Tuesday, December 23, 2008

David Byrne is no psycho killer

Who knew.

Who knew there were artists out there with not only opinions, but thoughts.

Sure, there are plenty of artists with opinions. Hell, their agent/manager/momma told them what opinion to have, and they blithely shared it with ET/Hollywood Access/TMZ or even Perez Hilton. But who really cares what LiLo thinks, or whether Jeremy Piven really has inflated levels of mercury in his system, or whether Kanye West really believes the pablum he raps.

There are a couple of real deals out there, and I'm pleasantly surprised to see that one old time anti-rock star has gotten involved (if only through one blog post) in the debate over media consolidation and the spate of cutbacks that have parsed America's newsrooms of some of the best and most informed reporters of this day. (not to say made this gig as a blogger that much more challenging, given the talent flowing in to this daily routine)

David Byrne hit the pop world right between the eyes over thirty years ago by donning LaCoste and playing at CBGB's on gigs with the Ramones, Blondie, Richard Hell, Television, and other seminal 70's bands. The Talking Heads went on to reasonable fame, and certainly great popularity, thanks in large measure to the taut writing of Byrne, the smart musicianship of Jerry Harrison, and the rythmic pairing of bassist Tina Weymouth and drummer Chris Frantz. The Heads were very cool, and Jonathan Demme captured them in my favorite rock movie of all time, 'Name of this band is......" back in the early 80's.

Now Byrne continues to perform, and also paint, and write, and collaborate with artists across the globe. He seems to be back with Brian Eno for his latest album, something I promise to pick up over the holidays. But beyond performing, Byrne seems to pay attention to the world we all live in, not the insulated world inhabited solely by celebrity.

So it's pretty remarkable to see his most recent post, from December 18th, http://journal.davidbyrne.com/ captures the problems the newspaper industry is facing, and contextualizes it by noting that the recording business went through the same crisis 25 years ago. He doesn't suggest it will all get better, but to have the person behind the lyric 'same as it ever was' from Life during Wartime noting with detail and interest that we need to have papers, and news, more than certain styles or tastes that we receive from art, is to me quite revealing, and refreshing.

Regrettably, what has happened in the music business, with the commodification of artists, and the drive for hits, and the dumping of artists and bands who don't create immediate profit, is precisely what we're seeing in the news business today. Oh, to be a swindler or cheat or liar on a grand scale these days, and know that the local paper no longer has an investigative reporter, or no longer has a reporter with tentacles spread throughout the community, let along a manager who recognizes that there's more to coverage than just an update on weather winter is cold, summer is hot, and other obvious points that have become the standards by which we gauge reporting today.

David Byrne, you still have it, and it's good to see you hold a hankering for news and information in our compressed twitter-centric media environment.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dock Ellis

If you're a fan of baseball, then you know the name Dock Ellis.

Ellis was a star pitcher in the 1970's, mostly for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was on the the Pirates' 1971 championship team, as well as other good squads from that era, part of a decent rotation that along with a powerful bunch of hitters led the National League around a time that the Dodgers and then Reds were about to take off.

But what makes Ellis a real baseball legend, and the only person in a certain elite club, was his ability to succeed at the game while at times not taking it too seriously. Ellis addressed issues of race at a time that not many athletes did, and when it was more difficult for black athletes to be honest about their feelings about sport and society. That was the serious part.

Where he has earned an eternal star, and that hyper-elite club of one membership, was with the no-hitter he pitched against the San Diego Padres on June 12, 1970. Quite the spirit, Ellis decided to drop acid earlier that day, for some reason under the impression that the Pirates had a day off in San Diego. Not only was Ellis mistaken about work that day, but he was scheduled to be the starting pitcher in the first game of a doubleheader.

This was hardly a perfect game, as Ellis walked 8, and plunked one. But it was a no-hitter, the first and most likely only no hitter ever thrown by a pitcher on acid. One interview with Ellis that I recall reading had him remembering the catcher's glove looked huge to him that day, so he just aimed for the big thing staring right at him. I guess that helps.

Now we should find out whether Joe Namath dropped a tab before the Super Bowl III, or Gretzky before any Stanley Cup Final, or Jordan before Game 6 of the 1998 finals against Utah. That would be a story. And because it's not, it's what makes Ellis' contribution to the game that much more significant.

Monday, December 15, 2008

a very good reason why the public doesn't trust our officials

This could be a continuing series.

In just this decade, which you could also lede as 'in just this century alone', but that would be too grandiose.....in just this decade, there have been a number of major American insitutions that have taken huge hits on the credibility front.

While this list is by no means exhaustive, it shows the range and breadth of the fields hit by real issues that were either self-perpetuated, or for which the field did not have a response.

Starting with the infamous Enron scandal from 2000, there's the missing WMD in Iraq, Barry Bonds and his insistence that he did not take steroids, Marion Jones' steroid confession, as well as that of other track starts, Mel Gibson's racist rantings, and even the revelation last week that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was attempting to cash in on his office and his authority to appoint a successor to the U.S. Senate seat recently vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

But indulge me if you will, for I think we have something that might be a new winner, in need of a category all to itself.

Remember the $700 billion financial services industry bailout Congress authorized and the President signed way back in September of 2008. Of course you do. Not only your grandchildren, but their grandchildren will be paying off Chinese bonds for years to cover this debt. So this is dear to you, or at least it should be.

Well, it turns out that a central tenet of this legislation, the restriction on executive compensation (you know, bosses making $10 million a year, on top of corporate benefits and golden parachutes), is a toothless tiger.

According to this morning's Washington Post, the Treasury Department, after initially fighting any language that would restrict executive pay, came up with a supposed workable solution. Firms would be penalized for going over certain pay levels for executives only if those firms had received bailout money from selling thier troubled assets to the federal government in an auction.

So what does this mean, you ask. It means that if auctions were being used to sell troubled firms, and bail out their investors, then the government would have taken over, and restrictions would go into effect for executive pay. But the Treasury Department switched gears after the enactment of the bailout bill, and has instead opted not to use auctions, and has rendered the executive compensation language literally meaningless. No longer would their be automatic penalties for high pay, much in the way Major League baseball has a luxury tax. Now, as structured, firms can continue to do as they wish, paying senior executives whatever they can negotiate, without having to worry about the threat of their government partner questioning the pay scale.

With all the talk this past week about the pay scale of unionized American auto workers, it's remarkable that the billions that will go out the door as a result of this loophole uncovered by the Washington Post, a loophole that has not yet garnered the attention it deserves.

Where's the anger over this one?

And in case you're wondering, yes, this is another reason why there's less faith in our officials and our institutions than ever before.

You may now return to your previously scheduled diversion.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

a proud day to be an Illinois Governor

The old Mayor Richard Daley sure may have been the Boss of Chicago back in the day, but back then being a political boss meant you usually knew how, when and where to use patronage.

It seems as though Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) has more than lost his way, must have misread some Machiavelli, or even Royko, and will soon have the official moniker Federal inmate R. Blagojevich, 65619.

There have been a rash of dumb things that big state Governors have done over the past few years. Former Connecticut Governor John Rowland seemed to start the trend for this century by selling out his office, redecorating his house both on the public dime and on a contractor, and also dipping in for trips to Las Vegas, among other places.

There's former New Jersey Governor Jim McGrevey, who didn't think that fucking his wife was enough for him, he also wanted, and had, often, his former driver and advisor along for ride. This story got much better when it was learned that his wife was not actually a woman ignored, but a woman invited, and active, in their occasional three ways. And on their honeymoon weekend, no less. Gotta love the Garden State.

And no one among us can forget former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, client #9, I believe, who found pleasure in $2000 call girls and the fast delivery that only Acela could provide. Hadn't this guy heard about wide screen television and the NBA All Access plan? Helluva lot less than 20 large.

Note to the Blagojevich camp: all of these men are now former Governors.

Of course there have been others, and I leave out former Governors from Rhode Island and Louisiana from this list. Hell, going to jail after a term as Governor is de rigour in those states after all. And of course Blagojevich's predecessor George Ryan went off to the slammer, but people know that, of course.

Yet Blagojevich has certainly raised the bar on corruption. Selling a United States Senate seat, a Senate seat vacated by an incoming President, a man who purports to be about message, and not urban politics, is truly priceless. He may well have shaken down one of the President-elect's closest friends, explaining her early withdrawal from consideration. And who knows who else he has dug into on this, over these past few weeks.

And there's still a great part to this story. Blagojevich does not have to resign his office, and reportedly has the authority to make an appointment for the vacant seat as long as he holds office. Only resignation, conviction, or impeachment would take away the authority, not indictment, under which Blagojevich now has been arrested.

How's that for starting at the bottom.

Perhaps the soone to be former Governor should get this over, drop the bidding process, and do something that could gain him some credibility, perhaps, in Illinois. He should just go ahead and nominate Sammy Sosa to the seat. That's about the only thing that might unite Chicago and Illinoians, and spare Blagojevich some skin. Imagine this scene at the next baseball steroids hearing!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

what to do when.....

What is the correct process for the following circumstances:

1) You're left bewildered and confused by a film purported to be among the best of the year by some of the best and brightest critics, but that you feel is a pompous POS? Film in question would be Synecdoche, New York.

2) You take in a surprising and original film based on a traditional story of love and hope and dreams, but can't find the right words of praise for a thoughtful review. This film is Slumdog Millionaire, and should garner Danny Boyle a best director nod.

3) You read a slam masquerading as an architectural review of a major opening, and see through the pretense and vitriol enough to note that the reporter really knows nothing of the field he covers, as though Clive Barnes had been sent to cover the New York Yankees or Chris Berman dispatched to review the New York Philharmonic. Is it worth bringing attention to his bosses at the Washington Post, or would it be possible that they realize there's a mistake with this posting, and this person, in this position, and that he more than just misses the forest through the trees in his pan of the Capitol Vistors Center? It's as though the name Frederick Law Olmstead would generate nothing more than a pause with this guy.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

those who don't know history.........

Starting with this posting, we will occasionally go back over some history books for parables that work for our time.

Today's tale, how industry, and in particular, the auto industry, handled the early days of the Great Depression.

The following passage is from the book "Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal" by noted historian William Leuchtenburg. It's page 21, if you're reading at home, from the paperback version of this 1963 classic.

"At a time when millions lived close to starvation, and some even had to scavenge for food, bankers like Wiggin (note: Albert Wiggin was the Chase National Bank President, a man who shorted his own stock) and corporation executives like George Washington Hill of American Tobacco drew astonomical salaries and bonuses. Yet many of these men, including Wiggin, manipulated their investments so that they paid no income tax at all. In Chicago, where teachers, unpaid for months, fainted in classrooms for want of food, wealthy citizens of national reputation brazenly refused to pay taxes or submitted falsified statements. (note: here is where it gets interesting, in 2008 terms) In Detroit, the hardest hit of any large city, Henry Ford set the standard for businessmen by shrugging off all responsibility for the welfare of the jobless. Detroit bankers, in fact, insisted that before the city would be granted a loan to maintain relief, it would have to cut relief pittances still further."

Today, while Ford is in the best shape of what once was the Big Three, it still clamors for bailout assistance. History is a wonderful guide, even if there have been moments between 1932 and 2008 that were less divisive for the industry and the workers, it's hard to ignore how Detroit intially responded to the throes of the Great Depression. Let's see what Detroit comes back to Capitol Hill requesting next week, after the Thanksgiving break. Let's just see, shall we?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

planes, trains, and definitely automobiles

Anyone catch that Congressional hearing with the Big 3 automakers on Wednesday?

You know the one I'm talking about. The hearing where each of the three once titanic captains of industry were reduced into the equivalent of a teenager asking for extra allowance to buy beer for a Friday night football game.

Yes, they were that dumb.

The hearing that was attended by just about every House member on the Financial Services Committee, telling anyone who knows anything about Washington that these legislative sharks smelled blood in the water.

The hearing where GM and Ford Presidents Rick Wagoner and Alan Mullaly refused to accept the $1 a year salary offer made by Chrysler President Bob Nardelli, losing a second offer by Congress to see if Detroit's leaders would grab onto a rhetorical lifeline.

The hearing where NYC Congressman Gary Ackerman delivered the line of the month (yes, I heard Obama and McCain on election night, but Ackerman has a clear winner here) with this full-frontal assault on these executives masquerading as 21st Century's three blind mice "There’s a delicious irony in seeing private luxury jets flying into Washington, D.C., and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hands saying that they’re going to be trimming down and streamlining their businesses. It’s almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high hat and tuxedo. Couldn’t you all have downgraded to first-class or jet-pooled or something to get here? It could have at least sent a message that you do get it.”

And, yes, the hearing where none of the business bigwigs volunteered to take a commercial flight back home, following the hearing.

Who among us will be enterprising enough to spend some time at the private air terminal at Reagan National Airport, logging the tail numbers on corporate jets in order to see who is still burning company cash on expensive travel.

And this is about cars, the future of American industry, and the American worker? No wonder the Japanese auto industry, and now the Korean manufacturers, continue to lead the way with innovation and design.

Amtrak, anyone?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

anyone bill their state for travel by their kids lately?

The Associated Press has moved a story tonight documenting dozens of instances where Alaska Governor Sarah Palin billed Alaska taxpayers for the costs of travelling her family to events where the kids had not been invited.

Here's the headline: AP INVESTIGATION: Alaska funded Palin kids' travel

Check out the article at http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081022/ap_on_el_pr/palin_family_travel_12. It seems that Governor Palin's concern for the taxpayer stops at the snowmachine's edge, or is it the 1000 thread sheets at a fancy NYC hotel, or just any old Alaska hootenanany that she could squeeze one, two, or three of her uninvited children into.

Governor Palin may have read some funny cue cards this past weekend while visiting 30 Rockefeller Center. But her presence on SNL still does not advance her beyond her status as a not ready for prime time player.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Who knew?

OK, the Veep debate was civil. Wasn't expecting that. Well, wasn't expecting it to be so civil, so staid, so polite. Well, there was the cuteness, the wink to dad Palin, the shout out to 3rd graders somewhere in Alaska, and humanity, the cracked voice when Biden talked about the loss of his first wife and daughter. But there was no drama, there was no one particular moment, with a great high, or a horrible low. As far as things go, this was measured. Each candidate did much better than expected, though as different instant polls show, Biden seemed to earn a decent victory. Perhaps it was the fact that he answered the questions asked, including what he and Obama might drop given the economic situation we are facing. Palin hung tough, suggesting there's nothing to be cut from a McCain-Palin plan, as they're not affected by the ongoing economic climate. Sure, there were differences on global warming, and on energy issues, but, surprisingly, there was absolutely none on gay rights, which might be a surprise to the McCain staff. All said, a debate that had huge billing, but will become a footnote, probably for 2012 when we next see Palin on a national stage, lights overhead, talking straight to camera with folksy cliches.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Vice Presidential debate viewing tips

Funs things to do during tonight's Vice Presidential debate:

Part I
Take a shot (alcohol or firearm) every time Governor Palin uses the word 'Gwen'
Take a shot each time Senator Biden says 'let me tell you'

Part II
Keep tabs of the total number of references Palin makes to her family. First Dude reference counts as a double score. Down's Syndrome is a triple score, and if she references Bristol's pregnancy, that's a quadruple score.
Count Biden's reference to his children, with double score for son Beau's scheduled departure for National Guard duty in Iraq.
Most references to family does not win, at least right now. That's for America to decide.

Part III
Count references to moose and Amtrak, and see which receives greater mention from each candidate.

Part IV
Listen carefully for the following words or phrases:

out of touch

Treat it like bingo, marking off each one on a sheet. The first viewer to mark all five boxes gets to turn off the debate and watch the Cubs/Dodgers game from Wrigley.

Part V
See if Palin makes a point about Ifill's race. See if Biden makes a point about Ifill's gender. If any one candidate raises either point, game is over, and you must consume any alcohol not already consumed during part I of this game.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tag, you're it

Barack Obama said he won't ask the Commission on Presidential Debates to postpone Friday's planned debate. This seems to check John McCain's request for a postponement, and pull it from the table.

Will the voting public follow this as closely as pundits, bloggers, and the political elites, or is this but one curve on the road each man is taking towards the White House?

You're suspended

In case you haven't been following the 2008 Presidential race, this would be a good time to start.

Now it's getting interesting. Just more than 48 hours before the first debate, scheduled for Friday evening in Oxford, Mississippi, on foreign affairs, John McCain has said he is suspending his campaign, returning to Washington, rolling up his sleeves, and jumping in to help work out a solution to the financial crisis and the bailout legislation being addressed by Congress.

Oh, one more thing, McCain has asked that the debate be postponed, and he has asked both the debate Commission and Barack Obama to join along with him on the call for postponing the debate.

Smart, gutsy move by a leader, or cynical, political ploy by someone losing ground to his opponent?

You can make the call.

At this point, Obama has not publicly responded, though his campaign has said it intends to go ahead with the debate at this time.

Is that the smart move, or should each candidate join together as one to help remedy this challenging financial situation? Can they? What if they start out as one, but diverge at some point?

Remember, the campaigns reached agreement on the debates just this past weekend, AFTER the financial crisis broke, and we learned of plans for the massive government capital infusion. So is this new, is it a ploy, is it meant to bring urgency to the situation, or solely to respond to poll numbers showing McCain losing ground among likely voters, particularly on economic issues.

Lots to discuss. Will be back soon on this one!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

It's noon in Iowa, do you know where your children are?

Most of us are probably too young to remember the PSA from the '70's, or was it the '60's, that asked, 'it's 10pm, do you know where your children are?'

It was pretty effective, though it did seem to distinguish those who knew where their kids were, or at least thought they did, and let's refer to these people as the good parents, and those who handn't a clue as to what junior or juniorette was doing at that hour, the people we'll refer to as the bad parents.

Cue to the noon rally in Iowa for the McCain-Palin ticket. We have begun to recognize the gild is coming off Sarah Palin's lilly. Her interview with Charlie Gibson last week over at ABC News showed her to be stretching in a number of areas, her use of the McCain's high powered lawyers to seek dismissal of on ongoing investigation into Palin's firing of Alaska's top cop show her to be as political as any other elected official, and her placement at the butt of jokes across the media landscape show her to be truly a deer in the headlights.

So I'm going to take on both yesterday's news, and the politically correct position of not questioning someone else's parenting skills. And here's why.

At every event I've seen Sarah Palin attend these past 3 weeks, her husband Todd has been by her side. Good move, shows family values, shows a family together, shows a team to the public.

Here's the politically incorrect part. When Sarah Palin says it's inappropriate to ask a female candidate for office, one with five children, two of whom are under 10, and three of whom ostensibly should be in school, who's taking care of the children, I tend to agree. Raising a family is a family matter. It's a responsibility often shared by parents, in those families fortunate enough to have two parents. And in this case two working parents, reportedly home each night with the children, helping them with schoolwork, assignments, taking them to hockey practice, etc.

But wait. If Todd Palin is alongside wife Sarah in Iowa, who's watching the kids. Don't they have school in Alaska in September? We can give Trig a pass this time, as he's probably too busy breastfeeding to worry about elementary education these days. But what about the other Palins, the girls with the hippie names, the ones who should be in school, home in Alaska. Who's taking care of them while mom and dad are away.

How does this work with family values.

Or does it take a village, after all.

First dude, or first dud. Dunno, but something's not adding up right here.

And I'm waiting for someone in the travelling press to ask about it. That is, presuming anyone with a press card can get anywhere near the VP team.

Let's stay tuned, and keep those impertinent questions coming. Free press is a basic right. Doesn't the first amendment actually precede the others in order?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Larry David is the true god (first of a series)

Curb your Enthusiasm is among the most original shows that has ever been developed and brought to television. If you've seen it, you know it. If you're not a viewer, or find David's humor, or sense of humor, lacking, then this post will not be worth your time.

For quite some time I have been experiencing moments that could be tweaked slightly enough to become the spine for a Curb episode. At some point I may go back and post these moments, but at this time I am going to post an incident that occured this morning, and I hope to let it be the first what I suspect will be a series that documents Larry David like moments that I have.

The story.

I work out regularly at a gym near my suburban DC home. It's a relatively upscale gym, with a demanding, middle-aged clientele. Lots of folks there work with personal trainers, seem to have the leisure time and lifestyle to utilize this facility, and seem to make it a part of their lives.

Mostly I ride a stationary bike, sometimes I use one of the ellipticals, and on rare occasion I'll dig into a rowing machine, and numb myself with that form of repetitive exercise.

This gym has a small but decent looking pool, with 4 lap lanes of 25 yards each. Not too bad for an indoor facility on the east coast. I'm not one to swim for a workout, but I thought I would give it a shot this morning, providing some variety from the standards of this machine or that machine.

So I bring the right equipment, which is basically a swimsuit, and head on in to the pool. When I get there, there are swimmers in each of the lanes, one per, with one woman standing on the deck at the other end of the pool, hovering over one of the middle lanes. Within a minute the lane in front of the hovering woman opens up, and she jumps in.

The person who left this lane seemed to have a conversation with the person in the end lane, the one next to her, and it's not clear if they're both leaving the pool, or just chatting for a moment. So I decide to jump in to this lane, the end lane, on the opposite end from the chatting women. I've got my goggles on, and I'm in the first lap, heading towards the other end at a pace that would make Michael Phelps' mother double over in laughter.

Halfway through this lap I sense a body coming down the other half of the lane, on the other side, and I realize that the other chatting woman had not left the water with her friend, but had just taken a break. No big deal. These lanes are wide enough to accomodate two, particularly if we keep the the pace that has us passing roughly in mid-lap. Again, there are five of us using four lanes, which I suspect is nothing unusual. Frankly, I suspect there's often 8 or 10 or even more people in the pool at the same time.

I get to the wall at the end of the first lap (or half lap, if it's counted that way, as I don't know the way swimmer's count), and move over to the other half of this lane, and proceed to swim my second lap (or complete my first lap, depending on how you're scoring at home). About halfway through this lap I sense something ahead of me in my lane. Since we're not out in open water, and since I counted five of us in the water before I started this lap, and since I didn't hear any noise from the lifeguard, or hear anything that would suggest something big fell in the pool, I suspected it was the woman with whom I was sharing the lane.

Turns out she had stopped her stroke, and launched into a series of questions regarding lanes and sides and swimming etiquette and the like.

On the street, in the subway, when driving, when biking on trails, in crowded corridors, we're taught and often follow the rule 'to the right.'

When swimming, why would this be any different?

Well, apparently the speedo clad suburban mom I encountered had a different approach to swimming, one that has her swim her little half of the lane the whole way up and back. Not my idea of a smart way to go about this, but apparently her way, and apparently to her, her way is the right way.

Her questions literally stopped me in my tracks. It's kind of hard to swim past an animated object standing directly ahead of you, attempting to berate you for something they're doing incorrectly, so I was compelled to address them.

And in response I told her to take the entire lane, and that I would leave the pool. Which I did. Gladly.

It's enough to have to see some people in swimsuits. Those of images you often don't want to maintain. It's quite another to have to wallow in water with them.

I'll be back on the bike tomorrow morning, and hope the person next to me doesn't decide to move their stationary bike into a non-existent lane.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address

Abraham Lincoln delivered the following speech for his second inaugural address. The nation had been through several years of nasty fighting, Lincoln had seen some of it, and already been shot at by secessionists. In the address he invoked religion, recognizing that each side sought solace through prayer, even though only one side would emerge victorious. This is a solemn speech, from a somber time. It does not seek or even justify war as ordained, or supported by faith.

Sarah Palin has been quoted as calling the war in Iraq divine. In June, before her former church in Wasilla, Alaska, she asked parishioners to do the following: "Pray for our military. Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right for this country - that our leaders, our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God."

In recent days Palin has begun to spin her Wasilla speech, stating that she was 'repeating' Lincoln. While I will leave it to others who follow the nexis of religion and politics to ask why she waited four months to bring out reference to this 'repeat,' I will note the subtlety of Lincoln's plaintiff cry for an end to one divisive war, and Palin's invocation of deity in support for another.

As Delivered by President Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1865
Fellow-Countrymen: At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, urgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.

It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully.

The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

We're starting a new game today

I have both strived and worked quite hard over the years to be fair, as balanced as I can, consistent, and most importantly to me, objective. There's a lot of talk that swirls around these terms and definitions, particularly during heated election campaigns. This year is clearly no exception.

Keeping that foremost in mind, we seem to have before us the first Presidential campaign for which the nomination of a Vice-Presidential candidate may be a factor in the minds of voters.

So let's play a game with this.

Let's keep tabs of what each of the VP candidates is known for doing, and see how many times they each do this from the end of the conventions, which we all know was 8 days ago, officially, through election day.

Joe Biden is known for putting his foot in his mouth. His biggest gaffe was in 1987 when he expropriated the family history of British Labor leader Neil Kinnock's as his own. This past week, Biden twice reverted to form. In Columbia, Missouri on Tuesday, Biden asked a paraplegic state official to stand in order to be recognized. Good 'ol Joe, bringing out the best in himself. He worked to recover, but this is the Joe those in Delaware and Washington know. And on Wednesday, at a town meeting in Nashua, New Hampshire, he was asked a question about Hillary Clinton. In extolling the virtues of New York's junior Senator, Biden closed out his praise for Hillary with this line. "Quite frankly it might have been a better pick than me."

I suspect the Obama folks were happy to see Joe muddle an issue that they had thought resolved three weeks prior, and were happier to see that this didn't become a full blown issue. But it does get to 2 the number of gaffe's Biden has made in this campaign.

As for Palin, she is not very well known outside of Alaska, certainly not known prior to her nomination by John McCain. And as Governor as one of the two most distant and geographically isolated American states, there are different standards for what the base issues are, and for how the base responds. But as a candidate for office, being prepared to be able to take over as President 'in a heartbeat' is something that each Vice-Presidential nominee must be able to do. And in being prepared, and being capable, they must be able to convey trust, as well as candor, with the American people.

Since the convention has ended, we can tabulate the following mis-statements to Sarah Palin, a total that continues to grow each day, particularly now that we have the opportunity to see her in interviews, and no longer exclusively in controlled and well mapped political settings.

For one, Palin continues to state that she opposed the infamous bridge to nowhere. Old-timers might call this a flip-flop, as she campaigned for Governor in 2006 in support of the bridge, came around to oppose the bridge upon election as Governor, but continues to claim credit for killing the project, although the project had lost critical support well before she reversed course. So that's one.

Palin has stated on several occasions over the past week that he son is an Army infantryman fighting in Iraq. On September 11, 2008, her son's Army Stryker unit was deployed to see duty in Iraq, though it won't arrive in country for some time. Perhaps Palin is being pro-active in support of her son, but it was not correct to say he is fighting in Iraq when he had not left Alaska.

In her interview with Charlie Gibson of ABC News, the interview that aired on World News on Thursday evening, Palin claimed to be unfamiliar with the Bush Doctrine, suggested offering support for Israel for whatever it though was correct militarily with regard to Iran, and went beyond the role of NATO in calling for defending the rights of nations against Russia. Some of this might be news for the McCain campaign, which knows, and has disagreements with the Bush Doctrine of pre-emption,; which clearly supports Israel as America's prime ally in the Middle East, but doesn't support a unilateral Israeli military operation against Iran; and with regard to NATO, doesn't put the United States further ahead of the other member states of this multi-national peace keeping organization.

So for those of you keeping score at home, it's two bonehead comments by Biden, five out of her league mistakes by Palin.

These numbers are only sure to rise.

Action, anyone?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sex, Lies and Videotape

That seems to sum things up so far in the Presidential campaign.

Sex, as in gender, and whether Sarah Palin's nomination by John McCain was as brilliant a political move as the support from his Republican base suggests, or a crass political move by a candidate desperate to make inroads against a transformative opponent.

Lies, as in the grossly inaccurate and clearly distorted information that has been presented in several campaign ads, primarily those of the McCain campaign, as well as the distortations and farbrications that have been circumnavigating the web having to do with each candidate. It seems that truth squadding, once the province of a small cadre of newspaper researchers, has become the requirement of all engaged voters.

Videotape, for the time being, ties in directly with the question of lies, and whether one candidate's use of a standard line for bullshit, post Palin, suggests anything more than his desire to emphasize criticism of his opponent's language. We have seen several examples of John McCain saying 'that's like putting lipstick on a pig' in reference to then candidate Hillary Clinton's health care plan, and even seen that Republican activist and former Dod spokesperson, and former McCain Senate press secretary, Torie Clarke, titled her 2006 book 'Lipstick on a Pig.'

It's ironic that a tired catchphrase, and an apparent desire by the McCain camp to seek political gain from Obama's use of the phrase, may become a campaign marker.

And, of course, thank you Steven Soderbergh, for coining the title stolen and recast here.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

What goes up........

It's been a remarkable week for Sarah Palin. Last Wednesday she was in Arizona, regaling John McCain with stories of independence and character building forged by a lifetime of mini-van shuttling to hockey practice. The other night she was in a hockey arena telling 15,000 Republican faithful that she's one of them, but with carefully crafted wit, along with hair and make-up.

The question is, where will she be next week?

Her meteoric rise to near the top of the Republican party (it's still a glass ceiling if you are not the top dog) has been the talk of the convention, as well as most every household and workplace in America.

But there's some basic physics at play here, which we will see played out over the next few days, and possibly few weeks.

The faster and higher you rise, the faster and deeper you fall.

She certainly seemed to deliver with her prime time speech in St. Paul. Crafted and constructed for maximum impact, she got the job done. But what about the areas she didn't discuss. What about the economy. What about education. What about housing. What about banking. What about the environment. What about transportation. What about health care, social security, literally every other domestic issue you could name, and some you probably couldn't. None of these were discussed by Palin, but they will be issues that will be raised before her quite soon.

Let's start an office pool and see how the rollout goes. For her big national television interview, will she start on Larry King, or on one of the morning shows. Or will the team play safe and keep her in the family over at FOX? Olbermann is out, no doubt, but what about Katie Couric over at CBS? Wouldn't that be smart.

The clock is ticking, and like a new car that loses value the minute those tires hit the street, this candidacy will be coming down from the atmosphere the moment the gavel comes down in St. Paul.

Monday, September 1, 2008

not ready for Prime Time player?

Prediction: come November 4, Sarah Palin will not be on the Republican Presidential ticket.

Has there ever been a major party ticket member with less interest in the job, less planning for the future, and less prepared for our 24/7 media coverage?

Did she think her daughter's pregnancy could be as well hidden as her own last year?

Does the fact that her values are being both challenged and actualized by realities on the ground suggest a stronger rooting, or a significant misunderstanding of how an otherwise internal family matter for a private citizen can be a national issue for a public official.

And, did John McCain and his senior staff know of Bristol Palin's pregnancy before the selection of Sarah Palin as VP, or did they not ask the one essential question to be asked in any interview setting, 'is there anything else I should know?"

This will be one in which to stay tuned.

Friday, August 29, 2008

deer in headlights, or genius?

Washington was caught totally by surprise with John McCain's appointment of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. Officials sites with biographical information on Palin are down, people are scratching their heads to learn more than the basic facts that have put forth on her: conservative, NRA lifetime member, mother of five, first term Governor, former beauty contestant.

It seems from her walk out in Dayton that she was surprised as well. There doesn't appear to be any physical connection between the McCain's and the Palin's, though perhaps her husband's skills as a snow machine operator will come in handy during the campaign.

On the positive side, Palin started her professional life as a sports reporter, so clearly she has reason to believe she knows the score.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

so, it came down to this

It appears that the Democrats may have pulled their chestnuts out of the fire with the powerful speech, and endorsement, that Bill Clinton provided in Denver on Wednesday night. Doubts had lingered that the Clinton's were truly behind Obama, and plenty had circulated about various gripes and slights felt by the Clinton's and their respective supporters. Most if not all of that seemed to have been eliminated by Bill Clinton's appearance Wednesday night, his forceful language, and most of all his linkage of experiences and criticisms that he faced in 1992 with that which Obama has run into this cycle. No stronger endorsement could have been proffered. Whether this does unite the Democrats, and eliminates this story line for the media, and for the Republicans, remains to be seen.

Now about those faux columns on the grass at Invesco Field........

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

it's over when I say it's over.....

that would seem to be the tone set by Hillary Clinton....I mean Bill Clinton.....I mean Hillary...Bill....my daughter.....my sister....my daughter....my sister.....has anyone seen Faye Dunaway lately? Does it really seem to matter? The Clinton appear to be one and the same, and the mixed messages that continue to come from the multitude of Clinton camps seem to do nothing but embolden the McCain camp, diminish the standing of the Clinton camp, and undermine the goal of the Democratic convention as a celebration of Obama and change. The false charges that the media is beating this drum are evident when you hear the statements from various Hillary supporters that have been posted in the past 24 hours, appeared in print, or on network or cable air, without solicitation, without prompting, and without apparent thought for the legacy of the campaign.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I'd like a menu and a bucket to throw up in

How much is too much?

When do you know you've reached the point in collecting things that you've got what you want, or that you have the right amount to proceed, or even that you have all that you could ever need, or use, at any time.

For Igor Kenk, the known remained unknown to him.

The Toronto bike shop owner was arrested and charged with the theft, and possession, which makes the story interesting, of 2,396 bicycles.

Now I've got a bunch of bikes. I actually try to ride them all, from time to time, but only once or twice have my bike totals ever reached double digits.

2,396. How do you get to that point. Is it OCD? Is it mental illness? Is it a compulsion to cleanse the streets of bikes? Is it some sort of conspiracy by the auto industry, or the public transit folks?

According to the New York Times, Kenk worked closely with a number of street people, and would clip locks, take the bikes, and then place them in one of several storage sites he had across town. Folks knew to look first for their stolen bikes at Kenk's but that seemed to matter little to him, until he was caught in a sting. A bicycle sting of all things. Perhaps I'll post another time about how low crime must be in Toronto for the authorities to put together a sting operation for a bike thief.

But here's the kicker, and what either explains all of this, or is just a good coda. Also according to the Times, and I'll quote here, "As the police gathered the mounds of bikes, they also found cocaine, crack cocaine, about 15 pounds of marijuana and a stolen bronze sculpture of a centaur and a snake in battle."

Some guys. They just can't control themselves. Still, this guy must have had some crazy parties.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

MLB All-Time Scoundrel Team

Slow day in blogville, so let's dialogue over who has been baseball's most notorious scoundrel, by position. Comments are most welcome. Most of these folks are first ballot scoundrels. Some take a little work to get themselves on the list. To make it, you have to be a scoundrel either during or after your play in the Bigs. And consistent scoundrel activity is a good measure for placement on the list.

C: Jim Leyritz
1B: Mark McGwire
2B: Pete Rose
SS: Miguel Tejada
3B: Scott Spiezio
LF: Dave Kingman
CF: Cesar Cedeno
RF: Barry Bonds
P: Juan Marichal
Denny McClain
John Rocker
Sidney Ponson
Fritz Peterson
Mike Kekich
Jose Mesa
Roger Clemens

Team Manager: Billy Martin

Dishonorable mention:

Joe Jackson-OF
Enos Slaughter-OF
Jack Clark-1B
Jake Powell -OF
Ben Chapman-OF
Dale Berra-3B
Jason Giambi-1B
Mel Hall, Jr.-OF
Cleon Jones-OF
Darryl Strawberry-OF
Dwight Gooden-P
Jose Canseco-OF

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Veepstakes

You would think the position mattered.

Who is the Vice President, after all?

How many can you name?

And what did Texan John Nance Garner once say.........

OK, Mondale and Gore and clearly Cheney have redefined the position.

And what we have ahead is the most important decision a prospective party designee can make. But there are so many variables involved, so many people to please, that this, and every other decision John McCain and Barack Obama will make over the next 75 days, will be reviewed and scrutinized and blogged about in a way no other candidates have been screened ever before.

Hope we're all ready for it.

For without a solid VP choice on either ticket, it's Robert Byrd from West Virginia laying in waiting for the gold.

Will Obama stand for change with his running mate beside him, or will he have a representative from Washington's permanent class from the Senate?

Will McCain truly show himself to be a maverick, or will the strength of the Republican right suppress his desire for independence on his ticket?

Bob Costas won't be covering this race, but it will be more interesting. Now, back to Beijing and the Games.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Leroy Sievers

We lost a legend this weekend.

Most people don't know his name. Some may have have heard his voice. A number of us read his blog.

And anyone who came in contact with Leroy Sievers, at any time in his accomplished life, certainly remembers his presence.

Leroy was a large man, and was not shy about using that physical leverage to his advantage.

Fortunately, what was often his advantage was the shared interest of his colleagues, his co-workers in whatever newsroom he was in, whether that was at Nightline, at the Discovery Channel, and at NPR, where his blog postings and commentaries were read and heard by those both with and those who did not have cancer.

Leroy was a demanding colleague. Most demanding of himself, as the best among us often are. Diligent, capable, and with a discipline and a focus and a willingness to not just put in the hours needed to get a job done, but the energy and drive need to get that job done not just well, but quite well.

Leroy's battle with cancer, and the martial metaphor is apt, was just that. Leroy would not allow himself to become a prisoner. He fought, and for some time beat the odds. He had done battle in the media world before, and had come out on top from fights with public affairs officials, corporate flaks, and network executives. There was certainly no reason to believe he wouldn't defeat this consuming challenge.

His spirit and inspiration were legendary.

And the void created by this loss will not soon be filled.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Clapton is God, August 2008 version

Is Michael Phelps amazing, or what? I can actually recall, reasonably clearly, the exploits of Mark Spitz back in Munich in 1972, so this is just remarkable. Can the guy even see with all the lights and flashes and people in front of him? What can the next 24 hours, or 24 months, be for this guy? Can any of us imagine?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

what, there's even more to the election this year?

Alan Rosenblatt and the Center for American Progress Action Fund featured an illuminating lecture Wednesday afternoon with David Perlmutter as part of their 'Internet Advocacy Roundtable.' Perlmutter was here in DC to speak about his book BlogWars, but wisely noted upfront that since the book was completed in December, just a bit has happened to advance the world of political blogs, though he feels what he wrote does remain relevent. Perhaps a recent history more than a reveal into a sea change in political communication. Perlmutter did a fine job advocating for traditional media while similarly advocating for an advanced role for citizen journalists, bloggers, and social networkers. I'll steal from Rodney King here, and similarly ask, "can't we all get along?" There's enough news and information on the campaigns, and out there generally, that there's quite enough room for all comers to the world of news and information. Hopefully all will aspire to excellence, and provide substance as well as style.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Is sure seems as though the Beijing Games are becoming all consuming. Perhaps it's the smooth delivery of Bob Costas, or the porn-like cameras focused on the showers for the synchronized divers, or maybe even the remarkable swims that Michael Phelps has done, but it sure is tough to find something else to hold interest these days. Anyone know what happened to those Obama and McCain guys? Aren't they headed for some major speeches, announcements, and acclaim in a few weeks? Will we still care? The cameras and reporters will be there. But will the public return to the election?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Opening salvo

Faith in institutions continues to suffer, particularly when the weather forecasters get it wrong. Again. These guys call themselves professionals, with degrees, and years of study? Better relying on a gaming tout than a meteorologist for a forecast in any city these days.
Props to the Red Sox for separating themselves from Manny Ramirez. Without the Yankees having to spend a cent, the Bombers just improved their 2008 WS prospects significantly, while watching the Sox continue to implode. Perhaps this will augur a return to the '70's and '80's for these teams. If fashions can make a comeback, why not the recasting of this traditional rivalry. For my money, I'll take the '70's relationship, that worked out well for us