Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tom Tomorrow here

Click here to see the new Tom Tomorrow cartoon.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Red State Update

Jackie and Dunlap argue that Americans should legalize drugs as a means to save Mexico, celebrate Earth Hour 2009, and take a dip in Tom Petty's hot tub.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Walt Whitman, gay spy, subersive and terrorist

Because two unsuccessful wars, a failing economy, a health care "system" that would embarrass any other civilized country and a million other problems aren't enough to worry about, the Westboro Baptist Church of Topkea, Kansas, has decided to rally its faithful to call attention to a cause more important than all the above combined -- right here in Bethesda.

Praise the Lord!

Live Zeebop this week

Live Zeebop this week . . .

Saturday, March 28th, Red Dog Cafe, 8301 Grubb Rd., Silver Spring. Two sets of straight-ahead jazz, served with a slice of funk. Red Dog has an excellent menu of bistro entrees, desserts, coffees and a full bar. Please come out and join us! If you are on Facebook, learn more about the event, including directions, here. 9-11.30 p.m.

Monday, March 30th, La Ferme, 7101 Brookville Rd., Chevy Chase, MD. Three sets of straight ahead jazz in a country French restaurant. 6.30-9.30 p.m.

Zeebop is represented by Grabielismo Productions .

To learn more about Zeebop, click here .

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The dumbest question ever . . .

asked by a "Washington correspondent" to an American president came earlier this week, when Anne Compton, a veteran broadcast "reporter" from ABC News, wanted President Obama to answer this little ditty:

"Has the last 64 days been a relatively color-blind time?"

If there is any doubt . . . ANY DOUBT . . . that the "journalists" who make-up the Washington establishment media live in a hermetically sealed bubble of privilege, cultural isolation and magnified self-importance, Compton's question seals the deal. Just to make sure that Compton's question was just as ridiculous as I thought it was, I did a bit of checking to see if she had ever asked Presidents Bush (II) or Clinton a similar question.

Nope. Nothing. Bupkis! Imagine if she had, though.

"President Clinton, do you think your first 64 days have been a relatively redneck-free time?"

"President Bush, as a descendent of one of America's whitest families -- the New England boarding schools, the Kennebunkport compound, getting out of your National Guard service because of your last name, the complimentary shipping from L.L. Bean, your people's obsession with tartan plaid and other fashion follibles that it look as if your living in a 1920s timewarp -- do you think your whiteness has affected your first 64 days in office?"

Point made. Now, for the funniest take on Compton's antics, watch this skit with Richard Pryor from 32 years ago, and see what should happen when white reporters ask a black president stupid questions about race.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Remembering John Hope Franklin

John Hope Franklin, one of the most accomplished and important historians of the African-American experience from the Founding period through the 20th century civil rights movement, passed away yesterday at the age of 94.

Professor Franklin was a true giant of his chosen profession. As a scholar, he was the first academic historian to insist in his scholarship that the American experience could not be understood without understanding the role of African-Americans in shaping our nation's history. Franklin, over the course of his sixty year career, in numerous important books and articles, painted portrait after portrait of the importance of black Americans, as individuals and as a people, in helping establish America's independence, in enduring slavery and its consequences, suffering through the false promise of Reconstruction, the battle to end Jim Crow and how, through it all, African-Americans sought nothing more than to become part of the ethnic mosaic of the United States rather than a separate entity.

The first book I read of Professor Franklin's was From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans, when it was assigned to me my sophomore year in college. I don't remember the exact name of the class, maybe a 19th or 20th century American history class, but I do remember how many students were puzzled by the professor's decision to assign a book about "black" history. It made perfect sense to me, perhaps because I had grown up where and when I did, being taught music, sports, geography, authentic barbequing techniques, math and English by African-Americans. I moved freely between black and white worlds as a child -- the black world I visited on the weekends when I went to work with my father and the predominantly white world I lived in the rest of the time. Unlike many of my friends, walking into a high school or even college classroom and seeing a black instructor didn't phase me. It's not that my friends were racists or even mildly prejudicial; they simply weren't used to seeing African-Americans in positions of authority. That was simply a reflection of the social organization of the South during the early post-civil rights period. Mine was certainly a generation that inherited many of the social prejudices of their parents. Fortunately, for me, my parents spent a not inconsiderable amount of their time trying to educate my sister and I to the profoundly inhumane, cruel and barbaric qualities of racial segregation. They also walked the walk -- literally -- and not just talked the talk.

Professor Franklin knew more than anyone before him and very few after him that emphasizing African-American history was not a separationist movement or an effort to establish an academic ghetto. Rather, it was an effort, deliberate, careful and rooted in scholarship, to force white America to stop ignoring the contributions that black Americans had made to our country through their suffering and, wholely separate, their contributions to art, science, medicine, music, sport and so much else. For Professor Franklin, it was not enough for white America to "accept" black entertainers and sports figures as their imaginary African-American friends. Black Americans fought alongside of white patriots during the Revolution, contributed to the arts and sciences throughout the 19th century, made untold contributions to America's defense of freedom in two 20th century World Wars and educated an entire country, if not the world, on the power of non-violent civil disobedience to revolutionize a good-hearted but misguided country's social and political fabric. John Hope Franklin, the first African-American to chair an academic history department at an American university, was a gracious, elegant and generous man until the end. All he ever wanted was to see America make good on the promises set out in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and acknowledge the contributions that African-Americans made to the United States then and now.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Popularity

About four centuries ago, the Marquis of Halifax, or, to those who him best, George Savile, wrote that "popularity is a crime from the moment it is sought; it is only a virtue when men have it whether they will [it] or no[t]."

My understanding of 17th century English isn't all that great. Still, I think I can figure out what my man George was saying here . . . .

and it is this . . . .

Once you start to compromise your principles to achieve "success," something defined, particularly in American culture, as "popularity," you have made a deal with the devil. Real success has nothing to do with a conscious and deliberate effort to cultivate fame; rather it is the value that one brings to any endeavor which they undertake -- artistic, scientific, humanitarian or even business. And one day you will pay for deliberately seeking popularity at the expense of an internal happiness that is more metaphysical than material.

I have never equated success with money, perhaps out of self-interest, since I'd come up a loser by any conventional measure. Not a Big L loser; just a middle-of-the-packer, somewhere lost in the huge pile of 1040s that defines the American middle-class, distinguishable from his the slightly less wealthy and slightly more wealthy worker bees on the white collar assembly line of modern professional life only by occupation. Some of us might be really smart, and some of us not. Some of us might have a head full of incredible ideas; the thought, though, of having to work long and hard at something discourages rather than encourages us, so we don't really get anywhere with our plans to change the world. Some of us might like playing the saxophone as much as we like practicing dentistry, so we don't devote as much time to our professional practices as our colleagues do who live to work. These are the kind of people who, when you ask them how they are, immediately launch into a monologue about how many hours they're "putting in" and how very important it all is compared to what you do. A friend of mine once referred to smart people who don't care that much about money as "poverty snobs." Actually, this was in college, and my friend Scott Gilmore, the same guy who slept under newspapers on my couch back then, called me a "poverty snob" because I might read a book on a Thursday afternoon rather than begin the traditional college weekend drink-a-thon two or sometimes three days early. Of course, Gilmore later began referring to himself as a "poverty snob" after he ran out of money, which usually occurred by the semester's second week, to defend the embarrassment of having to stay home on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday night because he couldn't afford to go out.

"I'm sorry, just soooooo, sooooooo, soooooo sorry that you have to go out and buy your friends," Gilmore would say, his voice pausing, dragging out the vowels, stopping to swig his beer while, at the same time, smoking a cigarette. Now hiccuping between words and sometimes syllables, Gilmore continued: "Those of us who know how to read would prefer to read The Economist's take on the that idiot Ronald Reagan, who you probably voted for, moron!"

Now Gilmore might have gotten threatened and sometimes assaulted by the local Philistines -- his housemates -- for his take on the sociology of poverty snobs and their resentment of the material world on more than one occasion. Actually, we stopped keeping count after the first 34 or 285 times this happened and focused more on clever negotiating tactics when he was taken hostage by the non-Economist reading crowd -- but you had to admire his honesty and forthrightness. Gilmore had his opinions and didn't mind sharing them with you, whether you were interested in hearing them or not. And these were not conventional thoughts at all. He could be a visionary on some matters, such as his prediction in 1982 that one day that Major League Baseball would begin inter-league play, thereby allowing his Chicago White Sox to beat up the Cubs every year. On other matters, though, he was far more conspiratorial and outright bizarre. "You know those bar codes that are on all the labels and containers of shit you buy," Gilmore asked me once. "They're part of a One World Government conspiracy to eliminate our currency and replace it with a bartering system."

Huh?

You know what, though? Good for him. Seeing what a nutcase this guy was and simply not give a shit what people thought because he was, in all honesty, about the smartest and most creative guy my own age I had ever met was an incredibly influential moment in my own intellectual development. I had always been drawn to writers, musicians, teachers, coaches . . . anyone, really . . . who did things their own way without regard to whether they were going to "please" their potential audidence. And I don't mean the kind of people who resist convention to make some sort of fashion statement or, as the emerging punk crowd did in my college years, wear Izod shirts with a circle and slash around and through the alligator on the left breast. I mean people who value their integrity above anything, and put their desire to explore, learn, play, communicate or teach in an intellectually honest manner before commercial success. I suppose because I have never really made a personal or career decision based on how much money it would bring me I have never understood those motivated solely by money or popularity. Yes, I've seen the uniquely American phrase, "He Who Dies With The Most Toys Wins," on more than one bumper sticker around town. Of course, there's another way of seeing that as well.

"He Who Dies With The Most Toys Still Dies."

* * * * * * * * * *

I started thinking about the tension between popularity and "success" as I was reading the greater drummer Bill Bruford's autobiography about his the twists and turns his career has taken over a 40 year period. Although I've followed his career very closely, I don't know if my attraction to him as a drummer since I first heard the song, "Long Distance Runaround," in 1972 has been because of his playing, which I love, or his personality, which is fiercely independent, opinionated and continually in search of something new to hear, learn and play. Here is a guy who walked away from two of the greatest bands ever, Yes and King Crimson, because he thought he had done as much as could have with the musicians with whom he was working. Bruford could have had a much more profitable career had he not, as he did in the late 1980s, trade-in his rock credentials to lead his own jazz group, Earthworks, and work with musicians from the world of mainstream jazz. More important to him, though, was growing as an artist and trying to learn something new. If that meant descending from the mountain top as one of the greatest, most innovative drummers in the history of rock music to make a statement as a jazz drummer and bandleader, even if that meant laboring in obscurity and losing, rather than making, money, then so be it. Personally, I would much rather see a great musician reaching for something new rather than playing some trademark lick or fill from 20, 30 or 40 years ago.

I feel the same way about teaching and scholarship, which I think puts me at odds with a number of my professional colleagues. For me, an academic life devoted to doing the same sorts of things I learned in graduate school or that "established" my professional reputation -- the the degree that I have one -- makes absolutely no sense. I am about to finish my twentieth year as professional academic, and it simply boggles my mind to see that many of the people who started doing this when I did -- or even longer ago -- are still tilling the same soil. Naturally, though, academics who subscribe to professional convention will never understand me, and their response, by and large, is to diminish or look down their noses at how I spend my time or what I want to teach and write about. Psychologists often refer to these different thought processes as convergent vs. divergent thinking -- seeing one as opposed to many possibilities in a question or answer. I used to think that conventional thinkers didn't want to acknowledge the possibilities that existed beyond a narrow scope of inquiry, justifying their limited worldview as consistent with true theory and science. It took me a while to learn that convergent thinkers can't see beyond the formalities of conventional wisdom because their brains simply don't work like mine does.

I never know how to answer questions like these:

"Are you a popular professor?"

"Are you a popular coach?"

"Do students like your classes?"

"Do you think your band will ever be popular?"

And the reason I don't is because it doesn't really matter to me if a 20 year-old student, a colleague my own age or close to it, 13 year-old baseball player or slightly inebriated customer in a bar or restaurant where I'm playing "likes" my music. A person who truly understands and respects me and what I'm doing, regardless of context, will base their judgment on whether I am being true to myself and not whether I'm trying to curry their favor or please them. If anyone in my "audience" of students, youth athletes, paying customers, musicians and professional colleagues likes what I'm doing despite how I've chosen to do it, then great. If they would rather me do something differently, then they'll have to go somewhere else.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tom Tomorrow here

Click here to see the new Tom Tomorrow cartoon.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Red State Update

Jackie and Dunlap think Glenn Beck has a good point when he says that the Republicans are awesome and the Democrats suck. They also think it was mean for Obama to mock Special Olympians on television, and try to get to the bottom of who is running AIG.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Congratulations, AU Men's Basketball

So far, so good, on the early post-mortems on the AU men's basketball team's loss tonight to Big East powerhouse Villanova in the opening game of this year's NCAA tournament. AU was up by fourteen points at the half before Villanova kicked into high-gear in the second half, ultimately winning 80-67. Just like last year when AU opened against Tennessee, the Eagles came out determined to show everyone there still looking to find our university on their AAA Trip Tix that they were for real. And they certainly were.

No need to hang for the AU men to hang their heads over this one. Winning the Patriot League title is now becoming a habit, and a good one. Congratulations to Garrison Carr, Derrick Mercer, Brian Gilmore and everyone else for leading the team to an outstanding season. You all have done much to pave the way for more good things to come.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Is reading the 21st century Yugo?

I know the publishing industry is in trouble. I know this because I have read about it -- in newspapers, in magazines and on-line. I have also spoken with friends in the newspaper, magazine and book industries who are concerned about their livelihood and, secondarily, about the demise of the printed word as an instrument of communication. As someone who has always enjoyed reading and writing, I don't look forward to the day when newspapers are "published" strictly on-line, or my favorite magazines stop arriving at my house at their scheduled weekly or monthly times. From the moment the first Mad magazine arrived in my mailbox -- in a brown paper wrapper, yet -- when I was about 8 or 9 years old, a magazine delivered to my house, something especially and only for me, always brightens my day, no matter how bright that day might have already been.

More worrisome, of course, is what people will do, like my good friend Scott Gilmore did in college, when there are no more newspapers to use as blankets on the couch they've decided to use as their home that particular week, or month, or semester, or entire academic year. Gilmore wasn't so much underprivileged or broke as he was convinced that he could not summon the "pain" necessary to succeed as a poet or street musician until he had suffered accordingly. After a few weeks of what seemed like a few years of sleeping under the cushions and newspapers of the beat-up, disgusting couch that served as the depository for unwanted beer, Long Island Ice Tea, bong water, stolen cafeteria food and other such aromatic delights, Gilmore thought he had suffered enough to read his poetry to the friends who had yet to report him to our local public hygiene authorities.

Taking a swig of beer out of one side of his mouth while, at the same time, nursing a cigarette on the other side, Gilmore began reading . . .

"Tonight is the past of the future I will never see."

We waited. And waited. And waited. We thought there was more. There wasn't.

"So," he said. "What do you think?"

Of course, it fell to me, on whose couch Gilmore was sleeping, to offer the first comment.

"One big cliche," I said.

Gilmore took another drag of his cigarette, which appeared to have burning through the filter, while, at the same time, taking another swig of his beer, then stormed out of our room.

"Ivers," he shouted to the near empty house that could have cared less, "just told me my life was one big cliche."

That's not what I said. But it did get him off my couch for an hour or two, until he returned later that night to sleep under his cushions and newspapers and, of course, suffer some more. And suffer he did after my roommate, who had Gilmore by at least 30 lbs, sat on him the following morning while enjoying, as he did every morning, his first cup of coffee and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

* * * * * * * * * *

A couple of recent observations have left me to wonder whether there is a place for people like Scott Gilmore anymore in our contemporary society. No, no, no . . . not bad poets . . . there will never be a shortage of them. No, the bigger question is whether the printed word will continue to have an audience beyond people who find themselves desperate for something to read while taking a bathroom break. And we've all been there, right? The need to use the restroom in someone else's house, and, with no reading materials provided, you start reading the back of toothpaste tubes or shampoo bottles or the bottom of the bathroom scale. "Oh, so that's the active ingredient that combats plaque and tartar! Who knew?" Or, "Unilever makes Suave Shampoo and landmines. Interesting!" Or you start to notice things like how the only current copies of Reader's Digest -- ones less than three years old -- are found in houses with at least one regular occupant over the age of 75, or, if in an orthopedist's office, how there seems to be a fairly strong correlation between golf magazines and the percentage of men who play that sport, or at least read about it, in need of erectile dysfunction medication.

Traveling on Amtrak between New York and Washington recently, I was struck by the number of people who don't read anymore. Most everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, personal style, dress or manner, was glued to their phone or, as the conductors and flight attendants now call them, handheld electronic device.

Scroll! Scroll! Scroll!

Press! Press! Press!

Flip! Flap! Flup!

"Please, please, please," these people seemed to be pleading, "someone email me, text me, leave a message so I can have something to because I simply don't want to read." All I could think about was how the relationship between individuals and their phones have created a whole new field of co-dependency, as if these little devices are their personal Ouija Boards . . . that if they rub them, press them and caress them enough times, someone will contact them from the Other World with an important message:

"i am sooo wasted. r u?"

Passengers who appeared to my age or close to it weren't immune from holding these seance-like rituals over their phones. Of course, it could be that they have much more important jobs than I do -- that is, after all, a pretty low bar to cross -- or it could be that the thought of having to read . . . or wanting to read . . . is too terrifying to consider. The latter seems to make more sense than the first possibility. Two well-dressed young men sitting across from me who had been glued to their Crackberries since we all got the train together in New York. When they got up to go the snack car after about an hour or so into our journey, they either forgot their Crackberries or were letting their thumbs go for a nice stretch. Left within reading distance from me, I could see what they were doing, and it wasn't "working." They were playing video games.

* * * * * * * * * *

In the public restrooms located in my academic building, I hear young men clicking away while they're in the restroom. In addition to just plain bizzare, it turns their phone into a pretty effective disease transmitter. Really, would you want to borrow a phone from a 19 year-old who has just spent anywhere from 2 to 20 minutes texting, web-surfing or scrolling his phone for someone to talk to (yes, talking on the phone while taking care of one's personal business has become standard operating procedure in my part of the world)? I sure as hell wouldn't. But I guess that makes me "uptight" and "old," as one teenage technological wizard recently informed me I was.

Oh, well.

And then there is simply matter of reading directions. Over the years, college students have become enormously fixated on the syllabus you provide to them the first day of class. As many of them like to say, "the syllabus is a contract between student and professor." Actually, it's not, and I don't know why so many of them have that impression. But, as I once learned in an umpiring class I took shortly after I graduated from college, never let facts get in the way of a good story.

Or that might have been the first magazine editor I worked for during a summer internship in college. I honestly can't remember.

Either way, students want everything written down for them, from everything I will ask them to read and write and remember to what time I plan to dismiss class on April 21st if it's not raining and they want to get on the road to travel somewhere. Over the years, I have accommodated this request, and my course syllabus is about as specific as it gets when it comes to who, what, where, why and when. I don't always know what I'll be teaching on any particular day; but I do make it quite clear what the course requirements are; how many classes they can miss; how many homework assignments they can miss; when my office hours are; the procedures for emailing me; why they cannot play with their phones in class; text message; place a bomb under another student's desk; have sex with themselves or another consenting student; fix their make-up or call their bookies. They wanted specifics and they got them. I even put things on the syllabus reminding them that students who do not participate in a group project will not receive credit for it. That would seem to make sense, right -- that students who don't do any work don't get any credit? Many years ago, though, I had a student take a complaint as far as she could that I was "unfair" to her by giving her a zero on a group project to which she did not contribute. Because I didn't, in the syllabus, reserve the right to "zero out" a student who didn't do the work, I was unfair to her. The committee that hears such complaints agreed, and allowed her to change her grade from an F to a W, so as not to "damage" her chances of going to Harvard Law School. I never found out what happened to her, mostly because I didn't care. But I did learn that she never made it to Harvard or anywhere else for law school.

So, this morning, I announced to one class of mine that many of them in it had a special incentive to do well on the midterm I gave them to hand in next Monday. Why? Because many of them have already forfeited a letter grade by not coming to class or turning in the homework, even though my syllabus states very clearly and specifically what the requirements in both cases are. So, with nearly half a semester remaining, a fair number of students in a class of almost 40 have already resigned themselves, at best, to a B. The look of shock and "really?" that came across many of their faces when I announced this was nothing short of stunning. Several students flipped through the course syllabus that many of them keep in their notebooks -- the ones that bring notebooks and pens to class, that is -- to see if I was making this up. Nope, I wasn't -- it was all right there.

I suppose I could have accommodated these students even further my simply text-messaging the syllabus to their phones. Or "Twitter-ing" them. But that would require that I (1) learn what Twitter is and (2) possess an interest in doing whatever the hell Twittering is. Zero for two on both counts.

There is a simpler solution. Hold the piece of paper that I've given you in your hand.

And read it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tom Tomorrow here

Click here to see the new Tom Tomorrow cartoon.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Red State Update

Jackie and Dunlap look fat and happy on the newly designed Red State Update website. Concerned about a possible stripper tax, they drown their sorrows by celebrating St. Patrick's Day.

Post Spring Break Blues

I forgot all about spring break, so preoccupied as I was with the coming of baseball season and, thankfully, the end of the youth hockey season. That explains my extended absence

. . . as if anyone cares!

One piece of advice: if you can avoid Cleveland, with the exception of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. and Indiana, for any reason whatsoever, do so.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

A midwestern night's dream

Traveling through Cleveland to Chicago and then back 'round. I will return on Monday, March 8th.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Tom Tomorrow here

Click here to see the new Tom Tomorrow cartoon.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Red State Update

Jackie and Dunlap discuss the Obama's new puppy and express their admiration for the Republican Party's new puppy dog, Bobby Jindal.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Other people's money

Seems like the Los Angeles Dodgers didn't watch President Obama's state of the union address earlier this week. . . .

Even though the United States is staring down the abyss at the worst set of economic conditions since the Great Depression, the Dodgers have decided that a two-year contract worth $45 million for the privilege of babysitting Manny Ramirez is about right. Scott Boras, the professional sports world's greediest agent, has decided that the Dodgers are "close" to what Manny deserves and needs, but not quite close enough. Boras pushed the Dodgers' office offer the table because . . . because . . . it just wasn't enough. The Dodgers wanted to defer some of Manny's money -- pay him, mind you -- so that they could make the contract work. Boras wanted the Dodgers to pay his man all $45 million by the end of the 2010 season so that he could claim that Manny makes what he makes per season, not in installments or in deferments. Last year, Boras hoodwinked the Dodgers into signing one of my favorite Atlanta Braves of the last ten years, Andruw Jones, who, from 1996-2006 reigned supreme as the best defensive center fielder in baseball, for $36.2 million over two years, all of which was to be paid in full. I loved Andruw during his Atlanta years, but I thought the Braves did the right thing in letting him go. His 2007 season was less than spectacular; in fact, it wasn't even good -- a .222 hitting center fielder isn't something good teams, which the Braves weren't by that point, can afford to carry at any price.

So what made the Dodgers spend $36.2 million for Andruw and offer Manny $45 million over two seasons? Had the Dodgers not shipped Andruw off to the Texas Rangers -- where he's struggling so far in spring training -- and managed to sign Manny, they would have $43 million invested in the left side of their outfield before deciding how much to spend to put six more position players on the field and a No. 1 starter. What's even crazier is the seriousness with which the sports media take all this posturing and negotiation, debating with each other whether Manny is worth his gazillions every two weeks or whether he should have to wait to cash in years down the line. You would think these guys invested with Bernie Madoff.

And then there's Adam Eaton, a once prized Phillies pitching prospect, who was cut before spring training after the club decided he wouldn't be a factor this season. The Phillies signed Eaton for $24.8 million over three years before the 2007 season. Eaton returned the favor by going 14-18 with a sparkling 6.10 ERA in 51 games with the Phillies in 2007 and 2008. He was so bad by the end of last season that he was left off the roster that won the World Series. No worries for Eaton, though. He'll collect what amounted to a little over $8 million per annum while he mulls over his future.

Meanwhile, back here in Washington, D.C., the Washington Redskins, who, despite an absolute man-child moron for an owner in Dan Snyder, just laid out $100 for a defensive lineman named Albert Haynesworth. Perhaps Snyder talked the Obama administration into including his perennially disappointing team in the TARP budget or subsidizing the Redskins, who, in the eyes of their fans, are "too big too fail," sort of like AIG, except their even more incompetent. The same week that the Redskins laid out $100 million for Haynesworth, they also signed somebody named DeAngelo Hall, who was cut after eight games last year, for $54 million over six years, making him a pauper compared to Haynesworth, and another guy named Derrick Dockery for $26 million and change over five years. There have been some other signings by the Redskins, apparently, but I couldn't tell you who or what they are. The only reason I know about any of this is because the story was right above that morning's recap of the Capitals game the night before.

Perhaps we are entering, if not another Great Depression, our first Great Recession since we started keeping track of the boom-and-bust business cycles that define the American political economy. But it seems that, in the wide world of sports, the insanity of spending and spending and spending goes on without a thought to what is happening out there in the world. I guess it's a good thing that there are enough people out there who can afford to spend whatever it is they spend on tickets, concessions, parking, jerseys and whatever else it is that colors our nation's obsession with sports. As always, the cost of all this nonsense gets passed along to the fan, who is simply a consumer by any other name. The very same person who will call into a radio show and demand that his team "get serious" about signing free agents or keeping the players that make a team competitive, who tosses around other people's millions for defensive linemen, pitchers and left-wings, probably hasn't spent ten seconds demanding that his Congressman start thinking about guaranteeing health care for everyone or demanding that the president "show some respect" for the country by actually acknowledging that our economy will never stabilize until greed is brought under control and those who profit the most also stand to lose the most rather than get a free pass to try again. Other people's money is fun to spend. If only we placed as much value on education, health care and financial stability as we do on letting Manny be Manny.