naked fracas*
ESSAYS AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY JERRY SCHARF
line decor
line decor

WELCOME

 
 

Thanks, Guys

Few things relax my brow and soothe my soul like the annual TD Invitational golf weekend. It involves a dozen guys, a lot of golf (36 holes a day!), cigars, great food and open-hearted willingness to share life's triumphs and trials.

Like Yale's Skull and Bones Club, all proceedings are held in deep confidence, but I will share some photos from the weekend...

 
 
  MICHAEL'S PASSING
 

He was one of those friends with whom you passed ungainly (and often unseemly) formative years. He's heard all of your hare-brained schemes and you, his. He's seen you at your best and your worst. He's seen you full-of-yourself and he's seen you utterly depleted. He's seen you in love and lovesick. You shared long hours at crappy, part-time jobs with him and brilliant days at favorite fishing spots. Your senses of humor and taste in most things melded--especially beer and music. Eventually, your lives gained enough traction to move you in different directions.

You didn't stay in touch, yet you still know him to his core. His strengths. His weaknesses. Everything that's beautiful about him. Everything that's maddening about him. The thought of him makes you smile and you know that, 20 years from now, it still will.

His creativity seemed effortless. Playing with a camera, or paint or a piece of wood he could suddenly produce something that had simple genius in it. "Cool, huh?" he'd say. The discovery was all he seemed to need. There was no urge to turn it into something epic or even saleable. He found joy simply and easily.

You shared a love of nature, but while you needed to know it, he needed only to be in it. As the two of you entered your 20s, these differences began to feed a vaguely hostile competition. It made it easier for us to leave one another behind.

On a day when your life is crowded with drama--at work and at home--you get the news that he is dying. It is like an unexpected thunderclap that stiffens your back and leaves you unable to think beyond the moment.

You want to get to him to share your memories... Working together... Fishing together... Summer days in Brigantine... Racing the MGB... His thrifty dad's wildly indignant horror at finding us drinking "Dollar a bottle beer!"

But it's too late. He's too sick and begs the visit off.

Just a few weeks later you learn he's gone. As you reflect on losing one of your oldest friends, you hope that he knew how much you admired his artistic spirit, his deep sense of fairness, his honesty and his intolerance of pretentiousness. And you realize how rare such a friend is, and how big a part they play in who you are.

 

Five Reasons Why I’m Voting for Barack Obama

#1 He averted a cataclysmic economic disaster in our country and he did it through a Congress that was uniformly acting like children.

Although ignored as boring by simpletons in our news media, and subjected to a tidal wave of outlandish lies and distortions by Republicans, the American Recovery Act (stimulus act) was a very good, necessary and positive thing.

In the last months of George Bush’s presidency, our national economy was retracting at unprecedented rates 4 times worse than what was seen before the Great Depression.

A massive program of “timely, targeted and temporary public spending” was uniformly agreed as absolutely necessary. Despite childish behavior on the part of Democrats, and unforgiveable political gamesmanship from Republicans, the president managed to get the stimulus passed.

And it had a tremendous impact.

In Pennsylvania alone, the Recovery Act has

> Paved nearly 1,000 miles of roads,

> Provided power for more than 35,000 homes through wind and other clean-energy projects

> Enabled energy-efficiency improvements to power another 16,000 homes

> Provided broadband Internet to more than 900 schools, 140 libraries, and more than 250 healthcare providers

> Filled a more than $2.5 billion state budget gap and, according to the Keystone Research Center, prevented Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate from soaring to 14 percent.

Although smeared by outlandish lies told through an orchestrated Republican PR campaign, the Recovery Act is doing astonishing good while remaining essentially scandal-free (out of $950 billion, only $7 million has been associated with scams or thievery.) That’s because of its unparalleled transparency (go to www.recovery.gov to see for yourself).

You may not realize it, but the Recovery Act also included the largest Middle Class tax cut since Reagan’s.

The fact that you don’t know this is actually a testament to Obama’s character. Politically, the president was told, it would be best to send people fat checks, like George Bush did in his $300 billion Stimulus package that sent $300 to every taxpayer and $600 to couples.

But, economists told Obama that people will simply bank a fat check, providing little or no stimulus effect. That’s what happened with Bush’s stimulus initiative.

Instead, it was recommended to Obama that the tax cut be implemented by reducing everyone’s federal payroll tax withholdings. The average American’s take-home pay increased by more than $60 per month, but most of them didn’t even know it! As a result, the money wasn’t banked, it was spent, providing the economic stimulus it was designed to provide. The president did the right thing—not the politically expedient thing.

The president also followed the advice of top economists who said stimulus spending directed at the poor and middle-class will have a much better stimulative effect than directing money at the rich, who tend not to change their spending rate as easily as lower-income people.

That’s why the president emphasized extended unemployment benefits, food stamps and helping to keep cops and teachers employed. Not only did it keep that money circulating when it was needed, but it helped a lot of people stave off foreclosures, homelessness and other personal crises that would have made the recession he inherited much worse.

As a result of Obama’s leadership, there is a marked improvement in our economy. Unemployment is steadily declining. Consumer confidence, which was at a 40-year low the month before Obama began his term, is now at a 4-year-high. The stock market has recovered. Our economy is growing again.

2) I don’t blame the Republicans for starting America’s economic crisis. I blame them for making it catastrophically worse.

I know our woes began in foolish Wall Street schemes, a massive real estate bubble, corporations’ increased willingness to boost profits by shipping American jobs offshore, and other factors.

Both Republicans and Democrats can share blame in all that.

What I blame the Republicans for is exacerbating the economic crisis by simultaneously starting two wars and then gutting our national treasury with massive tax cuts for the wealthy (80% of the Bush tax cuts went to the top 1% of income earners).

Mitt Romney, from the few details he has revealed of his economic plan, will continue the policies that have benefitted the rich while hurting the middle class—cutting taxes while spending more. That is simply unsustainable. That is what took us to the brink of economic disaster in the first place.

#3 Although I believe abortion is a tragedy, I strongly believe that the government should not hold dominion over the uterus of a woman.

A woman’s uterus is an intensely personal and sacred place. What happens there should be between the woman, her doctor, and God. That includes the personal tragedy of abortion. It should be between the woman and God alone.

I shouldn’t have any say in the matter.

Todd Akin should not have any say in the matter.

For as long as the life inside a woman’s womb cannot be sustained on its own, it is an integral part of her own being. The government should not have power over her or the choices with which she is confronted.

That’s what I believe. I know Obama has similar beliefs.

I have no idea what Romney believes, as he has claimed to be both for and against reproductive rights for women.

I do know that the Republican platform includes a plank calling for the elimination of reproductive rights for women.

That’s a fact.

It’s also a fact that Romney’s running mate has clearly said he favors the elimination of reproductive rights for women even in cases of rape and incest.

Of all the excesses of government over-reach I have ever heard, that is by far the very worst.

4) I favor equal rights for homosexuals. Like Obama, my views on this are of rather recent vintage. Frankly, the more homosexuals I got to know, the more I realized that they are no different from me. They want to love and be loved. They want to be able to celebrate committed relationships. That’s a wonderful thing.

I’ve been married for more than 30 years. My marriage is the thing I cherish most in my life. I know a lot of married people feel the same way.

It makes me positively furious to think that all of my friends cannot fully share in the profound personal and social benefits of a recognized, committed relationship.

That’s my opinion. I know Obama’s beliefs are similar to mine.

I have no idea what Romney believes, as he has claimed to be both for and against equal rights for people regardless of sexual orientation. (How anyone can trust, much less support, a man expressing so many two-faced views is beyond me!)

5) “Obamacare” is a good thing. I’ve looked long and hard for credible evidence that it is a bad thing. I have not heard a single, substantive criticism of it. All I have heard is general, inspecific and often hyperbolic claims that it will destroy American healthcare and perhaps America itself!

I recognize that Obamacare is not perfect, but it’s at least a good start. That’s more than Republicans have done in more than four decades of paying lip service to the national disgrace and immorality of 30+ million Americans without access to healthcare. And, “no,” the emergency room is not healthcare!

What sickens me most about people who complain about Obamacare, is the fact that they never mention the 30 million Americans that have no access to healthcare under the current system. As a Christian, I cannot accept such a system.

Do I want unelected government officials in charge of my healthcare? No, but if the choice is that or profit-motivated health insurance executives in charge of my healthcare, I'll choose the former, thanks.

I know Obama is not perfect. No one is perfect. But, for those five things alone, I am compelled to vote for him. I think his course is, by far, the best one for our country.

READ MORE:

The more you read about the American Recovery Act, the more you will appreciate its significance:

http://www.amazon.com/The-New-Deal-ebook/dp/B006JDFJO4

Slate review of Grunwald book

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dorian-de-wind/vote-is-barack-obama_b_2072998.html

 

 

 
  NOW, THAT'S BRAND MANAGEMENT
 

The only thing harder than developing a strong brand is managing one.

I was reminded of this while watching The Masters golf tournament this spring. Although The Masters brand is not one of my favorites, I adore the event for hundreds of reasons, not the least of which is its incredible ability to limit commercial interruptions of the tournament telecasts.

The tournament is a glittering example of the power of brand development and management. From its very beginning in 1934, it has commanded respect and admiration. This was due to the clarity of vision and promotional genius of founders Bobby Jones and Cliff Roberts.

Jones and Roberts are gone now, but their mark on The Masters seems likely to last for a long time. I say this after watching a press conference with William Porter Payne, Augusta National's new chairman. Having distinguished himself in business and civic involvement, you would expect he would command some deference. And he did. Afterall, this was the guy who achieved the impossible. He organized the effort to bring the 2000 Olympics to Atlanta.

In the interview, Payne was asked what mark he hoped to leave on the Augusta National club and the tournament. Without pause, he replied that only two people will ever have left their marks on Augusta National--Bobby Jones and Cliff Roberts.

All the rest of us will just come and go, Payne said. That was not modesty talking. That reflected a profound understanding of what is required to build a brand and what is required to uphold a brand.

One requires clear vision. The other requires clear dedication to that vision.

 
  NAKED FRACAS?
 

Explaining a joke, E.B. White once said, is like dissecting a frog (you can do it, but the frog tends to die in the process). Nonetheless, I'm providing this explanation of the name Naked Fracas to make sure no one gets the idea it's anything creepy, and for my daughter, who upon first visiting the site immediately said: 'What's a frack ass?'

Naked Fracas was the name I always imagined my rock band would be called. As it now appears there is a marginal chance that I will never be the leader of a rock band, I'm using the name here.

Its genesis was a comment I once read or overheard. Someone said that if they had a rock band, they would call it Free Beer, so that the clubs they played would have to put up a sign "Free Beer tonight." Recalling a newspaper story I had read about a wild bar fight (something like 'Ten Hurt in Naked Fracas') I decided 'Naked Fracas tonight' would be an even better draw.

 
© 2008 Gerald J. Scharf | All Rights Reserved