Sunday, February 16, 2020

Our Menu Options Have Changed. Please Listen Carefully.

These are highly unusual and distressing times. There is a loose cannon in the White House that only half the populations sees. I can't begin to fathom what the remaining half is looking at.

The half that sees a raging megalomaniac intent only on bending the country to his puerile and selfish will wants desperately to remove him from office.

Unfortunately, Democrats want so much more than that.

Take me. I don't particularly cotton to Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg, reason being they strike me as the same type of centrist, Republican appeasers we had in Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Clinton removed the effective restraints placed on Wall Street after the Great Depression and unleashed our corporate banks at the same time he opened the door to corporate consolidation of our media via the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Of course, this gift-wrapped whoring-out a major slab of the economy to swill like Rupert Murdoch, Hank Paulson, Dick Fuld and Vikram Pandit went largely unnoticed by Republicans, who hurled every epithet available to them at the Commander in Chief.

Sadly, this lesson was lost on Obama. Given the opportunity to clean up the mess of Clinton's deregulation, he mostly declined. Wall Street and our corporate banks were let off the hook with only a slap on the wrist and a request to behave.

Naturally, this too failed to endear him to Republicans, who subjected Obama to unheard-of levels of obduration and disrespect. It grew so bad I wrote on this blog that Obama could have invented sex and Republicans would only say they got screwed.

Acting like battered spouses by the end of their terms, Clinton and Obama sought only to avoid pissing-off Republicans lest they be subjected to another round of conservative rancor.

Which explains my faint enthusiasm for Biden and Buttigeig.

But in my dislike of centrist Democrats, I may well be part of Democrat's problem.

When I say I want to see Donald Trump and the GOP bitch-slapped into submission and gutted like a freshly-caught trout, I am acting on a personal bias that ignores larger issues, like how do we suss out the candidate who can remove Donald Trump from the White House?

While my favorite candidate fulfills my angry Democrat fantasy, the most-effective candidate may well be a centrist named Buttigeig or Biden or Amy Klobuchar.

And this is where Democrats face a great big challenge. If my candidate doesn't get the nod and my agenda recedes into the background, what do I do? Dissolve into petulance and sit this election out? Vote for the Trump-whore out of spite? What?

Democrats need to put aside their personal agendas and vote for the candidate who gets the nomination—even if in my case they seem unlikely to toss Trump into a meat-grinder. Or a wood chipper.

Democrats need to be Republicans. The party of far-flung diversity needs to consolidate. It needs to learn how to move en masse. March in lockstep. Act as a single entity hellbent on achieving one, solitary goal.

Whether it's Buttigeig or Bernie Sanders, we need to line up behind them, endorse them and—most-importantly—vote for them. While the resultant democracy may not unfold in precisely the fashion we wish it to, at least there will be one.

The option is to allow the re-election of Donald Trump, a nakedly greedy, nakedly corrupt and nakedly megalomaniacal monster. Left to the Man-Child in Chief and the spineless sycophants who cower in fear of him, we are done. Toast. Ready for the fork-stick.

Which is why Democrats need to unite and vote their asses off.

If this is insufficient motivation, remember we have all complained at one point or another that too often we end up not voting for someone, but against them. So if you can't vote for a Democrat, vote against a Republican.

In 2020, that is an honor worthy of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


Monday, February 3, 2020

What We Got

In the midst of a nine-day stretch of zero-sun days, there isn't much that could exacerbate the gloom. That is, except for Republicans.

Yes, the alpha dogs of greed, fraud and hypocrisy in our Senate have essentially acquitted the most-corrupt president in American history of virtually any and all wrongdoing. 

But in doing so, they have bestowed an unintentional gift upon us. They have shown us exactly who they are. Laid bare their agenda. No PR spin. No walking it back. No accusations of being misquoted by the so-called “liberal media”.

Just the naked, raw truth.

And it is this: these Republicans don't care. Not about the integrity of our government. Not about corruption or deceit or the rule of law. Not about air we breathe or the water we drink. They don't care about our health care or our social security or our lives.

(Unless you happen to be a fetus, in which case it is highly-unlikely you are reading this.)

What Senate Republicans care about is appeasing the emotionally and intellectually-stunted bully inhabiting the White House. Wielding control. Saving their jobs.

Not making Trumpy bear mad.

The fifty-one cowards who maintained that Donald J. Trump did nothing wrong as they systematically denied their colleagues the chance to present witnesses and evidence are the low-water mark of our history.

When The Rise and Fall of the American Democracy is written rest assured they will have starring roles.

Tell me: if Donald did nothing wrong, why the anxiety over witnesses? Evidence? Why the organized obstruction? Why the unanswered subpoenas? The lies?

I know why. You know why. They know why.

The word doesn't exist that describes the moral apathy exhibited by these gutless and spineless sycophants. In a better world, Donald Trump would be lying prone at the base of his toilet—a half-finished Tweet unsent on his phone. 

Mitch McConnell, William Barr, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Pompeo, Steven Mnuchin, Mick Mulvaney and Lindsey Graham (otherwise known as the offal that enables and sustains the Trump-whore) would be in prison.

Or asking if you'd like hot sauce with that at an open all night Taco Bell drive-through.

And the retards who voted for him would be prohibited from ever exercising that right again. Mostly on the grounds that they're, well, stupid.

Here's a list of the feeble fifty-one. Feel free to call, text or e-mail them with your thoughts.

Don't be shy.

And don't forget to vote with extreme prejudice come November.

Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
John Barrasso (R-WY)
Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
Roy Blunt (R-MO)
John Boozman (R-AR)
Mike Braun (R-IN)
Richard Burr (R-NC)
Shelley Capito (R-WV)
Bill Cassidy (R-LA)
John Cornyn (R-TX)
Tom Cotton (R-AR)
Kevin Cramer (R-ND)
Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Steve Daines (R-MT)
Michael Enzi (R-WY)
Joni Ernst (R-IA)
Deb Fischer (R-NE)
Cory Gardner (R-CO)
Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Josh Hawley (R-MO)
John Hoeven (R-ND)
Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS)
James Inhofe (R-OK)
Ron Johnson (R-WI)
John Kennedy (R-LA)
James Lankford (R-OK)
Mike Lee (R-UT)
Kelly Loeffler (R-GA)
Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Martha McSally (R-AZ)
Jerry Moran (R-KS)
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Rand Paul (R-KY)
David Perdue (R-GA)
Rob Portman (R-OH)
James Risch (R-ID)
Pat Roberts (R-KS)
Mike Rounds (R-SD)
Marco Rubio (R-FL)
Ben Sasse (R-NE)
Rick Scott (R-FL)
Tim Scott (R-SC)
Richard Shelby (R-AL)
Dan Sullivan (R-AK)
John Thune (R-SD)
Thom Tillis (R-NC)
Patrick Toomey (R-PA)
Roger Wicker (R-MS)
Todd Young (R-IN)

Sunday, January 26, 2020

This is Why You Were Booed at the Cubs Convention, Mr. Ricketts

To those of us in the ninety-nine percent, you are an insanely wealthy man. While your ownership put an end to the century-long championship drought, it has also overseen a renovation of Wrigley Field that spouts revenue like those fountains in front of swanky Las Vegas hotels.

And good for you. You are entirely within your rights to make as much money from your businesses as humanly possible.

Where you go wrong is when you say “I don't have any more money.” You understand how that sounds, right? It's a screaming, neon-lit definition of disingenuous.

I'm sure each arm in your Cubs' kingdom has a budget and profit and loss statements, and after dropping 391 million on long-term contracts to Jason Heyward, Yu Darvish, Tyler Chatwood and Craig Kimbrel your wallet is pretty sore.

But here's the thing. The Cubs aren't a quote-unquote business. They're a civic institution. You just happen to be the current owner. And when you say you don't have any more money, you are effectively cutting the heart out of it.

The window is still open. These Cubs are young and in their prime and just a savvy trade or two removed from contention. I'm going to presume this isn't news to you. Otherwise, you wouldn't have fired Joe Maddon. 

And yet you've essentially told the three mainstays in your lineup that their time in Chicago has a sell-by date.

Huh?

Inviting some combination of Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant to put up their feet and stay awhile would accomplish two things: it would destroy the notion you're ready to shred the championship-era Cubs and begin another rebuild (not the wisest proposition as you prepare to unveil your in-house cable channel) while proving you're still interested in further burnishing the Cubs brand (not to mention your own) with another title.

Are you?

Based on their 2018 contributions, three-fifths of your pitching staff could be described as wobbly. Bullpen issues abound. And who's going to play second base?

But the folk who pay forty-bucks to park and munch on seven-dollar hot dogs while swilling ten-dollar beer know these aren't insurmountable problems. There's still plenty of gas in the tank and topping it off for another run is just a savvy (there's that word again) trade or two away.

I'm aware that Major League Baseball's interminable crawl to a decision regarding the Bryant case isn't helping.

But you're putting out mixed signals. Where's the evidence of a clear, decisive game plan? Is moving Will Venable from first-base coach to third-base coach what Theo Epstein meant by a “reckoning”? Are you tearing down and preparing to rebuild or are you reloading?

Nothing foments restlessness among the electorate like the mixed messages of indecision.

You have to know that letting Rizzo, Baez and Bryant go with nothing in return puts you closer to Daniel Snyder than Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, right?

Look. The Cubs' organization is obviously very fond of David Ross. Do him a favor and give him a chance.

And just imagine the hero worship if the Cubs could pluck one more title from the MLB firmament. Even if you do enable that contagion in the White House.
 

Sunday, January 19, 2020

I'm Going to Kansas City

If it hadn't been for the Dallas Cowboys, I'd be a Chiefs fan.

The hometown Bears were as boring as shit, and run by an out of touch NFL legend who would only draft players he thought he could sign on the cheap. Not surprisingly, the Bears sucked.

They sucked like a vacuum.

Like today, they had a decent defense. But scoring points was a problem. It was like asking someone with chronic constipation to squeeze out a hard, dry turd every day. Painful. You don't know who Jack Concannon or Bobby Douglass or Bob Avelleni are for a very good reason.

By contrast, the Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs had two of the most remarkable teams around. They could score like Joe Namath at a bridal shower and pound you senseless on defense. I often wondered why the Bears couldn't do that.

Oh that's right—they were saving money. Check.

For reasons still not entirely understood, I tilted towards the Cowboys. But the Chiefs remained my favorite AFL team. They were the yin to the evil Oakland Raiders' yang, and I delighted seeing the Chiefs beat the Raiders. Especially in Oakland, where it was still sunny long after the Midwest had gone dark.

Len Dawson, Bobby Bell, Curly Culp, Johnny Robinson, Jim Lynch, Buck Buchanan, Willie Lanier, Jerrel Wilson, Jan Stenerud and especially Otis Taylor were my (AFL) heroes. I was over the moon when they beat the Raiders (in Oakland) in the last AFL championship game and moved on to defeat the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV.

Inevitably, those Chiefs grew old and the franchise had to rebuild.

The nineties brought sustained success under the tutelage of Marty Schottenheimer, and saw the Chiefs return to the playoffs in seven of the decade's ten seasons. Sadly, the Chiefs were coached by the man who, had the Chicago Cubs been a football team, would have been their coach.

That's how cursed he (and they) were.

No matter how good and how dominant those nineties teams were, success eluded them. The coach who ranks eighth all-time in victories and who compiled an impressive .613 winning percentage with four different franchises couldn't get his Kansas City charges to the conference championship game.

In eighteen playoff games, Schottenheimer's teams went 5 – 13. Among coaches who oversaw ten or more post-season games, only Steve Owens falls below Schottenheimer's .278 winning percentage.

It takes a Cubs fan to understand.

But that was then. And this is now.

The Chiefs' incredibly loyal fan base has been rewarded with an all-world quarterback and a stout defense capable of shutting down anyone. If not another distinguished head coach who lacks the post-season success he deserves.

I am so very, very happy for them.

Go beat the crap out of the 49ers.


Friday, January 17, 2020

Squeezing Our Eyes Shut

Individual empowerment is a wonderful thing.

Without it, the Boeing employee troubled by his employer's rush job on a poorly-designed airplane stays silent. The woman being victimized by high-ranking executives at her firm has no option but to submit—or quit.

Individual empowerment is a critical component of a functioning democracy. Otherwise, power congeals at the top, where it is too often abused. But abuses of power can run both ways. They can flow from the bottom up as well.

The best example are the stupendously naive Americans who believe having to vaccinate their kids constitutes an onerous breach of their civil liberties and is a classic case of government overreach. They claim it violates their religious beliefs. And is cover for a insidious plot to turn their children into aliens.

(Okay. Just kidding on that last one. But I doubt anti-vaxxers would know the difference.)

Anti-vaxxers tend to be young, and grew-up in a world free of things like measles, polio and rubella. Sadly, they also grew-up in a world infested by social media, where in a truly perverted take on democracy, anyone with a phone can concoct a conspiracy theory (remember pink slime?) and have it go viral.

Millennials and generation Y in particular embrace these theories, allowing them to gain traction instantly. I mean, if it's not from an established media source it just has to be true, right?

This much more quickly than the realization that hey—we never had measles outbreaks when I was a kid. Why is that?

That's because another generation, undistracted by the vacuousness of social media and possessing a more inclusive hierarchy, understood the value of mandated vaccinations. They kept us healthy.

Yes, there's a reason why you grew up unconcerned with measles and polio and rubella!

You get that, right?

Yet anti-vaxxers persist, even as children all around them die. Don't they realize their exaggerated sense of entitlement will kill still more? But congratulations on defending your religious beliefs (exactly what religion forbids vaccinations, anyway?) and exercising your misshapen idea of free will.

They're definitely worth risking our public health for.

Remarkably, there was an outbreak of common sense from Seattle's public schools. They had the temerity to tell the parents of its students that if their children weren't vaccinated, they would be prohibited from attending its schools.

Wow. Someone clearly has a clue.

But in other, less-enlightened places like New Jersey, parents protested pending legislation that would require similar action by its parents. Sadly, the parents succeeded and the bill died.

So who will they blame when their kid succumbs to measles? I'm guessing it won't be themselves.

Dear millennial. I'm just a racist, sexist, materialistic, technophobic boomer. Feel free to dismiss this with an fatigued recitation of "OK, boomer" and an airy wave of your hand. Yes, we are to blame for the wretched conditions under which you exist.

But you know what? I actually agree with you. Blame rests entirely with us for not insisting you learn how to think. If we had, you'd know George Santayana was right. He said those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

The best of luck in finding your way to the truth of mandated vaccinations. I hope your a-ha moment arrives before your kid's infection.


Monday, January 13, 2020

This Is Utopia?

Like so many things, music blogs begin with the best of intentions.

Imagine a utopian community rooted in its love of music, with people sharing hard-to-find treasures and personal favorites at the same time they're exposed to new ones. Excitedly sharing thoughts and impressions with other like-minded individuals.

It's the spontaneous record store conversation given permission to continue beyond the threat of an expiring parking meter.

With this vision in mind, I joined several. I tried to be a nice guy. I shared things, fulfilled requests when I could and thanked those who fulfilled mine. Basic human behavior, right?

But never having been part of “the business” or counted a famous label executive, producer or musician as friends, I rarely dazzled anyone with my shares. Put another way, I wasn't uploading studio conversation between Tom Wilson and the Velvet Underground as they worked out the finer points of Venus in Furs.

Nevertheless, I contributed.

But in these sour and divisive times, it wasn't enough.

Disputes sprang up like weeds. Who got credit for posting something first? Who didn't think Terje Rypdal was Norway's answer to Charlie Christian? Who didn't get thanked enough? And what kind of godless heathen would post anything in a format other than FLAC?

The sniping went on and on and on.

(To be sure, there were some incredibly generous individuals who regularly shared amazing music. And to those individuals I hope I made my appreciation clear.)

Adding to the problem was that I used the same screen name in those blogs that I do here. And however I comported myself within those blogs, the political opinions expressed here made me an insufferable presence to many.

Why are we allowing radicalized socialists in here? was a persistent concern.

And then there were those who seemingly tracked every download versus every upload and screamed bloody murder if a perfect 1:1 ratio wasn't maintained. Or if posts were repeated. Or if you didn't adore the same bands and musicians they did.

This while one blog incessantly trumpeted itself as a place where “kindness wins”.

In my profile, I describe myself as a social critic. And under that aegis, I'll say that only inhabitants of the twenty-first century would complain that after uploading music, people downloaded it.

Seriously?

Yes, there are people in the world who take advantage of things. It is our nature. Pay much attention to the goings-on in Washington DC? Come on. Are you really going to tell me you never took two crackers topped with a delectable sharp cheddar despite being told that only one per customer was permitted?

Of course you have.

Downloading music proffered only with the expectation that said music be enjoyed seems like one of humanity's lesser crimes if you ask me. If this truly disturbs you, you might want to re-evaluate how and where you spend your time.

Firmly disabused of the notion that these communities were first and foremost only about the music and a haven from the ills of twenty-first century society, I drifted away. I dropped in occasionally to download things when they appealed to me, but my desire to share largely died.

Besides, with more music than I could ever hope to listen to and other, more pressing demands on my time, accumulating more seems pointless.

Like civilization itself, music blogs are a great and noble concept. But the reality is far less appealing.

I realize now that music blogs can't help but reflect the societies from which they spring. And that just sucks.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Thank U, Next

Way, way back in February of 2002, I was happy for the New England Patriots. After three tough losses in title games, watching Adam Vinatieri's field goal sail through the uprights as time expired in Super Bowl XXXVI felt like a welcome blast of karma.

Who didn't love the story of a long-suffering team helmed by a sixth-round quarterback finally getting to the top of the mountain?

Ditto two years later, when Adam Vinatieri capped a fourth quarter shoot-out with another last-second field goal, giving the Pats their second championship.

But then they became a dynasty. And their quarterback married one of the world's most-beautiful women. And their grizzled coach began to believe his press clippings. The whole thing took on an air of entitled arrogance.

Then there were the 'gates'. Spygate. Deflategate. Antonio Brown-gate. And filming the opposition's sideline action from the press box. It was distinctly unsavory. And despite winning their division in 2018, the Pats somehow landed a first-half schedule loaded with softies.

And when the Pats raced off to an 8 – 0 start and outscored their opponents by a margin of 250 to 61, the media tripped all over themselves anointing their defense “historically great”.

Ugh-huh.

The truth revealed itself in the second half of the season, when the Pats took on NFL-level competition. They stumbled to the finish line with a 4 – 4 record, outscoring the likes of the Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Texans, Dallas Cowboys, rejuvenated Philadelphia Eagles and emergent Buffalo Bills by a scant six points.

Yeah.

Beating up on cellar-dwellers and struggling against contenders is the first sign of a young team beginning to feel its oats, or a former powerhouse in decline. The New England Patriots belong decidedly to the latter.

Last night's loss to the surging Tennessee Titans was only additional proof.

After years of going without high draft picks and riding the once-ageless arm of Tom Brady, it appears the dynasty has begun a long, slow descent.

Gravity doesn't take personal days. Not that I'm complaining.