Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Jefferson's Garden

Slaveholder or not, it's really hard not to love Thomas Jefferson. Getting into his gardening method is one of so many good reasons.


I guess it's a lot easier to just blame the federal government for everything when you veto a measure allowing public examination of state records, as Bobby Jindal did for the oil spill. Even the Louisiana legislature, i.e., the most publicly responsible, least corrupt public body the world has ever seen, is outraged.

Hey, remember when people considered Bobby Jindal a legitimate presidential candidate? Good memories...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Things That I Should Probably Read That I Dread Reading


I'm going to try to give it a fair shake when it comes out, but I'm already curious about how Rohter, who made much of his career in Brazil by unashamedly and partisanly bashing Lula (including calling him a "drunk" with no evidence whatsover) is going to provide a narrative that praises the growth under Lula's watch (I'm going to guess he goes with the "it happened in spite of Lula" meme, though I'm willing to be proven wrong). Additionally, the publisher's description of the book may be inaccurate, but it sure sounds like Rohter's still up to his shallow analysis and borderline-stereotyping, based on that description (though hopefully it was a publisher's decision).

Monday, June 28, 2010


Oliver Stone responds to Larry Rohter (and while far from sympathetic to Stone on this, I stand by my "Rohter as the bigger hack" comments).

UPDATE: Rohter responds to Stone's response. It's worth reading (as well as the takedown of his response), but for those who are lacking the time or patience, let me just say: Larry Rohter does not let facts that disprove his claims prevent him from continuing to trumpet those claims.

UPDATE (2): And just to make clear, Stone shouldn't get a free pass on this, either. I think Stephen raises a couple of good questions.

Steve Forbes: Making Jeff Sessions Look Classy Since Today!

Forbes celebrating Robert Byrd's death.  Very nice!

FIFA's Biggest Fans

The NBA!

This World Cup referring makes the NBA look really impeachable. And I love how FIFA's response to this onslaught of incompetence is to ban in-stadium replays.

Jack McCallum makes a convincing argument as to how this referring is hurting the game catching on in the U.S

Republicans--The White Man's Party

If you are going to be the White Man's Party, as the Republicans more surely are, you might as well go all the way and attack Thurgood Marshall when Marshall's son is in attendance:

Ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) criticized Kagan for having "associated herself with well-known activist judges who have used their power to redefine the meaning of our constitution and have the result of advancing that judge's preferred social policies," citing Marshall as his son, Thurgood Marshall Jr., sat in the audience of the Judiciary Committee hearings.


And when does the idea that Democrats are the activist judges end, particularly given the Roberts court vastly remaking the law? I suspect this is happening, but good god.

The Kind of Ideological Consistency Only Antonin Scalia Can Provide

Since the Supreme Court has ruled 5-4 that state and local governments cannot restrict the 2nd Amendment and must fall under federal law, I look forward to the 5 conservative justices also throwing state abortion restrictions out as unconstitutional.

It's all about rigorous intellectual consistency with these guys, right?


RIP, Robert Byrd, Senator and fiddler. 

And a pretty good fiddler in fact. The voice I can give or take, but he's certainly a solid mountain fiddler.


This isn't the type of food I usually eat, so perhaps I'm not the target demographic.

But what the hell's the deal with sliders? I can get 3 tiny hamburgers instead of one? Why would I do this?

I can think of 2 reasons for this. First, you are with 2 other people and none of you are very hungry. But you really want the taste of beef in your mouth. And really, who hasn't been in that situation.

The other way this works is actually a good reason--each slider is different. If you gave me 3 hamburgers (or veggie burgers as the case may be) and one had brie on it and another had blue cheese and other had grilled zucchini, that might be pretty cool.

But as is, you are ordering 3 tiny hamburgers with a dollop of ketchup and a pickle on it. Wow. Awesome.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Does Anybody Else Smell Fire?

Let Cleveland's annual fire-sale and dumping of veterans commence. Something tells me this trade won't be quite as good as the "Felix Fermin-for-Omar Vizquel" trade, though.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hack Jobs

Not sure which of these hack jobs is more wretch-inducing, Oliver Stone's no doubt horrible film on Hugo Chavez or Larry Rohter's article attacking it while attempting to debunk the entire Latin American left in a few paragraphs.

Friday, June 25, 2010

RIP - Fred Anderson

Saxophone great Fred Anderson has died at 81. In my experience, Anderson has been overlooked for the Coltranes, Colemans, Braxtons, and others, but his importance to late-20th century music is enormous. In addition to being a top-notch jazz performer and composer, he was a founder of the AACM in Chicago and continued to support rising talent by sustaining the Velvet Lounge. Anderson's death leaves a hole in music that will be hard to fill.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Return of Debtors' Prison

I definitely need to read more about this, but I am deeply disturbed by what is basically the return of the debtors' prison.

Random Thoughts from a Day in the Archives

Researching has always presented a certain challenge for me. The problem is that I am chronically fidgety. Under normal circumstances I have about 5 things going on at once. Going to the archives means only doing one thing. That kind of discipline is really hard for me. Maybe medication would help. Whatever. Anyway, to make up for the lack of clutter in my mind, I tend to just start thinking of things. Here are a few thoughts from today:

1. You know what the problem is with people today? A lack of doggerel. Back in the day, horrible poetry was everywhere. You never see that today. What will entertain researchers of the future?

2. The acceptance of computers into the archives means I can now listen to music, which does help me. However, if someone can explain why I'm such a sucker for 60s and 70s English folk music, I'd appreciate it.

3. Those archivists--if only they would stop giving extremely helpful suggestions that enlighten me on collections I would never know about otherwise and were extremely helpful for my book, I'd get through my entire research agenda on this trip.

4. I've decided to bring my book up to 2000 (as opposed to 1940 for the dissertation). This is getting pretty interesting. It's certainly easier to write modern history. When you are looking at a subject as abstract and difficult as I am, finding an archive where people are saying exactly what you want them to is very unusual. But it sure is more common with comment periods on federal legislation. Nothing like wackos writing in complaining about the Endangered Species Act.

5. There are only 2 good reasons for researching a topic I think. One, the topic touches you in a personal way. Two, the research takes you to the place you want to be (whether that's nearby or far away). If there are other reasons, I don't know them. I am in Seattle. Is there anywhere better than Seattle in the summer? I don't think so. I've always said that there's probably some amazing topics to write about on the history of North Dakota. Why? Because who actually wants to spend time there? And if a topic doesn't have a personal connection to you, whatever that may be, I don't see how you can spend the time it takes to write a book. Obviously, there are other perspectives of course, but I couldn't do it.

6. Given my decision to move the book up in time, it would be super helpful if Bob Packwood's papers came available. Plus, that would be an entertaining archive to explore...

Slight Mea Culpa

For all I've been poking fun at the World Cup and soccer in general, i.e. The Officially Acceptable Sport for Progressives (TM), the second half of that Italy-Slovenia game was about the most exciting sporting event I've seen in quite awhile.

Also, one thing I hate about soccer is the faking of injury. That is incredibly lame. Incredibly. I think that officials after the game should be able to review the injuries and provide a post-game red card for those faking injuries. You know where injuries aren't faked--the NFL. Let's see those Italian guys think so flippantly of injuries after Troy Polamalu lays them out.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Not that I really care, but is it completely wrong to root for Algeria over the U.S. today? I mean, doesn't the U.S. deserve to lose in the World Cup. We are the imperialist power in everything else, so sucking at what really matters to much of the world seems to be fitting. Plus today's matchup has a sort of Battle of Algiers feel to it. In other news, perhaps American kids doing lame dancing in discotheques should keep a watch out today.

Update--And I guess imperialism won the day. 

Does Exxon-Mobil Corporate Headquarters Have a Gilded Hall They Call "Main Street"?

I hate so much that Republicans always talk about themselves as the voice of Main Street. Here's "reasonable conservative" (TM) Kathleen Parker talking about her new CNN show with Eliot Spitzer:

"With Eliot Spitzer as my co-host, Wall Street and Main Street will finally meet. It can't possibly be boring.”
First of all, yes it can be boring.

Second, what the hell does Kathleen Parker know about Main Street?  When was the last time she walked down a dying Main Street in Ohio or Michigan? Probably never and if she has, I'm sure it was just to prove a point. So if by Main Street you mean the main street of a tony South Carolina or Florida suburb, I'm sure Kathleen Parker knows it really well. But if by Main Street you mean a place where average Americans exist, I don't think she knows it at all.

Enjoy Your Sushi Now

Among the many things that outrage and depress me about humanity, our treatment of and disregard for the oceans is near the top, and I'm not talking about oil spills (though there's that, too). Yet another species faces extinction, and the disappearance of blue tuna could catastrophically change the nature of the oceanic ecosystem. All so the Japanese (and Americans, and Europeans) can get their quality sushi. Disgusting.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Award For Maximum Stereotypes in One Column Goes To...

Roger Cohen!!!

Seriously, that is a pretty impressive set of national stereotypes used to throw together a column on the World Cup. I mean, Cohen totally deserves his job, after all who else could possibly write such a hilarious column. Cohen is clearly superior to all other political writers out there.

He does deserve one demerit however--how could he not talk about the French surrendering their matches at the first sign of adversity? I mean, it's such a perfect stereotype. And for this World Cup, it's not entirely false!!


Whoops! Guess I shouldn't let my aides get drunk and talk to reporters!

Friday, June 18, 2010

José Saramago, RIP

I am devastated to learn of Saramago's passing. The world's greatest living writer, Saramago's books explored the relationship between earth and heaven, between the tremendous evil in the world and the good inside individuals, and between the past and present. I prefer his earlier works like Baltisar and Blimunda, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, and The Stone Raft. These I thought were some of the greatest books of the 20th century. I still liked later works like Blindness a good bit, but I thought the overt political works could be a bit heavy handed.

Perhaps Phillip Roth is now the greatest living writer, perhaps Gao Xingjian, perhaps Toni Morrison. One might make cases for Haruki Murakami or Cormac McCarthy as well. Certainly that's an American-dominated list, but what can I say.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Self-Delusion of Conservatives and Classical Education

Conservatives love so-called "classical education." They constantly rail against the teaching of "politically correct" history. They don't want the inclusion of black or women writers into the canon. They believe post-modernism is the devil (never mind that the Bush presidency basically operated on post-modern principles of constructing truth). They think that higher education as presently constructed seeks to destroy conservative values and brain-wash young people with liberal doctrine.

Their solution is often to stress the classics. Sandy Levinson points us to this interesting op-ed about the Texas State Board of Education endorsing classical European thinkers as proper for our students to learn about, as opposed to, say, Cesar Chavez.

Of course, the Texas BOE members have never read Voltaire or Rousseau or Aquinas themselves. But they are convinced about the benefits of a classical education for creating young conservatives.

But is there any evidence for this? I'd say it's rather the opposite. For instance, conservatives love St. John's College, alma mater of Lyrad and many of our commenters. When I went to Lyrad's graduation, the conservative columnist John Leo was the commencement speaker and he droned on about the values of a classical education. For Leo, St. John's was a tool in the culture war. But knowing Lyrad and his friends as I do, I wouldn't exactly say that they became conservatives.

Perhaps they will care to speak about this more.

Now, the St. John's College style of education certainly is racist, sexist, and Euro-centric. There's no question that in that superficial sense it serves the larger political goals of conservatives. And I think that's a huge problem with that style of education. However, actually reading Rousseau and Aquinas doesn't seem to lead to the results that conservatives think.

What A Joke

It's barely worth commenting on Dick Cheney slamming Obama for not responding more boldly over the BP oil spill. It's certainly not surprising that the architect of the Bush Administration's non-action on any issues that concerned the deaths of poor or brown people would be a hypocrite. But the sheer gall of saying this when the whole Bush Administration clearly didn't care about New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina because black people weren't going to vote for Republicans is just outstanding.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I'm at my parents house. My Dad and I are driving home and we see a someone sketchy looking woman walking down the street. My Dad says she's going to the dealer's house across the street, which of course she is (it's a great neighborhood and always has been). The cops are frequently at the house and it contains all the typical issues with drug dealing houses.

Here's my question though. I realize dealers aren't exactly the cream of the crop in intellect. But isn't it fairly obvious that if you are going to deal drugs, you should deliver? I would think that if you delivered, you would avoid much of the risk of dealing drugs. The cops would never visit your home. Your neighbors would have no clue what was going on. You could operate for much longer without getting caught, assuming you didn't speed while driving, had a reasonable looking car, and didn't dress like a fuck up.

On the other hand, given the number of dealers who imbibe in their own products, I guess this explains the whole situation.

The Lost Opportunity

Scott Lemieux comments on this Jonathan Bernstein piece about Obama's inability to control the Senate. Bernstein notes:

Neustadt's classic is all about how the presidency is a very weak office, and how influence (what he calls "power") is, for presidents, only won through hard work and clever maneuvering.  It's weak because, as he says, that the other men (sic) in government are out to serve themselves, not him.  And their interests diverge from his.  In particular Democratic Senators from marginal states have very different constituencies than does a Democratic president, and they're not likely to support all the liberal initiatives he supports. 

True to an extent, though Bernstein misses the possibilities Obama had to use more of a hammer against recalcitrant Democrats and even some Republicans.

Scott expands on Bernstein's points:

In particular, people arguing that a robust public option could have been had if Obama had really wanted it need to be concrete: what specific and usable leverage, exactly, did Obama have over Ben Nelson and the dozen+ Democratic Senators who were clearly opposed to a public option with any teeth?   In most cases, just not very much. 

Again, true to a point. But both Bernstein and Lemieux ignore what was possible in the spring of 2009. Yes, Obama could not call Ben Nelson or Blanche Lincoln into the Oval Office and yell at them until they agreed to vote for the public option. And today, Obama certainly doesn't hold much leverage over moderates.

But let's go back to the spring of 2009. Obama was elected by a good margin. Millions of people came out to his rallies. He energized a whole generation of voters. He had an enormous cache of electronic tools to motivate people. The Republicans were running scared. The world was his oyster.

And he blew it. He blew it because Obama has proven to be a poor politician, in the sense of sheer political skill. People noted in 2008 that Obama had never faced a tough election campaign. That's still the truth. He never had much of a reason to show whether or not he was a skilled legislator and mover of policy. And his acumen in these skills has been disappointing.

Moreover, Obama has failed to understand the nature of leadership. As I wrote in a recent Global Comment piece:

Obama has learned just enough history to massively overcorrect for the errors of past administrations. He knew Bill Clinton made a mistake when he dictated health care reform to Congress in 1993. So instead he allowed Congress to form health care policy. Without active presidential leadership, critics of the plan took the initiative and shaped the debate.

Obama has also learned from George W. Bush. Rightfully disdainful of Bush’s cowboy approach to the presidency, Obama has refrained from making emotion-driven broad statements that might later prove damaging. Certainly this strategy has worked well in Obama’s foreign policy. While Iran has proven more intractable than Obama might have realized, overall, Obama has improved the nation’s standing the world.

However, many Americans liked Bush’s grandiosity. Bush’s Manichean view of the world appealed to America’s evangelical leanings that have shaped the country since its founding. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech was profoundly stupid because it was wrong. But his rhetoric was good politics at the time.

Obama has had ample opportunities to speak to these tendencies in the American psyche but has consistently refused. Americans have historically responded to strong leadership, often regardless of actual policy—whether from Franklin Roosevelt or John Kennedy or Ronald Reagan or Barack Obama during his presidential campaign.

While we have to explain political shifts in more complex terms than leadership, Americans have consistently supported politicians who inspired them. Barack Obama convinced millions of Americans to vote for him not because of his health care plan but because he made them believe he would make their lives better. But when he took office, Obama forgot about this. His lack of vocal and inspirational leadership opened the door for the Teabaggers, oil companies, and special interests to fill the leadership vacuum, possibly threatening his presidency.

Obama could not call Ben Nelson into his office and convince him to vote for the plan. But he could have asked his legions of supporters to take to the streets to support his policies. He could have tapped into the desires that his base had for him. Legions were willing to do what he asked of them. And he chose not to take advantage of it. Instead, he chose to become a consensus-seeking centrist who ignored his base. The opportunity to mobilize people slipped through his fingers.

The great "what if" of the Obama president is this: "What if Obama had mobilized his supporters to rally for his programs?" Would active leadership and public rallies convinced moderate Democrats and even some Republicans that voting for the public option and most of Obama's other agenda items was necessary for their political survival? We'll never know. Instead, his unwillingness to use the bully pulpit opened up a leadership vacuum filled by Teabaggers which convinced moderate politicians that their interest was in watering down or voting against health care.

Conference Expansion

The biggest sports story of my week of travel (at least that I care about, meaning not the World Cup or NBA Finals) was the potential for massive NCAA conference realignment.

I was particularly interested in this because, as an Oregon fan, I have a vested interest in seeing the Pac-10 do well. So the idea of expanding to a Pac-16 and stealing half the Big 12 sounded pretty good to me. I wanted to see Oregon play Oklahoma and Texas on a semi-regular basis, wanted a Pac-10 network, and wanted to be part of the best conference in the country.

Well, it didn't happen. The Pac-10 did grab Colorado, which in the long-term should be good but right now is pretty meaningless. Nebraska bailed to the Big 10, which if you ask me is tying your ship to a faulty anchor of declining media markets and recruiting centers. Utah will probably come over to the Pac-10 as well, which is fine if rather unexciting.

Maybe conference consolidation is a good thing for college athletics and maybe it's not. There's good arguments on both sides.

What makes me laugh though is the behavior of Texas. Texas was the lynchpin of all these changes. The Pac-10 wanted them bad. But UT used the Pac-10 to promote its own interests. Essentially, Texas wants to be Notre Dame. The collapse of the Big 12 was going to leave 5 schools out in the cold. And UT knew they could use the Pac-10 as leverage to get whatever they wanted in the Big 12. They managed to get rid of Colorado and Nebraska, i.e. teams that could actually compete with UT in football. Then they got the rest of the conference to not only agree to unequal revenue distribution, with UT getting even more than Oklahoma. Then they convinced the rest of the conference to allow UT to start their own television network, for which they could keep ALL the money. On top of all of this, they actually got the 5 nearly abandoned schools to give their share of the money Nebraska and Colorado has to pay to leave the conference to UT.

Talk about the rich getting richer.

What a joke.

I'd love to see the Pac-10 go after Kansas instead of Utah, just to screw UT. Kansas isn't going to leave, but they should. The Pac-10 is a far better academic conference, it's basketball traditions are just as good (playing against UCLA and Arizona is certainly as good as Texas and Oklahoma) and it would be a boatload of money for KU.

Of course, it's always all about the money in college sports. But Texas just created a situation where they have a weaker conference where they get all the money. They don't have to play a conference championship game. All they have to do every year is beat Oklahoma and not get upset by someone else and they get to go to the National Championship game!

I don't think this will last though. Texas' domination of the conference is going to rankle a lot of teams. The SEC is still interested in Texas A&M in the long-term. The conference is a joke in football now. And everyone knows UT will screw them over at the first opportunity. Sounds great....

Ethanol and the Oil Spill

Kobi Abayomi has a useful piece discussing one of the unintended consequences of the BP oil spill--even more momentum for the ethanol industry:

We might have expected losses of oil output from the recent disaster in the Gulf – direct losses from production and indirect increased costs – to place additional pressures upon the fuel supply. We would then expect, in ordinary political terrain, for these pressures to further exacerbate competition among corn for feed stocks, exports and food and corn to ethanol.

This is important. Obama is rightfully (finally!) starting to use the disaster to call for overall energy reform. That's important, but equally vital is how we replace petroleum. Abayomi points out that Obama recently called for a tripling of ethanol production by 2022. This is not useful. Tripling ethanol production means that corn doesn't get used for food. And while Americans' addiction to corn (and farm states' addiction to agricultural subsidies) means we are constantly finding new and often unhealthy ways to consume corn, in Mexico and other poorer corn-centric nations, rising corn prices has real consequences. NAFTA led to the flooding of cheap American corn onto the Mexican market, driving farmers off their land and to the United States. But rising corn prices a couple of years ago as commodity prices skyrocketed and Americans began using corn to fuel their vehicles created a new panic situation in Mexico. People wondered how they would pay for these pricey tortillas, which is another way of saying they wondered how they would eat.

Certainly we need a real energy policy. But relying on ethanol as central to that strategy doesn't help us very much from an environmental or a foreign policy standpoint.

World Cup Thought

Forgive me for being a heathen, but it's really hard to get behind an international sporting event that is averaging about 1.3 goals scored per game. 

Not that I'm suddenly following Jonah Goldberg or anything. But these World Cup matches have been really boring.

The Iron Lady Never Would Apologize

David Cameron actually apologized for the Bloody Sunday massacre????

Prime Minister David Cameron offered an extraordinary apology on Tuesday for the 1972 killings of 14 unarmed demonstrators by British soldiers in Northern Ireland, saying that a long-awaited judicial inquiry had left no doubt that the “Bloody Sunday” shootings were “both unjustified and unjustifiable.”

What kind of Conservative is this? Margaret Thatcher would have jumped off a bridge before apologizing for murdering Irish people. What happened to Conservatives oppressing the Irish at every turn? Have they decided to focus solely on something so banal as dismantling the British welfare state?

Moreover, just what is Thatcher thinking about this tonight?

Update: Speaking of the Iron Lady, the YouBetcha Lady hopes to meet her hero

Jimmy Dean, RIP

Who knew the country singer Jimmy Dean was still alive? While "PT-109" is a fantastically stupid song (though interesting in the sense that it's hard to imagine a popular country singer writing a paean to a Democratic president today. And it's not like country musicians were more liberal in 1961 than today, though certainly like most white southerners, their party affiliation was generally Democratic in those days), "Big Bad John" is pretty awesome.


After 2000 miles, $2000 in car repairs (mostly deferred maintenance to be truthful that I decided to get done all at once), hiking in Arches National Park and getting hailed upon during a thunderstorm while doing so, seeing my first Yellow-headed blackbird in southern Idaho, visiting the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in central Oregon, and other various adventures, I am only one short drive to Seattle away from beginning my summer research trip and thus am more or less back on the blog.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Last Great Radio Weirdo Signs Off

After nearly 40 years, Dr. Demento is signing off the airwaves and taking his show to the web. I only had a short period of time growing up in which his show aired in my area, but the exposure he gave to musical nutjobs and brilliant obscurities was invaluable. Now that he's on the 'tubes, he'll be easier to hear with likely more freedom than he had before. It isn't like radio has been relevant in years, but with Demento off the air, the medium really feels dead. As for me, I'll always thank the man for exposing me to the following; in my opinion, the greatest novelty song ever written.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The Great West

Today I start a long road trip to Seattle, where I will be conducting research for my book. So things will be a bit sporadic on my end here for the next week as I complete the drive. I'll be around, but not every day.

Sunday, June 06, 2010


I was watching a Rangers-White Sox game the other day. The Rangers announcers were introducing the White Sox starting lineup. Omar Vizquel was starting and they introduced him as "former Ranger and future Hall of Famer Omar Vizquel."

I thought this laughable. Does anyone really think Omar Vizquel belongs in the Hall of Fame? Was he ever considered one of the best players in major league baseball at any one time in his career? I know he was an excellent defensive shortstop. And he became functional with the bat.

So I looked at Baseball Reference to see his comparable 10 players. I admit I was surprised to see 7 Hall of Famers. Basically it was a list of the good fielding/average hitting shortstops in the Hall of Fame--Apaircio, Maranville, Ozzie Smith. But I'm still not convinced at all. Vizquel didn't redefine the position like the three ahead of him. He has benefited from playing a very long time, but like with Jamie Moyer, that's not a reason to be in the Hall of Fame.

I'm not sure how many 3 time All-Stars are in the Hall of Fame. I know that's a statistic of limited use, but only 3 times did fans or managers think Vizquel was one of the best players in the game. His 11 Gold Gloves are impressive, but that's a joke of an award. Vizquel may have deserved them, but it's not a useful measurement. He had an OPS+ of over 100 only twice in his career.

My point is that Omar Vizquel is a very good player. And if there were a Hall of the Very Good, Vizquel would be in there along with players like Joe Carter, Don Mattingly, Will Clark, and a lot of others. And there'd be some shortstops in there too--guys who Vizquel very much reminds me of. Dave Concepcion. Tony Fernandez. That's Vizquel's level. Future Hall of Famer? No.

Historical Image of the Day

Advertisement for Susan B. Anthony speech, Boulder, Colorado, 1877

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Historical Image of the Day

Editorial cartoon satirizing Susan B. Anthony attacking Grover Cleveland for not supporting women's suffrage. I don't have a date, but obviously it was during one of Cleveland's 2 non-consecutive terms.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Annals of Pop Psychology

The Times links to this Psych Central piece that attempts to make connections between how we treat our pets and our spouses. The Times article asks key questions:

Greetings: Even on bad days, we greet our pets with a happy, animated hello, and usually a pat on the head or a hug. Do you greet your spouse that way?

Why in fact, the key to my relationship is patting my partner on top of the head when I come home. I then give her some partner treats and fill her food bowl.

Holding grudges: Even when our pets annoy us by wrecking the furniture or soiling the floor, we don’t stay mad at them.

Precisely. I find my relationship works because when my partner uses the couch as a bathroom, it doesn't bother me at all!

The Psych Central piece makes even more relevant points:

Few pet owners personalize their pets’ reactions to others to an extreme that makes them so embarrassed that they fear their image is tarnished or they become resentful of their pets. The fact that the dog is licking every part of the arriving guest’s body is cause to pull him away or laugh it away. The cat that will not come out of hiding or the parrot that is screeching is left without judgment or excuses. That’s them!

In fact, I am completely supportive when my partner dives under the bed when the garbage truck comes by.  Moreover, when she is cleaning herself with her tongue, I totally understand.

Connecticut's Roided Future

Linda McMahon, GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate and wife of WWE founder Vince freaking McMahon disputes that steroids lead to long-term health problems.

When I asked Linda McMahon about the issue, however, she said she shared her husband's doubts. "There's some evidence sometimes of muscle disease, or cardiac disease, but it's really hard to know because you didn't know the condition of the performer's heart, or whatever, prior to," she told me. "So I still don't think we know the long-term effects of steroids. They are continuing to study it more and more, but I don't believe there are a lot of studies out there today that are conclusive."

Q: If McMahon actually wins, will Connecticut go on a statewide roid rage and finally conquer Rhode Island?


While I'll be the first to admit that the English language is weird and many of its rules make no sense, what actually motivates someone to protest the National Spelling Bee to demand that English orthography be phonetic? Why would you go to the trouble of actually showing up for this?

Also, I feel the signs should have amusing spellings on them.

Roosevelt Has Never Been This Happy!

An ad from a Guatemalan Hooters:

I really don't know what I could possibly add to this.

Via Edge of the American West.

BP Oil Spill Photo of the Day

President Obama examining the effects of the BP oil spill on a Louisiana beach.

Historical Image of the Day

Women's suffrage pioneer Lucretia Mott.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Asshat of the Day

Bud Selig, who apparently believes that it is better to be stubbornly wrong (and to screw one of his umpires for life) than to actually correct an obvious (and easily-correctable) error. Selig's done more wrong than right throughout his life, but this should seal his Lifetime Achievement Award for Asshattery.

BP Oil Spill Photo of the Day

Historical Image of the Day

Abigail Scott Duniway, Oregon's leading suffragist, 1876.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Goodbye Ken Griffey

Although it was clearly time, I am saddened by the retirement of Ken Griffey, Jr., also known as the man who saved baseball in Seattle.

Before Griffey arrived on the scene, Major League Baseball's experiment with locating a team in Seattle had been an unmitigated disaster. First there was the one year experiment with the Seattle Pilots before one Bud Selig moved them to Milwaukee. In 1977, Seattle got another chance with the Mariners. And the team was terrible. Just awful year after year. Before Griffey, the team's best players in its history had been the legendary Alvin Davis and Mark Langston. Seattle played in the Kingdome, arguably the worst stadium in the history of the game (though Montreal fans might have something to say about that). No one came to the games. Many people predicted the Mariners would move to Tampa or some other baseball hungry city.

And then along came Ken Griffey, Jr. He was amazing and he was fun. He was 19 years old and a freak of nature. He played center field like a gazelle, making remarkable catches and robbing players of home runs. He had titanic power and a beautiful swing. And he played the game with a smile on his face. All of a sudden, Seattle baseball was fun to watch. Combined with robbing Montreal of Randy Johnson, finally calling up Edgar Martinez from AAA instead of running Jim Presley out there every day, and acquiring a number of other good players, Seattle became a good, if flawed, team.

In 1995, they had a remarkable comeback to take the AL West from the Angels and make the playoffs for the first time in their 18 year history. They faced the Yankees in the first round and came back from New York down 2-0. Thinking the series was over, I went anyway assuming I would watch one game and go home. But then Seattle won. And they won again. And in Game 5, the game went to extra innings. Griffey got on first. Edgar Martinez doubled down the left field line and the speedy Griffey rounded third, scored, and Seattle won the series. It was amazing. Baseball was saved in Seattle. Griffey was in the middle of one of baseball history's greatest careers.

Things didn't stay great forever. Griffey eventually grew a bit distance, felt unloved in Seattle, and wanted to return to his home in Cincinnati. The Mariners agreed and traded him for Mike Cameron. Griffey then proceeded to get hurt year after year. His time with the Reds didn't go well. The Reds didn't win and Cincy fans tended to blame Griffey since he was getting paid so much and was always hurt. Eventually the injuries and the years took their toll. I saw Griffey play CF for the Reds in 2006. It was sad to watch him not come even close to balls he would have snagged in his youth.

Still, I was happy to see him go back to Seattle to close out his career. He shouldn't have come back this year, but that's all forgotten now.

Ken Griffey, Jr. was a great player. He played during the Steroid Era but no one ever accused this freak of an athlete of cheating. When he was healthy, he was amazing. And when he was hurt, he didn't roid up to return. He is the best player I have ever seen on my home team. He will probably be the first person to go into the Hall of Fame as a Mariner (it could be Edgar Martinez but I'm not sure he'll ever have the votes. Meanwhile, Randy Johnson will probably enter as a Diamondback).

I almost feel as though an epoch of my life has now concluded. The greatest player of my high school and college days has left the game. I guess millions of baseball fans have felt the same way as Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays and so many others have retired. Part of being a baseball fan is immersing yourself in the history. That means eventually you become part of the memories of past glories yourself. I never truly felt that way until this moment.

Where's the Dead Animals?

I was asking this very question about the oil spill. After the Exxon Valdez disaster, you saw endless pictures of dead birds and marine life. But with the BP oil spill, we've hardly seen any such pictures. In fact, with my little oil spill photo series, I've been shocked at the paucity of images to choose from. Now we know why. Since BP is in charge of the clean up, they also have the power to control access to public beaches in Louisiana. And they are not granting access to the media.

A CBS News crew was threatened with arrest when it tried to photograph the spill, and a BP representative in Louisiana told a Mother Jones reporter that she couldn’t visit the Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge without a BP escort.

On Monday, journalists from the New York Daily News were also “escorted away from a public beach on Elmer’s Island bycops who said they were taking orders from BP.” However, they managed to get a covert tour of the Queen Bess barrier island from a BP contractor who is fed up with the oil company’s attempt to cover up the disaster:
“There is a lot of coverup for BP. They specifically informed us that they don’t want these pictures of the dead animals. They know the ocean will wipe away most of the evidence. It’s important to me that people know the truth about what’s going on here,” the contractor said.
“The things I’ve seen: They just aren’t right. All the life out here is just full of oil. I’m going to show you what BP never showed the President.” [...]
The grasses by the shore were littered with tarred marine life, some dead and others struggling under a thick coating of crude.
“When you see some of the things I’ve seen, it would make you sick,” the contractor said. “No living creature should endure that kind of suffering.”
“BP is going to say the deaths of these animals wasn’t oil-related,” the contractor added. “We know the truth. I hope these pictures get to the right people — to someone who can do something.”

I guess BP is taking the Bush Administration's lead on media access. If the American people didn't see dead soldiers coming back from Iraq, everything must be going OK, right? Same here. If BP can avoid images of dead dolphins, they may think their public image won't take the long-term hit that Exxon did after 1989. But it's wrong and I don't see why the government is allowing BP to control media access.

The Hypocrisy, It Burns

Even I am amazed at the rampant hypocrisy of Republicans who are demanding widespread government intervention over the oil spill. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, at one-time a supposed leader for the 2012 Republican nomination and a constant yapper about small government, is demanding more activist government intervention. OK, he's the governor of Louisiana and he has to win reelection. So his hypocrisy might make sense. But then there's Minnesota lunatic Michelle Bachmann:

BACHMANN: The administration, they were hands off. They didn’t do anything. Where were the boats that could have been commandeered by the government to be sent into this region to deal with that oil plume as it was coming up in the water and destroying marine life? Nowhere to be found. Why? The administration was hands off on this policy. 

But I thought the federal government was supposed to be so small you could drown it in a bathtub?

What's really going on here of course is that the Teabaggers don't want a small government. What they want is a government that doesn't help black people or the poor. They love big government when it fights wars in random countries, subsidizes home loans for their McMansions, builds their roads, and limits abortion access. With the oil spill, they feel the government should get in there and protect their Pensacola vacations. What's the Redneck Riviera without the Rednecks?

But when the government tries to ensure equal educational opportunities for African-Americans, when it tries to make sure that poor people receive health care, and when it tries to allow gays and lesbians to serve their country on an equal basis, why then it's big government intervention!!!!11!!!

What total hypocrites.

Changing Parties

It seems pretty clear to me that the era of changing parties may be over for awhile. It used to be that changing parties was a good way for a politician feeling the sands shifting beneath him (and I actually can't think of a leading political woman switching parties) to get reelected. No more. With Arlen Specter losing the Democratic primary for Senate from Pennsylvania and Parker Griffith getting crushed while running as a Republican in Alabama yesterday, it's hard to see how politicians can justify switching parties. As both parties become more dominated by their base, distrust of party switchers is strong. The days of 1994, when dozens of southern Democrats became Republicans in the wake of the Gingrich takeover of the House, are long gone.

I think there are two exceptions to this. One is when a politician is adored. It might be possible for a Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe to switch to the Democrats because a majority of Maine residents like them. The other way to do this is to become an independent--think Joe Lieberman and Charlie Crist. What Crist will do if he wins the general election is unclear. He could align with the Republicans and become a moderate voice. He could tack to the right to try and reclaim a Republican mantle. He could become a conservative Democrat. Either way, he'll have a lot of power coming into the Senate this way, with the body so politicized. Of course, he has to win first, but given that Kendrick Meek is plummeting as Florida Democrats turn to someone who has a chance to beat Marco Rubio, that seems like a strong possibility.

BP Oil Spill Photo of the Day

The Gulf of Mexico near the BP oil spill.

Historical Image of the Day

Annie Clay Crenshaw, leading suffragist in Virginia

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Historical Image of the Day: Tungurahua

As I mentioned a few days ago, Tungurahua Volcano near Baños, Ecuador has been erupting again. Here's an image from the 1770s portraying an earlier eruption:

And another from this past February by flickr user lostinawave:


I don't comment on Israel a whole lot, mostly because there are so many people out there who know more about the Middle East than I, particularly Alterdestiny alum Matt Duss.

However, I am struck by the sheer stupidity of Israel's attack on the flotilla attempting to break the Gaza blockade. Just amazing stupidity. Does Israel simply not want peace with its neighbors? Does it not want Turkey, one of the only nations in the region willing to work with it, to continue that parternship? Does the IDF really think that overwhelming military force is the only way to meet any conceivable threat?

There are certainly many unanswered questions about the attack. Did some of the flotilla members indeed have arms? Why did Israel send their version of the Green Berets out to deal with this instead of a less aggressive group? Who started the shooting?

But whatever the answers are, this is Israel's greatest diplomatic disaster since at the beginning of the Second Intifada.

Moreover it's worth mentioning that Israel's policy in Gaza is just evil. In the West Bank it's wrong and stupid. Jimmy Carter is right in calling it apartheid. But by blockading Gaza, they are essentially creating a giant concentration camp for those people. And yes, I used that term intentionally. Because that's essentially what it is. Like the United States with the Japanese in World War II, Israel has identified an entire group of people as a national security threat, locked them up in a tiny piece of land, and isolated them from the world. This cannot continue without some kind of blow up.

Why wouldn't someone from Gaza become a terrorist? I can't think of a single good reason. There is no economy. No hope of a better future. Nothing. Nothing at all except poverty, isolation, depredations from Israel, and hopelessness. We might say that being a terrorist is wrong and that's why they shouldn't do it, but that's real easy for us to say from our computers in the U.S., Europe, or Israel.

Of course, Israel is primarily able to engage in these policies because it knows the U.S. has its back. The decline of the Israeli left has allowed right-wing elements to treat the Palestinians  with ever increasingly contempt, knowing that AIPAC will support whatever the Netanyahu government decides or possibly even criticize it from the right.

I don't know what Obama will do here. He doesn't have a lot of great options. There are many reasons why he can't simply condemn Israel. Though a denunciation might be the right thing to do, it would expose him to massive criticism from the very powerful right-wing Israeli lobby. Besides, it doesn't really fit his pragmatist foreign policy doctrine.

But either way, Israel has struck another blow against itself being accepted by its neighbors. If Israelis think an apartheid policy can protect itself against a rapidly growing Muslim population, they have another thing coming. Provoking violence and creating regional strife probably isn't a good idea.


Given the lack of internet in my New Orleans hotel room, I wasn't able to comment on Dennis Hopper's death when it happened. I agree with Chad's discussion of him, but I want to add that while the obituaries are talking about Hopper the Actor and Hopper the Trend Setter and Hopper the Director, we are really remembering Hopper the Mad Man. And Hopper was something of a mad man. A child actor and Hollywood fixture, he knew seemingly everyone in Hollywood history. In his youth, he knew older people who worked in the silent days. Although he lost many years to drugs, he came back later in life to again become hip with younger people. He was a fixture on the L.A. art scene going back to the 1950s. He did become a conservative later in life and supported McCain in 08 for some reason, though St. John of Arizona didn't promote that endorsement as much as he did Wilford Brimley.

Anyway, I remember more for his gonzo role in Apocalypse Now and his comeback roles in Blue Velvet and Red Rock West more than anything. Well, anything except for this. I can't recommend Fishing with John enough, a TV series of the early 90s featuring the musician John Lurie fishing with stars in various places. It ran all of 6 episodes, but some of them are pretty amazing. 2 episodes send Lurie with Dennis Hopper to Thailand. It's weird and hilarious. But it also includes Hopper just telling stories. According to Lurie, all Hopper did on the trip was tell bizarre stories from his past (as well as eat sugar).

So rest in piece Dennis the Mad Man as well as all the rest of the Dennises. You certainly will be missed.

BP Oil Spill Photo of the Day

Brown Pelican in oil-soaked Louisiana marsh. 

Historical Image of the Day

This week's images will explore the the suffrage movement in the late 19th century.

Broadside for Elizabeth Cady Stanton lecture, Massilon, Ohio, 1875.

sink hole to end all sink holes

This is a truly amazing photo of a sink hole that opened up in Guatemala City after all the rain from Tropical Storm Agatha. (Hat tip.) It's been a rough week for Guatemala, with both Pacaya and the torrential rains.

The shot is CC licensed on flickr by the Gobierno de Guatemala. Just unbelievable.