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ARTS AND CULTURE, SPORTS

Farewell, Wahoo … and good riddance

nn_kti_indians_name_180129_1920x1080.nbcnews-ux-1080-600

There is no Cleveland Indians fan more Indians fan than me.

I’ve been at it loyally, yea, even fanatically, for 64 years.

I was there for the days of Vic Davalillo, Jack Kralick and Jack Brohamer, the days of 100-loss seasons, the days when I was one of literally 884 people present for a regular season game, in a stadium that sat 80,000, the days so deftly mocked in the movie Major League (a silly film whose ending made me cry, because it dawned on me that it might be the only time I ever saw my team win a pennant).

Thank goodness, recent decades produced teams good enough to occasionally snare an American League flag.

But that just meant  I suffered (really suffered) through the exquisite pain of seeing those lovable squads fall just short in the World Series, thanks to Joe Brinkman’s absurd strike zone (’95), Jose Mesa’s nerves (’97) and Tyler Naquin’s clumsy fielding (’16).

I grew up wearing a Chief Wahoo ballcap.   Any photo of the huge neon sign of the team’s garish mascot wielding a bat that used to hang outside old Cleveland Stadium can still insert a lump of nostalgia in my esophagus.

All that said, I could not be more relieved, more thrilled, that my team has finally – FINALLY! – decided to get rid of that absurd, cartoonish, insulting logo.

I detailed my history of fandom to address the arguments I now see on social media and comment boards that frame clinging to Wahoo as a tribute to tradition, nostalgia and “remembering Dad who took me to the ballgame.”

Hardly anyone has put in more time on the Tribe Trail of Tears than I, and here’s what I have to say about the tradition and nostalgia argument.

No. No. No.

And you know what else: No.

Nothing about the demise of Wahoo prevents me from summoning fond memories of walking up the ramp to our seats at the old Stadium holding my Dad’s hand (or my Mom’s; she was the really rabid fan),  from recalling  the arrow of delight that shot through me each time I first glimpsed, over the rim of the ascending ramp, that impeccable rectangle of infield green.

What the scrapping of the offensive icon will do is grant me, for the first time in my life, to do what fans of most other teams take for granted – the ability to wear your team’s colors and logo with pride, in public.

‘Cause I’ve known for a very long time that sporting that brightly colored visual insult risks giving real offense to people who’ve suffered far too much pain and insult at the hands of my nation.   Their feelings, their hurts, their right to be respected,  just simply, objectively matter far more than any fan’s claim to nostalgia.   Wearing Wahoo in public (as opposed to on the living room couch, praying my way through another Game 7) would signal something about my values that I certainly hope isn’t true.

I’m not saying that other folks who wear Wahoo are racist louts. If I did, I’d be damning a lot of people I call friends.  But I am saying that whatever reasons they have for wearing the logo can no longer outweigh, in this moment when so much about what makes this nation worth loving is under threat, the need to resist the temptations of soft racism.

Though I refer to the urgency of now, my thoughts on Wahoo are no late-blooming, tactical sensitivity pounded into me by the stern, hectoring armies of modern political correctness.

Even as a young man I knew Wahoo was off, way off, even as he functioned as the symbol as one of my deepest attachments to my hometown.

And now, even as I can vouch that being a loyal Indians fan – through it all – remains a  key chunk of my identity, I have to say this: I’m OK with changing the team name, too.

My clingy hope would be that changing the name to, simply, the Tribe – which is what I usually call that plucky gang anyhow – would suffice, would be deemed acceptable.

That would preserve the generational and nostalgic ties, while cleaning up at least some of the stain of historic cluelessness.

But it ain’t my call – or any fan’s  It belongs to those of my fellow Americans who’ve put up with this cartoonish insult for so long with a stoicism and, often, wry humor that I’m pretty sure I couldn’t summon were I in their place.

 

 

 

 

 

OFF THE NEWS, SPORTS

Farewell, Wahoo … and good riddance

nn_kti_indians_name_180129_1920x1080.nbcnews-ux-1080-600

There is no Cleveland Indians fan more Indians fan than me.

I’ve been at it loyally, yea, even fanatically, for 64 years.

I was there for the days of Vic Davalillo, Jack Kralick and Jack Brohamer, the days of 100-loss seasons, the days when I was one of literally 884 people present for a regular season game, in a stadium that sat 80,000, the days so deftly mocked in the movie Major League (a silly film whose ending made me cry, because it dawned on me that it might be the only time I ever saw my team win a pennant).

Thank goodness, recent decades produced teams good enough to occasionally snare an American League flag.

But that just meant  I suffered (really suffered) through the exquisite pain of seeing those lovable squads fall just short in the World Series, thanks to Joe Brinkman’s absurd strike zone (’95), Jose Mesa’s nerves (’97) and Tyler Naquin’s clumsy fielding (’16).

I grew up wearing a Chief Wahoo ballcap.   Any photo of the huge neon sign of the team’s garish mascot wielding a bat that used to hang outside old Cleveland Stadium can still insert a lump of nostalgia in my esophagus.

All that said, I could not be more relieved, more thrilled, that my team has finally – FINALLY! – decided to get rid of that absurd, cartoonish, insulting logo.

I detailed my history of fandom to address the arguments I now see on social media and comment boards that frame clinging to Wahoo as a tribute to tradition, nostalgia and “remembering Dad who took me to the ballgame.”

Hardly anyone has put in more time on the Tribe Trail of Tears than I, and here’s what I have to say about the tradition and nostalgia argument.

No. No. No.

And you know what else: No.

Nothing about the demise of Wahoo prevents me from summoning fond memories of walking up the ramp to our seats at the old Stadium holding my Dad’s hand (or my Mom’s; she was the really rabid fan),  from recalling  the arrow of delight that shot through me each time I first glimpsed, over the rim of the ascending ramp, that impeccable rectangle of infield green.

What the scrapping of the offensive icon will do is grant me, for the first time in my life, to do what fans of most other teams take for granted – the ability to wear your team’s colors and logo with pride, in public.

‘Cause I’ve known for a very long time that sporting that brightly colored visual insult risks giving real offense to people who’ve suffered far too much pain and insult at the hands of my nation.   Their feelings, their hurts, their right to be respected,  just simply, objectively matter far more than any fan’s claim to nostalgia.   Wearing Wahoo in public (as opposed to on the living room couch, praying my way through another Game 7) would signal something about my values that I certainly hope isn’t true.

I’m not saying that other folks who wear Wahoo are racist louts. If I did, I’d be damning a lot of people I call friends.  But I am saying that whatever reasons they have for wearing the logo can no longer outweigh, in this moment when so much about what makes this nation worth loving is under threat, the need to resist the temptations of soft racism.

Though I refer to the urgency of now, my thoughts on Wahoo are no late-blooming, tactical sensitivity pounded into me by the stern, hectoring armies of modern political correctness.

Even as a young man I knew Wahoo was off, way off, even as he functioned as the symbol as one of my deepest attachments to my hometown.

And now, even as I can vouch that being a loyal Indians fan – through it all – remains a  key chunk of my identity, I have to say this: I’m OK with changing the team name, too.

My clingy hope would be that changing the name to, simply, the Tribe – which is what I usually call that plucky gang anyhow – would suffice, would be deemed acceptable.

That would preserve the generational and nostalgic ties, while cleaning up at least some of the stain of historic cluelessness.

But it ain’t my call – or any fan’s.  It belongs to those of my fellow Americans who’ve put up with this cartoonish insult for so long with a stoicism and, often, wry humor that I’m pretty sure I couldn’t summon were I in their place.

 

 

 

 

 

IDEAS, LIVING LIFE

No, you can’t be whatever you want

self help photoRecently, the New Yorker published a really smart essay about the relentless stream of self-improvement books that washes over the non-fiction best-seller lists.

These advice-packed tomes mostly partake (as the essayist, Alexandra Schwartz, notes) of a cheery faith that some combination of willpower and technology-driven metrics will enable you to “do you” at some vaguely higher level.

It’s naive, self-centered individualism dressed up as tough-minded wisdom.

Schwartz concludes by talking about one book (from pinko Europe, of course) that critiques the self-improvement movement’s obsessive focus on, well, the self.

Stand Firm by Svend Brinkmann argues that maybe, just maybe, we ought to spend more time thinking about what we owe others and about how what we do affects the ability of the collectives to which we belong (family, workplace, society) to thrive or even survive.  That might actually lead to a life lived with more purpose and meaning than can be achieved by the art of learning “not to give a fuck.”

Reading this brisk essay, I was reminded of a clichéd phrase that I’ve heard people proudly invoke so many times, in a tone that indicates it offers the most distilled essence of adult wisdom: “You can be anything you want to be, as long as you put your mind to it.”

This is terrible advice that has caused the children who received it – from parents, teachers or well-meaning aunts – no end of frustration and pain.

When I was a kid, what I wanted to be, more than anything in the world, was shortstop for the Cleveland Indians.  Even if I had actually worked relentlessly to that goal, it never would have happened.  I am a near-sighted, 5-foot-10 man of modest athletic ability and hand-eye coordination that sits firmly in the lumpy middle of the Bell curve.

I bear more resemblance to John Oliver than to Francisco Lindor, the Indians’ actual, sublime All-Star shortstop.

After that, I wanted to be the next great American novelist, the Catholic Philip Roth, Cleveland’s Saul Bellow.

That wasn’t happening, either.  Even though my natural writing ability certainly exceeded my skill at going deep in the hole to field a grounder, it was still several standard deviations to the left of Mr. Roth and Mr. Bellow on the Bell curve of literary talent.

I thank God my parents did not relentlessly feed me that destructive pap about “you can be anything you want to.”  Nor did they, bless them, seek to fill any holes or heal any hurts in their lives by pushing me to do what they would have liked to have done themselves.

Their message was: “Find something you love and do it as well as you can.”

So that’s what I did, buoyed by the pure dumb luck of stumbling into a first job in precisely the place where I was meant to be: a newspaper newsroom.

And that’s the message I tried to give my own children (on the rare occasions when they actually seemed to be listening to me).

“You can be anything you want to be” is bad advice even for favored sons and daughters of the middle class.  This false standard — implying as it does that any failure to live out a childish dream speaks to a lack of effort or moral worth on the dreamer’s part — is probably a major culprit behind the epidemic of anxiety and depression among today’s children of privilege.

Even worse, this glib credo is brutally unfair to the children born into the wrong ZIP codes, the ones where America frankly doesn’t give a shit whether the schools stink, the streets ring with gunfire and the best-paying jobs on offer tend to lurk in the realm of the illegal.

How many smart, talented, delightful urban kids have been misled by the gospel of “you can be anything you want to be” into pursuing wasteful dreams of becoming the next LeBron or Jay-Z, when they should have focused their energies on becoming the next  great teacher, urban planner, entrepreneur, doctor or caring cop that their community desperately needed?

Years ago, I wrote similar sentiments in a column for the Philadelphia Inquirer, responding to a heart-breaking crime in Newark, N.J., where some good kids had been lined up against a wall and gunned down in gang-related violence.

A few weeks later, I was invited to talk to a forum of Temple University students. I asked: What do you want me to talk about? 

That piece about being whatever you want, came the reply.

Really?  I thought.  Huh.

When the day came, the room was packed, students perched on windowsills.  The discussion was impassioned, running way over time.

Looking back from today, with all the news reports on how so many college students are crippled by performance anxiety, I can see that those Temple students were giving me an early glimpse of a rising problem.

I was too dumb to grasp it then, but now I think I can.

And I’m moved to recommend: Curb the glib gospel of self-improvement (whose damage is compounded daily by social media’s incessant demand on users to maintain a glittering false front to the world).   Don’t let this nonsensical advice damage any more of our kids.

Teach them to look outside of themselves (and their resumes) for meaning.  To look towards service and community and friendship for a sense of purpose and a guiding light to the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CITY OF BROTHERLY LOVE, IDEAS, POLITICS

A respectful critique of the Day of Service

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Today is Martin Luther King Day.

In the evening as I write this, thousands of volunteers are trooping home in the arctic air, after a day of volunteering their time to help paint murals, build playgrounds, offer health screenings and a host of other useful deeds.

It was the 22nd annual Day of Service in the city where the idea of observing the holiday in this fashion was born.

I don’t want to disrespect the good will of the thousands who did something generous today, instead of shopping, skiing or just sleeping in late.

And I want to confess that on this King Day, at least, I did no volunteering. I worked on my usual stuff.

Despite all that, let me say this: For all its good intentions, the King Day of Service has always bugged the heck out of me.

Why?

Because it turns Dr. King’s fierce, uncompromising, prophetic message to his nation into something safe, narrow, domesticated. Something to pull off the shelf one day a year, bow to, then feel free to disregard the rest of the year.

Dr. King didn’t say, “Go ye forth and build a playground on one cold day a year.”

He called us to build the “beloved community,” to build it with the tools of love, justice and self-examination upon the ashes of hate, selfishness and our own blinding self-regard.

By the time he died, Dr. King was not fighting just to give the African-American the vote, or the right to sit where she wanted on a bus or at a diner. He was calling into question the habitual violence and structural injustices perpetuated by our national creed of militaristic capitalism. He never stopped finding uncomfortable truths to speak to power.

(What, oh what, might he have said about the dangerous racist fool now sitting in the Oval Office?)

This is one vital part of Dr. King’s prophetic voice that we mute when we tidy up his memory so that it can fit inside the well-meaning but narrow straitjacket of the Day of Service.

There is another piece that I would hope that even our fiercely woke and intersectional justice warriors of today might keep in mind.

Dr. King wanted not only to free his own people from the bonds of injustice, contempt and poverty in which white society tried to keep them shackled.

He also wanted, fervently, to free white people from the prison of their hate.

He knew that the mountaintop would never be reached until that happened.
And he understood, having grappled long and hard with the difficult demands of Jesus’ good news, that he was called to love even the whites who spat and jeered and called out the dogs upon him and his fellow protesters. He knew those white folks were, most of them, trapped inside their own hurts of class, wealth, education and status.

They were in pain, authentic pain, but took that out on others in a toxically wrong way. They were in pain, and those who called the tune of militaristic capitalism were endlessly adept at getting them to blame people of color for their woes, not the people in power who were really in charge of the arrangements.

The same is true today. I know it’s a wildly unfashionable, retro view — but I don’t think it accomplishes anything to blast Trump supporters for their alleged ignorance, meanness or racism.

Well, it does accomplish something. It drives them deeper into Trump’s arms.

Better to ask them what hurts and needs led them to rally to the false flag of this grotesque messiah. Listen to what they tell you then, in search of the beloved community, gently suggest a better path.

Some will scorn the effort, and redouble their contempt and anger.

But not all. Not all. And in their change of heart we would glimpse the nation’s salvation.

POLITICS, IDEAS, OFF THE NEWS

Oprah? I’m with her

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Oprah Winfrey speaks at the Golden Globes. (Photo from Variety.com)

The idea of Oprah Winfrey as a candidate for president is not ridiculous.

For sure, I’d rather get a chance in 2020 to vote for Elizabeth Warren. Or even, say, John Hickenlooper.

But Oprah Winfrey is a serious person of serious accomplishment who demonstrated last weekend at the Golden Globes a firmer grasp of a core skill of political leadership – the art of using narrative to frame and inspire – than Hillary Clinton ever did in her long, stumbling tenure on the national stage.

My friend David Thornburgh, who runs Philadelphia’s good government outfit, the Committee of Seventy (where I get to hang out many days), is someone whose insights I admire.  Yesterday at the office, he was spluttering with exasperation at the notion that Oprah – “another celebrity!”, another novice at government – deserves entrance into the sacred circle of the plausibly presidential.

I get what David was lamenting, but I don’t agree with it.

A “celebrity,” as Malcolm Muggeridge once sagely defined the word, is someone who is famous for being famous – without anything of much substance underlying the fame.  Donald Trump fit that definition to a T, before he launched his ludicrous, lamentable but historic run for the White House.

Oprah is famous, all right, but it’s because of what she’s accomplished, which is extraordinary.  It is unfair, and factually, wrong to lump her into the same “reality star” category as Trump.

First off, what Oprah did for years on “Oprah!” might not have been the stuff of the Oxford debate society, but it wasn’t reality television, either.  Reality TV is manipulation masquerading as drama, with results that range from the silly to the depraved – with Trump’s stint leaning hard to the latter side.

While Oprah is going to have to spend some time in purgatory for her deed of inflicting Dr. Oz on the world, her show often as not addressed real human and societal concerns in a sincere way.

And her signature phrase from the show was “You get a car!”   Trump’s was, of course, “You’re fired.”  Advantage Oprah.

Trump masquerades as a successful tycoon, but Daddy actually launched and rescued his so-called career and, when his business ventures weren’t outright fraudulent, they still leaned to the tasteless.

Oprah started with nothing and became a billionaire on the wings of her smarts, her work ethic and her unerring sense of what the average American needs to know.

Trump famously never reads books.  Oprah leveraged her fame to ensure that worthy (well, usually) authors found larger audiences. By dint of her powerful brand alone, she got millions of Americans to read good books they would otherwise never have sampled.

Oprah can act, really well.   Trump has an act, a perpetual arabesque of ego of which the saner precincts of the world long ago grew weary.

Trump, hunkered deep inside his thick citadel of narcissism, is constitutionally incapable of feeling or expressing empathy.

Oprah is the Amazon of empathy.

In the New York Times this week, the excellent Frank Bruni made the excellent point that one thing the American voter can be counted on to do every eight years is to change the channel to a very different program.  How else to explain an electorate that hadn’t changed dramatically in its demographics gyrating from Bush I to Clinton to Bush II to Obama to Oaf?

So, yes, it probably would be dumb for Democrats to fasten upon “their Trump” as their riposte to the current administration.

But I reject the framing of Oprah as “the liberals’ Trump” simply because she, too, made her fame through television.

She is the businessperson, the entrepreneur, the creative thinker, the heartbeat-taker of American that Donald Trump only pretends to be (albeit convincingly to some).

And her empathy and listening have not just been an act for the cameras.  She has taken in the stories of hurt and hope her guests have told, pondered them in her heart, and distilled them into at least some wisdom.

Which she deftly shared with us from that Hollywood stage Sunday night.   Name me a single politician in America (other than (sniff!) the one guy who can never be president again) who could been as good on that stage in that moment with that huge audience as Oprah Winfrey was.

She may never have been a practicing politician, but she’s shown many of the skills of a very good one.  She may not be wonk’s wonk (that’s what staffs are for), but she’s schooled herself in what hurts and what soars in the lives of Americans.

No, she’s never run a government, but for that matter neither have most of the preening senators who every four years start making excuses to visit Iowa.

She has, unlike many of the politicians who see a future president every time they shave, run a huge enterprise, and a creative one, where success had to be earned through listening, emotional intelligence and collaboration, not just ordering everyone around just because Daddy put you in charge.

In sum, plenty of less prepared presidential hopefuls than Oprah Winfrey have gotten themselves to be taken seriously by the political press – because their ravening egos led them to seek  and win political office at least once.

I think she has a lot more to offer America than those dudes.

If she wants to head out to Iowa some day soon, to eat some corn dogs and test the waters, I’m all for it.   (But I would recommend that she start working  soon on that explanation/apology for Dr. Oz.)

And please, no Cabinet posts for Gayle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CITY OF BROTHERLY LOVE, IDEAS, OFF THE NEWS, POLITICS

Using OPM for fun and profit

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Vincent Fumo (Associated Press photo)

If you’re a Philadelphian who a) is older than 30 and b) ever read a newspaper, you know the name Vincent Fumo.

Vince was the powerful state senator from South Philadelphia, often referred to as the Prince of Darkness, who eventually was nailed by the feds on multiple counts, got convicted and “went away” for a while, as we like to say in the City of Brotherly Love and Chronic Corruption.

(For an update on what ol’ Vince is up to now that he’s out of the slammer, check out this incredible report from my good pal Dave Davies.)

During Vince’s trial, the acronym “OPM” got a  workout.  The senator had a taste for fine things, and to his palate they tasted even better if he could pay for them with what he called OPM – Other People’s Money.  Unfortunately for his career as one of Harrisburg’s most feared and effective power brokers, some of the OPM he used to keep his cupboards stocked with, say, Oreck vacuums was tax money.

I maunder on about Vince only to set up a point about another set of wicked smart but grasping marauders – the corporate captains of America.

A piece in the New York Times this week reports that many American companies are contemplating expansion and investment due to Trump Administration actions. But it’s not primarily that billionaire-stroking tax bill that has them excited.

No, it’s the vast, less-discussed rollback of environmental, financial and labor regulations.  This is one vow on which Mr. Trump has been delivering.  (Funny how it’s so much easier to stop doing the work of government, than to find ways to do it better.  And funny how much more urgent the Trump Administration gets when it comes to delivering on promises made to moguls, rather than on the ones made to the cheering schlubs in MAGA hats.)

I don’t doubt that the businesspeople’s excitement is genuine.  (Nor do I dismiss the Times’ reporting as fake news, simply because this story is somewhat favorable to the Trump agenda.)

I just doubt that the jobs spawned by this deregulation will be worth the damage done.

Of course the moguls are excited.  Now, they are going to get to do one of their favorite things: run their businesses with more of Other People’s Money.

“What?” you say.   “Balderdash!” you object.   You go on: “Deregulation doesn’t involve any grants of tax money, any market-distorting subsidies to individual businesses. It’s just getting obstructionist government out of business’ way.”

Nonsense, I say.

I argue uphill, I know, because I’m up against one of the greatest (and best-funded) feats of political framing ever.

Ever since the think tank and the captive journalist were invented, business owners who don’t want to pay their fair share of the costs that their operations inflict on the public weal have paid wordsmiths to argue loudly that business regulation equals governmental theft.

Once that notion becomes as ingrained it has, businesses can go on using Other People’s Money to pay for big chunks of what, seen properly, should be part of their own operating costs.

It’s called externalizing costs – and for businesses it’s a holy grail.  Most can’t resist the temptation to maximize the costs they can palm off on society and/or government.  Why should they?  Their job is to maximize profit and shareholder value. This helps.

That’s why we need a government strong, stubborn and smart enough to push back, to ensure that businesses absorb their proper share of the societal costs that flow from the decisions they make.

Here is the moguls’ view of how the world should work for them:

Foul a stream for generations with chemical runoff from your plants.  No problem.  OPM, the tax-funded kind, will bear the medical expenses and cleanup costs that result.

Run insane risks with your investment strategy, risks that your puffed-up egos prevent you from seeing, that end up exploding the global economy.   No problem. OPM will clean up the mess.

(What’s more, hardly any of you will go to jail, and within a few years you’ll be back to earning 7-figure bonuses, which you can use to buy up enough politicians to roll back the rules that were passed in response to your catastrophic depredations.)

Damage your workers’ health, family lives and security through how you handle working conditions, scheduling, pay and benefits? No worries, OPM will pick up the societal costs for you.

Of course, not all businesses behave like this.  And even businesses that do some of these things bring countervailing benefits: innovation, useful products, jobs, grants to build the occasional school playground.

But it’s up to government, and to a lesser degree social activists, to push back to make sure the public ledger of goods and ills balances out.  It is the proper role of government to limit the costs that business behaviors inflict on the public weal and treasury, and when harm occurs, to tote it up fairly and ensure redress via taxes, fines or court cases. .

Governments have three main paths to balancing the public’s ledger when it comes to bad behavior by business.

One is preventive regulation –  trying to prevent the damages from occurring.

The second is monetary incentives to behave. This could come in the form of tax policy designed either to discourage damaging behavior or coax positive steps. Or, after the fact, it can mean fines or other steps to help fix for the damage.

A carbon tax would be a good and innovative example of the former approach, a market approach to curbing the havoc that unchecked use of fossil fuels wreaks on the climate.   The Koch brothers and their ilk spread enough money around the political ecosystem to ensure that sane idea never took root.

The original Superfund, where the polluter paid for cleanups where possible and a fund fed by taxes on petrochemical companies paid for the rest, is a shining example of government using these tools well.  The piddling fines extracted from Wall Street pirates for how they crashed the world economy offer a less encouraging one.

Of course business owners complain endlessly about regulation, taxes and fines.  It’s in their DNA; they are hard-wired to seek OPM to help pay for costs they (and their customers) should properly shoulder.  (In assessing how we came to this sorry pass, many Americans’ tendency to identify themselves as consumers first, but as citizens ninth or 10th, deserves a share of the blame.)

And I should note here that some government regulations do turn out to be overdone, or even just plain dumb.  Bureaucrats can tend to over-solve for the last offense, while failing to discern the rising threat.

But could this also have something do with the 40-year GOP project, so deftly launched by Ronald Reagan, to convince Americans that “government is the problem,” that the agencies set up to protect the public interest are  just blundering confederacies of dunces, that only dolts enter public service?   Pounded home over decades, this mantra scares talent away from government and, when chanted in the Oval Office, often drives  good public servants out (cf. EPA and State Department today).

How did so many of us come to believe the ludicrous proposition that all of America’s problems would simply go away if businesses were simply unleashed to do whatever they wanted to do?

It’s a tribute to the power of Reagan’s brilliant framing. Thanks to Ronnie’s genius, even after Enron and Bhopal and Deepwater Horizon and Bear Stearns and Countrywide Financial and Wells Fargo and Equifax and Facebook (yeah, Facebook), millions of working- and middle-class Americans who’ve been whipsawed over and over by corporate fraud and malfeasance still buy the notion that what would really solve what ails their lives is getting government off the backs of those poor, humble, helpful business folk.

Besides regulation and monetary incenties, what’s government other tool for getting businesses to absorb their real costs of doing business.  The courts.

Aah, but the tool is being dulled and coated with rust. Not satisfied to dodge taxes, elude regulation and haggle fines down to piddling amounts, corporate America has also pursued a long-term project to choke off that third path of court action.

In state legislatures and Congress, the business lobby has fought and fought to diminish the ability of harmed consumers or individuals to bring meaningful litigation and gain sufficient payment for the negative impacts corporate activities have had on their lives.

In its war vs. consumers, business has lately had a great friend in the Roberts Supreme Court.   The high court’s rulings on business litigation don’t get the buzz that ones on abortion of health care do, but they send out huge ripples across the land.

So, to review:  On taxes, regulation and litigation, the business lobby now has all three branches of the federal government dancing briskly to its tune.

From where I sit, that music sounds like “The OPM Blues.”