Saturday, October 30, 2010

Restoring Whose Sanity?

Stephen Colbert once said that "reality has a well-known liberal bias."  So, it appears, does sanity -- and that is my problem with the Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear.  I love Jon Stewart.  He is incredibly funny, smart and insightful, and the best media critic out there.  And although the rally was embraced and attended by a left-leaning crowd, there was a false equivalency underlying the premise of the rally:  That pundits and politicians on both sides of the political spectrum are at fault for the caustic state of political discourse in this country.  However, the crazed rants of Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly are simply not mirror images of the fact-based, if impartial, reporting of Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann.  Calling Obama a Nazi is not analogous to referring to Tea Partiers who have links to supremacist and anti-immigration groups as "racist." One only has to look at the escalating level violence and violent rhetoric on the right, culminating in the stomping of a MoveOn supporter in Kentucky by the county coordinator for Senate candidate Rand Paul, to see the stark contrast in methodology.  In Congress, Democrats to their great discredit, in my opinion, have tried and continue to try to compromise with the Republicans.  Republicans view their goal as ensuring that Obama is a one-term President and, as Sen. Mitch McConnell declared, they will "do everything -- and I mean everything we can do -- to kill, stop and slow down" the President's agenda.  If the Republicans take control of Congress they  promise to repeal legislation, shut down government, issue subpoenas and investigate the Administration, and even foment armed revolt.  Now that is something to really fear.
[Related posts: Seemed Like A Good Idea at the TimeFollow the Money, Good to Know]

Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

"Republicans have become obsessed with ideological purity . . . [b]ut Democrats aren’t ideological enough. Their conservative contingent has so blurred what it means to be a Democrat that the party itself can barely find its way."  So explained Ari Berman last week in a N.Y. Times op-ed in which he recounted then-DNC Chairman Howard Dean's 50-state strategy, designed to elect as many Democrats as possible. Both Dean and Rahm Emanuel, who was then the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, "backed conservative Democrats who broke with the party’s leadership on core issues like gun control and abortion rights."  However, as Berman pointed out, "[t]he party leaders did not give much thought to how a Democratic majority that included such conservative members could ever effectively govern."  Now we know:  "Conservative Democrats have opposed key elements of the president’s agenda, while liberal Democrats have howled that their majority is being hijacked by a rogue group of predominantly white men from small rural states."  Berman concluded, and Howard Dean now concedes, that "Democrats would be in better shape, and would accomplish more, with a smaller and more ideologically cohesive caucus."  As the incisive blogger Digby put it: "The Democrats can continue to pretend that having a coalition of liberals and conservatives will somehow show them to be the superior, thoughtful people they believe themselves to be or they can adapt to the existing political environment."  Eric Alterman, just wrote a piece, "Blame in on Rahm," which echoes the problem with pushing to elect conservative Democrats in conservative districts:  "Emanuel’s recruitment of a whole host of conservative-leaning Democrats in places that normally send Republicans to Congress created an entire class of legislators who, either for reasons of ideology or perceived political vulnerability, felt more comfortable undermining the president’s agenda than supporting it."  As Alterman explained, "When combined with a recalcitrant Republican Party whose leaders held no interest in cooperation but plenty in stringing the White House along until it pulled the rug out from under him, Obama was forced to water down his agenda until the bills he fought so hard to pass lacked the essential elements necessary to make them matter to people."  Alterman also criticized Emanuel's subsequent performance as Obama's first chief of staff, where his strategy was "to take any deal that was on the table and then expect the public to express its gratitude at the results."  (Emanuel, thankfully, has left to try to become Mayor of Chicago).  Alterman agreed that "[a]fter Tuesday, the Democrats in Congress will be, of necessity, a smaller leaner group that is on the whole, more ideologically coherent than they have been in decades. It should be a lot easier for them to agree on a common course of action, particularly in light of the outrageous demands that the new Republican majority in the House will be making every day."  The hope is that "in this mix, a Rahm-less Obama should be able to find his mojo again, and return to the rhetoric that won him the presidency in the first place."

Friday, October 29, 2010

Great Jazz Albums (IMO) #3

Sonny Rollins, Way Out West (1957).  Sonny is my favorite saxophone player.  As one critic said: "Sonny Rollins will go down in history as not only the single most enduring tenor saxophonist of the bebop and hard bop era, but also the greatest contemporary jazz saxophonist of them all. His fluid and harmonically innovative ideas, effortless manner, and easily identifiable and accessible sound have influenced generations of performers, but have also fueled the notion that mainstream jazz music can be widely enjoyed, recognized, and proliferated."  Sonny Rollins made so many amazing albums, probably the greatest being Saxophone Colossus, and even his recent albums are noteworthy.  But I chose Way Out West, where he turns "I'm an Old Cowhand (from the Rio Grande)" into a jazz classic.  And the cover is hilarious.  [Related posts: Really Great Jazz Albums #1 and #2].

This Is What The Democrats Should Have Been Saying All Along

Today's New York Times on the Death Penalty

The Times published a moving editorial, "No Justification for the Death Penalty," decrying the execution of Jeffrey Landrigan.  It pointed out that the system failed Landrigan "at almost every level, most disturbingly at the Supreme Court. In a 5-to-4 vote, the court’s conservative majority allowed the execution to proceed based on a stark misrepresentation"  The Times noted how the execution was thrown off due to the shortage of sodium thiopental, one of the three drugs used in the lethal injection three-drug cocktail. The state obtained the drug from a foreign source, but "[w]hen Mr. Landrigan tried to ascertain its effectiveness for sedating him so he wouldn’t feel the pain of the other drugs, Arizona refused to divulge the information. After the state defied four orders from a federal district judge to produce it, the judge stayed the execution."  This is where the Supreme Court came in:  "The majority overturned the stay, saying there was 'no evidence in the record to suggest that the drug obtained from a foreign source is unsafe.' [but] there was no evidence — either way — because Arizona defied orders to provide it."  As the Times put it:  "The court’s whitewash highlights the arbitrariness of Mr. Landrigan’s execution."  The Arizona judge who imposed Landrigan's death sentence supported his clemency plea, saying she would not have sentenced him to death if she had been aware of the mitigating evidence, including evidence of brain damage, that Landrigan's trial lawyers ineptly failed to present. The Times concluded that the Supreme Court's failure to uphold the stay of execution was "shameful."
[See related posts: Banality of Evil, Drug Problem]

If It's Friday It Must Be . . . Yo La Tengo (I Feel Like Going Home)


I Feel Like Going Home by Yo La Tengo

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Game of Inches

Tonight's World Series game ended up a blow out, with the Giants trouncing Texas 9-0.  But it could have been a different game.  The turning point was the top of the fifth inning with the Giants leading 1-0, when Ian Kinsler hit a ball that missed going over the fence by an inch or two, and bounced back onto the field.  Instead of a tie-breaking homer, Kinsler settled for a double and was left stranded when Giants' pitcher Matt Cain retired the side. This was reminiscent of a pivotal play in one of the most exciting games I ever saw.  It was late September 1973, and the Mets were desperately trying to catch the first-place Pirates.  In a game against the Pirates they had to win, the Mets kept falling behind and fighting back.  They tied the score again in the bottom of the ninth and the game went into extra innings.  In the top of the 13th inning with two outs and Richie Zisk on first base, Pirate hitter Dave Augustine hit a ball that, like Kinsler's, looked like a sure home run.  Instead it hit the top of the fence and bounced right to left fielder Cleon Jones, who threw the ball to the cut-off man (Wayne Garrett) who threw out Zisk at the plate.  The Mets scored in the bottom of the 13th to win the game, and went into first place the following night after beating the Pirates again.  They held onto first place for the rest of the season and went on to the World Series. Baseball is a magical game.

Follow The Money

NPR has a great piece today about purportedly independent advocacy groups working to elect Republicans.  These groups are fully coordinated and are awash in funds from secret donors:  "Early this year, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations could spend unlimited amounts of money in partisan politics, and Republican advocacy groups have been flush with cash ever since."  The report provides a handy interactive map to show "just how interconnected these secret donor groups are" and characterizes them as "one big network:  a Republican campaign operation, working outside the official party."  Not surprisingly, in a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, seven out of ten registered votes expressed concern about this outside spending.  As Media Matters put it:  "The key takeaway number here is that 71% of registered voters are concerned that 'a candidate who is helped' by groups like the Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity, and the Rove-inspired money mills 'could be beholden to their interests.'  And we don't know what those interests are, because they won't tell us where they get their money."  The problem is whether the public is fully aware of  this development.  The NPR report notwithstanding, Eric Alterman writes today about how, with articles like the one in the N.Y. Times this week (“Democrats Retain Edge in Spending on Campaigns"), "reporters are misleading the public about what is the most important development in American democracy in decades by confusing the party committees with the actual story of fundraising."  As Alterman concludes:  "One would think a development where money does in the nation with the longest continuous history of democracy would be something of interest to those who report on it. Then again, you go to elections with the media you have."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What To Do When The World Series Is Over

I hate guns.  I'm scared of horses.  As a city person, I am not particularly drawn to landscapes.  And I abhor racist stereotyping.  But I love Westerns.  They've got everything:  life vs. death, good vs. evil, love vs. loss, wilderness vs. civilization, old ways vs. modern times, natural law vs. man-made law, all in a riveting action-filled package.  I love the classic John Ford-directed John Wayne Westerns (especially The Searchers), the Spaghetti Westerns, and the more cynical Westerns of the 60's-70's.  Most of all, I am drawn to the Westerns of the 1950s, from directors such as Anthony Mann and Budd Boetticher.  They are more nuanced and complex than the earlier films, and have been described as bringing a noir sensibility to the conventional Western form.  Here are some of my favorites:
1.  Bend of the River (1952)  Anthony Mann. Starring James Stewart.
2.  The Naked Spur (1953) Anthony Mann. Starring James Stewart
3.  The Man from Laramie (1955) Anthony Mann. Starring James Stewart
4.  The Tin Star (1957) Anthony Mann. Starring Henry Fonda & Anthony Perkins
5.  Man of the West (1958) Anthony Mann. Starring Gary Cooper
6.  The Tall T (1957) Budd Boetticher. Starring Randolph Scott
7.  Ride Lonesome (1959) Budd Boetticher. Starring Randolph Scott.
8.  3:10 to Yuma (1957) Delmar Daves. Starring Glenn Ford & Van Heflin
9.  Blood on the Moon (1948) Robert Wise. Starring Robert Mitchum
10. Ride the High Country (1962) Sam Peckinpah. Starring Randolph Scott & Joel McCrea

When the Series is over, check them out.

Mid-Week Palate Cleanser: Rural Alberta Advantage


Don't Haunt This Place by Rural Alberta Advantage

Corporate Takeover

While it is generally agreed that, as Justice Stephen Breyer recently said, business interests "have always done pretty well" before the United States Supreme Court, a new study by the Constitutional Accountability Center demonstrates that the current conservative members of the Court have driven a marked ideological shift that favors corporations to a far greater degree.  The new study compared the years 2006-2010, since Justice Samuel Alito's appointment to the bench under Chief Justice John Roberts, to the terms 1981-1986, under former Chief Justice Warren Burger, before any of Court’s current conservative members joined the bench.  The study concluded that the current conservative majority is significantly more likely to favor corporate interests than the most pro-corporate member of the Court twenty-five years ago. 

Banality of Evil

Jeffrey Landrigan was executed Tuesday night after the stay issued by a federal judge was lifted by the United States Supreme Court.  Arizona conceded that they obtained one of the drugs required for lethal injection from Great Britain due to a nationwide shortage of the drug, but declined to name the company that provided it.  (It should be noted that this unnamed company may have violated the European Union's ban on the sale and export of devices that can be used for executions).  As described in an earlier blog entry, a federal judge had issued a stay after Arizona officials refused to explain where or how they obtained the drugs.  The Supreme Court's order vacating the stay gives the benefit of the doubt to the State.  It places an insurmountable burden on the condemned inmate to establish that the drugs to be used are unsafe even though the State refused to provide sufficient information to make that determination.  It is a chilling order:  "There is no evidence in the record to suggest that the drug obtained from a foreign source is unsafe. The district court granted the restraining order because it was left to speculate as to the risk of harm.  But speculation cannot substitute for evidence that the use of the drug is sure or very likely to cause serious illness and needless suffering."  This was a 5-4 ruling.  Four justices (Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan) voted to deny the State's application to vacate the stay.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Good To Know

"We know the Tea Party has a ... unique interpretation of the country's foundational text, but it's hard sometimes to keep track of all the things their favored candidates would like to see abolished" as part of its "return to the Constitution."  Courtesy of Talking Points Memo, here are the top six established laws that Tea Partiers (aka Republicans) claim are unconstitutional.

Drug Problem

It generally had been assumed that lethal injection was the most humane way to execute people.  The 3-drug combination of barbiturate (sodium thiopental), paralytic (pancurionium bromide) and heart-stopping drug (potassium chloride) was devised by Oklahoma state medical examiner Jay Chapman in the late 1970s, and simply adopted by 37 other states without scientific testing.  Chapman took only 3 weeks to come up with the combination of drugs and now concedes that his method probably should be revised.  A more rigorous examination of the lethal injection protocol temporarily halted executions in several states, including California, in the wake of several botched executions and after it was established, among other problems, that the paralytic may be masking excruciating pain.  A decision by the United States Supreme Court in a case arising out of Kentucky has made it more difficult to establish that this method of execution constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.  Nevertheless, states are beginning to consider using a single large dose of sodium thiopental, similar to how animals are euthanized.  This has already been done in Ohio.  A new problem, however, has arisen, whether the one-drug or three-drug method is used.  There is a nationwide shortage of sodium thiopental, and as a result, several states have been unable to carry out executions.  California's attempt to execute inmate Albert Brown failed after the state was forced to concede that its reason for trying to push for the execution was that the expiration date on its last dose of the drug was about to lapse.  Hospira, the company that manufactures the drug, has objected to its use in executions, but blamed the shortage on problems with its source for the raw materials.  After Brown's execution was called off, California revealed that it had obtained a new batch of sodium thiopental from an undisclosed supplier, although it did not not seek to reschedule the execution.  In Arizona, Jeffrey Landrigan was supposed to be executed today.  Officials claimed to have obtained a new supply of sodium thiopental for the task but a federal judge stayed the execution because the State will not reveal where or how they obtained it.  The most Arizona will say is that the drug has a 2014 execution date and is from the same supply obtained by California.  It further revealed that the drug was obtained from an unidentified foreign source.  This is beyond creepy.  There are myriad problems with the death penalty.  One is that we must rely on the good faith and competence of state officials at every stage of the process, from arrest to execution.  Exonerations, prosecutorial misconduct, racial discrimination, and now, this latest debacle with drug shortages and mysterious overseas drug deals establishes that we cannot trust the government to administer the death penalty.  We need to Just Say No.

The Fall Classic

The last moment of pure joy I experienced as a Met fan was in 2006, when Endy Chavez literally, if temporarily, snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a spectacular catch, leaping above the fence and snagging what would have been a tie-breaking 2-run homer in the 6th inning of Game 7 of the NLCS against the Cardinals. Three innings later, in the top of the 9th, Yadier Molina hit a ball out of Chavez's reach for a two-run home run, putting the Cards ahead 3-1.  In the bottom of the inning, with the bases loaded, Carlos Beltran looked at strike three with his bat on his shoulders to end the game and end the Mets' season.  It has been frustration and heartbreak ever since, and this year, like its last several predecessors, was devastating.  Remarkably, though, every year after the regular season is over, I take a few days to shake off the bitterness of the Mets' failures and get excited for October baseball.  Cue the Ken Burns' music:  Playoff games seem to encapsulate a season's worth of drama into a few short weeks.  Each team that has gotten this far has its own uplifting story and appears to be the team of destiny.  We get to know the personalities of the players and see rivalries develop as the same teams play each several games in a row.  Every game, every inning and every pitch is pivotal.  We are treated to legendary victories and tragic failures in each series, culminating in the Fall Classic itself.  While I can't help but be reminded that my team is once again not a team of destiny but of ignominy, I easily find players and teams to root for and to root against, and I lose myself in the drama.  Ken Burns' music fades. When the Series is over, I will begin obsessing about who the Mets new general manager and field manager will be and what off-season moves should be made to improve the club.  But until then, Go Giants!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Today's Must Read: How Obama Lost the Narrative

David Corn has an excellent article in Mother Jones titled "How Obama Lost the Narrative," which concludes that Obama's "ultimate political error" was "not keeping the base energized and engaged in the narrative. A president cannot control the economy. But he can control the story he tells."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Let's Play Ball

In 1916, during WWI, President Woodrow Wilson ordered that the Star-Spangled Banner be played at military events, and two years later, it was played during the 7th Inning Stretch at the 1918 World Series.
Thus began a wartime tradition. 

During the Second World War, the National Anthem began to be performed before every game.  It has been asserted that this was not solely due to patriotic zeal but also to make sure the fans didn't question the patriotism of the players who weren't fighting in the war.

Peace came but the anthem played on.  During the Vietnam War, at the 1968 World Series in Detroit, Jose Feliciano sparked enormous controversy by performing a soulful rendition that was deemed disrespectful.  This eventually paved the way for countless non-traditional versions which could be poorly rendered as long as they were considered respectful. Rosanne Barr's attempt at a comedic version at a 1990 Padres games was widely trashed, with then-President Bush calling it "disgusting." And Michael Bolton was lambasted after his 2003 American League playoff game performance when he forgot the words midway through and had to rely on a cheat sheet.

After 9/11, one song did not seem sufficient for players and fans to express their love of the United States, and Irving Berlin's God Bless America began to be sung during the 7th Inning Stretch, either instead of or in addition to Take Me Out To The Ballgame.  It is played during every game at some ballparks, like Yankee Stadium, as well as at All Star Games and the playoffs and World Series.

Those who believe that this nationalist fervor is misplaced are shouted down.  When Toronto Blue Jays slugger Carlos Delgado refused to stand with his teammates during God Bless America in protest of the war in Iraq he was booed and roundly criticized.  In 2008, during a Yankee game, a fan who tried go to the bathroom while the song was playing was restrained and ejected.  Anyone who doesn't stand and remove their hat during either song will likely find a beer poured over their head.  Baseball remains America's Pastime. 

However, it has never been clear to me why we must reaffirm our love of this country -- including the 28% of  Major League Baseball players who are foreign born -- not once, but twice during a baseball game.  It seems to me that we show our faith in what is great about the United States by enjoying the great American game itself, and I truly believe there are few things more patriotic than standing up during the 7th Inning Stretch and singing about "peanuts and crackerjacks" at the old ballgame.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Great Jazz Albums (IMO) #2

Horace Silver, Doin' The Thing (1960).  So hard to choose a Horace Silver album since so many of them are so great.  I selected this one because it was the first one I heard.  I also love how he introduces the tune "Filthy McNasty."  Horace Silver is the quintessential hard bop piano player, heard here with the great Blue Mitchell on trumpet.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Shocked, Shocked That Anita Hill Was Telling The Truth


In the wake of Clarence Thomas's wife's bizarre phone call to Anita Hill, the media has revisited the controversy surrounding Thomas's confirmation hearings.  These articles generally take the position that there it is still a serious question as to which party was telling the truth (the Washington Post referred to it as an "enduring mystery," stating it was "still unclear who was lying.")  Now, another woman, Lillian McEwan, has come forward to reveal that Thomas repeatedly made inappropriate sexual comments to her at work, including descriptions of pornographic films.  Of course anyone who was paying attention will recall that she is not the only one to corroborate Anita Hill.  At the time of the hearings, there was yet another woman, Angela Wright, who was willing to testify that what had happened to Hill had also happened to her.  She was slimed by the right, and the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee were cowed into cutting a deal where Wright would not be called.  It was also confirmed that Thomas had rented pornographic movies.  So, not only is there no mystery about who was telling the truth, but as Jim White on the Firedoglake blog points out, "we are now in a position of having a sitting Supreme Court justice who has been demonstrated to have committed perjury during his confirmation hearing."

If It's Friday It Must Be . . . Yo La Tengo (The Summer)


The Summer by Yo La Tengo

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Submission to the George Bush Facebook Contest

George Bush has launched a contest on Facebook.  He will invite one Facebook fan to Dallas for an in-person interview about his upcoming memoir, Decision Points.  To be considered, contestants must submit five questions. The lucky winner will receive round-trip airfare to Dallas,  the "opportunity" to interview Bush about his book, and a personalized, signed copy of Decision Points.  Yikes.  Below are my five questions.  What are yours?
1.  When you owned the Texas Rangers in the 1990s, how much direct involvement did you have in getting your sluggers, including Sammy Sosa, Raphael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez, to use steroids?
2.  Did you ever finish "The Pet Goat," the book that you continued to read for seven minutes after being informed of the 9/11 attacks, and if so, what did you think of the ending?
3.  When you were Governor of Texas, 150 men and 2 women were executed after you signed their death warrants.  If you were aware that the clemency memos prepared for you by then-legal counsel Alberto Gonzalez were incomplete and inaccurate, failing to inform you of gross examples of ineffective counsel, conflict of interest, mitigating evidence, and even evidence of innocence, do you think this would have made any difference in your decisions to reject clemency?
4.  Given that any reasonable reading of the intelligence to which you had access established that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and had no connection with Al Qaeda, was your true rationale in overthrowing Saddam Hussein to avenge his attempt on your father's life or was it for the oil, or did you really believe the crazy neo-con theory that you would be able to transform the Middle East?
5.  Dick Cheney has admitted that you signed off on the "enhanced interrogation techniques," i.e., torture, of so-called high level prisoners.  Your father famously and falsely claimed to be "out of the loop" on Iran Contra.  My question to you, sir, is whether you were out of the loop on authorizing torture?

Mid-Week Palate Cleanser: The Silversun Pickups



Lazy Eye by the Silversun Pickups

And the Chutzpah Award Goes To . . . Ginni Thomas

I thought this was from the Onion. Clarence Thomas's wife left the following voice mail for Anita Hill:  “Good morning Anita Hill, it’s Ginni Thomas . . . I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband.”  Apologize for what?  For telling the truth?  Context is provided by Ted Kennedy's speech on the Senate floor opposing Thomas's nomination back in 1991.  Kennedy defended Anita Hill's "extraordinary courage and dignity" in expressing "the pain and anguish experienced by so many women who have been victims of sexual harassment on the job," and accused the Senate of being an "old boys club."  He called out Thomas for claiming to be a victim of a "high tech lynching," stating that such a "deliberate, provocative use of a term like lynching is not only wrong in fact, it is a gross misuse of America’s most tragic — most historic tragedy and pain to buy a political advantage."  Finally, and most presciently, perhaps, Kennedy argued that "the extreme views [Thomas] expressed before his confirmation hearings demonstrate that he lacks a deep commitment to the fundamental Constitutional values at the core of our democracy," and that Kennedy opposed any effort "to pack the Supreme Court with justices who will turn back the clock on issues of vital importance for the future of our nation and for the kind of country we want America do be." Apologies should come from George H.W. Bush for nominating Thomas (to replace Thurgood Marshall!), from the Judiciary Committee's inept and sexist performance, and from the 11 Senate Democrats who (in what was a 52-48 vote) failed to heed their fellow Democrat and voted to confirm arguably the most conservative and one of the worst Supreme Court justices in history.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Moment

Christine O'Donnell, Republican candidate for Senate, is unaware that the Constitution requires the separation of church and state.  In a debate yesterday, her Democratic opponent Chris Coons argued that he believed the Constitution prohibited the teaching of religious doctrine such as creationism in public schools. As shown here, O'Donnell was shocked when Coons explained that the First Amendment states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."  O'Donnell's response:  You're telling me that's in the First Amendment?"  It is fun to laugh at O'Donnell and to think of her as some kind of outlier in the Republican Party.  However, it is really crucial to recognize that she is not alone.  Frank Rich refers to her and the other wacky Republican candidates who are almost certain to be defeated as "political loss leaders."  They allow us to indulge in denial about how extreme the so-called mainstream Republicans are.  As a piece for the website ThinkProgress demonstrates, while Republicans love to wrap their actions in the Constitution, they know little about it and their agenda “is nothing less than a direct assault on America’s founding document.”

Parallel Universe

In his latest comic, Parallel universe, six months from now, the always wonderful Tom Tomorrow shows us what the world could look like if the Republicans take over in November.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Great Jazz Albums (IMO) #1

Hank Mobley, Soul Station (1960).  This is a classic "hard bop" album with Art Blakey on drums, Wynton Kelley on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and the underappreciated Hank Mobley on tenor saxophone.  Soul Station generally has been acknowledged as Mobley's best album where, as one critic notes he "shows off his strengths to great effect: graceful ease in virtuosity, a great command of harmony, and an endless flow of improvisational ideas."

Today's Must Read

This insightful article, The 'Teach-the-Dems-a-Lesson' Myth, by long-time investigative journalist Robert Parry explains how the Left’s notion of “teaching the Democrats a lesson” by not voting or by voting for third parties is a myth. "It may make some progressives feel morally pure, but it doesn’t work. And, the results of the last 42 years should make clear that the idea is not only folly but it is dangerous."

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Designated Hitter: The Legacy of Racism

"I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing AstroTurf and the designated hitter." - Crash Davis in Bull Durham.
The Designated Hitter is wrong for so many reasons familiar to many baseball fans:  It upsets the traditional symmetry of 9 players on a side all of whom field and hit; it eliminates late-inning strategy that is present when the pitcher is in the lineup; it allows players past their prime and one-dimensional players to keep playing.  It is also the product of racism.  The DH rule was adopted by the American League in 1973 (the first DH to bat that year was Yankee Ron Blomberg).  The National League played an exciting brand of baseball encompassing speed, daring and defense exemplified by great African American players of the 50s and 60s, while the American League game was built around lumbering power hitters.  The disparity stemmed from the fact that National League teams, beginning with the Dodgers' signing of Jackie Robinson in 1947, were generally far quicker to accept players of color.  For example, as reported in the Times, the Yankees refused to sign Willie Mays because of his race, and it wasn't until 1959 that the Red Sox signed Pumpsie Green, becoming the last team to sign an African American.  The recalcitrance of American League owners to embrace black and latino ballplayers and their dynamic style of play took its toll so that by the early 1970s, even though both leagues were now fully integrated, the American League game remained rather stale and attendance was down.  The owners' solution:  The Designated Hitter.

Weekend Must Read

Confounding Fathers by Sean Wilentz in the New Yorker on the Tea Party's Cold War roots and its parallels with the paranoid politics of the fifties.

Le Freak, C'est Chic

Tim Lincecum is the epitome of the modern player and at the same time a throwback to the great pitchers of yore.  I love watching him pitch and today's game should be a classic.  This article in the Times provides some historical perspective.

Friday, October 15, 2010

When George Bush Roots For The Enemy of My Enemy


Michael Young hit a two out, two run double in the bottom of the fourth to put the Rangers ahead of the Yankees 5-0. As I clapped and cheered I was suddenly discomfited by the sight of George W. Bush on the teevee clapping and cheering with me. I hate the Yankees and must root against them, but it was pretty unsettling to be in synchronicity with the former president. I'll feel better when the games return to Yankee Stadium and there on the screen will be Rudy Guiliani cheering in his Yankee cap. I'll feel even better when the Yankees stop winning.

If It's Friday It Must Be . . . Yo La Tengo (Mr. Tough)


Mr. Tough by Yo La Tengo

Ollie To The Rescue


The rescue of the Chilean mine workers is an incredible story. Who knew there was a Met angle? Here

Today's Must Read

From the NY Times, "a cautionary tale about the power of flawed science to sway a courtroom, and a glaring injustice that could affect debates over the fairness of the death penalty."

No Apologies


As reported in the Washington Post yesterday Dick Cheney never apologized for shooting his hunting companion, whose injuries were far more serious than reported at the time. This should not come as a surprise. Cheney has not apologized to the rest of us for the injuries he has caused to the country, which are also far more serious than reported at the time.

Democrats and Cell Phones


There is a little room for optimism given this Pew study which shows that most polling excludes cell phones which underestimates Democratic voters by about 4%.