Friday, January 30, 2009

Nanny Bloomburg

Yesterday our illustrious mayor announced that he was going to persuade food manufacturers to lower the salt content in their food by fifty percent over the next few years, and if they do not do so the city will pass legislation forcing it. This on the heels of his ban on transfats, which more or less ruined the city's pastry industry (or, at least, the product they produce).

I fully admit that I was in favor of the smoking ban for restaurants and bars. I only smoke about five cigars a year, and cigar bars were exempt. But this has gone way too far.


It is no surprise from Mayor gun control, no fat, anti smoking, doesn't drink, don't have any fun in your life because it's bad for ya. This guy may have been a Republican when the wind was right, and he may be a billionaire, but speaking as a liberal he is clearly one of us.

In all the worst ways.

This nanny state crap has got to stop.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Well, I got the round right, but I sure didn't pick the winner.

I just watched the Shane Mosley/Antonio Margaritto fight and, man! Mosley was on fire. I had him winning every round before he knocked Margaritto out in the 9th. Margaritto came in as a 4-1 betting favorite, and got totally dominated. It was a really great performance by Mosley. The Welterweights are, once again, the best division in boxing. Who next for Shane Mosley, though. I mean, I know who I want to see him fight. I want to see him fight Manny Pacquiao--but everybody wants to see Manny fight.

And Margaritto? With Oscar out of the game he was the great hero of Chicano America. I hope he comes back. He's good for boxing. And the way he massacred Miguel Cotto he has got some good stuff.

Just not good enough to stop Shane Mosley.

A New York State Of Mind

You know, she probably is doomed, and I don't like her stand on immigration, and I was a big Caroline Kennedy booster, but I really like Kirsten Gillibrand. She is the kind of moderate Democrat that helped us win back control of congress. Of course I like her pro-gun stance, even though that is what likely will doom her here in NYC. There really is an urban/rural split on this issue and it is as wide a chasm as the one separating people on abortion. Here in NYC, her stance will garner mostly ridicule and contempt if she doesn't moderate it, and I hope she doesn't.

She will face a primary full of angry people who think they were passed over for the job, as well as McCarthy of Mineola who will go after her based solely on her gun record. Bloomberg is already opposed to her, and she will very likely face Rudy Giuliani in the general election if she gets past the primary. Tough mountain to climb.

But they are already comparing her to both Clinton and Palin, and I heard someone call her an "Obama-style politician," and that means she must be a formidable campaigner and fund raiser.

Hell, I'll give her twenty bucks.

An interesting point on the coverage of Gillibrand. The New York papers and the networks, including the New York Times, are all referring to her as a "centrist democrat." But on NPR last night they called her "Conservative Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand" about ten times in as many minutes. They are focusing strongly on her 100% approval rating from the NRA and her reputation as a deficit hawk. To the New York Times she is "Centrist" but to NPR she is "Conservative." Interesting: that says to me that the editorial board of the Times, which is notoriously anti gun (like most of NYC) still looks on her as middle of the road. NPR, which lives further out to on the left than the Times, can lambaste her as being conservative.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Gtmo Goodbye

President Barack Obama this morning requested that all prosecutions in the military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay be suspended for 120 days pending review. We can only assume that in this case "review" means reviewing the best way to close down the prison and move what trials will continue to U.S. soil. Hopefully it will end this sad chapter in American history, which will go down in history, along with Japanese interment camps, the McCarthy witch hunts, the Alien and Sedition acts, and Lincoln's suspension of Habeas Corpus, as one of our supremely wrong-headed ideas that was carried out for the safety of the union. May it be relegated to the dustbin of history ASAP.

OF course it creates a number of problems. Reportedly the evidence in some of these cases is so weak, and in some cases so tainted by improper procedure, including torture, that many cases probably cannot be prosecuted at a real trial where the defendant has the right to review the evidence against him and confront his accusers. That might include those on trial for complicity in the September 11th attacks. And that is nobody's fault but Bush's, for insisting on this kangaroo court in the first place.

The first person the order affected was Omar Kahdr, a Toronto native who was charged and supporting terrorism and murder for killing an Army Sargent with a grenade in a battle in Afganistan in 2002. Kahdr was 15 at the time. THis is how it was reported by the AP. Now, I don't want to sound un-patriotic or insensitive to the family of the dead soldier, and if somebody killed somebody I loved over there I'd certainly want revenge. But even if a fifteen year old boy can form the intent to commit murder, which has long been in doubt, since when is killing someone in a battle terrorism? I'm not an expert here, but something doesn't make sense. A lot of the prosecutions seem to work this way. If this is a war, as Bush always claimed, then it needs to be treated as a war. If it is a crime then it needs to be treated as a crime. But this flip-floping back and forth is one of the things that so totally discredited the Bush approach to terrorism. What it looked like in the end was that Bush was going to do whatever he wanted and then find legal justification for it after the fact.

Anyway, good riddance.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hope springs eternal

Well, it’s here. America is now officially different. We have a black president. The long night of slavery and oppression has ended, and while racism still has not been conquered, and the wounds wrought by slavery have not been fully healed, the greatest hurdle has been leaped. The rest will now surely come in time. Until this year, many believe it would be a century or more, if ever, before a black man would be elected president, , the leader of the United States, the most powerful man in the world. For four hundred years black Americans have lived under the truth that they and their ancestors did not travel to America in search of a better world, they were dragged here in chains. They had no investment in the American Dream. Plymouth Rock, as was famously said, had landed on them. Now, while none of that had changed, all of it has. The history of black America, of Jim Crow, of Slavery, of segregation, of lynchings and bigotry and hatred have been overcome. The Klansmen and the bigots have lost, and we can never return to the place where we were, because now and forever, when a black father tells his child “you can grow up to be anything you want to be” it will be true.

The moment for me was not the prayer or the oath or Bush taking off in Executive One. For me it was the moment before the luncheon when President Obama entered Statuary Hall and the band played Hail To The Chief. At that moment he was, for me, truly the president of the United States, and at that moment I was filled with the giddy euphoria that the crowd out on the mall felt, and I giggled and wept at the same time.

It is a new day. Perhaps the old enmities will resurface tomorrow. Perhaps the partisanhip and rancor will go on. But right now, at this moment, there is hope for a new America.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tempting Fate

Apparently, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is the person chosen to sit out the inauguration in case of a devastating attack wiping out the entire chain of succession. This is the only person in the line of succession who is still a republican. Man! If Dick Cheney is a devious as people say he is, then the Republicans can *still* retain control of the whitehouse.


Job Loss Here in the Big Apple

According to the Associated Press, New York City is expected to loose 181,000 jobs this year, which makes me happy that I am even partially and grossly under-employed. Unemployment in some places is expected to top 10 percent.

Of course the numbers in NYC are high. The financial industry is leading the freefall. Although my neighbor across the hall who works for Lehman still has a job with whomever bought them. What worries me is whether NYC will recover. Wall Street is the engine that drives this town, and one reason it's been so great to live here for the past ten years is that things on Wall Street have been good. I know that we recovered after the great depression and the 70s, and that the world still needs banks so will still need NYC, but some pundit a few weeks ago said "Wall Street is gone" and that worries me.

In spite of my country roots I am a city boy. My favorite places are San Francisco, New York, London, Paris, and Rome. After that you can throw in Yosemite and Big Trees Park in the Oakland Hills. In spite of the fact that I hunt and fish I think the greatest site in nature is a Midtown sidewalk at lunch time. Most of the things I love in the world--theatre, art, symphony opera: all of them except NASCAR, Hunting and the SCA--exist because of cities. New York is the greatest place for these things because of the patronage of Wall Street businesses and Wall Street tycoons. The Met Opera, the Met Museum, Carnegie Hall, the Public Theatre, MOMA, the Gugenheim, the Whitney--you know the list. Even the for profit stuff like Broadway, the Yankees, and the Giants rely heavily on the spending of people on Wall Street and of the corporations that buy tickets to entertain potential clients and contractors. If Wall Street is indeed over, if BofA actually does move most of the trading in America to North Carolina (Ok, I admit that if they were moving it to San Francisco I wouldn't be mad), and if London really does become the financial center of the world, then the greatest city in the world will cease to be.

And that is what worries me. That would be a tragedy (yes, tragedy) beyond belief.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Environmentalists and sportsmen are often cast as enemies, and indeed sometimes their interests do conflict. But they are far more often allies. While it is true that environmentalists tend to come from the same political firmament that produces animal rights activists, and there is a lot of overlap, their goals tend to be different. Most environmental groups know that blindly protecting all animals can harm the environment through over population, and that hunters and fisherman are among the country's most dedicated conservationists. When you take out government money, which makes up the lion's share of conservation projects, hunters and fishermen, through taxes, fees, and dues to such groups as Ducks Unlimited and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, account for the most private money dedicated to conservation.

The Obama administration has an opportunity to win sportsmen over to its side, attracting a constituency that is traditionally republican. Yesterday the Senate passed a huge wilderness conservation bill. By a vote of 73-21, they designated more than 2 million acres as wilderness, meaning it cannot be developed in any way: no logging, no mining, no drilling, no housing. ATVs and snowmobiles are prohibited. Hunting, fishing, backpacking, climbing, camping and horseback riding are allowed. Although this sometimes grates on hunters and fishermen who use ATVs to get to their spots, on the whole sportsmen support wilderness legislation because it preserves habitat in as close to its natural state as possible. The bill required a lot of deal making and compromise, as well as a lot of cooperation from both sporstmen's groups and environmentalists. If the bill passes the house, it will be the first environmental legislation signed by President Obama. It has not only the practical advantage of protecting millions of acres, it has a symbolic advantage as well: what better way to repudiate the eight years of corporate exploitation and rape of the land under the Bush administration than to immediately designate 2 million acres as untouchable? (many people, myself included, believe that the primary mission of the Bush administration has not bee American colonialism but the rolling back of federal protection of the environment to make it easier for oil companies to "drill baby drill.")

But it is also important that Obama win over sportsmen to his side. Sarah Palin is still lurking in the shadows out there. Unlike John McCain, who doesn't hunt or fish and mentioned in his interview with field and stream the need for America to "exploit" our natural resources, Palin is seen as a champion of sportsmen because she is an Alaskan and because she hunts. As the standard bearer for the Republican party (which she is clearly becoming) she has the ability to solidify that part of the base along with the religious conservatives. Obama, by pushing for passage of this legislation in the house and by signing it, will not only please a huge part of his own base but will eat into the Republican's base as well. If he can continue to publicly champion preservation of and access to habitat, he will win a lot of converts away from the Republican party.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

A busy day in DC

I was watching Arlen Specter grill Eric Holder on C-Span just now. He was being pretty dogged in his attacks. I think there is something to this Frank Rich pardon problem. Probably not enough to derail his nomination, but it gives me pause.

I flipped over onto the Senate feed just in time to see Dick Cheney give Roland Burris his oath of office and swear him in as U.S. Senator. He received a standing ovation. If it is true that the complaints over his appointment were never about him personally, then I think it was appropriate. Of course, it might mean that with him and Franken the democrats will have a filibuster proof super-majority. That is cause for celebration in the halls of power, I'm sure.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

No, it will never stop

So the pachyderm mouthpieces over at Fox certainly didn't slow down, nor did the Republican Spin machine. Say this for them, they never let up.

Over on Fox the past few days the spin has been about how the democrats, particularly Harry Reid, are "doing a 180 with regard to Roland Burris." Burris, of course, was appointed to fill Barack Obama's senate seat by disgraced Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. Never mind that there has been no real proof that a crime was committed in regards to the senate seat, or that the Illinois supreme court yesterday ruled that the appointment was legal and valid and that Burris is the junior senator from Illinois. Fox only sees Harry Reid trying to cheat his way into a filibuster-proof majority (and if the site of the republicans crying foul doesn't turn your stomach you should get a job cleaning up road kill).

Meanwhile a Palin-praising documentary called "Why Obama Won" has surfaced, in which the Alaskan governor blames Katie Curic, Tina Fey, and the media in general, for being mean to her, calls Keith Olberman "evil", and says that Caroline Kennedy isn't being scrutinized as heavilly as she was because of a "class bias."

First off, Olberman's response was classic over the top Keith--huffing and puffing like Bill O'Reiley himself, Olberman acted flabbergasted. He pretended not to know where the accusations of class bias came from. He is such a Bill-O. The one thing Palin says that has a smidgen (but only that) of merit is that there is a class bias in the media. There is when combined with ethnicity. There is a definite bias in the media against the type of person Palin represents--a conservative, rural, poor to working class white person, someone who hunts and fishes and likes NASCAR and pro wrestling, and who believes that "America love it or leave it" means exactly that. It's not really a class issue. Democrats will point out, correctly, that they are the champions of the urban poor and their issues. But Palin is the champion of the rural (mostly but not exclusively white) poor. No, it is not a traditional class bias but it absolutely is a bias. A bias against, well, rednecks. The type of people who watch Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy. It is that same City vs. Country bias we've been dealing with since Ancient Greece. And the anger agaisnt it is totally justified. How would you like it if your values were constantly made the butt of jokes and you and yours were constantly portrayed as dumb, drunken, barbaric buffoons? This is how many--most--of my fellow New Yorkers view folks like my mom's family.

I am on this rant because my grandfather died on New Year's Day. He fell on Christmas day and hit his head. I was traveling to Cali already, and so I drove up to Oregon to see him in the hospital. There were my mom, her siblings, their spouses, and several cousins--all of them McCain/Palin, God fearing, "America Love It Or Leave It" Rednecks. And there was out patriarch lying in bed, dying. Grandpa was 92. He looked like he was seventy. Until his accident he drove himself everywhere and was planning a deer hunt in Mexico for next year. He appeared to get better so we left. Then he passed away. He was burried last week with full military honors. He was a hero of mine. When SNL or Letterman of the New York Times portrays rednecks as a bunch of stupid Elmer Fudds, it's my grandfather they are talking about. He was a deer hunter all his life. He drank budweiser. He voted republican. He was also a World War II veteran. He was a classic, Norman Rockwell character, right down to his red plaid hunting cap. And he was the most wonderful grandfather a boy could ever want. He bounced us on his knee and taught us to fisha nd laughed and played with us and we loved him absolutely. And he was not stupid. All of my redneck family are smart, they are well informed, and they know why they are voting the way they do. They may read different news sources than my liberal friends, but they do read. They may listen to different rumors (the left is just as gossipy as the right, lets face it). They may get angry at different things and they may have different ideas of how to fix the world's problems. But they are not barbaric and they are not stupid. They vote their conscience. They vote God and guns. Those are their values. You may not like it, but don't call them stupid.

And every time a joke is made about killing moose, or about toothless dumb rednecks, or about bud-swilling hunters shooting up polar bears, it is directed at them. That's ok. All humor is cruel. The best humor points up the ridiculousness of someone's sacred cows. Tina Fey's portrayal of Sarah Palin was brilliant. But don't pretend it wasn't biased, because it was. It's not even really a political bias. In spite of what a lot of conservatives complain, the media is not really liberally biased. But they are class biased sometimes: they are biased in favor of an educated, urban, worldly, sophisticated class. In other words, in favor of themselves. The people who produce the national news and who produce The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live and Late Night and the New York Times live in or around New York. They all went to college. They live and work in a City which is more closely tied to the rest of the world than any other American city, which has a large muslim population, a large gay population, and a vibrant theatre and arts scene. In other words, they are people just like me. They are my people--more than my redneck family is. But they look at the world differently than do working class poor in the middle of the country. One reporter noted during the primary campaign that Hilary Cinton was the candidate of those who didn't do well in the New Economy--the factory worker and the farmer, while Barack Obama was the candidate of those who did do well in the new economy--the college educated democrats in the information and financial industries. In other words, Barack Obama is the candidate of people like most of the journalists in America (Palin was also a candidate for that first group--more so than Hilary, actually, since she really is that person).

So don't pretned you don't know what she's talking about Keith.

As for Caroline Kennedy, no. First of all she has been roundly scrutinized and lampooned in the New York press. Secondly she's not actually a candidate for anything, just someone being discussed as a possible appointee. Finally, she is not running to be the vice president to a man who is a septuagenarian cancer survivor. Palin deserved more scrutiny than Caroline Kennedy. Olberman is not evil. A buffoon, maybe, but not evil. As for that documentary, it's another example of the losing side not being able to handle the truth. They have to spin their loss as a mistake. The deomcrats usually find some way in which the election was stolen by a bunch of Republican cheats (which, in 2000, was valid). The Republicans, on the other hand, act as though the poor deluded public were duped by a bunch of slick carpet baggers. They are not willing to accept the fact that the country is done putting up with their world view. The people wanted a change. After twenty years of supply side, pro business economic policies which have finally bankrupt and impoverished the richest country in the world, they--we--are through. Maybe not my mom's familly, but most of the country. They aren't buying the Republican snake oil any more.

So Sarah Palin, stop your whining.

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Bowl Wrapup

Since somebody asked, I was 20-14 in bowl picks this year. That's not as good as I had hoped. I started out weak, picking wrong in the first four games, but came on strong later. I had some big mistakes, like picking Georgia Tech to beat LSU, and some reasonable ones, like picking Oklahoma to beat Florida, which they could have done last night with slightly better play calling. And I picked Hawaii to cut down Notre Dame, but that was mostly wishful thinking. I'm still bitter over them firing Ty Willingham. I didn't pick all the Pac 10 teams this year, although that's where my heart is, and they went 5-0. Altogether my strategy of "if you don't know any better pick the team from the south" seemed to pay off.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

I'm Back

It was the worst Christmas vacation ever. My grandfather died, I got salmonella poisoning, and I lost my good winter coat with my flash drive and house keys in the pocket. But I'm back. Happy New Year. I will write about politics soon. I will write about Burris and Palin and Olberman and Gupta and all of it. Later. Right now I'm going to write about football.

Tim Tebow was robbed. If indeed the Heisman trophy is supposed to go to the best college football player in the land then Time Tebow was robbed, and the truth was exposed for all to see in the so called national championship game (I say so called not because I support a playoff, which I don't, but because I don't care that much whether or not Florida beats Oklahoma: the Pac 10 went 5 and 0 and won the Rose Bowl. That's all that matters, really.).

The Fed Ex National Championship Game wasnt' the most exciting game this post season, but it was pretty good. The goal line stands that Florida made in the first half were the best football all season long. Both teams looked great at times. Both defenses really stepped up. But it was Tebow that was amazing. He was clearly the best player on the field, the best player in the country. Run, throw, and hit: he did it all in a totally dominating style.

Football is our national religion. I may be a baseball fan, but I recognize the truth that we are a footbal nation. Our autumn revolves around its rituals. It's big games are our mythic battles, our Troy, our Thermopylae, our Hastings and Agincourt. Tim Tebow is our Hector, Sam Bradford our Achilles.

Tebow, the perfect player. He is great on the field and almost superhuman off of it, with his missionary work and feeding the hungry. If he keeps on this trajectory he will be president one day.

Now can we please get on with the playoffs?

Thursday, January 01, 2009


Wow! You know what they say: don't make the wookie angry.

I guess LSU just got mad. 38 to 3. Georgia Tech's great option, which everybody, me included, just loved, got exposed as very overrated. Boy! Was I wrong! So far the only good thing about Bowl season is that the Pac 10 is undefeated and favored in the Rose Bowl (and did you see how the Ducks mauled OK State? I guess the Pac 10 ain't as soft as folks on the East Coast say it is).

And what is this 3-0 score from OR State over Pitt?