Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Priorities, priorities

On Sunday, April 20th, the New York Times ran a 7,600 word story on the Pentagon's systematic effort to promote favorable news coverage of the Iraq war and other Bush administration policies by providing retired "military analysts" with talking points and other government information when they made appearances on the major networks. As if the networks' outright complicity with the Pentagon's propaganda campaign wasn't bad enough, many of these retired generals worked as lobbyists for defense contractors who received or stood to receive millions of dollars in business from the Defense Department.

Today is May 1st. No major news network has broadcast a story explaining its role in the Pentagon propaganda campaign. No major newspaper, including the Washington Post, has offered any visible comment on the scandal. To give you an idea of how strange this news blackout has been, only Howard Kurtz, the Post's media reporter (and one of the most conflicted "journalists" in the mainstream orbit of Washington politics) has written anything remotely critical of the Pentagon-networks-"retired generals" relationship. The Pentagon has shutdown its operation since the Times published the story. How many other people do you think know about this?

* * * * * * * * * *

April was the deadliest month for the United States in Iraq since last September, with 51 servicemen and women killed in action. Is there an end in sight? Any particular reason the major presidential candidates aren't asked about Iraq?

* * * * * * * * * *

To its credit, the Washington Post has a terrific series on its front page this week detailing and explaining the world food crisis, the relationship of farm commodities to energy prices, what our dependence on fossil fuels means for supply and demand, and what this means for domestic gas prices, food costs and feeding a hungry world. A friend of mine, Steve Fleishman, who owns Bethesda Bagels and also wholesales bagels to many other outlets, tried to explain this to me months ago and I must confess I didn't understand it. He's interviewed in the Tuesday installment. This is a very important story, genuinely required reading for everyone, regardless of where you fall in or on the socio-economic matrix. Not so much for the mainstream media, which hasn't found the time or interest to integrate this very significant issue into the presidential campaign.

* * * * * * * * * *

Hillary Clinton and John McCain have gone on record supporting a "federal gas tax holiday" that would suspend the 18.4 cent excise tax on every gallon of gas from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Barack Obama has not. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the suspension will save Americans on the average of $18 per car over the summer.

Supporting the suspension is an act of crass political opportunism. Americans don't want to pay more for gas so they shouldn't. Americans don't want to pay more for food so they shouldn't. Americans should be allowed to drive whatever kind of car they want for as long as they want and not have to pay anymore than they believe they should.

Clinton's position is understandable. She wants to reinforce her new role as battling populist while offering another nod to the all-powerful white working-class. They're pissed about gas prices? So is she. Economics be damned; give them what they want. Classic Clintonian pandering.

McCain's is less understandable. He rejects a government hand in health-care policy, believing that "market solutions" are the best way to expand health coverage and service, yet rejects the market's power to set prices for energy. Is McCain telling us what we really know, that markets are a product of law and regulation, not nature? Forcing suppliers to adjust prices without adjusting demand isn't the market.

Is it?

* * * * * * * * * *

These are just a few of the big stories over the past 10 days or so. We would benefit from a press that raised them and political candidates who would address these issues seriously. But that would mean less time talking about Jeremiah Wright, as opposed to no time talking about Rev. John Hagee, Richard Mellon Scaife or Ed Rendell's old Farrakhan connection. And that is something we cannot do.

Then again, with America's current economic strength and internationally respected approach to military, defense and intelligence policy, the media's need to keep the Wright story going is understandable. Otherwise, they would have to take the campaign seriously on the merits, putting a hole in the high school-level gossip game that passes for Washington political commentary.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Crazy white preachers 101: Final Exam

Class ended for me on Monday afternoon, and that means one thing: after two study days, which few students actually use to study, final exams are on the horizon. I've finished writing one exam and will finished writing another later today. Yet, it seems like every time I take a short break to catch up on what's going on in the world, I come across another story about Jeremiah Wright, the once-obscure Chicago preacher whose claim to fame is his "association" with Barack Obama, or some "roundtable" discussion featuring "prominent" Washington thumb-suckers, who have decided to provide "advice" to Obama on how to "handle" Wright. Rev. Wright is not involved in Obama's presidential campaign, and Obama has not sought out his endorsement. Obama has not turned to Wright for "spiritual guidance" during the campaign or asked him to mobilize his constituents on his behalf.

But to read and listen to the mainsteam media, you would think that the Iraq failure (4,000 dead and counting), the sinking economy and a looming crisis with Iran on the horizon pales in comparison to a inflammatory black preacher's comments about white folks who are runnin' the show. Rev. Wright isn't for me, and I've given his comments the attention I think they deserve, which is zero. Since I'm in exam writing mode, I thought I'd offer an exam for all Americans concerned about the influence of crazy preachers, including white ones, in politics to test their knowledge of which crazy preacher is saying what on behalf of whom.

Section 1: Endorsement

1. Rev. John Hagee, who ministers to the Cornerstone mega-church down in San Antonio, Texas, said this in response to Hurricane Katrina:

"All hurricanes are acts of God, because God controls the heavens. I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they were recipients of the judgment of God for that.

The newspaper carried the story in our local area, that was not carried nationally, that there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came. And the promise of that parade was that it would was going to reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other gay pride parades.

So I believe that the judgment of God is a very real thing. I know there are people who demur from that, but I believe that the Bible teaches that when you violate the law of God, that God brings punishment sometimes before the Day of Judgment, and I believe that the Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans."

Rev. Hagee has endorsed which presidential candidate?

A. Hillary Clinton
B. John McCain
C. Barack Obama
D. Ron Paul

2. The presidential candidate who received Rev. Hagee's endorsement was "very honored" to receive it. When asked if s/he believed Hagee's remarks were inappropriate, the candidate responded, "all I can tell you is that I am very proud to have Pastor John Hagee's support."

A. True
B. False

3. Rev. Hagee's ethnic or racial identification is:

A. White/Caucasian
B. African-American
C. Latino
D. Muslim
E. Black Muslim

Section 2: Feminism

4. Which crazy preacher made the following statement: "Do you know the difference between a woman with PMS and a snarling Doberman pinscher? The answer is lipstick."

A. Jerry Falwell
B. John Hagee
C. Ted Haggard
D. Jeremiah Wright

5. Which crazy preacher made the following statement: "[T]he feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."

A. Jerry Falwell
B. John Hagee
C. Ted Haggard
D. Jeremiah Wright

6. Which crazy preacher made the following statement: "I know this is painful for the ladies to hear, but if you get married, you have accepted the headship of a man, your husband. Christ is the head of the household and the husband is the head of the wife, and that's the way it is, period."

A. Louis Farrakhan
B. John Hagee
C. Ted Haggard
D. Jeremiah Wright

Section 3: Patriotism

7. Which crazy preacher made the following statement: "As a nation, America is under the curse of God."

A. Jerry Falwell
B. John Hagee
C. Ted Haggard
D. Jeremiah Wright

8. Please click here. After clicking the link, please identify the presidential candidate who was "very pleased" to have Rev. Hagee's endorsement in the presidential campaign.

A. Hillary Clinton
B. John McCain
C. Barack Obama
D. Ron Paul

9. After the 9.11 attacks, this crazy preacher made the following statement: "And, I know that I'll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'

Who was he?

A. Jerry Falwell
B. John Hagee
C. Ted Haggard
D. Jeremiah Wright
E. Pat Robertson

10. Which crazy preacher supported the above statement with this one: "Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted that agenda at the highest levels of our government. And so we're responsible as a free society for what the top people do. And, the top people, of course, is the court system."

A. Jerry Falwell
B. John Hagee
C. Ted Haggard
D. Jeremiah Wright
E. Pat Robertson

Section 4: Guilt by Association

11. According to the mainstream media, Barack Obama needs to disavow, denounce and condemn every comment ever made by any African-American religious figure. Otherwise, he is guilty of tacitly endorsing or accepting the support of these crazy people. Below you will see statements of various elected officials who have endorsed a current or past presidential candidate in the 2008 election. Please draw a line from the current candidate to the crazy preacher. There need not be a direct relationship. All that matters is the presidential candidate has received the support of an individual who has a relationship with the crazy preacher.

A. Hillary Clinton

AA. Pat Robertson

B. Rudy Giuliani

BB. Jerry Falwell

C. John McCain

CC. Jeremiah Wright

D. Barack Obama

DD. Louis Farrakhan

E. Mitt Romney

EE. Bob Jones, III

12. In August 1998, President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton held a prayer meeting in the White House for the purpose of offering support to the First Family after the president disclosed that he had an affair with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern. Which of the following clergy were not invited to the White House to offer prayer and forgiveness to the president?

A. Billy Graham
B. Jeremiah Wright
C. Moses Hillel
D. Phillip Wogaman

13. Ed Rendell, the governor of Pennsylvania who endorsed Hillary Clinton and pushed the state's Democratic campaign machinery on her behalf in the April presidential primary, once offered a praise worthy address to the Nation of Islam and hailed Louis Farrakhan as an "extraordinary individual" who "lives family values," not just preaches about them. He called Farrakhan a "decent" and "courageous" man with a "good soul." This speech took place in 1997, over ten years ago, when Rendell was Philadelphia's mayor. In the Texas Democratic campaign debate in March, Barack Obama was called upon to "denounce" and "reject" Louis Farrakhan's unsolicited "endorsement" of the Illinois congressman. Senator Clinton was among the individuals who was "troubled" by this and called on her opponent to "renounce" Farrakhan's "support."

Please write an essay in which you address the following questions:

a. Should Hillary Clinton renounce and reject Ed Rendell for endorsing the work of Louis Farrakhan and hailing an organization with a clear record of anti-Semitism as promoting "family values?"

b. Should Hillary Clinton be called upon to deliver a speech "distancing" herself from Louis Farrakhan?

c. Should the Clinton campaign fire Ed Rendell as a member of the Clinton campaign team?

d. Should Tim Russert call a special edition of "Meet the Press," with Hillary Clinton, Louis Farrakhan and Ed Rendell as his guests, and ask them to explain their "relationship."

14. Who made the following statements?

"The Jews have been so bad at politics they lost half their population in the Holocaust. They thought they could trust in Hitler, and they helped him get the Third Reich on the road." "German Jews financed Hitler right here in America...International bankers financed Hitler and poor Jews died while big Jews were at the root of what you call the Holocaust...Little Jews died while big Jews made money. Little Jews [were] being turned into soap while big Jews washed themselves with it. Jews [were] playing violin, Jews [were] playing music, while other Jews [were] marching into the gas chambers..."

A. Jerry Falwell
B. Louis Farrakhan
C. Jerry Falwell
D. Jeremiah Wright
E. Pat Robertson

15. Should crazy preachers pack their bags and go home?

A. Yes
B. No

Good luck! Answers on Friday.

Live Zeebop this week

You can catch Zeebop this Wednesday night, April 30rd, at Pap and Peteys, located at 5th and H Sts., NE, just a few blocks away from the Union Station metro. We'll play from 8-11 p.m. No cover, no minimum. Great place, cool atmosphere, diverse and friendly crowd. Join us.

We'll be there every Wednesday in May -- the 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th.

Thanks to all of you who have come out to see us play. We appreciate the support. Thanks to our friend, Duke Cross, for making us a regular at Paps and Petey's.

Our guitarist, Mark Caruso, is recovering from some minor surgery on his Achilles heel, which I always thought was my sense of time. Our friend Pablo Grabiel will fill in for Mark this week, and bring his Latin-infused rhythms to our set. Justin Parrott, who lays down a bottom so fat that even white folks wanna get up and dance, is on bass; and me, drums.

The new new math

This weekend, I played in a hockey tournament sponsored by Heineken beer. The chief drawing card for my friends who invited me to play with them was a souvenir Heineken key chain and complementary Heineken beer after each game. Isn't that impressive! On Saturday night, after we lost our final game of the tournament, 4-2, against a team that consisted of our friends from another league, which makes them our semi-hated rivals, Heineken failed to provide beer for reasons that are not yet clear, and, as far as I can tell, being investigated by an angry posse of middle-age men.

Compounding the gloom created by the absence of beer after Saturday evening's loss, which came after Saturday afternoon's 2-1 loss (in the last minute), which came after Friday night's 1-0 loss (in the last minute) was the sad realization that our team finished last in our tournament bracket. In three games, we scored three goals, not very impressive. I certainly did not help matters on Saturday night when, on one crucial shift, I was -2, meaning our team gave up two even strength goals when I was on the ice. Most guys, with myself at the head of the class, don't really care about winning or losing as long as the games are close and competitive. But there are always one or two guys, usually towards the bottom of the skill distribution, who get amped up about these games, exhorting the rest of us "not to take a fucking shift off," or "get in the fucking game," or "get a fucking clue," or "skate fucking harder," or make some other demand involving the word "fuck." Sometimes, we're urged to "get our fucking shit together, right fucking now, goddamnit!"

I felt bad about our poor showing in the tournament, especially since I was brought in to beef up the offense and ended up having a team worst plus-minus rating. I felt bad because the beer drinkers did not get their free Heineken after the last game, and had to wait 20 minutes until they drove home, in the rain, to drink their post-game beer. I felt bad because I really didn't feel bad about losing the tournament or having the team worst plus-minus rating. I felt bad because during a crucial offensive zone face-off towards the end of the last game I was thinking about Steve Gadd's approach to inverted paradiddles. I felt bad because as I watched a player skate up the ice and score a goal in one game I was thinking about questions to put on my constitutional law final that I will give next week, and whether I was going to fly or drive my son to military school if I came home to find the trash cans still on the side of the road.

And then . . . and then . . . I realized that we didn't lose the tournament at all. We actually won.

The outcome might have been three losses in three games over two days. After our second loss we were eliminated mathematically from playing in the championship game on Sunday. But measuring our team's success by the outcome of our games and other such dated metrics as the number of goals scored on each side and the number of goals each team gave up didn't really tell the true story of our team's strengths. Even though we appeared to have lost, we really won.

In our first game, neither team scored a goal until 45 seconds remained in the third period. That means for the first two periods we tied our opponent, which means we didn't lose. Although we lost the third period we didn't really "lose" the game because we were tied for the first 14.15 of that period. The reason we lost is because our goaltender was left alone and he was unable to stop a breakaway that our defense gave up because of bad positioning. But that wasn't really the issue. The real question was (and is) this: which team was better positioned to beat the team that was cruising to the finals in the other division? Us or them? Yes, we lost to a better team in the preliminaries, but, as I told the tournament directors in a post-game protest letter, we should have been allowed to play in the final game because we thought we were better than the team that beat us. And since we hung in until the end we should get credit for our fighting spirit, especially since our opponent rigged the game by playing better than we did. Had the rules been different, say, for example, that we received an extra point after each period we didn't lose, or that we received two points for each shift where we didn't give up a shot, or that we had more offensive zone time than our opponent, we would have won each game by a score of 7-1 or 13-2.

I pointed out in my protest letter to Heineken and USA Hockey, which I leaked to the Washington Post in hopes of publication on its editorial page, that the officials decision to permit the other team to have face-offs in our defensive zone after the goalie froze the puck was just one interpretation of the rules. Had the referees decided to enforce the "street rules," our goalie should have allowed to throw the puck down the ice so that the other team would have to start over. I also pointed out that several of the players on the other teams were better than players on our team, a blatant violation of the rules that require all teams to have the same talent level yet still lose to our team because we wanted to win and drink a celebratory Heineken beer after the game. In the parking lot, I noticed that several members of the opposing teams had cars with all four doors on them, and some even drove cars that appeared to be made in other countries, including Japan and Germany. One car had matching hubcaps, another had a bumper sticker that read, "My Money and My Child Go to Johns Hopkins," which is a private school in Baltimore that trains students to enter elite fields like medicine, law, corporate business and sociology and Mrs. Fields franchise ownership. Our team consisted of guys driving working-class cars like Fords, Geos, Fisher-Price Big Wheels, Go-Karts and Schwinn bicycles. One guy took public transportation to the games, hauling his equipment with him on all three buses he had to take to complete the route.

Later, as I pointed out to the Howard County Sheriff's Department when I wrongly detained for allegedly disrupting the awards' ceremony on Sunday, the tournament's decision to award the Championship Cup and the Heineken mini-keg to the winning team was unfair because the competition committee failed to allow Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby to play for us on Saturday even though we told them they could. Although we agreed three months ago when we entered the tournament to abide by the rules prohibiting the use of NHL players in our games, we changed our minds when we realized they could help our team and, in my case, improve my plus-minus mating. The rules, I argued, were unfair to us because they benefited the teams that played by them and won. Our team was really the better team, and we tried really hard, and, as far as I know, all the players on our team were Christians, except me and six other guys, meaning that five guys were Christians, although not the kind of Christians that believe America has ever done anything wrong or that God unleashed Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans as punishment for the country's wicked ways. One guy on our team is an accomplished bowler and competitive skeet shooter, even though he hasn't bowled in 34 years and no longer owns a skeet rifle or enters tournaments. Another guy on our team died on the way to the first game in a 13 car pile up on the Washington Beltway, suffered 45 degree burns and took six bullets in the left ear, which resulted in him missing the first period. We also took showers at the rink after each game, whereas our opponents took their smelly selves into the lobby and parking lot. Perhaps it's a cultural thing with our team that we believe in hygiene and cleanliness, so I won't suggest that our opponents, who have every right not to bathe or comport with societal norms, hate America or, because of their peculiar racial background, are out of touch with mainstream values that make adult recreational hockey the revered institution that it is.

So, when you modify the rules to reward close losses, factor out the better players on the other teams, take into consideration that the starting times for our games were inconsistent with a number of our players' biorhythms, when you disregard conventional scoring, subtract a goal per game from the other team for not wearing American flag patches on their jerseys (we didn't either, but that doesn't matter) and acknowledge, however painfully, that one guy on our team has a rabbi who thinks there is such a thing as a blueberry bagel, we win.

By any measure.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Red State Update

Jackie and Dunlap on Hillary's win in Pennsylvania and McCain's geriatric finesse.

New Tom Tomorrow here

Click here to see the new Tom Tomorrow cartoon.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Favorite non-jazz drummers

Yesterday, I listed my favorite jazz drummers from what I call the Founding and Post-Founding Period. Having grown up on pop, rock and fusion, I have plenty of influences there as well.

By the way, an "influence" is a polite term from a person you try to copy without success.

I'm going to list ten rather than two sets of five because drumming beyond straight-ahead jazz offers more choices; and, in my view, there is nothing as discernible as a Founding and Post-Founding Period. Again, these are in alphabetical order, not order of preference.

1. John Bonham
2. Bill Bruford
3. Dennis Chambers
4. Phil Collins
5. Stewart Copeland
6. Steve Gadd
7. Rod Morgenstein
8. Steve Smith
9. Ringo Starr
10. Dave Weckl

The strange world of the Washington pundit

In college, I wrestled back and forth between wanting to become a political journalist or a lawyer.Then, like many college students, I asked myself, "How can I make the most money?"

Wa-lah! I decided to become a professional academic.

Back then, and even into my first few years in graduate school, I used to pay a lot of attention to what journalists wrote and thought about campaign politics, current events, presidential "crises," world events, and the like. Then I went through a phase of watching the weekend Washington babble-fests, amused by the apparent sincerity of blowhards like John McLaughlin, Pat Buchanan, Fred Barnes, Bill Kristol and the rest of these B-grade Washington celebrities shout their opinions on everything from dolphin-safe tuna fishing to whether the United States should invade this or that country. I thought it was amusing to watch a generation of men -- and they were, as they still are, mostly men -- talk tough about "the use of force" when none had ever so much as suited up to fire a pop gun at sleep-a-way camp. I thought it was amusing for white commentators to insist that racism was a figment of black America's imagination, with Jesse Jackson the be-all, end-all spokesman for black America. I thought it was amusing to watch an affluent group of establishment Washingtonians compete with each other to see who was the most "in touch" with the "common person," lambasting liberals who believed that poor people should have health care or that women should be allowed to vote. I remember once seeing a reliable conservative mouthpiece for the Bush I administration throw a hissy-fit on a flight I was on from D.C. to Chicago because she was a assigned a middle-seat in coach.

"Do you have any idea who I am?" she shrieked to the flight attendant, who did not. "You're just going to have to get someone else to give up their seat. I don't sit in the middle."

After a little back and forth between this down-to-earth working journalist and the flight attendant who, making probably 5% of her salary, was even more down-to-earth than her, the pilot came back and announced to the journalist, who actually just spouted opinions on television, that she could either sit down in her assigned seat and be quiet, or that he would escort her from the plane and file a complaint with the FAA and have her arrested.

She sat down.

By the time I moved to Washington, I had gone from viewing these talking-heads as people with some mysterious lifeline to the inner-workings of politics and government to the equivalent of professional wrestlers or pornographic film actors. There was little or no suspense in the outcome; it was simply a matter of who was playing what role until the program reached the inevitable ending. I remember getting up in the middle of "This Week With David Brinkley," the one show I held out as the exception to the rule because I enjoyed the sardonic detachment that Brinkley brought to observational journalism, to turn off the television. And that was the last time I watched any of these shows. Brinkley knew that Washington politics was fundamentally about self-interested people pursuing their vanity, glory and dreams of power and wealth. He would ask questions or interject, always with that bemused, "I can't believe I'm sitting here listening to this shit,"-type look on his face. But one too many pompous explanations by George Will, Sam Donaldson, Cokie Roberts or some other pretentious, snooty commentator about the difficulties of people "in this town" or "most Americans" of comprehending the complexities of the political world that only they understood finally forced me to give this stuff up. And I haven't watched one of these shows in almost 20 years.

Presidential campaign season is a particularly useful time to learn how little so-called celebrity journalists know about what is going to happen over any given period of time. Not only are they as clueless as the next person, but the questions they raise, the words they invent to describe issues, happenings and probabilities (who, by the way, is responsible for introducing the word "metric" into campaign politics. I never finished Algebra II, and I can tell you it makes no sense as applied to politics). Yet, they seem to have this limitless hold on how campaigns are covered, determining the personality profiles of the different candidates, deciding the difference between a "lie" and a "mis-statement," even when the mis-statement is a clear lie, and who is winning or losing a campaign that is, well, already over.

So, as I mentioned a few days ago, the establishment press has offered the following questions and/or observations on the outcome of the Pennsylvania Democratic primary. . . . and the self-delusion is just astonishing.

1. What is Barack Obama's problem with the "white working-class?" Why can't he close the deal?

I would phrase the questions somewhat differently

1a. Why won't "white working-class" voters support a black candidate whose views on the economy are more or less interchangeable with Hillary Clinton? What accounts for this 48 point gap in this demographic's support for Clinton? If Hillary Clinton were running against, say, a white candidate with Obama's views, would the gap be 48 percent?

1b. Why couldn't Hillary close the deal back in February?

Don't forget . . . this is a candidate who enjoyed an overwhelming financial advantage over all her competitors before the primary season started. Hillary also had the advantage in endorsements, campaign machinery and name-recognition. Once voters went to the polls, they voted for Obama over Clinton by consistently healthy amounts. Obama is the underdog in this race, not Hillary. But you wouldn't know it from the coverage.

1c. Why won't African-American voters support Hillary Clinton? Why won't people most like Hillary Clinton -- white, affluent and well-educated professionals -- vote for her?

Go take a look at the county-by-county returns for all these "critical" states in the Northeast and Upper Midwest. You'll find that Obama is winning in blue counties and Hillary is finding votes in red counties. In other words, the Democratic base is voting for Obama in disproportionately high numbers and conservative, sometimes Republican, voters are voting for Hillary. Why?

2. Why won't the media give Hillary a fair shake?

This is the perhaps the craziest complaint of all.

2a. Why don't the media ask Hillary real questions and hold her as accountable for her peripheral associations in the past and present as they have Obama?

Is there a sane person in the world who believes that Jerimiah Wright should determine the outcome of this election anymore than Hillary's association with commodities speculators, Richard Scaife or previous service as a board member of Wal-Mart?

And can you imagine what the press and the Clinton campaign would have done to Obama had he fabricated the Bosnia story? Hillary got a free pass on that one. Really, if you can't trust someone to tell the truth at 3 p.m., why in the world would you want that person making decisions about life and death at 3 a.m.? This wasn't a "mis-statement." It was a lie.

3. Barack Obama is weak because he lost California, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Does anyone seriously believe that Obama will lose California, New York and New Jersey in November? And if Pennsylvania voters aren't willing to vote for Obama over McCain in November, then go back and answer 1a or 1c. If voters would rather choose a white candidate who "welcomed" W's endorsement over a black candidate who will make a better effort to address the needs of working-class voters across the board, then give them a shovel.

4. He also "lost" Texas and Ohio.

He didn't lose Texas. Besides, Texas is going to vote for Hillary in the general? Ohio? See 1a and 1c.

5. North Carolina "doesn't count" because the demographics overwhelmingly favor Obama.

5a. Why do states with a significant African-American population "not count?" Hillary was up by around 25 points in Pennsylvania with a month to go. She won by 9.2 percent.

6. Indiana is the real test.

6a. Of what? George Bush won by 20 points over John Kerry in 2004. The last Democrat to carry Indiana was Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Before that, it was FDR in 1936. Indiana is one of the most consistently Republican states in the history of presidential politics. Sorry, folks, Indiana matters about as much for Democrats as Vermont does for Republicans. This is a media-contrived phenomenon to sustain interest in a race that is over.

7. A Democrat must pull Republicans in order to win in November.

Yes and no. Democrats must pull independents to win. I don't want a Democrat to campaign as McCain-lite. This has been Hillary's strategy as of late . . . suggesting that her opponent isn't tough enough to win.

8. The superdelegates should end the Democratic primary now.

Hillary once had what appeared to be a nearly insurmountable lead among superdelegates. In January, she led Obama by almost 100 superdelegates. Now, she leads by about 25. Barring a fantastical finish by Hillary -- she'll need approximately 80% of the remaining votes in the primary process to best Obama across the board -- she will trail Obama in the popular vote, delegates pledged and states won. For the superdelegates to come in after eight months of campaigning and tell the winner that his votes don't count will depress the Democratic electorate and increase the chances of a McCain victory. Turnout, not winning Republicans, is the Democrats best ally. African-American voters will take this reversal especially hard, and it will difficult not to agree that the prime motivation is overturning Obama's victory is race, not his "competitiveness" against McCain.

9a. Will someone ask Hillary Clinton these questions?

"Mrs. Clinton, do you believe that you can be the first Democratic nominee since 1964 to win the presidential election without the turnout and support of African-Americans? Why do you believe you have such a hard time connecting with black voters of all income and education levels?"

Now, about that crazy preacher . . .

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Favorite jazz drummers

When I watch a very close hockey or baseball game on television, I get real nervous. Last night, the Washington Capitals gave the Philadelphia Flyers all they could handle in a fantastic and fitting end to the most exciting first-round match-up in the NHL playoffs, losing in overtime 3-2. No point in complaining about the mysterious goaltender interference non-call that gave Philadelphia its second goal. And no point in complaining about the referee's tripping call against Tom Poti in overtime that gave the Flyers a power play, which they converted just before the penalty expired. That call was legitimate, especially since the referees let one go against John Erskine on Sami Kapanen just a few minutes before. Great series by two gutsy teams playing two very different brands of hockey.

Sometimes I'll sweep, vacuum or clean to calm my nerves. Other times I'll clean up various CDs that have not made their way back into my cabinet. Last night I decided on CDs, having swept, vacuumed and cleaned the night before when the Capitals came back to defeat the Flyers 4-2, scoring four consecutive goals to come back from a 2-0 deficit. So . . . I thought about my five favorite drummers throughout jazz history. Mind you, this is not a "five best" list; just my personal favorites, which I define as the people I've tried to copy the most. And I put them in alphabetical order to avoid any internal conflict.

And because I'm a wimp, I've listed two sets of five. The first five are the "Founding Fathers" of jazz drumming; the second five consist of post-Founding period drummers.

See . . . constitutional law and jazz do mix.

Founders

1. Art Blakey
2. Roy Haynes
3. Elvin Jones
4. Max Roach
5. Tony Williams

Post-Founding


1. Jack DeJohnette
2. Al Foster
3. Billy Kilson
4. Bill Stewart
5. Jeff Watts

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Black working class voters

After Pennsylvania votes in today's not-too-important Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton will claim that her victory there, once again, positions her as the strongest candidate to face John McCain. She will win despite the near-absence of black support, something her husband enjoyed in 1992 and 1996, and that Al Gore and John Kerry received as well in 2000 and 2004. There will be little attention paid to Hillary's estrangement from African-Americans, a development based in no small part to Bill's blunders on race in South Carolina and Hillary's tacit endorsement of racially-coded appeals to "white working-class voters" and self-identified independents who are unsure about whether to vote for John McCain after the disastrous presidency of George Bush.

We will hear that Hillary's "commanding" lead among the white working-class raises questions about the breadth of Obama's appeal across the race line as the income and education scale slides downwards. We will hear almost nothing about Hillary's inability to reach black voters, although we will hear that Obama must make inroads among white women in order to compete against John McCain. This assumes that Women for Hillary will abandon a Democrat for McCain, as conservative a Republican as any of the party's nominees since 1980, absent the interest in cultivating the religious wackos that played such an important role in the 1980 and 2000 presidential elections.

We will hear precious little about the Clintons' race problem, since the assumption is that African-American support for Obama is based almost exclusively on race, while Hillary's core demographic backbone -- white women and the white working-class -- are drawn to her because of her "competence," "resilliency," and "tenacious" nature. The Clintons and their supporters are quick to downplay the role that race has had -- and still has -- in their campaign strategy while never hesitating to point out that Obama is a "boutique" candidate of Whole Foods white Democrats and African-Americans.

On May 6th, North Carolina will hold its Democratic primary. Depending on which poll you believe, Obama holds anywhere from a 12 to 21 point lead there, a result that the professional commentariat -- the salt-of-the-earth Americans who work for the nation's elite establishment print and broadcast media -- will argue is due only to the large number of African-American voters there. The Clintons will downplay the significance of their loss in North Carolina, claiming that theirs is a campaign designed to reach out to "average" people who get up and go to work everyday to jobs they can only hope will be there at week's end. You would think from listening to all the concern for white working-class voters that North Carolina's African-American voters are somehow all related to the Huxtables from 1980s "The Cosby Show," which featured a black family in New York City living a fairly comfortable upper professional-class life in a household headed by a physician and a lawyer. Believe it or not, African-Americans are, on the average, far less well-off than whites regardless of the class in which one places them or the color of their shirt collars. In North Carolina, like everywhere else, African-Americans don't live as long as whites, earn far less money, have higher rates of unemployment and underemployment, are far less educated, are almost six times as likely to have families headed by a woman, contract chronic illnesses at higher rates, are far less likely to have health insurance and, in general -- no surprise -- score lower on government "quality-of-life" surveys than whites.

But the odds are between now and May 6th you will not see Hillary Clinton bragging about her "deep connection" with small-town North Carolina voters. You will not see her taking photo ops in the diners, churches, picnic tables, bowling alleys and farms preferred by African-Americans, reminding them of where she learned to shoot a gun or offer to knock back shots of Crown Royal for the cameras. You will not see her in these places because African-American voters in North Carolina have written her and her husband off, and Hillary knows it. But will see you stories written about her "inability" to connect with black voters, or how she managed to find herself in this situation, or whether, as a national candidate, she can win the Democratic nomination without the party's most loyal constituency? In other words, will she have to answer for her position with black voters as Obama has for his supposed "disconnect" with white working-class voters, which, as I have suggested before, is simply a polite phrase for white voters who have trouble voting for black candidates.

I don't think so. How surprising, given the anti-Hillary posture of the mainstream media . . . eh?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Red State Update

Jackie and Dunlap on the last Democratic debate -- they hope -- and Hillary and McCain's truth-telling problems.

To find out how Jackie and Dunlap's Blue State enemies live, click here (and find out all about what cool white people like, consume, eat and care about).

New Tom Tomorrow here

Click here to see the new Tom Tomorrow cartoon.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Live Zeebop this week

You can catch Zeebop this Wednesday night, April 23rd, at Pap and Peteys, located at 4th and H Sts., NE, just a few blocks away from the Union Station metro. We'll play from 8-11 p.m. No cover, no minimum. Great place, cool atmosphere, diverse and friendly crowd. Join us.

We'll be there April 30th and through the rest of May -- the 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th.

Thanks to all of you who have come out to see us play. We appreciate the support. Thanks to our friend, Duke Cross, for making us a regular at Paps and Petey's.

Zeebop is, as always, the sublime and swinging Mark Caruso on guitar; Justin Parrott, who lays down a bottom so fat that even white folks wanna get up and dance, on bass; and me, drums.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Professing torture

Somewhere way, way on the back of the burner of the week's events in politics -- behind the important question of which Ivy League-educated Democratic presidential candidate can best represent the "Shot and Beer" rank-and-file that has replaced the Soccer Moms of earlier campaigns as the go-to constituency in American politics; behind the equally weighty question of whether Barack Obama's alleged "assocation" with a former member of the Weather Underground, which left its mark on New Left politics in the 1969, when Obama was 8 years old, is or was worse that President Clinton's decision to pardon the same person almost thirty years later; and far, far behind the most important question of all:

Did George Stephanopolous ever advise Bill Clinton, when the ABC "newsman" worked as a primary campaign advisor for him in 1992, to leave the race because of his less than honest answers to questions about his decision to avoid the Vietnam draft, or for his and Hillary's often vengeful attacks on the women who alleged the former Arkansas governor sexually propositioned them, or his uncomfortable relationship with the truth? If so, why didn't Stephanopolous quit in protest? If not, was a chance to work in the White House more important than his personal ethics?

Or did anyone ask George any of those questions? Or is just members of the establishment media who are allowed to lord over everyone else?

. . . behind those questions -- yes, those I alluded to in the first paragraph -- was this little controversy, more important, naturally, to balsamic vinegar swilling, free-range chicken eating elitists such as myself:

Should a professor who, during his period of "government service" in the Bush administration, wrote the legal memorandum authorizing the use of torture on suspected terrorists detained in American military and off-books facilities be allowed to retain his tenured post at one of the nation's most elite law schools, which also happens to be a public institution?

My answer is simple: yes. And I don't answer "yes" simply because I want to keep tenure for myself. Tenure as a good idea or bad idea isn't relevant here. The only question is whether a professor who "professes," i.e., writes or talks about an idea or action thought abhorrent by more "civilized" minds should be allowed to teach students who, as lore tells us, are "impressionable" and thus likely to see our viewpoints as just one of many having validity. Worse, if we are good teachers, we may well dupe students into becoming our acolytes . . . sort of a, "I think Professor Ivers is a good teacher" (this is a hypothetical, so bear with me), so if he says you should be required to name all 50 states and their capitals to vote in presidential elections then, goddamnit, you should!" There is a difference, though, between teaching your own opinions in class as somehow "true," and then asking students to consider many different ideas to test their strengths and weaknesses. Advocating pedophilia as a perfectly natural expression of love and attraction is not the same thing as asking your students if religious groups should be permitted an exemption from criminal law for religious practices that are illegal in a secular context.

John Yoo, a law professor at Berkeley, worked in the Bush Department of Justice as a political appointee from 2001 to 2003. During that period, as the ACLU recently discovered in a memo obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Yoo was the primary legal architect of the Bush administration's rationale for torturing terrorists suspects being held in military facilities. Since the memo was made public, the reaction has been predictably split between those who opposed the Bush administration's support for torture (let's dispose of the "enhanced interrogation" euphemism, okay?) and those who believed that the ends, whatever they may be, justified the means. Between the cracks fell the question of whether Yoo should be allowed to retain his position at Berkeley. Would firing Yoo somehow go against the principles of academic freedom that remain at the core of the tenure system? Is protecting someone like Yoo necessary to protect someone like me, assuming that one day I write or profess something that advocates illegality in the name of some greater good?

Here's my take: Yoo should keep his job, assuming, of course, he is not linking obedience to his views to course credit and student grades. If Yoo wants to incorporate his views into his lectures and classroom discussion so that students may have a chance to rebut him and offers a fair hearing to everyone, then he is on solid ground. If a student writes a paper or legal memo for class concluding that everything Yoo has written is shoddy and wrong and does a first-class job of making his case, and his teacher/tormentor rewards him with an A, then no harm, no foul. The bigger question is not whether Yoo should remain a tenured professor; it's why would an institution hire him in the first place? I cannot imagine a university in the country that would go out and hire a committed racist by design. Yet, strange people slip through the cracks of the academic hiring process much more often that you might think. Can you fire someone because of their views before you tenure them? Sure, within certain boundaries. To argue that professional academics cannot distinguish someone with, let's say, profoundly conservative or liberal or libertarian or socialist views from a pedophile or racist makes a mockery of the whole idea of a learned community and the idea of inquiry.

Remember the Ward Churchill saga of last year? Didn't think so. Read about it here. SIDEBAR: Interesting, isn't it, how left-wing crackpots who hold tenured positions in universities end up as poster children for "rethinking" tenure while right-wing crackpots who hold forth on brain size and racial superiority, or the racial inferiority of African-Americans, or torture, or how landlords shouldn't have to rent apartments to co-habitating gay couples are, in addition to being defended as "misunderstood," cited as case studies of why we need tenure?

Believe it or not, allowing John Yoo to proceed apace protects academics in other ways. Almost all my pre-tenure colleagues are hesitant to voice their real views on university politics for fear of being punished for speaking out. They are afraid to give their students poor marks or hold them accountable for dishonest behavior for fear of retribution by an academic officer or administrator. They goose and manipulate their teaching evaluations to improve their ratings so they can alleviate any concern that they are not an "effective" teacher. And many more bright young scholars follow the the mind-numbing conventional "literature" in a chosen field rather than call the standard-bearers in their fields the unimaginative, boring and dull-witted drolls that they so often are for fear of not being published in journals they would otherwise use to clean their kitten's litter boxes. The lack of innovative, creative scholarship in political science, for example, is self-imposed. A young academic looking for tenure is punished for coloring outside the lines. Only by adhering to the conventional wisdom of the field, not be challenging it or embracing new technologies and/or approaches to communication and investigation, will an academic have a chance of being awarded tenure. Once you've been tenured, you have the freedom to pursue new and usually much more interesting avenues of inquiry. You cannot be fired for coloring outside the lines. Looked down upon by your peers for cashing in that get-out-of-jail free card, yes. But canned? No.

John Yoo's tenured position at one of the nation's most elite law schools reflects poorly on Berkeley's decision to hire and promote him. Now that he's there, he has, as he should, the freedom to write and say what he wants, as long as he respects the bounds of professionalism in the classroom. Let him publish in all the law reviews he wants. So few people read them that debate over "controversial" articles in law reviews, like those in political science journals, is little more than a parlor game for academics with little or no connection to the policy-making world. It is only outside academia can law professors or political scientists have any real influence. Trust me, you'd much rather have the John Yoos of the world sitting comfortably in their campus offices spinning theories that are little more than, well, academic, for as long as they want than mapping the ignoble road to torture one short hop, skip and a jump from the White House.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Blue collar mama amnesia?

Seems Hillary Clinton's "I-take-my-Crown Royal-with-a-beer-chaser" shtick is, well, less than genuine.

Yeah, yeah, hard to imagine, right?

In January 1995, just after the Democrats had been pasted in the November 1994 mid-term elections, the Clintons hosted a retreat at Camp David for members of their inner-circle, both in and out of government, to discuss, among other topics, how to repair relationships with the working class Southern whites, who supported Bill over George Bush I in the 1992 election.

And how did our nation's #1 Blue Collar Mama react? "Screw 'em."

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

New life for the death penalty

The Supreme Court ruled this morning that Kentucky's lethal injection protocol does not violate the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The Court's opinion is a mess; in fact, there is no majority opinion. Chief Justice Roberts wrote for a three-person plurality, which included only Justices Alito and Kennedy. Justices Scalia and Thomas each wrote separately to push their respective but tired ritualistic (and thoroughly discredited) opinions claiming to know what the true intent of the Framers was . . . as if either really knows what the Framers intended and if they did why it even matters.

Justice Breyer wrote separately, as did Justice Stevens, to emphasize that the broader question of the death penalty's constitutionality was not before them. Each reluctantly concurred with the majority's view that Ralph Baze and Thomas Bowling, the two Kentucky death row inmates who brought the case, had not demonstrated that the drug cocktail administered by Kentucky authorities reached the threshold of pain necessary to qualify as cruel and unusual punishment. Stevens, however, reached a dramatically different conclusion than Breyer, holding that the death penalty was unconstitutional. Had that question been put squarely before him, Stevens would have struck down Kentucky's law on Eighth Amendment grounds.

Justices Ginsburg and Souter dissented. I haven't had time to read the opinions thoroughly yet. I will by tomorrow and, of course, will have an opinion on the Court's opinion.

The Court, shortly after it announced the opinions in the Kentucky case, heard arguments on whether the Eighth Amendment ban on the death penalty for noncapital crimes includes child rape. You can read about that here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bitter lying elitists

After I finished cleaning my guns this morning -- one, a double-barreled Super Soaker with five reloadable water cartridges, the other an automatic pressure-gauge Sears steel model that can blow through one caulk cartridge a minute -- I went out to my shed, where I keep my bowling ball, my fishing gear, my ridin' lawnmower (a John Deere, of course), my power tools and my back issues of Car and Driver, to look for my power washer. By the way, that's me with the Super Soaker. Couldn't find the damn thing, as I haven't been able to for the sixteen years I've lived in my house. Did happen to find, though, the hacksaw I used to cut off my right ring finger and pinkie 'bout ten or twelve years back, when my neighbor's damn dog -- yep, the one with rabies -- bit the damn things off after I teased the lil' sumbitch about that stupid-ass patch across his eye. You'd think that stupid-ass dog ain't never had a beer bottle waived in his face, going "Here, dummy, here dummy, whose gonna' kick my ass now dummy?"

Just bit the damn things off. Just like that. Two fingers . . . up and gone.

Told my slack-ass wife about it when she got home from her shift waitressin' over at the Waffle House. You'd think she'd sew the damn things back on . . . but, hell no, she just stood there, sayin', "Dumbshit, this, dumbshit that, dumbshit, this," bitchin' up a storm 'cause I ain't unplugged the damn drain in the bathroom yet . . . the same one I ain't even allowed to go in.

"Fuck this shit," I told her, like I always do. Had to staple the damn things back on with my power riveter, which I did find near the power flusher I use the drain the cesspool in my backyard.

Anyway, back to what I was sayin' about whatever it was I was talking about. Right, my power washer. Fuck it. Let that shit grow on the deck. Give the wife something else to bitch about.

So I went inside -- remind me to fix that damn hole in the screen door -- and figured I'd read the paper, see how ole' Number 33 doing in the standings (My liberal neighbor with the McCain sign likes little Jeff Gordon 'cause he's just so damn cute. Of course, he's just so damned pussy-whipped by that damn uppity wife of his, who thinks she's so great since she got to be shift manager at the Waffle House instead of my wife. Does he know that little bun in the oven she's cartin' around ain't his? Don't think so!). Then I came across this:

"You've got conservative whites here, and I think there are some whites who are probably not ready to vote for an African-American candidate. I believe, looking at the returns in my election, that had Lynn Swann [2006 Republican Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate] been the identical candidate that he was --well-spoken, charismatic, good-looking -- but white instead of black, instead of winning by 22 points, I would have won by 17 or so."

And then I thought: Who the hell is Eddie Rendell, the damn Pennsylvania governor, to tell me I shouldn't vote for Lynn Swann because he's a Negro! Hell, I would have if I could have, but I don't live in Pennsylvania. Here's some news, Eddie: I live in Maryland, and I'd vote for Gilbert Arenas, Frank Robinson or Paul Blair if they ever ran for governor. Shitfire, I'd vote for Alex Ovechkin, and he's a goddamn, mutherfucking' goddamn sumbitch fucking RUSSIAN! Hear me, Eddie?

Ole' Eddie was trying to explain that even a good-looking, educated, fancy, articulate (which is what "well-spoken" black men like to be called, by the way, when white people talk about how someone being black just ain't all that big of deal to them) black man like Barack Obama would have trouble gettin' people like me to vote for him. Let's just see about that. And let's just see if I make it a point to go up to Pennsylvania to buy Fred and Marissa's new baby boy some fireworks this weekend. May as well change your state slogan to, "You've got a friend with a pointy-headed white sheet on his head in Pennsylvania."

So Barack is all in trouble now because he said regular working guys like me are all pissed off and "bitter" and mad and determined to "cling" on to our guns and God and unfinished home improvement projects 'cause we've taken one up the ass on the economy. Now, Barack is all articulate (see, Eddie, was that hard?) and everything, but I gotta say, he's got this all wrong. I'm really happy I voted for George Bush twice because his economic plan has worked, even though it may not seem like it. Here's how it works: Ole' W told me that if I wanted to make sure homosexuals did not start teaching in public schools or joining us on Harley weekends, or if we wanted to make that we could sing songs about our Lord, Jesus Christ, before high school football games and put up Christmas lights in our front yards or just get out there and shoot some squirrels or some Jews who were trying to rip me off on my investments, I needed to let him invade Iraq, give rich people more money, make health care more expensive and less accessible and make sure we let the big companies who sponsor NASCAR races move their factories overseas. Well, I thought about it. And then I'm, like, hell yeah -- I'm in.

So here comes ole' Hillary Clinton sayin' that Barack is all elitist and everything, looking down on people like us. And I'm like, who's exactly us, Hillary? I made $10,500 dollars last year sellin' my wife's shit on Ebay and my wife made $23,100, not including bachelor parties, that she reported to the I.R.S. Damn, that woman made $109 million over the last ten years! No wonder she's doin' shots of Crown Royal with her beer -- it's the damn shit that comes in a velvet cloth. Hillary, if you wanna' come down and party with us at The Outhouse sometime when we're throwing 'em back on a Friday night, talking about how happy we are that are major companies are shutting down and moving to China and all those Diarrheastans or whatever the fuck they're called, order some Jim Beam, or everyone will think you're some kind of elitist. Shit, I'd order you a Rolling Rock, but they done got up and left Latrobe for St. Louis, who I think is a Catholic Saint or something. So we don't drink that shit no more.

What was I sayin'? Oh, yeah. So Hillary's all, like, "Hey, I learned to shoot gun right there in Scranton, PA, when I was teenage girl working part-time at Dunder-Mifflin. In fact, you know Pam, the adorable, smart, misunderstood, underestimated and shapely young woman who answers the phones there? I had that job before I went to Wellesley and Yale, fine public colleges near Harvard, where Senator Obama got his degrees. Now, I don't want to suggest that being a smart, articulate, clean and well-behaved black man in the early 1980s had anything to do with it. Senator Obama, for all our differences, should be proud that a young black man who had a black father and attended Muslim elementary schools outside the United States and went to church pastored by a crazy black minister who hates white people could attend a school like Harvard. And as much as I would have liked to have dated Jim, I couldn't resist a certain future governor of Arkansas I would meet at Yale, which is a two-year community college that specializes in worker retraining programs. From the moment he said to me, 'I like your curves and the way your hair falls down your back,' I knew he had saved those words especially for me and would never again say them to another woman."

I'm listening to this, thinkin', "Is this woman related to my wife? Do any of them ever stop talking? Goddamn!"

Then I turned on my new plasma, which I just bought for $1250 over at SmartTech (that's because I have the V.I.P. credit line), and I'll be damned if I don't see the Big Dog himself, telling reporters that Barack Hussein Obama, who Hillary is pretty sure is a Christian, "as far as [she] knows," out there doin' his thing with reporters. He was talking and all about his campaign stops and all the support for Hillary he sees out there. So he says he sees these signs that say, "I'm not bitter, I'm not bitter." But, it turns out, that all these reporters covering the Big Dog said that no
such signs existed. Could it be that he just made all this up? Now, all my drinking buddies down at The Outhouse make up shit all the time, but that's just what you'd expect from a bunch of happy, underemployed, borderline alcoholics (By the way, my buddy's got this really great shirt that says, "I don't have a drinking problem. I get a beer, open it up, drink it down. No problem." Funny shit, that shirt). Hell, I fib every now and then, like when the wife asks me if I'd been down at Hooters eatin' wings and onion rings with that shifty ole' Mike Henley and I'm like, no. And she says, "Are you sure?" And I says, "Yeah, I know where I was. I was volunteering at the shelter cooking up dinner for the homeless." And she says, "Why don't I believe you?" And I says, "What kind of relationship do we have if there is no trust?" And then I stomp out to . . . you guessed it . . . Hooters, to meet up for a second round of wings and rings and beers with that shifty ole' Mike Henley. Ole' Jack Ellerbee joins us every once in a while since I taught him this trick.

Shit, I love her, though. I still keep this picture of us on our wedding day on my dashboard.

I just don't know who to vote for. There's John McCain, but I'm not sure he knows what day it is most of the time. And, when you really think about it, he's just too damn liberal, although I'm not sure why, other than Tim Russert said he's some sort of "maverick," who I thought was Tom Cruise in that movie about guns. Whatever. Plus, some of my neighbors down at the trailer park aren't too happy with his plan to foreclose their homes. "Shouldn't of borrowed the money," he says. Well, no shit, Sherlock. Maybe next time they'll rob a bank, like all them sumbitchs over at that Stanley company did. Was that the company that makes power tools? Well, they suck, compared to DeWalt. There's Hillary, the blue-collar mama who made a $109 million with some help from the Big Dog since leaving the White House. Not a whole lotta people around here doin' Crown Royal shots in designer pantsuits with $300 haircuts. Really, though, could you see Hillary hitched to the back of a Harley gettin' ready for Memorial Day weekend? I don't know. How would I talk to her? "Hey, Hillary, could you hold the hose while I drain my radiator? " And do you guys have any turpentine to wash the damn paint off my wife's fingernails? I tried to tell the missus that nail polish ain't the shit you buy at Home Depot; you buy it at Rite-Aid, same place you buy condoms and lotions and jellies and all that kinky shit SHE's into. Then there's Obama: He's clean, well-spoken and articulate (and it's African-American, Eddie, not black) but is somehow under the impression that people are angry, resentful and "bitter" that things are tough at home and we ain't killed that asshole Bin Laden yet, although we did nail that sumbitch Saddam, and that has made the world safer, at least according to ole' W. Hillary saw that coming and voted for it, even though she says she didn't, except that she did, sort of, kind of, but not really, even though she should take credit for it, but that's not her style.

So I think this happy redneck is gonna vote for the woman, even though she'll probably just go on and on and on about how this or that ain't quite right, and how it wasn't her decision to go to the Jack-in-the-Box but mine, even though she made it, but only did so because she thought it was what I wanted, even though it wasn't.

Y'all think about it. If there is one person is this country who isn't bitter, who doesn't lie and isn't an elitist, it's Hillary Clinton. Hop in the back of my truck, babe. We're gonna ride this out together.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Live Zeebop this week

You can catch Zeebop this Wednesday night, April 16th, at Pap and Peteys, located at 4th and H Sts., NE, just a few blocks away from the Union Station metro. We'll play from 8-11 p.m. No cover, no minimum. Great place, cool atmosphere, diverse and friendly crowd. Join us.

We'll be there April 23rd and 30th. In May, we'll be at Paps every Wednesday -- the 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th.

Thanks to all of you who have come out to see us play. We appreciate the support.

Zeebop is, as always, the sublime and swinging Mark Caruso on guitar; Justin Parrott, who lays down a bottom so fat that even white folks wanna get up and dance, on bass; and me, drums.

Carl Bernstein on Hillary Clinton

Think I don't want to see the Clintons in the White House again? Read Carl Bernstein's take on Hillary's candidacy and what another Clinton co-presidency would (have) look(ed) like.

Red State Update

Jackie and Dunlap suggest ways to spend President Bush's $600 tax rebate, comment on Barack Obama's "elitism," and memorialized Charlton Heston.

New Tom Tomorrow here

Click here to see the new Tom Tomorrow cartoon.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Greg Maddux

Here is a wonderful interview with Greg Maddux, who is my favorite pitcher of all-time. There are pitchers of his generation much more powerful (Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson and long-time teammate John Smoltz) than him. No one, though, could get his head around a hitter like Maddux in his prime. On his best days, when he'd throw 80-85 pitches over nine innings, none over 85 mph, and watch hitters stand helplessly as they chased pitch after pitch, only to miss or slap it harmlessly towards an opposing fielder, he was the unchallenged Picasso of the mound. Yes, Clemens could overpower hitters like few pitchers ever have; he never, in his prime or even later, had half the pitching I.Q. of Maddux. Who else would pitch to a catcher who was blindfolded and not miss the mitt once?

How has this guy won 347 games? Read and find out.

ADDED: Maddux is now up to 349 games since the above linked article was published. And read this article on Maddux's only "failing" as a pitcher -- his inability to hold runners on base -- and you'll realize that, when only 17% of runners who steal a base ever score, it doesn't matter as much as you think . . . something that Maddux, unlike most pitchers, has known his entire career.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Spring Bethesda sky

I took this picture earlier this evening, around 7.25 p.m. in the parking lot of a suburban Bethesda shopping center. Stunning. And with a camera phone.

Almost everyone I saw in the parking lot did the same thing. A few reached in their cars for their 35mm cameras.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Justice Scalia talks . . . .

and talks . . . and talks . . . and talks . . . to high school students in McLean, Virginia. Watch it here (via-CSPAN).

My favorite quotes:

"In my social views, which I do not apply from the bench, I am a fairly conservative fellow."

Of course you don't. Only liberals do that, right?

"You can murder anybody in the country and still not violate federal law, if you do it right."

Thanks for puttin' that out there.

No other country has a term like "un-American" to describe their citizens' behavior, thoughts or action that counters prevailing norms.

Here's my question: what exactly does it mean to be "un-American?" I've never understood that one. I mean, I know what it means (having long hair [if you're a guy], smoking pot or refusing to wear a flag lapel [in a country that respects freedom of belief and freedom against compulsory belief]). But I can't quite figure out what it means, if you know what I mean.

Or does that make any sense?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Coulda, woulda, shoulda

Over a Salon, there is an interesting exchange between Sean Wilentz, a professor history at Princeton, and Brad DeLong, an economist at Berkeley, over whether the Democratic primary rules have "favored" Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton. Wilentz began the debate by writing that, under a winner-take-all system, Hillary would be comfortably ahead of Obama in pledged delegates, having bested him in the most populous states (New York, California and Texas, for example). The proportional system, according to Wilentz, has favored Obama by allowing him to win delegates in states where he didn't win the popular vote, although that doesn't explain how Hillary managed to stay alive after Obama ran the table on her with 12 straight primary wins after her "comeback" win in New Hampshire, which is a state that should never have been competitive in the first place. DeLong counters with a very sophisticated argument that actually meshes with my initial reaction to the piece, which was, "You can't be serious."

Saying that Hillary Clinton should be winning the Democratic primary makes about much sense to me as the still-tired argument that Al Gore really defeated George W. Bush in 2000. Whether Bush really won Florida is separate than the electoral vs. the popular vote argument. The rules are the rules, and Bush defeated Gore according to the rules. To me, the biggest presidential embarrassment over the past three or four elections was W's re-election in 2004. If Iraq did much to compromise the diplomatic and military bona fides in the post-September 11th era, the nation's decision to re-elect the worst president in American history only compounded the tragic decision to invade Iraq. I don't blame John Kerry for that one, even though he was a stiff and impersonal presence on the campaign trail. The blame belongs with the electorate, shielded and pampered by policies that don't require any national investment in our government's decision to go to war. One legacy of W deserves repeating: he is the only president not raise taxes during a time of war.

I digress. Read the Wilentz and DeLong exchange and decide for yourself who makes the most sense.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Constitutional ignorance

Just over a week ago, the New York Times published a front-page story detailing the extent to which the Bush administration Department of Justice went in 2003 to construct a panoramic legal defense of the "enhanced" or "harsh" interrogation techniques of terrorist suspects and other "enemy combatants" captured and detained by the American military and intelligence authorities from around the world. And now, this morning, the Times runs another story inside the front section on the power of Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff to waive any law that interferes with the nation's ability to construct a border fence to deter illegal immigration. Just last week, the Times reports, Chertoff waived over 30 laws protecting or regulating endangered species, including the bald eagle, the environment, farms, Native American burial sites and lands or monuments of religious significance. This is, as several legal scholars have noted elsewhere, a delegation of power from Congress to the executive branch that is unmatched since Franklin D. Roosevelt attempted to vest Congress with similar authority during the early period of the New Deal.

The author of the Department of Justice memorandum, John Yoo, left the Bush administration shortly after the Iraq war began. But time and time again, his name has surfaced as the central architect behind the Bush administration's decision to permit American interrogators to engage in torture, whether at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib or in "black box" locations whose existence is denied by the government, even though everyone knows they do, in fact, exist. Despite the initial "outrage" over the Bush administration's decision to defend torture, Congress soon gave the executive branch -- and, by extension, the military, the official power to do pretty much what it wanted in the detention and interrogation realms.

The Chertoff scenario is, in its own way, equally outrageous in the outright defiance of the most elemental concept of separation of powers. So much for the Madisonian model of each branch having some "agency" in the other -- or, to translate, to honor the separation of powers. And this gets even better. After the Sierra Club and the Defenders of Wildlife brought suit in federal court last year to challenge the scope of the congressional delegation of power to Chertoff, the judge ruled that Chertoff could go right ahead and do whatever the hell he wanted. Since Congress explicitly forbade the appeals courts from hearing the case, the only route of appeal was the Supreme Court, where the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife submitted a petition to have the justices hear the case. Congress knew what it was doing, as the chances of an intermediate appeals court declaring the law unconstitutional is certainly better than this Supreme Court coming down against the broad extension executive power in times of crisis.

But what about the Hamdi and Rasul cases from 2004, when the Court put a temporary spoke in the Bush administration's claim that it could do what it damn well pleased to the detainees in Guantanamo or in American prisons, regardless of whether they were American citizens? Remember this: the Court's problem wasn't so much what the administration wanted to do as it was that Congress hadn't authorized the administration to deny detainees what would normally have been their legal rights. In 2006, Congress did just that by passing the Military Commissions Act, a law that sounds like something from the post-American Civil War Reconstruction Era, not the post-"Mission Accomplished" Iraq Civil War Era. Detainees who have challenged the 2006 law have been unsuccessful. The Supreme Court will issue a decision this term on the law's constitutionality. So, again, the courts haven't had a problem with what the administration wants to do, which is to deny detainees their legal rights; only how it wants to do so.

Yes, yes, I realize that media coverage and public outrage -- or lack thereof -- on Hillary's continuous fibbing on the campaign trial (calling it lying would be bullying, so I won't call her fibs lies, or her fibbing lying, or her memory lapses deliberate misrepresentation) or whether Obama's preacher is crazier than McCain's (they're both nuts but Hagee is far, far worse; and Wright, some of comments not withstanding, has a little more depth than the superficial interests of the mainstream media have the time or interest in exploring) and Britney's latest comeback are the best possible uses of theirs and our time. But doesn't anyone out there even remotely care about this unprecedented disregard for the most fundamental of all our constitutional principles, which is that separated, divided and checked power is the best defense against tyranny?

Monday, April 07, 2008

New Tom Tomorrow here

Click here to see the new Tom Tomorrow cartoon.

Red State Update

Jackie and Dunlap muse on this week's absurdities in politics, entertainment and "culture."

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Live Zeebop this week

This week Zeebop will be back at Pat and Petey's for the second of our weekly Wednesdays at Pap and Petey's this month. We play from 8-11 p.m.

Pap and Petey's is located at 4 and H Sts., NE (421 H St.). The club is 2 and 1/2 blocks north of Union Station. Great place; cool, laid-back atmosphere. Probably our favorite room to play right now.

As usual, Zeebop is Mark Caruso on guitar; Justin Parrott on bass; and me on drums.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Forty years ago today, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in front of his Memphis, Tennessee, motel room at 6.01 p.m. Depending on how deep your understanding was of popular music, you knew Memphis either as Elvis Presley's home turf or as the birthplace of Stax Records, where some of the best and most famous rhythm and blues recordings were made in the 1960s. Memphis would now be forever known as the city where a crazed, racist lunatic named James Earl Ray gunned down King as he was preparing to leave for dinner with Ralph David Abernathy and Jesse Jackson. King had been town for a little less than a week to draw support for the strike staged by African-American sanitation workers, who were paid so little that, even after a 40 hour week, they still qualified for welfare.

So much has been written about King's life and legacy that there is nothing that I (or anyone else, for that matter) can add to the historical narrative. Unlike many other public figures of historical import, how one feels about King has much to do with who you were then or who you are now, whether you were or are black or white, whether you lived in the South or somewhere else and how you were taught to view King. In April 1968, I was six and a half years old, almost at the end of my first year in elementary school. I don't remember much about that day; in fact, I don't remember anything at all, other than my dad staying late at work to watch his store, as rioting broke out that evening in Atlanta as it did around the country. My mother was devastated and cried for hours, unable to shake her depression over the death of a man that she viewed as most important American since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. My father grew up in the New York City suburbs; my mother was born in Moultrie, Georgia. Both were unabashed liberals, with my mother the hell-raiser of the two; my dad had a somewhat different approach to the civil rights movement. His business was in the heart of black Atlanta, directly across the street from the Pascal Motor Hotel, which was the Grand Central Station of the city's nascent black political leadership. Among my father's early customers were King, King Sr., Julian Bond, Ralph Abernathy and Hosea Williams, and many, many more whose names escape me. A lot of hell broke loose that night. The few stores owned by whites in a community where most businesses were black-owned were all torched or vandalized except my father's. This was the environment in which I was raised, and it made all the difference in the world. I was fortunate to be born when I was and to whom I was. I could have ended up like many of my friends who called me a "nigger lover" because of my father's business, and because, every now and then, the college-age guys who worked for my dad, many of whom attended Morehouse or Morris Brown, would come to my baseball games. They would catch stares or would be asked to pick up the trash, the assumption being, of course, that a 20 year-old black man could only be in a white neighborhood if was a janitor or garbage man.

Or a criminal.

As much as contemporary American folklore now loves to count King among our nation's most important citizens, it wasn't always that way. More people than would ever now admit it did not a shed a tear over King's death, the thinking being that he had it coming by trying to bully the region and the nation into accepting a new social contract it wasn't prepared to embrace. The director of the F.B.I., J. Edgar Hoover, whose name embarrassingly and inexplicably remains on the Department of Justice's main headquarters in Washington, D.C., used government resources to harass and spy on him. Hoover even had members of his office fabricate a death threat to King so that he would stop taking his case public. King didn't flinch. Later, in the 1970s, when the idea of a national holiday in honor of King was proffered, many well-known politicians laughed it off, including Ronald Reagan and, yes, John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, who voted against the holiday as a Arizona congressman in 1983. President Reagan, whose political instincts (King supporters had a veto-proof majority in the House and Senate) were good enough to put aside the robotic opposition by right-wing racists and signed it into law later that same year. MLK day was first observed in January 1986, although some states continued to voice their opposition by combining the holiday with "heritage" days of their own. Until 2000, the day was known as Lee-King-Jackson Day, as in, yes, incredibly, Robert E. Lee and "Stonewall" Jackson. Arizona's opposition lasted well into the 1990s, ebbing only after the National Football League refused to permit the 1992 Super Bowl to played in Tempe after the legislature failed to honor King with a state holiday. New Hampshire refused as well, the reason being that King wasn't "important" enough and it would unfairly cost the taxpayers by giving state workers another day off. Uh-huh, and the "white, working class" voters supposedly flocking to Hillary Clinton instead of Barack Obama can identify with a woman whose joint income with her husband over the past eight years was $109 million. That's one blue collar mama who'll never be an Obama mama.

In 1976, when I was tenth grade, our back-to-school assignment was to write an essay about the three most important Americans in our nation's 200 year history. This was our school's nod to the national Bicentennial celebration that was taking place around the country. I chose Lincoln, F.D.R. and King. I was one of two people in my class to include King, the other student being the class hippie, which I was most certainly not back then. My teacher returned the assignment to me the next day and asked me write about a "serious" American, like George Washington, Harry Truman or . . . and I kid you not, the Rev. Billy Graham, who, as the nation's most famous evangelist, was a major figure in the South. I refused to change my mind and received a D on the assignment because my work on Lincoln and F.D.R was good enough to allow me to pass. The hippie-kid wasn't so fortunate. He picked King, Alan Ginsburg and Charlie Parker, putting him way, way ahead of his time.

Nothing has changed my mind since 1976. Martin Luther King, Jr. is among the great Americans this country has ever known, and one of the most important public figures in modern world history. King led a non-violent revolution on behalf of African-Americans, doing more to liberate them from the social and legal bondage that had followed them one way or another since Africans were first deposited as slaves in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1609. But the true legacy, as John Lewis, the civil rights warrior who now represents Atlanta in Congress, has said, was that King liberated white America from the prison of racism, and, in the process, encouraged all dispossessed Americans to stand up for their rights. King gave his life to free his oppressors, something that is often overlooked, and an accomplishment not duplicated in American history.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

4,000 and counting

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

2008 Baseball Predictions

I'm a little late with this, but here are my predictions for the 2008 baseball season:

National League (Real Baseball)

N.L East

1. Phillies (hurts, but no choice)
2. Mets (after last year's collapse? onus is on them)
3. Braves (realism is the best form of idealism)
4. Nationals
5. Marlins

N.L. Central

1. Cubs (two in a row?)
2. Brewers
3. Reds
4. Astros
5. Cardinals (this team won the World Series two years ago?)
6. Pirates

N.L. West

1. Diamondbacks
2. Dodgers
3. Rockies
4. Padres
5. Giants (wrath of Barry Bonds)

American League (About which I could care less; I do this out of respect for the game)

A.L. East

1) Red Sox (Red Sox Nation will still find something to whine about; it always does)
2) Yankees
3) Blue Jays
4) Rays
5) Orioles (curse of Peter Angelos)

A.L. Central

1) Indians (not Charlie Sheen's team anymore)
2) Tigers
3) White Sox
4) Royals
5) Twins

A.L. West

1) Angels (strong bats offset everything else)
2) Mariners
3) Rangers
4 ) A's