I’ll be participating in a live podcast later today, discussing the ethical implications of nepotism. Details to come.
2. Still more developments in the Houston Astros cheating scandal. Earlier this morning I watched a live press conference from the Astros Spring Training camp about the sign stealing scheme. From a public relations standpoint, the spectacle made the Astros problems worse.
Stars Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve spoke for a grand total of 90 seconds, sounding for all the world like American prisoners of war in North Korea. Owner Jim Crane did most of the talking, which was unfortunate for the Astros and baseball. He took no responsibility at all for what went on in 2017, though he was at the top of the organization chart: this is called the “Ken Lay excuse.” Worse, Crane repeatedly refused to acknowledge that using a secret camera to relay to the Astros dugout the opposing catchers’ signs telling pitchers what to throw, which were then relayed to Astros batters by players banging on trash cans, constituted cheating. All Crane would say was “We broke the rules. We can argue about what you want to call it.”
Worse still, Crane said that it was impossible to say whether the team’s full year of sign stealing, including the playoffs and the World Series (which the Astros won), gave his team a competitive advantage. “Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t” he said. “Our opinion is this didn’t impact the game. We had a good team. We won the World Series and we’ll leave it at that.”
In later interviews with the players after the press conference, it sounded like everyone had been prepped to keep saying “2017” over and over, because there are lingering suspicions that the Astros scam extended into 2018 and 2019. As commentator Matt Vasgersian mused afterward on the MLB cable channel, if the Astros had won a championship cheating all the way through 2017 and hadn’t been caught, why would they suddenly stop the next season? Continue reading →