Twenty-six good men.
The first President George Bush, Number 41, must have recently hired a new PR firm. He's been in the news a lot lately, with his flashy new socks, an awards ceremony at the White House, and then yesterday, photos of him all over the media with his head shaved in support of a little boy being treated for leukemia. The little boy is the son of a member of Bush's taxpayer-funded Secret Service detail, and one of the photos shows the detail - which actually, isn't a detail, but a platoon.
Twenty-six guys! All guarding the former president and his wife at their luxurious island compound in Maine during summers, and their winter home in Houston.
Saddam Hussein is dead, and he was the only person we ever knew of who wanted Bush dead. So, while I don't begrudge any former president a Secret Service "detail," whatever goodwill Bush hoped to generate with the head-shaving stunt is lost on me as I gaze that that sea of bald men my taxes are paying for.
Funny how right-wingers aren't up in arms over this photo like I am.
Speaking of being up in arms, I was driving near Cowboys Stadium here in Arlington yesterday evening, and I noticed all of the side streets were blocked off, which they normally are when an event is being held at our enormous landmark. Whether it's a Dallas Cowboys home game, a rock music concert, a basketball game, or a college football game, Arlington police close off residential streets so they don't get clogged with cars whose drivers don't want to pay something in the neighborhood of $50 to park on stadium lots.
Not being a sports nut, I figured there must be a rock concert or something. As I learned later, however, it was a pair of soccer matches: the semi-final round for the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament being held across the United States. Last night, four national teams competed for the two spots in the final match, which will be played in Chicago on July 28. For the record, the United States and Panama advanced to the final and will be playing on Soldier Field's legendary gridiron.
Well, at least they'll be playing at Soldier Field in Chicago. Who knows what they'll be playing on. Last night, they were playing here in Arlington at a widely-heralded stadium that the Dallas Cowboys' owner, Jerry Jones, likes to boast is the most meticulously-run sports palace in the world. He and his wife plunked down millions of their own personal money for permanent public artwork in the stadium, and he spared no expense in the building's design or construction.
soccer fans were aghast to see strips of faded, parched grass rolled out onto the bare concrete floor of the stadium's playing surface, with green-colored sand stuffed in cracks and gaps between the rolls of turf. Sports fans today have been talking more about the appalling turf than the game itself. Indeed, the reason I now know that a prestigious soccer tournament took place there last night is because this morning, as I fired up my laptop and began surfing the news, I saw stories by reporters howling in dismay at the embarrassment of such shoddy sod.
Turns out, it appears that Jerry Jones may have had little to do with the selection and installation of the grass used for the two matches. CONCACAF is the organization responsible for the execution of its branded events, and it's not like they were dealing with soccer neophytes at Cowboys Stadium. We've had a number of international soccer matches at the stadium without any grass controversy, and they're big money-makers for Jones, who's trying to lure north Texas' burgeoning population of Hispanics into his football palace not just for "futbol," but America's sports cash cow of the same name.
In fact, speaking of Jerry Jones and money, Cowboys Stadium may have been where the Gold Cup semi-finals were played last night, but Cowboys Stadium no longer exists today. At noontime, Jones, along with an AT&T executive and Arlington's mayor, announced that new naming rights for the stadium have been purchased by the communications giant, which already owns naming rights on other sports venues across the country.
Something tells me that one of the first things AT&T told Jones after the press conference today was that now, since their name is on the stadium, there'd better not be any more green sand fiascoes.
Bankrupt In More Ways Than One?
And speaking of sports palaces, word is leaking out of beleaguered, bankrupt Detroit that the city is going to pay $284.5 million to a Michigan billionaire so he can build a new home for the Red Wings hockey franchise that he owns.
The total cost of what's expected to be a sprawling multi-use project close to downtown Motown is $650 million, so Detroiters are getting a bargain, if you believe city officials and the state's governor, who complained that the only critics finding fault with this deal "are people from outside of Michigan."
Well, duh! Isn't it obvious by now that Michigan residents in general, and Detroit residents in particular, tolerate way too much funny money math? With a city that is supposedly $18 billion or so in debt, and facing the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history, perhaps only Michigan taxpayers can laugh about spending nearly a third of a billion more on a hockey house.
Hey - believe me: I know how much those folks up there love their hockey. My brother and his family live in suburban Detroit, and they're all nuts about the sport. But fan loyalty aside, and considering that Joe Louis Arena, a supposedly legendary home for the Red Wings, was only built in 1979, and is actually owned by the city of Detroit, which will either have to find a new tenant for it or - what else, considering this is Detroit? - tear it down, how does this really figure into the logic of new life for Detroit's financial future?
It's widely known outside of political circles that sports venues do not create good-paying permanent jobs, nor do they warrant the economic development hype politicians like to sell to a gullible, emotionally-driven taxpayer base. It's hard for anybody to not want something new and shiny if they're being told they're not really paying for it. For proof, look at the irresponsible fiscal mindset that has already helped mire the Motor City in its debt quagmire.
And speaking of irresponsible, today Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn added fuel to a fire nobody has yet lit regarding a federal bailout of Detroit. Nobody in Michigan or Detroit has officially asked for a federal bailout, nor has Kevin Orr, the city's state-appointed manager. The Obama administration has been cool - almost icy - to the idea of a federal bailout. But still, Republican agitators can't resist bucking for popularity points back home by waving a red herring over Detroit's demise with talk of a federal bailout.
Something tells me that Michigan's governor and Detroit's city council don't understand the folly the rest of America considers Detroit to now be. Yes, it's juvenile and premature for Republicans across the country to lob partisan boulders at what few windows remain unbroken amongst Detroit's blight. However, the city's politicos might not be so jubilant as plans progress for a new hockey arena, and Detroit's creditors - and detractors - continue to pontificate over the scraps left on the city's once formidable dinner table.
Kinda like the affable former president - confined to a wheelchair, no less - supposedly needing a small army of bodyguards.
Then again, maybe it's just me being cynical. Hey - if somebody else is paying, why should we care?