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A working class hero was something to be

[ 11 ] December 8, 2010 |

John Lennon
Thirty years ago tonight John Lennon was murdered by a mentally ill fan. By a simple twist of fate the story was broken by sportscaster Howard Cosell during a ABC Monday Night Football telecast. After the shooting police responding to the scene took Lennon to a nearby emergency room, where an ABC employee was being treated for a broken leg. The employee overheard the police discussing the shooting, then witnessed Yoko Ono’s grief-stricken disbelief when told minutes later that her husband was dead (Ono had been with him when he was shot). The employee hobbled to a pay phone, and called in the story. MNF producer Roone Arledge was instructed to tell the announcing crew to break the news on the air. The crew were given the news during a commercial break, and had less than a minute to figure out how to handle the situation. Cosell, who knew Lennon personally and indeed had interviewed him on MNF six years earlier, didn’t want to do it. Frank Gifford insisted he had to, and Cosell gave the horrible news the memorable treatment linked above.

I was watching the telecast in my dorm room in Ann Arbor. The Youtube video brought the shock of that moment back as if it had all happened yesterday. (Today of course something like this would have been tweeted almost before the shots had stopped echoing).

Besides being a great musician, John Lennon was an interesting political figure. His politics were of course not “serious” in the sense that Very Serious People give that word — they reflected a kind of utopian radicalism that found its expression in absurdist performance art, such as the infamous Bed-Ins for Peace he undertook with Ono in 1969. Lennon paid a real personal price for his opposition to the Vietnam War: the basic story is told well if a bit simplistically in the documentary The U.S. v. John Lennon.

I dislike “if X were alive today” speculations on principle, since such musings invariably conclude that the departed’s hypothetical present opinions would be identical to the author’s current views. Nevertheless I very much wish John Lennon were alive today for all sorts of reasons — not the least of which is the desire to still have his voice advocating, through art and activism, for that most feared and despised thing, a world of free and equal human beings.

Lesbians are actually kinda hot and make good soldiers too

[ 11 ] November 23, 2010 |

van alden

So sign ‘em up for Team America: World Police.

There’s a lot to savor here: The time machine that takes you back to 1953; the just-so evolutionary biology; the characteristically creepy mixture of obsession with and attraction/repulsion toward the subject matter; the sexualization of the work place. It’s a heady brew, as Agent Van Alden might say.

Update: I read this after The Daily Caller had removed the original final sentence, which per the Amanda Hess piece Scott links above, read “My solution would get the distaff part of our homosexual population off our collective ‘Broke Back,’ thus giving straight male GIs a fair shot at converting lesbians and bringing them into the mainstream.”

Another big win for the blogosphere

[ 18 ] November 19, 2010 |

Three days ago, LGM suggested that playing a football game with a (padded!!) brick wall on the end line of the field might be a dubious idea. Apparently this stunning insight “went viral” as the kids say, because this morning . . .

(The lawyers who were planning to sit in the east end zone to be first off the mark when filing PI suits can now use their strategic positioning to organize a class action for the benefit of everybody who bought tickets on that end of the field).

Update: Look at these ticket prices!

A friend reminds me that Chicago baseball fields seem to be magnets for horrible promotional ideas:

Disco demolition

Maybe humanity isn’t doomed after all

[ 5 ] November 18, 2010 |

Nowledge triumphs.

Mental decency

[ 24 ] November 18, 2010 |

show trial

Glenn Greenwald as usual does an excellent job summarizing the Orwellian proceedings surrounding the detention and trial of Ahmed Ghailani.

One point that bears particular emphasis is that the government, or more precisely the Obama administration through its Department of Justice, made clear at the trial that Ghailani would not be released no matter what verdict the jury might reach. Despite this (and despite the fact Ghailani was convicted of a charge that by itself will result in a sentence of 20 years to life, to be served in a Supermax facility, i.e., under conditions of solitary confinement that are themselves somewhat difficult to distinguish from the torture to which Ghailani was subjected, and which made much of the evidence against him unadmissable), people like Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney denounced the proceedings as far too civilized for their taste:

Bad ideas have dangerous consequences. The Obama Administration recklessly insisted on a civilian trial for Ahmed Ghailani, and rolled the dice in a time of war. The Department of Justice says it’s pleased by the verdict. Ask the families of the victims if they’re pleased. And this result isn’t just embarrassing. It’s dangerous. It signals weakness in a time of war. The Ghailani trial was supposed to be a test case for future trials of 9/11 terrorists.

We urge the president: End this reckless experiment. Reverse course. Use the military commissions at Guantanamo that Congress has authorized. And, above all–accept the fact that we are at war

.

(The enemy in this war is unspecified, but I imagine it’s either Eastasia or Eurasia).

Speaking of Orwell, conservatives have special affection for this quote:

“First of all, a message to English left-wing journalists and intellectuals generally: Do remember that dishonesty and cowardice always have to be paid for. Don’t imagine that for years on end you can make yourself the boot-licking propagandist of the Soviet régime, or any other régime, and then suddenly return to mental decency. Once a whore, always a whore.”

Apparently they missed the italicized phrase.

FOX goes PC: Bows to pressure to characterize murder of American general by ruthless savages as military “defeat.”

[ 16 ] November 17, 2010 |

Custer

Monday USA TODAY ran a seemingly innocuous little story about a children’s book putatively authored by Barack HUSSEIN Obama. Some sharp-eyed patriot at FOX News, always on the alert for signs of subversion at the highest level of our government, noticed one graph in the middle of the story, and repackaged the piece as a four-graph article, with the fourth graph bolded for emphasis.

Then, an attempt to make sure the point of this orthographical pedagogy didn’t fly over the audience’s collective head, the story’s title was altered from “Obama Shares Dreams for his Kids in Book on 13 Americans” to “Obama Praises Indian Chief Who Killed U.S. General.” Sadly on Tuesday an army of jackbooted PC stormtroopers descended on the FOX News building in midtown Manahattan, and after a tense standoff that included hostage-taking and the use of impolite language by bra-less radical Feminazis, the headline was changed to “Obama Praises Indian Chief Who Defeated U.S. General.”

I’ll say this for FOX: at least they know what they’re trying to accomplish. Too bad the same can’t be said for MSNBC.

Best idea since Irwin Mainway’s Bag ‘o Glass

[ 40 ] November 16, 2010 |

Wrigley

Illinois and Northwestern are playing a college football game at Wrigley Field on Saturday. That’s an actual photograph of one end zone.

My favorite detail is the advertising signage at the spot where the brick wall intersects the goal post.

Hope we don’t see any incidents of paralysis followed by frivolous lawsuits.

Armistice Day

[ 68 ] November 11, 2010 |

I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy, and when Dwayne Hoover was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.

Armistice Day has become Veterans’ Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans’ Day is not.
Vietnam War Memorial
So I will throw Veterans’ Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don’t want to throw away any sacred things.

Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions is not Vonnegut’s best book, but I read it in high school, and it was probably the first novel that ever suggested to me that the world might be more complicated than how it was portrayed in school and on TV.

Frank Buckles.

Olbermann suspended for making campaign contributions

[ 28 ] November 5, 2010 |

Casablanca

This story seems odd on a number of levels.

First, NBC’s rules, which apparently require journalists to get permission from their bosses before contributing to or otherwise participating in political campaigns, are pretty ridiculous. (News organizations have a wide variety of policies regarding this sort of thing, from anything goes at FOX to above the fray appearance of objectivity at all costs at places like the New York Times). Is anybody under the impression that Keith Olbermann is supposed to be maintaining an appearance of objectivity, whatever that means in this crazy mixed up world where the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans? (It’s unclear whether Olbermann did get permission before contributing a combined total of a little more than $7K to two congressional and one senate campaign).

Second, Olbermann’s flouting of his organization’s rules, however ridiculous those rules may be — if he did flout them; again this isn’t clear — seems tactically very unwise. His influence as a commentator is exponentially more valuable to candidates whom he favors than the piddling sums he’s legally allowed to contribute to them. Making such contributions without clearing them first creates yet another bogus issue for the Scream Machine to whinge about as it goes on about Mainstream Media Bias etc etc.

Living in the hysterical world

[ 7 ] October 29, 2010 |

Today’s “terrorist” “incidents” don’t seem too terrifying:

The rare military escort for a civilian flight heightened the drama of the still unfolding terrorism investigation, as officials isolated cargo planes at two other American airports and searched a delivery truck in Brooklyn for packages said to have been sent from Yemen to addresses in the United States.

None of those packages proved to be dangerous, but officials in Dubai found one that contained explosive material, and another — the first one to be discovered, in Britain — contained a device that appeared similar to an improvised bomb but contained no explosives.

Nevertheless President Obama held an impromptu news conference to discuss these barely newsworthy events. Obama is in a Catch-22 situation here: On the one hand if he acts like a grownup he will be excoriated from the right for not being taking The Existential Threat We Face from Islamoterrofascism seriously. On the other, we can be pretty sure that the next couple of days will feature lots of speculation regarding whether this whole thing has been trumped up by the administration for electoral purposes (it will be interesting to see if any GOP establishment mouthpieces pick up this theme).

Rick Sanchez’s formula for achieving more balanced media coverage

[ 73 ] October 1, 2010 |

Rick Sanchez

Throw the Jew Down the Well.

First, Sanchez started out expressing an anecdote from his own experience, when someone who was “top brass” at CNN told Sanchez to his face that he saw Sanchez as “more as John Quiñones,” referring to the Hispanic ABC News reporter. Sanchez’s example was an illustration that the problem of racism in the media business goes further than many expect, enveloping “not just the Right,” but also “elite, Northeast establishment liberals” that “deep down, when they look at a guy like me, they see a guy automatically who belongs in the second tier, and not the top tier.”

That’s when Sanchez really let his feelings loose: “I think to some extent Jon Stewart and [Stephen] Colbert are the same way. I think Jon Stewart’s a bigot.“

Pete noted that Stewart is his former boss, and pressed Sanchez to explain himself further. “How is he a bigot?” Pete asked.

Sanchez:

I think he looks at the world through, his mom, who was a school teacher, and his dad, who was a physicist or something like that. Great, I’m so happy that he grew up in a suburban middle class New Jersey home with everything you could ever imagine.

Pete pressed, “What group is he bigoted towards?”

Sanchez replied: “Everybody else who’s not like him. Look at his show, I mean, what does he surround himself with?”

Pete asked for a specific example, saying the term “bigot” is pretty strong.

“That’s what happens when you watch yourself on his show every day, and all they ever do is call you stupid.”

Asked again what group Stewart is bigoted against, Sanchez replied, referring to Stewart in the second person:

Anybody who’s different than you are, anybody who’s not form your frame of reference; anybody who doesn’t look and sound exactly like the people that you sound [like] and grew up with. The people that you put on your show, who always reflect somebody who’s, “I’m bringing in to sit around me,” you know, who’s very different from me. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy this thing that the only people out there who are prejudiced… are the Right. There’s people that are prejudiced on both sides.

Sanchez went on to claim that Stewart’s worldview is “very much a white, liberal establishment point of view.” Sanchez added:

He can’t relate to a guy like me. He can’t relate to a guy whose dad worked all his life. He can’t relate to somebody who grew up poor.

Inexplicably, Sanchez argued, “If we’re gonna call one side bigoted, we probably gotta look at the other side and say the same thing.” This, of course, does not stand to reason in the slightest, but Pete noted that he agreed racism and prejudice are not the exclusive domain of conservatives, which Pete has stated countless times on the air.

At the end of the first exchange of the day about Stewart’s alleged bigotry, Pete pushed Rick to back off a bit, and Sanchez eventually conceded:

All right, I’ll take the word bigot back; I’ll say prejudicial [sic] — uninformed.

Later in the interview, Sanchez pushed the discussion again, returning to the idea that Stewart is “prejudiced,” though again backing away from the word “bigot.”

If I did just sit there and read the teleprompter every day, Jon Stewart would never say a word about me. He’d say I’m a good Hispanic anchor, “Way to go, you’ve done a good job, stay right there.” … I am a complex human being, I’m not some moron to be…”

At least part of Sanchez’s gripe with Stewart, he said, is that Stewart picks on Sanchez for superficial on-air failings instead of substantial offenses like those committed by Fox News personalities, and the Daily Show does this in order to be seen as criticizing CNN as much as it criticizes Fox News Channel. (Regular watchers of The Daily Show know that Fox takes far more of Stewart’s media-savvy ribbing than CNN does, but Sanchez claimed Stewart sought parity in comedically critiquing the two leading cable news operations.)

Here’s what they do. This is the game they play. “I just picked on Fox News, because they just had a bold-faced [sic] lie about something — damnit, that means I gotta find something on CNN. Oh, I know… wait, hold on, let me find, oh that Rick Sanchez, that little Puerto Rican guy. I’ll make fun of him. Do you have anything.” “Uh, yeah, last week, he mispronounced the word indutably or whatever.” “Yeah, that’s it, find me that and we’ll do a whole 4-minute segment on how he mispronounced the word arithmetic.”

When Pete defended Jon Stewart as “just a comedian,” Sanchez shot back, “That’s a cop-out.” (I happen to agree with Sanchez on that one.)

When Pete suggested Jews (such as Stewart) have at least some sense of what it’s like to be an oppressed minority, Sanchez seemed to make the claim that Jews run CNN and the news business in general and that Stewart thus did not in fact know what it was like to feel the sting of prejudice.

“Yeah,” Sanchez snickered sarcastically at the idea that Jews are as much minorities as Latinos in the US.

Very powerless people… [snickers] He’s such a minority, I mean, you know [sarcastically]… Please, what are you kidding? … I’m telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart, and to imply that somehow they — the people in this country who are Jewish — are an oppressed minority? Yeah. [sarcastically]

That’s right, CNN anchor Rick Sanchez basically suggested that Jews have run the media.

Pete asked, “They can’t relate to that? A Jewish person doesn’t have a constant fear in the back of their head that we could [inaudible] the Holocaust?”

“I think his father could,” Sanchez replied, referring to Stewart.

“I think every Jewish person feels that way,” Pete said.

“I hope so,” Sanchez responded.

Sanchez also suggested Jews in general, at least of his generation or younger, are not discriminated against, though they might hear the occasional Jew joke now and again.

I grew up not speaking English, dealing with real prejudice every day as a kid; watching my dad work in a factory, wash dishes, drive a truck, get spit on. I’ve been told that I can’t do certain things in life simply because I was a Hispanic. My friends who are black, I’ve seen that with them; I’ve seen that with a lot of minorities. I can’t really think — although I understand the plight of Jews, and all the experiences, and the things that have happened historically for them — but I can’t say that my buddy Glen or my buddy Izzy who I grew up with in South Florida ever were prejudiced against directly simply because they were Jewish. There may have been jokes around them or about other things, but it’s kinda — you know what I’m saying, it’s kind of a different thing.

“No, I don’t,” Pete replied.

“I can’t see somebody not getting a job somewhere because they’re Jewish,” Sanchez added.

“Well, then you’ve never been to Nebraska,” Pete shot back to lighten the mood.

Returning once again to his criticism of the Daily Show host, near the end of the exchange, Sanchez concluded about Stewart: “I don’t respect the guy.”

I happen to have a fairly similar background to Sanchez in a number of ways. Now it’s always dangerous to generalize about other peoples’ lives on the basis of one’s own experiences, but with that nuanced scholarly caveat in mind, I’m calling bullshit. Not just on the obviously hysterical Protocols of the Elders of Zion stuff here, but on Sanchez’s all but explicit claim that he’s a discriminated-against minority while Jon Stewart is not just a white guy, but an especially privileged white guy (because he’s a Jew and Jews run the media etc).

Look Rick, in America in 2010 you and me are basically white guys — just like Jon Stewart. Now I’m not doubting that somebody somewhere has said or done something nasty to you because of your last name (which is the only thing that would ever signal to anybody that you might have had trouble joining the New York Athletic Club in 1965), but you’re white. Comparing your life experiences to those of black people in the deep South is preposterous. It’s unfortunate that a CNN pooh bah once said something tactless to you, but if that’s your best example of what sort of things you’ve had to overcome as a “minority” in America, then I suggest you might ask yourself why your last name is still Sanchez while Jon Stuart Leibowitz’s is now Stewart.

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“Fiscal restraint”

[ 6 ] September 23, 2010 |

Jon Chait points out that for a generation now GOP proposals for Doing Something About Big Government have followed a predictable not to say neurotic pattern:

Republicans keep running on platforms consisting of specified measures to increase the deficit and unspecified pledges to reduce it. Inevitably, they fail to reduce it. Then the party faithful decide the problem was leaders who lacked true conviction, and so the new leaders promise to mend their ways. Then they do the same thing all over again.

The current federal budget:

21% Medicare and Medicaid

20% Social Security

20% Military

6% Debt service

So two-thirds of the budget is made up of spending that can’t be altered significantly under anything like current political conditions. What both parties like to ignore in their superficially different but largely identical ways is that

(a) Wealth transfer payments to the elderly and America: World Police both remain very popular; and

(b) We have a extremely dysfunctional political system, in which among many other hoops that have to be jumped through you need a 3/5ths majority in an already wildly un-representational body to get any legislation passed (why anyone other than the politicians who benefit from dodging responsibility thinks this is a good thing remains difficult to understand).

So making any significant cuts in about 2/3rds of the budget is at present total political non-starter.

Which leaves everything else.

14% of the budget represents all federal programs and subsidies (other than Medicaid) for the benefit of poor people. It’s true there are some cost savings to be had by cutting this significantly. It’s also true there are some other costs that would be incurred by turning the US into Brazil.

7% is veterans benefits of all types and vested federal pensions.

3% is education

3% is transportation and infrastructure

2% is scientific and medical research

1% is non-military foreign aid of all types

4% is everything else the federal government does: running the courts and the administrative regulatory state, the park services, farm subsidies, grants to communist ballet groups etc etc.