Friday, October 31, 2008

The "Beat Johnny Yen" Contest Contestants So Far

All right, campers! The "Beat Johnny Yen" entries are rolling in! With Obama continuing to rise in the polls, and McCain having to use up scarce resources as he slips in his own home state of Arizona, you're beginning to feel the excitement! You're picturing yourself a couple of days after the election, after I've mailed the Obama bobblehead to you, walking into work with your trophy over your head like the Stanley Cup! You'll be able to brag that you called the the network and time that they first called the election for Obama.

Remember that you have until midnight, November 3 to get your entry in. I'll allow one "Mulligan"; you can change your time and/or network once.

All entries are November 4 unless otherwise indicated.

Johnny Yen CNN, 8:45 PM

Bubs MSNBC, 10:03 pm

The Prime Minister Evil Dictator CNN, 8:30 pm

Skyler's Dad CBS, 10:00 pm

Deadspot CNN, 9:37 pm

Jane CNN, 10:01 pm

MnMom MSNBC, 1:49 am Wednesday, Nov. 5

Patrick CNN, 10:36 pm

Randomgal CNN, 9:45 pm

Kim CNN, 11:52 pm

Some Guy NBC, 8:14 pm

Allison CNN, 11:36 pm

Dale CNN, 8:47 pm

Vikki MSNBC, 9:01 pm

Aunt TA ABC, 10:15 pm

Franiam CNN, 9:53 pm

Rocket Scientist PBS, 9:34 pm

JR MSNBC, 9:48 Eastern ST, (8:48 Central)

Erik CNN, 10:01 pm "Eastern Elite" time (that's 9:01 Central)

TenS CNN, 11:45 pm

Freida Bee ABC, 9:15 pm

It's Halloween

I heard a great Halloween song a couple of times today on Little Steven's Underground Garage: John Zacharie's "Dinner With Drac." I searched Itunes and Youtube in vain for it. Maybe next year.

In the meantime, here's my favorite Halloween song, cleverly titled "Halloween." It's the Dead Kennedys' call to be yourself every day of the year.

The "Yes We Can" Friday Random Ten

I was working Wednesday night and didn't get a chance to see the Obama infomercial. I just read in the New York Times that the Barack Obama "infomercial" was a huge hit, ratings and otherwise. I questioned whether it was a wise move-- I thought it might be overkill. But the reviews I've heard and read have been raves. I'm going to try to find it on Youtube later.

I've had lots of entries to the "Beat Johnny Yen" contest. I'll try to update those today.

1. Rockford Files Theme- Mike Post
2. Wasted Time- The Eagles
3. I'll Make You A Star- The Ponys
4. Polyester Bride- Liz Phair
5. Mandela Day- Simple Minds
6. I Wanna Marry You- Bruce Springsteen
7. In Memory of Elizabeth Reed- The Allman Brothers Band
8. Beginning of a Great Adventure- Lou Reed
9. Digging Your Scene- The Blow Monkeys
10. I Will Survive- Gloria Gaynor


1. Just saw yesterday that season 6 of the Rockford Files is coming out on DVD. Love this show and like James Garner-- he's a Korean War vet and a big Hollywood liberal.
2. Hotel California was one of the first albums I ever bought. Love this song.
3. Chicago's very own.
4. I've mentioned before, that I discovered that Liz' bartender friend Henry was also my bartender friend Henry. He's a real estate guy these days.
5. Simple Minds' tribute to Mandela.
6. I love the line "To say I'll make your dreams come true would be wrong/But maybe, darlin', I could help them along"
7. A long instrumental. They got the idea from seeing the gravestone of Elizabeth Reed in Georgia.
8. From New Sensations, one of my favorite albums. Lou Reed's reflections on child-rearing.
9. Great one-hit wonder from the eighties.
10. I've got a great story about this song regarding an old boss that I'll blog about sometime.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The "Beat Johnny Yen" Contest

Every morning I look at various websites, including http://www.electoral-vote.com/, the Gallup Poll and even the right-slanted Real Clear Politics, and day after day there is more bad news for John McCain. It's looking like Obama is going to not only carry all the states that Kerry got in 2004, but a number of formerly "red" states have slipped into blue. McCain is losing traction in his own home state of Arizona, and in Mississippi as well. Republican bigwigs like Colin Powell have jumped ship. Word is that the Republican insiders see the shipwreck coming this Tuesday. And Sarah Palin has "gone rogue," not following directions from the campaign; she's got a fantasy that she's their big hope for recovery in 2012.

Tuesday is going to be a monumental asskicking.

Hence, the "Beat Johnny Yen" contest. It's been my belief that if Obama carries Ohio, it'll be all over. I'm sticking to that, and I'm saying that CNN will call the election for Obama by 8:45 Central time on November 4. To particiipate, tell me the network you've chosen and the time, in Central US time. And if you call it closer than I do, there's a prize-- the Barack Obama "bobblehead" that I purchased at Uncle Fun's, the greatest store on the planet.

To participate, send me your guess by either posting here or emailing me at juanyen at yahoo dot com. You can't pick a time/nework combination anyone else has picked. That means you can pick a time someone else has, as long as it's on a different network, and you can pick a network someone has chosen as long as its a different time. It has to be a major media-- CNN, the MSNBC, CBS, etc. You're on your honor about it-- I can't watch all the channels and read all the newspaper websites.

Here are the current entries:

Johnny Yen CNN, 8:45 PM, Nov. 4

Bubs MSNBC, 8:25, Nov. 4

MnMom MSNBC, 1:49 am Wednesday, Nov. 5

Jane CNN, 3:05 pm, Wednesday, Nov. 5

Patrick CNN, 10:36

Have your entry in by midnight, November 3!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Big Wicked Online Pageant

Blogger Beth is running the Big Wicked Online Pageant. I emailed my folks to get them to scan some old Halloween pictures, and I dug out some pictures of my son. Here are our entries.

It was October of 1964. The Beatles were taking the United States by storm, having appeared on the Ed Sullivan show in February of that year. Congress had passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, beginning the Vietnam War in earnest. And Lyndon Johnson was just days away from giving Barry Goldwater the asskicking of his life in the Presidential election.

And me? I was three years old and gettin' my clown on. I'm the one on the right.



The bunny on the left was my brother, who was two. He would grow up to be a career Marine; I think he overcompensated for having to wear the bunny outfit.

And here's my son, The Evil Dictator. This was from 1995. He was a year-and-a-half old; he'd just started walking five months before. This was one of many costumes my mother has sewed him over the years.



It's hard to believe he was ever this small; he's nearly as tall as me now.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It Has Begun


My late friend Mark, who was way ahead of the curve on online stuff, predicted years ago that eventually most print media would be online rather than in ink. His prophecy has begun to come true; the Christian Science Monitor, known for its outstanding international coverage, is switching to an online only format:

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/business/AP-Christian-Science-Monitor.html

Actually, they may be the second important publication to make that switch; the Weekly World News made the same switch a couple of weeks ago.

Bubs Nailed It-- John McCain Is the Monty Python "Black Knight"

One of the sites I've found really useful in watching this election is http://www.electoral-vote.com/. They average out several polls and give the big picture.

If you looked at the map on that site a couple of months ago, you'd note that Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin were light blue-- moderately Democratic-leaning in the Presidential race. You'll note that they're deep blue-- solidly Democratic.

But those weren't the only changes that have happened in the last couple of months. Florida, North Carolina, Indiana, Virginia, Georgia, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Colorado were solid red.

Oh, yeah, and Arizona, John McCain's home state.




Now they range from leaning Republican (light red) to leaning Democrat (light blue). John McCain is losing ground nearly everywhere-- even in his home state, one of the most conservative states in the country.

And what did John McCain do? He spent the day in Pennsylvania, a state that has not gone for a Republican since Reagan, a state where he is behind by over 10 points. This reminds me of Rudy Guliani, whose plan to win the Republican nomination was to skip all of the primaries except Florida. Somehow he was going to miraculously win Florida and that would be the big turnaround.

But, as Bubs so perceptively pointed out in his response to a post about McCain a few days ago, John McCain has become the Black Knight of Monty Python and the Holy Grail:



A lot of fellow liberal/Democrats are worried about a lot of things-- the Bradley effect, cheating at the polls, Limbaugh and Hannity telling their fucktard listeners to lie to pollsters. Look at the polls. Obama is not just beating McCain. He's handing his ass to him. This is not just going to just be a victory-- this is going to be a good ol' fashioned ass-whuppin'.

I've said it many times, that if Ohio is called for Obama next Tuesday night, it's all over. I'm going to stand by that. What's more, I'm going to have a little fun with this. I'm going to have the "Beat Johnny Yen" contest.

Here's how it'll work. I say that they'll call it for Obama by 8:45 PM Central time. I'll choose CNN to be the "designated caller." You have until November 3, midnight, to get your "call it" time in. The person closest to the correct call time will get a prize which I will determine and announce in the next day or two. Post your "call time" here on my blog or email it to me at juanyen at yahoo dot com. Only one entry per blogger-- when you send it to me, no changing allowed. Friends and family members are permitted to enter. The contest is officially open!

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Ceremony, A Funeral and A Bunch of Old Friends

This weekend, my old school, Eastern Illinois University, dedicated a new arts building. As part of the weekend of activities christening the Doudna Arts Building, the University had a small ceremony announcing the endowment of the Mark "Atwood" Evans Scholarship for arts students.

My old friend Tim and I had planned some time ago to drive down to Eastern for the ceremony. Yesterday morning, I drove by his house, picked him up and we drove down for the ceremony. We had one stop to make. We wanted to visit Mark's gravesite.

We had not been there since the day we buried him in June of 2006. The day was cool, bright and clear. We decided to leave something for him. I had burned a cd of one of his favorite songs, REM's "Don't Go Back To Rockville." We left a note on it-- that we loved and missed him-- signed it, and left it at his gravesite.



On the way in, we passed through Atwood, Illinois, the town he got his college nickname from. He grew up in Hammond, Illinois, where he's buried, but somehow got the nickname of the town next to Hammond; Atwood and Hammond shared a high school.

On the road, I got a call from old friend Dan, who I had shared an apartment with in Wrigleyville in the eighties. He told us that the services for Graham Lewis, a friend from the same circle Atwood was from, was at 2 pm at a church in Charleston, Illinois, where we were headed. We got to town, checked into our room, and were able to make it to the end of the services.

We walked in and were faced with a bunch of middle-aged people. We began to recognize them as the people we'd gone to college with in the early and mid eighties. We stayed for a bit, stopping to talk to people, some of whom we hadn't seen for 15 or 20 years.

Graham is the second from the left in the picture below. It was taken around 1984 or 1985.



We found Dan, and we ran over to Roc's, a bar now owned by Mike, the guy who had owned the Uptowner/Cellar, the cool bohemian bar we hung out at back then. We stopped to raz him and to have a beer. We asked about his kids-- we remembered his daughter being born back around the time I graduated. He pointed to the pretty blonde we was behind the bar-- it was his daughter, who was now 21. We just about keeled over.

We were quickly joined by Davo, Eric, Brian and others, who had already planned to be there that weekend for the scholarship ceremony and were shocked to have to add a funeral to our schedules.




We finished our beers and ran over to the school. After a little confusion, we found everybody who was involved in the ceremony-- Mark's parents, the art department chairman, and various friends of Mark's. I met Allison, the woman who'd set the scholarship up, for the first time-- previously we'd only corresponded by email and telephone. She spoke briefly, and then Mark's mother gave a very moving speech that had everybody on the verge of tears.

The art department chairman took us on a tour of the new arts building. He talked about how during the time when they tore down the old fine arts building, which was, ironically, the ugliest building on campus, and the completion of the Doudna center, they had to hold the arts classes in an old grocery store near campus. The new arts center was wonderful-- welding facilities for making jewelry, kilns for ceramics, an ampitheater and many other great facilities.

Our friend Lorelei, who stayed in Charleston after graduation, showed us some of her works that are around campus. It really reminded me of what a unique, interesting and talented group of friends I have from college.

We ran to our room to change, and headed for the party Lorelei was having. There were friends there I hadn't seen in over 20 years. We went to have a drink at a couple of our old haunts, and called it a night.

On the drive home the next day, Tim told me that he'd discovered that night that Lisa Frieze, another friend of ours from that time, had also passed away last week. She'd had a heart-related problem that finally caught up to her. She'd lived with a group of women in a house that was called, alternately, The Tenth Street House and "The Spaghetti House." The latter was because of a great party they'd thrown in which they served up spaghetti, and the guests provided the hooch. It was from that party that I'd left with a group of people and driven down to Memphis and visited Graceland. Julie and Kerry, two of the girls from that house, were there, and had a scrapbook that had pictures from the party. Kerry told me that she was digging in the back of a cabinet and discovered that Elvis shotglass we'd gotten them at a shop across the road from Graceland on that 1985 trip.

Beth, another woman who lived in that house, was not there, but I'd run into her husband Mike at Graham's funeral.

As I arrived home from this trip, I was exhausted. I'd intended to go to my old school to do something to honor an old friend. I hadn't realized I'd be dealing with the loss of two more old friends. Still, it was great seeing guys like Tim and Dave, and renewing bonds with friends I hadn't seen in years.

Saturday night, while we were in the Uptowner, there was a folkie guy playing and singing. He played a mix of his stuff and old stuff. At some point he played Bob Dylan's "Tangled Up In Blue." I thought it was the perfect song to be playing at that moment. The song is widely taken as Dylan's retrospective on the sixties.

On the trip home the next morning, Dylan's version came up on my Ipod shuffle, which I'd hooked up to the stereo. Tim asked me to crank up the volume, and we quietly sat and listened to the song as the Illinois cornfields flew by.

I remembered that the night before, I'd been talking to Lorelei and remembering my last night at Eastern, in July of 1985. A group of us, including Lorelei and my late friend Mark, had gone down to the campus quad to watch a movie they were showing outdoors-- The Big Chill. I remembered as we'd sat there watching the movie that this was my "Big Chill" group-- the people who stood by my side and made my life interesting and fought the good fight. Hanging out on Saturday with a substantial part of the group from that long-ago night, I realized that I'd been right. We may separate and do our own things in our lives, but all of us have our hearts and in a way our homes down in that campus in the middle of the cornfields. We're still all pursuing our passions and fighting the good fight, knowing that that group of friends is beside us, wherever they may be in the world.

What's The Worst News For John McCain-- I Can't Choose...

The last week has been pretty much a perfect storm for John McCain-- There's a whole bunch of bad news for John McCain. I can't decide which was the worst.

Where do I start? Okay, I'll start with the the New York Times endorsement of Barack Obama for president. Add that to the fact that both of Chicago's main newspapers, the Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune also endorsed Obama. In the case of the Tribune, it was the first time in the 160 plus year history of the paper that they'd ever endorsed a Democrat. And then, of course, the Anchorage Daily News endorsed Obama. It's the biggest newspaper in the state McCain's running mate Palin is governor of.

How could it get worse, you ask? I'll tell you.

News came out lately that the top-paid member of McCain's staff was Sarah Palin's make-up stylist. She was paid more, in fact, that McCain's strategist. If that isn't the perfect microcosm of McCain's clusterfuck campaign, I don't know what is.

And then of course, there was the faked attack on the McCain volunteer by a big scary black man.

The hits just keep rolling in. It turns out that noted Harvard conservative Charles Fried voted for Obama by absentee ballot. Fried was Reagan's Solicitor General. That's on top of Colin Powell, former Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff and Secretary of State under Republican administrations, endorsing Obama.

I won't even mention "Regular Jane Sixpack" Palin's $150,000 wardrobe.

Oops-- I just did. Tee hee!

Obama had 100,000 people show up for rallies recently in Denver and St. Louis. McCain drew 2 to 3 thousand in a suburb near St. Louis. I guess Missouri isn't pro-American after all.

Hey, I think Joe Leiberman's still voting for McCain. See, there is some good news for McCain after all.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Even Opie, Fonzie and Richie Cunningham Like Obama

Okay, I think Obama's going to win this one. Even Opie, Fonzie and Richie Cunningham like Obama.

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die

Grey Friday Random Ten

It's a typical grey October day here in Chicago, the kind I love.

Tomorrow, I'm travelling down to Charleston, Illinois, my college town. They've opened a new arts building there, and are using the grand opening as an oppurtunity to announce the inauguration of the Mark "Atwood" Evans Scholarship. Between what we, his friends raised, and what his family added to it, it'll endow an annual scholarship that will provide about half the tuition to an art student.

One of the guys I had looked forward to seeing, Graham Lewis, passed away in his sleep on Tuesday, apparently of a heart attack. He was in his mid-forties. He had returned some years back to Eastern Illinois University to work as an English professor. He was one of the most intelligent and funny guys I ever knew. He was the brains behind the "Silly Party" episode at Eastern in 1983-- the most fun and crazy time of my life. I've been working on a post about it for a few weeks.

It's fitting that the Band's version of Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" started out my Random Ten today.

1. I Shall Be Released- The Band
2. Heavy Music- Bob Seger
3. England Swings- Roger Miller
4. It's All Right, Ma, I'm Only Bleedin'- Bob Dylan
5. Double Yellow Line- The Music Machine
6. Harden My Heart- Quarterflash
7. Wait and See- The Byrds
8. The Beautiful Ones- Prince
9. Wild West- Joe Jackson
10. That's What I Want To Hear- Phil Ochs


Notes:
1. This song has become a human rights anthem over the years. I love the version Dylan and the Band did at the end of "The Last Waltz."
2. The studio version of this was Seger's first hit, with his first band "Bob Seger and the Last Heard." This was from his great "Live Bullet" live album.
3. I love me some Roger Miller
4. Dylan at his darkest.
5. From the Nuggets collection. The Music Machine's big hit was "Talk Talk"
6. I'll bet these eighties artifacts are playing at a Holiday Inn somewhere tonight.
7. I hear this one on Little Steven's Underground Garage a lot.
8. From "Purple Rain."
9. Late eighties Joe Jackson
10. Phil Ochs' call to poltical action.

A New Blogger


My best friend Jim has finally followed through on his threat promise to start a blog. Check out his blog, It Ain't No Rocket Science to revel in his wit, charm and political commentary.

His resemblance to rocket scientist Werner Von Braun is amazing, isn't it?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Christmas Ideas

I love working Wednesday nights because I get to work with Karol and Sarah, two of the funnest people I've ever worked with. Last night, Karol brought in a handful of catalogs she got in the mail and fellow wine lover Sarah and I spotted the Christmas present we wanted in the Hammacer Schlemmer catalog: the full bottle wine glass. We pictured the future, talking to our respective spouses: "But honey, I only had two glasses of wine!"

We also decided that the animatronic singing and talking Elvis was a little creepy. And I realized that I better not let my son know about the authentic Pac-Man arcade game. It would be a very expensive Christmas. On the other hand, maybe I could win his allowance back quarter by quarter.

Cat News

This news just in...

Fatboy is not happy about his new Halloween outfit, a chicken...



...and Helga, aka "The Escape Artist" wants back in to the house.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Some Great News

A few months back, I posted about the end of the great tabloid The Weekly World News. My family was sad at this news. Both of my kids loved the Weekly World News. My son read it religiously and my stepdaughter has plans to produce the Batboy musical.

Today I have good news. According to the New York Times, Neil McGinness, who has been involved in various media enterprises, and is a long-time fan of the Weekly World News, has bought the publication and is now publishing it online:

http://www.weeklyworldnews.com/

Just in case you were wondering, Batboy is backing Obama for President.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Animal House, Thirty Years Later

Thirty years ago, the movie Animal House was released.

I was a high school senior, getting ready to go to college. My boss, the manager of the Walgreen's I worked at, and I were talking about the movie. He loved it. He quoted a review of the movie, a postive one, that stated: "This movie has no socially redeeming value."

A couple of weekends later, my high school best friend Cindy and I grabbed a bunch of our friends and went out to see it. I was hooked for life.

Quick, come up with three great quotes from the movie. I bet you did it in ten seconds. There is not one unfunny line in the movie.

Otter: "Eric Stratton, Rush Chairman-- damned glad to meet you"
Boone: "That was Eric Stratton, Rush Chairman, and he was damned glad to meet you!"

Bluto: "They took the bar! The whole f*ckin' bar!"

Bluto: "Seven years of college down the drain. Might as well join the f*ckin' Peace Corps."

Boone: "Why did they beat you up?"
Otter: "They're just animals, I guess."

Neidermeyer: "What kind of man picks on a defenseless animal?"

Bluto: "Holy shit!"
D-Day: "There were supposed to be blanks in that gun!"
Bluto: "Holy shit!"
D-Day: "There were blanks in that gun!"
Bluto: "Holy shit:
D-Day: "It must have had a heart attack!"
Bluto and D-Day: "HOLY SHIT!"

Mayor Carmine Depasto (to Dean Wormer): "If you mention extortion again, I'll have your legs broken."

Dean Wormer (to Flounder):"Son, fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life"

Dean Wormer: "From now on, they're on Double Secret Probation!"
Greg Marmalard: "Double Secret Probation, sir?"

All of the Deltas: "Toga! Toga! Toga! Toga!"

Delta President Hoover: "We can't do that-- we're on Double Secret Probation-- whatever the hell that is."

Otter: "Tell those assholes to shut up."
Boone: "Hey, you assholes-- SHUT UP!"

Boy in bedroom after "bunny" drops in: "Thank you, God!"

Otter: "Hey-- he can't do that to our pledges!"
Boone: "Yeah, only WE can do that to our pledges!"

Man in "Deck 'o the Lake Club: "Do you mind if we dance wif yo' dates?"

Flounder to tough at bar: "What's your major?"

Flounder: "The negroes stole our dates!"

Bluto: "Food fight!"

Animal House was Kevin Bacon's first movie. Belushi was not, believe it or not, considered the big name actor in the movie (though his popularity from the Saturday Night Live show helped Jon Landis get the movie produced). Bruce McGill, the guy who played "D-Day" was considered the big star.

But it was absolutely John Belushi who stole the show. He had most of the great scenes. Here are a couple. The first is at the toga party, where a "sensitive guy," played by singer-songwriter Thom Bishop (his big hit was "On and On.") is trying to impress the girls with his ultrasensitivity, playing an old folk song.



This scene was homaged in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, when Worf smashed a lute, with the sheepish "sorry" at the end.

This clip is also a classic. Wormer has expelled the Deltas from the school and contacted each student's local draft board, informing them that they are not enrolled in college, making them eligible for the draft. The rest of the Deltas are morose. "Bluto," played by Belushi, sees this not as a defeat, but as the ultimate opportunity; they no longer have anything to lose.



Apparently seven years of college have not helped Bluto's knowledge of history.

Belushi isn't the only one who has great scene. Tim Matheson (who was the voice of the cartoon "Johnny Quest as a kid), as the cad "Otter" has a great scene during the hearing to address the goings-on at the Toga Party.



Thirty years later, there have been many imitators, but Animal House stands out as one of the best, funniest movies ever made. I must have seen it 25 times over the years, and it's still as funny every time I see it. It may not have any "socially redeeming qualties," but it sure is a lot of fun.

The Ravings of Desperation

I've taken a few days off of commenting on the election-- I think that at this point, people are at a saturation point with the election. I do have some comments that I want to add.

First off, I am laughing my ass off about the whole "Joe the Plumber " fiasco. At first glance, Joe the Plumber seemed like a Republican dream-- a Midwestern single father who was a hardworking plumber who was thinking about buying a plumbing business, but feared Barack Obama's increase in income taxes on those making over $250,000 would make it so that he couldn't buy the business he hoped to. Obama stated that perhaps it's not a bad idea to "spread the wealth around."

McCain and Palin immediately started hammering on this. The "spread the wealth around" comment was proof, they claimed, that Obama wanted class warfare. What they and the idiots claiming that this is proof of Obama's "socialist" agenda fail to mention is that there has been class warfare going on for a couple of decades; there has been a huge shift in wealth from the middle class and the poor to the rich. A reverse socialism.

And of course "Joe the Plumber" turned out to be a fraud. He's not a licensed plumber. And he's not thinking of buying the company he works for. It was an "academic" question. And of course, worst of all, it turned out that in all likelihood, Barack Obama's tax restructuring would have been beneficial to him.

Then there's the ACORN issue. When I first heard about this, I wondered "What could ACORN have done wrong?" They're a wonderful organization-- it stands for "The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now." They've done a lot of good things, particularly help with affordable housing here in Chicago and many other cities. They've done a lot of community organizing work and-- here's where they got in trouble recently-- voter registration.

They're not perfect. According to Wikipedia's article on ACORN, Dale Rathke, the brother of ACORN founder Wade Rathke, embezzled nearly a million dollars from the organization in 1999 and 2000. The Rathke family secretly agreed to restitution in order to protect ACORN's reputation. Both Rathke brothers have since left the organization. They were also discovered to be union-busting.

ACORN's recent troubles had to do with phony voter registrations. It seems that some overzealous ACORN workers submitted fake voter registrations, registering with names like Jimmy John (yeah, like the sandwich shop), members of the Dallas Cowboys and dead people (hey, that's an old Chicago trick!). The fraud was discovered by ACORN itself, and they fired the workers involved. In all, there were about 2,000 fake registrations.

During the Democratic primary, Barack Obama's campaign had hired ACORN for a "get-out-the-vote" campaign that was not linked to the Lake County, Indiana problems.

http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/10/09/acorn.fraud.claims/

What was the response of the McCain campaign? Somehow, Barack Obama was tied to a group that was responsible for "massive" voter fraud. And somehow, ACORN was responsible for the economic collapse.

The second assertion is too ludicrous to even consider. Regarding the first one, first off, I'd hardly call 2,000 fake registrations in a country of 300 million people "massive." And secondly, here's the thing, guys: you can register whoever you want, but it's not going to result in voting fraud. Jimmy John, the Dallas Cowboys and the dead people were not going to show up to vote. Well, maybe the dead people will here in Chicago.

Things are not looking up for John McCain. He's finally figured out that "it's the economy, stupid," but he's in a lose/lose situation. He looked idiotic when he was ignoring the economic problems, which were obvious to most of the country even before the recent stock and banking meltdown. Now, in addressing the problems, he looks even more idiotic, claiming that somehow in his nearly 3 decades as a member of the House of Representatives and the Senate that he was somehow not behind the deregulation that resulted in the catastrophe. His opponent, as he points out repeatedly, was not in office throughout that period.

And the big elephant in the room is the war. McCain keeps jumping up and down pointing out that "the surge," which he supported and Barack Obama opposed, "worked." Let me point out a few things.

The very first point is that McCain was one of the biggest cheerleaders of the war. Let me remind everybody that the original premise for getting into this war was that Iraq's dictator Saddam Hussein-- remember him?-- was developing "weapons of mass destruction"-- nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Despite clear evidence that this wasn't true-- remember Valerie Plame?-- they vetted and squelched information, and out and out lied until Congress was stampeded, like with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, into an unnecessary war.

Let me point out one hero in this whole thing. Remember General Eric Shinseki? He was the four-star general who got before the Senate and stated that he believed that it would take "several hundred thousand" troops to take-- and hold-- Iraq.

Neo-con Paul Wolfowitz, then Deputy Secretary of Defense stated:
There has been a good deal of comment - some of it quite outlandish - about what our postwar requirements might be in Iraq. Some of the higher end predictions we have been hearing recently, such as the notion that it will take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq, are wildly off the mark. It is hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam's security forces and his army - hard to imagine.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld concurred, and Shinseki retired before his term as the Chief of Staff of the Army was up.

I would take the "surge" as vindication of General Shinseki. But one of the things that nobody is talking about is that a lot of the tenuous relative peace that has been brought to parts of Iraq: that it has been done by arming and bribing putting members of various militias on a U.S. payroll. How long is that going to work, and will it work when we leave?

Let me remind you of one other sad moment in the whole sad spectacle of this war, a war that has been no small part of our economic problems. Remember General Colin Powell, then the Secretary of State, being sent out to do the administration's dirty work-- to set forth the administration's phony case for going to war? This can't have set well with General Powell. This undoubtedly had something to do with his decision to stick to the people who got us into this mess and endorse Barack Obama for president.

After Powell made his announcement, my father sent me an email stating "What is the GOP going to do now, try to discredit Powell?" I replied that they would, of course. And they did. It's almost comic-- they're like a drunk in their ability for denial. Every piece of evidence that their views are wrong are part of the conspiracy against them.

I read recently that Lyndon Johnson, when he signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, predicted that he'd written off the South for the Democrats for a generation. He was absolutely right. The Democratic Party has undergone a realignment and adjustment since then. After decades of tolerating racist "boll weevil" Democrats in order to win elections, the Dems had to recognize the realities of writing off the votes of many religous and social conservatives and, of course, bona fide racists. In the meantime, there were other shifts-- the upward shift in wealth that resulted in an endangered middle class, the rise of the Democratic Party in the suburbs and a growing Latino population are among them. The Democrats have ridden out the period of readjustment, and will, I suspect, begin to reap the benefits of this in two weeks from today: all the signs are looking like a massive electoral vote victory, plus large majorities in both the House and Senate.

In the meantime, the Republican Party is in its own version of a split-personality position that the Democratic Party once was in. The mainstream of the party consists of moderates-- people who want taxes as low as they can be, get a decent return in government services for the taxes paid, low crime, a strong national defense, etc. The mainstream of the Republican Party does not want a Christian theocracy, they do not want abortion to be illegal and they do not want to kick every immigrant out of the country. The Republican Party has depended on the lunatic fringe of the party-- the ones who salviate over Limbaugh, O'Hannity and the other idiot talk-radio guys. They were able to steal one election and scare a bare majority of American voters into a second one (well, along with some voting hanky-panky in Ohio), but, I think, a lot of those voters will, this November 4, say, to quote the Who, "We won't get fooled again." The party will lose ground and lose elections to the Democrats until they heed the advice of Barry Goldwater, Colin Powell and other conservatives and stick to the values of their own base.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Autumn In Chicago

The leaves of trees do not actually change color; most leaves have two or more pigments in them, in order two take advantage of different ranges of the visible light spectrum. The green of chlorophyll predominates in most leaves. When the amount of sunlight in a day drops to a certain number of hours, the trees stop producing chlorophyll, allowing the other pigments to show.

The science aside, the effect is, of course, magnificent. Here are a couple of pictures of the change of the colors in my neighborhood.



Saturday, October 18, 2008

Halloween

Have I mentioned that Halloween is coming up?

Friday, October 17, 2008

RIP Levi Stubbs

I just saw in the New York Times that the great Four Tops singer Levi Stubbs has passed away at the age of 72. Stubbs was the singer on classics such as "Reach Out (I'll Be There)" and "Bernadette."

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/18/arts/music/18stubbs.html

Stubbs was iconic enough to have not one but two references in rock songs. The first was on New York Dolls singer David Johansen's 1978 self-titled solo debut, on the song "Frenchette." There's a line in the song about Levi Stubbs' getting "burned messing 'round with Bernadette." The other was on Billy Bragg's great 1986 album "Talking To The Taxman About Poetry." There's a song entitled "Levi Stubbs' Tears."

Adios, Levi-- thanks for all the great music.

Midterm Friday Random Ten

Got my midterm grade for English 101 class today. I'll let you guess...

I'm going to run out and pick up my son in a little while and then my kids and I are going to walk over to the nearby Book Cellar to see Ursula Bielski, who wrote Chicago Haunts and other books about ghosts in Chicago. My kids both love her books.

1. I Never Loved A Man- Aretha Franklin
2. Jump Street- Boz Scaggs
3. I Don't Mind- The Who
4. I'm So Proud- Curtis Mayfield
5. Liar, Liar- The Castaways
6. Give It To Me- J. Geils Band
7. 25 Minutes To Go- Johnny Cash
8. Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)- Eurythmics
9. Tonight, I'll Be Staying Here With You- Bob Dylan
10. What Is This Generation Coming To?- Robert Mitchum


Notes:
1. There are a whole bunch of R and B standards that I now associate with "The Commitments." This is one of them.
2. I still love Boz Scaggs' "Silk Degrees" more than 30 years later.
3. The Who covering James Brown.
4. One of Chicago's underappreciated treasures.
5. From the fabulous "Nuggets" garage rock collection.
6. This was their biggest hit until their #1 hit "Centerfold." They sang "Give It To Me" when I saw them in my first concert, in the summer of 1977, at Soldiers Field at the "Superbowl of Rock."
7. Man, I still miss Johnny Cash.
8. Good lord-- is this song really 25 years old?
9. I love the scene in "High Fidelity" with this song in it.
10. Yes, that Robert Mitchum. Great calypso album.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Early Voting

For the past two weeks, I've been getting up every morning and checking a handful of websites and polls. It's been amazing watching Barack Obama come from behind or even in states like Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to ahead, and then far ahead. And then from way behind in races in Florida, Ohio, Nevada, Colorado, Virginia, West Virginia and Missouri to ahead by varying amounts. The consensus is that if Obama takes even one of the states that he and McCain are close in, it'll be all over.

Here's a list of the sites I check:

The Gallup Poll

The USA Today Poll Tracker

Real Clear Politics

www.electoral-vote.com

270towin.com

Each of these reflect viewpoints from left to middle to right; I've found that by looking at all of them I've gotten a feel for what's going on with this election.

I discovered yesterday that they've started early voting here in Chicago and that you don't have to have any reason-- age, handicap, being out of town, etc. to do it. I realized that my vote is not going to change in the next 20 days. I went over to the fieldhouse in the park where Adam has played baseball for the last six years and voted.

I was surprised how busy it was; early voting is open for a couple of weeks. I suspect voter turnout will be very high because of it.

I voted on a touchscreen. I know there has been a lot of controversy about these. Fear not; there's an option to leave a paper trail-- to run off a printed confirmation of your vote.

As I finished and left, I saw that the woman who was outside electioneering had an Obama-Biden button on. I asked her where I could get one of those and a poster. Down the street at the Democratic Organization's office, next door to our alderman's office.

I walked over there and got some buttons...


...and a poster.








Last night, while dropping my mother off in the heart of Dupage County, once one of the most Republican counties in the United States, I saw Obama/Biden signs on peoples' lawns. Party on, Garth! On to November!

Better Listen To Keith Richards

A couple of days ago, I posted about the fact that Christopher Buckley, who had a column in The National Review, the ultra-right wing magazine that his father founded in 1955, had come out in support for Barack Obama for President.

According to a post in The Caucus, the New York Times' poltical blog, Buckley, who recieved reams of hate-emails at both "The Daily Beast," the blog he wrote the endorsement in, and The National Review, the conservative publication that his father founded and in which he wrote a column for. Buckley responded by resigning from The National Review, stating "I haven't left the Republican Party. It left me."

The party has spent the last 20 years increasingly pandering to the far-right religious nut wing of the party-- Sarah Palin was a glaring example of that-- and is now paying the price.

I've mentioned before how back in the ninties, arch-conservative Barry Goldwater-- whose seat John McCain filled upon his retirement from the Senate-- warned the Republican Party that it had gone too far to the right, particularly on the issues of abortion rights and gay rights. I remember thinking at the time that if Barry Goldwater tells you you've gone too far to the right, it was like Keith Richards telling you that you're doing to many drugs. Now another prominent conservative has gotten off of the sinking ship, along with others, including Christopher Hitchens.

Ironically, there are states like Indiana and North Carolina in which some pundits think may go Democratic for the first time since 1964-- when Lyndon Johnson trounced Barry Goldwater.

Senator Goldwater seemed to have learned his lesson. Looks like his party didn't.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Sign Of The Times

My mother is in town, and I drove out to the west suburbs to pick her up at the house of the friend she was staying with so that my kids, Kim and I could see her. Coming back from dropping her off tonight at her friend's house after her visit, I was stunned by a huge billboard I saw off the tollway. I thought at first it must be a joke.

You can actually take a bus tour that takes you to foreclosed homes in Chicago and its suburbs, so you can see them and bid on them. It's no joke-- it's for real.

http://www.repohometourchicago.com/

This is just sick. There are so many foreclosed homes now that you can take a tour, like the Hollywood Celebrities Houses tour. Or more like the Chicago Haunted House Tour, except more ghoulish.

Okay, McCain Can Really Start Worrying Now

McCain needs to start making his plans for late November. They won't include preparing to move into the White House.

Writer Christopher Buckley, son of the late archconservative William F. Buckley, is himself a conservative. He was George Bush Sr.'s chief speechwriter. He writes a regular column in the very conservative publication National Review.

In another publication, he's come out for Obama.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2008-10-10/the-conservative-case-for-obama

The conservative rats are deserting the sinking McCain ship. I'm curious to know what desperate ploy McCain will try to pull out of his ass on the final debate on Wednesday. My guess is that he'll sit and chant "Jeremiah Wright/Bill Ayers!"

Monday, October 13, 2008

Occasional Forgotten Video: The Fixx, "Saved By Zero"

Blogger Erik had a great post recently about music, mentioning this odd world where we're hearing the songs of our illustrious youths in commercials now.

That in mind, I was shocked recently to hear a Fixx song from the early eighties in a car commercial-- Zero percent financing, "Saved By Zero." With GM's stock under five bucks a share, I don't know that even that can help them.

The Fixx bridged the gap between art rock and new wave. They had a handful of hits in the eighties, such as "Red Skies At Night," "Stand Or Fall," and "One Thing Leads To Another."

The video for "Saved By Zero" is vaguely conceptual, telling the story of an artist who makes it, but leaves behind his bohemian life and friends that might have been the better part of his life.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swzK7Q8teSM

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Where Have All The SUV's Gone?

Coming back from the grocery store this morning, I made an observation about my north side Chicago block: most of the SUV's have disappeared.

If you had taken this same picture a few years ago, when gasoline was below $2 a gallon, nearly half the cars on the block were SUV's and trucks, including my Blazer. With gasoline above $4 a gallon most of the summer, I, and many of my neighbors got rid of the gas-guzzlers and got Toyotas, Hondas and other gas-sippers. The Prius in the foreground is one of at least three on the block. Tres Cool!

Friday, October 10, 2008

The "Yes, It Can Get Worse" Friday Random Ten

I opened my mail yesterday to discover that my retirement account lost nearly a third of its value recently. I really, really hate these assholes in the White House.

I'll just have to sit on the account, hope that we get some good news in November and hope my retirement account eventually regains its value.

In the meantime, there's still great music to listen to...


1. Jimmy Mack- Martha Reeves and the Vandellas
2. El Condor Pasa (If I Could)- Simon and Garfunkel
3. Humdrum- Peter Gabriel
4. Blue Sky- The Allman Brothers Band
5. We Will Not Be Lovers- The Waterboys
6. D.C.B.A- 25- The Jefferson Airplane
7. Wreck On the Highway- Bruce Springsteen
8. She's About A Mover- Sir Douglas Quintet
9. Brand New Cadillac- The Clash
10. Ain't Got No Money- Frankie Miller


Notes:
1. Their best-known hit was "Heat Wave," but this one is my favorite.
2. From "Bridge Over Troubled Water," S & G's best selling album.
3. Peter Gabriel scored a homerun on his first solo album after leaving Genesis.
4. I love me some Allman Brothers!
5. From the fabulous "Fisherman's Blues" album.
6. Surrealist Pillow, which this is from, is one of my "desert island" albums.
7. The closing track on "The River," which was released 28 years ago. Doesn't that make you feel old?
8. Has one of my favorite lines in a song: "Yeah she strolled on up to me/And asked me "big boy," what's your name?" The band, form Texas, was marketed as a British invasion band. To hide the fact that two members of the band were latino, their first album cover had them in silhouette.
9. "I said 'Jesus Christ, where did you get that Cadillac?"
10. Bob Seger popularized British pub-rocker Frankie Milller's song. This is the original.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Final Nail In The Coffin

Thanks to Vikki for pointing me toward this article in the Rolling Stone about "Maverick" McCain.

http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/23316912/makebelieve_maverick/print

You owe it to yourself to read this article and then send a link to it to everybody you know, for god's sake. I knew most of the facts that it states, but to have them put together paints an absolutely devastating portrait of McCain, who has run on his purported "character." He's a total opportunist politically and a creep personally. A McCain presidency would be a disaster.

BTW, it looks like the attempt at character assassination via the non-existent Ayers/Obama connection isn't working. According to Gallup, Obama is up a percentage point and McCain down one. Obama leads 52% to 41%. Not even an endorsement from the NRA seems to be able to save McCain.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Why Yes, It Is Funny-- Because It's True

On Monday night, at my Evanston job, this cartoon was making the rounds of the employees. I'd seen it a couple of days before, when someone emailed it to me.



At some point, a copy of it made it into the hands of the manager, a hired hand, who, unlike the owners, is one of those whack-job conservatives who believes that Democrats are either idiots, the anti-Christ or both. (Needless to say, we don't get along well). He looked at it, and sputtered "What, is this supposed to be fuckin' funny, or something?"

I walked away without saying anything, but in my head my answer was "Yes, for two reasons. One, because it's true. And secondly, because it pissed you off so much."

Gee, It Smells Like Desperation In Here...

I watched the debate last night, and actually took notes to comment on it.

McCain was incredibly bad, in so many ways.

First off, even he, I think, must realize that the economy is first and foremost on everybody's mind. So it probably wasn't the best thing in the world to use Ebay as an example of the booming U.S. economy-- apparently John had not gotten the word that Ebay had laid off 10% of its workforce the day before.

Then McCain started hammering Obama "and his cronies" on their lack of oversight of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the two big federal mortage agencies. Yeah, John-- Obama, in his two years in the Senate, versus your 28 years-- what happened to your oversight of it?

And I was waiting for Obama to point out-- and he did-- that McCain's campaign manager was a lobbyist paid to prevent regulation of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

McCain tried to spring a surprise-- the idea to buy up all of the bad mortgages in the country to prop up the sagging equities of millions of homes in America. So much for getting the government out of our lives and the economy.

I did a little quick math. Lowballing both the number of mortgages to be bought out and the amount of the homes-- 5 million homes costing $300,000 each-- that's a trillion and a half dollars. That's a little over double last week's bailout. Tack onto that a trillion dollars or so for the Iraq war. All while lowering taxes. Where is all of this money going to come from then? Looks like it's the classic "borrow and spend" conservatism.

He kept hammering away at offshore drilling as a panacea for our energy problems. He failed to point out that one, it takes years and even decades to develop offshore drilling platforms. Secondly, even if this happens, it would increase domestic production only 3%. And of course, as Mr. Obama pointed out, it would exacerbate, not help the global warming problem.

I loved when Mr. Brokaw asked them what their foreign policy "doctrine" was. Mr. Obama was straightforward, stating that there is a need to balance the moral and political imperatives in foreign intervention with the realities of the situation. McCain, however, took a page from the "Palin Doctrine"-- to ignore the question and make a statement unrelated to the question.

At least twice, McCain invoked the memory of his "hero" Ronald Reagan. Again, he showed staggering stupidity. Guess what, John? First off, for a good number of voters, he means nothing. Young voters in particular. Secondly, many of the "Reagan Democrats" have wised up. They saw how Reagan's bullshit "prosperity" was a smokescreen, benefitting mostly the rich. They saw that the tax cuts for the rich left a huge deficit that Clinton had to clean up. They read newspapers. They remember that Clinton left office with a huge surplus. Not only is that surplus gone, we're back to the "borrow and spend conservatism" of the Reagan years.

Barack Obama was great, making it clear that he has the intelligence and wits to hold the office of President. McCain blustered, obfuscated, out and out lied and in general made it clear, to me, that I don't want him to be President.

In these last weeks before the election, it'll be interesting. McCain's "bad cop," Sarah Palin, is doing her job, going before paranoid, ignorant Republicans and trying to tie Barack Obama to former radical who he was guilty of having loose associations with years after the former radical had become a mild-mannered school reformer. What was the response of the voters? Obama went up another percentage point in Florida, Virginia, Colorado and Ohio, all states he was expected to lose. He's leading all four. He's up by a fraction of a percentage in Missouri, a state no one dreamed he'd capture. In Minnesota, where Republicans had a fantasy they might have a chance, Obama is up by over 10%. He's leading by comfortable margins in Wisconsin and Michigan, where pundits thought he'd have trouble. He's leading in solidly Republican New Hampshire. And now the McCain campaign is in a dither because they're afraid they might even lose Indiana, a state that hasn't gone for to a Democrat since Johnson in 1964.

As we get closer, there are two wild cards at work. First, as Bubs pointed out, is the Bradley Effect. This refers to the fact that there is a difference between the number of people polled who say they're going to vote for an African-American candidate and those who do. It's named after former Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley, who was leading in the polls going into the 1982 California governor's race, but lost by a narrow margin. The "Bradley Effect" is thought to be about 5%. In many of the races I mentioned above, the margin is smaller than that. Obama's numbers are steadily rising in all of those states-- let's hope he gets above the 5% margin.

The other factor-- or factors, really-- are young people and cell phones. Back when I studied Political Science, we were taught that the Achilles Heel of many polls are that they're done by telephone. Back in the early eighties, when I was studying it, the problem was that telephones were one of the first things people lost when they had financial difficulties. That meant that poor people were often underrepresented in polls.

This was balanced out by the fact that there is a direct correlation between "socio-economic status," as we called it in my classes, and voting rates. Poor people tend to vote at much lower rates, middle class at higher rates and rich people at very high rates.

These days, the issue is cell phones. Many people have ditched landlines and use only their cell phones. The tendency increases the younger the person is. There is a correlation between voting and age that is similar to socio-economic status and voting rate-- the older one is, the more likely one is to vote.

This campaign has energized young people like no election in decades. I'll be curious after the election to see if there's a decrepancy between the polls and the actual vote due to the fact that younger voters were underrepresented in polls because their names were not in the phone book (that's the way pollsters usually do it-- picking names at random out of phone books)

As we get close to the election, it'll be interesting to see what factor winds up being the deciding factor: Obama's increasing popularity and incredible organizing machine vs. the Bradley Effect, and the cell phone factor vs. the apathy of youth. I think you know which factors i hope win out.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Last Out of the Season

Last night at work, at my Evanston job, they had a television on, which is a rarity there. One of the owners is a big baseball fan. The only odd thing about this is that he's Irish. He's obviously assimilated very well into his adopted country.

In any event, I kept peeking over to see what was going on in the game, which was the fourth playoff game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Chicago White Sox. The Rays were up 2-1 in the best-of-five series. They got off to an early lead and never gave it up.

The ninth inning arrived and the White Sox got two outs. Future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey, a midseason acquisition for the White Sox, came to bat.

I was suddenly transported to past little seasons for Adam. At least two of his six baseball seasons, he ended up in that situation in his little league playoffs-- at-bat with two outs in the last inning, the last chance that his team had to stay alive. I remember that each time, my ex- and I would look over at one another, and each of us knew that the other was thinking the same thing:

"Please, please, PLEASE don't let him get the last out of the season..."

Both times, he drew walks, and my ex- and I breathed sighs of relief. We knew he'd have been really upset with himself if he'd gotten the last out of the season.

Ken Griffey wasn't so lucky last night. He got the last out, and the Sox were eliminated from the playoffs.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Reality-Based Politics

I have come up with a new name for the Republicans: "The Reality-Challenged."

Three things I have read or seen the last couple of days have drawn me to come up with this new name for them.

First and foremost was the recent Sarah Palin speech in which she talks about Barack Obama "palling around with a domestic terrorist." She cites an article in the New York Times about Barack Obama's relationship with former radical Bill Ayers.



It's funny, because I get the New York Times delivered to my house every day, and I read that very same article. I somehow read something completely different. Here is the article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/04/us/politics/04ayers.html

Here is a direct quote from the article:

"...the two men do not appear to have been close. Nor has Mr. Obama ever expressed sympathy for the radical views and actions of Mr. Ayers, whom he has called “somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8.”

Non-Chicagoans may need an introduction to Bill Ayers. He was a student radical who was originally part of the Students for a Democratic Society, a non-violent group in the sixties that did a lot of good work. Ayers, who is the son of Tom Ayers, who was for many years the Chairman of the Board of Commonwealth Edison, the main electrical utility in Northern Illinois, was one of a group of mostly rich kids who split off from the SDS and formed first the Weathermen, who were violent, and the Weather Underground, which was even more violent. They were dangerous, but mostly to themselves; in March of 1970, a Greenwich Village townhouse that was used as a "safe house"-- and a bombmaking facility-- by the Weather Underground blew up, killing three members of the group.

After the explosion, Ayers went "underground" with girlfriend Bernadine Dohrn, who was also in the Weather Underground. Charges had been filed against both of them. In 1980, they turned themselves in.

However, federal charges had been dropped because of prosecutorial misconduct and because any evidence allegedly gathered against them was through the notorious COINTELPRO program.

Since then, Ayers has become a respected authority on education, whom Chicago Mayor Daley frequently consults with. He is a professor at The University of Illinois at Chicago-- the same school I plan on getting my pharmacy degree at. He has, as the New York Times article pointed out, become "reahabilitated" in Chicago, to the point where our own very conservative Mayor Daley said:

“He’s done a lot of good in this city and nationally..This is 2008. People make mistakes. You judge a person by his whole life.”

So I guess Mayor Daley is "palling around with terrorists" as well.

But to repeat what Barack Obama actually said, if Palin had actually read the article ("Oh, you know there's so many big words in dat dem big city paper, ya know!"?

He called Ayers "“somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8.”

And what the fuck is "exceptionalism?" My god, is she stupid.

Today's New York Times has an article calling Palin out on her gross distortion.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/05/us/politics/05palin.html

And CNN did the same. Thank god the media is not laying down for McCain like it did in 2004 with the "Swiftboating" of John Kerry.



I smell desperation. In fact, CNN, in covering the story, quoted an unnamed McCain aide who said that the McCain campaign is desperately trying to get public attention off of the economy. Gallup now has Obama leading 50% to 42% and rising. According to Real Clear Politics, he is ahead in Colorado, Ohio, Florida, Virgina and Nevada, all states he was behind in a few weeks ago. And of course, the McCain campaign has written off Michigan, a state that pundits also thought Obama might not be able to win just a few weeks ago.

Next in our list of the "Reality-Challenged" (formerly known as Republicans) is the New York Times' conservative columnist William Kristol (who was himself a left-wing student radical at one time-- who did he "pal around with?"), in his column "How McCain Wins."

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/29/opinion/29kristol.html

(You can only access the editorial pages if you have a New York Times subscription, but I'll quote some of the column).

First, he defends McCain's blatant, pathetic grandstanding during the financial meltdown:

"McCain’s impetuous decision to return to Washington was right. The agreement announced early Sunday morning is better than Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s original proposal, and better than the deal the Democrats claimed was close on Thursday. Assuming the legislation passes soon, and assuming it reassures financial markets, McCain will be able to take some credit."

McCain, of course, had nothing to do with the deal finally going through. We in the "Reality-Based Politics" world know that.

Then yesterday, in The Weekly Standard, Kristol further demonstrates his qualification for membership in the "Reality-Challenged" world in a column about how McCain can still win:

http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/015/647fpfdp.asp

He points out that the Gore-Lieberman ticket gained 6 points in the final 2 weeks of the 2000 campaign and that the Ford-Dole ticket gained 20 points in the final two months of the 1976 race. Here's the thing, Bill: in both cases, they lost the election (well, not really in the 2000 race).

He then states:

So while there's reason for McCain-Palin supporters to worry, there's no reason to despair.

Despair is what the Obama campaign is hoping and working for. If a campaign can convince supporters of the other candidate that the race is effectively over, the enthusiasm and volunteer efforts drop off--as does, ultimately, their turnout on Election Day.


Um, no, Bill, actually the consensus seems to be that the Obama campaign is energizing a lot of people who were disengaged from the political process. I'd hardly call that despair. And looking at the numbers from Gallup and others, it's obvious the "undecideds" are not choosing not to vote. They're actually choosing to vote-- for Obama.

He then mentions that "Sarah Palin more than held her own in the vice-presidential debate against Joe Biden" and "She may well have stopped the McCain campaign's slide and, with her assaults on Obama's tax-and-spend liberalism and his willingness to lose in Iraq, set up McCain for a strong performance in Tuesday night's debate."

Where do I start? The fact that Sarah Palin didn't look like a complete idiot-- just a pretty big idiot-- during the debate was hardly a victory. Funny thing is that everybody noticed that she didn't answer the questions given to her; she just recited one of the canned answers her trainers had desperately programmed her with in the weeks leading up to the debate without bothering to consider whether the answer had anything to do with the question that had actually been asked.

And "tax and spend liberalism?" As my father points out, as opposed to what-- "borrow and spend conservatism?"

And referring to Obama's "willingness to lose in Iraq?" Lose what? More American troops? That's the Republicans' job. Kristol apparently hasn't been keeping abreast of things; there were never any "weapons of mass destruction," there was no Al Queda in Iraq (until after we invaded). What is a "victory" in Iraq? Getting out of there with the least loss of American lives, while not leaving behind a "failed state" that would actually become a safe haven for enemies of the United States.

I read a great analogy of McCain and the Republicans on Iraq: they are like arsonists who set fires, and then rescue people from the building and claim credit as heroes. Bill Kristol and Sarah Palin are their cheerleaders.

Friday, October 03, 2008

She Doesn't Look So Hot Now, Does She?

I missed the debate Thursday night-- we had the Cubs' awful playoff game on at work-- but I've been reading about it since.

I knew that the Republicans would be working with her intensely so that she wouldn't come off so dreadfully as she has nearly every other time she's had to deal with the public or press.

The basic consensus with the pundits seems to be that she wasn't as awful as everybody was afraid (or hopeful) that she'd be.

Why does the phrase "Damning with faint praise" come to mind?

The "Get What You Wish For" Friday Random Ten

In a recent post, I was lamenting the fact that my son's schedule is making it difficult to spend time with him. I hardly got to see him last weekend, and with his homecoming and band next weekend, I was hardly going to see him then either.

I'd told him a while back that now that he is older, he can tell his mother if he wants to change the schedule of spending time at his two homes. He exercised that option, apparently, and I got a call last night telling me the he wanted to switch the schedule around to be here this weekend. I was very happy about that.

Tonight, my family will visit a friend's gallery and head over to Chinatown for dinner. It'll be nice to have us all together.


1. Coconut Water- Robert Mitchum
2. You Ain't Woman Enough To Take My Man- Loretta Lynn
3. Johnny Be Goode- Chuck Berry
4. Complete Control- The Clash
5. Amelia- Joni Mitchell
6. Have a Cigar- Pink Floyd
7. Skip A Rope- Henson Cargill
8. California Dreamin'- The Mamas and The Papas
9. So Caught Up In You- .38 Special
10. Dog Food- Iggy Pop



Notes:
1. Yes, that Robert Mitchum. He put out a pretty passable calypso album.
2. You play the Loretta Lynn record backwards and her man comes back, she gets her house back, etc.
3. From the father of rock and roll.
4. The Clash ripping on their record company.
5. From "Hejira," one of my desert island albums.
6. Pink Floyd ripping on their record company. I think it was CBS records, the same as the Clash.
7. Here's a rarity-- a country song that has liberal social commentary. Henson Cargill passed away last year.
8. I never get tired of this song. Jose Feliciano also did a really nice cover of it.
9. Okay, guilty pleasure here. Reminds me of hanging with townies in my college town playing pool. This was written by Jim Peterik, who wrote and performed the Ides of March's great "Vehicle."
10. "I'm livin' on dog food" "So what?"

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Thing That Makes Me Almost As Happy As The Cubs Going To The Playoffs

Let me be upfront about something. I hate New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

How much do I hate Steinbrenner? There are only two people in New York who I hate worse than Steinbrenner: Donald Trump and Rudy Guiliani. That's how much.

Year after year Steinbrenner spends huge amounts of money and buys all the good players. Arod? Got him. Randy Johnson? Had him, then dumped him. Andy Pettite? Check. Ivan Rodriquez? Brought him over to the dark side too. Johnny Damon? Yeah, but make sure he cuts his hair and has his soul removed.

Steinbrenner is like that jerk at your high school with the rich parents who drives the Camaro to school and flaunts it. Year after year, the Yankees spend as much as any three other teams do on payroll.

Yet, what are the results? Quick: when was the last time the Yankees were in the World Series? That's right, 2001. And they lost that one. All the money, and no trophy for George. Boo hoo.

And this year is special. First, the Yankees lost their division and never even made it to the playoffs. Better yet, they lost the division to the Tampa Bay Rays, a team with a salary a fraction of theirs. Money can't buy you love, nor a playoff berth.

Even better, tonight here in Chicago, there'll be a National League playoff game. The managers of the two teams will be two guys who've had the misfortune to work for George Steinbrenner as managers of the Yankees, the Cubs' Lou Piniella and the Dodgers' Joe Torre. Torre was unceremoniously dumped last year as Yankees' manager and here he is in his first year as the Dodgers' manager bringing them to the playoffs.

Suck it George.