A Forgotten Disaster Just One Month Later

May 5, 2009

What if there was an event that killed almost 300 people from 10 different countries, injured 1,200 people, and left 35,000 people homeless that hardly made news? What was this event? When did the event take place? It was just a month ago. This was the L’Aquila earthquake that took place in Italy.

The reason I am writing this is because I wanted to make a donation to help the people of Italy. I tried to google to find relief funds, or organizations that were accepting donations and I really found very little. I did not even know if any of these charities that were set up online were legit. Honestly, I have no idea what it was that drove this story under the rug. Is it because Italy is not a third world country? Is it because there was no news media photos or video that said look at these starving, desperate people? Was it because the economy is in the dumps and agencies would be afraid that Americans would not give any money or support to Italy and keep it all for themselves? I tend to disagree. Americans are very generous, sometimes too generous, look how much money we lent to failing banks and other companies. Sorry, bad joke. But, we do donate to many causes, Americans gave millions of dollars to starving children
in Africa, millions more after the tsunami, and the list goes on and on.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised the people of Palestine in the Gaza Strip,$900 million! So, the US, in a time of a struggling economy where many people are out of a job, cannot make ends meet, and are watching their taxpayer dollars go to fund foolishly insolvent banks, failing automobile manufacturers and fraudulent insurance companies just lost a needed $900 million to Palestine. Palestine, a place that does not really give a flying fart about America, and where some of its people danced in the streets while our country was attacked on September 11th! Oh, it is not just a Democrat rant, I cannot equally stand the billions that went to Iraq, and that we have received very little from that money, and most importantly lost
4,284, American men and women
, and not including the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis that were also killed since this war began in 2003. You may ask, what the heck does this have to do with the earthquake in Italy. Well, here goes. The amount of money that the United States State Department
gave to Italy in emergency relief funding, hope you are sitting, down,$50,000! It equates to about $1.42 to each person left homeless. Why did we even bother giving anything, what an insult! The Italians would have been much better off financially if they were enemies of the United States than friends. The US would have given billions. Instead, here’s your 50 grand, um, maybe you can buy the last American made car with that money. I thought the Obama Administration would be the one to mend the fences of our allies that the Bush Administration allegedly severed? $900 million to an enemy state and $50,000, to a friend in need does not make me feel that great that this is change. You may wonder, did the Italians give anything to the US during a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina? The answer is yes. Italy donated 80,000 pounds of supplies to Mississippi that was sufficient to give 12,000 to 15,000 of people needed aid.

Does anyone know how much the State of Palestine or Hamas gave to the US in aid from Katrina? I tried to find it I came up empty. If someone knows the answer to this, please feel free to leave a comment. Many Palestinian-Americans did have charities for Katrina.

May 6, 2009, will mark the one month anniversary of the earthquake and the 22 subsequent aftershocks that followed the 6.3 Mw quake.

While it was admirable of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to say that the Italians are ‘proud people’ and had sufficient resources to deal with the crisis, it was not necessarily the most intelligent decision. It may be true. But, then again, it may have been true in World War II, when the Americans came to Italy’s rescue. But, that does not mean that we as human beings still cannot show solidarity and give our support any way that we can. One day the country may not be as blessed and will not forget your generosity in a time of need. The Italian Premier also said that the homeless from the quake should consider the Easter weekend that the homeless should enjoy a camping weekend. I am hoping that something was lost in translation, but it does not appear to be the case. The recovery effort in Italy has been tremendous and has saved many lives. Maybe, if Italy did not have the proper rescue tools this story would have made more headlines.

A month later, swine flu dominates the headlines. The number of people who have died due to swine flu: 28.


First Trip to Citi Field

April 23, 2009

Ah, my first trip to Citi Field. I have the 15-game Friday pack, and it is the first time I have ever had a ticket plan with the Mets. My tickets are in Left Field in the Promenade Level. The ticket is $20 per game.
There is plenty of parking, with about 14,000 less seats and the more spots available due to the construction being completed this makes it easier to get to Citi Field by car. Be prepared to pay $18 to park. I like to park by the Marina, it is the easiest way out after the game. If you can take the 7 train, it’s only about a 15 minute trip from Grand Central Station.

Shea is nothing but a square piece of dirt right now. Only the memories remain. Many of those memories are shown around the walls of Citi Field, which does have an Ebbets Field facade to it.

Anything was better than Shea. This is true on so many levels. Escalators that work perfectly, there are even elevators, and the support staff at Citi Field are nice and friendly, and you almost forget you are in New York City. They must have hired a 1,000 people. Luckily, most of the people that worked at Shea seem to be living at Shady Acres.

This place is about the concession stands. They surround the concourses. The prices were about the same as Shea. The food options were robust. I ate before the game. A hot dog is $4.75, $6.50 to $7.50 for a beer, there are burger places, pizza, sausage & peppers, tacos, burritos, etc. Behind Center field is the Shake Shack that is very popular with even more options. The one problem with that place is that the scoreboard blocks your view of the field while you are there. It was cool to see the old Mets sign with the NYC skyline above it that used to be over the old Shea scoreboard.

Bill Veeck once said that, “The knowledge of the game is inversely proportional to the price of the seat.” He said this decades ago long before there would be 5 levels of club seating, seat licenses, waitress service to seat, etc. God, if he was alive today, what he would say. There are 5 Clubs at Citi Field, a different one for the ticket you hold. I do not have access to any of them. I have sat in Club Seats before, it is nice, but it is only good if you get free food with your ticket. Most of the Clubs at Citi do not give you free food. The real Met fans who probably sat in the Orange and Blue Levels in the past have mostly migrated to the top. The infamous Cow-Bell Man is up with us. Most of the “Let’s Go Mets” chants started with our sections, the people who paid 3 figures for the seats seemed content to sit on their hands, and hope the Mets win by at least 2 points.

My seat is no wider than it was at Shea, but there is more leg room and cup holders at every seat. And the rows are situated where you can see over someone regardless of height instead of looking between people’s shoulders. I am in the 6th row of section 534, I have a very nice view of the field, every seat faces home plate, which was something that was an adventure at Shea where you had to turn your body to see the pitcher. The height of my seat is about the equivalent to the Mezzanine level at Shea, so the view is not necessarily a nose bleed view. There are obstructed views and my seats are not immune from that. Because the seats overlap the Left Field wall, anything hit to the wall cannot be seen below you. I knew this when I bought my tickets, but, I wanted to be part of this place, and I was not going to spend thousands to get the perfect seat.

It is not a big deal to me that the seats are green and the wall is black. Everyone will learn to live with that. The Phillies have blue seats and a green wall at their park which does not really match their colors either. I would have rather seen a nice design built into the seats like the ones that exist for the Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles and Manchester United.

The Jackie Robinson Rotunda is very nice, but it is 45 years too late. This should have been part of Shea and not Citi Field. The Mets have 47 years of history on their own. Yes, most of it is tragic and laughable, but some it is actually historic. The Mets are only one of three teams since the 1962 expansion to capture multiple World Series titles. The Blue Jays and the Marlins are the other two, and the only team to capture 4 Pennants. While, I am huge Brooklyn Dodger fan, I am in the 90 per cent majority who was not alive to see Jackie play. I would say only about 2 or 3 per cent of last night’s attendance actually saw a game at Ebbets Field, my father, who is 68, is in that 2 or 3 per cent.

While Dodger fans loved Jackie, he was not their favorite Dodger, the fans of dem Bums favorites were Pee Wee Reese, the most beloved, the Duke of Flatbush, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, who also managed the Miracle Mets (and should be in the Hall of Fame!), Roy Campanella, and the Reading Rifle, Carl Furillo were all more popular in Brooklyn than #42. What I would have done with the Rotunda would be to incorporate all 3 New York National League teams, the Dodgers, the Giants, and the Mets into one. The Field does not really have much at all in terms of Mets items associated with it. The banners hang from high flag poles out in Right Field and are hardly noticeable. Citi Field almost makes the Mets feel like a first-year expansion team with hardly any history. Now, I am not saying we needed to make a Benny Agbayani, Mel Rojas, or Tsuyoshi Shinjo Rotunda, but I think true Met fans wanted to see pictures of Tom Terrific, Doc, Darryl, the Kid, I’m Keith Hernandez, Ronny Darling, Mike Piazza, Johnny Franco, Gil Hodges, Davey, and some pictures of today’s Mets stars adorn the building. Everyone likes to wax poetic about Brooklyn, and it is a special place, and the borough is making a renaissance, but if Brooklyn was so great, how come the team moved just 2 years after a championship. You can blame Walter O’Malley and the city all you want, but attendance numbers dwindled, and the Trolley Dodgers are never coming back. We have the Mets, and the true fans bleed orange and blue, not blue and white. I look at the New England Patriots, a team that has been around for the same number of years, and with actually less history, now has a new stadium, a team Hall of Fame, a shopping area called Patriot Place, pretty good ticket prices except for the Club Seats, and that place is all about the Patriots. Citi Field should be all about the Mets.

Now to the actual game, seeing Gary Sheffield hit his 500th Home Run was special, and only done 24 other times, but what made it even more memorable was that it tied the game. A game that the Mets were cruising after the first inning, but fell asleep for the next 6 innings and trailed 4-3. Gary’s pop off the bench gave the Mets a spark that in recent years was sorely missing. The bullpen was tremendous, keeping the Brewers off the scoreboard for 4 innings, and Luis Castillo, a cross to bear for Met fans, comes through again in ’09 with a walk-off winning RBI infield single.
The crowd was about 36,000, last night, about 6,000 short of a sellout. Unfortunately, I think there will be fewer sellouts due to the high ticket prices, and that the celebs and CEO’s that that the Wilpons thought would flock to the park, are here, but the demand was not overwhelming, due to the economy and the greed of the Wilpons’ favorite season ticket holder, Bernie “Arthur Ponzarelli” Madoff.

I will be making a trip to the new Yankee Stadium this season; I drove past it last night, and it looks jaw droppingly good. I will have a write up about the $1.6 Billion new Coliseum for the Bombers. I think the Mets $800 Million was pretty well spent, it will take a while to get used to the home field, but it is our home, and hopefully the memories, like the one I had last night, will add to the Ulti-Met times to come.

Welcome to 1600 Pennsylvania, President Obama

January 21, 2009

Welcome to 1600 Pennsylvania, President Barack Obama.  I may not have voted for you, but as John McCain said, you are my President.  I am a Republican, but it does not do any good to say that someone is not your president.  I thought the best speech I heard throughout the entire campaign was McCain’s concession speech where he said my former opponent will be my President. That is how I feel today. Unfortunately, for Republicans, McCain had given his best speech after the votes came in that Tuesday night.

Now, I know President Obama has said and offered a lot, but I am going to give him a chance to work at delivering on those words. He has earned that. And if he does not deliver, then I will be critical.  Now is not the time for that.  One day I hope what was said about Joe Louis, can be said for Barack Obama.  New York Daily News columnist Jimmy Cannon once wrote, “Joe Louis is a credit to his race, the human race.”

I think when Lincoln was elected in 1860, no one knew how great he would be.  He was a true unknown to those outside of Illinois.  He ran as a third party candidate, from a party that would be called the Republican Party.  While Obama is from the same state, Lincoln did not have the luxuries of the media constantly tooting his horn or butchering current President James Buchanan or butchering the vice-presidential candidate from the Know Nothing party.

This is a time for greatness.  Not merely a time to talk about greatness.  President Obama has been given a chance to lift the country up from its knees.  It will difficult, but the prize at the end can be very rewarding.  Today, I wish to discuss the Generation closest to me, those who were born in the 70’s and 80’s.  This is the generation that President Obama will need to lead the country in the years to come.

The world has changed, our attention spans are far shorter than they used to be.  A lot of that is do to the fact that there is so much in the world that can be distracting.  It was not that long ago that our news came from the local TV channel, radio, newspapers and magazines.  Now, with the Internet, many of those stories are old news.  There used to be only 10 channels of TV, now there is are1,000 and counting.   There were only a few radio stations, now thanks to satellite radio, there are hundreds.  There is a magazine for just about anything these days.

Have you noticed how much smaller your magazines have become?  And newspapers, forgettaboutit!  You can’t even wrap Pepperidge Farm Goldfish in those!  The Help Wanted section has to stretch to make a page in the papers, except on Sundays.  The shrinkage is not due to less content, but less advertising.  That is something that we have not experienced in this country for a very long time.  This is the real scary part of the economy, less people are trying to sell you something.   It will be very difficult to see how so many of them will survive.  The magazines practically give away the subscriptions.  For newspapers, I could see them cutting back to 3 or 5 days a week.  For magazines, some will collapse and I can see many mergers of titles among the large publication companies.

I think in the newspaper realm, the advance of faster and more abundant Internet connections this was something you could see the losses coming.  Especially, that is does not cost a penny to read your local paper online.  Why would it behoove anyone to subscribe?  If the bacon is given away, do you really want the rest of the pig?

This generation is the I, Me, My Generation.  We have the iPod, the iPhone, MySpace, Youtube, Reality TV, and countless other items that are engineered for the attention of one.  We update our HTML clipboardfacebook page 20 times a day, as if anyone truly gives a crap that right now, “Michael is taking a crap.”  And best of all is, we can get all of this information, anywhere at any time.  It is tough to tie us down for long periods of time.  “The Greatest Generation” as Tom Brokaw calls them, got the bigger picture that it was about being part of something, and not being the something.  So many of us want to rise to be chief, but unfortunately we forget that you need Indians that are willing to work as a team so that a leader and not chaos emerges.  Many of the people in their 20’s and 30’s want to be Managers or Leaders, and not really satisfied with being on the road to Management or Leadership.  We can be Indians, but we need to be shown that there is a path to being chief or at least something that is motivating us for a higher cause.

We are cynical and sarcastic, but for the most part we have good hearts.  We enjoy watching TMZ, commenting on Deadspin, reading the latest on someone in Wikipedia.   We do like seeing Britney getting fat, Terrell Owens crying, seeing who isn’t Jennifer Aniston now, human car accidents and what politician is now in hot water.   We Google what we don’t know, and think it is knowledge, even though it is only information. We love our country just as much as “The Greatest Generation”, because where else could we say and laugh at such drivel.  We just learned to laugh at it a little more.

President Bush is a good man, who just didn’t always come across on TV as the brightest light bulb in the room.  He tried hard, he lowered our taxes, gave us two nice stimulus checks, dreamed for peace in the Middle East, wanted to give every child a chance, kept the hopes and our country safe for 8 years after 9/11, gave us unprecedented growth in the real estate market, low unemployment for six of his eight years, and was entertaining with some of the new vocabulary he brought to the world.  Some of those things did not come true from his dreams, and a few of them backfired mightily.  Unfortunately, when we needed him to be more serious, President Bush tried to be witty, and was terrible at it.  See: Bushisms

President Obama, welcome to 1600 Pennsylvania.  In terms of football, the head coach has been changed.  While you are not inheriting the 0-16 Lions, right now we feel about anywhere from 1-15 to 4-12.  No one expects you to be 16-0 next season.  You will probably never be perfect. But maybe, with a little help and putting those words you like so much like Hope and Change into action we can go 9-7 and make a surprising run like this year’s Arizona Cardinals.

There is work to be done, and you can be that leader who comes across as knowledgeable on TV, but also strong when we really need you.  Please work to be above the extreme bleeding heart liberals and ultra Jesus-loving conservatives.

One side note, if McCain had won; do you think MSNBC would have even televised the inauguration?  Better yet, would the event even been put on their news ticker on the bottom of the screen?  I know it certainly would not have made Keith Olbermann’s Countdown.  The camera operator would have to reduce the zoom to 1:1000 in order for Keith’s tremendous noggin and ego to step aside.  Congrats on the big contract Keith, but what are you and Chris Matthews going to talk about now?  You can only blame the old coach so much, before the blame carries on to the new coach.

Peter Schiff: Genius and Psychic

January 20, 2009

It is rare that besides Bill Belichick; I will call anyone a genius, by my God, were Peter Schiff’s predictions amazing. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind, when all of those other “experts” are laughing at you.  Peter could probably laugh at these people now, but I bet he is just looking into the future of economy.  I know I will be listening when he speaks above all of the masses of asses.