Wednesday, December 31, 2008


“Doubt” portrays the moral and emotional struggle arising between a priest suspected of pederasty and the nun who suspects him. A younger nun embodies the good conscience and competing moral impulses of the audience, for which the antagonists compete.

What I’m about to say blows the plot line, so those who do not want to skip the first-level tensions of initial encounter -- ought probably read no further.

The promotional clips imply a convent western; St. Francis vs. Bloody Mary, Big Nurse down on the lovable loonies. This, together with Meryl Streep and Phillip Seymour Hoffman in costume and harness is how you build some kind of a gate.

But I expect that the movie will not do much business. It is not made for our C+ culture and D+ national mentality. It is an anti-western. It is a difficult, spiky lesson in moral philosophy.

Formally, the plot moves in grim parody of Tomesian logic: thesis (He did it), antithesis (No, I didn’t) synthesis (In that case …) But in this case, the young nun arrives at no satisfactory, reconcilliatory judgments. She tacks with the wind. As do we. That’s because the arguments acquire and lose force continuously. They tend, but never conclude.

More than religious professionals are at war here. Sentiment defies logic. Intuition thwarts evidence. Sympathy confounds obligation. Integrity repels kindness. Right and wrong switch habits.

Sermon over, we’re navigating personality traits, hierarchical privilege, child psychology, racial tragedy, domestic abuse, institutional corruption, authoritarian pathology, male prerogative, dismayingly rare roast beef – a red and yellow basket of more-and-less poisoned apples and oranges. No picnic.

The fun of the movie is being drawn in through ingenious craft and emotional power, being tempted to indulge this or that emotion or bias, then getting smacked up side your conscience with the consequence of your self-indulgence. Do you want to do the right thing or enjoy your popcorn? Turns out you can’t do both for more than a couple of minutes. That’s why I don’t think Americans will find much here to recommend.

I have worked the same basic formula in writing case study exercises for clients including the Army National Guard (before it became a combat force), an aluminum can manufacturer in Chicago, and a couple of others.

In one case, a supervisor is required to report a plainly bogus sexual harassment claim to HR – with predictably bad outcomes for all concerned. In another, a Guard recruiter is driven by honorable motives to use unapproved methods.

Of all the corporate goop I have written over twenty-odd years, nothing has come remotely close to these ethical-dilemma activities for exciting participant interest – not to mention impassioned, often angry debate. Frame a job-related conflict between immediate decency and longer term imperatives and you’ll create involvement second only to sex – in my professional experience.

But Doubt is not likely to stimulate this kind of debate. That’s because it layers the impulses so subtly, divides and arranges the moral and sympathetic qualities so evenly – that wherever you start out, you will find at least part of yourself lined up against you. I guarantee it. The aftermath will best be experienced internally, or in slower conversation. Or, as in my case, through an unpleasant dream.

The movie opens with Hoffman delivering an admirable sermon as Steep stalks the pews like a predatory stork, eyes alert for inattentive young heads to back-smack. After a few seconds, I told Joan that I feared we were in for a twisty ride because it couldn’t possibly be that simple and where the thing would lead I could not imagine.

I was, for a change, entirely right.

Monday, December 29, 2008


The non-heterosexual community (or most of it) is increasingly designated by the initials GLBT – Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender. The term pertains to persons at-risk for discrimination and abuse by virtue of gender orientation and behavior.

Needless to say, I support the squashing of all gender discrimination and abuse. Not only is there nothing wrong with being GLBT, but I believe that same-sexers have much to contribute from their special vantages. I hope they are encouraged to express themselves fully and often -- as equally advantaged citizens. Certainly, one hopes to hear more from this group than from, say, Italo-Americans.

However, I don’t know why Bisexuals get equal billing. Gays surely merit recognition for the many at-risk aspects of being Gay. Lesbians the same. Transgenders may need our sympathy and protection most of all.

But Bisexuals? People are not persecuted because they are Bisexuals. They are persecuted because they are part-time homosexuals. It’s not as though gay bashers get on them for crossing over and poaching our women or gentlemen. No, as long as they do opposites, they are pretty much all right. It’s only when they go same-wise that they catch it.

True at-risk communities get in trouble because of: 1. characteristics they cannot shed such as physical features, national origin, or swishing, 2. beliefs they should not have to relinquish however distasteful these beliefs are to the rest of us: deep religious convictions, political preferences, or 3. voluntary group behavior which does not harm others, like dressing up funny.

Most Gays, Lesbians, and Transgenders fit snugly into category One; they face risk because of how God made them. Some may locate themselves in category 2, having made purely personal choices to look or be G. or L., especially while still in college. In Gay Pride parades, category 3. takes the stage.

The same broad scheme covers B’s operating in Q. mode – functioning as G’s and L’s. Otherwise, they are not at risk. They simply wind up with more options than most people. This is no curse which hangs about their necks like an hormonal/genetic albatross, attracting arrows. We should all be so lucky.

I remember a brief period decades ago when light skinned African-Americans were represented as seeking their own identity – as mulattoes. A couple of people wrote articles about it and then it blew over. The mulatto identity idea suggested an impulse to duck the more reviled darker identity. As I remember, this attracted little support except from the M’s who wrote the articles.

I’m not judging. In the face of actual, physical anti-Semitism, I might very well suggest that blue-eyed atheistic Jews get a category of their own. When fascism comes, who knows what I will pretend to have been doing all my life? I try to have no illusions.

Nor do I consider myself an expert on same-sex politics or resistance strategies. But in this case I remain curious.

Do Bisexuals really require their own designation? If so, how come?

Do B’s really wish to separate themselves from their wholly fish and wholly fowl fellows? If so, why can’t they be happy as part-time G’s and L’s?

Do they consider Bisexuality especially snappy?

Has the B been added to GLBT not by B’s themselves – but by 100% G’s, L’s, and T’s as a means of building the base with or without the Two-Way community’s consent?

I know that some of Papadablogger’s readers may have more important things to do than think about this. Still, I’m on the lookout for those who have thoughts on the subject, or better yet, answers to the questions above. In this spirit, I will return filled with hope to the Comments box in the days ahead.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Two Jean Shepherd Stories

TWO JEAN SHEPHERD STORIES (Contained in an email correspondence between Fang Harrison and Valentine Marofsky)

STORY NUMBER 1 (sent by Fang Harrison to Valentine Marofsky)

The Man Who Told A Christmas Story
What I learned from Jean Shepherd.
By Donald Fagen [a New York City musician and co-founder of Steely Dan.]

Updated Monday, Dec. 22, 2008, at 10:04 AM ET

If you know Jean Shepherd's name, it's probably in connection with the now-classic film A Christmas Story, which is based on a couple of stories in his book In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash. He also does the compelling voice-over narration. On Christmas, TBS will continue its tradition of presenting a 24-hour Christmas Story marathon. There are annual fan conventions devoted to the film—released 25 years ago this Thanksgiving—and the original location in Cleveland has been turned into a museum. But long before A Christmas Story was made, Shepherd did a nightly radio broadcast on WOR out of Manhattan that enthralled a generation of alienated young people within range of the station's powerful transmitter. Including me: I was a spy for Jean Shepherd.

In the late '50s, while Lenny Bruce was beginning his climb to holy infamy in jazz clubs on the West Coast, Shepherd's all-night monologues on WOR had already gained him an intensely loyal cult of listeners. Unlike Bruce's provocative nightclub act, which had its origins in the "schpritz" of the Catskills comics, Shepherd's improvised routines were more in the tradition of Midwestern storytellers like Mark Twain, but with a contemporary urban twist: say, Mark Twain after he'd been dating Elaine May for a year and a half. Where Bruce's antics made headlines, Shepherd, with his warm, charismatic voice and folksy style, could perform his most subversive routines with the bosses in the WOR front office and the FCC being none the wiser. At least most of the time.

I was introduced to Shep, as his fans called him, by my weird uncle Dave. Dave, who was a bit of a hipster, used to crash on our sofa when he was between jobs. Being a bookish and somewhat imperious 12-year-old, already desperately weary of life in suburban New Jersey and appalled by Hoss and Little Joe and Mitch Miller and the heinous Bachelor Father, I figured Dave was my man. One night, after ruthlessly beating me at rummy, he put down the cards and said, "Now we're gonna listen to Shepherd—this guy's great." The Zenith table model in the kitchen came to life midway through Shepherd's theme music, a kitschy, galloping Eduard Strauss piece called the "Bahn Frei" polka. And then there was that voice, cozy, yet abounding with jest.

He was definitely a grown-up but he was talking to me—I mean straight to me, with my 12-year-old sensibility, as if some version of myself with 25 more years worth of life experience had magically crawled into the radio, sat down, and loosened his tie. I was hooked. From then on, like legions of other sorry-ass misfits throughout the Northeast, I tuned in every weeknight at 11:15 and let Shep put me under his spell. Afterward, I'd switch to an all-night jazz station and dig the sounds until I conked out. Eventually, this practice started to affect my grades and I almost didn't graduate from high school.

Listening to Shep, I learned about social observation and human types: how to parse modern rituals (like dating and sports); the omnipresence of hierarchy; joy in struggle; "slobism"; "creeping meatballism"; 19th-century panoramic painting; the primitive, violent nature of man; Nelson Algren, Brecht, Beckett, the fables of George Ade; ; the codes inherent in "trivia," bliss in art; fishing for crappies; and the transience of desire. He told you what to expect from life (loss and betrayal) and made you feel that you were not alone.

Shepherd's talk usually fell into one of four categories. Fans of A Christmas Story will be familiar with the basic comic tone of his Depression-era tales, elaborations on his experience growing up in Hammond, Ind., a Chicago suburb in the shadow of the U.S. Steel Works on Lake Michigan. These stories featured his manic father ("the old man"); his mother (always standing over the sink in "a yellow rump-sprung chenille bathrobe with bits of dried egg on the lapel"); his kid brother, Randy, and , bullies, beauties, and other neighborhood types. While the film preserves much of the flavor of Shep's humor, not much remains of the acid edge that characterized his on-air performances. In the film, the general effect is one of bittersweet nostalgia; on the radio, the true horror of helpless childhood came through.

Then there were the stories culled from his three years in the stateside Army during World War II (a juvenile ham radio and electronics freak, he was assigned to the Signal Corps). The third hunk of material was informed by his adventures in postwar radio and TV. He seems to have done every possible job, from engineer to sportscaster to hosting live cowboy music broadcasts. Finally, there was the contemporary stuff, comments on the passing scene.

In between, he'd sing along to noisy old records, play the kazoo and the nose flute, brutally sabotage the commercials, and get his listeners—the "night people," the "gang"—to help him pull goofy public pranks on the unwitting squares that populated most of Manhattan. In one famous experiment in the power of hype, Shepherd asked his listeners to go to bookstores and make requests for I, Libertine, a nonexistent novel by a nonexistent author, Frederick R. Ewing. The hoax quickly snowballed and several weeks later I, Libertine was on best-seller lists. (Shep and sci-fi author Theodore Sturgeon eventually codged together an actual novel for Ballantine Books. I owned a copy.)

Hilarious as Shep's tales could be, one sensed a tough realism about life that ran counter to the agitprop for the Leisure Revolution that the media were serving up in those years. With the Soviets flexing their muscles and the constant specter of global nuclear war, the government was going to fantastic lengths to convince everyone that things were just peachy. From Bert the Turtle's exhortations to "duck and cover" in the face of an atomic blast to the endless parade of new products hawked on the tube by Madison Avenue, Americans were feeding themselves a line of hooey that was no less absurd than the most hard-core Maoist brainwash. "Relax, life is good," we were told. "Your government and Walt Disney have got the future well in hand." To skeptical Mad magazine-reading little stinkers like myself, it was this mendacity on the part of adults that was the most sinister enemy of all.

Because Shep made it clear he was just as dazed, enraged, and amused as you were, that he noticed what you noticed, he established himself as one of a handful of adults you could trust. (Others were Mailer, Ginsberg, Vonnegut, and Realist publisher Paul Krassner.) Night after night, Shepherd forged the inchoate thoughts and feelings of a whole generation of fans into an axiom that went something like: "The language of our culture no longer describes real life and, pretty soon, something's gonna blow."

Toward the beginning of the show, Shepherd frequently read news clippings that listeners, his "spies," had sent in. These were mostly odd little fillers he called "straws in the wind," indicators of the prevailing mood. Once I mailed Shep an article from our local Central Jersey paper about a guy who, after being fired for some petty infraction, got loaded and tossed a Coke bottle through every store window in the local shopping mall. A couple of nights later, I'm listening to the show and Shep does his usual bit: "So, this kid sent me a piece ..." and ACTUALLY READ MY CLIP ON THE AIR! Wham: I had connected. My life as an independent consciousness had begun. I remember scurrying down to the "TV room" and announcing this amazing event to my parents. Having always considered both Shepherd and my uncle Dave to be half-cracked, they were greatly underwhelmed.

As grateful as I am that Shep was there for me during those crucial years, my idealization of Shepherd the Man was not to survive much longer. In December of 1965, I came home from my first year of college for Christmas break and noticed that Shepherd was going to be appearing at nearby Rutgers University. On a frosty night, I drove my used Ford Galaxy to New Brunswick, where I sat on the floor with a congregation of Rutgers students and watched Shep walk into the spotlight to enthusiastic applause. He had neat but stylishly long hair and was wearing a green corduroy sports coat with the collar up over a black turtleneck T.

Onstage for almost two hours, he had the young audience in his pocket from the downbeat. But, for me, something wasn't right. On the radio, speaking close to the mic, he was able to use vocal nuances and changes in intensity to communicate the most intimate shadings of thought and feeling, not unlike what Miles Davis could achieve in a recording studio. Live onstage, he spoke as though he'd never seen a microphone in his life, trying to project to the back of the room. Moreover, he blared and blustered like a carnival barker, as if he had the scent of failure in his nostrils and was ready to do anything to get the crowd on his side. It was obvious that the guy I thought was so cool had a desperate need to impress all these people, whom I assumed to be casual listeners at best.

In truth, even at home, listening on the radio, I'd noticed a strain of grandiosity creeping into Shepherd's routines. Apparently, he'd originally come to New York with the idea of being a stage actor or making it big on network TV. But it's easy to imagine mainstream producers and network execs being put off by Shepherd's contrariness and intrinsic marginality. Supposedly, when Steve Allen retired as host of The Tonight Show, he'd suggested Shepherd as a replacement. NBC ended up giving the job to the eccentric but more cuddly Jack Paar. In any case, as the years rolled by, Shepherd rankled at being confined to the ghetto of radio and must have come to see his crown as King of the Hipsters as a crown of thorns.

What I saw that night at Rutgers wasn't pretty. In the studio, his occasional abuse of the lone engineer on the other side of the glass could be seen as the petulance of an artist trying to make things work on the fly. But, incandescent under the gaze of all those kids, his self-indulgences looked more like straight-up narcissism and his "hipness" was revealed as something closer to contempt. By the end of the show, he'd crossed the line between artist and showman and then some. No longer wanting to meet the great man, I left before the reception, scraped the ice off my windshield, and drove home. Anyway, the cool early '60s were over and the boiling, psychedelic late '60s had begun. Shepherd was no longer part of my world.

Not long ago, in the absence of any books, films, music, etc., that seemed to give off any light, I started looking back at some of the things that used to inspire me as a kid, including some of Shep's old shows, now available on the Internet. Hearing them almost a half-century down the line has been a trip. Despite the tendencies I've already mentioned (plus the gaffes one might expect from a wild man like Shep ad-libbing before the age of political correctness), much of the stuff is simply amazing: The guy is a dynamo, brimming with curiosity and ideas and fun. Working from a few written notes at most, Shepherd is intense, manic, alive, the first and only true practitioner of spontaneous word jazz.

I've done a little catch-up research: Shepherd stayed on at WOR until 1977, when the station did a makeover. His books, collections of stories based on the same material he used on the air, sold well. He had a successful career on public television and continued to do his bit on stage into the '90s. And, of course, there was the collaboration with director Bob Clark on A Christmas Story. But I'm sorry to report that the narcissism thing kept getting worse as he got older.

Like a lot of fine-tuned performing artists, Shepherd increasingly exhibited the whole range of symptoms common to the aging diva. He became paranoid and resentful of imagined rivals, whether they were old ones like Mort Sahl or upstarts like Garrison Keillor. At the same time, he disavowed all his radio work, claiming that it was just a temporary gig on his way to some fanciful glory on the stage and screen. He even seemed to want to kill off his childhood, insisting that all those stories and characters were pulled clean out of his imagination. Old fans, for whom he had been almost like a surrogate father or big brother, were often met with derision when they approached him.

He didn't drink himself to death like his pal Jack Kerouac or OD like Lenny Bruce but gradually succumbed to that very real disease of self-loathing and its accompanying defenses. Disappointed in the way the world had treated him, he retired to Florida's west coast and died in 1999.

Although Shepherd almost never divulged details about his private life, he wasn't shy about giving us a bit of unflattering self-analysis, as this attests:

Protective coloration is extremely important in our lives. ... [W]e are in the weeds all the time because we find it better down here in the weeds. ...

Look at me. ... I am not at all what I appear to be. ... [T]his is merely a mask ... that more or less covers up the real me that's underneath. The real me is a saber-toothed tiger. I couldn't dare go down the street the way I really am. I'd get shot in five minutes. They'd have me in a wagon with a bunch of Doberman pinschers.

To an adolescent back then, long before a therapeutic vernacular had entered the language, this was reassuring news. It's possible that Shep's greatest lesson to the gang wasn't just "things are not what they seem" but rather "things are not what they seem—including me."

Copyright 2007 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Co. LLC

STORY NUMBER 2 (Sent by Valentine Marofsky to Fang Harrison)

Victor’s Story:

I just had lunch with Victor who told a wonderful story about Jean Shepherd.
Victor was a fan in the 1950s much as you and Don Fagen were. It was adolescent idolization.
Years later Victor was an associate Dean of Continuing Education, Liberal Arts Division at NYU. There he inherited Richard Brown who ran a course on theater. Brown was supposed to bring famous names as a draw for the course, but thought that he was more interesting than Robert Redford, etc. The strange this was, Brown was more interesting than his guests. After looking at Robert Redford for a few moments, what else is there.
As part of the program Victor was trying to find other personalities who could draw famous people from different walks of life to give courses similar to Richard Brown's. One day Brown or some other course giver told Victor that Jean Shepherd was scheduled to be the evening's guest speaker. Victor was invited to dinner with the host and Shepherd prior to the course being given. Victor was going to ask Shepherd to host another such a course, and Shepherd (who had been told of Victor's coming invitation of employment) was very much in favor.
The problem arose as soon as Victor joined Shepherd and the host at dinner because it was apparent that Shepherd in person was a boor (see Dan Fagen's similar impression at Rutgers). Even worse, at the course given that evening, which Victor was obligated to attend after the dinner, Shepherd alienated the audience almost immediately and did nothing to remedy his awful impression. He was so full of himself that he was unbearable on stage. After about an hour, the audience could take no more of Shepherd and an insurrection was brewing.
Then someone from the audience shouted out, "Do your ....... routine."
Shepherd, knowing that the audience was hostile and restive (he was not stupid) gladly agreed and launched into his bit from the radio show.
After that was finished someone else shouted out, "Jean, do your ........... routine."
Shepherd happily complied and the audience enjoyed the final hour of the presentation in excellent humor.
This, I'm sure you will agree, is such a better story than Fagen's at Rutgers.
P.S. - Shepherd did not get the job as a host at NYU School of Continuing Education, Liberal Arts Division.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


How about: Relapsing and Remitting Narcissistic Empathy Deficit Disorder?

Say you’re trying to give directions over the phone. A third person interrupts repeatedly. She wants you to suggest a different route – not knowing that the other party has reasons for avoiding this alternative route.

After you hang up, she says, “How come nobody ever listens to me?”

This individual suffers from RRNEDD. In other words:

In the press of the moment (Relapsing and Remitting) the self-involved (Narcissistic) third person fails to understand 1. The direction-seeker’s priorities, and 2. The bad impression she has made on you (Empathy Deficit Disorder.)

I mention this in connection with an article in last week’s New York Times: Psychiatry’s Struggle to Revise the Book of Human Troubles.

It’s struggling, all right.

Psychiatry faces many challenges as it attempts to update the DSM, or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The new edition, DSM-V, is a guaranteed best seller, so that, at least, is not among Psychiatry’s problems.
But a plateful remain.

According to the article, Psychiatry must fend off drug companies bent on bribing contributors and editors to hype conditions ripe for treatment by patented medicines. Otherwise, the DSM-V will come out with Prozac Deprivation Syndrome and Hypovaliumism.

Another challenge reflects Psychiatry’s ignorance of its subject matter. It does not know exactly what anything is, or what causes it, or more often than not, what to do about it. As the article points out in the words of a perceptive actual psychiatrist, “ … this is not cardiology or nephrology.”

However, the DSM does serve as a means of getting people paid. It does so by attaching a number to each diagnostic label, such as RRNEDD. This number, say 897.9, triggers the insurance company’s reimbursement (or denial) mechanism, allowing mental health care to function.

The New York Times article explores the skeptical view of the above-quoted doctor who has authored a book which summarizes Western Civilization under the title, “ Before Prozac.” He’s concerned that identifying people as having “obsessive-compulsive” disorder may impose a negative impact on their self-perception if and when they hear about it.

Also, the current approach may not give some gender permutations the encouragement they deserve.

I could see that this article was no mere exercise in industry cheerleading. That’s probably why it wasn’t in the Science section. Still, for another objective viewpoint I visited Iris, my childhood chum and on-call psychiatrist. Not having cracked the DSM for a long time, I asked her to fetch hers and together we vetted.

I was quickly reminded that Psychiatry has set itself a noble task in attempting to categorize the whole of human experience for purposes of reimbursement. This is one of its most daunting challenges -- struggling to encapsulate every facet of what goes on day by day.

My eye fell quickly on the pot section. I read sadly about Cannabis Dependency, with its compulsive and destructive aspects. “But what,” I wondered, “is meant by 305.20 Cannabis Abuse?” Turns out, this condition comprises driving high, getting busted, smoking at work, arguing about smoking dope with spouse or parents, and toking up in the presence of minors.

Nor does Psychiatry go easy on legal agents, as evidenced by 292.89, Caffeine Induced Sleep Disorder. Armed with a degree and a number, you can get reimbursed for telling people to cut down.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder involves arguing with adults, disregarding authority, blaming others for your own fuck-ups, being annoyed and annoying, and showing an angry, resentful, or vindictive side. To qualify your psychiatrist for reimbursement, these tendencies must get in your way.

The same goes for 312.89 Impulse Control Disorder, 301.50 Histrionic Personality Disorder, and 302.89, Frotteurism, or touching people on the subway. My favorite is Factitious Disorder, or making up disorders.

Psychiatry is struggling to do its best. With all the challenges it faces, it can use some help. I don’t intend to stop with RRNEDD. I’m taking notes on other troublesome manifestations, too.

I urge readers to join me in this practice and send your notes to Pappa. When we have enough, I’ll give them all numbers and forward the whole batch to Psychiatry.

Leo Durocher's Bid Was Foul

Sometimes There Was Magic - December 23, 2008
On Old Cassette, Barber’s Voice Brings to Life Game He Missed
No one broadcast Johnny Vander Meer’s second consecutive no-hitter in June 1938, but that did not deter fans from telling Red Barber years later how much they enjoyed his call.
Barber should have called it, at least for symmetry’s sake.
He was then in his final season with the Cincinnati Reds (his storied run with the Brooklyn Dodgers started the next season) and behind the Crosley Field radio microphone for Vander Meer’s first no-hitter on June 11 against the Boston Bees.
But because the Dodgers, Giants and Yankees were in the last season of a five-year ban on radio broadcasts from their stadiums, Vander Meer’s no-hitter at Ebbets Field on June 15 was a witness-only event, unheard on any airwave. So while Vander Meer was making history in Brooklyn, Barber was home in Cincinnati, being called by exhilarated fans who knew that his home number was listed under his wife’s name.
Forty-one years later, Barber came to the annual meeting of the Florida Association of Broadcasters. They presented him with their Gold Medal. He recalled a prayer about the “changes and chances of time,” then offered his listeners the gift of time passed.
“Something no one has,” he said. He later added, “It’s going to be yours.”
Rome Hartman attended the broadcasters’ conference, which he recalled being held in Orlando, Fla.
“It was so extemporaneous that everyone was in awe,” said Hartman, a former sportscaster who was then general manager of a radio station in West Palm Beach. “He had it in his mind because he didn’t read it off any script. It came out of his memory.”
The first part of his gift, preserved in a cassette tape bought by Hartman after the conference but forgotten in a box of memorabilia for many years, was Barber’s vivid recap of the first eight innings. “Suddenly, this thing became alive,” Barber said.
Barber’s recapitulation of the game is a reminder that Vander Meer, no matter the sensation he caused with his first no-hitter, was an afterthought early on in the Brooklyn game. It was the first night game at Ebbets Field, and 38,748 fans, well beyond capacity, had jammed in. “They must have been in the aisles and hanging from the rafters,” Barber said.
The second part, which lasts just over three minutes, is Barber live — yet 41 years late. He calls the bottom half of the ninth as if it were being played before him, with Vander Meer facing the bases full of Brooks with one out.
“Now,” Barber said, “on the brink of greatness, unprecedented greatness, he’s gone wild.” With Reds Manager Bill McKechnie at the mound trying to calm Vander Meer, Barber said: “There’s no one warming up in the bullpen. It’s going to be Vander Meer going all the way. It has to be. He pitched a no-hitter four days ago at Cincinnati against Boston, and tonight is his night. His father and mother are here. The girl he’s going to marry. They’re all here. And this crowd is now for him. They’ve turned their backs on their ball club, the Dodgers. They want him to do it.”
Barber, who died in 1992, was 71 at the time, 13 years past his firing by the Yankees. His lyrical voice rose excitedly during the half-inning and sometimes lowered as if he were telling Cub Scouts a ghost story. He spoke rapidly and clearly, describing the runners on base and the Reds’ defensive setup. And when he said Vander Meer’s name, the syllables were transformed by Barber’s Mississippi roots into the gentler-sounding “Van-da-me-ah.”
“Ernie Lombardi, ‘Big Schnozz,’ sitting back of the plate, ready to give the sign,” he said. “Koy up. Vander Meer pitches. It’s a strike. No balls, one strike. The score is six to nothing in favor of the Reds. But the score is not the story. The story is Vander Meer!”
Bob Edwards, a Sirius XM talk show host, talked to Barber every Friday for 12 years on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition”; he remembered Monday that at a public radio conference in 1983, Barber surprised attendees by recreating the bottom of the ninth of Game 4 of the 1947 World Series. Brooklyn’s Cookie Lavagetto broke up a no-hitter by the Yankees’ Bill Bevens with a pinch-hit double and won the game for the Dodgers.
“It was the only good thing that happened at that conference,” Edwards said, adding, “He was a showman. When he was a kid, he wanted to be in vaudeville.”
With two outs and shortstop Leo Durocher facing Vander Meer, the tinkling glasses in the banquet room were muted. His audience of broadcasters was quiet.
“Durocher swings, and it’s a hard line-drive going down the right field and it’s foul just by a couple of feet in the right-field corner,” he said and his audience exhaled loudly — “You had to catch your breath,” Hartman said — and applauded. (The New York Times article the next day said Durocher’s foul went into the right-field stands.)
Then, the conclusion: “It’s no balls, two strikes, three on,” the old Redhead said. “It’s a high fly ball going to medium center field. Harry Craft comes under it, sets, and takes it, and it’s a double no-hitter for Vander Meer.” A brief pause, and, finally: “Thank you.”

Monday, December 22, 2008

Obama, Science and Religion

Valentine Marofsky says:
In support of my previously expressed view that Obama's choice of a bible thumping pastor to pray for us at the Inauguration is a political gambit, and his political core supports science over religion or any fundamentalist form thereof, see the NYTimes editorial pasted below:

December 22, 2008
NYTimes Editorial
A New Respect for Science
Though Barack Obama’s cabinet appointments have received the big headlines, it is worth noting two important sub-cabinet choices. Both are scientists, committed to using rather than abusing science to address issues like climate change, and a welcome departure from the many ideologues and lobbyists that Dick Cheney assembled to advise President Bush on environmental matters.
The first of these choices is Jane Lubchenco, a marine biologist at Oregon State University, to run the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a division of the Commerce Department responsible for the health of the atmosphere and the oceans.
Ms. Lubchenco is an expert on two grave threats to the oceans, both linked to global warming. One is acidification, which is destroying coral reefs, the other hypoxia, a condition that robs fish of the oxygen they need to survive. She has also been a powerful advocate for stronger federal and international efforts to protect declining fish species.
We are also heartened by Mr. Obama’s choice of John Holdren, a Harvard physicist, as his science adviser. Mr. Holdren has served as chairman of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as has Ms. Lubchenco. Both have argued strongly and repeatedly for a mandatory limit on greenhouse gases to avoid catastrophic climate change.
Like Mr. Obama’s earlier appointments — in particular Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate in physics, to run the Department of Energy — these choices solidly affirm Mr. Obama’s commitment to aggressively address the challenges of energy independence and global warming.
The broader point, though, is what they say about his appreciation for the processes of science. That was not much in evidence in the Bush administration, some of whose appointees edited and suppressed scientific documents to serve the administration’s political agenda.
As Ms. Lubchenco observes, identifying a problem is not synonymous with solving it. But Mr. Obama has at least surrounded himself with serious scholars of some of the most critical issues of our times.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Let Doubt Enter

Obama is attempting to rise above ideology in choosing someone from the far right to lead the invocation prayer at his inauguration.

  • If the right feels included and the left gets over it, we may be on our way to reconciliation.
  • The left may still think the right is stupid and the right may still think the left is immoral,
  • But the point of his choice is that we can live together and disagree in harmony.
  • Then, maybe, Doubt will enter the lives of those on both sides who suffer from moral certainty.

Valentine Marofsky Has Spoken


The first time I voted in a Presidential election was 1964. Remember, you had to be 21 years old back then. Like most other Americans, I cast my ballot for Lyndon Baines Johnson. On the list of things I regret in life, that would be somewhere on page 2. The problem of course is, you don’t want to know what’s on page 1.

I was anti-war in the 1960s. Who wasn’t? I “punished” Hubert Humphrey in 1968 by refusing to vote for him. I wasn’t alone. We sure showed him something, didn’t we? Instead we got Richard Nixon. Idiots! Served us right. Still, I didn’t vote for another Democrat (phony bastards!) until this year.

I voted for Barack Obama. So did Papa’s lovely and talented Momma, my wife Maria. We sent him money. We put his yard signs on our front lawn. Maria worked at a local Obama-Biden phone bank on Election Day, getting out the vote. I’m still wearing my bright blue OBAMA ’08 baseball cap.

I have some reservations about some of Obama’s appointees, thus far. But, I keep remembering the operative phrase is – his appointees – they work for him. When our federal system operates properly, in accordance with the Constitution, the President makes Executive Branch policy – not the Vice President – not some unnamed political advisors – not the unaccountable underlings, secreted safely in an undisclosed location, deep in the bowels of the Pentagon – and certainly not the Generals, Admirals and Commandants whose names we don’t know and whose pictures we couldn’t identify. I want a lawful government, for a change.

I expect the Obama Administration will be just that. So, I hold my reservations about folks like Hillary Clinton and Iowa’s Tom Vilsak and even Eric Holder who will be America’s first black Attorney General. And yes, I hold my nose and squeeze my sphincter at the thought of Bush’s Defense Secretary still showing up for work as the head honcho in the Pentagon. I trust none of them, but I have high hopes for Barack Obama as “Boss of Bosses.”

Now… to the problem at hand, the California clown, Rick Warren.

Someone needs to tell Mr. Obama – “Ok, we get it. You’re a Christian. You love Jesus. You are not a Muslim!” Someone needs to tell him – “The election is over. YOU WON!”

Show me a “religious leader” (that’s what you call them to lend them social credibility), and I’ll show you a fundraiser, a huckster, a charlatan, a phony or a fake (that’s what you call them when you’re looking for an accurate identification). Rick Warren, Joseph Lowry, the Ayatollah whatshisname, the Pope, the rabbi in Brooklyn who won’t step foot in Israel until the messiah comes back – they’re all cut from the same piece of cloth, slices of bread in the same loaf, all of them this far away from “Glengarry, Glen Ross,” barely a step removed from toting around a headset in a crowded phone bank in Bangalore– and none of them have any place in the governmental affairs of the American people. That includes the Inaugural ceremonies, at which Barack Obama will officially become the Most Powerful Human On Earth, scheduled for the 20th of next month.

I couldn’t care less how Rick Warren (or any of the other jokesters I name above) feels about gay marriage, a woman’s right of dominion over her own body (can you explain why we still talk about this as a “public issue” when the thought of questioning a man’s similar rights is unthinkable?), or where he stands on any issue of legitimate public consideration. Why should I care what Rick Warren, or any of these phony bastards, thinks about anything?

What Papa would have liked to see from a new President advocating “Change You Can Believe In” is an Inauguration in keeping with the separation of church and state; an Inauguration with no such nonsense as an opening and closing prayer; an Inauguration that didn’t supply a platform to any religion or any religious entrepreneur. By all means, let Aretha sing. Take your oath. Make your speech. Let’s party! Skip the rest.

Today, in my maturity, perhaps even in my sunset, Papa is an optimist. I like to think I’ve learned from and grown as a result of the mistakes of my younger days. I’ve forgiven myself for LBJ. So, for President Obama, I excuse his slavish obedience to the perceived political necessities of kissing the ass of Magical Thinking, and I take some consolation in the hope that the next administration will really end the wars, curb the commercial thieves and corporate criminals, bring American medicine into the modern world where the good health of a human being is a fundamental right, not a matter of private profit, and (if it can be done) revive our economy and save us from what appears to be our headlong slide into the same cold grave where lies the remains of all previous dominant Empires.

If, at the same time, Pastor Rick Warren happens to go broke (or worse), and gays get to be married (if that’s what they really want), that’ll be fine with me.


My father skipped college.

He went from Thomas Jefferson High School to St. John’s two-year law school. Like my mother, he was self-educated, well read, and exceptionally literate. Unlike her, he never doubted his intellectual sophistication.

This may be why, whenever I dragged myself home from college, he never interrogated me about the later novels of D.H. Lawrence, the wisdom of Pericles, or the Iconoclasts of Byzantium. What did catch his interest was my close acquaintance with a bohemian crowd including Performing Arts graduates bursting with apparently authoritative knowledge of the theatrical and gay communities.

He wanted to know who was gay in Hollywood.

My new friends took personal responsibility for his enlightenment.

“Ida Lupino and Randolf Scott,” I reported one week.

Usually, he nodded without comment.

Sometimes not.

“Tony Curtis and Wally Cox.”

“I can understand Cox. You sure about Curtis?”

I half-recall involving John Wayne.

A hard-ass, anti-communist Liberal with a benign social outlook, he would be pleased to see a black president-elect catching hell from a politically potent gay community for awarding the inaugural invocation to a California bible thumper who has publicly opposed gay marriage.

He would have supported gay marriage as an irritant to religion.

I cannot resist saying that this is just the kind of indefensible insult we want to have riling us up.

The Rick Warren controversy arrives absent the scent of cataclysmic potential. Whether our same-sexer pals achieve the sublime status this year or next, and whether or not Barak has shown us an unsightly callus, the final outcome will not bear on the probability of war, global depression, and the crash of the Western polity.

B.’s economic and foreign policy appointments have us up to our armpits in testy speculation over just these existential issues. Poppadablogger believes it likely that the Elect’s choices will position him to take bold, leftward steps essential to salvation. Poppa celebrates the corpulent Christian’s invocation as the death knell to Don’t ask-Don’t tell.

Our friend The Unrepentant Marxist, believes that what we see is what we will get. And what we will get is a murderous continuation of neo-con foreign policy targeting Afghanistan now and possibly Iran, Syria, or Lebanon before the game is up; continued economic malpractice at the hands of Friedman/Gekko disciples who’ve been gnawing at social equity and sensible planning since Reagan times.

In my view, these debates reflect more preconception and temperament than scientific insight. I believe that they go more to our need to express ourselves than to any sound hope of calling the finish. I personally feel that The UM is probably more right than wrong. I also believe that I believe this because I am a pessimist by nature. I do credit PDB for straightforwardly presenting his energetically argued position as no more than a hopeful guess. The UM, on the other hand, admits no possibility that he will be proved wrong. Nevertheless, I’m ready to bet that he will be proved right.

It’s hard to be sure where those old-time Dubinsky Liberals like my father would have come down in this argument. The ones I knew are all dead now, some having morphed right, some leftish.

I’m fairly sure about how they’d have felt had FDR been invoked by a preacher unsympathetic to the admission of Jews to medical schools.

Speaking of Jews, thank God none have been involved in the Bernie Madoff affair. And speaking of Bernie Madoff, I think its fair to say that he has been a unifying figure. Give him credit for that. Rich and poor want to kill him. And nobody gives a flying fuck about whether or not he is gay.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


As most people know by now, Slumdog Millionaire follows the progress of a young “chai walla” or telephone help-desk tea-server through the process of breaking the bank on an Indian version of “Who Wants to  Be a Millionaire?”

The movie opens to find him under torture in a local police station. The cops have been told that the accuracy of his answers amounts to proof of cheating. As the victim eventually explains, chance is responsible; each of the questions has evoked a personal experience which happens to have imprinted the correct answer: e.g. the inventor of the revolver, the holder of a cricket record.

Flashbacks structured by the sequence of questions then give us a vivid biographical portrait of the contestant, his elder brother, and the girl whom he has known from childhood, lost more than once, and never given up on finding again. The biography comprises the substance of the movie as it thunders from early childhood into real time and culminates in full resolution of all outstanding problems.

The first of these flashbacks treats us to the scene of cops chasing two small children from a prohibited area in which they have been playing, through the slum in which they live. Only the happy appearance of their mother saves them from official mayhem. Homey scenes of abysmal conditions follow.

Before long, we witness a Hindu pogrom during which the two brothers see the same mother clubbed to death. Soon after, they take a similarly orphaned girl under their protection and next appear on the local garbage dump, picking filth for a living, and residing in a tent. Here they are discovered by a smooth gangster who gives them Cokes and whisks them off to an encampment for street children. There, he feeds and houses dozens of little boys and girls, and prepares them for careers as street beggars or prostitutes. This preparation includes blinding and maiming, which we witness.

The two boys escape but the girl is captured trying. Thereafter, our protagonist, now eight or nine years old, pursues his lifelong quest: to find, rescue, and protect the lost girl, whom he loves. His unrelenting effort forms the engine of the movie and involves him with dangerous gangsters and repeated fraternal betrayals.

What I remember most vividly are the scenes of homicidal communal violence, universal indifference to the fate of helpless children, their blinding, maiming and daily exploitation (all presented as normal features of life in the big city) the routine use of torture on the merest suspicion by everyday police (this little station keep electrical equipment on hand for the purpose) and a general, straightforward, unabashed level of social snobbery so smarmy as to register in the pit of the stomach.

This is, however, no expose. The extensive scenes noted serve only as background for a facile and ultimately silly romance devolving on the conceit described. The action is camera driven. The tension relies on manufactured delay and forced uncertainty. The characters aspire neither to depth, texture, nor personality. The girl is typically beautiful notwithstanding the dreadful scar inflicted by her vedddy vedddy bad tormentors.

Most strikingly, the creative sensibility betrays no larger or principled interest in its depiction of abominations. The fiendish use of small children is mere local color.

Those with strong stomachs and a taste for formulaic melodrama in distant lands may buy it. Many have and no doubt will. I found it the creepiest motion picture I have seen in a long, long time. Creepier still is the popular practice of describing – and, I must conclude, experiencing – Slumdog Millionaire as a “feelgood” movie. 

Saturday, November 29, 2008


The New York Times had a column in today’s newspaper bemoaning the difficulties of Donovan McNabb and Vince Young, two quarterbacks in the National Football League, both black. What a shame. What an unnecessary shame.

It used to be that football coaches – who were then all white – would not play a black athlete at quarterback or let a black player be an offensive center, and on many teams a black at middle linebacker was out of the question. These were thought to be “the thinking positions,” the signal callers, suitable only for white players who, of course, possessed the “necessities,” obviously thought to be lacking among black athletes, to handle the responsibilities for these difficult, strategic positions on the field. But, let’s face facts – let’s look at reality. Those days are long gone, not only in the National Football League, but also in college football. First of all, you would be hard-pressed to find a team, either in the NFL or in big-time college football, which still has an all white coaching staff. Not only are there now quite a few black Head Coaches, but also on many big-time staffs, the majority of the Assistant Coaches are also black. Second, no coach, on any level of play, even as far down the line as high school, has that type of job security that allows him to overlook the best players that he can find to play any position on the field.

The problems faced by Donovan McNabb of the Philadelphia Eagles and Vince Young of the Tennessee Titans have nothing to do with the fact they are black. The issue of black quarterbacks simply doesn’t exist anymore.

There was a time when equality, especially in sports, didn’t really mean being “equal” – it meant making room for black athletes who were better than the white players currently on those teams. Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby, Willie Mays, Roy Campanella - they didn’t need equality. They just needed a chance. They had few if any equals, black or white. In the 1940s and 1950s, there were many great black baseball players. All they needed was a chance to be on a roster of a major league baseball team. They were already better players, not equal players. So they did not need equality. They needed a chance to show their superiority and their greatness. Honesty dictates that equality is for average players, not great ones.

Equality finally arrived in Major league baseball – and in the other major American sports – not when the best black players were allowed to play, but when average, mediocre, or even bad black players were allowed to play. Equality was not being a starter on a big-time major sports team. Equality was having the same chance to be the last man on the bench, the worst player on any given team. Equality meant being a utility player, a pinch-hitter, the fourth outfielder, a middle reliever in the bullpen, or the big tall, clumsy guy sitting on the end of an NBA bench - you know, the one who never takes his sweats off, never gets into a game. When that guy is a black player – and he is these days! – Equality has come.

The New York Times ought to know the National Football League has reached a point where racial equality is a given. None of the variables that used to determine how many black players were on a team have any significance any longer. There are no positions on a professional football team that a black player cannot play if he is the best player available at that spot. And, we now have real evidence of this because it is obvious to all that the NFL has a quite a few average, mediocre, or just plain bad black players at all positions, even skill positions like quarterback. News flash for The New York Times: Donavan McNabb and Vince Young are not that good. Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw, with all their Superbowl rings, never had problems like McNabb and Young… and race has nothing to do with it.

Many years ago, professional teams - baseball, football, and basketball - arranged their squads so that an even number of black players would make the team. Teams had four or six or eight, but never five or seven or nine black players. This allowed black players to be segregated together as roommates on road trips and prevented what was then viewed as a terrible problem, having interracial roommates. It was normal practice, in those days, for the weakest players on any pro team to always be white players. For many talented baseball, football and basketball players, if they were black, they had to be starters or they were cut, while lesser white players remained on the roster. Those old, stereotypical requirements for hotel roommates and the need to fill out a team’s roster with white players - they are things of the past. Today, there is no professional sports team, or major college football or basketball team, that takes these considerations into account any longer.

The proof is on the playing field. Any viewer can turn on the television and watch a football game – professional or college – and see just as many not-so-great black players as not-so-great white players. A young black athlete who plays quarterback no longer has to be as good as Doug Williams, just as a young black baseball player no longer has to be Willie Mays or Henry Aaron.

If The New York Times wanted to write a column about the difficult season Donovan McNabb is having in Philadelphia or the personal problems that have delayed or destroyed the careers of Vince Young and Michael Vick, they might well have written a stimulating, interesting column. But tagging McNabb and Young’s problems as being related to the issue of black quarterbacks in the National Football League shows how out of touch the New York Times is.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


The very idea of an American Thanksgiving feast is a fairly recent creation. Yes, the term “fairly recent” may call for some definition in today’s short-attention- span, 24 hour news cycle popular culture. Still, the first historical mention of any Indians sharing any meal with any Pilgrims appears to be only 118 years-old. It was only a little later, after the turn of the last century, around the time of World War One, that a version of such a Puritan/Indian partnership took hold in the elementary schools of white people across the American landscape. We can thank the invention of textbooks, and their mass purchase by public schools, as being primarily responsible for embedding this “Thanksgiving” image in our modern culture. Of course, it’s a complete invention, a creation of cultural propaganda, another in a long line of white-Christian inspired nationalistic myths.

Truth be told, the first Thanksgiving Day officially, historically credited to and recorded by the European Puritans of Massachusetts occurred in 1637. It was then that the Colony’s Governor, John Winthrop, proclaimed such a day to celebrate the safe return of a band of heavily armed hunters, colonial volunteers, European Christians, acting in the time honored traditions of Western religion. They had just returned from their journey to what is now Mystic, Connecticut where they massacred 700 Pequot Indians. Yes, seven hundred, all dead. Some Thanksgiving.

This day is still remembered today, 371 years later – not by white people or Christians, of course, but by Indians. A group calling themselves the United American Indians of New England, meet each year at Plymouth Rock on Cole’s Hill for what they say is a Day of Mourning. They gather at the feet of a stature of Chief Massasoit of the Wampanoag to remember the men, women and children of the long gone Pequot’s. They do not call it Thanksgiving. There is no football game afterward.

So, what is it we are thankful for and how did all this – this Thanksgiving – come to be? It began with the greatest of misunderstandings, a true clash of cultural values and fundamental principles. Look what happened to the original residents who lived in the area of New York we came to call Brooklyn. A group of them – not Europeans of course - calling themselves Canarsees, obligingly, perhaps even eagerly, accepted assorted pieces of pretty, colored junk from the Dutchman Peter Minuet in 1626. These trinkets have long since been estimated to be worth no more than 60 Dutch guilders at the time. In exchange, the Canarsees gave Peter Minuet the island of Manhattan. What did they care? They were living in Brooklyn. All that’s left to show for it now – a neighborhood in Brooklyn and a subway line.

Of course, all things – especially commercial transactions – need to be taken in perspective. The nearly two dozen tribes of Native Americans living in the New York area in those days (hereinafter called Indians), had a distinctly non-European concept of territorial rights and what we would label – real property. It was common for one tribe to “allow” another to hunt and fish nearby themselves on a regular basis. Fences were not a part of their culture. Naturally, it was polite to ask before setting up operations too close to where others lived, but refusal, in matters of this sort, was rare and rude. As a sign of gratitude, small trinkets were usually offered by the tribe seeking temporary admission and cheerfully accepted by those already there. It was, without a cultural question, a sort of short-term rental arrangement. Sad to say, the unfortunate Brooklynites known as Canarsees, apparently had no idea, and were probably surprised to learn that the Dutch meant to stay, permanently. Worse yet, it must have been unthinkable that they would also be henceforth unwelcome in Manhattan after their deal with Governor Minuet. One thing we can be sure of, their equivalent of today’s buyer’s remorse brought them nothing but grief, humiliation and violence.

Many Indians lived on Long Island in those days. Another Dutchman, named Adrian Block, was the first European to come upon them in 1619. Block was also eager to introduce European commercialism and the Christian concept of real property to these unfortunate innocents. Without exception, they all came out on the short end in their dealings with the Dutch. The market savvy unleashed by the Europeans upon the Indians constituted the first land use policies in the New World. The most damaging of these new ideas was called ownership. In the Seventeenth Century, it was not urban but rather rural renewal. The result, of course, was the same – people of color, who had no money to speak of, got kicked out, and the neighborhood was subsequently gentrified, overrun by white people.

One tribe of about 10,000 Indians lived peacefully in a lovely spot, on a peninsula directly along the ocean. There they fished in the open sea and inland bay, hunted across the pristine shoreline and were well fed and quite happy until they met a man – indeed, yet another Dutchman - named Willem Kieft, the Governor of New Netherland in 1639. They too ended up as unknowing sellers. These poor bastards were called the Rechaweygh (pronounced Rockaway). Soon after meeting Governor Kieft, they became the very first of New York’s homeless. Guess who lives there now.

The white people of New Netherland had a lot in common with the white people of Plymouth Colony. At least it appears so from the way both of these groups of displaced and dissatisfied Europeans interacted with the people they found already here when they arrived, the Indians. The Pilgrims in Plymouth had a hard time for the first couple of years. It was mostly their own fault. Nature was no help either. They hit a drought that cost them dearly in corn and peas, severely reducing their seed stock for future planting. But, poor planning was their downfall. These mostly city dwelling Europeans never thought to include among them persons with the skills needed in settling the American wilderness. Thus, when they reached the forests and fields of Massachusetts they turned out to be pathetic hunters and incompetent butchers. They had no one with knowledge to turn to for help. Game was everywhere, yet in a land of plenty, they went hungry. First, they couldn’t catch it; then when they did, they couldn’t cut it up, prepare it, preserve it and create a storehouse for those days, certain to come, when fresh supplies would run low. If you can’t cut meat, you won’t eat meat.

To compensate for their food shortage, particularly essential protein, they relied upon their European ways and their Christian culture. They instituted a series of religious observances. They could not hunt or farm, but they were damn good at praying.

They quickly developed a taste for something both religious and useful. They called it a Day of Fasting. How convenient. Without food it seemed like a good idea. That single Day often turned into multiple Days and, as food supplies dwindled, the Days of Fasting came in bunches. Each of these episodes was eventually, and thankfully, followed – at last - by a meal. Appropriately enough, the Puritans credited God for this good fortune. They referred to the fact they were allowed to eat again as a “Thanksgiving.” And they wrote it down. Thus, the first mention of the word – Thanksgiving – in what we came to call America. Let there be no mistake here - there was no turkey, no corn, no cranberries, no stuffing or salad. They were lucky to get a piece of fish and a potato. All things considered, it was a Thanksgiving feast.

The myth that the Pilgrims shared their Thanksgiving meal with the local Indians, who were mostly Wampanoag and Peguot, is just that – a myth. It never happened, until its inclusion in the “Thanksgiving story” in 1890, that is.

Let the Wampanoag be a lesson, especially in these troubled economic times. Is it any wonder that the Wampanoag were a people who derived great pleasure from stringing colorful beads together and giving them away to other tribes when hunting or fishing in their territory? These particular Indians had their tribal name slightly altered by the Dutch, who then used it as a reference for all Indian payments – hence, wampum. Contrary to what we’ve been shown in many 20th century movies about the American west, this word – wampum – and its economic usage never made it out of New England.

And it wasn’t until the victorious colonial militia returned from their slaughter of the Pequot that the newly arrived European Christians began their now time-honored Thanksgiving.

Enjoy your turkey.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Papa was never a rolling stone, but he was a broadcaster, a station manager and owner. Perhaps, John McCain may have misunderstood the fundamentals of the economy, but Papadablogger knows what commercial broadcasting is all about.

If you watch “Election Coverage” on TV… network television or cable, right-leaning FOX NEWS or left-leaning MSNBC, traditional over-the-air network news or local market news, even non-traditional television “news” like Jon Stewart or SNL… if you watch any of this, you should know what it is you’re part of. Its entertainment and you are the audience.

There is no such thing as “Broadcast News.” Therefore, there is no such thing as legitimate election coverage or credible political reporting anywhere on television. There’s good entertainment and not so good, but there is no traditional journalism or honest, straightforward analysis to be found there.

Broadcasting is an arm of the Advertising Business. This is not a cynical assessment. Look at the financial facts and decide for yourself exactly what’s going on.

This year, about $82 billion will be spent on broadcast advertising. These days, what with Wall Street bailouts, enormous monthly loans to the US federal government from our Chinese trading partners and even larger amounts of American dollars flowing steadily to the coffers of OPEC as quickly as those electronic gasoline pumps can make it happen, $82 billion might not seem like so much money. Think of it in simpler terms. Each billion dollars is a thousand million dollars – that’s a million dollars, a thousand times over.

And thus, 82 billions of dollars is 82,000 x $1,000,000. That’s a lot of money. If you like, you can throw in an extra $11.5 billion for Internet advertising.

So, you’re getting pretty close to $100 billion dollars and you haven’t yet used an ounce of ink or a single sheet of paper. And, also, we haven’t touched a penny of the $3 billion that will be spent by all candidates for public office combined in this election season. How do broadcasters view that $3 billion? Easy money. Guaranteed extra income. Its like candy on Halloween, icing on the birthday cake, another Christmas added to the calendar every four years.

Every broadcaster knows there are 168 hours in a week. That equals 10,080 minutes weekly or 1,440 minutes every day. The normal commercial inventory ranges between 288 and 384 minutes per day, or 2,016 to 2,688 minutes each week. Break these down into 60 seconds, 30 seconds, 20 seconds and 10 seconds and you have your “product” which has to be sold by your Sales Department. In order to make that “product” attractive to buyers, at the highest possible prices, the Programming Department must put programs on the air that will bring in the maximum number of viewers.

Do these commercial needs square with credible, reliable, truthful reporting and thoughtful analysis? Oh, sure. If Papa may quote the VP nominee of the Democratic Party, as he addressed an inquiring TV anchor-woman – “Are you joking? Is that a serious question?”

Ask yourself - If an accurate reporter could tell you that a contest has been decided, beyond the possibility of reversal, would you continue to watch the continuing analysis, night after night, once you had been assured of the outcome? How many viewers – of the millions watching – might stop watching? A few? Some? Many? Most? Viewership would decline. Advertisers who had paid for commercial time would be angry that the same network or station that sold them time had then driven the audience away by telling them the truth – the analysis is complete; the contest is over!

On a less controversial matter than Presidential politics, have you ever seen a baseball game in which one team takes a 9 or 10 run lead after only a few innings – and the TV announcer says something like: “No lead is safe in this stadium, folks!” Is that true? Of course not. But imagine the chagrin of all those advertisers who bought time in the 4th or 5th inning, not to mention those with TV spots scheduled to run in the 8th or 9th innings. In politics as in baseball, if you’re waiting to see who wins, you can leave now. But, if you are in broadcasting, you can never let them go!

The same principle applies to all Election Coverage, on ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN, FOX NEWS and MSNBC… all of them. When you watch those programs – no matter how much you may like a particular “host” or supposed reporter or purported pundit – they are there to entertain you; you are being entertained; and you are paying for it by agreeing to be exposed to the commercials that makeup part of the $82 billion in annual broadcast advertising revenue.

So, in these final few days before Election Day, you may be fairly certain that –on TV anyway – the race will get closer and closer, tighter and tighter, the battleground states will get more intense, the fight will become fierce.

And then, of course, the landslide will ensue as if all previous predictions and frantic warnings never happened.

On TV, nobody who wants to continue working on TV will tell you the truth until the last dollar is safely stashed in the cash register. C'mon now, sing along... "Let me entertain you."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Early voting has changed everything we’ve come to think of about our Presidential elections. The election is not next week – it’s already well underway – and in some key states, it’s as good as over.

Florida has announced that beginning today, it will extend Early Voting hours from 8 to 12 hours daily. Why? The demand to vote – NOW! – is overwhelming. In 31 states, across the nation, voters are eagerly and patiently waiting in line for as long as 5 hours, often in bad weather, to Vote Early, to vote now!

Nothing a candidate says or does, in the days ahead, can change these votes. No October Surprise can allow anyone to go back and change their mind, change their vote. Put simply, if you’re campaigning today in a state where half the votes have already been cast, you’re only talking to half the voters. Your entire effort has been reduced by 50%. Your market has shrunk by half. If you’re behind, as everyone agrees John McCain is, it may be too late to catch up – no matter what happens between today and next Tuesday.

American Presidential elections will never be the same again. Early Voting has changed everything. Future candidates must arrange their campaigns to peak on the day Early Voting starts.

How many Americans have already voted? Are these numbers significant? According to George Mason University, which is tracking this daily (, the number is 14,242,162. That represents 11.5% of all those who cast ballots in the 2004 Presidential election. But, the number of Early Voters in key states – those referred to as battleground states – is far higher than that.

In 6 of these battleground states the election may already be decided. Look at these numbers – and remember, these are NOT poll numbers, predictions of how voters will vote – these are ACTUAL VOTES, already cast and counted.

Florida: 2,063,157 – that’s 27% of all Florida votes in 2004
Georgia: 1,206,891 – that’s 36.4% of all Georgia votes in 2004
Colorado: 958,508 – that’s 44.6% of all Colorado votes in 2004
Iowa: 339,725 – that’s 24.3% of all Iowa votes in 2004
Nevada: 344,198 – that’s 41.4% of all Nevada votes in 2004
North Carolina: 1,411,999 – that’s 39.7% of all North Carolina votes in 2004

And there is still the rest of this week of Early Voting left. A lead – especially a substantial lead – in any of these states may be too big to overcome by voters who wait until Election Day to cast their ballots.

Early Voting in Ohio, according to the latest poll by SURVAY USA has Obama leading McCain by a margin of 56.5% to 43.5%. That’s not a poll of how voters say they WILL vote; it’s a count of votes ALREADY CAST. The Gallup organization shows pretty much the same for Ohio’s Early Voters. Gallup has Obama leading McCain 53% to 43% in Ohio votes ALREADY CAST. Gallup goes further and asks if voters who have not yet voted intend to Vote Early in the week remaining until Election Day. Ohio respondents who say yes, they will, reply in favor of Obama by a margin of 54% to 40% over McCain. Of those Ohio voters who say they will wait until Election Day to vote, Gallup shows Obama leading among them also, by 50% to 44%.

In four vital battleground states, CNN figures show an Obama landslide in the making – not in voter preference, but among those who have ALREADY VOTED.

In North Carolina, CNN has Obama already leading 66% to 34%. In New Mexico, CNN shows Obama with a lead over McCain of 65% to 35%. In Nevada, the CNN numbers show Obama ahead by 64% to 36%. In Iowa, CNN says Obama leads McCain in votes already cast and counted by 63% to 37%. Can McCain overcome these enormous defecits? Reason dictates otherwise.

Do the math. When they say, the only poll that matters is the poll taken by the voters on Election Day, they now need to amend that, to add – plus the votes cast as part of Early Voting.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Harry Truman came from 8 points down to beat poor Tom Dewey in the final 2 weeks of the 1948 Presidential race. Although the romance of Camelot has dimmed memories, JFK trailed Nixon until the end of the 1960 campaign. Again, in 1980, Ronald Reagan came from behind in the polls to defeat Carter in the final days of that campaign. In 1976 Gerald Ford’s last week’s rush left him just short of a victory and in 1968, Hubert Humphrey also gained furiously in the last days to nearly beat out Nixon in the closest popular vote ever. Some analysts will even point to George W. Bush who brought new meaning to “coming from behind” by overtaking the exit polls themselves and unexpectedly winning against both Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004. To many, how he managed that feat of magic remains a mystery. But, it’s a fact – in American Presidential elections, the final days and few weeks have been extremely important to the final decision on Election Day.

Without much fanfare, that tradition has come to a screeching end, trampled into the ground this year under the feet of millions of early voters, many of whom are patiently waiting hours upon hours to cast their vote for President well before the official Election Day

The term Election Day has been rendered archaic. Early voting in 31 states has deftly and quietly swept Election Day into the same cultural dust-bin where 45 rpm records lay stacked in piles next to millions of IBM Selectrics and other similar machines called typewriters. It’s the same place where out-dated behavioral patterns, and those who continue to practice what was once thought to be important social necessities, such as men who shave their face everyday or women who routinely, and for the most part needlessly, wear girdles and corsets. All of them have gone the way of the 8-track cassette, the Zippo lighter and the doctor who makes house calls. Joining them now – Election Day.

Yes, on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, this year that being the fourth day of the month, many Americans can and will go to their local polling places to vote for President of the United States. But, so many millions of Americans will have already cast their irrevocable ballots – via Early Voting – that this particular election will already have been decided. Votes actually cast on Election Day will be an afterthought, quite literally, a thing done after the result has already been determined.

NEWS FLASH! All the candidate activity of the last two weeks is wasted effort. The 2008 Presidential Election is over. The next President of the United States - Barack Obama.

Modern technology, not to mention common sense, has modified if not completely overwhelmed the wit and wisdom of Yogi Berra. For those who nevertheless insist it ain’t over ‘til it’s over… well, then – let me give you the news. It’s Over!

A mindful, rational examination of the various, numerous polls should lead most observers to the conclusion that, with less than 2 weeks remaining in the campaign, only 4 states can still truly be called toss-ups, too close to call for either Obama or McCain. They are: Georgia, Indiana, Montana and North Dakota. These 4 states have only 32 Electoral votes. How they eventually divide means nothing to the election’s outcome. So, for our purposes, let’s give them all to John McCain. It doesn’t matter; its too late for him.

A 5th state with early voting, Nebraska, awards its 3 Electoral votes by district. It joins with Maine as the only two states not to participate in the winner-takes-all Electoral system. Nebraska’s 3 Electoral votes will split 2-1 in favor of John McCain. Thus, to get started, give the Next President, Barack Obama, 1 Electoral vote.

Of the remaining 26 states with early voting, Obama and McCain will each win 13 – an even split in states, but an Electoral landslide for Barack Obama. The 13 states Obama will win, including California with 55 Electoral votes all by itself, will give him an additional 185 Electoral votes. John McCain’s 13 states deliver only 106 Electoral votes.

Okay… with 1 from Nebraska and 185 from the other 13 states, early voting will mean Election Day begins with Barack Obama already having 186 of the 270 Electoral votes needed for victory. Before a single vote is registered on November 4th, Obama only needs only 84 Electoral votes win the Presidency. Still, you may ask, if he only has 186, and if he needs 270 to win, why is Election Day archaic, obsolete, an afterthought? The answer is simple.

John McCain can win only 4 states that actually vote entirely on Election Day. They will be: Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and South Carolina. In our unique American system, none of them is big enough to help McCain win anything. Combined, they will only bring McCain 31 more Electoral votes, equal barely to Obama’s sure-thing victory in one state, New York. Even giving all the toss-up states to John McCain (more a rhetorical device than an actual reality), McCain will win only 4 states with double-digit Electoral votes: Texas, Tennessee, Georgia and Indiana. Obama will win 16 states with more than 10, including 6 with more than 20, 1 with more than 30 and 1 with more than 50. Remember, its all about Electoral votes. All told, on Election Day Obama will rack up a staggering, and almost uncontested 179 Electoral votes. Obama will end up with 365 votes in the Electoral College, one of the largest electoral landslides in American Presidential election history. No matter how much closer the popular vote may be, who cares?

Early voting will change all future Presidential elections. The campaigns must forget about the last two or three weeks. If they haven’t made their case effectively before early voting begins, it will be too late – just like it is this time for John McCain.

We used to talk about the October Surprise, a event so significant it would alter the result of a November election. In the coming elections the October Surprise better be a September or August Surprise or it will have no chance to change the dynamic of anything.

For 2008, this one’s over and done with. Put a fork in the McCain/Palin ticket and rent your tux for Barack Obama’s Inauguration on January 20, 2009.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


In 1982, Tom Bradley, the Mayor of Los Angeles and an African-American, ran for Governor of California. Throughout the campaign, Bradley enjoyed a comfortable lead. He lost the election. The clear assumption was that many white voters, who said they favored Bradley when asked by pollsters, succumbed to a deeply ingrained racism when the time came to pull the lever in the voting booth. Enough white voters couldn’t find it in themselves to vote for a black candidate, so Bradley lost.

Ever since, whenever a black candidate has run against a white opponent, the question of The Bradley Effect has been a prominent consideration. How much must you discount the polls when a black candidate is running, and leading a race, against a white opponent? It is a major concern in this election. Some people think Hillary Clinton remained in the race long after it was obvious she wouldn’t win because she was banking on The Bradley Effect. If so, she was wrong, but that was a primary. Only the nomination was at stake. No one was actually voting to make Barack Obama President of the United States.

How will The Bradley Effect influence the contest between Barack Obama and John McCain? The polls show Obama ahead, not only nationally, but also in the key battleground states. In this context, how can we best assess The Bradley Effect?

Three assumptions appear to have merit. First: no one supposes that all white voters face a racial dilemma; Second: no one supposes that all white voters who vote for McCain are racist; Third: no one believes The Bradley Effect isn’t real. Who doesn’t assume that there will be some white voters who will cast their ballot based on race? The important question is: how many? Will the actual number be high enough, in enough key states, to tip the scales?

Put most simply and straightforward – will John McCain win the Presidency because too many white voters vote Republican, against their Democratic inclinations, based on race?

Some may want to point to a reverse Bradley Effect, namely the tendency of black voters, motivated by race, to vote for Obama. Since previous Democrats running for President – every one of whom was white – received 90% or more of the black vote, this so-called reverse Bradley Effect appears not to be an issue. As a Democrat, Obama will get more than 9 of every 10 black votes anyway. One must also consider that black voters represent too small a percentage of the total vote to determine the election’s outcome by themselves.

The questions remains: How far ahead must Obama be in the pre-election polls to survive a racist backlash in the privacy of the voting booth? While everyone who ponders this issue probably has an answer – maybe 3 points, 5 points, 8 or even 10 points - no one knows if theirs is the right answer. And yet, the most shocking aspect of this whole matter may be that while it is very possible that the future of America – perhaps the future of the world – depends upon the size of The Bradley Effect, it appears that no one in the campaign – neither the Democrats nor the Republicans – will address the issue directly.

Perhaps, as it seems to be with so many issues of public concern, it is embedded within our culture; it is The American Way to pretend the issue doesn’t exit and hope it goes away on its own, pray it disappears, vanishes from sight. Maybe, if we don’t dare talk about it, nobody will notice. Maybe it will hide in plain sight. Perhaps, no one wants to recognize that after nearly 400 years, after slavery, a Civil War, Jim Crow and a de facto apartheid society, race still remains the central and unresolved focus in the American culture.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


There are compelling events and the data, the statistics, that give them credibility will not appear in any polls, will not be discussed by any of the Talking Lips on the never-ending cable channels… and they all point inexorably to a Barack Obama victory in November.

I am not talking about somebody’s opinion. I am talking about somebody’s fact; somebody’s proof; something that has no “fair and balanced” other side to consider.

You must first clear out, sweep away your preconceived notions. Stop with the “Yes, buts….” Followed closely by your reasons why the facts won’t hold up in this election. Just examine these facts for what they are – facts. And deal with it.

There are 42 million registered Democrats in America, and only 31 million registered Republicans – that was as of the 2006 US Census. You want to argue with the Census folks, go ahead, but these are the facts. So, if all the Democrats voted for Obama and all the Republicans voted for McCain… well, McCain would need to find 11 million votes somewhere, just to get back to even, wouldn’t he? Why won’t you find this in the polls? Because the polling companies set their samples with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans or a very slight sample weight in favor of the Democrats, but nothing that matches the statistics.

What about the growth of the so-called Independent vote, those voters who register to vote and list themselves as being “Independent” having no party affiliation? What about this “growth?” Talk of it is a hoax. It’s a myth. How can I say this? Because in 28 states, when someone registers to vote, they are asked to indicate their party affiliation, if they have one. Since 2006 has there been no growth among registered Independents. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Since the elections of 2006, there has been a decrease in voters listed as Independent. How big a decrease? How does 900,000 voters sound? That’s how many fewer registered Independents there are now than there were two years ago. Where did they go?

Since 2006, there have been more than 2,000,000 new voters registered in the Democratic Party. At the same time 900,000 Independents have taken their names from the rolls or changed their party designation. Perhaps, they’ve become Republicans? Don’t hold your breath. In these two years, the Republican Party has lost 344,000 registered voters. So, that’s minus almost a million Independents and nearly 350,000 Republicans… against a gain greater than 2 million for the Democrats. These are not opinions; these are facts.

Records are kept, you know. In every state except North Dakota, voters are legally required to register before voting. In North Dakota you just walk-up and vote. In 28 states, registered voters are asked to name their party.

Just where have the Democrats made these huge gains while the Republicans were losing registered voters? Because, if the Democrats have gained a lot of Californians or New Yorkers, well then – who cares? They already have those states. That won’t help them.

The facts show the Democratic Party’s biggest gains are in the very swing states they need to take to win in 2008. For example: Big gains have been registered in Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Colorado and Florida. In a very important Red state that might go Democratic in 2008, North Carolina, the Democrats have gained 167,000 newly registered voters. The Republicans? In North Carolina, they gained 36,000 new voters. That’s a possible gain for Obama of 131,000 votes in a state Bush carried twice and McCain must win in order to win the Presidency.

In Pennsylvania, a state Obama needs to hold, Democrats have registered 375,000 new voters. And the Republicans? They’ve added 116,000 new voters. In the Keystone state, the Democrats have added to their winning margin a net total of 259,000 new voters.

In Virginia, a state that – if Obama wins there – means he will probably be the next President, they do not have party registration. But, of the 235,976 newly registered Virginia voters, as of August 1, 2008, the great majority of them live in the five northern Virginia counties in the Washington area, counties that are normally heavily Democratic. In 2004 Bush won Virginia by only 262,000 votes.

In Ohio, which decided the 2004 election, a new Democratic Governor and a Democratic Secretary of State have put together a new kind of election for 2008. Using the Supreme Court ruling that allows college students to register and vote where they attend college, this time Ohio will allow all of it’s 470,000 college students to register and actually cast their ballot at the same time, on Election Day. Pre-registration is unnecessary. Courts have already ruled that the Ohio officials are within their authority to do this and to officially count the votes as they are cast, and include these vote counts in the state totals, prior to any challenges, should there be any.

In 2004, Bush carried Ohio by a mere 118,000 votes.

In the key Southern state of Georgia, where voters also register without naming their party affiliation, there have already been 337,000 new voters registered since 2006.

There has been very little talk at all about Black voters in this election. In many states there are enormous numbers of unregistered blacks 18 years old and above. In Georgia alone, the figure has been put at 600,000. The Census shows that nationwide 39.1 of all eligible blacks are not yet registered to vote. That number gets smaller every day.

The number of potential new black voters is measured in the millions across the states. Even a moderately successful registration drive among these voters has the promise of turning a number of states to the Obama side and keeping many traditional Blue states from changing color.

The three states with highest percentage of unregistered voters – Ohio, New Mexico and Colorado - are all swing states and each has a substantial minority population.

Why won’t you see any of these data in the political polls? Because the polling companies draw their sample universe from registered voter lists as of the previous election. None of the newly registered are considered in any of these polls.

These are the facts. If you’re a Republican, how do get around them? If you’re a Democrat, you should be very happy.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


The results of American Presidential elections have never been as simple, straightforward, clean and uncluttered as many might believe. The media impression especially, of our history of elections, is overwrought with both certainty and patriotic zeal. Our first 4 elections were filled with confusion and desperation, partly because Electors were chosen by the states, without popular elections, and when they voted, they cast 2 votes – 1 for President and 1 for Vice President – but they didn’t vote twice! They just cast 2 ballots each. Thus, in 1800 the Electoral College ended in a tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, each with 73 votes. The House of Representatives had to settle the matter, which they did by voting 10-4 in favor of Jefferson. But, even then, in the House vote, 2 states decided not to vote for either candidate. They abdicated their responsibility, letting the other 14 states make the decision.

Even in our very first Presidential election, in 1789, while George Washington did receive 69 votes, 18 other men also received Electoral Votes and – strange as it may be to believe – 24 Electors refrained from voting at all! For example, New York appointed its 8 Electors too late for them to be recognized as authorized voters. They were denied standing, refused certification, and not allowed to vote at all. So, in the very first Presidential election in our history, the State of New York, and therefore all its people, went unrepresented. If Washington was to be “The Father of His Country,” New York must have been raised by a single mother.

Again, in 1792, 6 Electors abstained from the vote for reasons left unrecorded. In the next election, in 1796, John Adams squeezed by Thomas Jefferson 71-68, but what’s largely been forgotten is – Thomas Pinckney got 59 votes; Aaron Burr got 30, Samuel Adams got 15; Oliver Ellsworth got 11; George Clinton (who got 50 Electoral Votes in 1792) got another 7 and 15 other men also got votes. Confusing? You bet. And then came the 1800 tie with Jefferson and Burr. After that, the Constitution was amended to choose the Vice president separately from the President and everyone thought things had been fixed.

There are no reports of the popular vote until the election of 1824. Many still think of that election as the most corrupt in our history. Andrew Jackson, the Hero of the War of 1812, won the popular vote with 41%. John Quincy Adams received only 30% of the popular vote, but the election went to the House of Representatives, just as it did in 1800, and Adams was named President over Jackson. Unlike Al Gore in 2000, who met the same fate with respect to the popular vote, Andrew Jackson spent the next 4 years telling anyone who would listen that the American people had been robbed of their vote. Jackson never conceded, never gave in to his “defeat.” In 1828, Jackson was redeemed, trouncing Adams in a rematch 56%-44%.

In the years preceding the Civil War, we had a series of minority Presidents – that is to say, Presidents who failed to capture a majority of the popular vote. Presidents Polk, Fillmore and Buchanan all won with less than 49% of the vote and then came the pivotal election of 1860. Abraham Lincoln emerged as President, in a contest among 4 candidates, but Lincoln scored an all-time low for any winner getting only 39% of the vote.

Following the reunion of The Union, and up to the turn of the century, we had a series of corrupt Presidential elections in which the “winner” of the popular vote was twice denied the Presidency – in 1876 and again in 1888 – and in the last 25 years of the 19th century we had 5 Presidents with a minority of the popular vote – Hayes in ’76; Garfield in ’80; Cleveland in ’84; Benjamin Harrison in ’88; and Cleveland again in ’92.

In the new century, the US went into a World War in Europe under a minority President. Woodrow Wilson barely won the 1912 election with 41% of the vote. Teddy Roosevelt had 27% and Wm. Howard Taft got 23%. The 1912 election was perhaps our most democratic ever. Even the Socialist candidate Eugene V. Debs was able to garner 6% of the popular vote. Nevertheless, Wilson won and assumed the Presidency with a majority of the country against him. Running for reelection as a wartime Chief Executive, Wilson won a second term, but still failed to break the 49% barrier.

More recently, after World War II, we went through another half-dozen Presidents who failed to get a majority of Americans to actually vote for them. Harry Truman got 49% in 1948; JFK also got 49% in 1960; Richard Nixon got only 43% when he won in 1968; and both our most recent Presidents have been minority vote getters. Bill Clinton, although elected twice, got only 43% of the vote in 1992 and 49% in 1996. Of course, in the election of 2000 we saw – for the 4th time in our history! – a “winning” President who didn’t manage to beat his opponent in the popular vote. George W. Bush won in 2000 with 47%, but more than a half-million votes less than cast for Al Gore. Gore chose a different path from that taken by Andrew Jackson 176 years earlier. Instead of standing up for the many millions of Americans who voted for him, Gore went on to explore other interests. Quite rightly, he has vanished from electoral politics since.

What does this portend for the next Presidential election? Does it signify anything? Some believe the 2008 election will be a landslide – not even close – while others think it will end up with as narrow a victory as we have seen in 2000 and 2004. Whatever your prediction, it appears that the “loser” in 2008 may get as many as 60 million Americans to vote for them. No matter who wins, tens of millions of our fellow citizens will not be happy with the result.

If those who look for a very close contest turn out to be right, they will have guessed in accordance with our 219 years of a checkered history of Presidential election results, and therefore, another such questionable decision should not surprise anyone.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Many Americans believe, and always will, that George W. Bush, and/or those who represented him, stole the 2000 and 2004 elections. In the key states that decided those contests – Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004 – the State Chairmen of the Bush For President Committees were also in charge of counting the votes! I know, that sounds… un-American. But, it’s true. The state Governor appoints or oversees the Secretary of State and it is that Office which is tasked with conducting the balloting, counting the votes, and certifying elections.

Imagine you were running for election, and imagine too, your opponent controlled the apparatus and organization that planned and carried out the election; and then that same opponent counted the votes and told you if you won or not. Sounds like it couldn’t possibly happen – not here in America. Well, it did. It happened just that way in Florida in 2000 and then again in Ohio in 2004. The Democrats played the role of the old Brooklyn Bums – “We wuz robbed!”

The most important lesson of those tainted elections – the American people accepted those vote counts as definitive, never raising a serious protest, never questioning how one contestant could operate the election machinery, then count the votes afterward, and then claim it was a fair and honest procedure. Bush may have “lost the vote” but he “won the count.”

Some are afraid Barack Obama’s campaign may meet a similar fate. They fear he might “win the vote” yet “lose the count.” Don’t worry. That can’t happen this time, not in 2008. Why? Because the Republican Party no longer controls the process in the key swing states.

To win in 2008, the Democrats must hold four states being targeted by the GOP. Each of them were previously won by Kerry and/or Gore and before them by Bill Clinton. Those states are:


All the other states, plus the District of Columbia, that were carried by the Democrats in the 1990s and by Gore and/or Kerry too, appear safe for the Democratic ticket in 2008.

What makes these four key states theft-proof, besides the expectation that Obama will get more votes in each than McCain will? None of the four – Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin - have Republican Governors. Democrats are in charge of all four state governments which includes control of the vote counting apparatus. Bluntly speaking, the votes cast in Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin will be counted by Democrats.

While Obama/Biden must worry about these four, most analysts agree there are eleven Bush/Cheney states that are potentially vulnerable for McCain. In each, the 2008 Democratic ticket has a real chance to win. These eleven are:


In order to win in the Electoral College, the McCain/Palin ticket must hold every one. They cannot afford to lose any of these states to the Democrats. Not a single one. Of course, the question is: Who will count the votes in these eleven states?

Only the first three – Florida, Georgia and Nevada – have Republican state administrations. All of the other eight states have Democrats as Governors and therefore, in all eight, the votes will be counted by Democrats this time, not by Republicans. And, look at that list – this time around it now includes Ohio, which no longer has a Republican Governor and a Republican Secretary of State. The Ohio election of 2008 will be run by Democrats and the votes cast will be counted by Democrats. The GOP cannot steal the state of Ohio in 2008.

How significant is this?

If Obama/Biden carry the 18 states and Washington DC - won by Kerry and Gore (who both lost, remember?) - and then add to that list of Electoral Votes ONLY ONE OF THE 11 TARGET STATES – any one of them! - the Democrats will win the 2008 election. Should Obama win Ohio – it’s over. Win Virginia? Over. Colorado? New Mexico? Any of them – its over.

No matter how you look at it; when the states needed to win are theft-proof; when the Republicans can no longer “lose the vote” and still “win the count,” this is a Democratic year.