Archive for July, 2014

Same names play old games

In sports, the numbers tell us each day how an athlete is doing. The hitter’s batting average, the quarterback’s passing percentage, these numbers tell us in black and white whether a player is up or down.

It’s similar in show business and its cousin, politics; there are Nielsen rating services and political polls.

But we also can tell from our own observations.

Talk-show host Jon Stewart isn’t as funny as he used to be. See how he curses more on air, as if shouting the F word on Comedy Central makes up for the fact that he’s running low on jokes. (Maybe his best writers went to work for Stephen Colbert or Jon Oliver.) Stewart’s cuss words are filler, just as Bill Cosby’s once-wonderful TV show ran low on humor in later years and injected longer and longer scenes of Dr. Huxtable dancing with his wife, Claire.

Now we have the downward trend of veteran politicians Hillary Clinton and Charlie Crist. To use sports analogies, they’re making unforced errors, they’ve lost a step, they don’t have their eyes on the ball.

Here’s Crist, who wants to be governor of Florida again, this time as a Democrat. First he’s going to Cuba. Then he’s not going to Cuba.

Why is he even thinking about Cuba? Cubans vote only for politicians named Castro. It’s crucial to their quality of life.

Crist should be traveling the Sunshine State every day, using his trademark charm to win over every individual he meets. Instead, he’s ducking a debate with a legitimate rival. Nan Rich lacks his money and his name recognition, but she’s been a Democrat much longer than Crist.

He’s not convincing us with his claim that he must gird himself for the November election against Gov. Rick Scott, who has blanketed Florida with anti-Crist commercials.

Even pro baseball players have spring training before they make plans for the World Series. Let Crist consider a debate with Rich as his version of spring training, and hope he can still outperform the challenger.

Then we have the Clintons. Hillary says she was “broke” after husband Bill stepped down as president, but her version of “broke” doesn’t compute with average folks. The last several ex-presidents have had many opportunities to cash in if they want, so Hillary really didn’t have to worry about making ends meet.

The Clinton cash-grab apparently is hereditary. Daughter Chelsea Clinton is pulling in as much as $75,000 per speech at the ripe old age of 34.

Also, NBC News paid Chelsea Clinton a reported $600,000 a year to be a “special correspondent.” So the Clintons do draw the big bucks. Hmmm, perhaps she’s working on a special report on Benghazi.

Voters might not care about these matters by the time elections roll around — November perhaps for Crist; 2016 for Hillary — but neither Hillary nor Charlie is making people eager to vote for them. It’s the same old same old that we have come to expect from Crist and Clinton.

To borrow another sports saying, “Throw the bums out.”

Mark O’Brien is a writer in Pensacola, where he has lived since 1978. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

America’s sad new motto: Yes, we can’t

Driving across Alabama the other day, I heard a political candidate on the car radio proudly declaring that, if elected, he will oppose Obamacare.

Really, Alabama?

You’re a state that’s above average in only two ways – college football and payments from Uncle Sam.

Alabama is No. 11 when it comes to total federal spending on the 50 states — salaries, contracts, Social Security, Medicare and numerous other direct payments to individuals and institutions, according to a 2012 report by, the state’s largest news site.

Alabama averaged $11,819 per capita, well above the national average of $10,459. “The federal government sent almost $56.5 billion to the state, which was about evenly divided among four broad categories: defense, healthcare, Social Security and all other agencies combined,” said.

Alabama is consistent in one way — getting money from the federal government that so many of its citizens denounce.

“Ten years ago, the spending in Alabama was about $29.2 billion, or about $6,570 per person. Back then the national average was $5,739 per capita,” al. com reported.

Of course, this isn’t just an Alabama thang.

Much of the nation is caught up in convulsions about the Affordable Health Care Act and other programs that offer help to anyone deemed undesirable, morally bankrupt or not part of the chosen groups that get their subsidies the old-fashioned way — through exemptions, loopholes and lobbying in Washington.

We see it in Florida where Gov. Rick Scott and others spurn Medicaid millions that would not only help sick people but also support jobs to people who work in health care.

We used to be a nation that bragged about our plans to put a man on the moon, and we did it! We tamed diseases, improved the quality of life significantly and made numerous great strides forward.

But now the country is caught up in its petty little warfare on matters big and small.

Fast-food operators say they will close their restaurants in military bases if President Obama goes ahead with his call for a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour for people doing business on government property. I suspect the generals and the military contractors and just about everyone else working on a military base already is making much more than $10.10 an hour, so it wouldn’t pain them too much to pay an extra nickel for their Whopper and fries.

We always seem to be finding a way to say something can’t be done – health care, education, environment, gay people in the military. Some sociologists say that our spirit of togetherness waned after World War II, suburbanization, the decline of churches and other social changes in the past 50 years.

Now it’s every, man, woman and child for himself, and instead of America pulling together, it’s American pulling apart.

Mark O’Brien is a writer in Pensacola. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

In Florida summer it’s all about ‘meh’

A great little three-letter word sums up most of my feelings these days.

It’s “meh,” a word made famous by “The Simpsons” to describe indifference, apathy, the I-don’t-give-a-hoot feeling that often descends on us as we are blanketed by Florida’s summer heat and just yearn to cuddle up to a frosty air-conditioner and sip a frosty drink.

If it’s meh, it elicits neither a frown nor a smile, just a shrug of the shoulders. No empathy, no antipathy, just a “meh.” Among the many things that now leave me feeling meh, ho-hum, whatever these days:

•Marco Rubio. I want to care about a bright, young son of refugees who has energy and ideas, but Rubio’s flip-flopping and lack of knowledge make me yearn for Charlie Crist, the original Gumby of Florida politics. When I see Rubio, I think of those signs that say, “You must be this tall to ride this ride.” He needs a sign to encourage him to raise his stature before he tries the merry-go-round of big-league politics.

•Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election campaign. My mind is made up and no amount of advertising will change it.

•The gas mileage you get on your SUV. If you cared less about status, you would drive a van, almost always roomier, less expensive and more fuel-efficient than an SUV.

•Airline travel. Yes, it’s complicated, expensive and unpleasant. That’s life. Move along, and please don’t rhapsodize about “the good old days of air travel” in the 1960s — when the food was the equivalent of a TV dinner, the flight attendants had to be female, young and thin, and Uncle Sam subsidized routes,

•Haters. Either side. There’s a lot of gray in the world, boys and girls and talk show hosts. Grow up and look at the other side before you spew venom.

•Your zucchini crop this year. Zucchini is the kudzu of fruits and vegetables, the spam of gardening, the filler of summer dinners. When you force some on me, I will smile and quietly feed it to the dog.

•Realty television. There are so many “reality” TV shows now that their formulas and their facades are showing. However, I do check an occasional “Real Housewives of… ” and instantly appreciate my wife more.

•The personal lives of Alec Baldwin, Justin Bieber, Kim and Kanye, and a whole host of other celebrities who will never darken the door at my house.

•The travails of the 2014 Boston Red Sox.  My team is so bad this year that they’re lagging below the .500 mark, but that’s OK.

The Sox won the World Series in 2013, the third time since 2004. That’s three more championships than my father and grandfather saw in their lifetimes as Red Sox fans. Let the little people in New York or or Tampa Bay win one for a change.

Until the heat lets up, just color me blah, agnostic, meh.


Mark O’Brien is a writer who has lived In Pensacola since 1978.