Wednesday, July 23, 2014

APUSH Research Paper: Gilded Age Regulatory Failure and the Betrayal of the Jeffersonian Ideal

     Throughout the late 18th and early 19th century, the United States of America reached a previously unmatched level of economic prosperity. Free from government intrusion and unburdened by red-tape regulation, the economy was allowed to proceed to new heights. New systems of production and efficiency were being integrated into the workplace, the factory system was evolving, and many of the world’s richest men were building their fortunes. Business, was, in short, booming. However, this prosperity failed to reach a large portion of Americans. Beneath the alluring veneer of the American capitalist system lay a rotting foundation, a corruption of the values on which the nation was based. Business concerns trumped human concerns, labor was commoditized and its organization was vehemently opposed. In a gross distortion of the Jeffersonian ideal of independence, workers were dependent upon the so-called “captains of industry.” Monopolies and trusts were allowed to set prices to eliminate competition. Efforts by the federal government to prevent such actions were rendered ineffective for multiple reasons. Through the laissez-faire system, Supreme Court decisions, and overly vague laws, attempts at regulation during the Gilded Age, or lack thereof, failed, representing the failure of the federal government to uphold the values upon which it was built.
 To truly understand the actions, or lack thereof, of government in regards to business and regulation, one must first recognize the central dogma behind early-American governance: laissez-faire capitalism. The United States of America was founded upon the legendary guarantee to life, liberty, and property, and as such sought to protect the rights of all of its constituents to such entities. Free markets, it was believed, were the products of free men. Laissez-faire capitalism and the popular Jeffersonian view of America necessitated that man, and by extension his property, be free from the unnecessary burdens and subservience inherent in government action (Laissez-faire, 1). Property was the ultimate expression of liberty. Material possessions not only offered a method of personal expression but also served as a manifestation of one’s independence. He who owned his property controlled his destiny. To confiscate property or to regulate it would represent the government crushing the rights of a citizen to self-expression and his liberty. As such, large-scale attempts to regulate trade and rein in business were largely non-existent.

       The corollary explaining the relationship between liberty and property extended quite nicely into the world of finance and the aggrandizement of wealth. In the Gilded Age, the market, as mentioned above, was experiencing a period of unmatched prosperity. Government action was therefore unnecessary. In the event of a the market would adjust under the influence of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” (Nederman, 1). The most prominent example this mindset can be found in interaction between the federal government and monopolies. Built in a time of nonexistent antitrust laws, monopolies were the preeminent product of the economic climate. Monopolies were seen as naturally developing and to break up or hinder the growth of such large conglomerates would be an attack on the personal freedom and property of the owner and its constituents. However, by failing to regulate such large corporations and unquestionably embracing the laissez-faire mindset, the United States effectively abandoned the small local companies and individuals that were unfortunate enough to be competing with such large entities. Left without a viable alternative in the marketplace, American consumers were therefore dependent upon the monopolies for the production of various widgets, most notably oil, steel, and sugar. Regardless, regulation was avoided, leaving the small-business owner and the consumer at the mercy of large, profit-oriented corporations.

     Another reason Gilded Age policy failed is that Monopolies and trusts were notoriously difficult to regulate. However, in light of the Jeffersonian ideal, their assault upon national values and the American ethos of independence, especially regarding property and reasonable degrees of economic freedom, was arguably more appalling. An excellent example is the first truly “big business” in the history of the United States, the railroad industry. Railroads, supported by government subsidy and land grants, were notorious for price-gouging and for cooperation between companies. Furthermore, the companies often utilized rebates and bulk-shipping discounts to cater towards larger, more profitable ventures (Smith, 1). Because smaller lines were often unable to afford giving such large discounts and remain solvent, larger railroad pools obtained great fortunes exerting newfound influence upon clients. The small farmers were left without an alternative to bring their goods to market. However, much larger businesses, most notably John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, received discounts and more favorable shipping (Tarbell, 267–269, 274–277, 287–288, 292). Again, a dependency emerged under a government supposedly supporting the values of independence and freedom. Despite their natural opposition to the values of independence and self-sufficiency, as a dependent, alternative-less consumer-base was conducive to larger profits, any efforts to rein in big business were rebuffed and ultimately fruitless, the railroads being a prominent example.

     On a strictly legal level, the first legislative attempts at regulating such practices were generally ineffective as trusts, by nature, existed outside of the public eye. Through interlocking directorates and the exploitation of legal loopholes, trusts were comprised of seemingly independent companies though all of which were ultimately controlled by a select group of individuals (Roosevelt, 2). However, the Sherman Antitrust Act, though it did dramatically increase the regulatory scope and strength of the federal government, was largely ineffective. It failed to define what constituted a restraint in trade. Consequently, only eighteen antitrust lawsuits were filed from 1890-1901, four of which were actually filed against labor unions. Among the aforementioned railroads, under the Interstate Commerce Act, from 1887-1911 only sixteen were brought to trial. The federal government won only one case (Regulation, 7). Furthermore, the failure to effectively regulate big business could also stem from corruption of the legislature, as one observer stated that “Rockefeller did everything with the Pennsylvania legislature except refine it.” (Lloyd, 4) Business had surpassed government as the true controller of the nation, leaving the nation dependent and thriving in a negligent system.

     Government action of the time indicated a strong bias towards business interests rather than human concerns. A key example can be found in the reactionary approach towards organized labor. During the Gilded Age, workers were being hired in droves in order to increase production. However, rather than the independent and somewhat expressive work found throughout the previous century, labor was reduced to a series of wrote motions; workers were little more than a cog in a machine—as satirized by actor Charlie Chaplin in his film Modern Times. Tasks were standardized, the production was timed and expedited, and quotas were drafted. Humanity had no place in the factory (Manifesto of the Industrial Workers of the World, 1). Unfortunately, the vital role workers played was not well compensated. Workers were paid poorly because wages were brought down by the rapid influx of desperate immigrants. They often lived in tenement housing owned by their respective employers. Left with little spending money, as workers were forced to pay rent to employers and shop at company stores, many members of American society found themselves in abject poverty. As described in the Manifesto of the Industrial Workers of the World:

His (the worker’s) wages constantly grow less as his hours grow longer and monopolized prices grow higher. Shifted hither and thither by the demands of profit-takers the laborer's home no longer exists. In this helpless condition he is forced to accept whatever humiliating conditions his master may impose. He is submitted to a physical and intellectual examination more searching than was the chattel slave when sold from the auction block (Manifesto of Industrial Workers of the World, 1)

 This was quite clearly a corruption of the Lowell system made famous a century before. Such depravity was best shown by photojournalist Jacob Riis in his exposé on American urban life How the Other Half Lives. With no minimum wage to fall back upon and given the proliferation of child labor entire families were left dependent upon their employers. Living in urban slums without access to clean air, water, let alone personal property, the extortion of labor was a gross abandonment of the right to property and liberty (Byington, 1). Even Jefferson himself stated in his inaugural address said:

A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities (Jefferson, 3).

     The governmental policies of the Gilded Age failed to uphold the Jeffersonian standards, focusing only upon one part—the lack of regulation—of the statement, rather than the humanitarian and demand for equality woven into the remaining portions.

     With mouths to feed and bills to pay, many individuals sought to form trade unions in order to receive better wages and working conditions (Manifesto of the Industrial Workers of the World, 1-2). Despite a noble cause, the federal government rarely, if ever, came to support organized labor in strikes. At individual companies, workers were forced to sign yellow-dog contracts to prevent unionization, and many strikes were met with swift and merciless retribution (Homestead Strike, 1). Henry Clay Frick was notorious for his tolerance, or lack thereof, of organized labor. At the Homestead Steel Works plant he ran, the Amalgated Association of Iron and Steel Workers requested a raise for its members. Despite a growing market for steel, Frick offered neither better working conditions nor a significantly higher salary. After weeks of tense negotiations, Frick, after being given license by Andrew Carnegie, locked his employees out of the plant. Pinkertons armed with rifles were sent to the strike site immediately after to break the strike. The situation escalated and quickly turned violent, forcing Pennsylvania Governor Robert E. Pattison to call out the state militia, which quickly broke the strike (Homestead Strike, 1). A company that furnished Navy ships to protect American liberty abroad had turned its back on its most disenfranchised citizens.

     The situation was not unique to Homestead, though the strike in Pennsylvania was certainly among the most violent. However, many strikes were broken before they could even begin. The Sherman Antitrust Act was frequently turned against the people it was trying to protect. As conspirators in the restraint of trade, unions, particularly strike members, were found to be in violation of the Act. The strike, the fundamental weapon of labor, the only path to earning better wages and working conditions, as depicted by Frederick Graetz (Image 1) had been stripped away (Lowe, 1). Labor was dependent upon the management once again.

     The first truly large-scale effort by the federal government during the Gilded Age was the Interstate Commerce Commission Act. Passed in 1887, it was designed to end the discriminatory practices of railroads described in the above. The ICCA was weakened by the Supreme Court in Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific Railway Company v. Illinois, which prevented states from regulating the railroads. Furthermore, the act was hampered by pro-trust attorneys general as only sixteen lawsuits against companies were actually filed from 1887-1911(“Federal,” 7). The regulatory commission formed by the Act was unable to enforce rate restrictions without court approval until 1906 and could not criminalize short-haul discrimination, which had been crippling small farmers for decades, until 1903(“Federal,” 7). The most basic tenets of the Act were unenforceable and inefficient. Though certainly an important step for the United States, the ICCA was ineffective at regulating the railroads until the Gilded Age had given way to the Progressive Era, where new laws like the Hepburn act modified and amended the law in portions.

     Another hallmark of Gilded Age policy, the aforementioned Sherman Antitrust Act, was passed in 1890. However, it was often used for purposes contrary to the intentions of its creator. It was vague and unspecific—the central part states that every “contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is hereby declared to be illegal” (Sherman Antitrust Act, 1), without actually defining a trust, conspiracy, or restraint of trade. As stated above, labor unions were often the target of federal prosecution for participating in the ambiguously-titled restraint of trade, as seen in Loewe v. Lawlor (1908) (Loewe, 1). Furthermore, the bill was eviscerated by Supreme Court rulings. In Knight Company, E. C., UNITED STATES v. 156 U.S. 1 (1895), the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that the American Sugar Refining Company had not formed a trust or restricted trade despite controlling 98% of all domestic sugar production. The decision also declared that manufacturing was not within the regulatory scope of the Act, thus beginning the largest consolidation movement among manufacturing and railroad companies the nation had ever seen (Knight Company, E.C., UNITED STATES, 1). The subsequent loophole formed prompted political scientist Edward S. Corwin to refer to the nation’s regulatory code as a “twilight zone.” (“Federal,” 7)  Even if the Sugar Trust had been found in violation of the Act, only the property in question, in this case four refineries, would have been seized by the United States. The individuals involved would be faced only with a misdemeanor and no more than a $5,000 fine—a pittance compared to potential profits (Sherman Antitrust Act, 1). The law was hollow. The attempt at regulation had failed yet again.

     The Gilded Age was an era of unmatched economic prosperity and development. However, underneath the glamor of big business and mechanization was a gross distortion of American values. The Jeffersonian ideal of personal property and liberty had been distorted in order to support a system that stole life and liberty from the workers and gave property to the managers. America had lost its innocence. The idyllic laissez-faire capitalist system had shown its truly gruesome features of corruption, “gentleman’s agreements,” manipulation, and monopoly. The federal government could not, or in some cases would not, curtail such private-sector excesses.  When efforts were made, namely in the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Interstate Commerce Commission Act, the laws were either too vague or too inefficient for effective regulation. The courts stripped the rights of unions while simultaneously crippling the regulatory power of the government. The United States of America had built its factories and refineries upon foundations of liberty, freedom, and equality. In the Gilded Age, however, those foundations had withered away, setting the stage for a decade of turmoil.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Final Paper of School Year

Just something interesting I thought I should post. It was the last major paper of the school year, some of it, namely the reflection at the end, was repurposed into the rambling below. It is a bit long, the title is a shoehorned Eminem track, and the introductory paragraph is weak, for that I apologize, but it is a genuine paper.

The Monster Inside of His Head
     Mankind has had a troubled history with knowledge. From its humble origins in the biblical creation myths, the first humans are warned of the consequences of seeking too much truth. The consequences for betraying that command were unparalleled, leaving the early humans to wander the world regretting their sins. Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein falls into a similar situation.  The young Victor is free to engage in human relationships and study his interests. He is, in short, allowed to be human. His goals are subservient, if not necessarily dependent upon, his intrinsic humanity. However, as his fascination with natural philosophy grows, he begins to sacrifice his humanity to reach his newfound ultimate end: the reanimation of a body. What was once a conquest into uncharted scientific territory becomes a maniacal journey to satisfy an unquenchable internal ambition. While forming his creature, Victor Frankenstein undergoes a transformation from a well-intentioned seeker of knowledge to a being far less human than his own creation.

     Victor Frankenstein’s interest in natural philosophy, though certainly frowned upon, is largely responsible for the Creature’s creation. However, before rejecting the product of his endeavors, Frankenstein sees his efforts, particularly while at university, as part of a larger adventure into a realm not yet understood. He seeks to blaze a new trail for the world to follow, saying before his experimentation that “So much has been done, more, far more, will I achieve; treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation,” (47). Before Victor recognizes the truly grim nature of his future undertakings, his labor is merely a means to an end. His discoveries and the knowledge gained from them are the ultimate goal. Despite the lofty and undeniably ambitious tone of his proclamation, Victor makes it clear that the end to which his actions direct themselves is the gathering of understanding, not selfish fame. As he states before, “The world was to me a secret which I desired to divine. Curiosity, earnest research to learn the hidden laws of nature, gladness akin to rapture, as they were unfolded to me, are among the earliest sensations I can remember.” (22-23) His actions are a manifestation of an intrinsic curiosity with which all humans are imbued and his excitement at early successes are understandable. However, the natural curiosity seems to be slowly transforming into an inflated sense of purpose, the task overcoming the initial goals of the experiment.

     Despite (relatively) humble beginnings, Frankenstein’s “project” begins to take upon a far more sinister bent. In what should be a self-expressive activity that represents a valid personal interest and a truly noble intent, Victor eventually sacrifices his humanity and curiosity to complete his task. His creation consumes him. He is a slave to an entity that does not yet exist.  His only reason for living is no longer the seeking of truth by means of self-expression and friendships but the completion of the task. The means have become their own end. To reach his newfound, perhaps unknown, goal, Victor isolates himself. His body is no longer a manifestation of himself but merely a mistreated vehicle to complete a task. Victor himself admits that he “…had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.” (42) As stated by Raymond Bradford, “…Victors process of creation parallels Marx’s doctrine…by suggesting that when individuals prostitute life activity for other ends….Victor alienates himself from…himself, and from his friends, family, and colleagues.” (2) Before his creature is even created, Victor is already under its influence. He has sacrificed his humanity at the twisted altar--- the operating table.
“Frankenstein wants to be creator, to become as a god….What is the goal for all of us: to become immortal for having done something, or to become immortal in the real sense, to stitch together the real fabric of life and create that life?”

     The author of the above statement makes the interesting point that Frankenstein’s true intent was not to unleash a being set upon destroying his life but to bring forth a new creation upon the world—for good or for ill. Though certainly selfish, Victor’s goals are quite clear in that his primary aim is knowledge, not merely the completion of the task itself. It is important to note however, that the reasoning behind the experiment were far more important than the means to do so. The work is a manifestation of Victor’s humanity and intrinsic curiosity rather than a mindless form of servitude to a then-unborn master. This devotion also shows that Victor has a tendency to commit himself entirely to a cause, first to achieve figurative immortality and later to achieve its corporeal counterpart. But it is very possible that both the author and Victor fail to recognize that the “real fabric of life” is not of bodily origins. It is set of ideals, personal relationships and empathy that Victor ultimately forgoes as he progresses through the novel. His labor was not merely an action to be remembered by but also an abandonment of the true, if not understood or recognized by the doctor, virtues of the experiment: to replicate humanity in all its forms. He failed, just not where the reader may first think. Shelley makes a statement in her story that a person is more than the sum of its different parts, that independent thought and emotions are distinctly human qualities. Qualities that Victor failed to see in his creation and failed to understand upon its animation. He serves the creature before its birth, but his hatred towards it shows his lack of humanity, setting the stage for his eventual maniacal quest.

     Victor’s curiosity gives way to a form of slavery. As mentioned above, what was once a study into the nature of human creation becomes a soulless form of unconscious suicide. Appalled by his “atrocity,” Victor isolates himself from his friends and family as he himself states that “I saw an insurmountable barrier between me and my fellow men,” (151). Much like the Creature, he lacks a fundamental part of what it truly means to be human: friendship. He also spurns distinctly human qualities of compassion, respect, and love, when addressing his “son,” simply because it is ugly. But he allows it to control him nonetheless, a process best described by Bradford when he states that “Workers fashion alien, independent powers in which they fail to see themselves.” Such a statement rings eerily true for Victor’s situation. He fails to see that his flaws are more clearly manifested in the creature. He finds a degraded moral compass in his “monster” but largely fails to find the same quality in himself. He laments the Creature’s propensity to violence, but never sees his own sins. He finds a gruesome exterior upon his creature, but cannot see how it represents the true nature of his own rejected humanity. The Creature is an outward manifestation of Victor Frankenstein’s inner world. And Frankenstein never gave it the compassion it deserved, nor even showed it the noble qualities humanity is known to have.

     Upon its animation Victor has been consumed by his creation in thought and in action. Victor begins his journey, as stated above, seeking knowledge to replicate and sustain human life. His relationships fade away and the brilliance that made such creation possible gives way to a justified paranoia. His compassion for his progeny was stillborn. The fabric of humanity discussed above was torn apart by Victor’s blind ambition to a task; the same ambition would force him to chase after the Creature along a road to nowhere, causing one critic to state that “As a recognizable human world recedes and the Creature becomes a progressively more enthralling superpower, Frankenstein joins in the frenetic dance of death…by now wholly the Creature's creature…pursuing the naked form of his desire in a fantastic nowhere that is his own”
The wreckage of his past continues to haunt him. The Creature by then had begun controlling his creator in an effort to finally confront him.

     Given his undeniably cruel treatment of the Creature, it certainly seems plausible that Victor would seek to destroy him. However, his reasoning to do so gradually changes from a desire for safety, though the Creature had as of then not yet presented an immediate threat, to a fearful and destructive psychosis forcing him to quite literally go to the end of the Earth. The quest to the North Pole is not the first time Victor allowed his ambition and the task to overcome his good judgment. Victor forgoes rational thinking first in even attempting to create the Creature and does so to an even greater extent in his immediate abandonment of it. Though his search for figurative and literal immortality was shrouded in a guise of knowledge and a search for scientific truth, by the end of Victor’s life he is quite clear in that his ultimate end is only the destruction of the Creature. There is no humanitarian aim in his final search. There was not a human to follow them either; only an object held hostage by hatred, a monster chasing a different form of himself.

     Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a warning against putting the task above the means. It is a warning that individuals can and will sacrifice their humanity—personal friendships, bodily heath, and familial compassion—to reach a corrupted goal. It is a testament to the unintended consequences an uninhibited thirst for knowledge. Victor begins his journey as a well-intentioned man set upon solving the eternal mystery of creation. His curiosity and study are representations of his true interests and allow the man to better understand himself and his surroundings. He ends it as a slave to the product of that very journey. What was once a path to rebirth becomes a road to destruction. He willingly gives away his freedom, his will, and his very life to a gross distortion of his original goal. But most importantly, he spurns his chance at redemption. He fails to show human qualities to the most downtrodden and rejected member of society—if one could even refer to the Creature as a member. And in that, the final nail in the real Victor Frankenstein’s coffin is put in place. After that, all that remained was a monster left alone to wander the earth chasing a stillborn dream, with nobody by his side. The man he began the story as is by then long gone. And no procedure could ever bring him back. 

     It’s hard to honestly evaluate myself. It really is. I’d love to say how over the course of the year I’ve seen a change in my writing and my approach to it. A purely basic analysis of my writing “process,” or entire lack thereof, shows that I still bang out my ramblings on my bed despite my desk being two feet away, that I still do not use spellcheck on any of my papers (it forces me to get it right the first time), and that I still am relying upon the diagramming I learned four years ago to construct my sentences. I’m still not a fan of proofreading. But that isn’t to say I haven’t grown. I’m sure I’ve improved somewhere, somehow. Maybe that development is found in the way I tear myself apart after I print my drafts out, how I know I’ve done something wrong and store it in the proverbial bank to avoid in the future. These failures aren’t indictments of the class. They certainly aren’t meant to be. In this class, I’ve learned to not only use the text to form my argument but also to support it as well. I’ve moved from using quotes that purely sound “cool,’ to ones that advance my thesis and make the central tenets of my argument more clear.
     First, I am a thinker. I open a vein and spill whatever spews out onto the keyboard. Then I see if it is coherent. Being a writer comes in at a distant second. I guess you could call me lazy in that way. It would be a fair description. I’ve always been a good writer. At least that’s what my teachers have always told me. Even in this class, I’ve gotten a chain of 19s broken at two links: 17s on Dorian and Beowulf, and weakened at a few 18s. But I’ve never seen myself as a writer in its most literal form. Writing is an art. I’m obviously not an artist. But that doesn’t mean I’m too afraid to try my shaky hand on the canvas.
     But that doesn’t mean that all of my thoughts are purely my own. I have used and will continue to synthesize the thoughts and underlying themes of a novel in order to better write my papers. I’ll still struggle with using quotes, though. It certainly won’t be due to a lack of trying. Nonetheless, I’ve at least begun to use them, especially considering I rarely, if ever, used more than the minimum amount in essays from English I and II.
     I can come up with a good conclusion but it’s the four paragraphs preceding it that trouble me. I’m wordy. I’m a big fan of dependent clauses and subordinating conjunctions.  I jump around from idea to idea. I have a tendency to rant. I put my thoughts onto a page. And that’s it. Blame my ADD (yay for meta-humor and poorly ordered sentences!). I’ve always hoped that I would have an “aha moment,” a sudden influx of ability and prescience that allows me to pinpoint what I want to say and exactly how I want to say it. It hasn’t happened yet. Though, I sure as hell wish it did. I’m all too frequently left to dance around an idea that I understand but cannot express. It’s happening to me right now. I’m chasing a being of my own creation. And it’s taunting me with its own existence. The sentence is there. I just cannot reach it. I don’t want to tell myself “That sounds cool, go with that,” every time I write an essay. I don’t want to be staring at my mind through a window. I’ve been kicked out of my own Eden. Maybe it’s because my SAT scores between critical reading and writing, what I want to say and what I actually do end up saying, are 80 points apart. Maybe it’s because I have so much to and so few drafts—and even this one is drawing to an unfortunate close—to say it. I’m always thinking of things to write about: my own “Estella story,” my awkward mix of cockiness and self-doubt, and even my bouts with my own stupidity. But this class has helped me find ways to avoid that situation. I can theorize ideas and take stylistic and thematic precepts from other authors to help me reach my final destination.
     It’s frustrating that I don’t get to share these experiences because writing, for me, has become more and more frequently a cathartic experience. To paraphrase myself, I find the sterile confines of my papers intoxicating. I can be who I want to be and say what I want to say, not necessarily be who I am or say what I actually can say. Nontheless, writing takes work. It’s not easy. Someday, as I venture onward to my last essays at this school, I will be defeated, probably because I’m lazy and don’t proofread much. Maybe I’ll find someone who helps me see another side of the process, helping me rebel against an entity I cannot beat alone, and improve that way. Maybe I’ll revert back to one of the mindless masses and thrive in my idiocy. I might even end up being the enemy to fight against. Will I chase myself to the bitter end? Probably. Right now, however, I’m chasing some beautiful fantasy that I probably wasn’t born to ever capture. I was never born to write. I wasn’t born into high-brow literary culture. But that doesn’t mean I won’t try. That’s what I’ve learned this year. Literature has introduced me to characters that have each embodied a certain trait or ideal that most people can find in themselves. I am no different. From Lord Henry to Julia and Winston and certainly to Pip, I’ve learned a little bit about myself and from their respective creators, a little more about how to write. I’ve utilized their collective intelligence to help me better myself, something I didn’t know how to do a year ago. Thank you.
“Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.” 
Charles DickensGreat Expectations

Sunday, March 9, 2014


       The All-American boy was a good kid. He worked hard, got good grades, and played baseball on the weekends with his friends at a nearby park. He dreamed of playing in the big leagues one day. He idolized the players that dominated his favorite sport: Pete Rose and Johnny Bench among others. He was an ardent supporter of his hometown Cincinnati Reds. As he grew older, he began to hear whispers that Rose was deep in gambling debt, or that he was beginning to break the cardinal rule of the game: betting on baseball. He ignored them. His childhood hero would never abandon the game he loved, at least not in such a callous way. But on August 24, 1989, Pete Rose, manager of the Cincinnati Reds, was forever banned from baseball. Johnny’s world had collapsed. His hero-worship was a sham. Ironically, so was his Rose. Pete Rose knowingly broke the cardinal rule in baseball and has only recently admitted to what he had spent years denying. He willingly accepted a lifetime ban, including exclusion from the Hall of Fame, and quite clearly does not deserve a chance to have that changed.

     After a careful examination of the facts surrounding Rose’s gambling habits, it is quite clear that his illegal endeavors were detrimental to the health of his club and to the league as a whole. Managing to win every game significantly affects how a given team operates. Relief pitchers are used more frequently, more aggressive tactics like stealing or charging the catcher, which often lead to injuries, are encouraged, and prospects are not given chances to develop. Overuse of the bullpen leads to late-season collapses and an eventual decrease in productivity, which gives the opposing teams chances to win games that, if Rose did not manage so aggressively, should not have even existed. Further, a manager’s job is to promote the wellbeing of his club and position it for long-term success—a job that Rose ignored by playing established veterans for short-term gain (read: winnings) at the expense of long-term sustainability through giving younger players much needed seasoning. He managed to win every game, but at what cost?

     Many Rose supporters are fond to point out that those that break rules that have direct impacts on the game, such as known PED users, are not currently banned from baseball. That is a reasonable argument given the severity of the offense. However, the argument becomes invalid once one realizes that the men often cited, namely Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, used performance-enhancing drugs at a time when they were actually acceptable under MLB drug policy—pre-2001. Rose, however, knowingly broke a longstanding rule in baseball history: 21 (seanlahman, 1). Such actions necessitate punishment, and Rose fully understood the penalty associated with his form of gambling—a lifetime ban. Further, in an effort to hide such illicit activity, he was later convicted of federal crimes: tax evasion. Where some broke laws of the game, Rose broke laws of society. Actions have consequences, and Pete Rose must learn to live with his.

     Despite clear arguments against Rose’s reinstatement and by extension his Hall of Fame eligibility, Rose does not even have the credentials necessary to ensure a place in Cooperstown to make reinstatement worthwhile. Rose’s seemingly unmatchable offensive production is filled with holes. His most prominent achievement, his record for collecting the most hits in MLB history, is tainted. In his effort to pass Ty Cobb, Rose needed well over 13,000 at bats, nearly 2,000 more than Cobb. Further, Rose was far less effective than Cobb, possessing the record for the most outs. His OPS+, a measure of offensive production standardized across eras and stadiums, is good for only 429th in league history—clearly not Hall of Fame worthy by any stretch of the imagination. Rose was in every definition of the word a “compiler.” He only reached the statistical heights he did by playing for a National League record 24 seasons, not through any particularly great skills or ability. He was also a very poor defender. Rose had a career dWAR, a measure of defensive production standardized against that of a replacement level player, of, rather fittingly, -14, meaning that he cost his teams 14 wins over the course of his career simply through his incompetent play. New statistical analysis has provided baseball with better ways of analyzing players and it is now clear that Pete Rose does not deserve to be in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

     Pete Rose knowingly broke a rule with full knowledge of the consequences. He accepted a lifetime ban without any form of appeal to avoid the release of other documents to the public. He must now live with his choice. His actions violated the central tenets of the game and changed the outcomes of games across the league. He put personal gain ahead of the long-term health of his club and did not bother to position his team for success. So long as he was profiting, he was happy. Furthermore, Rose lacks the basic statistical production needed for a Hall of Fame induction, making lifting the ban a fruitless exercise. He lacked the premier talent necessary for induction. His records, even after the simplest of statistical analyses, are hollow. His legacy is overrated. Rose even spent years denying what he had privately acknowledged through his aforementioned acceptance of the ban. One thing is certain, however: Rose was a hustler---in every definition of the word.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Every Rose Has Its Thorn

Junior year has been a bear to say the least. A lot has changed since my last few posts, granted they are growing even fewer in number and further in between. I've been named the Sports Editor of my school newspaper, gotten a 220 on the PSAT, decided to go into cardiology, won awards for outstanding mock trial work as an attorney, and begun to question my formerly staunch libertarianism. That being said, I am still a passionate sports fan, and though my time here grows less and less, I appreciate whoever still reads these posts. Here is a persuasive essay--forced to be in the Rogerian format--I have written for my English III class, with a few extra paragraphs split up for ease of reading, which will be followed by an opposing view by the end of the week.

The man I marvel at is the one that’s in there day after day, and night after night, and still puts figures on the board.  I’m talking about Pete Rose.” 
--Sparky Anderson

    On August 24, 1989, then-MLB commissioner Bart Giamatti delivered an edict that would forever change the face of professional baseball: Pete Rose, manager of the Cincinnati Reds, was forever banned from the game he loved. Baseball’s hit king had been swiftly and unceremoniously dethroned. Gone were the cheers, the certain Hall of Fame induction, and his career, all, of course, for betting on his team to win the games in which it played. Though this was a clear violation of the written rules all players and managers must abide by—as supporters of the punishment often cite---a lifetime ban, especially in light of recent developments, is quite clearly too severe a penalty. The man that played the most games in league history, collected the most hits, a 1900s All-Century selection, two Gold Glove awards, three batting titles, and an MVP award, deserves better. It is time for the ban to be lifted and to release Pete Rose from his prison without bars.  

     Though Rose admittedly did break rules, it is important to note that his gambling never actually affected the outcomes of games, which was the intent behind the rule itself. The stated goal of a manager is, quite obviously, to win games. And considering the fact that Rose almost exclusively bet on the Reds, always to win, he was only providing himself another incentive to do so. There were not instances of point-shaving, spread covering, or game-throwing—such were insults to the man’s competitiveness. His goal was to win every game, every season. Further, the punishments for actually affecting games by means of PEDs, scuffing baseballs, or impeding runners—the largest of which being a 162 game ban held by Alex Rodriguez—pale in comparison to Rose’s which obviously did not affect his managing as it only further incentivized him to perform at  a high level.  "I bet on my team to win every night because I love my team, I believe in my team," Rose said in an interview with ESPN. "I did everything in my power every night to win that game.” Is that not the true meaning of competitive baseball?

     The man has been punished for supporting his team, while others have comparatively walked away unscathed for deliberately affecting games, and many have walked right into the place Rose will never be: The Hall of Fame. The most obvious symbol of Rose’s punishment, the Hall of Fame markets itself as a testament to the history of Major League Baseball. Outside of a performance-based election by either the Veteran’s Committee or the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, there are no real standards for entry. Yet, interestingly, a large majority of the proponents of Rose’s suspension act as though it is a cathedral and that he is stuck at the gates. He is, many claim, morally unfit for the honor. By violating the rules of the game, he knowingly sacrificed his chance at immortality. However, many other players of dubious character have been allowed on the ballot and have actually been enshrined in Cooperstown. 

     To name a few: Ty Cobb was a racist, Don Sutton doctored baseballs, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron used amphetamines, and John McGraw even tripped baserunners while the umpires were distracted. Goose Gossage even wrote a book about his illegal escapades. Further, the Hall already profits from his contributions to the game. There are over twenty pieces of Rose memorabilia in the Hall of Fame. Why they cannot enshrine the man who gave those pieces meaning is beyond comprehension. If the Hall truly serves to memorialize the history of the game, “Charlie Hustle,” a man who has admitted his wrongdoing and repented, deserves to be a part of it. 

     The most obvious contribution Pete Rose made to baseball was his superlative work ethic. Though some believe that by gambling he violated the central tenet of the game, that he sold baseball’s soul for personal gain, it is quite clear that he actually supported it. Rose embodied the ideal competitor. He ran to first base on walks, slid headfirst into bases, and took the competitive spirit and fire the game cherishes to an entirely new level. He never took a play off. He even took an exhibition game—the All-Star game—and turned it into a lesson on hustle, separating catcher Ray Fosse’s left shoulder in a successful effort to win the game for the National League. Winning was all that mattered. And though Rose was not the most gifted hitter, nor the best fielder, nor even the best athlete, he was the best hustler—the central dogma of the sport. Enshrining Rose, or at least lifting his ban, would represent a symbolic return to the fundamental values—grit, competiveness, hustle, and a “win at all costs” attitude—of the sport that supporters of the ban say he somehow violated. It is quite obvious that a league without Rose is a league without its soul. 

     Pete Rose is the victim of an unfortunate double standard. “…to be honest with you, I picked the wrong vice. I should have picked alcohol. I should have picked drugs or I should have picked up beating up my wife or girlfriend because if you do those three, you get a second chance,” he said in an interview. Though tactless, he might be right. Though some believe Rose deserves a ban for violating the rules of the game, such a view is misguided. By supposedly degrading the integrity of the game, Rose brought forth one of its greatest attributes—will to win honestly. He never threw a game. He never artificially boosted his performance with PEDs like Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, or Barry Bonds, all of whom are still in good standing with Major League Baseball. He never deliberately or directly affected the outcomes of games. All he did was be the 28th greatest hitter in league history. Should he have done any of these despicable actions in place of betting on his own team, ironically, he would have a place in Cooperstown by now.  And that has to change. Let the king return to his throne. 
 Pete Rose runs over Ray Fosse

Images retrieved from:,,, and

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

First Post in a Long Time

Hello, I know it's been a while since my last real post. I am actually working on one, though, so there's that. This has been a strange time for me--I got a 220 on the PSAT (75 CR, 78MTH, 67WS), got into the all of the AP classes I applied to, and am the editor of my school newspaper's sports section, all while dealing with a potential ADD diagnosis and some emotional strains due to some low grades and familial struggles. Nonetheless, this school project fit the bill as something I would post (read: have a strong opinion on). The first part is my stance, the second is an opinion in light of said stance. Without further ado...

     Throughout mankind’s history, discrimination has often been the norm, not the outlier. In the United States alone, and without going into great detail, the hate has shifted from Native Americans to African-Americans to Catholics, to Jews and now more currently, to homosexuals in addition to all the others. In short, the claim that the nation that prides itself upon liberty and equality has eliminated discrimination within its government is inherently false. Homosexuals have been and are continuing to be denied basic human rights as a consequence of codified bigotry. In an egregious violation of moral and constitutional law, the U.S government has stripped individuals of the right to marry, artificially labeled them as subhumans, and prevented them from participating in aspects of life for reasons only based in their sexual orientation.

     Homosexuals have been unable to marry for centuries. Homosexuality was seen as an unnatural abomination, and as such was outlawed. Yet, times and laws change. The ones regulating same-sex marriage, however, largely did not. The Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, prohibited marriage between members of the same gender and defined marriage as a union solely between one man and one woman. (GovTrack, 3) As of 2012, homosexuals unfortunate enough to be in one of thirty-seven states are denied 1,138 additional benefits and responsibilities ranging from inheritance issues to a lack of spousal protection in court cases. (Human Rights Campaign, 1) Furthermore, the recent ruling of the United States Supreme Court overruling certain parts of the aforementioned Defense of Marriage Act only applies in the thirteen states that actually have legalized same-sex marriage. As such, many couples are left with little more than a written acknowledgement of their commitment that often does not translate across state borders—a civil union.

     Beyond basic legal rights like marriage and tax issues, homosexuals find themselves victims of the system in daily life as well. Homosexual males are almost entirely banned from donating blood. (NBC News Health, 1). Due to an AIDS outbreak in the 1980s, any homosexual male that had engaged in sexual intercourse with a member of his own sex was forever banned from donating blood, even if he was not infected with any sexually transmitted disease. Further, in certain states that do not allow unmarried couples to adopt, such as Nebraska, Utah, and Ohio, homosexuals are forever banned from adopting a child and even face undue discrimination in the adoption process in states like Mississippi. (Wong, 1) Though popular opinion has changed dramatically over the last decade, particularly men, are shown undue scrutiny based upon unflattering stereotypes. They also have to deal with daily slurs and homophobic actions. Words and phrases like “faggot” or “no homo” may seem humorous to some, when in reality, they are far from it. Yet, despite substantial media coverage and the obvious presence of homophobia, only around two-thirds of states include sexual orientation in hate crime legislation.  (Shively, 10)

     The unreasonable prejudice extends to the areas that are supposed to preach tolerance and acceptance—churches. People of faith generally misunderstand homosexuality, and as such refuse basic rights and see them as subhuman. Though churches are well within their right to whom they give their ceremonies, many followers misunderstand their faith’s teachings. As New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) stated regarding his position on homosexuality, "My religion says it's a sin,” expressing a popular misconception among Catholics. (On the Issues, 1) The Church’s actual teaching is essentially that homosexuals are no more prone to sin or are more sinful than heterosexuals. Homosexuals can take full part in their faith.( United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1) Being a homosexual is not a sin; rather, it could actually be a call to holiness, as some believe was mentioned in Matthew 19:12. Sex outside of marriage and sex incapable of producing a child, however, categories in which all homosexual sexual contact falls under, are inherently sinful. In short, acting upon homosexual attractions is sinful. In an asexual context, having them, however, is not. However, many groups, particularly the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, protest against immoral “choices,” when, in actuality, homosexuality is not a choice at all. Such groups reject reality in order to create their own. “Pray the gay away,” is far worse than and hardly comparable to “Born this way.”

     Just as people of faith unfortunately misinterpret the tolerant words of Jesus Christ, many citizens fail to understand the United States Constitution—the gospel of American law. The Defense of Marriage Act was a blatant overreach of boundaries as the Constitution never gave any legislative body the authority to regulate primarily religious institutions. Further, such regulation was never necessary to a degree similar to that of roads, federal banks, or public schools, and certainly never proper in a legal sense to warrant wholesale restrictions upon the institution. However, mountains of red tape and webs of tax law have made a “hands-off” approach impossible. Yet, a simple solution can be found—the fourteenth amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law. As it stands, the federal government does not afford equal protection to homosexuals in multiple ways, most obviously in the form of denying spousal protection in legal trials. Partners must take the stand against each other if called. (Ghianni, 1) Here, there is no protection under the law at all. Further, there is a more tangible burden that applies only to homosexual couples—the financial one. Homosexuals are denied marriage tax deductions and Social Security survivor benefits as they cannot get married. (Human Rights Campaign, 1-3)There is a financial penalty for being born different.

     Even after a brief examination of the facts, it is clear that the United States of America discriminates against homosexuals. It denies basic rights in marriage, provides a legal consequence-free environment for such discrimination, and treats them as sub-humans by refusing to let them engage in basic civil functions like blood donation. All because they were born different. They loved someone else. Congress cannot regulate human attraction. It should not even try. It can however, protect its constituents and afford them the rights and protections given to them by the Constitution. 
     I believe that the Church can teach it whatever feels best fits its teachings. Catholic tradition holds that the Holy Family was composed of a heterosexual couple of a man and a woman, and a son—Jesus Christ. A ban on homosexual marriage is in line with its teachings due to its endorsement of sex and marriage as primarily child-bearing unions, though it may certainly be against the tolerant message of Jesus’ message. Further, Jesus never really stated an opinion on the definition of marriage, who can take part in it, and why he believed such things. Further, the Bible contains few references to homosexuals beyond those of Sodom and Gomorrah. Looking through a strictly biological lens, it is clear that heterosexuality is the more advantageous option for the human race—the “blueprint” has been given to humanity. In a Roman point of view, the Church had to side with heterosexuality because of that fact.

     I feel that the Church has done a very poor job of educating its priests and the laity, because many misunderstand its teachings, as shown through the prior Christie quote. At my church, I have overheard a few discussions and read through the parish book of intentions (a spiral notebook people can scrawl intentions in for Mass) enough times to know that many parishioners lack a basic understanding of what it actually means to be a homosexual. They base opinions in stereotypes they find on TV, on the radio, or on the internet and discuss ways to “fix” “erstwhile” children. It is rather disappointing.

     On a purely political level, I would support lifting the ban on same-sex marriage. I find the issue to be very similar to the previous ban upon interracial marriage, which was lifted after a Supreme Court ruling. People cannot change their sexual orientation just as they cannot change to a significant degree the color of their skin. Why restrict social freedoms—marriage or otherwise-- for something one cannot change? I respect the Catholic Church’s position, yet find it necessary to federally respect same-sex marriages and other rights many religious groups (perhaps mistakenly) do not. Perhaps the reader can gather I have a somewhat strict definition of the Constitution—I, along with many others,--find Congress has made a law that directly violates the right to equal protection under the law it affords, one that also restricts the natural rights Thomas Jefferson promises in the Declaration of Independence—the pursuit of happiness.

     Though I am not a homosexual, I find it tremendously shallow that people find love to be based upon what kind of genitals a person happens to possess rather than his or her mind, soul, or being. That being said, I feel as though the Catholic Church, of which I am a devoted follower, has every right to control, defend, or even radically alter its position on this important topic. The government, however, does not. Homosexuals are citizens too. Rights are inalienable, regardless of who has them.

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