Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Giving Peace A Chance?

American Peace Sign

The Global Peace Index has released its 2008 Rankings, and the United States did not do well, coming in 97th place out of 140 countries.

If you go to the rankings and click on each individual country, you can see how it fares in the 59 measures used to determine the index. The U.S., for example, does well in "Political Stability," but terribly in "Number of jailed population per 100,000 people."

From The Guardian:

"The world appears to be a marginally more peaceful place this year," said Steve Killelea, the Australian technology entrepreneur and founder of the Global Peace Index. "This is encouraging, but it takes small steps by individual countries for the world to make greater strides on the road to peace."

The index, which was launched under the auspices of the global thinktank the Institute for Economics and Peace is endorsed by the Nobel laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Professor Joseph Stiglitz and Professor Muhammad Yunus. It also enjoys the support of business leaders such as Sir Richard Branson and Sir Mark Moody Stuart.
His Holliness the Dalai Lama is another supporter. You can see the full list of Global Peace Index endorsers here.

Here are the Top Ten most peaceful countries in the world:

1. Iceland
2. Denmark
3. Norway
4. New Zealand
5. Japan
6. Ireland
7. Portgual
8. Finland
9. Luxembourg
10. Austria

Spain came in 30th. France 34th. The U.K. 49th. Canada 11th.

And the five least peaceful countries:

136. Israel
137. Afghanistan
138. Sudan
139. Somalia
140. Iraq

I guess the U.S. has helped Iraq achieve one clear distinction in the world.

And here's John Lennon, with Eric Clapton on guitar, doing a ragged live version of "Give Peace a Chance" from Live Peace in Toronto 1969.

Monday, May 19, 2008

How Hillary Can Still Win

Forget the number of pledged delegates.

Forget the number of Super-Duper delegates.

Forget the popular vote.

(With or without Florida and Michigan.)

There are a few other scenarios we haven't considered in which Hillary can still win.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

What Went Wrong? The Clinton Campaign Dissects Itself

The process to choose a Democratic presidential nominee hasn't finished yet, though it seems highly likely that Barack Obama will be the candidate.

I'll believe it's over when Obama actually has 2,025 delegates. Until then, I feel like I'm watching the last few minutes of a horror film, when the dumbass on the screen thinks he's killed the monster, whereas you know the beast is about to spring forth for one last attack.

Actually, observing a lot of Democrats, pundits, and bloggers (myself included), I'm reminded of another film analogy - the "Bring out your dead" routine in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Hillary: I'm not dead.
The Media: What?
The DNC: Nothing. Look, Edwards endorsed Obama.
Hillary: I'm not dead.
The Media: 'Ere, she says she's not dead.
DNC: Yes she is.
Hillary: I'm not.
The Media: She isn't.
The DNC: Well, she will be soon, she's very ill.
Hillary: I'm getting better. Look at West Virginia.
The DNC: No you're not, you'll be stone dead in a moment.
The Media: Well, I can't take her like that. It's against regulations.
Hillary: I don't want to go on the cart.
The DNC: Oh, don't be such a baby.
The Media: I can't take her.
Hillary: Obama won't get any white votes!
The DNC: Oh, do me a favor.
The Media: I can't.
The DNC: Well, can you hang around for a couple of minutes? She won't be long.
The Media: I promised I'd cover McCain's campaign.
The DNC: Well, when's your next round?
The Media: May 20, the Kentucky and Oregon primaries.
Hillary: I think I'll go for a walk. I'm inevitable!
The DNC: [To Hillary] You're not fooling anyone, you know.
[To the Media] Isn't there anything you could do?
Hillary: I feel happy. I feel happy. I'm going all the way to the convention!
[The Media glances up and down the street furtively, then silences Hillary with a whack of his club]
The DNC: Ah, thank you very much.
The Media: Not at all. See you in the General.
The DNC: Right.
Evidently, though, several people in Hillary's own campaign know the end is near, and they've started dissecting the corpse of their losing effort before the breath has even left the body.

Michelle Cottle, at the New Republic has a fascinating article called (surprise) "What Went Wrong," which pulls together statements from more than a dozen members of Hillary's staff, "from high-level advisors to grunt-level assistants, from money men to on-the-ground organizers."

Here's a good chunk of the article - I suggest, however, reading the whole thing:
One respondent sent in a list of Top 25 screw ups, the first three being:

1. Patti
2. Solis
3. Doyle

Patti Solis Doyle

While from another corner came another list, reading:

1. Mark Penn
2. Mark Penn
3. Mark Penn


"Bottom line: I just don't think she was hungry enough for it in the beginning. It wasn't really until the ten-in-a-row loss that she started doing stuff like Saturday Night Live and Jon Stewart. In the beginning, it was hard to get her to do those things. Early in the campaign, she spent much more time in the Senate than the campaign would have liked. It took the threat of a real loss to get her hungry enough for it. But time was lost. If you ask the Iowa folks, I'm sure they would tell you she wasn't there enough."

"Clearly [Obama] was a phenomenon. He was tapping something really different than anyone had ever seen before. ... Months and months before Iowa, he was getting record crowds. I just think they should have really gone after him back in the summer and in the fall. I know it would have been a difficult decision to make back then. She's the leader of the party, the standard bearer, the big dog. Everyone thinks she's gonna win and walk away with it. Why go picking on Barack Obama? But that's just something the campaign should have done sooner."

"We didn't lay a serious glove on him until the fall. We tried to a little bit, but we weren't successful. We did silly stuff, like talk about David Geffen. It wasn't the substantive contrast we needed to make."

"Devastating vulnerabilities such as Obama's associations with Wright and Ayers were not unearthed by the campaign's vaunted research team in time to be fully taken advantage of--despite being readily available in the public domain."

"Running as an incumbent, as the inevitable candidate, was probably our biggest mistake, particularly in a time when the country is really hungry for change."

"There was not any plan in place from beginning to end on how to win the nomination. It was, 'Win Iowa.' There was not the experience level, and, frankly, the management ability, to create a whole plan to get to the magical delegate number. That to me is the number one thing. It's starting from that point that every subsequent decision resulted. The decision to spend x amount in Iowa versus be prepared for February 5 and beyond. Or how much money to spend in South Carolina--where it was highly unlikely we were going to win--versus the decision not to fund certain other states. ... It was not as simple as, 'Oh, that's a caucus state, we're not going to play there.' That suggests a more serious thought process. It suggests a meeting where we went through all that."

"Harold Ickes's encyclopedic understanding of the proportional delegate system was never operationalized into a field plan. The campaign inexplicably wrote off many states entirely, allowing Obama to create the lead of 100+ delegates that he has today. Most notably, we claimed the race would be over by February 5, but didn't devote any resources to the smaller states that day and in the weeks that followed, allowing Obama to easily run up margins and delegate counts on the cheap--the delegate margin he will win by."


"Hillary assembled a team thin on presidential campaign experience that confused discipline with insularity; they didn't know what they didn't know and were too arrogant to ask at a time early enough in the process when it could have made a difference, effectively shutting out even some long-time Hillaryland loyalists. Her innermost circle of [Patti Solis] Doyle, [Mark] Penn, [Mandy] Grunwald, [Neera] Tanden and [Howard] Wolfson formed a Board of Directors with no single Chairman or CEO; nobody was truly in charge, nobody held truly accountable."

"[Original campaign manager] Patti and [her deputy] Mike [Henry] sat up there in their offices and no one knew what they did all day. Patti's a nice person who was put in a job way over head. She was out of her element. Mike Henry was hired because he was the flavor of day, the catch everyone wanted. I'm sure he was really great, but presidential politics require a unique skill set and knowledge."

"[Policy Director] Tanden and [Communications Director] Wolfson, the HQ's most senior department heads, had no real presidential campaign experience, and no primary experience whatsoever. Notoriously bad managers, they filled key posts with newcomers loyal to them but unknown to and unfamiliar with the candidate, her style, her history, her preferences."

Mark Penn

"Probably our second biggest mistake was much more operational: Making our chief strategist our one and only pollster. It is impossible to disagree and have a counter view on message when the person creating the message is also the person testing the message."

"She never embraced the mantle from the beginning of being a different kind of candidate. Why did the campaign not do that? Because Mark Penn wanted to do it a different way. Read his book. He thought that you have a list of policy prescriptions. Voters are into that, and that's how you win. This came at the expense of--and it's a decision he really pushed for--saying to folks, 'Yes, she's a pretty inspiring figure herself.' ... There's no reason why she's not a change agent also. But once the CW is set, it just doesn't change."

"There were so many consultants, instead of full-time staff who would have spent their entire time focusing on this. . . . There were too many people that had too much else going on on the side."

"[Bill's] behavior that started off in Iowa, carried on in New Hampshire, and culminated in South Carolina really was the beginning of the end. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, he just kind of imploded. I think, if I had to look back on it, it became more about him than about her. It really was destructive overall."


"There were more themes in this campaign than anything I've ever seen."

"Our message in fact was working very well through September. What we failed to do is pivot when we needed to. We stuck on the same thing. ... We didn't say, 'OK, everybody gets that she can do this job.' We never pivoted to what kind of change she could bring. We repackaged the old message and sent it back out. Instead of 'Ready on Day One,' we changed to 'Solutions.' It was a very IBM approach."

"Keeping the same team in place [after New Hampshire] meant that pre-Iowa planning and strategic errors continued nearly unabated, were not corrected. ... Too much damage had been done by the time Maggie Williams took the helm."

"There were a number of people who advised the Clinton campaign back in the spring of '07 that this could easily become a longer battle--a war of attrition. She needed to build a broad base of supporters beyond the virtually limitless number of Clinton friends and supporters who they counted on to not only max out, but to use their not inconsiderable Rolodexes to help her. That would have been fine if this thing had ended Super Tuesday. It didn't, and she ran out of money."

"There was financial mismanagement bordering on fraud. A candidate who raised more than a quarter of a billion dollars over the years had to pump in millions more of her own money to stave off bankruptcy."

"If you have no cash because you totally mismanaged the budget, you have no money to go up on TV; you're getting crushed on TV and in direct mail because Obama has so much more money--that is a huge problem. Who was looking at the money? The financial situation was a disaster. That's the reason [Howard] Paster had to come in and clean shit up."


"If you look at this campaign as a 15- or 16-month gambit, the public turning point was the Philadelphia debate. Her non-answer on the driver's license issue. Again, it spoke to the character issue: The sense that she will say anything and do anything to get elected. It drove the Obama narrative of her home."

"The Senator is as loyal as she is smart. And I think that removing Patti is where those two things came into conflict. She knew the right thing to do. At same time, she was very loyal to Patti, who had been very loyal to her."


"We placed a huge financial bet on Iowa and raised its importance by sending senior staff there. And because we didn't plan for a national campaign, we couldn't point to an operation that could withstand an Iowa blow the way Obama could after New Hampshire."

"It was obvious talking to people on the ground there that they simply did not get the Iowa caucus from a field perspective. That's where the thing was lost. They didn't have a good idea of the horse-trading that makes caucuses work for you."

"Mark Penn and Mandy Grunwald dismissed the possibility of youth turning out heavily in Iowa for Obama, saying on the record after the Jefferson-Jackson dinner, 'They don't look like caucus-goers.'"

"Penn was preoccupied with the national polls. We were up in the national polls, but Iowa was always a challenging thing for us. Early, early on, our internals showed us a significant number of points behind. ... In Iowa, Penn consistently would show polls that were of the eight-way. That was basically meaningless because it wasn't going to be an eight-way race. The candidates that were the second-tier candidates were not going to reach the threshold [of 15%]. The real race was the three-way. But he always focused on the eight-way when we'd start going over the numbers in Iowa. It was frustrating to the state staff and other people as well. It just showed a lack of understanding and a disconnect."


"We ran a press operation that lost all credibility with the press through endless and pointless memos like, 'Where's the Bounce?' and polling memos that cherry-picked only positive polls when we were up and ignored polling when we were down."


"Her people spent all of 2008 making lists blaming each other (but never themselves) rather than lists of solutions."

Actually, I can tell you "what went wrong" with Hillary's campaign in one word - IRAQ.

She supported (and supported and supported) Bush, Cheney & Co. and their sickening war loooong after the vast majority of people in her own party had turned against it. I remember the absolute fury my liberal friends felt towards Clinton because of the war, and I wondered at the time how she was going to win in the primaries when die-hard Democrats were lumping her in the Axis of Evil with Bush and Cheney.

Important groups like MoveOn and CodePink weren't going to support her. Most of the increasingly powerful blogosphere, like DailyKos and Huffington Post, hated her. The grassroots of the Democratic Party, who had organized themselves protesting the war, abandoned her. (One of the reasons the Clintons had such a hard time at the field level and in caucuses.)

As David Halberstam discusses in The Best and the Brightest, the classic Democratic presidential campaign strategy is to run to the Left in the primaries and move to the Center in the general election.

But Hillary couldn't run to the Left, because she betrayed them.

So she ran to the Right - giving us race baiting and reactionaries in a completely Republican-style campaign.

"I have a lifetime of experience I will bring to the White House," Hillary claimed. "I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience he will bring to the White House. . . .

And Senator Obama has a speech he made in 2002."

Yeah, well . . . with all due respect, Mrs. Clinton, if you had made a similar speech in 2002, you'd be the nominee right now.

If you had done what was right, if you had done what was just, if you had stood up against a war that the majority of the people in the world and in your own party tried to stop, we'd have our first woman president of the United States in 2008.

And maybe we would've prevented that catastrophic invasion.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Flag Pin Blues

Barack Obama has been wearing a flag pin since Monday.

He first showed up with the flag pin when he addressed a veterans group in West Virginia. On Tuesday, according to a Time magazine article, "he was sans pin on the Senate floor, but then later donned it while speaking to working class voters in Missouri during the evening."

On Wednesday he wore it in Michigan.

David Axelrod, his campaign manager, said, "I think he'll be doing more of that."

[The blog author shakes his head.]

Is this really a wise decision on the part of the Obama campaign? Does he really want to be tarred-and-feathered as a flip-flopper on the flag pin?

Last October, Obama spoke eloquently about the issue:

"The truth is that right after 9/11, I had a pin. Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we're talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for, I think, true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security," Obama said in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "I decided I won't wear that pin on my chest. Instead I'm going to try to tell the American people what I believe what will make this country great and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism."
Then, at the horrid Philadelphia debate, moderated by Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, the flag pin issue came back up again. Obama lost Pennsylvania. Then he got crushed in West Virginia.

Now, suddenly, Obama's wearing a flag pin.

Voters who question Obama's patriotism because he doesn't wear a flag pin probably weren't going to vote for him in the first place. And if a few of these folks are actually on the fence, do you think they're going to start sending him donations now that he's started wearing the pin?

On the other hand, his flip-flopping on an issue involving patriotism may strike some potential Obama voters as hypocritical, which most people don't appreciate.

If you ask me, it seems like one of those classic bonehead Democratic moves. Rather than reinforce Obama's sense of authenticity, or his determination to stand up for what he believes, as his original statement on the flag pin did (or his position against the gas tax), it reinforces his image as a Liberal elitist trying to reach out to "ordinary folks," thinking they're too dumb to notice what he's doing.

Instead of sticking with his own core values, he's giving in to political expediency. The Republicans can get away with it - see the entire campaign of John McCain. Democrats rarely do. They always wind up looking like fakes.

What's the upside? Is it really going to help Obama?

Misreading Endorsements

John Edwards endorsed Barack Obama yesterday. It's a crucial endorsement for Obama, but I've been amazed at how badly the pundits are misreading the situation.

Actually, I shouldn't be amazed at all, because they did the same thing with the endorsements of Ted and Caroline Kennedy earlier in the contest. In fact, some of them still don't get it. New York Times writer Jim Rutenberg is quoted in a Caucus blog post today: "Mr. Obama was not greatly helped when Caroline Kennedy, Senator Edward M. Kennedy and other big-name Democrats supported him earlier this year."

Pundits like Rutenberg usually point to the fact that Kennedy didn't magically win the state of Massachusetts for Obama or bring in lots of Latino voters on Super Tuesday, February 5th. But votes were never the main point of the Kennedy endorsement.

Instead, the support of Ted and Caroline Kennedy sent out a clear signal that major figures within the Democratic Party establishment were getting behind Obama. That was absolutely essential for a relative newcomer to the national scene like Obama to have any chance against the well-oiled, deeply entrenched, and and far-reaching machine of the Clintons.

Bill and Hillary were furious at Ted Kennedy for not staying neutral. They knew even then that it meant the Democratic establishment wasn't fully behind them. (Nobody, as far as I know, has ever analyzed why the Democratic establishment was never fully behind the two most public figures in the party - a two-term Senator married to the only two-term Democratic president since FDR. Funny that.)

I would argue, in fact, that the Kennedys' endorsements and the stunning overall results for Obama on February 5th were major factors in dismantling the inevitability argument of the Clinton campaign.

Now, the pundits are failing again - and miserably - in regards to the Edwards endorsement. Last night, I listened to one pundit after another talking about John Edwards helping Obama with those less-educated white voters making less than $50,000 a year. This morning, I stared in disbelief at a headline on the Yahoo homepage that said: "John Edwards brings blue collar voters to Barack Obama." (That's totally one person's opinion, and an opinion that's not even based on evidence. Yet it goes out as "news." Is this post-Bush journalism?)

Sorry folks, but John Edwards ain't gonna magically bring the white working class over to Barack Obama. Nor will he suddenly make the Kentucky primary competitive next Tuesday. The pundits have made a truly asinine assumption: 1) Obama has a problem with white voters who make less than $50,000 a year and have lower levels of education. 2) Edwards is white, has the support of the Steelworkers Union, and talks about poverty. 3) Therefore, Edwards' endorsement will resolve Obama's problem.

But as I pointed out earlier in the primaries, Edwards message about poverty never actually resonated with the poor. Nor with the under-educated.

Edwards came in second place in Iowa, winning 30% of the vote. Among people who earn less than $15,000, Edwards did terribly, only getting 17% of the vote. (Obama got 37% of their vote and Clinton got 30%.) Edwards' best numbers, in fact, were among those making over $100,000. He also did badly among Union Households, coming in third with only 24%, compared to 30% each for both Obama and Hillary.

So in Iowa, his best performance, Edwards underperformed significantly among the very groups the pundits now say he's going to somehow deliver to Obama.

There was no education level information in the Iowa polls, but in New Hampshire and South Carolina, Edwards did poorly. He received 17% of the vote in New Hampshire but only got 11% of the vote of Democrats who didn't finish high school. In South Carolina, he received 18% of the overall vote but only got 14% of those without a high school diploma.

And, as in Iowa, he did badly again among those making less than $50,000, especially among the poorest, who made less than $15,000, and he underperformed in Union households.

So, can someone please point to actual evidence that Edwards' endorsement will make much difference with the kind of voters who thoroughly rejected Obama in West Virginia and will do so again in Kentucky?

This isn't to say that Edwards endorsement isn't important. It is. But the pundits are setting up a bad situation for Obama by making it appear that Edwards should help him with working-class whites next week in Kentucky. Tuesday night, when Obama is getting his ass kicked by Clinton, get ready for all the "Aha, Edwards endorsement didn't mean anything!" crap.

It's an important point, because Obama does have a problem with this group of voters, and it's going to hurt him in the general election unless he can figure out a way to bridge the gap more. What will not help him are blaring and endlessly repeated comments that Obama must really be in trouble with these voters because even John Edwards' incredible influence on blue-collar voters somehow couldn't erase a 30-point lead in 5 days. Look for this narrative to play out Tuesday night and beyond.

Edwards' endorsement helped Obama yesterday, primarily because it obliterated (brilliantly) a continued discussion of Hillary's crushing victory in West Virginia. (41 points! - 41 points! "Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!")

And it was important because, like the Kennedy endorsements earlier, it sends a clear signal from major Democratic Party figures - in this case, that the contest is over.

Or, at least, that they want it to be over.

(I don't think the Clintons will agree.)

Partly because of the endorsement, look for more and more super delegates to move over to Obama in the next few days. He won't close the 30-point gap he's facing in Kentucky, but he will continue to lengthen his lead among super delegates.

After Oregon, he will also secure the majority of pledged delegates.

The only major metric he still has to worry about is the popular vote. And he should worry about that, because his abysmal showings in West Virginia and Kentucky are going to make the race much closer than it had to be.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"Hang that darky from a tree!" - Obama Volunteers Face Racism on the Campaign Trail

The Washington Post features a long and disturbing article today by Kevin Merida - "Racist Incidents Give Some Obama Campaigners Pause."

Some excerpts:

For all the hope and excitement Obama's candidacy is generating, some of his field workers, phone-bank volunteers and campaign surrogates are encountering a raw racism and hostility that have gone largely unnoticed -- and unreported -- this election season. Doors have been slammed in their faces. They've been called racially derogatory names (including the white volunteers). And they've endured malicious rants and ugly stereotyping from people who can't fathom that the senator from Illinois could become the first African American president.

Victoria Switzer, a retired social studies teacher, was on phone-bank duty one night during the Pennsylvania primary campaign. One night was all she could take: "It wasn't pretty." She made 60 calls to prospective voters in Susquehanna County, her home county, which is 98 percent white. The responses were dispiriting. One caller, Switzer remembers, said he couldn't possibly vote for Obama and concluded: "Hang that darky from a tree!"

Documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy, the daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy, said she, too, came across "a lot of racism" when campaigning for Obama in Pennsylvania. One Pittsburgh union organizer told her he would not vote for Obama because he is black, and a white voter, she said, offered this frank reason for not backing Obama: "White people look out for white people, and black people look out for black people."

On Election Day in Kokomo, a group of black high school students were holding up Obama signs along U.S. 31, a major thoroughfare. As drivers cruised by, a number of them rolled down their windows and yelled out a common racial slur for African Americans, according to Obama campaign staffers.

Frederick Murrell, a black Kokomo High School senior, was not there but heard what happened. He was more disappointed than surprised. During his own canvassing for Obama, Murrell said, he had "a lot of doors slammed" in his face. But taunting teenagers on a busy commercial strip in broad daylight? "I was very shocked at first," Murrell said. "Then again, I wasn't, because we have a lot of racism here."

The bigotry has gone beyond words. In Vincennes, the Obama campaign office was vandalized at 2 a.m. on the eve of the primary, according to police. A large plate-glass window was smashed, an American flag stolen. Other windows were spray-painted with references to Obama's controversial former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and other political messages: "Hamas votes BHO" and "We don't cling to guns or religion. Goddamn Wright."

At Scranton's annual Saint Patrick's Day parade, some of the green Obama signs distributed by staffers were burned along the parade route. That was the first signal that this wasn't exactly Obama country. There would be others.

In a letter to the editor published in a local paper, Tunkhannock Borough Mayor Norm Ball explained his support of Hillary Clinton this way: "Barack Hussein Obama and all of his talk will do nothing for our country. There is so much that people don't know about his upbringing in the Muslim world. His stepfather was a radical Muslim and the ranting of his minister against the white America, you can't convince me that some of that didn't rub off on him.

"No, I want a president that will salute our flag, and put their hand on the Bible when they take the oath of office."

Karen Seifert, a volunteer from New York, was outside of the largest polling location in Lackawanna County, Pa., on primary day when she was pressed by a Clinton volunteer to explain her backing of Obama. "I trust him," Seifert replied. According to Seifert, the woman pointed to Obama's face on Seifert's T-shirt and said: "He's a half-breed and he's a Muslim. How can you trust that?"
How disgusting, depressing and infuriating.

On the other hand, I'm inspired by the young Obama volunteers who are out there campaigning in the midst of all these racist idiots. Throughout the primaries, I've been impressed by younger voters who are fired up about this election, getting so involved, turning out in huge numbers, and who seem much less concerned about someone's gender or race. Good for them.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Concert Vault - Neil Young & Crazy Horse 1970

For music lovers who don't know about the web site Concert Vault, I recommend checking it out. They have digital recordings of over 1,300 concerts, most of them available for free. Shows come from several sources, including archives from Bill Graham's venues and the old King Biscuit Flower Hour.

You can listen to an entire concert, maybe the Jimi Hendrix Experience at Winterland in 1968, or put together individual tracks in a playlist. Or you can try out random programming from each of the four main catalogs.

The range of music is pretty good. Obviously, with the Graham archives, you get a lot of 60s and 70s shows by the biggies: Hendrix, Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd, Zeppelin, Clapton, The Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Creedence Clearwater Revival, as well as gigs by San Francisco groups like Electric Flag, It's a Beautiful Day, and Quicksilver Messenger Service. The King Biscuit catalog includes concerts from the 1970s and 1980s by artists like The Kinks, The Clash, Talking Heads, U2, Blondie, the Cure, etc. There's even a country archive, which includes folks like Waylon Jennings, Jerry Jeff Walker and Kris Kristofferson. (Alas, no Willie Nelson, who was doing some wonderful shows in the 1970s.)

There's David Bowie at Nassau Coliseum in 1976 and the Clash at the Agora Ballroom in 1979. Bruce Springsteen plays Max's Kansas City in 1973, just a few weeks after his first LP, Greetings from Asbury Park, was released. Or catch him in the longest show I've seen in the vault so far, a 1978 gig at Winterland. Both Lou Reed and Jerry Jeff Walker show up at the Bottom Line in the late 1970s; Bruce Cockburn - having just returned from Nicaragua - plays a short, intense set from 1984; and there's part of John Lennon's show at a 1972 benefit concert at Madison Square Garden. You can even hear a short set by Talking Heads at CBGB's in 1977.

And there are more recent shows, including the I'm Not There concert last November at Beacon Theatre, with many of the groups who performed on the soundtrack of Todd Hayne's film about Bob Dylan. Guests include Lee Renaldo, from Sonic Youth, and Yo La Tengo, as well as a brief appearance by Heath Ledger.

At the moment, I'm listening to Neil Young & Crazy Horse at Fillmore East (NY) on March 6, 1970 - the early show.

Here's a rocking 14-minute version of "Cowgirl in the Sand" that closed out the program:

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Ave Maria

Feeling Frank-ish this evening . . .


Mothers of America
let your kids go to the movies!
get them out of the house so they won't know what you're up to
it's true that fresh air is good for the body
but what about the soul
that grows in darkness, embossed by silvery images
and when you grow old as grow old you must
they won't hate you
they won't criticize you they won't know
they'll be in some glamorous country
they first saw on a Saturday afternoon or playing hookey

they may even be grateful to you
for their first sexual experience
which only cost you a quarter
and didn't upset the peaceful home
they will know where candy bars come from
and gratuitous bags of popcorn
as gratuitous as leaving the movie before it's over
with a pleasant stranger whose apartment is in the Heaven on Earth Bldg
near the Williamsburg Bridge
oh mothers you will have made the little tykes
so happy because if nobody does pick them up in the movies
they won't know the difference
and if somebody does it'll be sheer gravy
and they'll have been truly entertained either way
instead of hanging around the yard
or up in their room
hating you
prematurely since you won't have done anything horribly mean yet
except keeping them from the darker joys
it's unforgivable the latter
so don't blame me if you won't take this advice
and the family breaks up
and your children grow old and blind in front of a TV set
movies you wouldn't let them see when they were young

From Lunch Poems. 1964. City Lights Books.

If you haven't been to frankohara.org yet, go pay a visit. They have some cool video clips, including Frank reading "Having a Coke With You."

And then there's the Frank O'Hara Exhibit.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Clinton and theTerrible, America-Hating, Elitist Economists

I do love the way YouTube has transformed politics.

Here's a Golden Oldie from 1992:

"Bill Clinton's economic plan, endorsed by over 600 economists, including ten Nobel Prize winners [gasp!] . . . Over 400 of America's most respected business leaders . . . A panel of independent experts [OMG!!!] . . ."

600 bloody arugula-eating economists!!!

(And she can't even find one who supports her gas-tax plan?!?!)

Monday, May 05, 2008

Analyzing the Clinton Metrics For Winning

Which states are "insignificant," according to the Clintons? Which voters count more? Is the nomination process about delegates or the popular vote? And what time of day is most important for votes to matter?

Keith Olbermann takes a look at the various metrics the Clintons have used up to this point in the primaries for what defines winning.

¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Doesn't get much more Tex-Mex than this. . . .

Freddy Fender, Flaco Jiménez and a special guest sing the classic, "Volver, Volver."

Accepting a Unity Ticket

Whatever my reservations about a compromise/unity ticket in the past, I think it's clear by now that both Obama and Clinton need to be considered on a ticket.

I had a sudden revelation while listening to some of the candidates pander talk about the gas tax this weekend:

From Talking Points Memo Election Central:

George Stephanopoulos asked her a direct question: Could she name a single economist who agrees with her support for the gas tax holiday?

Hillary sidestepped the question, and tried to use the complete dearth of expert support for the idea to her advantage, pointing to it as proof that she's on the side of ordinary folks against "elite opinion" -- a phrase she used twice.

From The New Republic's blog, The Stump - Hillary vs. Pointy Heads:

"I'm not going to put my lot in with economists," Clinton said... We've been, for the last seven years, seeing a tremendous amount of government power and elite opinion basically behind policies that haven't worked well for the middle class and hard-working Americans."

Anti-intellectualism, success in obscure rural areas--when exactly did Hillary become Mike Huckabee?

And from The Plank, "How To Beat Gas Tax Demagoguery":
The Clinton and McCain campaign have defended their plan to suspend the federal gasoline tax in strikingly similar terms.

John McCain, when asked about New York Times columnist Tom Friedman's opposition to the tax suspension, replied:
"I understand in New York City that you don't really drive a long way most of the time," McCain said. "But -- and then maybe you're chauffeured."
The common thread here is anti-intellectual, populist demagoguery.
A flash of understanding! In addition to the gas-tax pandering, consider the following:

1) Hillary wants to "obliterate Iran." John McCain wants to "bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb Iran."

2) They both voted to invade Iraq and supported the war long after most Americans wanted us to withdraw our troops.

3) Hillary made it clear that only she and McCain have passed the "Commander-in-Chief threshold."

4) Hillary is already running a Republican-Karl-Rove style campaign. She wouldn't even have to change her current strategies.

5) Hillary and McCain are said to genuinely like each other. And both are said to genuinely dislike Obama.

6) After 15 years of railing against Richard Scaife for coordinating the "vast right-wing conspiracy" against her and Bill, Hillary reconciled with the conservative hit man in order to win the Pennsylvania primary. Think of the possibilities of a Clinton-Scaife team in taking on Obama!

7) The Clintons already have ample experience ramming Republican policies down our throats: See NAFTA, The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, The Telecommunications Act of 1996, and efforts to privatize government, the military, etc. Bill has been called "The best Republican president since Eisenhower." Now Hillary won't have to worry about that being a joke.

8) Hillary Clinton's chief strategist (until recently) Mark Penn is CEO of the DC-based PR firm Burson-Marsteller (Blackwater's PR firm!). Charlie Black, John McCain's top adviser, is chairman of BKSH, Burson-Marsteller's lobbying firm. Imagine the savings on lobbyists and campaign advisers!

9) The Clintons and Joe Lieberman are all part of the Democratic Leadership Council gang, whose objective was always to turn Democrats into Republicans Lite. Lieberman finally ditched the Democratic Party and is currently campaigning hard for McCain. Now, he and Hillary and Bill could all be together again as one big happy family!

10) By joining McCain, Hillary and Bill won't have to hide their race-baiting anymore, which has to be stressful, trying to keep so many Liberals from figuring out what they're doing. She's already locking up reactionary beer-drinking, gun-toting bowlers. Now she can really tell those intellectual arugula-eating, latte-drinking Obama-loving elites to kiss her white, "working-class" ass.

McCain-Clinton 2008!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Triumph and Tragedy

Big Brown wins the 134th Kentucky Derby by 4 3/4 lengths. Eight Belles, just to the right, comes in 2nd place, only to be put down immediately after the race.

The 134th Kentucky Derby produced terribly mixed emotions for horse racing lovers. It was a triumphant occasion for Big Brown, who overcame two historic obstacles to win an excellent race, and a tragic one for the filly Eight Belles, who also ran a great race to finish a strong second, only to break both front ankles at the conclusion of the race. She had to be euthanized immediately.

It's always very upsetting to see a horse go down at the track like that. And Eight Belles was a beautiful horse. Before the race, La Reina and I kept commenting on how lovely she was. Hard to get overly excited about the Derby after such a terrible conclusion.

Despite the tragedy, we were glad to see our Long Island native, Big Brown, do so well. I voted for him in NBC's Pick-the-Winner contest, so I'll be one of thousands vying for a free trip to next year's Derby. He was the first horse since Regret in 1915 to have only run three races prior to the Derby, and the first horse since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929 to win from the 20 post. An impressive race by an even more impressive horse.

As I mentioned in my pre-race analysis, the duel between #20 Big Brown and #19 Gayego right at the start proved to be crucial. Big Brown broke extremely well out of the gate and immediately shut down Gayego, who got squeezed back behind #18 Recapturetheglory and never became a factor. Kent Desormeaux, Big Brown's jockey, then got his horse in an excellent position on the outside of the front pack, just a little back. He cruised for much of the race, then turned it on around the final turn, showing a tremendous burst of speed at the end. In fact, Big Brown, was still raring to go after he crossed the finished line, actually forcing Desormeaux to jump out of the saddle at one point, a fairly amusing (though potentially dangerous) occurrence for a winning jockey.

My gut pick for a long-shot finish in the money, Smooth Air, never showed much and wound up 11th. One of my other long-shot bids, Tale of Ekati did manage to come in 4th. The surprise horse of the day, however, was Denis of Cork who finished 3rd at 27-1 odds. He's named after Father Denis Casey, a priest from County Cork, Ireland, and trained by John Carroll, who grew up in County Meath, Ireland. Never underestimate the Irish in a horse race. Unfortunately, they didn't include this crucial information in the statistics of the Daily Racing Form. How was I to know?!

We'll see if Big Brown can overcome his frequent problems with his hooves to win in two weeks at the Preakness. If he does, I think he'll have a better shot than many at winning the difficult mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes. Imagine a Long Island horse winning the first Triple Crown in 30 years right here on Long Island. I plan on being there.

I'm just sad that Eight Belles won't be there as well.

Here's the race . . .

134th Kentucky Derby

Big Brown winning the Florida Derby by five lengths on March 29th

This year's Kentucky Derby should be an interesting race, though some analysts are calling it a weaker field than usual. Part of the problem - or the fun - is that the top horses all have major questions surrounding them.

Big Brown, a Long Island horse, is the favorite this year (7-2 odds as of this morning), and we could see the making of a superstar in today's race. Jockey Kent Desmoreaux, who's already won the Kentucky Derby twice (more than any other jockey in today's race) said recently, "He’s a major talent, possibly the best horse I’ve ever ridden."

So what's the concern about Big Brown? Andrew Beyer, probably the most famous handicapper in the U.S., lays out the situation in his latest Washington Post column, "A Muddled Field":

The favorite [Big Brown] has won all three of his starts with ease, earning superior speed figures, and none of his rivals has a record remotely comparable. In an ordinary race, a horse with such credentials might look unbeatable.

But the Derby is no ordinary race, and it always is a tough one, requiring horses to run 1 1/4 miles amid the chaos of a 20-horse field -- something they will not do again in their lives. History indicates that horses must have sufficient seasoning to handle the unique stress of the race.

A horse ought to have raced at least five times in his career to be ready for the Derby. No horse with fewer than five starts has earned a blanket of Derby roses since Exterminator in 1918. Thirty have tried and failed. . . .

Curlin came into last year's race with an undefeated record in three starts -- just like Big Brown. By the end of the year, he had proved that he not only was the best colt of his generation but the best horse in the world. Still, he lost the Derby, probably because he didn't have the seasoning to cope with the rough-and-tumble circumstances he encountered at Churchill Downs.

Big Brown faces a second historical obstacle: He drew the 20th pole position, placing him far on the outside. Only two horses have ever won the Kentucky Derby from the 20 position.

The second favorite, Colonel John (4-1), raises what has become the biggest question in this year's race: How will horses who've been prepping on new synthetic tracks, principally in California, fare on traditional dirt? It's a new phenomenon, and handicappers still aren't sure how to deal with the issue. Here's Beyer on the synthetic track factor:

Because of the newness of synthetics, there isn't much historical evidence to make definitive judgments. But it is clear that racing on dirt and racing on synthetics are distinctly different games, and most horses will prefer one to another. So it is reasonable to disregard any horse who has made his reputation on a synthetic track without showing that he can win a stakes on dirt. Put an X over Monba, Adriano, Cowboy Cal, Bob Black Jack and Colonel John.
What muddies the situation even more, however, is that Colonel John set tongues wagging this week at Churchill Downs with a blistering 5-furlong workout on the dirt track. And Colonel John drew a nice 10th post position.

Given that odds on Big Brown and Colonel John will mean minimal return on a bet, and given the questions surrounding them, I wouldn't bother putting any money on either of them. I may root for Big Brown, but not with my wallet.

The third favorite, Pyro (5-1), had been doing great on dirt tracks, but then ran terribly at Keeneland a couple of weeks ago, finishing 10th on a Polytrack surface. Can he get his dirt track groove back? Beyer seems to think so, picking him as his winner:
[Pyro] comes into the Derby after the worst race of his life -- his dismal showing on Polytrack. There's not much history to support the chances of a horse who finished 10th in his final prep race. Yet Pyro is one of only two colts in the field -- the other being Big Brown -- who have demonstrated exceptional talent. He was dazzling when he rallied from far behind to win his racing debut at Churchill Downs last summer. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 105 running second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last fall. His rally to win the Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds in February was so phenomenal that he evoked comparisons to the legendary Silky Sullivan.

This is a colt whose running style always seemed made to order for the Derby, and he had been the favorite in future betting until his Polytrack debacle. Now he is discredited, but he remains the lone horse in the field with both the raw talent and the racing experience that usually are necessary to win the Derby.
I'm not as sold on Pyro, but if his odds remain 5-1, he might be worth a small bet to win.

Another interesting story is that of the fourth favorite, Eight Belles (8-1), the only filly in this year's race. She's run exceptionally well up to this point - but only against other fillies. Once again, history becomes factor. In 133 runnings of the Kentucky Derby, only three fillies have won, Winning Colors having last accomplished the feat 20 years ago.

Earlier this week, her owners weren't even sure if they would race her today, but they drew a good pole position (5) and decided to give Eight Belles a chance. If she had run some mixed races before today, I might be tempted to place some money on her, but in a rough race like the Derby, I'm not convinced that she can run with the big boys yet. If she does fairly well today and goes on to the Preakness, that could be interesting.

Some Possible Long Shots

Though I haven't been following the horses very closely this year, I did take a peek at the Daily Racing Form yesterday, and there are some intriguing possibilities that haven't gotten the same attention as the top favorites. These are horses who've shown something special in the past and who have long odds, making them attractive for betting - perhaps not to win, but at least to finish in the top three.

1) Gayego (21-1) - On paper, he's probably the second fastest horse in the race after Big Brown. His odds dropped dramatically when he drew the 19 pole position. No horse has ever won the Kentuck Derby from that spot. Also, he's one of the horses who've been running on a synthetic track. Both of those spell doom. But at 21-1, he's shown enough to take a chance on him as a possible long shot. Interestingly, despite Beyer's concern about synthetic tracks, he still picked Gayego to come in third.

2) Smooth Air (40-1) - This is a classic gut pick. As I read through the Racing Form, I found myself coming back to Smooth Air on several occasions. He's finished in the money (1st-3rd place) in all seven of his races. His speed ratings in 2008 are actually better than all but a few horses. In his last race, the important Florida Derby on March 29, he came in second place behind Big Brown. Why isn't anyone talking about him? Probably because he hasn't run as many distance races as other horses. He faded a bit at the end of the Florida Derby, which was only a mile and an eighth. But at 40-1, I simply wouldn't pass him up. I'd factor him into some kind of bet.

3) Tale of Ekati (45-1) - Another gut pick. And, perhaps, some local track bias. He won New York's most important prep race, the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, which happens to be one of my favorite tracks (take the A Train out to Aqueduct!). And he beat War Pass that day, who many consider a top horse right now. (War Pass is skipping the Derby but is scheduled for the Preakness.) I don't have a lot of hope for Tale of Ekati, but I'd probably put a little down on him somehow.

4) Z Fortune (17-1) - He's finished 2nd to Gayego and 2nd to Pyro, so he's competitive with great horses. Pretty good speed ratings, including an impressive 102 in his last race. Beyer picked him to come in 2nd, a likely kiss of death as a good betting possibility. My feeling is that people will start moving over to him as post time gets closer, so he may not be as attractive in the end.

5) Bob Black Jack (26-1) - He actually has the highest speed rating in a single race of any of the 20 horses, an exceptional 109 back in January. But he's another horse moving from synthetic tracks to dirt. Finished 2nd to Colonel John in the Santa Anita Derby in early April. Could surprise.

6) Recapturetheglory (47-1) - Looks like a good solid horse. Won the Illinois Derby a few weeks ago. Decent speed. Has raced on dirt three times and won twice. Bad pole position (18), unfortunately.

The beginning of the race will be critical and fascinating. The two speedier horses, Big Brown and Gayego, are out on the far end and will battle to get inside as soon as possible. A 20-horse Kentucky Derby is always a bit of a slug fest, but Big Brown and Gayego could make this more of one than usual. If Big Brown wins that battle and gets into a good position early, he may win. But the two could also burn each other out in that contest. Also, Big Brown doesn't have experience being way back in the pack - he's never been farther back than 3 - so we don't know how he'll respond to that situation should it occur.

Most analysts don't think this will be a particularly fast race, so that could benefit some of the horses with good but not blistering speed ratings. (Smooth Air?)

I haven't been paying enough attention to the horses to try and pick the top three. But if you want a safe bet on a horse, you can never go wrong with Secretariat. (See my last post.)

Will Big Brown become a superstar? He's probably the one horse with a shot at achieving the Triple Crown this year. Can he win despite his inexperience?
Can Colonel John overcome the move from a synthetic track?
Will Pyro be able to comeback from his disastrous last start?
Can Eight Belles show the big boys that she can play rough as well?

Or will we have another surprise winner like Giacomo in 2005, who was a 50-1 choice that day?

To find out, tune in to NBC at 6:04 EST this evening.

UPDATE (3:29 pm EST): Just took a look at the weather for Louisville this afternoon. 30% chance of rain from 4-6 pm, with isolated thundershowers. If the track turns sloppy, I like Smooth Air even more. He's run twice on sloppy tracks and won both times.

Hmm. I may have to go look for that OTB site . . . .

Friday, May 02, 2008

35 Years Ago Tomorrow

Two amazing facts about the 1973 Kentucky Derby:

1) Sham broke the Derby record that day, finishing the mile-and-a-quarter race in 1:59 4/5. No horse up to that point (in 98 Derbies) had ever finished the race in less than two-minutes.

But Secretariat beat Sham by 2 1/2 lengths (!!!), finishing in 1:59 2/5, which, after 35 years, remains the fastest time ever in the Kentucky Derby.

Since the 1973 Derby, only one other horse has ever managed to finish the race in less than 2 minutes: Monarchos, in 2001.

2) Secretariat ran each quarter-mile segment of the Derby faster than the previous one. Whereas most horses are tiring at the end of a race, especially in a mile-and-a-quarter race, Secretariat was actually accelerating in the last quarter-mile.