Friday, April 24, 2009

Agenda Overload and the Harry Chiti Option

Who was Harry Chiti?

Sometimes in baseball, a team will trade off a player to another team without specifying a player it expects in return. This is referred to trading for “a player to be named later”: the team receiving the specified player will propose a short list of players to sacrifice in return. This practice had to inevitably result in a player eventually being traded away to another team for himself.

That happened to Harry Chiti.
The Mets acquired him from the Cubs in 1962 for a player to be named later. Later, Chiti was sent back to the Cubs as that player to be named later.
This obscure event strikes me as epitomizing ambivalence, indifference and indecisiveness.

In a sense, I also find the event as personally applicable. I feel like I am trading for a Harry Chiti everyday.

As a huge change from posing as a political pundit, I find myself focusing a good deal on yacht racing these days. That’s racing both on the real wet ocean and the make-believe dry, Internet-based Volvo Ocean Racing Game (VORG) -- which takes place in real-time and parallel with the real Volvo Ocean Race.

Unlike baseball, real and virtual yacht racing involves an infinite number of opportunities to make and reverse decisions.

In baseball, there is time available between plays to contemplate the next play in the context of the game and give appropriate signs to the pitcher, fielder, batter, or runner. Only a finite number of choices are available while play pauses and then resumes.

A yacht race offers continuous action and infinite choices as to course angles and sail trim. Even though a sailboat race might appear boringly slow and static, everything in this nautical sport is always in ‘play’. In boat racing, when nothing appears to be happening, things are happening, and their observation is pivotal. Is the water dark over there? What are other boats doing? Why are they doing it? Should we be doing it? Especially, on my (real/wet) boat, where crew have so little to do that they think they can afford to offer Harry Chitises to the helmsman every freaking moment.

In my VORG virtual racing, Harry Chiti punctually re-appears every morning at 2:00 am, when the real-time weather is updated. As soon as I rub the ground glass out of my eyes, he appears on my monitor. “Trade me!” he whispers to me insistently, “Trade me!”. Out of the 200,000 plus virtual boats lurking out there on the Internet, there are 75 boats I track with my charts. They are not only the critical standards by which I measure my progress. (Am I edging forward or falling back?) More importantly, they offer me innumerable examples – good and bad – to follow or avoid.

But the Harry Chiti Option is usually the one I select. After an agonizing ninety minutes of nocturnal analysis, I realize I am returning to bed without having changed anything. More accurately, in the 85th minute I reversed the change I made in the 5th minute. After all is said and done, I return to my bunk leaving Harry Chiti at the helm.

Agenda Overload:

Maybe that’s why I have not been posting on politics anymore.

In the post-Busheney world - in the wake of eight years of the most ruinous and negligent policies imaginable - we are faced with only catastrophic choices. Open wounds abound: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraqistan. Intractable world-wide crises wait in the wings: earth warming and global economic collapse. What of the self-inflicted damage to our own once-great republic such as torture, illegal spying on citizens, and politicization of our justice department. Shall we investigate, indict, prosecute and convict?

The Harry Chitis among us scream out, “Let bygones be bygones”. I hope Barack Obama is not going to sell out to them.