Saturday, December 22, 2007

EMPATHIC RATIONALIST AWARDS

It’s time for the second annual Empathic Rationalist Awards. These go out to the people who made 2007 what it was – for better or worse.

Man of the Year: Steve Jobs

In a non-election year, it is probably appropriate to give this award to a non-politician and, indeed, I’m not sure there’s a politician out there who deserves it anyway. I considered giving it to some foreign statesmen, but most of the usual suspects are, well, suspect, and I would like this to reward excellence, rather than infamy. Accordingly, my attention turned to the world of business and once it did, the decision became a clear one. This year’s Man of the Year goes to the CEO of Apple, Inc., Steve Jobs. This man can legitimately be called the inventor of the Macintosh, the iPod, the iTunes Store, and the iPhone. Truly, he has the Midas touch.

So far, I haven’t broken down and purchased any of the products for which Mr. Jobs is associated. But that’s just me – my wife and daughters each have iPods and my daughters use iTunes as often as I use toilet paper. Even as a Luddite, I have to appreciate what this guy has done and look forward to seeing what he comes up with next. Besides, in a time when America seems to be going to hell in a hand basket, it’s critical to remember that much of what has kept this nation great over recent decades is the entrepreneurial, pragmatic and creative spirit of people like Steve Jobs. I may tilt well to the left, but I still have to recognize their contribution.

Hollywood Man of the Year: Al Gore

One of the things that distinguished our Man of the Year in 2007 was his passionate battle to encourage a certain ex-VP to run for our nation’s highest office. Mr. Jobs obviously recognizes that for all the good one can do as a businessman -- or for that matter as freelance advocate of social change -- there’s no platform on the planet from which you can have more impact than the one given to the President of the United States. Say what you want about Bush, but who can deny that he’s been a difference maker? If you don’t believe me, just ask 4,000 or so families of Iraq servicemen and women – they’ll tell you.

Al Gore is not only the choice of Steve Jobs for the nation’s highest office. He’s also the choice of more Democrats I know than any other politician, hands down. Gore was the last Democrat to win the popular vote for President, he served as VP under the last two Democratic administrations, he leads the charge for perhaps the world’s most important and pressing social cause and, as of a couple of months ago, he’s a Nobel Peace Prize winner. He has been called “sexy” by Uma Thurman (perhaps the foremost expert on the subject, ahem) and, indeed, is the darling of virtually everyone who’s ever set foot in Hollywood. He clearly should be the next President of the United States, right?

Apparently, every Democrat thinks so but Gore himself. I’ve heard some noises from the Gore camp that he doesn’t want the job partly because he could do more to fight global warming as a free lancer than as President. Excuse me? As President, you can essentially direct a bazillion dollars in favor of just about any cause you want to (even blowing up a country halfway across the world for seemingly no reason). As a free lancer, you can make movies, collect expressions of lust from Hollywood starlets, and eat like Chris Farley. Believe me, the latter sounds more fun, but the former is where the action is. Mr. Jobs, who’s all about having an impact and not just being a celebrity, would choose the POTUS gig in a heartbeat. It’s really a shame that Al did not.

By the way, is it just me, or does Gore’s decision to stay semi-retired make you wonder a bit about his commitment. Seriously, if Gore is right that the fate of the planet is in the balance, how can he not answer the call? James Bond always does, and he’s a Hollywood figure. Why doesn’t Al? I have no answer.

Stick-it-to-The Man of the Year: Steve Novick

If you don’t know this man’s name, where the hell have you been? He’s the darling of this quadrant of cyberspace. Do a search, and you’ll read my explanation for why he is the second coming of Paul Wellstone at a time when we desperately need 100 Paul Wellstones in the not-so-august body known as the United States Senate.

Currently, there are six Senators who come from states on our Pacific seaboard. One (Gordon Smith of Oregon) is a Republican. Novick is running as a Democrat to unseat him. Novick’s plain spoken, feisty, candid style, combined with his razor sharp mind (did you matriculate at Harvard Law School at 18?), natural comedic gifts and impeccable integrity make one whale of a political talent. You think Jim Webb sounds like he actually has balls? He’ll come across as mealy-mouthed compared to Novick. If elected, the 4’ 9” tall, one-armed Novick would get on the Sunday talk shows and explain why, believe it or not, there might actually exist a meaningful alternative to the Republican Party. He’ll tell America that there still are Americans who appreciate all the things that a Government can do when it is not corrupted by special interests but is instead devoted to average Americans. Novick, you see, is no limousine liberal. He comes from a working class background and never bothered to sell out for a life of luxury. He’s truly of the people and for the people.

I could have selected Novick as Politician of the Year. But as you’ll note, he’s getting a different award. It is inspired by the fact that, so far, the Democratic apparatchiks in D.C. have done everything in their power to keep him safely across the country. From the polls I’ve seen, he remains in a dead heat with his primary opponent, Oregon Speaker of the House Jeff Merkley. That’s truly amazing – and quite a testament to Novick’s popularity in his home state -- when you consider all that is being done back east to thwart him. I’m thinking in particular about New York Senator Charles Schumer, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, who is raising more money for Merkley than for any other candidate in a contested primary. Methinks Mr. Schumer views Merkley as someone he could more easily control as a Senator than an independent spirit like Novick. Methinks Schumer is right – which is precisely why we all need to support Novick. He can win and he can give ‘em hell. And believe me, once he wins the nomination, Schumer will have no choice but to cave in and throw the DSCC’s support Novick’s way. After all, he would then be the only Democrat in the race, and while Schumer might have no trouble abandoning Democratic Party ideals, he doesn’t want to be seen as abandoning the Democratic Party.

Eunuchs of the Year: The Democrats Who Run the Congress

This is an easy one to give out. Was there really any competition?

In 2006, we had an election. The Democrats complained over and over again about this thing called the Iraq War. They framed the central difference between the parties in that the GOP supports the war, and the Dems don’t. The nation responded resoundingly by voting in the Dems. So what do they do? Cave in, by continuing to pour billions of dollars, not to mention hundreds of American lives, into this delightful venture.

Do the Dems really support continuing the war? Or have they decided to fund it simply because they are afraid of being blamed for the loss if they intervene and stop it? I suspect the answer is the latter. Today’s Democrats in Congress, by and large, are motivated strictly by fear … and politics. They are afraid of losing votes if the actions they (and their supporters) believe in should backfire politically. Hence, most of the Dems in the Senate voted for the war in 2003, and these same wimps are now unwilling to turn off the spigot. Show me a Democrat with balls … and I’ll show you a guy who is being actively thwarted by the Democratic leadership.

So, my eunuch friends, when you walk up to claim your award, tip your hat to the Stick-it-to-The Man award winner, the one you are actively trying to thwart That, my friends, is a real Democrat.

Woman of the Year: Elizabeth Edwards

I happen to be a big Obama fan. But I’m going to ignore for a moment all the male candidates for the White House and just talk about the women. Elizabeth Edwards is the kind of woman I’d want on Pennsylvania Avenue. She responds to her cancer like it’s a paper cut and immediately goes back to the campaign trail. Almost as importantly, the word on the street is that she consistently advocates progressive positions, even when it’s not always expedient to do so. In other words, from the perspective of my philosophy, she’s often one step ahead of her husband.

Now I know what you’re thinking: Elizabeth can afford to speak her conscience. She’s not running for anything. Well, this is what made Ronald Reagan great (at least if you’re a Republican). The dude spoke his conscience even though he was running for something, and what do you know? We elected him anyway. I somehow suspect that if John Edwards’ better half had been in the Senate in 2003, she wouldn’t have supported the war like her husband.

A lot of women show up on the scene as potential first ladies, but few come across with the class and vision of Elizabeth Edwards. Hillary loves to link herself to Eleanor Roosevelt, but to me, she doesn’t belong in Roosevelt’s league. Edwards, however, may indeed be worthy of comparisons to Abigail Adams. And to me, there aren’t too many higher compliments I can pay a person – man or woman.

Athlete of the Year: Randy Moss

This is a difficult award to give out because there are many deserving candidates. Tiger Woods, for example, would be a defensible choice. In fact, he’d be a defensible choice every year, as would Roger Federer. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning would be nice selections too. Both of those guys will go down in history as being in the very top echelon of QBs. But there’s something missing about their candidacy for this award, just as there is something missing from the resume of Tiger or Federer. They don’t capture what it means to be the modern professional athlete.

All those guys play hard and consistently show class. Talk about being out of step! The athlete of 2007 should be a guy who excels at his sport when all the stars are in sync, and who whines and slacks off when they’re not. Nobody fits that description better than Randy Moss of the New England Patriots.

First of all, let me clarify that to my knowledge, Moss has never been caught taken steroids. So we don’t have give this guy an award with an asterisk. In fact, Moss has been injured for so much of his career that I’d be shocked if he cheated with chemicals. This guy’s athletic skills – his combo of speed, jumping ability and hands – are freakish. He doesn’t need drugs to give him a leg up on his competition. But what he does need is a hell of a supporting cast. After all, nobody can dominate a football game all by himself, not even a quarterback, and you certainly can’t dominate as a wide receiver. So when Moss found himself traded a couple of years ago from the Vikings to the lowly Raiders, what did he do? He flat out dogged it. When he had the slightest injury, he didn’t play. And when he did play, he didn’t concentrate. If you wanted him to catch the ball, you’d have to practically glue it to his hands. That’s how badly he wanted out of Oakland.

Moss played so badly that all the Raiders could get for him was a 4th round pick in the draft. Apparently, the league thought that Randy was all washed up – too old, too banged up, too uninterested. What a laugh. As Moss once said back in his Viking days, “I play when I want to play.” And as soon as I heard that Randy was traded to Tom Brady’s Patriots, I knew for a fact that he’d play at about as high a level as his anyone has ever played his position.

Well, OK. You can argue that Jerry Rice in his prime was better. Rice once had a record 22 TD receptions in a 12 game season. Still, Moss has already caught 19 TDs with two games left to play, and even though his team has already played 14 games, they’ve done something Rice never did – WON ALL FRIGGEN 14 OF THEM! Much of the time, Moss is used simply as a decoy. He can occupy two players at will simply by sprinting down the field, which means that his team is effectively playing 10 against 9. And the strangest thing is that in those situations, whenever his QB throws him the ball, he’s as likely as not to catch the damn thing. And why not: when he jumps to make a catch, the two defenders look like mere Lilliputians by comparison.

Randy Moss is a punk. He once intentionally drove his car into the body of a traffic officer and gave her a bit of a ride. And, as discussed above, he accepted millions of dollars a year from a team and didn’t even try to help them win. Then again, he’s one of the most brilliant physical specimens I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching compete. In short, he is the Platonic Form of the modern professional athlete – gifted as hell, physically, but kind of a jackass when it comes to his character.

To many of my friends, the lack of character among athletes is what makes professional sports so hard to watch. But I still enjoy it. I love the action. And I love to see my teams’ uniforms, even if they’re just hanging in my closet. In fact, as much as I think of Moss as a punk, I would be rooting for him in a heartbeat if I had happened to be a Patriots fan … just as I once passionately rooted for him when he played for Minnesota.

Werewolf of the Year: Michael Vick

Again, is any explanation needed? One minute he looks like a happy man – sipping Coca Cola in a TV ad or accepting congratulations for being the first player selected in the NFL draft. Then the next minute, he’s leading a pack of vicious canines as they prepare to get in a little ring and rip into the throats of their own kind.

People don’t understand how Vick can behave this way. People want to throw him in jail for his so-called crime. But how can he be committing a crime? The dude’s a werewolf. Have some compassion. If you were a werewolf, how would you behave?

THAT CONCLUDES THIS YEAR’S AWARDS. Congratulations to the winners, regardless of whether they are “winners” or “losers.” This may be the last post around here until the weekend after the New Year, so I hope you enjoyed it.

Thank you to all my loyal readers. Have a great holiday season!

2 comments:

Betty C. said...

What an amazing post! Better than Time magazine's concept, methinks.

Enjoy the holiday season.

Daniel Spiro said...

Thanks, Betty.

You have a great holiday season too. And may I add (without meaning it in all the Huckabean senses of the phrase), a merry Christmas.