Friday, October 31, 2008

Of Cabbages and Kings

I don’t know about you, but I’m so sick of political ads, I could scream. If you don’t know who you’re voting for, hell, if you didn’t know who your boy/girl was two months ago, you probably shouldn’t have the right to vote.

Speaking of the right to vote, what’s with all this early voting shit going on? Not only has politics devolved to its lowest ebb in my lifetime, but now, we make it easier than ever to allow any moron the right to vote, and they don’t even need to wait until Election Day any more. Maine allows in-person and by mail early voting, and you don't need an excuse, or note from your mother, either. Contrary to popular opinion and national myth, the Constitution doesn't enshrine a right to vote, like it ensures the right to free speech, for example. This is because the Founders were suspicious of direct democracy. Democracy is not the same as freedom. Orwell's "meaningless words" ring truer than ever, this election cycle.

I happened to have it from several municipal sources that all this early voting, and the hoi polloi arriving en masse is taxing many town and city halls’ capabilities to meet the demand. On top of that our esteemed Governor Baldacci voted early himself, in order to "meet some voters in the morning," and then "relaxing and watching the returns come in in the evening." Isn't that special?

As an antidote to all the political madness and mayhem, I’m turning this weekend to one of my hallowed traditions—my annual rite of shredding cabbage, ala krautmaking. Actually, I’m about a month later breaking out the Krauthobel, or “Hobler” this year, compared to previous years.

While I’m late embracing my German-ness this year, cabbage also seems to be more difficult to come by. Could this be a result of the economic downturn and Americans turning to this longtime staple of the poor for sustenance?

Actually, while cabbage has been disparaged by many elites (do you think Obama even knows what sauerkraut is, let alone ever tasting it?), others, like Cato, advised fellow Romans to eat plenty of raw cabbage seasoned with vinegar before a banquet at which one plans to “drink deep.” Germans have long celebrated their annual Octoberfest with sauerkraut and dark beer.

During the first millennium A.D. Europeans were devouring stewed cabbage during the cold winter months because it was one of the few staples available when the ground produced little else.

At 27 cents per pound, I can put up 75 pounds of sauerkraut and still have change coming back from a $20 bill. In these tougher times, it’s worth a late fall afternoon shredding cabbage and beginning the fermentation process.

It was almost 10 years ago that my cousin, John, showed me how to make my own sauerkraut. It’s been a seasonal activity for me ever since. This year, I’m excited to be introducing my sister to the joys of krautmaking. Not only do I get to pass this part of my German heritage on to someone else, I have someone to take turns on the “pounder,” packing the cabbage tightly, which is part and parcel of the process.

Whether we have a Democrat/Republican occupying the White House come January, I’ll have my own batch of sauerkraut to get me through the dark days of winter and beyond.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Finding a silver lining

Getting outside ourselves is good. It helps us to understand that reality is much bigger than us. It also helps to understand that most of us have little affect on things like elections, presidential candidates, and stock markets. Yet, I've been focusing much of my energy in those directions of late. Because of that, I've become increasingly cynical--which has found its way into my writing/posting of late, on this blog.

Don't worry; I haven't suddenly embraced the cult of Pollyanna. However, I think I'm done with Horserace 2008. Whoever wins won't affect my day-to-day reality in any significant way, regardless of what media pundits, talk show hosts, or the Chamber of Commerce tells me, which is basically, vote McCain, and vote Republican, like a good little business drone.

Beginning Wednesday, I decided to forego any form of news/talk radio during my drives up/down I-95. Relying on a combination of assorted CDs in my car, some college radio (when I could pick it up), and some WBACH, I ended the week on a high note. Some of that may have been seeing the fruits of my labor, and the realization that I'm making some small difference for others, but I think a portion of my glass half full ending to the week had to do with a decision to stop the flow of negative information.

I'll check back with you soon and let you know how its working.

Friday, October 24, 2008

It's official: We're (Maine) in a recession

[You'll have to sit through a brief, inane commercial for some credit reporting company, once again driving home points made by the late Neil Postman, about mass communication.]

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Time to sing a new song

We are less than two weeks away from going to the polls and having the lesser of two evils visited upon us once again. To be fair to Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama, they didn’t create the current clusterfuck that serves as democracy in America; they stand merely as symptoms of a much larger systemic failure.

Sadly, political contributions totalling billions of dollars could have been directed to better uses, not to mention the amazing amount of volunteerism that would have served us better if it had been invested in local efforts at community building, and bettering where we all live.

Once again, a little more than half of those registered to vote will participate in an election that only moves us closer to a looming train wreck of governance.

Those who do vote for the two corporate choices will hold their ground, tied to party loyalties that often won't stand even minimal scrutiny. How can you explain away one vice president, claiming to represent “regular” folks, dropping $150,000 of campaign contributions for shopping sprees to Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, with nearly $5,000 of that being for makeup and hair? And we thought John “Breck Girl” Edwards’ $400 haircut was an extravagance.

Of course, hypocrisy isn’t limited by party affiliation, as “Senator Plastic,” Joe Biden, never met a credit card peddler he couldn’t cut a deal with.

As Ralph Nader (a guy who probably buys his suits at Men's Wearhouse) opines over at Counterpunch, “The Song Remains the Same” when it comes to presidential politics. Nader makes the point that there is little real difference in the choice between Senators Obama and McCain, despite protestations to the contrary from Beck, Limbaugh, Carr and other right-wing talkmeisters (“he’s a socialist”) about Mr. Obama, and the left’s bleatings of senility, and VP incompetence, referring to the McCain/Palin ticket.

Asking the question, “Where then is the “hope” and “change” from the junior Senator from Illinois,”? Nader goes on to layout the similarities between McBama and O’Cain.

“…Obama and McCain want more nuclear power plants, more coal production, and more offshore oil drilling. Our national priority should be energy efficient consumer technologies (motor vehicles, heating, air conditioning and electric systems) and renewable energy such as wind, solar and geothermal.

Both support the gigantic taxpayer funded Wall Street bailout, without expressed amendments. Both support the notorious Patriot Act, the revised FISA act which opened the door to spy on Americans without judicial approval, and Obama agrees with McCain in vigorously opposing the impeachment of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

What about avoidance? Did you see them speak about a comprehensive enforcement program to prosecute corporate crooks in the midst of the greatest corporate crime wave in our history? Did you see them allude to doing anything about consumer protection (credit card gouging, price of medicines, the awful exploitation and deprivation of the people in the inner city) and the ripoffs of buyers in ever more obscure and inescapable ways?”

You can read the rest of the article, here.

Maybe we need the revolution that Nader and someone to his right, Ron Paul, are calling for. It is a credit to the character and integrity of both of these men (as well as Cynthia McKinney, and Chuck Baldwin) that they could put ideological differences aside and find four points of common ground to offer Americans a common rallying point.

I continue to be amazed that each subsequent presidential election leaves us with so narrow a spectrum of choices every four years. A country with over 300 million people can't (or won't) grant us something better than two candidates splitting hairs over minor issues, and a perennial field of third-party candidates excluded from the debates, and blacked out by the news media.

Unfortunately, things will probably get worse before Americans wake up to the bankruptcy of going back to the same well and expecting a different tasting drink of water, one that’s not putrefied.

Hopefully, we’ll have a choice in four, or eight more years to travel a different path.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

It's one game playoff time

[Photo/Getty Images]

It was my contention, when the Sox were down three games to one, that the Tampa Ray (Devil) Rays, Joe Maddon’s upstarts, had better close it out in game 5 because if they had to play games 6 and 7, the pressure of the postseason might overwhelm a team that had never been there before.

We obviously know about the Sox and their amazing knack for Lazarus-like returns from the dead. Their come from behind Houdini act in game 5 sending it back to the Trop didn’t bode well for the Joe Maddon-led Rays.

When the red-hot B.J. Upton hit his fourth homer of the ALCS, Sox fans felt a tremor of concern. After Thursday night, however, the faithful knew that someone would step up soon. Youk was the man tonight, evening it up with a blast of his own, and later adding a ground out to put the Sox on top.

Jason Varitek picked himself up off the mat, breaking an 0-13 ALCS string of futility with a blast to right. Then, Jason Bartlett threw a routine groundball wide and over the head of Carlos Pena (feeling the pressure?) keeping the sixth inning alive. Big Papi added some cushion after the Bartlett miscue, with a clutch single to right center allowing Coco to trot home and the Sox were up 4-2.

All the consternation about Beckett pitching game 6 was for nought. With better command and a good breaking pitch, the veteran gave the Sox five solid innings and it was time for the Red Sox bullpen to get them to the finish line.

It was enjoyable in the 7th, to hear the Ray's fans getting restless. While I'm happy that they finally got a taste of meaningful baseball in October, you can tell that both they and their team need a bit more seasoning before being crowned major league champions.

As for CHB's column about the Rays' reaction to their game 5 meltdown, it's quite apparent to me how they're reacting.

It's Lester tomorrow for game 7 and I’m liking our chances to be going head-to-head against the Phillies in this year’s fall classic.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Would the real Red Sox fans please stand up

[Globe photo/Jim Davis]

Yesterday at work, I got into an “argument” with a guy that calls himself a lifelong Red Sox fan. He’s a guy that has followed the Sox through thick and thin. His uncle, a former sportswriter, was a personal friend of Ted Williams (aka, Teddy Ballgame) and he would bring his young nephew to countless games.

Like many fans of Boston’s favorite team, something’s happened to Joe (not his real name, but that name is hot now). After their first World Series win in 2004 (breaking Dan Shaughnessy’s calling card and meal ticket, the Curse of the Bambino), I noticed something changing with Red Sox fans. The fatalism and perpetual despair was gone, now replaced with something else. It got worse after the 2007 Series win. A sense of entitlement settled in. It’s ugly in those operating on the taxpayer’s dime, and also ugly in baseball fans, particularly those that used to root for their team just because the Sox were their team.

Joe was in a funk yesterday afternoon. When I asked him about the game that night, he said, “It’s over.”

“It’s over?” I asked. “What do you mean?”

“This year’s team is pathetic,” Joe said.

No amount of fact could talk Joe down from his self-imposed back-turning on his beloved Sox. It didn’t matter that the team was banged up and hindered with injuries. Key members of the club (Mike Lowell) were gone for the season. One of baseball’s top pitchers (Josh Beckett) is missing a yard off his fastball and has valiantly been trying to get by on guile and heart his past two starts. Jon Lester, who has been Mr. Automatic the past two months, had his worst start of the season, and it happened to come in Game 3. Ortiz and Varitek have been automatic outs in the Red Sox lineup.

My point to Joe was that the Sox, if they could win Game 5 and send this thing back to Tampa, would put pressure on a young team that’s never felt late Series postseason pressure. You saw how they reacted to their first exposure to ALCS pressure in Game 1. They were tight. The past few nights, they loosened up and became a free-swinging wrecking crew, making mincemeat of the Red Sox starting pitching.

While I didn’t predict a Sox win in talking with Joe, I did indicate that I thought Dice-K would handcuff the Rays hitters. The scenario didn’t roll forth as I envisioned. By the end of three innings, even I had my doubts about the 2008 season. After three, it was 5-0, and after four, Matzusaka was done.

Two good innings from Okajima stemmed the tide, but Delcarmen yielded two more on an Upton double. Francona had to bring Jonathan Papelbon in early to try to keep the Rays at bay, hoping for a miracle. Ortiz gave those of us stupid enough to still be awake, hope. Drew made it worth it when he singled in Youk with two outs.

It was nice to hear “Dirty Water” one more time, and send the Series back to Tampa Bay, with the Sox alive for yet another day.

Will the Sox win it all? I don't know, but this I do know this. Beckett won't pitch a third "stinker." If it gets to Game 7, all bets are off, and I like Lester in that one, also.

I promise I won't rub Joe's nose in it, this morning when I see him at work.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A MSM voice for third-parties

[Just realized this morning (Sat.) that in my haste to get this post up between gulps of my morning coffee, I neglected to post a title/headline. I've done so ex post facto.--JB]

Kenric Ward, who writes for Scripps News Service has a great column on third-party candidates, and the duopoly maintained by the Democrat/Republican parties.

Scripps Howard News Service is a major U.S. news service (they sponsor the national spelling bee) and columns like Ward's should be in every newspaper, with other journalists jumping on this story, also.

Ward writes,

Be honest. What have you learned from the first two presidential debates?
Do you expect to be any more enlightened by Wednesday night's third and final
showdown between Barack Obama and John McCain?

If you're like my friends and associates outside the newsroom, you're
setting the bar pretty low. If these "debates" have proven anything, they
confirm our two-party choice is dumb and dumber (you pick).

Three months before the current market meltdown, the Wall Street
Journal carried this headline: "The State of the Union? Furious." When the
ever-bullish Bible of U.S. capitalism acknowledges that the natives are
restless, you know things are serious.

You can read the rest here.

One reason that both major parties refuse to let other candidates into the debates, like Nader, or Baldwin, is because if third-party candidates were included, with real ideas and substance, a schmuck like "Crazy Uncle John" McCain, and the empty suit, Obama, would be shown for the frauds that they are.

Sadly, our so-called democracy falls short once again, with Americans being treated to another "parallel interview," instead of a debate.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Headed for hard times

I've had a stack of books waiting to be read, on the Great Depression that I picked up at the Maine State Library. I started reading one of these books, Studs Terkel's, Hard Times: An Oral History of The Great Depression, this past weekend.

If you've never read Terkel (still going strong, btw, at 96), then you've missed one of America's true national treasures. Terkel has a unique ability to capture history, with just his basic tape recorder and a gift for gathering other people's stories, a techniques he's been using for more than half a century.

Today, over 70 years later, we are still debating what caused the Depression. For people my age, this epic event in U.S. history is mostly old news footage, or possibly, John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath (based on Steinbeck's book of the same name).

After reading Terkel's book this weekend, a paragraph caught my eye today, while reading Jim Kunstler's weekly download of thoughts and ideas, at Clusterfuck Nation.

Kunstler was ruminating about how the world of G-7 nations were now poorer, as the financial underpinnings of the developed have begun unraveling. Yes, the Dow was up nearly 1,000 points today--it could easily be back down that amount tomorrow, or by the end of the week. The unbelievable volatility of the markets indicate that something's just not right, not to mention Iceland's financial meltdown, the nationalizing of banks in Great Britain, and the over-leveraged nature of the world's economy.

JK mentioned how the U.S. was no longer "...the same nation that crowed around the old radio consoles for Franklin Roosevelt's fireside chats. Back then, we (the U.S.) were mostly a highly-disciplined, regimented, industrial society full of citizens who mostly did what they were told to do, and mostly trusted in authority."

That proposition alone probably causes derision and scorn from our nation of "tattoed barbarian consumers" (Kunstler's term). His point however, is validated by Terkel's stories. I was struck by how Americans wandered, dazed for over a decade while FDR tried this, and then that to try to pry American out of its downward economic spiral that took a major world conflict, WWII, to finally end it. Through it all, there was this stoic, almost fatalistic acceptance and trust in the president and his administration that would never happen today. I'm concerned about what might happen if we start to see supply disruptions in gasoline, or groceries, which might happen if the King Henry and his pied pipers of finance continue to mortgage our future with their economic voodoo.

I don't know where we are headed, but if you are paying attention at all, it might be wise to make some preparations, if you know what I mean.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Let's have a real presidential debate

[Visit Green Change and cast your vote for democracy. Green Change's Board of Directors include Matt Gonzalez, Ralph Nader's running mate, and Mainer, John Rensenbrink. BTW, the Democrat Party, Mr. Obama's party, the guy running as the candidate of "change," is one of the biggest proponents of closed debates. How come he doesn't demand that the debates be opened up? Maybe because he's really a phony.--JB]

Dear Commission on Presidential Debates Board Member,

The free exchange of ideas in presidential debates is essential to the proper functioning of American democracy. I strongly urge you to put our country first and open the presidential debates to all ballot-qualified candidates, not just Barack Obama and John McCain.

For your information, the other qualified candidates are, Chuck Baldwin, Bob Barr, Cynthia McKinney, and Ralph Nader.

Thank you in advance for siding with democracy.


Jim Baumer

Friday, October 10, 2008

A lack of understanding

We come to the end of week in which we’ve seen the stock market drop precipitously. The indicators from Asia and Europe point towards another tough day for equities.

Each morning, I get up and turn on CNBC while I go through my morning exercise routine, then, sit down with a cup of coffee and check out the price of oil, listen to a the tripartite host team on Squawk Box and then, it's time to preen and prep for the day.

Interestingly, other than my sister and my wife, no one I have contact with seems to be aware of the gravity of what’s happening in global capital markets.

What do people do with their nonworking time? What will it take to have people acquire an understanding of events that goes beyond Obama/McCain?

There are a few places where the possibilities are talked about, but it appears that people I rub shoulders with are tuned to a different station.

I’ll spend my day at a conference on sustainable growth. The irony is not lost on me. I’m curious to see if Maine’s supposed leaders have any sense of what’s going on in the world, and recognize that subsistence, rather than growth, might be something Mainers are more focused on in the coming months.

Tonight, I'll engage with the bread and circuses of baseball, becoming one of the sheeple, finding pleasure in a simple game.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Former federal moneyman not hopeful about our future

America has become a pretty discouraging place. Americans, for the most part, will never know what happened to them, because they no longer have a free and responsible press. They have Big Brother’s press. For example, on September 28, 2008, a New York Times editorial blamed the current financial crisis on “antiregulation disciples of the Reagan Revolution.” What utter nonsense. Every example of deregulation that the New York Times editorial provides is located in the Clinton Administration and the George W. Bush administration. I was a member of the Reagan administration. We most certainly did not deregulate the financial system.

So begins Paul Craig Roberts in his latest volley for Counterpunch, one of the best places on the web to find hard-hitting writing about America's downward spiral, in the days leading up to another electoral disaster.

Our sycophantic mainstream press and media corps, so obviously wedded to Obama, have all but given him a free pass to the presidency. What’s so appealing about a man that can’t come clean on one aspect of his past, whether it be where he went to church, what shady developer bankrolled his pre-presidential political career, or the fact that he was tight with a man that thought blowing up federal buildings was a way to bring about hope and change?

Granted, McCain is a “schmuck,” who according to last night’s debate can fix everything from the economy, to that pesky kitchen door that won’t shut right, is pathetic in his own special ways. Thanks to a media that can only investigate those that are ideologically opposite them, and ignore their own guy’s peccadilloes, we’ll get change alright.

Roberts piece is worth reading, at least as a disinfectant to all the lies and information that anyone watching last night’s debate was exposed to. Both McCain and Obama were awful. Obama, pathetic and morally bankrupt, but in a nuanced, metrosexual way that plays to American voters, for God knows what reasons, didn’t speak to this voter last night, and I sense that he didn’t connect with the 60 percenters who will stay on the sidelines one again in November.

The last point I’ll make about Mr. Roberts’ article is his concern about the U.S. dollar, as a reserve currency. Roberts states that, "If the dollar loses its role as the predominant world currency, we’ll see a dramatic change in our American way of life." Roberts isn’t the only person that is talking about this issue, as Peter Schiff, president of Euro Pacific Capital, spoke about concerns he had about the dollar, on Monday night’s Glen Beck Program, as well as Obama’s inability to address the underlying issues with the economy.

I think we have a major crisis in the dollar. There's going to be -- you know the dollar will collapse and that will send long term interest rates and consumer prices much higher. So the problem, Barack is right that the fundamentals of the economy are not sound but he`s going to make them less sound.

There’s a part of me that is truly concerned about where we’re headed. There’s also a part of me that just can’t go there today.

We’ve seen the stock market down over 800 points to start the week. Will it continue to head south, or are we nearing the bottom of the pit? Asian markets are down early, and a report from Britain says that the government is stepping in to nationalize banks, so it looks like another bumpy ride for the financials.

The American economic engine’s whining and the car’s lurching to and fro, and no one seems to know how to fix the problem before it breaks down and leaves us stranded alongside the road.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Red Sox win staves off Armageddon

What do you do on a Monday night when the world seems to be crumbling around you and financial markets have yet to find a bottom? Do you spend your evening in the land of tinfoil hats and reports of Armageddon? Hell No! You tune in to watch the good guys, the Boston Red Sox.

[Jed Lowrie rounds first after game-winning hit (Boston Globe/Jim Davis photo)]

This year's team, for some, was destined to be a disappointment. No more Manny being Manny, man, or Schilling and his bloody sock. Big Papi is in uniform, but hasn't been much of a factor. Lowell's gone, and Beckett's obviously not himself.

Who do you turn to in troubled times? Jon Lester, a cancer survivor and the de facto ace of the Sox staff, that's who. And how about Mr. Canadian, Jason Bay, who every night brings his lunch pail to the park and plays every game like it's do or die. Like a Brian Daubach, sans the hole in his bat, Bay's won over Boston's fans in a brief period of time and made Manny's departure a minor issue (except for people like Bill Simmons).

The Dow may fall further, and who knows if we'll have a banking system come Friday night when the Sox head south to meet up with the Satan-less Rays. I'm going to savor these games because when all hell is breaking loose around you, there's something comforting about the methodical pace of playoff baseball.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Wall Street, Main Street, and NPR

I heard an NPR story Friday night that had me scratching my head and talking to myself. That behavior is not out of the ordinary for me anytime I happen to intersect with mainstream media sources. In fact, the story was about intersections--the intersections of Wall Street and Main Street.

"Where Wall Street and Main Street Collide--Literally" by Craig LeMoult and Patty Murray, focused not on any underlying issues driving the current Wall Street financial crisis, or the regulatory oversight (or lack thereof) contributing to the seizing up of credit markets. No, LeMoult and Murray prepared for their five minute spot on Friday night by searching out over 70 communities where these two street names literally intersected.

The story featured two communities--Bridgeport, CT and Green Bay, WI--and people encountered in areas where the twain of Wall Street and Main Street met in these communities.

It appears to me that the reporters have imbibed much of what passes for conventional wisdom among hip, urban professionals like LeMoult and Murray. Here's how it goes for their demographic. The country is in bad shape. The last eight years and in particular, the Bush administration, has been the primary cause agent of the downward spiral of the economy. Simplistically, all we need to fix it is to vote for the man that causes legs to tingle, the man of hope, The Messiah, Barry Obama. Why the hell else would NPR devote the resources and energy to a story that provides nothing towards understanding the underlying issues of the economic crisis? At one time, NPR was a place where stories and issues were delved into, providing one venue where investigative journalism still took place. Now, its just another outlet that tries too hard to be trendy, rather than newsworthy.

I'm pulling one quote out from the piece that to me illustrates how the man (or woman) on the street is entirely clueless about the issues, possibly because newspapers, public radio, as well as mainstream television and cable news outlets provide little that helps most Americans contextualize current events.

The journalists from NPR spoke with a newspaper peddler, in Bridgeport, a man named Paul Conway, selling newspapers with a headline that proclaimed, "Senate OKs Bailout."

Conway's response was telling. Conway, who self-identified as a "lower-class person," typically revealed a general lack of understanding about the U.S. tax system, and illustrated the class divide common among many similar Americans.

"The lower class is getting hurt all the time," he says. "Actually, I'm
going to take that back. I'm going to take a step back, sir. The middle class is
getting hurt. Because the rich people don't pay taxes. And I shouldn't be
sounding prejudiced for the lower-class people — I'm a lower-class person. They
get benefits. And it's the middle-class people that get stuck in the middle —
that are paying all the taxes and paying the brunt of it for everybody."

Conway's belief that the "rich don't pay taxes" is problematic, because in fact, the richest one percent of Americans earn 19 percent of the wealth and pay 37 percent of the taxes. The top 10 percent of income earners pay 68 percent of the taxes, while the bottom 50 percent of income earners earn 13 percent of the total wealth and pay three percent of all taxes.

What I found most interesting was that all the people that LeMoult and Murray spoke to had no problem with the bailout, just that the bloated amount was going to the "wrong" members of society--the Wall Street bankers--rather than to them.

Could the obvious belief among the subjects of this feature that they're all powerless to change their personal paths, and the world they live in, have a connection to how most reporters and media perpetuate the myth that government is the solution to all of their problems?

Saturday, October 04, 2008

This is not an Angels-bashing blog

Francisco Rodriguez is one of major league baseball's top closers. Halo fans would argue he is baseball's best, at least when it comes to the regular season. But fans of teams that have tasted postseason success know that October ain't July or August. K-Rod found that out last year in game two, when old friend Manny Ramirez touched him for a game-ending blast.

That was last year, right? Rodriguez registered a ML record 62 saves in 69 chances (his fourth consecutive season of 40+ saves) in 2008 and was one of the reasons why many baseball prognosticators (including some of the Boston beat community, like Bob Ryan) had already knighted the Angels ALDS champs and were talking about a World Series spot. Of course, playing the actual games can often confound the tripe coming from punditry.

With the Red Sox jumping out early (courtesy of Mr. Bay's second home run in as many games), the good guys were up 5-2 after four when the Angels began clawing their way back. Texiera's sac fly tying it in the 8th had me considering the possibilities of going back to Boston potentially all even. Then came Drew's heroics in the 9th.

Maligned of late for not answering the call, a charge that's haunted Drew (who earlier doubled and also made a stellar catch up against the wall) his entire MLB career, he turned around a K-Rod fastball, crushing it to dead center. There was little doubt when he hit it that it was out. Sox up 7-5 and the monkey had climbed squarely back in place for the Angels, a team with little to show (0 for 11) for their postseason efforts against the Sox.

With Beckett back in Boston, ready for game three, the bandwagon seems to be full, with a few standing room spots still available. Hey Mr. Plaschke, you might want to rethink your wet dream of a column predicting an all SoCal World Series.

Red Sox trivia: Jason Bay's homer in the first makes him the first Boston player to ever homer in his first two postseason games.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Nation of idiots

If you read my title and thought, "good lord, give politics a rest, man!" you're in luck. The nation I'm referring to isn't the political nation, divided by partisan loyalties to the candidate of their choice, but the nation of fans that make up "Red Sox Nation."

I know, I've tended to look down my nose recently at the professional variety in my limited posts on sports.

Today, in an attempt at recapturing some sense of sanity, while at the point of media saturation about all things political, I tuned out political talk, and ventured over to WEEI, now available in Maine via the spot on the FM dial, 95.5, where the Big Jab once resided.

I caught bits of Dennis & Callahan this morning, on my drive to Pittsfield, through the torrents of rain, and then, Dale Arnold and Michael Holley this afternoon.

In much the same way that politics causes many (myself included) to take leave of their senses, and often, miss the better part of valor, so sports makes us all dullards at times.

Red Sox fandom, now able to bask in World Series glory twice in the past four years, after a drought of nearly 90 years, has developed an entitlement mentality. How else can one explain callers absolutely giddiness this morning after Lester's seven innings of stellar pitching, and a longball from Jason Bay that put to rest any concerns about his ability to perform in the postseason? This, after many of these same fans and announcers voicing their belief that the Angels might sweep the Sox in three games! Granted, the talented Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim might win the next three and send Boston home for the winter, but if anyone would rather hedge their investment portfolio's gadawful performance with something less volatile, putting money on Boston's postseason track record against California seems like a fairly safe bet.

I like the chances of the Sox, knowing that Matsuzaka has been lights out on the road, and Josh Beckett seems to be ready to go in game three. Lester, Bay, Ellsbury and the supporting cast guaranteed a road split after Wednesday night's win, so Boston is playing with the house's money on Friday, set to return home no worse than 1-1 on the west coast.

The bandwagon still has room, in fact there are a few front row spots still available given some of the defections. Don't delay climbing back aboard, however, because in another week, you might end up being wait listed.

And speaking of idiocy. Has anyone read Bill Simmons's 11 page article on Manny? I'm on record as being a fan of Simmons's writing, but come on Bill, you're a great writer--couldn't you have coalesced the Manny piece to four, or five pages?

My prediction: Sox in five.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Political déjà vu

Over the past 25 years, I’ve occupied real estate at both ends of the political/ideological spectrum. I’m not sure why that is—I’m sure its some kind of character flaw, at least that’s how the flawless types might explain it.

Engaging in my own uniquely personal self-assessment, I could say it was a search for “truth” that lead me first, during the teenage political genesis, to the polar left as a starting point, at least what one understands of the left, as a wet-behind-the-ears 17-year-old.

Next came my wilderness years, marooned on a desert isle of right-wing fundamentalism. A loss of faith, burgeoning family obligations (along with house and car payments), as well as a job that kept me behind the wheel of a truck for much of my workday hooked me up with talk radio and several hours per day listening to Rush.

Housecleaning brought me face-to-face with my leftist past, and books by Chomsky, Zinn, and others aligned with various other isms.

One thing is clear to me having spent enough time living to glean some modicum of wisdom, is that truth is often a mirage. Seeking it as an ends can leave you disappointed, deluded, taken for a ride, or worse, lacking the kind of Pollyannaish optimism that’s required to be “clubbable” today, a condition made possible by disassociating with a reality-based worldview, and/or heavy dosages of pharmaceuticals.

Fed up with our two-party clusterfuck of a political system, I've chosen to unenroll, and plan on remaining that way. I’ve made the decision to cast my lot with one of the solitary third-party figures, residing in what could be called, the "ghetto of unelectability." I like to say it’s a principled choice, but it probably has more to do with disillusion and cynicism than anything else. Whatever the underlying rationale might be, I now have an amazing sense of being freed from the chains of voting for the evil of two lessers once again.

Whether I define it as the Libertarian left, or post-Xian pragmatism (a town where the right and left join forces), there are fewer and fewer sources of information that provide me with some sort of context, and a rendezvous point with fellow travelers. One such zip code is Counterpunch, where most of the contributors would probably self-identify as left of center, but lack the ideological straitjacketing that is prevalent at most other news/commentary sites.

I’ve found a rash of articles that nail just how I feel about so much that passes for the political these days.

Glen Ford’s article cuts through all the BS of Obama’s mantra of change and hope, portraying him as just another craven politician, with his fingers wound tightly around the bag of loot, sneaking out the back door.

Obama's party is wedded to Wall Street. At the local level the Democrats have long been the party of "developers" - the money bags who shape urban policy to fit the needs of corporations. These gentrifiers are the "Renaissance Men" that insist black politicians earn their campaign and graft payments by helping to expel their own constituents from the cities, so as to make them more congenial to business. Betrayal starts at home. So it's not surprising to find Rep. Charles Rangel (NY), the corporate-loving Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, among the 18 members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to vote with the Bush-McCain-Obama Wall Street axis. Edolphus Towns (NY), Gregory Meeks (NY), and Artur Davis (AL) are also in their element, reeking as they do of corporate contributions. However, it is strange - and sad - to see Maxine Waters (CA), Gwen Moore (WI) and other relatively progressive members aligned with the rump end of the Black Caucus.

When we wake up November 5, Americans will again find we've been visited by one of two lessers not worthy an attempt at a parsing.

As they say, "meet the new boss, same as the old boss," or maybe it should be, friends don't let friends vote Demican/Republicrat.

Congress and Senate stooges smarter than economists

When our economic vitality depends on the whims of Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi, and "Dingy" Harry Reid (feel free to insert almost any other politician's name, right, or left), rather than those with the credentials and background to make wise decisions, we're all on borrowed time.

Casey B. Mulligan, an economist at the University of Chicago has a blog post explaining that Wall Street isn't where our focus should be.

There was a time when people believed that the Sun and stars revolved around the Earth. Of course, now we know that the Earth is not the center of the universe, or even the center of our little solar system. In the somewhat more recent past, economists thought that the non-financial sector in a modern economy revolved around financial markets, despite the facts that only 4 percent of the workforce was employed in the financial sector (including insurance and real estate), and even today that sector employs only 6 percent of the total. President Bush and supporters of the recent massive Wall Street bailout plan still believe Wall Street to be the center of the entire economy.

According to Mulligan, economic research dispels that idea.

If you care to expand your knowledge base and learn something new, you can read the rest of Mulligan's ideas here. Otherwise, continue to take your marching orders from your two presidential wannabes, and the other apologists for oligarchy.