Archive for January, 2013

Friedman: “Putin: Born on Third Base and Thinks He Hit a Triple”

January 24, 2013

New York Times, OP-ED, January 22, 2013

Break All the Rules by Thomas L. Friedman

Mr. Friedman, a three time Pulitzer Prize winner, in a column about the nomination of John Kerry for secretary of state to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaks to the difficulties of the job, and the current condition of the world.

Some quotes from the first, second, and third paragraphs:

“First, my congratulations and condolences to John Kerry for being nominated to be our next secretary of state. There is no one better for the job today and no worse job to have today. It is no accident that we’ve started measuring our secretaries of state more by miles traveled than milestones achieved. It is bloody hard to do big diplomacy anymore.

 “Why? Well, as secretary of state today you get to deal with Vladimir Putin, who was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple. That is, even though Russia’s economy is hugely corrupt and nowhere nearly as innovative as it should be, Putin sits atop a huge reserve of oil and gas that makes him think he’s a genius and doesn’t need to listen to anyone. When recently confronted with his regime’s bad behavior, his first instinct was to block American parents from adopting Russian orphans, even though so many of them badly need homes. If there were an anti-Nobel Peace Prize, Putin would win hands down.”  

The italics are mine to highlight the idiom/metaphor from baseball: “born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.”  

Hitting a triple is huge, as it is the last base before home base and a run scored, but Putin got there because “he was born on third base.”  He didn’t get there because of skill.  

Mr. Friedman goes on:

“So what’s a secretary of state to do? I’d suggest trying something radically new: creating the conditions for diplomacy where they do not now exist by going around leaders and directly to the people. And I’d start with Iran, Israel and Palestine. We live in an age of social networks in which every leader outside of North Korea today is now forced to engage in a two-way conversation with their citizens. There’s no more just top-down. People everywhere are finding their voices and leaders are terrified. We need to turn this to our advantage to gain leverage in diplomacy.

Let’s break all the rules.”

Has Obama Overplayed His Hand?

January 21, 2013

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, Saturday/Sunday, January 19-20, 2013

His Terms are Always Hostile Ones 

DECLARATIONS, by Peggy Noonan

“No one has good faith but Obama.  Doesn’t this get boring, even to him?”  

Miss Noonan is not happy with the president as she think he is not “being large spirited” before the presidential inauguration, that he is showing “the depth of his disdain for the leaders of the other major party (the Republicans) and, by inference, that party’s voters, which is to say half of the country…”

“Maybe the president doesn’t operate with as much good faith as he thinks, and maybe the other side isn’t as bad as he pretends.  As I watched his news conference and his gun-control remarks, I thought, for the first time in a while, that the Republicans are finally getting a break. 

He is overplaying his hand. He does that. He’s doing it again.”

Miss Noonan is using a card game metaphor/idiom.  The president is not only playing his cards in the game of politics, but “overplaying” it. Sometimes an extra card can put one “over the top” in a game such as “21.”

Afghan Soldier’s Journey to Killer of Americans

January 9, 2013

The New York Times, Friday, January 4, 2013, by Matthew Rosenberg

A Shooting Followed By Taliban Embrace

Kabul, Afghanistan

A young Afghan soldier, named Mahmood, 22, his hatred so all consuming reached out to the Taliban to say he wanted to “shoot Americans” when he next visited the outpost where he was based in northeastern Afghanistan. 

This he did on the morning of May 11, “when he opened fire on American trainers who had gone to the outpost in the mountains of Kunar Province.  One American was killed and two others wounded.”  Mahmood escaped and joined the Taliban. 

“Such insider attacks, by Afghan security forces on their Western allies, became ‘the signature violence of 2012,’ in the words of one former American official.”  American officials are worried about the disruptive effects on the training mission that is the ore of the American withdrawal plan for 2014.”

‘It’s a game changer on all levels,’ said First Sgt. Joseph Hissong, an American who helped fight off an insider attack by Afghan soldiers that left two men in his unit dead.”

Nothing to Be Proud Of: The Fiscal Cliff

January 9, 2013

The Economist: January 5th, 2013

Nothing to Be Proud Of: The Fiscal Cliff

Washington, DC

“Barack Obama wrings an 11th-hour deal on taxes from John Boehner and the Republicans, but accomplishes little else…This indeed was a political victory for Mr. Obama.   However, it was a short-term victory.

‘We still have the deficit to be dealt with,’ he said, the understatement of the year…

The deal cuts $737 billion from deficits over the coming decade, primarily though $618 billion of higher taxes on the rich and the resulting intereat savings. But that barely dents the $10 trillion in deficits America was on track to accumulate in that time,  roughly 5% of GNP on current policies, according to the Congressional Budget Office… 

Mr. Obama’s hardball tactics made a grand bargain hard enough; Mr. Boehner’s tenuous hold over his own caucus made it almost impossible.”  

Hardball as opposed to softball describes two types of baseballs, hard and soft, and therefore the baseball games using those balls.  If one plays “hardball” in negotiations, one is playing to win.  

For more information:  Go to www. and look up “hard ball” and “softball” in the baseball section, or simply go to the “alphabetized list” and look up the meanings. 


MEANING 1: as opposed to soft ball, to throw a hard ball
SENTENCE 1: We play hardball in regular baseball. A softer ball is used in softball.

MEANING 2: to play tough,to play to win
SENTENCE 2: Let’s play hardball on this contract. I want to come in at a lower price.

Tax Uncertainty Eases

January 5, 2013

The New York Times  BUSINESS  Thursday, January 3, 2013

Wide Relief as Tax Uncertainty is Lifted, by Catherine Rampell

“Even though Congress’s last minute-deal means higher taxes for almost all Americans, businesses and consumers are relieved that some of the uncertainty about what they will owe the government this year is gone.  

‘Once something gets settled, even if it’s not the mot popular settlement option, it still gives you a sense of what the rules are and what you need to do to readjust,’ said Sam Ramey, the owner of Sultan Mediterranean Cafe in North Andover, Mass., who says he hopes the deal will bolster the spirits of his customers…

Congress’s compromise on taxes eliminates some uncertainty.  But there’s no getting around the outcome that it will also reduce how much consumers have available to spend on dining our and other discretionary expenses.”

The author delineates some more of the effects of the deal on consumers and the general economy and: 

“The across-the-board reductions may be swapped out at least in part for other, unknown kinds of spending cuts or tax increases, which has left some Americans concerned about whether they might be in the cross hairs themselves. Republicans have been pushing for a new formula that would curb Social Security benefits, for example.  

‘Hopefully Congress has at least some compassion left buried in their minds and hearts and will step up to the plate and make sure our benefits aren’t cut,’ said Terry Grigg, 63, of San Diego.  His only income is about $12,000 from Social Security and disability benefits while he undergoes treatments for invasive skin cancer and a hernia. ‘ That would really be a slap in the face to the common man, to seniors, and to vets.”

Cross hairs refers to gun sights.  Some of Americans may get in the cross hairs when they think they will be OK.  Step up to the plate is a baseball term used a lot, especially lately with Congress taking until the last moments to get some fiscal business done so the country didn’t fall “off the fiscal cliff.”

A Fiscal Endgame

January 1, 2013

The New York Times, Editorials/Letters, Thursday, December 27, 2013

A Fiscal Endgame

If Congressional Republicans would only act sensibly, a sensible deal could be reached.

According to Wikipedia, an endgame in chess is reached when there are only a few pieces left; in a card game when only a few cards are left. 

As of 8:35 pm, December 31, 2012,  Eastern Standard Time, MSNBC announced that an “apparent” deal has been made in the Senate.

As of 9:30pm the House had been adjourned.

January 2, 2013

The Senate passed a bill to resolve “The Fiscal Cliff'” early in the morning on January 1, 2013.

The House concurred with the Senate bill early in the morning of January 2, 2013.

There is still work to be done.