Saturday, April 14, 2012

Simpsons "Springfield" location revealed - now I can sleep at night

By Richard K. Barry

It's Saturday. There's a bunch of stuff going on in the news, much of it important, much just the usual nonsense. I'm a little too tired today to sort out the essential from the non-essential - so I'll just make a beeline for the trivial.

In my house, we watch way too many Simpsons reruns. It's T.V. comfort food. When there is nothing else on, which is most of the time, we invariably stop the remote at an episode of Bart and family that we have likely seen already a half dozen times.

The family joke in my house is that I always claim not to have seen the episode coming on. The reason may be that I have seen few programs from start to finish, catching them only accidentally with remote in hand and therefore don't recognize the first few minutes of each one. But after a short while, it seems familiar and all is right with the world. I don't think we actually mouth the dialogue, but I suspect we could.

The big news this week for Simpsons watchers is that its creator, Matt Groening, has revealed that the animated town in the show is based on Springfield, Oregon, near his hometown of Portland. He also says that he was inspired to use the town's name after it was featured in the 1950's television show "Father Knows Best."

I don't know how you could possibly not know this, but, according to a Reuters story:

The tales of donut-loving father Homer J. Simpson and his dysfunctional family, wife Marge and kids Bart, Lisa and Maggie, have become a staple of American culture, winning 27 Emmy awards, earning a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, and even coining a new word as Homer's expression "D'Oh" entered the Oxford English Dictionary in 2011.
"The Simpsons" was created by Groening for Fox television and first aired in 1989. It is the longest-running American sitcom in history, broadcast in more than 100 countries and 50 languages, and it still attracts an average 7.7 million U.S. viewers weekly. 

One of the running gags over the years has been that the exact location of Springfield was never made clear, so this bit of information by Groening was big news for some.

Okay, I'll admit it. It's not really big news. There are many more important things going on in the world. But when I saw the headline for the story, I had to take a few minutes to read it, all of which is to say that some pretty silly stuff captures our imagination over a lifetime. What can I say. It's true for all of us.

Here's a random clip, which tells me all I need to know about why I have always loved the Simpsons.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


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Friday, April 13, 2012

Herman Cain - not entirely gone, but mostly forgotten

By Richard K. Barry

I miss Herman Cain, former GOP presidential candidate. I really do. He was so much fun. Good news is that he's not completely gone. He's still trying be noticed and, to that end, has a new video out. I love the fact that Steve Benen at Maddowblog introduces the clip by letting us know it's not a parody or an intentional effort to make Cain look foolish. No, Cain actually thinks this ridiculous piece is effective in some sense - or so I have to assume. I just love the dramatic credit run at the end. What a tool.

Also love the high school audio-visual club production values.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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My friend Barack

That's him. Nice smile.

Every now and then I get an e-mail from my friend Barack. He's got an important job in Washington but he still finds time to send me a note every now and then. Mostly he tells me what he's doing at work or what this guy, who wants to steal his job, is up to.

I have to admit that every time he writes he does ask for money, but what are friends for? And he never asks for much, generally just around $3. That's not so bad.

I don't want to sound like I think I'm special, though, because I know Barack has a lot of friends and he writes to them too, even asks them for money. From what I hear, a lot actually pony up. He's a very popular guy.

Anyway, I just got an e-mail from him today and I don't think he'd mind if I shared it with you. Heck, he might have even sent you the same one, more or less. It's hard to be original when you have so many friends.

Here's what he told me about the main guy who is trying to take his job.

Richard -- 
We now know who our opponent is.

But what we're really fighting against is what our opponent has pledged to do if elected.

He would shower billionaires with more huge tax breaks, oppose setting a timeline to bring our troops home from Afghanistan, starve investments in clean energy research, and make it harder for students to afford to go to college. He'd outlaw a woman's right to choose and completely cut funding for Planned Parenthood.

We can't afford an endless war in Afghanistan, a return to policies that hurt the middle class, and a social agenda from the 1950s.

The stakes and the differences are profound. The outcome of this election will determine the course of this country for decades to come.

I need you by my side.

Make a donation of $3 or more today.

Thank you,


No problem, Barack. This "opponent" guy sounds pretty unpleasant, so I might be able to help you out. I'm not exactly sure why you need the money, but it sounds important. Spend it wisely. And do let me know how things go.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Photo of the day: Cape Spear, Newfoundland and Labrador

Cape Spear, which is on the Avalon Peninsula near St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada, is the easternmost point in North America. My wife took this picture last week on a return home to see family and friends.

I believe the lighthouse pictured about is the modern, currently working lighthouse at the site, built in 1955. 

It's interesting to note that during WWII a coastal battery of two ten inch guns was constructed at Cape Spear to protect the approach to St. John's harbour from U-boat attacks and other enemy menace.  In 1941, two gun emplacements and underground passages connecting the gun sites to men's barracks were constructed at the tip of the cape. The bunkers and massive gun barrels of this battery still exist.

I have been to Cape Spear, which, jutting as it does out into the North Atlantic, is one of the more frightening pieces of real estate I've ever seen. 

As I stood looking out over the black water of the North Atlantic at this spot, I couldn't help think of how miserable naval and merchant service must have been during the Battle of the North Atlantic in WWII. The whole scene looked dangerous to me even in peacetime.

I was not at all surprised to read that some visitors attracted by the scenery and history have been swept out to sea by unpredictable waves over the years.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


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Behind the Ad: In Mitt Romney's own words

By Richard K. Barry

The Obama/Biden Campaign

Where: Nationally

What's going on: For all intents and purposes, the Republican presidential nomination race is settled. Now, the general election begins.

In an ad by the Obama team, presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney is caught on tape, as they say, saying stuff. It's always good to be aware that when candidates say things in ads run by their opposition, selective editing is frequently used to make them sound like they support things they don't support. In this case, it ought to be obvious that Romney is saying things he truly claims to believe, at least since he became a candidate for the Republican nomination.

I think it is a relatively fair presentation of where the guy stands. It'll be fun to see which of these statements he softens or reverses as we head into the general election.


(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Speaking Truth To Power

By Carl
First, we need to establish a definiton: what is power?
The smartest political analyst I know once defined power as the capacity to make someone do something without resorting to force (this analyst also wrote one of the most prescient books on the American political system I've ever read. He was also one of my college professors and mentors.)
As we round into Occupy Spring, I want to quickly overview one of the problems inherent in the American system that make speaking truth to power nearly meaningless.
You read that correctly, but don't lose hope. Let me continue.
In various walks of life, you have people who are actors: politicians, businessmen, opinion makers, the guy who owns the dry cleaner.
Other things being equal, there are two forces operating on these folks: greed and responsibility. Some people will err towards responsibility when possible, others will err towards greed. Most of these decisions are pretty understandable, even the ones made with greed as the objective. It's when things get unbalanced that troubles arise.
When trying to speak truth to power, it's important to keep this in mind, because among the many obstacles that will be thrown in front of you, this dynamic will be the hardest one to overcome. Power is a powerful lure, while truth is, frankly, a pain in the ass.
If you want to put this metaphorically, you have this cartoon archetype of an angel and a devil sitting on the character's shoulder, filling the ears with reasons to do or not do something. Or if you need something a little more culturally relevant, think of power as the Dark Side, truth as the Force.
The lure of power is indisputable and there are precious few who can ignore the siren's call. Who among us hasn't listened to a juicy bit of gossip, or taken a few bucks to look the other way, or manipulated or been manipulated into doing something by the promise of a lifestyle enhancement or a bit of power?
The more power you have, the more you want. How else does an investment banker, who already has more money (power) than God make a ridiculous blunder and create a Ponzi scheme?
Power takes many forms: money, to be sure, but also information, influence, status, connections. Truth takes just one form: truth.
And truth has the power of being a pain in the ass. True, it has some impact on its own, but only to people willing to listen. For others, there's no power in truth.
It's an uphill battle for truth, until you marry truth and power.
See, as I mentioned, there are many forms of power, and people in general have power. If I write a letter to my Congresscritter asking for some action on a bill, that's me exercising my power. It may not be a whole lot, but look what happens if I can amplify this a thousand-fold.
If I can persuade a thousand people to write a similar letter to my Congresscritter, well, someone in her office is keeping score, be sure of that. And if all thousand of those letters mention or imply me as the impetus for each letter, suddenly I've become a leader of a community. I've gained power.
Similarly, power can coalesce around an idea: Occupy Wall Street is itself an example of this. Deliberately, the Occupy movement has made it clear that it's an egalitarian, democratic movement. No one person is the absolute face of the movement. The idea of income inequality is what matters.
And as we saw last fall and will see again this spring and summer, that idea has power. It's a magnetic message to a people who have had it with the "us v. them" motives that the elite of this nation have fostered (an idea that Roelofs' book goes into.)
It's not enough to get into, say Jamie Dimon's face about his bonus last year. But it might be enough to gather around his headquarters on Park Avenue and make him walk past a thousand silent people holding up signs as he scampers into his limo. Information has power, but information can take many forms, including imagery. That Dimon has to make a daily "perp walk" to his limo will take a toll, not only on Dimon but on the board of Chase Bank, on the employees who also have to make their way through that crowd, and on corporate morale in general.
Power grabs attention. Truth can't really do that unless the idea is both powerful enough and has a receptive audience.
There are many great progressive ideas floating around out there, a great many truths to be told. We just have to grab the power and exert it on an audience to get them to listen.
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Rolling Stones are going back into the studio

By Richard K. Barry

Whenever I hear snarky comments about aging rock and rollers, I have to wonder what these critics expect. What's the difference how old they are if they still want to make music and are capable of getting it done. I don't even care if Mick Jagger wants to strut around on stage like a peacock at almost 70. Good for him. It's as if some people think playing rock and roll after a certain age is a crime against nature.

Hey kiddies, guess what else your parents and grandparents are still doing.

So Ronnie Woods says the Rolling Stones will be meeting in a recording studio later this month "to just throw some ideas around." Sounds like a great life.

There's only one alternative to getting older, and that's not getting older. Go for it lads!

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


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Hillary Clinton will not be at the Democratic National Convention

By Richard K. Barry

Not that I ever thought about it, but, according to an article appearing in the Observer of Charlotte, N.C., the site of the Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton is prohibited by law from attending the event.

The Observer points out that "various federal statutes and the State Department's ethical guidelines will keep Secretary Clinton in Washington."

Philippe Reines, spokesman for the Secretary of State told the Observer in an email that “Given her current position, she will not be attending, consistent with her not engaging in any political activity whatsoever."

And Clinton isn’t the only Cabinet member expected to skip the Charlotte gathering. Federal statute also precludes the attorney general and the secretary of Defense from attending political gatherings, including national party conventions, Reines said.

“I can’t think of one (of those office-holders) from the modern era who has attended,” he said.

Michael Bitzer, a political scientist at Catawba College in Salisbury, also doesn’t expect to see Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in town.

“The Big Four,” he calls these non-partisan appointees. “While they are political appointees, they are in a class by themselves,” he said. “They are representatives of institutions that are oftentimes seen as apolitical.”

It's just one of those little civics lessons you don't think about until someone mentions it. Now we know. If you were wondering, Bill will be there.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

Michael Bitzer, a political scientist at Catawba College in Salisbury, also doesn’t expect to see Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in town.
“The Big Four,” he calls these non-partisan appointees. “While they are political appointees, they are in a class by themselves,” he said. “They are representatives of institutions that are oftentimes seen as apolitical.”
And among that quartet, Secretary of State Clinton is maybe in an even higher class.

Read more here:
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To Market, To Market

By Carl
It often amuses me what rationales people come up with when a market moves in one direction or another.
To-wit: an analyst in England makes a positive comment about the banking industry, and glory be! the FTSE jumps up.
The comments specifically addressed this broker's belief...a broker, mind you, not a government official...that central banks around the world will address the lagging economy with stimulus packages.
Gee, thanks for pointing that out, Captain Obvious! A central tenet to Keynesian economics gets reitertated in the national press and markets suddenly facepalm and go "Now why didn't I think of that?"
I've spoken all along about the ruthless and brutal efficiency in which markets work: since the major players use software packages to discern exploitable areas of the market-- and many of these software packages can now account for some emotional context-- this market jump makes absolutely no sense, at least based on this fuzzy rationalization.
So there's two alternatives: analysts are blowing smoke up our collective asses because they don't know why a sector filled with underperforming firms is spiking, or they're covering up for something else.
If they don't know, then they should probably shut up, but here's the thing: Analysts are paid to know.
They used to be paid to find out, but it turned out that wasn't nearly as cost-effective as having them pick up a press release and parrot it. See, I worked as an analyst (not stock, but I did analyze public companies) and we were paid a very nice salary to ask questions. We could look at a balance sheet and a profit-and-loss statement and begin to understand the deviations from the norm, and ask why this was happening.
And the rules were simple, too: FASB regulations made our job that much easier, it was all in black and white, and there were very few gray areas to hide stuff in.
The landscape shifted. As with journalism, science, education, and mortgages, what used to be pretty transparent became mystical and unknowable. And people became afraid to do their jobs, not because they weren't good at it anymore, but because they had been perceived as unreliable and basically just thorns in the side of society.
Indeed, entire industries (I'm looking at you, Mergers & Acquisitions) grew up around strategies devised to throw analysts off the scent. We ended up having to play catch up on the one hand while explaining to our clients how we had been fooled so badly (if you've ever wondered what a mortality and morbidity hearing at a hospital is like, just sit in on a bad debt meeting.)
When a person becomes scared to do his or her job, he's going to take the path of least resistance, which is precisely what the crooks want you to do. Why should I take a computer and try to work out a program that discards the grotesqueries of a financial statement to bring it back to a level I can understand in a glance when I can just rely on the public statements of the CEO and the imprimatur of the CPA?
(In case you were wondering why Sarbanes-Oxley is an important law, that's why in a nutshell: if the CEO is going to lie, he ought to be held accountable.)
Indeed, that's precisely what started happening and why I got out of analysis: we found we could duck a lot of questions by pointing to the statements and saying "And all the analysis we could come up with did not dispute his claims."
Of course it didn't! It couldn't!
We didn't know, because we couldn't know, which is what is going on in market analysis now. Worse, we knew we couldn't know, so we also knew we were passing on a load of horseshit but damned if you'd find anyone who'd own up to that.
Which is also what's going on in market analysis today.
Why? Now you're asking the right question...
I guess it comes down to this: there are two markets. There's the market you and I can invest in, through mutual funds and stock ownership and our 401ks and IRAs, and then there's the smart money market.
When an analyst throws out an excuse wrapped in a reason like this asshat did, you can bet your bottom dollar someone has worked out a scheme to make money off it. My best guess is short the banks now, and wait for the pop from this jerk's message to wear off to turn a profit, or worse, bet on the put derivatives and really clean up without risking a thing.
The analyst knows he's talking thru his hat, but if he says nothing, he looks stupid and loses the faith of his clientele (odd thing that: admitting you don't know is penalized higher than taking a guess and getting it wildly wrong.) He's strung between a rock and a hard place, and either way loses. This way just hurts his bonus less.
The really damnable thing about it is, if half as much energy was put into working out a program that truly analyzed the complexities of a financial statement and parsed out and distilled the right questions to ask, the world (at least the rest of us) would be better off and smart money could still make a decent and fair profit.
But, you know, there are still crumbs left on the table...
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Rick Santorum throws in the towel

We all saw it coming, so there's no sense feigning surprise. By the time he got around to announcing the inevitable in his speech, everyone knew what to expect. Some of the words went like this:
We made a decision over the weekend, that while this presidential race for us is over, for me, and we will suspend our campaign today, we are not done fighting.

He made the announcement at a campaign stop in Pennsylvania after a weekend of tending to his 3-year old daughter, Bella, who had been hospitalized with pneumonia. 

Whatever one thinks of Rick Santorum, and I'm not a big fan, I can image this has been an emotionally draining time for him all around and it wasn't surprising that he was quite emotional at the press conference. He noted that his daughter was making great progress and home after the weekend in the hospital. Terrific news.

The rest of his final moment in the brightest sun was fairly unremarkable, though he made no mention of Romney in his 12-minute speech nor did he, obviously, take the opportunity to say that he would be endorsing Romney, his party's de facto nominee. Maybe that was a little bit churlish. 

But let's give credit where credit is due. Santorum came from no where to give Mitt Romney a bit of a scare. Mostly that was about Romney's weakness, but Santorum did show himself to have some strength when he wasn't being a bat-shit crazy social conservative. If there had been any way Santorum could have presented himself solely as the "grandson of an Italian immigrant coal miner," as he liked to say, or as a meat-and-potatoes middle-America kind of guy, without all the preachy baggage that made people so afraid of him, things might have been different. 

As the New York Times wrote:
Mr. Santorum’s candidacy benefited from the comparison to Mr. Romney as the Republican candidates appealed to a conservative segment of the Republican Party during the primary process. Mr. Santorum regularly mocked Mr. Romney as a flip-flopper on social and conservative issues who could not be trusted. 
That helped Mr. Santorum win several Southern primaries in which evangelical voters and Tea Party supporters dominated the primary electorate. 
But Mr. Santorum also cast himself as the true economic conservative who understood the needs of the middle class. His campaign attacked Mr. Romney, a multimillionaire, as out of touch with the needs and interests of regular working Americans. 

Most take-aways on the relative success of the Santorum candidacy are fairly obvious, but maybe just to make the point, I will say this. We knew, coming out of the mid-term elections, that the Tea Party movement and other right-wing radicals would work hard to assert their influence on the GOP nomination process. They had some success in 2010, and they wanted more. We knew that whoever won, no matter how relatively moderate he or she wanted to be, the eventual nominee would be drawn to the far right to placate the activist hard-right, most vocal, wing of the party. 

We didn't know what the vehicle would be for pulling the party and the nomination process in that direction.   Few probably saw Rick Santorum as that vehicle, but that's the way it worked out. Again, to give him his due, he ended up being a pretty effective voice for that particular fringe. All things considered, he probably was the best of the rest when it came to articulating the new radicalism of the Republican Party. I don't know that this is a compliment, but there it is. 

Now that he's out, now that Romney's path to the nomination is more or less unimpeded, the only question remaining is, how quickly will Romney be able to move back to the centre to capture the necessary independent voters to compete in the general election, how effective will his Etch-A-Sketch candidacy be from here on out?

Santorum pulled Romney a long way over to the right and for that President Obama owes a great debt to the former Senator from Pennsylvania. 

Make no mistake, though, Rick Santorum has rejuvenated a political career that had been in the crapper. He's a player now amongst social conservatives in America in a way that he never was before. Maybe his support base going forward is even bigger than that. Oh, joy. 

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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This day in history - April 10, 1866: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is founded

By Richard K. Barry

The ASPCA was founded in 1866 in New York City by Henry Bergh. It followed the creation of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in the UK in 1824.

Henry Bergh
Issues discussed by Bergh at the time included cockfighting and the horrors of slaughterhouses. As the Wiki indicates:
By the time of Bergh's death in 1888, 37 out of the 38 states in the union enacted anti-cruelty laws that were enforced by the ASPCA. Early goals of ASPCA focused on efforts for horses and livestock, since at the time they were used for a number of activities. Starting at the turn of the 20th century, small animals like cats and dogs became more of a focus for members of ASPCA.

According to the organization's website, regarding its mandate today:
The ASPCA is the nation’s premiere humane organization, providing local and national leadership in three key areas: caring for pet parents and pets, providing positive outcomes for at-risk animals and serving victims of animal cruelty.

Just because I wouldn't want to be unkind to Mitt Romney, I won't ask whether or not his membership is current. Maybe it is.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


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Mass. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren is bringing in the cash

By Richard K. Barry

According to The Washington Post, former Obama administration official Elizabeth Warren raised $6.9 million the first quarter of 2012 in her contest with Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown. That's a lot of money, which about doubles what the incumbent brought in over the same period.

As the Post writes:
Even though Warren has been in the campaign for less than seven months, she has already raised $15.8 million and has about $11 million cash on hand. 
That’s still less than Brown, who raised $3.4 million in the first quarter and had $15 million in the bank as of March 31, but given how quickly Warren is raising money, she should close that gap by Election Day.

They also point out that, despite an agreement between the two candidates that discourages outside groups from taking part in their campaigns, their race promises to be the most expensive Senate race of the year and possibly the most expensive ever
That title belongs to the Hillary Clinton/Rick Lazio campaign in New York in 2000, when the two combined to raise and spent $70 million.

As for how the Warren/Brown match-up is going, at least according to the polls, a recent Boston Globe survey found the candidates pretty much in a dead heat.  As the Globe story states:
With a long seven months to go before Election Day, the survey shows Brown with 37 percent of the vote and Warren with 35 percent, while 26 percent said they are undecided. That amounts to a statistical tie, as the telephone poll of 544 randomly selected likely voters, taken March 21-27, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

And finally, as if this were not obvious:
“This is a wide open race,’’ said Andrew E. Smith, the director of the University of New Hampshire’s Survey Center, which conducted the poll. “Both candidates are generally well liked. Unless something dramatic happens, this will go down to the wire.’’

The only other thing worth mentioning is how successful President Obama and Mitt Romney are going to be in bringing their supporters to the polls in Massachusetts - Romney's home state, on the one hand, and a traditionally liberal state, on the other. Down to the wire indeed.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Not-So-Free Speech

By Carl
I'm struck by the diversity of comments here with regards to an interview given by the new Miami Marlins manager, Ozzie Guillen.
Guillen committed the nearly unpardonable sin of having kind words to say about Fidel Castro and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.
A little background. The Miami Marlins baseball team opened a new stadium this season, right smack in the heart of Little Havana, la communidad el Norte for Cuban refugees. This casts an intriguing light on what Guillen said, for it's the older Cuban-Americans who have a problem with it, while later generations are more "Who's Castro?"
I could parse and dissect this difference, but let me sum it up by saying there could possibly have been a bit of calculation in Guillen's comments, trying to drum up some audience for the Marlins, who not only spent an enormous sum of money for the stadium (some of which was highly questionable funding) but also shelled out the better part of the GDP of a small nation for new players, mostly Latino.
Nonetheless, once Guillen realized what he had said had created an huge backlash in the community, he apologized for saying it. Needless to say, it's also an election year (Miami mayor), and this ruckus has infiltrated into the election.
Guillen is scheduled to hold a press conference this morning and is expected to repeat his apology and possibly expand on it.
Here's the thing: it's a free country and Guillen had every right to say what he said. However, Guillen also works for a private corporation, which limits what he can say without repercussion. And there's the nub of the question.
Should politics be kept out of sport and sport kept out of politics? It seems logical, and yet, it rarely happens because of the money involved. After all, no one builds a major league stadium through completely private funding. Usually there are tax breaks involved or loan guarantees.
Similarly, given the popularity of sports, no politician in his right mind isn't going to exploit a team's fan base for the sake of identifying with the team and scoring a few cheap votes. You saw it all the time when Rudy Giuliani was mayor of New York. He would constantly be shown in his front row seat at Yankee games, and God help anybody who got between Giuliani and a camera when the Yankees would win a title.
If Guillen worked for, say Wal-mart, he likely would have been called down to HQ and either fired outright or demoted, or apologized and had it accepted. No one would have batted an eye, no outcry would have occured and things would have moved on. Business was taken care of.
But here we have a different, more nuanced situation: Guillen de facto works for a quasi-public entity. Major league baseball is exempt from certain laws with respect to monopoly practices, and under those auspices, receive political scrutiny far beyond what any other industry would get.
How else do you explain Congress getting involved in a drug scandal?
In this capacity and as a public figure, Guillen has influence beyond the domain of his clubhouse.
Generally, sports figures stay away from politics. It's bad for contract negotiations, which is also why you see players setting up charities for kids with cancer or who are poor. And remember, Cassius Clay spent time in jail after he changed his name to Muhammad Ali and refused the draft for Vietnam as a conscietious objector.
It has happened, however, where ballplayers have gotten involved in making political statements and paid no price: in the 1960s, black players would express support for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Some ballplayers even protested the Vietnam War (Tom Seaver, one of the greatest pitchers ever, springs to mind). 
Hell, Castro was scouted for baseball when he was a kid!
Guillen should pay no price, either. He's apologized, but I don't think he needed to. If Guillen is to pay a price, if we are to clearly remove politics from sports (which might not be a bad thing, but right now, is not a necessary thing), then Tim Thomas should be forced to remove his helmet while playing for the Boston Bruins. He paid no official price for refusing to meet with President Obama, either. If Guillen is punished, then so should Tim Thomas.
My suspicion, however, is that we want the right kind of politics (in all senses) from our athletes, which is even stupider. If we're going to claim Tim Thomas has the right to wear a Teabagger symbol on his helmet, then fairness-- a doctrine America was built on-- demands that Guillen be allowed to speak out, or tattoo a hammer-and-sickle on his arm, or whatever else.
For if we're going to have "politics for me, but none for thee," then this country is in very grave danger.
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Monday, April 09, 2012

From My Collection: Dreamboat Annie

By Richard K. Barry

Dreamboat Annie was Heart's debut album with a release date of February 14, 1976. That pretty much puts it in the wheelhouse of my musical coming of age, which means I was 17 at the time. In my memory, Heart was what music was all about in the mid-70's.

The hard rock, heavy metal and folk influences were clear. It seems you had to be able to bounce between these genre to be popular among certain kinds of music fans. In my circle that meant faux cerebral, dorky kids. We all loved Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Rick Wakeman, The Alan Parson's Project, and Yes - groups like that. I always think of Yes and their song "And You and I" as a part of this with that incredible 12 string acoustic guitar riff before the hard rock part.

You can be fairly sure an album fits into this class if it has a "reprise" on it.

And if you don't believe there were folk influences in Heart's music, listen for the banjo part in the title track, "Dreamboat Annie." Don't you know? Banjo = folk music.

Heart had its origins around the Seattle area in the 60's and 70's. The only constant members of the group were sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson. What I didn't realize was that, as a result of a band member going to Canada to avoid the draft, and others following, Heart had their first real success in Canada. This is what happens to bands deemed "Canadian" by the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). It basically means it's easier for them to get airplay on Canadian radio and maybe launch a career. It's called "Canadian content" - a long story, and somewhat controversial in Canadian cultural politics, but I can't go into it here. The link will tell you all about it, if you really need to know.

As far as I remember, Heart was always associated with the Wilson sisters, but there is a long and complicated band history, involving lots of other people, if you want to refer to the Wiki.

As I write these posts, I always have the album on in the background. It's a great recording. If you haven't dusted it off in a while, give it a whirl (or whatever the digitized equivalent would be).

Album tracks are:

Side One:
Magic Man (Ann and Nancy Wilson)
Dreamboat Annie - Fantasy Child (Ann and Nancy Wilson)
Crazy on You ( Ann and Nancy Wilson)
Soul of the Sea (Ann and Nancy Wilson)
Dreamboat Annie (Ann and Nancy Wilson)

Side Two:
White Lightening and Wine (Ann and Nancy Wilson)
I'll Be Your Song (Ann and Nancy Wilson)
Sing Child (Wilson, Wilson, Fossen and Fisher)
How Deep It Goes (Ann Wilson)
Dreamboat Annie - Reprise (Ann and Nancy Wilson)

Musician Credits:
Lead Vocals - Ann Wilson
Acoustic Guitar - Nancy Wilson
Flute - Ann Wilson
Piano - Rob Deans
Bass - Steve Fossen
Drums - Kat Hendrikse
Banjo - Geoff Foubert
Backing Vocals - Nancy Wilson, Geoff Foubert, Tessie Bensussen and Jim Hall
Orchestral Arrangements - Howard Leese and Rob Deans
Tympani - Mike Flicker

The title track is great, but I'm going with my favourite, "Magic Man."


(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Behind the Ad: Mitt Romney is a human being

By Richard K. Barry

Who: The Mitt Romney Campaign

Where: Nationally

What's going on: As we know, Mitt Romney has some pretty big unfavourability ratings. To counter that, his campaign has launched an ad narrated by his wife, Ann Romney, intended to show a more positive side of the GOP contender.

Recently, a lot of people have commented that Ann Romney comes across well, that she seems like a pretty likeable person - a very nice lady. It's even been suggested that the Democrats "fear her" in some sense. I'm not sure about that. Maybe if she were running, that would be true.

Look, it's a warm and fuzzy ad. It does a pretty good job of suggesting that Mitt Romney is a human being, with normal human emotions, who loves his family. That's nice. I just can't help thinking that when you have to spend money on an ad to remind people that your candidate is a human being, you may be in some trouble.

The title of the ad might as well be: "You see. He's not the asshole you think he is."


(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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A Fighter Remembered

By Carl
In the course of my infamous college career, I held many majors. One of the fun ones, one I wish I had stuck with, was journalism.
I went to college in the glory days of journalism: Reporters had just brought down a war machine, reporters were just about to take down a President.
Reporters were doing their jobs. Gathering facts, not repeating talking points. Investigating to see if there was a "there" there, and then writing stories that fit the facts, not just parroted position papers.
Think of the world-altering stories that came out in that time frame: the Pentagon Papers, the scandals at Willowbrook and other homes for the developmentally disabled (it was still ok to call them "retarded" back then), and of course, Watergate.
It seemed that journalists would roll up their sleeves and tackle any story to see what was behind the curtain. And then it all fell apart, and they herded into the same meadow the rest of us sheeple were grazing.
Once in a while, one of the old rams would rear his head and break a big story. Usually, it was this man: Mike Wallace.
It was once said that the most frightening sight for a CEO or politician was Mike Wallace walking up the driveway with a film crew. Certainly, Wallace's questions were the highlight of any interview, because the answers rarely mattered. The questions exposed the facts Wallace learned, all he was fishing for was a reaction.
Wallace was one of the last of a breed of journalist who can trace their roots back to the Golden Era of TV: Eric Sevareid, Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, the wrongly disgraced Dan Rather, even Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein owe a debt of gratitude to the television news departments of that era, and particularly the legendary Edward R. Murrow (born Egbert, so we can imagine where he got his fighting spirit).
Indeed, Keith Olbermann signed off his now extinct "Countdown" with Murrow's catchphrase "Good night and good luck," some 55 years after Murrow was off the air.
Murrow's career ended gloriously, ironically pointing out in a famous speech in Chicago (you can watch it recreated in the movie "Good Night and Good Luck") how news had taken a backseat to entertainment and getting fired for it. Murrow would no doubt blanch today watching any local news broadcast promotion of the network's latest offerings or the corporate overlords latest pet film project or product.
Wallace's confrontational style, best described as "tough but fair," is a direct descendant of Murrow: play their words back to them, then make them answer for their words. Cite facts, not opinion, and don't interpret. Let them either make their cases or dig their graves, even tho you already know which will happen.
And he had to do this in an era when TV news went under the unmbrella of entertainment and was expected to turn a comparable profit, something even Murrow never had to truly contend with (usually, Murrow's programs had a single major underwriter to pay the bills.)
Wallace made mistakes, the largest being smearing General William Westmoreland, for which Wallace was forced to issue a public apology. He claimed that the United States military had deliberately underestimated the size of the North Vietnamese forces arrayed against them.
They had, but Wallace claimed it was a cover-up for incompetence in the original analyses, while in truth, it was a political expediency. Westmoreland sued for $120 million. He settled for an apology. That should tell you how not-far fro the truth Wallace was even then.
So it was reporters like Wallace that made journalism attractive, that made finding out the truth important. It's a goddamned shame that America doesn't have anyone to pick up that mantle. Who really does exposes anymore? The only reporter I can think of is Greg Palast and he free-lances for the Beeb.
Now we have news agglomerators (yours truly included.) The best ones find out the truth as best they can, and relate it to you with all their experience and knowledge. The worst ones just repeat what you've read elsewhere and call it "news".
You listening, Drudge?
Godspeed, Mr. Wallace. You were enough.
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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