Saturday, October 31, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
Go read it.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I confess. I was pulling for the Red Sox to advance in the American League playoffs. Alas, as usual for me, baseball in October is about disappointment. The Yankees - big surprise - appear to be on a roll and why not. Money buys happiness in Yankeeland - new stadium, a pitching staff that is an embarrassment of riches, a team leader (and MVP?) in the too perfect Jeter and, thank God, a quiet George Steinbrenner. Beyond Alex Rodriquez's little steroid problem, the Yankees have almost become the no drama Bombers. Still, while granting the remarkable history of Yankee success - Joe Girardi wearing No. 27 as the millionaires in pinstripes seek their 27th World Series - how can you not like the Sox?
The famous line about what it's like being a fan of the Bronx Bombers is credited to a number of people and it may have been the great sportswriter Jim Murray who said it first, "Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for U.S. Steel." Perhaps that line needs updating considering the state of basic manufacturing in America. Rooting for the Yankees these days is, what, a little like rooting for Microsoft. Pulling for the Red Sox, by contrast, is like rooting for your favorite uncle or for the kid's soccer team.
Being for the Sox is blue collar. Being for the Yankees is, well, pinstripes.
During the playoffs the camera frequently catches the big city swells at new Yankee Stadium, lounging in the thousand dollar seats, still decked out in ties and jackets after a hectic day of trading. They sip $12 Bud Lights, while yakking on their cell phones, no doubt checking on the Tokyo market opening. At Fenway you see guys in sweatshirts, hanging on every pitch, holding their daughters in one arm and tugging on a real beer. Every baseball fans knows the Great DiMaggio, but brother Dom (who patrolled the outfield in Boston, made seven All-Star rosters and had a career .298 average) is mostly forgotten outside of Boston. Pesky, Yastrzemski, Cronin, Rice, all were greats and played in the best ballpark ever. Now, those are guys you could root for. Another reason to like the Red Sox is that really good writers like them. David Halberstam's Teammates is a wonderful little book about friendship. It begins with a 1,300 mile trip by DiMaggio and Pesky to visit the great Ted Williams. John Updike wrote a wonderful piece - Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu - about Williams last game at Fenway in 1960. Williams, of course, in epic style, hit a home run in his last at bat at the band box and, typical Williams, refused to acknowledge the adulation of the fans. Updike described the moment: "Our noise for some seconds passed beyond excitement into a kind of immense open anguish, a wailing, a cry to be saved. But immortality is nontransferable. The papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way, but he never had and did not now. Gods do not answer letters." No cheers for me in the American League this year. Red Sox out. Tigers done. Twins foiled. The Angels of Los Angeles or West Covina, or whatever they are, will be next. That's the other thing about the Yankees - they are ubiquitous and, I'm afraid, inevitable. It comes down to their operating system, like it or not.
Put me down as not. I can't bring myself to root for Microsoft.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
As with all things political, you know that there must be a back story (read political deal) regarding how each of these folks were chosen for this special attention in such a special place.
Earlier this year California, acting at the behest of the legislature, replaced its statue of Civil War-era preacher Thomas Starr King - he had been in the Hall since 1931 - with a likeness of Ronald Reagan. Minister King was credited by Abraham Lincoln with helping prevent California from becoming an independent republic during the great rebellion. Quite an accomplishment, but King was clearly not the Gipper.
Alabama's new Helen Keller statue displaced a guy named Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry, a Confederate Army Lt. Colonel and pre-and post-war politician. Southern states tend to honor Confederate generals and politicians. Bobby Lee, for example, stands erect for the Old Dominion and Jefferson Davis represents Mississippi.
Statuary Hall seems to me a particularly American idea - each state honoring its own in the nation's capitol and every pick saying something interesting about each state.
I have not read the new Dan Brown best seller - The Lost Symbol - but I'm told Statuary Hall plays a role in the novel. Considering that the book sold more than two million copies in its first week, perhaps Dan Brown will help a whole new group of Americans discover this unique piece of American real estate.
Once readers have solved the mystery of The Lost Symbol, they can turn their attention to discovering Jacob Collamar, the extremely forgotten Vermonter who was President Zachery Taylor's postmaster general. He, too, is in the Hall.
Friday, October 9, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
In 1935, Wheeler, like Baucus today, was dealing with a president who wanted legislation passed, but until pretty late in the game declined to be completely engaged or say exactly what he would settle for. Democrats in both cases were divided with conservative to moderate Democrats being slow to embrace reform. In 1935, presidential action pushed enough of the wavering Democrats to get a sweeping bill passed.
The charges and counter-charges flew then as now. Proponents were accused - you guessed it - of wanting to usher in socialism. The utilities were labeled as greedy, with no regard for the little guy. The lobbying - then as now - was fierce. (The 1935 lobbying practices actually prompted a congressional inquiry chaired by Alabama Senator - later Supreme Court Justice - Hugo Black.)
One thing that was very different in Wheeler's day. Several progressive Senate Republicans - Norbeck, George Norris of Nebraska and William Borah of Idaho, among others - supported the utility reforms. Baucus, by contrast, appears to have a chance to get Maine Senator Olympia Snowe's support for a Senate bill, but additional GOP votes appear mighty hard to come by.
Reforming utility practices in the 1930's was a huge undertaking that reshaped a major piece of the American economy. A tough Montanan pulled it off. Another Senator from Big Sky County, three-quarters of a century later, is knocking at the gate of health care reform.
Stay tuned. If the utility regulation battle of 1935 is any historic guide, we will see many more twists and turns before any health care legislation is on the president's desk. Then as now, a Montana Senator is calling many of the plays.