Monday, October 5, 2009

If you don't have a good idea, steal someone's bad one

Happy Monday.

The headline has to do with the next item, not this one.

The Jewish holidays go on and on. Now that Yom Kippur is over, there is another week of holiday season with the holidays of Succos, Sh'mini Azeres and Simchas Torah.

The little huts, or some not so little, that sprung up near Jewish homes mark the holiday of Succos, when Jews eat meals in these succahs. The idea is to show how fragile our lives are and how we can live along with that. Some people sleep in the succahs, and most eat at least some meals in them.

In the first two days, observant Jews must at least say some prayers in the huts, which are not anywhere near waterproof. So, it was see how fast you can get through the ceremonies as the rain came down in buckets. But Sunday was glorious.

On Saturday night, Jews celebrate Simchas Torah, which is rejoicing in the Torah. Most Orthodox congregations read the Torah, the five books of Moses, in one year. Some Conservative and Reform congregations take three years. Anyway, the end of the Torah is read and immediately, the first verses are read, leading to the full circle of the yearly tradition.

Maybe that's where the Lion King writers got the circle of life. It's nice to think so.

The celebration is cool, with people dancing around and, of course, a little liquid refreshment is served to lubricate the revelers.

And after that, that's it until December.

This is what the headline is all about

You will remember the Journal-Register bankruptcy. If you live in New Haven or in other cities served by Journal-Register newspapers, you will remember it.

One of the nastiest parts of the whole thing was the successful attempt to pay some executives bonuses for firing a bunch of people and closing some newspapers. The bonuses added up to about a million and a half dollars. In Connecticut and Pennsylvania, the attorneys general tried to get the firing bonuses cut out of the final deal, but to no avail.

So it was interesting to read to today that Tribune Co. executives are in line for the same type of payments, even though hundreds of employees had been fired and newspapers closed or sold. This is taking place in the Delaware courts and it looks as if the judge will go along with this idea, just as the judge had in New York with JRC.

It always has been a function of bonuses to reward past performance, as well as to get those who didn't get bonuses to work a little harder in order to qualify for the reward. I have nothing against bonuses. I certainly took those awarded to me and felt they were well-earned.

But when hundreds if not thousands in Tribune, JRC and other newspaper companies are losing their jobs more due to management errors and omissions than anything the news people have done, perhaps it's not such a good idea. It's unseemly.

But I'm confident that the judge will allow this miscarriage and others will follow suit.

It's blood money. It's wrong. But that won't stop Sam Zell's people at Tribune and others from following JRC's bad example. After all, it's a long tradition to tip the executioner.

I've got a baseball question

I've wondered about something in baseball. If Mike reads this, or if Mat does, maybe one of them or another baseball expert can enlighten me.

This is my quandary. A batter steps up to the plate. The pitcher has trouble finding the plate. He throws ball after ball. In fact, one can say he couldn't find the plate with a map or a GPS unit. It would seem to me that the thing for the batter to do is put the bat on his shoulder and leave it there. Four pitches and you are awarded a walk.

But no!! The batter watches one of two balls go wide or high or hit the dirt a foot in front of the plate.

And then he goes hacking. He swings at pitch after pitch. He can't hit the ball. The bat isn't that long. But he stands there hacking and like as not, strikes out.

Why? Why does he do that? Does he think that something will snap in the pitcher's head and suddenly all pitches are right down Main Street? Right in the batter's preferred space instead of being so far off that the man in the on-deck circle is more likely to hit the ball than the batter.

Maybe someone can tell me. And then go tell Boston Red Sox Manager Terry Francona. Tell Tito to tell the batter to watch as the ball goes so far from the plate he may need a telescope to see it.

Mark, I think you've got it.

Congratulations to Mark Shiffrin. He and Avi Silberschatz had an op-ed letter published in the New York Times that says, in essence, that it is useless to try to get people to stop texting or talking on cell phones while behind the wheels and instead build cars that make the practice impossible.

Mark is a smart lawyer, the former state commissioner of Consumer Protection and a died-in-the-wool Republican. Still, I think he's hit on the only way to protect idiots from themselves.

Gee, why didn't Dick Roy think of that instead of trying for years to get this prohibition through the Connecticut General Assembly? Roy, a Milford Democrat and former newspaper editor, tilted against this windmill and ended up with the most disobeyed law on the books, perhaps even more broken than adultery or stealing grocery carts.

When walking, I try to count the cars that go by with the driver NOT talking on the cell phone. It's easier than the other way around because there a far fewer not talking than talking. Also, those who are wandering across busy streets far away from crosswalks also have a cell phone screwed into their ears. Are they lonely without somebody jabbering in their ears? Or are they listening to music because heaven forbid they be without entertainment for a few minutes.

What do I do? I've got this very uncomfortable Bluetooth device that screws into my ear, or at least seems to. But I use it because with the lack of skill and smarts evidenced by drivers in New Haven, it is advisable, nay necessary, to keep both eyes on the road.

Anyway, congratulations, Mark. I think you've hit it. The only way to keep people from doing stupid things is to keep them from doing stupid things.

And here come the Libertarians.

Until next time...

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