Air Force One touched down in Arkansas on Wednesday so President Barack Obama could comfort state residents and promise them government help after tornadoes killed 15 people in the state two and a half weeks ago. Then he jetted off to California for the real reason for his trip, a three-day fundraising jaunt to raise money for the Democratic Party, to accept an award from a foundation created by wealthy backer and movie director Steven Spielberg, and to discuss his energy policy.
All presidents comfort residents after natural disasters and all presidents raise money for their parties, but this president has made fundraising -- in the midst of five-plus years of a dragging economy -- a higher priority than previous chief executives.
Tickets for Wednesday night's House Senate Victory fund at the home of Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn and his wife, Cindy, were $10,000 per person, including dinner and a photo-op. Couples who paid $32,400 were listed as sponsors and could take part in a VIP reception. Those who ponied up $64,800 per couple were listed as hosts and could take part in a "VIP clutch."
Among the attendees were Barbra Streisand, James Brolin, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Tom Rothman, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Michael Bennett, D.-Col.
Per usual, Obama's remarks blamed problems on "a Washington that's not working," those who "don't believe government can do anything" and a "downward spiral of even more cynicism," which he curiously said happens only in midterm elections but not in presidential elections.
Alexander: At Least, Help Us
When U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., was the first Republican speaker at the 2010 White House Health Care Summit, he warned that individual premiums would rise under Obamacare. Other Republican speakers there said the law would increase the general cost of health care, people would lose their choice of doctors, policies would be canceled, workers would lose jobs, taxes would go up and Medicare beneficiaries would be harmed.
On Thursday at a hearing on the Obama administration's nominee of Sylvia Burwell as secretary of Health and Human Services, he reminded her, as if she didn't know, that "all of these things have happened."
He also pressed her to support Republican reform proposals that, among other things, would allow Americans to keep the health care plans they have, buy insurance policies sold in other states, purchase major medical policies and use more of their money tax-free on health expenses through expanded health savings accounts.
It's not likely Obamacare will be repealed in the last two years of the president's term, but Alexander was asking the nominee to listen to Americans who have suffered under the Affordable Care Act and its trickle-down pain and consider what she might do to at least relieve their misery.
Baseball Will Take A Village
Fewer and fewer blacks are playing baseball -- on neighborhood streets, in organized youth leagues and in Major League Baseball. That's a shame.
Before the National Football League and the National Basketball Association became dominated by black athletes -- 66.6 percent of NFL players and 76.3 percent of NBA players are black -- professional baseball was the ticket out of hard times for many black youths.
From the 1950s through the 1990s, story after story chronicled the difference baseball made in the lives of so many blacks, people such as Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Bob Gibson, Ozzie Smith, Tony Gwynn, Eddie Murray and Barry Bonds.
The number of blacks in Major League Baseball rose to, depending on the source, 27 percent or 19 percent in 1975. However, a report released Wednesday indicated the 2014 number is 8.2 percent.
Online sources indicate the percentage remained in the high teens for about 20 years but began to drop in the mid-1990s.
Reasons vary, but the rise in Latin and Asian players, the success of former NBA superstar Michael Jordan, the lack of males to serve as coaches, and the cost of playing the game (a basketball and a hoop vs. gloves, bats, balls, cleats and maintained field) have been cited.
Major League Baseball instituted a task force in 2013 to consider a way to increase black participation in the game, and people such as former MLB executive Jimmie Lee Solomon have created hands-on Urban Youth Academies to address the situation, but it will take more widespread local interest, parents, volunteers and even the youths themselves to imagine a future that includes getting a hit in the seventh game of the World Series for things to change.