Friday, July 29, 2011

Deficit Does Not Mean Default

by Dick Mac

Every statement, every plan, every nuance of the so-called "conservative" movement in the United States is false. I am beginning to think that people on the right aren't just clueless, I now believe they are pathological liars: from the Presidential candidates, down to the individual tea party supporter.

The history of the 20th Century shows that the way of life created by the New Deal and further enhanced by the Great Society was a major success. Our way of life before 1980, created the middle class, generated more wealth and more opportunity, created more millionaires and more billionaires than any other way of life, system of government, or economic policy in the history of mankind.

Then, a very small number of very wealthy people realized that msot Americans are without the ability to reason for themselves (see, Tea Party Express, Tea Party Patriots, Tea Party), and could be easily manipulated to undermine their own well-being.

Starting with Ronald Reagan as their front man, supply-siders got Americans signed-up. After decades of prosperity, Reagan convinced America that their streets, schools, hospitals, space program, regulatory commissions, research institutes, and global diplomatic control were folly, a waste of money, and were actually hurting them.

Reagan then led us down the primrose path back to the good-old days of 1929. Now, the same people who made Reagan the first American Government Saint have convinced us that deficit spending is the problem.

Well, America was founded on a deficit and our entire economic system (the one that is being destroyed by the supply-siders) is founded on maintaining deficits. It's how you create and build wealth. These supply-siders have told us that they are eliminating the deficit, when in reality the supply-siders are the people who have created the largest deficits in the history of mankind.

Under the governance of supply-siders (on both sides of the aisle), America has generated a public debt that is 100% of our gross domestic product, yet we are unable to maintain our country! We only spend 16% of our GDP on social programs, so the problem is not social programs! Yet the supply-siders have convinced us that we do not need health care, education, research, or anything else that makes a society a society. They tell us we need to spend the equivalent of more than half our GDP on defense contractors and corporate welfare; because if you push the money to the top, it will trickle-down and create jobs (this has never been true and will never be true).

They have been promising since 1980 that by pushing all the money to the people at the top we would become even wealthier than ever before. In reality, we have gotten nothing from the people at the top, even though we keep giving them more, and the only time we have seen growth was when we stopped doing that for a few minutes. In fact, since embracing supply-side economic theory, we have watched our economy crumble.

There are a few people in Congress who are not afraid to tell the truth, and none of them are affiliated with the tea party. My favorite, and the man I voted for in the last Democratic primary, is Dennis Kucinich. Yesterday, he said this about the debt crisis created by the House of Representatives:

We are the United States of America, the greatest country on Earth! We envision wealth, we do not default; we create wealth, we do not default; we build wealth, we do not default.

The tea party and the supply-siders (is there a difference?) will allow our nation to default. Some of them have them have invested their personal wealth so they will profit handsomely from a default (Eric Cantor), some are just power-hungry (John Boehner), and some are just so clueless and bigoted they are entertaining (Michelle Bachmann). No matter their standing in God's world, they are wrong and they are destroying America for their own gain.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Right-Winged Nutters and Tea Party Hobbits

by Dick Mac

The name-calling has started in earnest, and it's the right slinging the mud against the right!

In a discussion about public debt, British Minister Secretary of State for Business, Vince Cable told BBC television last Sunday:

The irony of the situation at the moment, with markets opening tomorrow morning, is that the biggest threat to the world financial system comes from a few right-wing nutters in the American congress rather than the euro zone.

See, Reuters Congress "nutters" risk global finance: UK minister

Then yesterday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who has nothing to lose by being candid within a party that rejects his right-wing extremism in favor of far-right-wing-nut-job-extremism, quoted a Wall Street Journal editorial:

The Republican House that failed to raise the debt ceiling would somehow escape all blame. Then Democrats would have no choice but to pass a balanced-budget amendment and reform entitlements, and the tea-party Hobbits could return to Middle Earth having defeated Mordor.

See, John McCain Mocks Tea Party, Sharron Angle, And Christine O’Donnell On Senate Floor, at Mediaite

As the GOP extremists get crazier, even the crazy Republicans begin to make sense! Keep it up, boys, we need you to continue showing your real colors!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Political Statements/SQL Statements

Every movement has a database of its members and supporters. These days, everything is electronic and databases are now easier to maintain than ledgers.

Effective data management has been streamlined by the introduction of Structured Query Language (SQL, pronounced "sequel"), a relatively simple computer language that allows fast and powerful data manipulation.

From wikipedia:
The most common operation in SQL is the query, which is performed with the declarative SELECT statement. SELECT retrieves data from one or more tables, or expressions. Standard SELECT statements have no persistent effects on the database. Some non-standard implementations of SELECT can have persistent effects, such as the SELECT INTO syntax that exists in some databases.

Queries allow the user to describe desired data, leaving the database management system (DBMS) responsible for planning, optimizing, and performing the physical operations necessary to produce that result as it chooses.

A query includes a list of columns to be included in the final result immediately following the SELECT keyword. An asterisk ("*") can also be used to specify that the query should return all columns of the queried tables. SELECT is the most complex statement in SQL, with optional keywords and clauses that include:

  • The FROM clause which indicates the table(s) from which data is to be retrieved. The FROM clause can include optional JOIN subclauses to specify the rules for joining tables.

  • The WHERE clause includes a comparison predicate, which restricts the rows returned by the query. The WHERE clause eliminates all rows from the result set for which the comparison predicate does not evaluate to True.

  • The GROUP BY clause is used to project rows having common values into a smaller set of rows. GROUP BY is often used in conjunction with SQL aggregation functions or to eliminate duplicate rows from a result set. The WHERE clause is applied before the GROUP BY clause.

  • The HAVING clause includes a predicate used to filter rows resulting from the GROUP BY clause. Because it acts on the results of the GROUP BY clause, aggregation functions can be used in the HAVING clause predicate.

  • The ORDER BY clause identifies which columns are used to sort the resulting data, and in which direction they should be sorted (options are ascending or descending). Without an ORDER BY clause, the order of rows returned by an SQL query is undefined.
The following is an example of a SELECT query that returns a list of expensive books. The query retrieves all rows from the Book table in which the price column contains a value greater than 100.00. The result is sorted in ascending order by title. The asterisk (*) in the select list indicates that all columns of the Book table should be included in the result set:

SELECT * FROM Book WHERE price > 100.00 ORDER BY title
See, SQL at

In the example above, the results would be rows of titles of every book in the database priced over one hundred dollars.

If you open-up the database of Tea Party supporters who have accounts at the Tea Party website, they will likely be listed as USERS. Each USER is a row and each row has many columns for information like email address, name, ZIP Code, religious affiliation, donation amounts, etc. Fields can be strings of text, Yes/No, Ratings, Numeric, Financial, etc.

When a Tea Party staff member wants to find all the tea party supporters in Park Slope, Brooklyn, she would enter:

SELECT * FROM users WHERE zip = 11215; ORDER BY user

This would return a list of all users in the database that live in ZIP Code 11215.

The geeks at have taken the SQL statement to a new level. Intended to be an observation about computer users, their SQL Query t-shirt can be interpreted many ways.

From your t-shirt to God's ear, this is the perfect embodiment of Tea Party collective intelligence.

The t-shirt query asks to return all those who have a clue greater than no clue. The results are zero.

In the database of Tea Party supporters, there is nobody with a clue!

Buy your thinkgeek SQL Style t-shirt here

Thanks to Eram for the heads-up!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Protecting Marriage At Any Cost

by Dick Mac

I think many people want to protect marriage.

In New York this past Sunday, a number of taxpayers took real action to protect marriage: they got married.

From Niagra Falls to Long Island, same-sex couples married.

Kitty Lambert and Cheryle Rudd were the first. They married just after midnight, on July 24, 2011, at the falls in Niagra Falls, NY. The falls were lit like a rainbow, reminiscent of the rainbow flag that signifies diversity in world culture.

This is a joyous time for New York.

All their lives, homosexual New Yorkers have paid taxes and been denied equal protection under the law. Now, at least as wedded couples, they have the protections afforded all married couples: they can visit each other in the hospital, they are considered next of kin for legal and financial matters, they cannot be shut-out of end-of-life or funeral planning by hostile relatives, they cannot be made homeless by the vagaries of the laws of intestacy, they are protected the way all couples should be protected.

Every little step counts, and this step is worth every celebration afforded it!

Congratulations all!

Couples wed on 1st day gay marriage is legal in NY

Heartwarming Pictures Of The First Gay Couple Getting Married In New York State

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Problem Of Social Programs And National Debt

by Dick Mac

Only one Western nation is working to eliminate social programs for its citizens during its most difficult economic times. This nation spends about the same as its two closest comparable peer nations, but it is unable to provide a safety net of any substance while its peers provide remarkable services.

All are democracies, all are free-market economies, all are former colonies of and political and cultural descendants of England, all enjoy remarkable technological advances, their citizens travel far and wide, and people from all over the world flock to their doorsteps. They have populations that are very mixed, they are melting pots. They have so much in common that they are basically siblings. One of them, however, can't seem to make things work.

The journalist Ray Medeiros did some research into the gross domestic products (GDP) and deficit spending of three Western nations: United States of America, Canada, and Australia.

These three nations are culturally and economically similar.

In particular, he focused on the impact of social programs on the countries' overall financial standing.

He found that all three spent about the same percentage of their GDPs on social programs:

USA spends 16.2%
Canada spends 16.9%
Australia spends 16.0%

Canada and Australia get more bang for their buck than the USA because they have a single-payer health care system for all citizens, whereas the USA has a single-payer system for only senior citizens. Sadly, the USA is about to eliminate that, too.

Neither Canada nor Australia are wacky socialist countries; in fact, Australia may now be more like the America of militia and rebels, cowboys, gold-rushes, diplomats and entrepreneurs than America. America sacrificed its get-up-and-go to Reagan's misinformation of our nation from people who can change the world to a bunch of Hollywood cowboys (tough on screen, but really a bunch of grovelling pantywaists behind the scenes - like Reagan himself).

Canada's GDP is $1,300,000,000,000 and it's public debt is $561,000,000,000, which is less than half. So, Canada runs a deficit that is half of its GDP, provides single-payer health care for all citizens along with a robust social welfare program, and is generally a stable culture.

Australia's GDP is $1,200,000,000,000 and it's public debt is $264,000,000,000, which is less than 25%! Australia also provides single-payer health care and a robust social welfare program. Australia, too, is a stable nation with a stable culture.

The United States GDP is $14,000,000,000,000 and our public debt is about the same; we run a public debt of roughly 100%. Yet we provide no health care for the majority of the citizenry, and our social welfare system has been systematically dismantled by the current and previous four Presidents.

The USA spends the same percentage of its GDP (16%) on social welfare, and runs a public debt double and triple the size of its peers.

Using math, one can see that social spending is not the problem!

Still, as Canada and Australia out-America the USA, we suffer a bunch of television blow-hards determining public policy, a once great political party serving tea instead of whiskey, and the ruling party sucking bon-bons and letting the USA be further co-opted as a plaything for failing, bloated, welfare-taking corporations.

And yet, as the money is pushed to the top so that it can trickle-down and make America a greater place, we are debating the elimination of health care services for the oldest and sickest Americans, and giving them a stack of vouchers they can use in the open market to get medical care.

In these troubled economic times, we need to spend more, not less, on social programs; we need to provide them as we provided social programs before Reagan (that is, stop giving the money to private corporations to provide public services), and find where the real bloat in our budget lies.

Our deficit problem is not social spending.

America's Debt Problem Is Not Caused By Social Programs

Friday, July 22, 2011

Summer In The City - Lovin' Spoonful - Music Video

by Dick Mac

Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty

Been down, isn't it a pity
Doesn't seem to be a shadow in the city

All around, people looking half dead
Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head

But at night it's a different world
Go out and find a girl
Come-on come-on and dance all night
Despite the heat it'll be alright

And babe, don't you know it's a pity
That the days can't be like the nights
In the summer, in the city
In the summer, in the city

Summer In The City - Lyrics

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Isaiah 10:1-2

by Dick Mac

Sometimes subtitled "You Who Legislate Evil," the opening of Isaiah 10 discusses protection of the needy from the vagaries untoward legislation. It discusses the idea that those at the bottom need protection from those at the top.

In Reagan's America, here and now, the rich are rewarded for taking advantage of, and eliminating opportunities for those in need. It's just the way we do things today.

These same Reaganites prance around passing moral judgment on everyone else, often in the name of the Lord. Condemning, marginalizing, and denigrating single-mothers, homosexuals, immigrants, thinkers, and anyone who doesn't fit into the narrow little guest list for their tea party. They rant about personal freedom, but they do not want personal freedom for anyone but themselves, and they whine on and on about the cost of civilization, and demand that cuts be made, but not to the programs they use. Today's "conservatives" are not conservative at all and although they will wave flags of liberty and freedom in front of the cameras, they are as unpatriotic and unChristian people as any ever seen in the history of Western Civilization.

There are many interpretations and translations of the Bible. Here is Isaiah 10:1-2 from a score of different translations. As mentioned earlier, this tract discusses the protection of the needy from the greedy.

Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed
to turn aside the needy from judgment and to take away the right from the poor of My people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless!

Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and to the writers that write perverseness;
to turn aside the needy from justice, and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey!

WOE TO those [judges] who issue unrighteous decrees, and to the magistrates who keep causing unjust and oppressive decisions to be recorded,
To turn aside the needy from justice and to make plunder of the rightful claims of the poor of My people, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey!

Doom to those
who pronounce wicked decrees,
and keep writing harmful laws
to deprive the needy of their rights
and to rob the poor among my people
of justice;
to make widows their loot;
to steal from orphans!

You people are in for trouble! You have made cruel and unfair laws
that let you cheat the poor and needy and rob widows and orphans.

Woe unto them that decree iniquitous decrees, and to the writers that prescribe oppression,
to turn away the poor from judgment, and to take away the right from the afflicted of my people; that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless!

Woe to them that make wicked laws: and when they write, write injustice:
To oppress the poor in judgment, and do violence to the cause of the humble of my people: that widows might be their prey, and that they might rob the fatherless.

Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees,
and the writers who keep writing oppression,
to turn aside the needy from justice
and to rob the poor of my people of their right,
that widows may be their spoil,
and that they may make the fatherless their prey!

How horrible it will be for those who make unjust laws
and who make oppressive regulations.
They deprive the poor of justice.
They take away the rights of the needy among my people.
They prey on widows and rob orphans.

You are doomed! You make unjust laws that oppress my people. That is how you keep the poor from having their rights and from getting justice. That is how you take the property that belongs to widows and orphans.

Woe to those enacting crooked statutes
and writing oppressive laws
to keep the poor from getting a fair trial
and to deprive the afflicted among my people of justice,
so that widows can be their spoil
and they can plunder the fatherless.

Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed;
To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless!

Doom to you who legislate evil, who make laws that make victims— Laws that make misery for the poor,
that rob my destitute people of dignity,
Exploiting defenseless widows,
taking advantage of homeless children.

Woe to those who enact evil statutes
And to those who constantly record unjust decisions,
So as to deprive the needy of justice
And rob the poor of My people of their rights,
So that widows may be their spoil
And that they may plunder the orphans.

How terrible it will be for those who make unfair laws,
and those who write laws that make life hard for people.
They are not fair to the poor,
and they rob my people of their rights.
They allow people to steal from widows
and to take from orphans what really belongs to them.

How terrible it will be for you
who make laws that aren't fair!
How terrible for you
who write laws that make life hard for others!
You take away the rights of poor people.
You hold back what is fair from my people who are suffering.
You take for yourselves what belongs to widows.
You rob children whose fathers have died.

Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,
to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
and robbing the fatherless.

Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,
to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
and robbing the fatherless.

Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.

Woe to those who decree unrighteous decrees,
Who write misfortune,
Which they have prescribed
To rob the needy of justice,
And to take what is right from the poor of My people,
That widows may be their prey,
And that they may rob the fatherless.

What sorrow awaits the unjust judges
and those who issue unfair laws.
They deprive the poor of justice
and deny the rights of the needy among my people.
They prey on widows
and take advantage of orphans.

Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,
to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
and robbing the fatherless.

Woe to them that make wicked laws, and they writing have written unrightfulness, (Woe to them who make wicked laws, and they writing have written injustice,) for to oppress poor men in doom, and to do violence to the cause of meek men of my people; that widows shall be the prey of them, and that they should ravish fatherless children. (and so they oppress the poor in judgement, and do violence to the cause of the humble among my people; and widows shall become their prey, and they shall rob fatherless children.)

Wo [to] those decreeing decrees of iniquity, And writers who have prescribed perverseness. To turn aside from judgment the poor, And to take violently away the judgment Of the afflicted of My people, That widows may be their prey, That the fatherless they may spoil.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Vermont Inn Refuses Service To Lesbian Couple

by Dick Mac

According to a complaint filed by the ACLU, the Wildflower Inn, of Lyndonville, Vermont, responded to a Request for Proposals (RFP) from the Vermont Convention Bureau for a wedding.

RFPs are commonly sent out when a person or company is looking to contract for an expensive project. Like a wedding, perhaps. RFPs allow every vendor in a group to place bids to win the contract.

Wildflower Inn responded to the RFP and began negotiations with Channie Peters, the mother of the bride. When the Meeting and Events Director learned that the wedding was for a lesbian couple she informed mother that " . . . due to their personal feelings, they do not host gay receptions . . ."

(To which I wondered aloud if they only host morose receptions.)

This is not a story of some activists searching for an evil business to discredit. This is the story of a mother hosting the wedding of her daughter and being told by a vendor who sought her business that, after all, they don't cater to people like her daughter.

I know that this can become a complicated story, so let's just condense it:

The family did not randomly select this venue, the Inn solicited the family's business via the Vermont Convention Bureau's RFP. The Inn contacted family with a very convincing pitch. The Inn said that they would be the perfect destination for the couple's wedding reception. The family accepted their proposal, and during planning, the mother of the bride corrected the statement "bride and groom" by explaining there would be "two brides." Minutes later, the Inn cancelled the deal. There is an electronic record of the crime. So, the Inn wasn't tricked or victimized; they made a business decision to pursue this family's money, then made a political choice to discriminate against them.

What is most egregious to me is that they told a Mother they did not cater to people like her daughter. What should have been a wonderful experience for this Mother was not. Why? Because the innkeepers don't like homosexuals.

I am certain that the Inn will become a cause celebre for people opposed to gay marriage and they will likely make more money than ever before when bigots from all over the Northeast flock to their defense, and good for them: this is America and as long as you obey the law you are allowed to make as much money as you like. Therein lies the rub: they've broken the law.

The family is not seeking huge monetary damages, so the Inn will not be financially crippled by this. The family is bringing this lawsuit because they were hurt by these people. A mother was insulted and the couple was stigmatized, and in America we don't do that. Even Jesus and his close friends the Founding Fathers believed in equal protection under the law.

As horrible as this must be for the family, I do not doubt that this has to be hard for the innkeepers, their friends, and supporters; but they have made a bad decision, and I have not seen an outpouring of contrition. In fact, they have remained completely silent. If that is at their lawyer's advice, they should seek alternative counsel and start fixing this immediately. From where I sit, however, I think it's true that they don't want to host lesbian weddings. This is illegal, immoral, and insulting to all thinking people.

If Wildflower Inn wants to be a private club for heterosexuals, they should do so; but as long as they are selling public accommodations, they need to abide by the laws of the state in which they are incorporated.

PDF of Complaint filed with the courts

VT Digger article

ACLU Article

Monday, July 18, 2011

Do You Invest In Your Future?

by Dick Mac

Do you have any of your savings in the stock market? Is your retirement money in a fund, or do you trade?

I wonder how many people who believe in Fox News' mission have invested in News Corp. stock. This is America and the primary method for proving your belief in a business is to invest.

News Corporation stock yields about the same as a savings account (about one percent). You can purchase a share of NWS for about sixteen bucks and it pays about sixteen cents a year dividend.

Unlike a savings account, however, the value of the share of stock can go up or down, so the actual growth could be higher or lower than 1%.

As the GOP plan to destroy America via Congressional action proceeds, stock prices are falling; add to that the current criminal activity plaguing NWS, and by next week you will probably be able to get shares for ten bucks a share; but, then the dividend could also go down if the success of the remaining holdings diminishes. That is called risk.

But, if you believe in the News Corp. mission, then you should buy News Corp. stock. News Corp. has been telling Americans what to say and think for quite some time now, and suddenly they are falling on hard times. Tea Party members and "conservatives" should step-up and support their heroes.

It's easy: go to the website for the company that holds your retirement funds, or go to any commercial retail trading site, and transfer some thousands of your dollars to a brokerage account. Then place a trade for some number of shares.

It's easy!

Do it now: invest in your future! Don't bicker about the price, just invest!

Note: Neither Dick Mac nor anyone else associated with the Dick Mac (alive!) blog are licensed to provide investment advice. This information is provided strictly as entertainment - just like all the information on Fox News.

Is Killing Israeli Children OK?

by Dick Mac

Victoria Jackson did one of my all-time favorite Saturday Night Live skits when she stood and sang "I Am Not A Bimbo." I actually still sing it now and then when I make a bad choice.

An actress acts, so she can perform in a manner which differs from her inherent personality. Being able to portray someone or something different from ourselves is what makes one actor great and another actor, well, not an actor. We generally call those people "movie stars" or "television stars." They practice a craft and they hone it, but being a movie star or television star is different from being an actor.

When a one-trick pony is exposed and we realize that the person isn't an actor at all, the term "star" is hung on them as an insult. I have never felt this way. I think there is a place for actors and stars and it's OK that stars sometimes get jobs acting and that actors sometimes become stars. These things are not mutually exclusive.

Victoria Jackson's skit on Saturday Night Live where she proclaimed that just because she looked like a bimbo and had blond hair did not automatically mean that she was, indeed, a bimbo, was brilliant. I loved it. I am a fan of blowing stereotypes out of the water, and she nailed it with this skit.

Come to find out, however, Victoria Jackson IS a bimbo! She is probably also suffering from untreated mental illness.

On today's edition of the website "WorldNetDaily," Jackson appears under a screaming headline that asks "Is Killing Israeli Children OK?" and she states that President Obama is like Hitler because (1) he has a private army, (2) he is a socialist, and (3) he controls the media.

Let's just briefly discuss the three points:

1. [Obama has a] private army (like Hitler).I believe all world leaders have a private army. In America we call it the Secret Service when they are protecting only the President and his circle; and we all it the United States military when they are protecting all of us. Nothing unusual here.

2. [Obama is] socialist (like Hitler). Compared to Barack Obama, Richard Nixon is a socialist. Obama completely and unequivocally supports the theory of supply-side economics promoted by the Chicago School of Economics, which is the foundation of current American economic practice. For over thirty years, every president except Bush I has supported this economic policy. There has not been a socialist-leaning President in our lifetimes.

3. [Obama has] media control (like Hitler). The media is privately-owned and the closest we have ever been to any President controlling the media is the relationship between Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and world leaders supported by his largesse (Reagan, both Clintons, and Bush II come to mind).

Victoria Jackson's ideas, fears, and analyses are so crazy that it is true: she is not a bimbo, she is certifiably insane, and if our nation had a decent health-care system, she might be able to get help!

See her article here, if you must.

By the way, she never answers the important question: "Is Killing Israeli Children OK?" Which I hope she would answer "no"; but, I am not certain.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Stevie Wonder on Sesame Street

by Dick Mac

The early 1970s were a boom time for both Stevie Wonder and Sesame Street.

Wonder had matured from a child star at Motown to one of the world's most formidable singers, songwriters, producers, and musicians.

Ernie, Bert, Kermit, Big Bird and the rest of Jim Henson's menagerie catapulted from a set depicting a Brooklyn city block to universal super stardom.

Sesame Street was after my time. I was in the Eighth Grade when it debuted, and my sister, five years junior, was a fan. We had the Sesame Street LP and some Sesame Street books; but it was not in my personal rotation. I preferred Speed Racer at the time.

To this day, amazing performances take place on the set of Sesame Street. Johnny Cash, Cab Calloway, Norah Jones, Ray Charles, The Four Tops, Billie Joel, Tony Bennett, Jose Feliciano, Donny Osmond, B.B. King, Diana Ross, Lou Rawls, Paul Simon, and scores (hundreds?) of other singers and stars have appeared to sing or chat with the muppets.

I don't known when the first pop star appeared on Sesame Street, but it became a tradition and some appearances are legendary. This is one.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Upside To A Heart Attack

by Al Falafal

If you have to have one at all, I’d say a "silent" heart attack is definitely preferable to the other kind in most ways.

Accurate as it may be, however, “silent” is something of a misnomer. I presume it is used instead of “painless,” which would sound misleadingly benign. Whether it comes with searing chest pains or simple shortness of breath, a heart attack is a heart attack. But it may not always be what you’d expect, as I recently found out.

What the so-called silent attack lacks in drama it makes up for in mystery and angst. If you’re in otherwise good health and wake up one morning unable to breathe, you can’t necessarily be sure what’s going on unless you’re predisposed to an awareness of the more subtle effects that can accompany a heart attack. It may not occur to you to go to the insufferable ER but if you’re lucky your primary care doc might be able to see you right away, as mine did most mercifully.

If he or she is on the ball they may pick up on the telltale signs (like a BP of 189/120) and start you on an ACE inhibitor (e.g. Lisinopril – “to treat high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, and to improve survival after a heart attack”) & Lasix along with 4 or 5 other drugs, while ordering a battery of tests to find out what’s actually causing you to feel so weird: short-of-breath, restless, fatigued, unfocused and generally out-of-sorts. Tests may include blood draws, multiple EKGs, echocardiograms, various sonograms, a nuclear stress test & cardiac catheterization, all to be reviewed by a good cardio specialist who can hopefully make sense of what’s bugging you at last, and help you decide what to do about it.

Before getting to that point, while sloughing through all these tests & assessments you are likely to hear one wildly conflicting opinion after another about your chances of dropping dead at any minute or it all just being a fluke of nature that you’ll get over with a few changes in habits & lifestyle. Even if you usually feel, as I do, like you’ve had a good run and whatever happens happens, the resulting uncertainty can be quite distressing and it may be a good idea to ask your doctor to prescribe some kind of psychotropic and/or anti-anxiety med along with everything else you’re on -- just to keep yourself from freaking out. I found low dose Klonipin and Celexa to do the trick.

If by chance, during this time you also happen to have a previously-scheduled appointment with your optometrist for new glasses, you may even get independent confirmation that something is amiss, which you might have otherwise missed. As your eyes show no outward sign of redness, who would have thought to look directly behind your corneas to find that they are hemorrhaging like crazy? If you have a day to spend after this in your local eye hospital being examined by a team of ophthalmologists you might get to see the most amazing 3-D spectral images depicting geysers of bright red blood gushing from the backside of your orbs! That can’t be good but it does add to the evidence of your condition.

Of course you may never have the opportunity to experience any of this fun stuff if you don’t have the good fortune of being employed by a company or organization that provides decent healthcare benefits. If I weren’t so lucky I may well have not made it past day one of this scenario. Having lived at both ends of the U.S. healthcare spectrum I have such an aversion to avoiding encounters with any emergency room that I would rather just let nature take its course than try to live through the trauma & maltreatment of the welfare-dependent heart patient I might otherwise be today. As it is, I’m in the very capable hands of a crack medical team that has me feeling better than I have any right to feel, given my diagnosis.

By all indications, it turns out that I did have a “silent” heart attack about a month ago – one that’s been coming on for the last several years, as I may have known if I were paying attention to certain symptoms and effects that were routinely dismissed as anything other than heart disease: “the Number One Killer of Americans today.” Not that I blame anybody for missing it – I’ve personally found that denial has always been a very effective coping mechanism, as far as it goes. If it weren’t for the confluence of those streams of fortune or whatever may be responsible for landing me in my current situation, I might already be toast. And the best that could come of my experience would be as a lesson to those who might be thereby compelled to pay attention earlier to this killer’s stealth indicators.

As it is, I’m currently faced with the decision of how to deal with the progressive mitral regurgitation, which “may begin suddenly, most often after a heart attack” (Medline Plus, 2011) and my annoyingly enlarged left ventricle. It’s a deadly combination if I do nothing but I’m told that the meds I’m on & the “lifestyle changes” I’ve already made will keep me viable long enough for the docs & me to decide which kind of surgical intervention will be best: valve repair or replacement.

My own research on the subject has me leaning strongly toward a repair job, which is much less invasive and considered the safest alternative in the early stages of this syndrome. If anything is clear, as a degenerative condition it’s not going to fix itself.

If I do need a replacement sooner rather than later I’ve already decided I’m putting in for a pig valve. I hear they’re the best.



American Heart Association (2011). Silent Heart Attack

Medline Plus (2011). Mitral regurgitation – chronic. Website viewed 07/11/2011;

Suri RM, et al (2011). Management of less-than-severe mitral regurgitation: should guidelines recommend earlier surgical intervention? Eur J Cardiothorac Surg, doi:10.1016/j.ejcts.2010.11.068

Karalis D (2011). Pathophysilolgy of valvular heart disease, Drexel University College of Medicine, handout

Yuksel UC, Kapadia SR and Tuzcu EM (2011). Percutaneous mitral repair: patient selection, results, and Future directions, Curr Cardiol Report, 13:100-106. doi 10.1007/s11886-010-0158-x

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Saving Money On A Price Hike

by Dick Mac

Netflix has raised their prices.

This happens.

Many people are angry and RedBox will likely get some new customers.

Netflix knows that most consumers don't even know how to cancel their accounts, so if a thousand customers cancel, they still make a fortune from the fools who (1) pay no attention to their bills, and/or (2) can't figure out how to cancel the service.

It's not a problem for me, I actually know how to use technology and manage my money (even if sometimes poorly), and I rarely get burned by eConsumption.

I remember a site years ago where an attempt to cancel the service usually resulted in the consumer agreeing to an additional one-year commitment with a cancellation fee higher than the annual rate.

When you clicked to cancel, the page title stated in huge letters: "So you want to cancel..." and the following text explained that clicking a link would show you options; but it did not say that the option to cancel would be absent. You had to have scrolled to the very bottom of this "So you want to cancel..." page and found the teeny-tiny Contact Us link at the bottom of the page that led to the cancellation process.

The wording of the "So you want to cancel..." page was such that a long, small-print disclaimer discussing cancellation went on for scores of paragraphs and actually included a paragraph where you agreed to a contract extension. The final paragraph asked to confirm your understanding and then there was a big green button that said "Agree" and a big red "Cancel." What you were agreeing to, or cancelling, was not clear.

When you pressed "Cancel" you were not cancelling your subscription, but this current process; so you went back to the beginning and followed the same link to the same location. Few (if any) people read the long small-print text, and most would finally click "Agree", believing they were agreeing to a cancellation.

The next page was a big "Thank You for your Subscription Renewal," and a very short, concise explanation that you were good for another year, a phone number to call with problems, and an email link to write with problems; all in a bold 24-point Helvetica font.

As you might expect, nobody ever answered the phone and the voice mail box was full. When you wrote an email you received a polite, clearly written, concise and easy-to-read message highlighting the paragraph in which you agreed to pay for a year subscription or a cancellation fee that was higher than the cost of the subscription.

For the life of me I can't remember the company, but I think it was a well-known company. Maybe one of those ISP-type companies. It was a brilliant business model and it might still be going on.

Fortunately, I do not want to cancel my Netflix. We have the Unlimited Three DVD package and it works well for us. I have used the streaming, but do not have my television wired to the internet and I only ever watched at my desk -- not the way I like to watch movies. So, I am saving five bucks a month by dropping the streaming service that I never use.

Some days you bite the dog!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

RBNY Must Be Certain To Support The Supporters

by Dick Mac

Responsibility for operating a sporting venue is a huge undertaking. I am not an operations guy, and could never handle these headaches.

Red Bull New York (RBNY) has hired Chris Heck as the new President of Operations, which means he will run Red Bull Arena (RBA). Mr. Heck is most recently an NBA guy.

This is the first changing of the guard at RBA, and I am concerned about it.

RBA has some problems. There are fewer problems for the players and staff than for the paying customer, so I think the problems get lost in the self-congratulations of successfully building a FIFA-approved, world-class stadium in an industrial wasteland.

Paramount to me (no shock to my friends or readers) is the parking and transportation problem. There is enough privately-owned parking in the immediate vicinity to handle the crowd only if RBA is less than two-thirds full. Any more than that and the rest of the fans spend a ridiculous amount of time getting to the more remote parking lots and an even more ridiculous amount of time walking to the gates.

Mr. Heck insists he will increase attendance by making the match day experience memorable. I will note that he does not say it will be a positive memory, just that it will be memorable.

Before he embarks on changing the world at Harrison, New Jersey, I would like to see him attend ten home matches matches by parking in the most remote parking lot, walking his family down Rodgers Blvd., and through the acres of wasteland that fronts the stadium, then at the end of this exercise hold a press conference explaining with a straight-face that RBA is a great place to bring the family.

Since the team seems to be in denial about the difficulty of fans to get to and from the stadium, Mr. Heck's mission to increase attendance could fail. If he ignores the transit/parking issue, he will have to find other reasons why people aren't coming. And this is where I become fearful.

Remember the NBA removing long-time Knicks fans and season-ticket holders from the stands at Madison Square Garden because they held signs that were not supportive of Isaiah Thomas? It wasn't that long ago. Mr. Heck worked for those people, now he works for RBNY and MLS.

There is a notion among sports management types that fans are the problem, that fan behavior is the problem, that long-time fans who are passionate about the game are the problem. There is an amazing notion among sports management types that certain behavior must be curtailed so that some mysterious fans who've never been to the stadium will magically appear at the gates, clutching handfuls of greenbacks because the riff-raff has been dealt-with.

I remember a few years back when a long-time fan, a friend of mine, was awarded the Fan Of The Year award. When Giants Stadium filled-up with housewives trying to see David Beckham remove his shirt, he was ejected and banned for life.

I know women come to see David Beckham take his shirt off, and it's OK with me. My wife is one of them. She couldn't tell you a Jack Jewsbury from a Brek Shea, but I need to have extra tickets when Los Angeles comes to town.

In general, the story goes like this: my friend attends every match and sits in middle-priced seats with his season tickets. He cheers with the crowd, he boos with the crowd, he sings with the supporters groups, he has a good time. Those around him know him, he is a good guy, and a good neighbor at the stadium.

On Naked David Beckham Day when RBNY sells triple the number of tickets as usual, a suburban housewife was seated near him with her angelic children (children who it seems have never been exposed to other human beings). The crowd was boisterous and loud, the chants were going on and on, fans were rising and sitting and yelling and (heaven forbid) cursing. Suburban Housewife With Angelic Children, who has never been to the stadium before, complains to security that my friend is being vulgar. My friend then successfully hurls an expletive her way and it hits the bulls-eye: perfect shot, right on the money. He knows he should not have done this, but no big deal really. Come to find out, it is a big deal. He is escorted from the stadium, his name taken, told his season ticket revoked, and that he is banned for life. This is the team's fan of the year!

It is unlikely that Suburban Housewife With Angelic Children ever attended another match; she probably didn't even attend Naked David Beckham Day the next season because, well, she has now seen Naked David Beckham, has no interest in the sport or the team, and never planned to come back anyhow.

Perhaps you think this is an isolated incident. Perhaps you would be wrong.

RBNY and MLS have a fixation on this "family-friendly" concept that pretends a sporting event is akin to enjoying a couple of pieces of white bread, lightly toasted with a little butter and marmalade. Should a splash of hot coffee land atop the bread, then the entire experience is ruined and, well, somebody will pay.

RBNY and MLS also run a sporting venue at which they sell beer, so coffee often splashes on the toast. You can even get hard liquor if you pay for certain access.

Unfortunately for MLS and RBNY and their "family-friendly" notion, American families really don't look or act like an Eisenhower-era television show. They are actual living organisms and they are all different from each other. Most families know that a little coffee sometimes splashes on the toast.

The few insane people who cannot handle a little coffee splashed on the toast get all the attention, and ruin the matchday experience of the people in the stadium who are having fun. In the above example, the woman who complained about my friend was the person in the situation that had no clue what was going on around her. People like her should be kept out of sporting events. They rarely attend sporting events anyhow, so any team that caters to them is doing themselves, their shareholders, and their long-time fans a disservice. If Mr. Heck is being hired to further implement this fictional "family-friendly" concept, then we are doomed.

"Things," you say to me, "have changed since the team opened their own facility."

"Yes," I say, "to a degree."

It is true that the sections behind the south goal are reserved to accommodate supporters groups and that fans are told when they purchase reduced-price tickets in those sections that it is "standing and singing."

It appears that it is not fully explained, however, that this means everybody in the section really will be standing and really will be singing.

My understanding is that when somebody purchases these tickets, the salesperson tells the customer this, and those words are printed on the ticket. This is hearsay, but I know the team, and I know supporters, so it seems plausible.

It seems, however, that some fans interpret this to actually mean: "I Am Purchasing Reduced-Price Tickets For My Suburban Housewife With Angelic Children Who Expect To Watch The Match Unmolested As If They Are In A Luxury Suite."

What happens is that Suburban Housewife With Angelic Children is upset to learn she in the midst of a passionate soccer crowd, an actual supporters group, and her family's comfort matters to nobody. Those brazen supporters are actually standing and actually singing, and on top of that they are waving flags, and having fun. It's true: her comfort matters to nobody in that section.

Well, nobody except the security guard who believes that Suburban Housewife With Angelic Children is being treated poorly, and the supporters (who are in that section during every match) need to be punished. Said security person then takes matters into his own hands, re-interprets the unwritten policy and instead of moving Suburban Housewife With Angelic Children to another section, decides that longtime, season-ticket-holders from the supporters group are in the wrong.

What follows isn't pretty and the general attitude towards supporters groups is not positive.

Supporters group members take the brunt of the conflict resolution and Suburban Housewife With Angelic Children leaves the match at the end of the day, having disrupted the accepted and agreed-upon culture of the stadium, never to return again, because she never intended to return again anyhow.

Nothing is done to protect the supporters groups.

It is the job of the President of Operations to protect the supporters groups from such hostility and intrusion, as much as it is his responsibility to protect Suburban Housewife With Angelic Children (who has no intention of ever attending another match again).

Suburban Housewife With Angelic Children is not coming back because she has nominal interest in the sport, not because a supporter with a viking helmet waved a flag in the supporters section.

Mr. Heck's understanding of the role of the supporters groups, his efforts to get to know them, his desire to accommodate them, and his ability to protect them from less desirable elements such as the Suburban Housewife With Angelic Children who will never purchase another ticket, will define much about the near-term future operations of RBA.

If the supporters groups are alienated, or their hard-earned relationship with the front office is diminished by a new operations manager, there will be a slide in attendance that no group of Suburban Housewives With Angelic Children will ever make-up.

The local police do not understand the role of the supporters groups. The local citizenry does not understand the role of the supporters groups. Many casual fans do not understand the role of the supporters groups.

It is the job of the front office, including the operations team, to educate local police, the surrounding community, and less dedicated fans about the importance of supporters clubs to club soccer. No other sport has such a culture (certainly not the NBA with its culture of movie stars at center court), and it is imperative that Mr. Heck find a way to manage the relationship among his operations team, the front office, other fans, and our amazing supporters groups.

RBNY has the most erudite supporters groups in the league, and they are known in Europe as very smart, and very passionate. They are an asset, not a problem. They must be treasured and nurtured, not punished and restricted.

I want Mr. Heck to succeed; but I do not want him to undermine the very solid standing of the supporters groups in the hope of attracting an additional Suburban Housewife With Angelic Children, or two.

We can all co-exist, and it is the job of the front office, especially during this changing of the guard, to ensure we are all protected from the whims of new managers in a depressed economy, and the vagaries of a Suburban Housewife With Angelic Children.

I am not a suburban housewife, but I do have an angelic child who is in her fourth year as a season-ticket holder. I am not a huge fan of all of the supporters' chants now that I have my angelic child with me. She finally deciphered the real words to the Y-S-A chant, and we lived through it; she wasn't mortified and I wasn't totally embarrassed. I laugh about it now, after three years of shielding her from it. It's nothing worse than she will hear throughout her childhood at the playground or in the yard at Catholic school.

She had her first visit to one of the supporters group restaurants and she had a blast. I have secretly made her an honorary member (but don't tell anybody). She loves the excitement of the supporters groups, and at seven years old, she knows from exciting.

We like the supporters groups. They are not a problem.

Parking? Access to the stadium? Dangerously crowded concourses? Those are problems. See yesterday's blog entry!

Supporters groups? Not a problem.

Monday, July 11, 2011

RBNY Hires New Manager of Operations. Good Luck!

by Dick Mac

Red Bull New York (RBNY) opened a state-of-the-art soccer stadium in Harrison, New Jersey, last year. I understand that Red Bull Arena (RBA) is an amazing venue for the players. I am not a player, so I can only tell you that it is a less-than-amazing venue for paying customers.

Chris Heck, former Senior Vice President of Marketing Partnerships for the National Basketball Association, has been named the new President of Business Operations, for RBNY. It is hoped that he can increase attendance. Running RBA will be his job.

"My focus is to give the fans an experience," said Heck, who reports to general manager and sporting director Erik Solér. "We want them to come back — provide the fans with an experience like none other."

Erik Solér is the best GM this team ever had. He has done more for the franchise than all of his predecessors combined. One might say that a deaf, blind, paraplegic mute could do the same; but Solér has done a remarkable job nonetheless! I appreciate his efforts and I don't think I am alone. He is a good GM.

The problem for many fans visiting RBA is parking, or the lack thereof.

At current attendance levels, the privately-owned parking facilities closest to the stadium provide sufficient parking. Add seven thousand more fans and there is insufficient parking within a reasonable distance of the stadium.

These nearby facilities are the former foundry next to the stadium and the commuter garage across the street, next to the PATH station.

RBNY provides parking to employees, VIPs, and some paying customers. So, the argument that RBNY has no parking is a shoddy position from which to argue. RBNY has as much parking at RBA and near RBA as they choose to provide. The current availability of event parking is their choice, not some edict from a higher power defining their service level agreement with fans.

Like the players, those who have access to the luxury suites mention that it is a nice place - but they don't rave about the suites the way I expect them to. Friends who also have access to suites at CitiField and Yankee Stadium rave about that experience; I'm not hearing that from folks at RBA. The experience is a good experience, but nothing to write home to mom about.

Some friends with Club Seats are less-than-impressed by the amenities, but they believe things are getting better and none of them have downgraded their seats this year. More than one has pointed out that players never visit the Club as was advertised in the sales brochures, and one of the reasons to spend the extra money if you have kids.

Pub patrons were also told that, as in Giants Stadium, players would make occasional visits to the Pub to say hello to the kids. I have seen Carlos Mendes, John Wolyniec, and Danleigh Borman each visit once, and it made the kids very happy. Pub acces is not as exclusive as Club access, nor should it be; but neither is it open to the general public.

Those with access to the Pub have expressed surprise at how bad the food is while the prices continue to rise. The staff is very friendly and I am always happy to tip high; but it appears there are fewer people spending money each time I visit. The downturn in food quality has meant fewer hundred-dollar checks for me, and more twenty-dollar checks. The last time I visited the pub, my dessert was served in a filthy bowl, and the restroom was so sloshy and dirty and smelly, it reminded me of a rock club. They say you can judge an establishment and its kitchen by the cleanliness of its bathroom. YIKES!

Player access was a huge success at Giants Stadium and garnered the team millions worth of goodwill, while costing almost nothing. Seeing the look in a little boy's eyes when he shakes the hand of a Red Bulls player is priceless and would soften even the most hardened team official. I will never understand why the team has let this slip away.

I still visit the pub and will again, I hope to bring out-of-towners to the Club, and I hope to host my child's birthday party in a suite next year. That is an indication not of the value or the success of these products, it is reflective of my undying, if vocally critical, love of the team.

I think adults without families enjoy the stadium's amenities more than I do. When I attend with adults (without my family), dining, drinking, and peeing are less stressful than trying to feed a child and get in and out of restrooms. In my defense, however, I will say that dining, drinking, and peeing were much easier at Giants Stadium. RBA has some failings.

Back to the matter at hand: Heck replaces Erik Stover, who was the best operations person this franchise ever had. Stover was very good at his job and Heck has big shoes to fill. I have always been confident that Stover wanted to make the match experience better for every fan. The flaws around the stadium complex, the lack of municipal infrastructure improvements, and the team's position that they were absolved of any responsibility for this mess will sadly be part of his legacy, not beause of anything he did, but because it has been a public relations failure over which he may not have had any control.

Perhaps the team cannot politically take any public position about the surrounding infrastructure. Again, the public relations folks have to take the bull by the horns, in a manner of speaking, and just tell us what the plan is. If the plan is nothing, then say that. Admit the failure and let's move on; but vagueness continues to be the order of the day and it is frustrating for those of us who do not use matchday as an opportunity for a drunken blackout.

The most infuriating conversation I have ever had with the front office, was being told that RBA is an urban stadium and should be accessed by public transportation.

RBA is not in an urban setting, it is in an industrial wasteland. It is commendable to reclaim industrial wasteland and use it for civilization; but that acreage of Harrison is not urban. The Grand Concourse, in The Bronx, is urban and is surrounded by urban infrastructure. Yankee Stadium is an urban stadium. RBA is in the middle of nowhere.

If my business is in an urban setting, my employees should be taking public transportation to work. RBNY has plenty of parking for employees in their allegedly urban setting, which flies in the face of the notion that it is an urban setting. RBA is not an urban stadium. Citifield, Madison Square Garden, Prudential Center, Yankee Stadium -- these are urban stadia; RBA is in a remote location.

Now, for those of us who actually live in New Jersey, public transportation isn't really an option. Let's say I live in Ho-Ho-Kus or Ridgewood. It's Saturday, I've decided to see a soccer match, and I am going to pay attention to the team's suggestion that RBA is an urban stadium and even though I am a suburbanite (like almost everyone in New Jersey), I will take public transportation.

I get the wife and two kids into the car to start the 25 mile trip to Harrison. I drive to Ho-Ho-Kus train station for the 1724 Train toward Hoboken at 5:29 P.M. Then I switch at Secaucus for the 7265 Train toward Long Branch at 6:25 P.M. Then I switch at Newark Penn Station for the 6:30 P.M. PATH train to Harrison, arriving at 6:32 P.M. Our total cost for the sixty-two minute, three-train, one-way trip is $34.50. Add three bucks for parking back home, and the round-trip, six train, two car ride, 2.5 hour round-trip commute that ends after midnight costs $72.00! I haven't purchased tickets yet.

The existing PATH station cannot handle current attendance levels. If we add seven thousand more fans, and ask them to take the PATH because we have no parking, they are in the same jam: insufficient resources to handle the increase in traffic.

Of course, nobody is going to use public transportation to get their family from Ho-Ho-Kus to Harrison, they are going to drive and the parking costs ten bucks; but, the stadium doesn't have any parking.

This brings us to another story. A recurring story. I have had this conversation at least five times in these two seasons, which means it must have happened to at least fifty families, if not five hundred. I have not had the conversation recently, but this particular parking nightmare doesn't happen at current attendance levels. Once Mr. Heck adds 7,000 fans to the stadium, this story becomes real again.

You arrive in Harrison about thirty minutes before kick-off - enough time to walk the length or breadth of Harrison. The officials charged with directing traffic through a maze of Nintendo-like pathways to parking lots seem to be either (1) clueless as to their objective, or (2) directing drivers to the parking lot that has paid them the biggest gratuity for the business (and is furthest from the stadium). This fiasco eats-up all of the half-hour, and you have not yet parked the car.

You get the kids out of the car and start the long, half-mile trek; but as you approach RBA, you are not allowed to cross Rodgers Boulevard at a logical place, you are forced to walk an extra eighth-mile, then and down the long vacant street that bisects the 24 acres of desolation fronting RBA, and you are now at the "front door."

The front door is for patrons with Club or Suite tickets, and those tickets come with valet and/or nearby parking so those ticket holders haven't just walked half-a-mile to get there. You now walk back in the direction of the lot you left, because you weren't allowed to cross the street at a logical place, and you enter the stadium there. So, although you arrived with your family in your car, in front of the stadium a half-hour before kick-off, it is now up to 20 minutes into play, the kids are no longer having any fun and are tired, you aren't in your seats, nobody has yet peed, you have no refreshments, and everyone is miserable. Can you say angry daddy: angry daddy who controls the family's purse strings?

Five fathers -- total strangers -- have said to me on that walk: "Never again, I will never come here again." My calculation is that if five fathers have said that to me without being asked, then anywhere from 50 to five hundred fathers feel that way. At Giants Stadium you could arrive a half-hour before kick-off, park in the furthest spot away from the gates, and still be in your seat for kick-off. Why? They have parking that they control and they manage it properly.

Erik Stover's staff always maintained a cavalier attitude about parking access. Chris Heck can maintain that attitude, and the silly position about public transportation, and the marketing department can continue to pretend it is neither the team's fault, nor the team's responsibility; but, this is a problem for families trying to attend matches when attendance levels are high.

I have learned how to get my family in and out of the area for matches. It took quite a few matches for town officials to develop a plan last year (and they were not very nice about it), and then it took me a few more matches to figure out how to navigate their bad decisions. But, now we are in the second season and I arrive early to get good parking.

But, not too early.


Well, if I arrive at the privately-owned parking lot next to RBA too early, I have to take the uncovered parking spots furthest from the gates. Those who ignore team advice and arrive later are rewarded with the best indoor spots and the shortest walk.

A new twist was added a few matches ago when somebody decided to change the traffic pattern for entering the adjacent privately-owned parking lot, and now traffic is directed the length of the wastelands to enter the parking lot from the rear, creating a tangle of traffic interspersed with pedestrians (some of whom have taken public transportation), the length of the street, then into a driveway across which families who have just parked must now cross, creating a second tangle of cars and people that is downright dangerous. The staff does not seem to notice this problem and they just stand there yelling at people.

Anyone else seeing a disconnect here between the club's guidance and the provision of paid services?

The other option is the parking garage on the other side of Rodgers Boulevard. That option requires the round-about walk to the gates described above - but, at least the people in the garage seem to know what they are doing. My criticism of that garage is that it exits to an indirect route to the highway, through a residential neighborhood. This has to stink for the residents. More infrastructure and logistics failures.

If every car leaving this garage was directed South along Rodgers Boulevard, and every car leaving the foundry was directed North along Rodgers Boulevard, then the traffic flow would be contained and controlled. It might be slower going, but it would remove the stress on the local residents and minimalist infrastructure, and create a pattern that fans could learn and understand.

I am certain that everybody at RBNY can explain exactly why this is not something the team can control. This position means that the team has failed. If a team has no control over the flow of fans to and from its facility, then that team has failed. RBNY chooses to abdicate responsibility and has yet to announce any viable plan for remediation. If Heck wants to even consider a family attending a second match, he has to address this.

I don't know if there is a real solution, but I know there is acre upon acre upon acre of vacant land fronting RBA, and if RBNY fails to take control of that land, turn it into parking and whatever else they want, along with logistics to move 25,000 people in and out of the area, then RBA will be an albatross forever. If the pre-failed, mixed-use development that is planned for that acreage ever gets built, things will be worse. RBNY has to stop that development. If that development must get built, perhaps RBNY should negotiate a two- or three-level underground garage to supplement the nearby private parking lots. If RBNY does nothing, then fewer new fans will arrive in the coming years.

My fellow fans who are not parents think I am overly dramatic about this. I am dramatic only because the team is so cavalier about it. If the team cared about this, then I would tone down my criticism, but the term "lip-service" doesn't describe the team's approach to the situation, and utter denial appears to be the official position.

Early arrival, at the direction of the team, can also mean standing around in the blazing sun (or rain). The entertainment is a great idea, but the only pre-game shaded area is inside the stadium proper -- away from the entertainment? And since this urban paradise is actually an industrial wasteland, it's more than a half-mile to the closest restaurant.

Once I get inside RBA, the problems don't stop. Last year I assumed it was was freshman jitters and the problems would be overcome. Water bubblers were installed to bring the stadium up to minimum health code standards, which was good; but the flow of foot traffic in the concourse is actually worse this year.

Older sports stadia were designed with insufficient concession stands, so most have added portable concession stands opposite the built-in concessions, taking-up most (and sometimes all) of the walking space for which a concourse exists. It's easy to forgive Fenway Park and Wrigely Field for this limitation. They were built a long time ago and the world got bigger on them.

RBA was designed in this century, and should have wide concourses and plenty of built-in concessions. It doesn't. So scores of portable carts have been inserted in the walkways, making the walk to and from the refreshments and toilets a ridiculous feat. Some of the portable beer lines cross the entire concourse blocking, literally, everybody.


I wish it stopped there; but it's actually worse than this.

Here are some crazy notions that might improve things:
  • Convince the Harrison police and the municipal government to cooperate with moving people in and out in a friendly manner (instead of bitterly treating us as a grave inconvenience).

  • Remove the portable concessions from the concourse so people can walk to and from the actual concessions. If you didn't build enough concession then too bad - less money for you.

  • Teach "security" the difference between an interloper trying to sneak into someone else's seats and a man standing out-of-the-way, waiting for his young daughter to finish in the ladies' room. Then teach that "security" person that one is OK and the other isn't. How can I be told to move along - in a threatening manner - because I am blocking the concourse (which I am not) while a portable concession line twenty feet away is blocking everyone?

  • Close the pub, or open it, or something. You blew it with the pub - it's a failure.

  • Put some pre-match events besides the in-stadium beer garden in the shade.

  • Say thank you once in a while. Really. At my office I say thank you to people and they appreciate it.

  • Get rid of the money-charged members cards! Most of your concessionaires have no idea how to use the technology - it's been 2 years and there is a lot of failure. I was in a members-only line on July 9th and left the line to pay cash in the regular line.

  • Open a souvenir shop that has two public entrances and enough cash registers to earn you some money. The idea is that you display team items and we can purchase them in less than 45 minutes. If RBA starts selling-out, you'll sell no additional merchandise because we can't buy it. I would love to purchase more stuff. Have you tried to buy stuff in the Bull Shop?

  • There are no concessions on the West side of the stadium. Plenty of empty seats in the pub and club, though!

  • Shutter the Bull Shop/Club/Pub complex, rip them out and design something that works not just for eleven billionaires from Yankee Stadium, but thousands of paying customers at Red Bull Arena. There is NO WAY that real estate is making a profit, or even paying for itself in the current paradigm.

  • Move the Club upstairs with the suites, and create a huge pub for all season ticket holders and don't pretend it's a Manhattan brasserie! When I want a Manhattan brasserie, I go to Manhattan and I eat in a brasserie! This is an arena, I want a burger and a coke, maybe a piece of cake and perhaps a cocktail or two for my guests. It can be nice, but it doesn't have to be the absurd failure you have created. Remember the pub at Giants Stadium with it's expensive, shitty food. Make one of those instead of a tarted-up pub with a tarted-up menu of expensive, shitty food!

  • Bring back the full NAWT program that includes expired tix. Better to give me freebies with which I bring extra fans than have all those empty seats. Are we even selling as many tickets as we did at Giants Stadium? I am beginning to think we sell less seats here. If I bring two more fans they come in my car; if you distribute free tickets to a new person, they bring another car that you cannot accommodate.

  • Get the players back to the kids. That has been a big loss and you gained nothing by stopping it; you will gain plenty of goodwill by reintroducing it. I'll bet that some families will forget how much they hate the trip to the stadium if the kid goes home with Austin Da Luz's autograph or a picture with Corey Hertzog!

  • Have your entire staff (from the most important toilet cleaner all the way down to the general manager) take lessons from your season-ticket reps. They treat us like gold, they treat us as if we pay the salaries, they treat us as if they want us to come back again next year, or even the next match. You say that you want more fans? Prove it. As Oscar Wilde said upon his release from prison: "If that's the way the Queen treats her prisoners, then she doesn't deserve to have any." This fits like a glove.

  • Build a parking lot. The current parking situation accommodates the half-filled stadium. More fans need more parking.
When you do none of these things, I will still come to matches. I love the team and it's going to take more than a failed business plan and bad infrastructure to push me away. Some of these changes might bring new fans. As RBA stands today, in a vast industrial wasteland, in a town that hates you, without a parking lot, you have no hope of improving attendance.

Take action.

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