Saturday, July 31, 2010

Two Things For Progressives To Read And Take To Heart

They need us.  And all of us, from the President on down, need to remember that.

See you in August!

Exhibit A On Why NO ONE Should Take Republican Concerns About The Deficit Seriously

I need say no more.  The question is, will anyone listen, or care?

Conservatives Are Right About One Thing

And that is appeasement.  It just makes them hungrier.  Read this and see if you think I"m wrong.  Not to mention see if you understand what I mean when I think that all of us will have to buy guns, whether we like it or not.

Still think that last idea is far-fetched?  Guess what?  It's not.  As this shows, it's getting harder and harder to stay ahead of reality.

It's getting later and later, folks.  WAKE UP!

A Little Late Summer Reading, Perhaps?

As August is just a few hours away, and the baseball season gets ready to round third and head home toward the post-season (and my favorite teams, the Mets and the Orioles, make no last-minute trades to improve themselves--good luck, Buck Showalter, you're going to need it), I'm going to suggest a little late-summer reading.  If nothing else, it will help you to understand some of the vehemence in this earlier post.

Baseball--and, for that matter, Times Square--really are both metaphors for American society.  Like American society, both have been turned into corporate theme parks.  And that might be the nicest way you can say it.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Is Capitalism Working?

Apparently, not in New Jersey.  According to its new Republican governor, capitalism can't work unless it's paid for by cuts in the pensions of the people teaching the state's children.  Well, what lesson are they going to learn from this?  That things are what they are, until a Republican decides it's politically expedient to say otherwise?  That capitalism is a system of private initiative and investment that built this great nation--but one that needs to be propped up by the government, because it doesn't really work?  Or that the Garden State really is a home for businesses--namely, the ones it can poach from New York?

This guy really can't see past the end of his nose.  Or, in his case, past the end of his waistline.  Why not cut THAT before you cut anything else?

One More Thing About The Fourth Of July ...

... and that is that it is (or, for this year, was) the perfect opportunity to watch the film version of one of my favorite Broadway musicals, "1776."  It always amazes me that so many people can be put off, initially, by the idea of a musical about the Declaration of Independence--and then see the film (or a production of the stage show) and think "Hey, that's not as bad as I thought it would be.  In fact, it's pretty good."

It is more than that, in my opinion.  It truly is a show that is more than the sum of its parts.  The songs range rather widely in quality, and much of the humor is scatological (the statement "Rhode Island passes" is made when a delegate from that state is out visiting the "necessary).  But it tells the story surrounding the Declaration in such a way that it actually feels suspenseful, even though everyone knows the outcome.  And it serves as a reminder that our independence was achieved as much by politics as it was by principles.  The line in the show that best sums it up is said by Benjamin Franklin:  "What will posterity think we were, anyway--demi-gods?  We're men--no more, no less, trying to get a nation started against greater odds than a more generous God would have allowed."  Franklin is played by Howard da Silva, who ironically was blacklisted during the McCarthy era.  He is also a holdover from the Broadway run of the show, one of many in the cast.  It's a tragedy that Hollywood hasn't done this more often; it would have spared us such embarrassments as Lucille Ball in "Mame."

The show also features a number, "Cool, Cool Considerate Men," that clarifies an important fact obscured by modern politics:  the patriots were the liberals and the Tories were the conservatives.  This number was cut out of the film's initial release, at the request of the Nixon Administration, who didn't want that point being made during his re-election campaign.  Remember that fact the next time you get a lecture from some right-wing mouthpiece about political correctness.

My only quibble with the show?  It requires a nearly all-male cast.  But, apparently, there are ways to get around that.  I can think of no greater compliment for any show than the fact that it can be re-worked this way, and still work.

Three Big Lies

And all in one column.  According to Ross Douthat:

1.  There is no population explosion (note to Ross:  the "birth dearth" is only an issue in Europe);
2.  Global warming is actually GOOD for the economy (but not if your investing in futures on the survival of thousands of species of plants and animals on which we depend);
3.  There is no such thing as effective international regulation (I guess that means we can recycle the thousands of pages of treaties that regulate many aspects of our existence, including our national defense).

Well, I've got to admit that it's probably easier to lie that it is to admit that the oil companies own the United States, on whose leadership every one depends in order for any effective international action to move forward.  But, if that's what passes for moderate conservatism these days, I'm not sure that it's either.

Guess you're not planning to have any grandchildren, Ross.  And if you do, this is not the column I'd brag about to them.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Let Them Eat Subpoenas!

Are you unemployed, disappointed in President Obama and Congressional Democrats, and inclined to think that it might be worthwhile to take a chance on voting Republican this fall?  Then take a look at this and try to figure out how long you can feed a family of four on subpoenas.

I'm sorry to have to say this, but they don't care about you.  They don't care about the Constitution.  They don't care about the deficit, or limited government, or any of the thing they claim to care about.

But power?  They care about that--truly, madly, deeply.  Don't let them fool you again.

A Few Words About George Steinbenner

As few as possible, in fact:  good riddance.

I don't normally speak ill of the deceased, and I am mindful of the fact that the man left a family behind (one who will, in turn, now receive his most cherished asset for free, thanks to the right-wing war on the so-called "death tax").  But it's hard to feel a drop of sympathy for a man whose systematically destroyed professional baseball in this country (for the middle-class, and for small-market teams), who damage the lives and reputations of people he employed, who blackmailed the government of a city he never intended to leave, and whose flagrant violations of the law led him to be suspended from the sport not once, but twice.

And, oh yes, his team won the World Series in seven of the nearly forty years that he owned the team.  Which means that, by his own standard of excellence, his personal batting average as an owner was under .250.  And even that is inflated by the fact that the players who won most of those World Series were developed during his second suspension.

I noticed, in all of the television coverage, of his departure, the oh-so-careful effort on everyone's part to overlook his sins, and talk reverently about his "impact" on the game.  No one would say whether that impact was good or bad.  No one could do so honestly, without seeming to disrespect the dead, especially given his net worth.  What a sad commentary on the extend to which, in modern times, money talks.  Far better it would have been to devote that level of coverage to two more deserving recently deceased members of the Yankee family:  public address announcer Bob Sheppard, and former manager Ralph Houk, two men who reflected Yankee pride in ways that Steinbrenner can only dream of.

Anyway, R.I.P., Boss--you, and the sport you did so much to destroy.

WOW! It's Been More Than A Month ...

... since I've posted anything.  It's been a fairly busy month, too, which has a lot to do with it.

I've been to two conferences this month:  the American Immigration Lawyers' Association annual conference, and the League of Historic American Theatres annual conference.  I found myself being inspired by different things at each.  In the case of AILA, I was inspired by the dedication of hard-working professionals who strive to do their best, under increasingly difficult financial and political circumstances, on behalf of people who are increasingly unpopular in this supposedly open society.  Yes, everyone says they're in favor of lawful immigration, and are only opposed to "illegals."  But they have an odd way of only identifying non-whites as "illegals," even when they're not.  Like it or not, that's why so many of us are opposed to the rancid Arizona attempt to snatch the Federal government's constitutional authority away from it.  As written, the law is a blatant invitation for race profiling.  The hypocrisy of this, coming as it does from supposed strict-constructionist, limited-government conservatives, is almost beyond belief.

At the LHAT conference, there were no political issues raised (thankfully, the guy who did the anti-immigrant rant at last year's conference in my face behaved himself this year).  But I was inspired by the positive attitude of a large number of theatre professionals--restoration specialists, theatre operators and others--working to restore and operate historic theatres in the face of both a depressed economy and a tidal wide of cultural change that continues to take us away not only from live entertainment, but from any cultural experience shared with anyone or anything other than a PC, an iPod or a smart phone.  I have always believed that historic theatres are historic not merely for their architecture, but also for the roles they have played (pun intended) in the development of a common culture.  We are losing that culture, I fear, in the Internet age, and that loss plays a large role in the political divisiveness that dominates what passes these days for public discourse.

Those of us who hold progressive values need to do what we can to maintain, and even rebuild our common culture, by directly engaging those who disagree with us and listen, even if we don't like a lot of what we here.  Whether we consider ourselves part of the same country or not, we are indisputably part of the same world--and that world is shrinking all the time, through the mobility of people, money, ideas, technology and the pollution that all of us create.  And, above all, we need to be persistent--to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and to remember that progress in this country has always been one step at a time.

That was the Fourth of July message I'd hoped to write earlier.  I hope everyone had a good holiday.  And I hope that the heat has inspired everyone to wake up and work together to save the only planet we have, before it's too late.