Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Damn Monkey

Just for the record, I hate that F-ing monkey.

Three runs in the seventh, three runs in the eigth, and the Angels beat the Giant in the 6th game of the world series. Game seven we get slaughtered, 4 to 1. That was 2002, the last time my team--now the team with the longest curse in baseball--was in the world series. All becasue of that God damned ralley monkey.

So you must imagine my joy that we've taken two of three from the Angels this week. We have another game today, but it was nice to see Vlad the impaler get struck out by Armando, of all people. But it's hardly revenge. Winning the series would be the only revenge.

It looks as though, just perhapes, God has sent us some pitching.

I'm going to Cali this week. I doubt I'll get to any games, but the As vs. Giants series will be going on. Might be fun.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Happy Birthdays

Britain celebrated the Queen's 80th Birthday this weekend. It was in all the British papers. She actually turned 80 back in April, but the 17th was the official holiday. The time even printed the seating chart and menu from her birthday dinner. A good time was had by all.

The next day marked a much more important birthday. Paul McCartney turned 64. all the papers covered it, and with good reason. When he was 24 McCartney famously asked what his love life would be like forty years hence, would his true love still love him when he's 64? The song was an upbeat and hopeful plea for life-long happiness and true love. We now have an answer to Paul's question. Paul's true love Linda would indeed have needed him, fed (feeded) him, sent him valentines and bottles of wine (Does Paul Drink? I don't know). Theirs was one of the great story-book romances of their generation. For their entire marriage they never spent more than one night apart from one another. But Linda's dead. She didn't make it to Paul's 64th birthday, and he's involved in a divorce from his second wife (that is likely not as nasty as the British tabloids make it out to be). So at 64 McCartney does indeed know the answer to his question. At 64 Paul is alone, and that is one of saddest things I have ever seen or heard.

Friday, June 16, 2006


The Giants took two of three from Arizona over the weekend. We're now two games back in a tie for third. Woohoo! The National West is nothing if not exciting this year. Please send us more pitching!

So my local bodega has started carrying the international edition of The Times (of London). I mean, they carry the post already, and they are both tabloids in the Rupert Murdoch empire, so I'm not sure why (I was really dissapointed to discover that the Times hd switched from being a broadsheet toa tabloid, but that's Murdoch for you). But I've started reading it, mostly for the soccer news during the World Cup. well I was thumbing through the international section and I came upon something called "The Shanghai Cooperation Organization" which is holding a summit in China which is being attended by Russia, India, Pakistan, Iran, and a few others. Like I said, I'd never heard of it. It was apparentl founded after September 11 to fight terrorism and drug traficking in central Asia.

Like I said, never heard of it. Not once. And there in the Times was a headline saying "Iran in talks to join aliance against Westm" on an article about how this organization is positioning itself as counterbalance to Western influence and to NATO. Iran is seeking full membership. The organization has drafted a statement that basically supports Iran in its efforts to resist US presure: "In an implicit reference to the US and its pressure on Iran to end its nuclear weapons programme, he said that the SCO could 'ward off the threats of domineering powers to use their force against and interfere in the affairs of other states.'"

Never heard of it. Now this is from a rupert Murdoch tabloid, so I don't completely trust it. I went and ran a Google News search. The only mention in an American source was an article posted 3 hours ago on Voice of America that, while at the conference, Iran's president indicated that the recent offers of dialouge from te US was a positive step. This is good news. But about the other issue of SCO being a possible rival no NATO, nothing. The conference isn't even being covered in the US. It's covered in the Pakistani news service, the Uzbeki wire service, Islam Press, China and India, but not by the American press. Don't you think Americans might be interested in an organization that cold re-ignite the cold war. China, India, and Russia, while opposing Nuclear armamnet in Iran, have already expressed support for Iran at the UN on the issue of sanctions. If they really do enter into a military aliance with Iran, the cold war will be on again. And we hear nothing. Rumsfeld did comment to the Times in a shot at Iran, but nothing else.

The article also mentioned that this is all due to growing anti-Americanism as a result of our president's foregin policies. No surprise there.

All of which leadds me to wonder two things: first off, why isn't the American pess covering this? Second, why isn't this administration bangine the drum. The answer to the first is probvably some variation of "Americans don't care." But might not an answer to the second be that a new cold war would serve a conservative agenda?

Likely this is all just Murdoch stiring things up. China, Russia and India need ou markets a lot more than they need Iran tohave bombs. Maybe I'm just paranoid. But I still wonder why until now I've never heard about it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

LATER—Bush news conference

Apparently, death affects the president’s way of thinking.

The main theme of Bush’s speech from the rose garden was Iraqi reconstruction. He mentioned a free and democratic Iraq and the strength of the Iraqi prime minister’s character. He mentioned the security crackdown in Baghdad. He mentioned ways in which infrastructure is being secured. He talked about hope. Most of all he talked about rebuilding by sending American experts to Iraq to show them how to do things. Most of Bush’s cabinet secretaries will be traveling to Iraq to teach their counterparts how to run a government. That is a bold message. The implication is that in spite of the extraordinary security measures the president’s team undertook to get him in and out of Iraq, Iraq is at least safe enough to send the Secretary of Agriculture there. Well, he’s expendable anyway, I suppose.

But at one point he made a slight Gaff. I heard the president of the United States say the interests of the Iraqi people are more important than the interest of Americans: “It is in our interests that we succeed. More importantly it is in the interest of the Iraqi people.” Really!

A question on GITMO the president said “eventually these people will have trials and they will have counsel.” I’m sure that’s news to everyone there.

He of course has a tendency to ramble, and occasionally when he rambles he says things that would get any of his cabinet secretaries fired. But his aw shucks manner gets him out of it.

He says “I suggested a royalty trust for the Iraqi people,” like the one in Alaska, as though it’s his idea. It was suggested in a piece in the New York Times in the first weeks after the invasion. But he can have the credit if he wants, because it’s a good idea.

He came back to the theme “I’m convinced this government will succeed,” a number of times.

He side-stepped a question on Karl Rove’s ethics.

He appeared uncomfortable with the phrase “the tide has turned.”

When first asked about the midterm elections and his poor approval ratings, the president was at his most comfortable. He said he believed they (Republicans) would hold the house and senate. He attacked the democrats. He raised the specter of taxes. Most interestingly, he said he was proud of his record and the republicans would run on his record. If the Democrats don’t play that sound bite a million times during the campaign they are idiots.

But as the news conference went on the president became testier, more combative. The third of fourth time he got asked about poll numbers he began to sound angry. His last word was, “It’s worth it, it’s necessary, and we will succeed,” but it was said with the anger and frustration of somebody who is tired of hearing how many people disagree with him—apparently about 80%.

He also joked with and complimented reporters by name. He joked about his age. He ribbed a substitute. He looked relaxed, if a bit tired. But he still didn’t look presidential. He looked like a high school principal addressing an assembly somewhere in the central valley: homey, sincere, unpolished, serious, in no way presidential. But that’s probably because I still believe in a statesman as president instead of a cheerleader.

But I’m out of touch.

Road Trip!

President Bush went to Iraq yesterday and the one thing I noticed is that his tie was crooked.

The trip was so hasty, so rushed and so bare bones that his handlers didn’t have time to make sure the president’s tie was straight. When President Bush shook hands with the Iraqi prime minister his bright blue tie was shoved into one side of his jacket as though he had dressed in a hurry. For what it’s worth the prime minister was immaculate—impressive since he had even less time to get ready. He was told of the president’s visit about five minutes before he arrived.

The haste was, of course, for security reasons. A reporter on CNN this morning described the elaborate security measures put in place. President Bush insisted on taking Air Force One. He wanted a symbolic entry. Even though they didn’t tell anyone the president was coming, as soon as Air Force One appeared over the Baghdad skies, everyone knew he was there. They descended quickly. The entourage was rushed to a group of military transport helicopters. They flew in low over Baghdad to the green zone. They left under cover of darkness, the only illumination being glow sticks. The pilots flew using night vision goggles. Air Force one took on minimal fuel for speed and then took off straight up, like they do from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, with all lights out and all shades down.

And you can be sure the White House let everybody know about all the security. It was necessary, but it also made great television.

Cynical? I don’t’ think so, not with this administration.

This was a big time piece of political theatre. Like a Bob Hope road trip movie, this trip was heavily produced. This was much like the president’s movie inspired speech from the flight-deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. Aboard the Lincoln he said the war had been won. In Baghdad yesterday, where the war is still going on, he invoked Lincoln, saying Iraq deserves a government of, by and for the people. It was meant as much as anything to drive home the message that the war is being won. The news out of the Pentagon is the same. Today we hear about “boots on the streets,” more troops, mostly Iraqi troops, being deployed in Baghdad. We are being reminded again and again about the new “Unity Government” in Iraq and the death of al-Zaqarwi.

Karl Rove made a speech in New Hampshire last week in which he extolled his political troops to attack the democrats, to be proud of the war, to talk up the economy, in other words to be positive and to be strong.

This is all part of that. This is the mid term elections in full swing. And make no mistake: although this administration is reckless, arrogant, pig headed, stupid and incompetent in running the country, they are great in elections. Getting elected is what this group does best, and they are in campaign mode. They are loving it, and they believe they can win.

Rove also implied that the democrats are cowards, accusing us of wanting to “cut and run.” That’s fine with me. The last thing I want is praise from a lying, bullying fascist like Karl Rove.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Gay Marraige Card again?

The republicnas are out of ideas.

Faced with the poll numbers that just keep going down, President Bush today fell back on his biggest domestic issue: religiously inspired bigotry, the issue that won him the presidency in the last election, Gay Marraige. With Democrats continuing to gain ground in their quest to take back the house, Bush is using the big bogey-man of Bill kissing Chuck to inspire his base and head off what republicnas see as a disaster worse than 9/11: a democratically controlled house of congress. Bush has a real stake in this. It's not in getting legislation passed. He has a genuine, well founded fear that he could be impeached if the Dems gain control of the House. He knows what he's done, and he needs the protection of a Republican House.

The base needs as much shoring as a New Orleans levee. Jim Dobson came out and warned the president that, if the Republicans didn't start serving "the people who got them elected," they'd pay at the ballot box in November.

So let's go after the fags. It worked last time. Nobody wants to see gays kissing, and we all know they shouldn't be raising children. Several swing states have anti Gay marraige initiatives on the ballot, another effort to get out the biggot vote. And now the Preisdent's message is clear: the only way to protect traditional marraige is to return a republican congres to the house and give them a super majority so they can pass this amendment (and head off any filibuster at the same time). That ain't likely to happen, but if enough people think it will then maybe they can keep the war going and do away with Social Security.

Of course it's completely cynical. It's cynical because he knows it won't pass the Senate, and its cynical because in his version it's just semantics (he still favors civil unions, thich are or aren't the same thing, depending on which side of the debate you're on). This has nothing to do with Gay Marraige and everything to do with the midterm elections.

Here's what the Democrats should say, over and over again like those droning Republican spin doctors you see on Sunday mornings: "The American People are smarter than that...The American People are smarter than that...The American People are smarter than that..."

And they are. If you point it out to them, people will see that this is all just a cynical ploy for the republicans to hold onto power. Enough of them have read What's the Matter with Kansas by now to recognize the bait and switch when they see it. At least I hope so.

Because otherwise it will probably work.

Saturday, June 03, 2006


Kudos to CNN for not joining in on the settlement with Wen Ho Lee.

The government settled its suit with Wen Ho Lee, the former Los Alamos scientist it had once accused of spying, for roughly $850,000. In the course of the investigation someone had leaked his name to the press, and Lee contended that this was a violation of privacy. I'm not sure this was a crime, but that's another story. The story here is that five news organizations, the AP, ABC News, The New York Times, the L.A. Times, and the Washington Post, ponied up $750,000 to pay him off as well, even though they were not part of the suit. They did it to end the legal action against their reporters who were being held in contempt of court for not revealing thier sources.

In the absense of a federal shield law these news organizations didn't have a leg to stand on. There is a reasonable debate as to whether or not the government should have been using the news as a weapon against Dr. Lee in its investigation, but there is no debate as to whether or not it was newsworthy. Dr. Lee was indeed under investigation, which is what was being reported. Dr. Lee argued that revelation of this was a violation of his privacy and the news organizations indicated that they were complicit in paying up.

This settlement touches on a lot of issues: how much privacy does a person actually have a right to? Is the official leaking of news ethical? Is the reporting of leaked news ethical? Should there be a shield law for reporters?

Let's forget for a second that there should be no need for a shield law: the 1st ammendment garauntees a free press, and if reporters have to reveal their sources then the press cannot perform its function and therefore is not free. But the Supreme Court doesn't see it that way. The conservative judicial activists on the current court defer to the government in these sorts of things, even though the bill of rights is specifically designed to protect people *from* the government. But we've got nine justices on the court for just this reason. The same nine justices-- 5 to 4, with Alito casting the deciding vote--who this week limited whistleblower protections for government employees, again defering tot he government and undermining our right, which is clearly protected in the constitution, to know what our government is doing.

So let's get this straight: Public Employees who blow the whistle on their offices just lost protections, and news organizations must now reveal their confidential sources, public employees have no right to free speech (part of this weeks decision) and reporting leaked news is an invasion of privacy. In this current Big Brother government, in which the Bush whitehouse views secrecy as a paramount virtue, this is the definition of "chilling." By going after news organizations and whistleblowers at the same time, they are silencing their critics. This government has shown that they want to act with impunity, and they have also shown--with Abu Grahib, the domestic spying issue, the Vallerie Plame case, and countless others--why, and why we as the American public cannot allow them to do so.

In otherwords, why we need a free and vigorous press and why people who blow the whistle on wrongdoing need to be protected.

But I'm off track. Let's look at the ethics of joining the Wen Ho Lee settlement. By doing so, the news organizations--WHICH WERE NOT EVEN PART OF THE LAWSUIT--are paying somebody off for something they weren't a part of and for an offendse that shouldn't even be an offense in the first place.

Which brings us to CNN. CNN stated that, as a matter of principal, they were not joining in the settlement. They did not think it was proper to buy themselves out from a subpeona. At still CNN they still believe in freedom of the press, and they are still willing to stand up for it. Thank God somebody is.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Ethical Television

Is entertainment such a bad thing? I mean, seriously: what’s wrong with being distracted? Sure, it means you probably aren’t paying attention to the weighty issues of the day, you may be an uninformed voter (if you bother to vote at all), you may becontributing to the oppression of the world-wide masses by being part of the American hyper-consumptive capitalist culture machine, but so what? Marxists are so depressing anyway! All is struggle, struggle, struggle! “Help! Help! I’m being repressed!” I mean, why not just sit back and watch a little T&A, a simple melodrama, “Desperate Housewives?”

I ask this because I watched Good Night and Good Luck the other night. It was great and I loved it, but like all morality plays it was incredibly preachy. It begins and ends with a speech Murrow supposedly made at an awards ceremony, in which he decries the use of television for amusement: “Because if they are right, and this instrument is good for nothing but to entertain, amuse and insulate, then the tube is flickering now and we will soon see that the whole struggle is lost. This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. Good night, and good luck.” (George Clooney and Grant Heslov, Good Night and Good Luck, quoted at This was a screenwriter’s little jab at television, akin to Howard Beal’s condemnation “we’re in the boredom killing business,” (Paddy Chayevsky Network). Let’s face it: TV has really never lived up to its potential to educate and illuminate—if ever it really had one. And as we’ve moved from a modernist manufacturing economy to a postmodern information and service economy, and as TV has fragmented from Three networks and maybe an independent to 1000 channels, news has fallen by the wayside and entertainment has become even more paramount.

And really, sadly, the program which came closest to living up to Murrow’s expectations for television—“Sixty Minutes”—is primarily to blame, because Sixty Minutes was the first television show to post good ratings and to make real money. Before sixty minutes news was seen as a public service, and was expected to loose money. After Sixty Minutes became a success the news became just another ratings center. I think Good Night and Good Luck would make a great double feature with Netowrk, actually. Network more or less accurately predicted where TV would end up and, if he really made that speech, so did Murrow. Now, a plethora of cable news networks have to struggle against everything from CSI to the golf channel for viewers, and the way to do that is to be strident, and the best way to do that, as Howard Beale well understood, is to be angry. This is why Fox Network News is so successful, and why most cable news is so conservative: simplicity and anger. And it’s no longer even news. People don’t watch Fox Network News to be informed: they watch it to be validated, to have their world views confirmed. They want news they agree with—nothing complicated or liberal, but Godly conservative news and commentary, fair and balanced. News as entertainment, taste-group and in the case of Bill O’Reily, cult (I can’t think of any other reason for Bill’s success). And most people prefer “CSI” anyway.

But I ask again, so what? Do I have an ethical responsibility to be informed? The same day I watched Good Night and Good Luck I watched a debate on CUNY TV where a debate team from Baruch was debating a team from another CUNY school on the ethics of television. One of the panel of interrogators asked them if people did not have a responsibility to watch TV ethically, suggesting that people who watch “Bill O’Reily, who is a known liar,” (this professor’s own words) don’t contribute to society’s problems by intentionally seeking out bad information. He was was that people who watch TV are as responsible as those who produce it for its ethical shortcomings: a very free-market approach, when you look at it. But this also implied that everybody has some sort of ethical responsibility to use TV in a serious fashion. Can’t I just say “screw it, I’m watching wrestling?” Does not caring make me a bad person?

Certainly it does in Murrows eyes, or at least in George Clooney’s. It does to this professor. It does to all the literate liberal New Yorkers who are so informed they can watch "The Daily Show" and laugh at how well informed they are. They believe that a nation of people who watch NASCAR instead of the news is what elected George Bush president. Since I’m a liberal New York "Daily Show" fan myself, I guess I should feel the same.

Oh yeah: and I’m a professor. My job is to inform people. And I'm dangerous. Ask David Horowitz.

But really: what’s wrong with entertainment? Yeah, I know all that stuff about bread and circuses, and that TV is the new opiate of the masses, but so what? What’s wrong with being a part of society instead of always railing against it? What’s wrong with being simple passive consumers of information and goods. If we weren’t, the economy would crumble, wouldn’t it? And who is this Murrow clown to tell ME what I should watch?

To be perfectly honest, I don’t know. I don’t know that I care that people are uninformed. I do know that I’d much rather watch "Monk" than Jim Lehrer. Is that so wrong?