Posts Tagged ‘2012 US presidential election’

Stepping up to the political plate

April 7, 2013

Season’s greetings. As a lifelong (Met) fan and reforming sportswriter, the start of the baseball season is always a reason for optimism and excitement. Every baseball game brings some unexpected pleasure, whether it’s an improbable hero, an unlikely play, or, at the very least, verdant candy for the mind and eyes. Every season unfolds in unexpected ways, such as last year’s turnaround of the Baltimore Orioles, after years of losing and alienating a wonderful baseball town, and the championship trophy for their fellow wearers of the black and orange, the San Francisco Giants, for the second time in three years.

The Giants and Orioles are also among the heavy hitters when it comes to political contributions by their owners and employees. It’s not surprising that baseball teams make political pitches. Nearly all of them play in publicly funded stadiums (the Giants are a welcome exception) and derive a host of other benefits from government – who do you think pays for those exit ramps into the parking lot?

Five teams’ associates contributed more than a $1 million during the 2011-12 political cycle, according the Sunlight Foundation, with baseball’s total political giving topping $24 million. Only one team eschewed political contributions altogether, the Toronto Blue Jays, which play in a different political league. Donations skew more than three to one toward Republicans, not surprising since rich people own teams (as well as play for them).

The Chicago Cubs haven’t won a World Series in more than a century, but they took the championship for 2012 political donations. With billionaire chairman Joe Ricketts leading the way, the Cubs were tied to $13.9 million in contributions, more than the rest of the teams and Major League Baseball’s headquarters combined.

An investment banker whose father founded discount broker Ameritrade, Ricketts created the Ending Spending Action fund and reportedly authored The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama: The Ricketts Plan to End His Spending for Good. Ricketts later abandoned the plan, but kept on giving to Republicans.

To his credit, Ricketts is sticking to his political principles in efforts to renovate Wrigley Field, the Cubs’ home ballpark that turns 100 next year. His $300 million plan doesn’t ask for a dime of public money. In fact, continuing a long tradition of what could look to outsiders like shakedowns, local politicians and community groups expect the Cubs to fork over close to $1 million to compensate Wrigley’s neighbors for the annoyances and inconveniences a baseball team can cause.

Ricketts’ plan also envisions goring a few holy cows (none of Harry Caray’s, of course), including limiting the once quaint, now thoroughly commercialized practice of watching the Cubs from the roof of houses across the street by adding a state of the art video screen behind the bleacher seats. He also wants permission for more night games – until 1988 the Cubs played all day games at home, having scrapped plans to install lights and donating the steel to the US war effort after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

According to media reports, the Cubs and Chicago are close to a $500 million renovation plan that will also include a parking garage, without a cent of public money. When the deal is finalized, Ricketts will likely share the stage for the announcement with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former chief of staff to the US president Ricketts tried so hard to oust. Perhaps Ricketts will eventually yield on one principle and gives some money to a Democratic politician. Baseball makes strange bedfellows.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.

‘We own this country,’ GOP believes

September 1, 2012

The Republican National Convention in Tampa often confirmed the argument that these tribal gatherings have outlived their usefulness. The convention’s main function, choosing the party’s presidential candidate, was settled months ago. The vice presidential nominee had been chosen advance, too. No one on the ticket produced a pregnant teenage daughter to spice up the proceedings.

The main speeches didn’t offer excitement much new either. The biggest revelation from Ann Romney’s speech came from CNN bobblehead Erin Burnett, who said it brought tears to her eyes. Let’s hope my former network admits its mistake and either cuts Burnett loose or demotes her to something she can do, like brownnosing corporate executives.

Abiding by the conventional political wisdom that no one votes for vice president, I skipped Paul Ryan’s speech. Clint Eastwood reiterated a key lesson of the Sarah Palin nomination: don’t put someone on the national political stage outside of their comfort zone.

Mitt Romney’s speech played back standard Republican talking points. If you’re looking for heart and soul, try a beginning piano class. The speech seemed designed to soothe, calm and diminish expectations, a political version of the drug Soma in the novel Brave New World.

The most revealing comment of the final evening came from Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Although he was supposed to be introducing Romney, Rubio followed New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s lead and made the primetime speech a commercial for his own upcoming presidential bid.

In the midst of waving the American flag, Rubio exclaimed, “We own this country.” Those four little words neatly sum up the Republican Party and sad state of US politics.

It’s been 51 years since John Kennedy’s inaugural address highlighted how much we owe this country. “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” would be considered laughable in today’s puditocracy. What great progress our politics has made.

Itt’s particularly troubling that Rubio’s speech touched on much of what we owe this country. It’s been a safe haven for those escaping revolutions, like Rubio and Romney’s forbears, or those trying to start them, like mine. It gives us rights and opportunities that citizens of other nations can only dream about. Even after a dozen years among the darkest since its founding, the US is still the strongest nation on earth economically and militarily, and the one so many people all over the world want to live in most.

Rather than offering gratitude for these gifts, Republicans consider America a possession reserved for their exclusive exploitation. They shouldn’t be asked be taxes for something they own. Out of greed and fear, these self-styled owners oppose giving others the same opportunities and the tools they’ve enjoyed. Helping your neighbors should be a matter of these owners’ choice, on their terms to their chosen few, not through the broader social contract on which the nation’s foundations are built.

As with so much else during their convention, the Republicans said many of the right things and drew all the wrong conclusions.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.

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