November 07, 2003

It's not exactly revenge for the World Cup, but Mexico knocked the U.S. baseball team out of the next Summer Olympics, 2-1. Perhaps it would be a good idea to send the big leaguers, next time....
Think the economy here is sluggish (and yes, today's tepid employment numbers are a pretty solid indication that we're not turning any corners on the road to recovery yet)? Take a look at Great Britain, where personal bankruptcies are at an all-time high, and the political pressure is on the government to make BK filings even easier.
Sid Blumenthal has a provocative take on the Dean-Confederate Flag and Reagan miniseries flaps, and their connection to the GOP's "Southern Strategy" of placating white racists.
It's really hard not to love California's chief law enforcement officer, Bill Lockyer. He has caused quite a stir the last few months, both with his attacks on Gray Davis (esp. his warning to the governor not to use "puke politics" in the recall campaign) and his ingenious ability to take whatever position on Ahnolt Ziffel that would best position him with voters. Before the vote, when Davis appeared to be gaining, he affirmed Davis' charge that Ahnolt should be investigated over the groping allegations for potential criminal liability. Last month, he announced in Berkeley that he had pulled the switch for the governor-elect in the replacement election, and that, after everything was said and done, he felt that Ahnolt didn't know he was engaging in "frat boy" behavior on movie sets. His sycophancy delighted hacks like Jill Stewart, who gullibly proclaimed that his new-found "bipartisanship" might lead to a new era of pro-business rationality in Sacramento.

Well, now he's really gone and done it. Hours before the future California strongman leader was to announce that he would authorize an "inquiry" into the groping allegations against him, the State Attorney General demanded that any such inquiry be independent (as Hacker would say to Sir Humphrey in Yes, Minister, not an official inquiry, a real inquiry), stating that the charges were a continuing "black mark" against the governor-elect. And, oh yes, he now wishes to belatedly nethercutt his earlier remarks: "frat boy behavior" wasn't meant to excuse A.S.' antics, since it all depended on the perspective (from "rowdy drunkenness to date rape" was how the A.G. put it). And he told all this to Ahnolt when they discussed the matter earlier in the week.

This has pissed off the Wilson cronies surrounding Mr. Ziffel no end, since they were under the impression that conversations between Mr. Lockyer and their sock-puppet were somehow protected by the "attorney-client privilege". Unless Mr. Lockyer is representing clients on the side, the claim is absurd, especially considering that a) A.S. is not governor yet; and b) the A.G.'s "client" is the people of California. But it is entertaining to see Ahnold being suckered by one of the most oleaginous public figures in the state, before he's even been sworn into office.

November 06, 2003

George Bush finally gets his own Monica Lewinsky.

November 05, 2003

San Francisco just moved a step closer to becoming the largest city ever to elect a Green mayor....
Henceforth, any time a public figure tosses in an insincere, phony line at the end of a speech that is used to obfuscate the meaning of everything that he has just stated (ie., "...but it would be wrong, that's for sure," or "...not that there's anything wrong with it,"), it will be known as a Nethercutt.
Saadi Gaddafi, the soccer-playing son of the Libyan strongman and the subject of this July 26 piece, has tested positive for the banned substance Nandrolone. He faces suspension from the Italian Serie A team Perugia, which signed him in the off-season but has yet to play him in a game.

November 04, 2003

Those of you who own DirecTV will get to see the long-hyped NFL Network's debut this evening. This event will not spur me to buying a dish for my home, however. The planned schedule includes no live football games, no rebroadcast of classic games, and little in the way of go-to programming for viewers unsure of what they want to watch. What you will get is hour after hour of NFL Films, post-game news conferences and interviews, and football news 24-7; no doubt we will see made-for-TV movies, along the lines of "Shack: The James Harris Story".

I understand there is a market for this sort of thing, but one of the reasons I no longer watch ESPN Classic is the repetitive programming: SportsCentury documentaries on Ken Dorsey and the bi-weekly rebroadcast of the '81 Clemson-South Carolina classic really test my obsession with sports, when what I really want to see are games. It is hard to believe that ESPN, which is run by the same outfit as ABC, can't get the rights to classic Monday Night Football games (Howard, Frank and Dandy Don, of course). The Golf Channel gives the viewer live coverage of European events, and all the NationWide Tour; football fans are going to be stuck with A Portrait in Pride: the 1990 Cincinnati Bengals and other chestnuts from the vault of NFL Films.
This is probably the death knell for serious network dramas on television. Granted, I usually tend to avoid getting my history from television mini-series, but this is a sure a sign as any that over-the-air television isn't going to risk putting something on that might offend the political sensitivities of a powerful minority. I mean, heaven forbid Reagan should be portrayed as unfeeling about the victims of his policies !!! The next time some bigot whines about political correctness, we should just point to how the GOP mau-maued CBS into yanking the Reagan miniseries, and ensured that the only way people can watch anything with bite on TV is to pay for it.

November 03, 2003

My breakdown of the weekend's games, the BCS rankings, and the selection of the new "Song Girl of the Week" can be found at sister-site Condredge's Acolytes.

November 02, 2003

Went and saw Shattered Glass this afternoon, and my gal did not disappoint. Probably the greatest movie ever about the internal workings of The New Republic; Hayden Christensen, as the needy, insecure fraud Stephen Glass, Hank Azaria ("Apu", et al., from The Simpsons), as the late Michael Kelly, Peter Sarsgaard (John Malkovich's son in The Man in the Iron Mask) as the editor who finally brought Glass down, and, of course, Ms. Lynskey playing a co-worker, all stand out.

After that, I ventured to Los Feliz to listen to a panel on L.A. history, featuring Kevin Roderick (of LA Observed), D.J. Waldie, and Mike Eberts. Each of the panelists had written books about the neighborhoods they had grown up in, and provided fascinating tips on researching and developing leads into the study of local history. More importantly, they approach their subjects without resorting to cliches and stereotypes; there is much more to Los Angeles (meaning the region, not the city) than Hollywood, and although Chinatown is a great movie, it's worthless history.

One thing Mr. Eberts mentioned that gave me some ideas for further research is about one of the greatest creations ever developed on the West Coast: the Pacific Coast League from 1903 to 1957. As the son of a Hollywood Stars fan, and the grandson of an LA Angels booster, I heard stories for years about Jigger Statz, Lefty O'Doul, Bobby Bragan, Steve Bilko and Carlos Bernier, great local ballplayers who only enjoyed marginal success in the Bigs, as well as afternoons spent at Gilmore Field (located next door to Farmers Market) and Wrigley Field, which lasted long enough for the big league Angels to play its expansion season there.

Through most of its history, the PCL enjoyed a great deal of independence from the major leagues; it developed (and held on to) its own stars, and maintained rivalries and pennant races of its own for fans to cherish. In the late-40's, the then-owner of the Stars, Bob Cobb (of Cobb salad fame) attempted to interest big league owners by seeking to bring the PCL en masse as a third "major league". Had it succeeded, west coast baseball might have been spared years of attendance worries in Seattle, San Diego and the Bay Area, since the PCL had longstanding outfits in each of those cities, and fans elsewhere would have avoided seeing teams hopscotch from city to city. In one of the most short-sighted decisions in history, major league owners turned him down.

Sadly, in 1957, the League was irrevocably altered by the decision of Walter O'Malley and Horace Stoneham to move their teams to Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively. Overnight, the three wealthiest teams in the league, the Angels, Stars and San Francisco Seals, moved to smaller locations, and as with the Negro Leagues after Jackie Robinson integrated the Brooklyn Dodgers, its fans focused their attention away from their own local product and towards the Major Leagues. Today, the PCL has only a couple of teams on the Pacific Coast, and is just another minor league.

As it turns out, there is a dearth of information on the internet about the history, the lore and the trivia about the PCL. This site provides a general overview of the glory years of the league, while my late father would be charmed by the anecdotes this space has about his beloved Stars. For example, before the Hollywood Stars, there was another team that shared the area with the Angels, the Tigers, which alternated their seasons between Venice and Vernon (a small town north of L.A.), and which was owned for a time by Fatty Arbuckle.

To get a real taste of what the Angels-Stars rivalry was like, check out this story, about the Great War of 1953, an on-field melee so brutal the L.A.P.D. had to come on the field and separate the players.

As the situation in Iraq spins madly out of control, it is helpful to understand how so many "good Americans", at least temporarily, let the events of 9/11 suspend all reason and logic. Maureen Dowd sees it as an inevitable susceptibility people have towards believing the brazen lie, quoting one writer as observing that people tend to get duped by con men because they refuse to live in a world of cynicism. As a result, "[t]hose who go for the big con, who audaciously paint false pictures, think everyone else is stupid. They want to promote themselves based on the gullibility of others. For [Janet]Cooke, [Stephen]Glass and [Jayson]Blair, their editors were the marks. But at least that unholy trio only soiled newsprint. For the Bush crowd, the American people were the marks."

In this article, published in the always-terrific Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the writer examines President Bush's use of language in creating an atmosphere of fear and authoritarianism:
Poll after poll demonstrates that Bush's political agenda is out of step with most Americans' core beliefs. Yet the public, their electoral resistance broken down by empty language and persuaded by personalization, is susceptible to Bush's most frequently used linguistic technique: negative framework. A negative framework is a pessimistic image of the world. Bush creates and maintains negative frameworks in his listeners' minds with a number of linguistic techniques borrowed from advertising and hypnosis to instill the image of a dark and evil world around us.

Catastrophic words and phrases are repeatedly drilled into the listener's head until the opposition feels such a high level of anxiety that it appears pointless to do anything other than cower.

Psychologist Martin Seligman, in his extensive studies of "learned helplessness," showed that people's motivation to respond to outside threats and problems is undermined by a belief that they have no control over their environment. Learned helplessness is exacerbated by beliefs that problems caused by negative events are permanent; and when the underlying causes are perceived to apply to many other events, the condition becomes pervasive and paralyzing.

Bush is a master at inducing learned helplessness in the electorate. He uses pessimistic language that creates fear and disables people from feeling they can solve their problems. In his Sept. 20, 2001, speech to Congress on the 9/11 attacks, he chose to increase people's sense of vulnerability: "Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. ... I ask you to live your lives, and hug your children. I know many citizens have fears tonight. ... Be calm and resolute, even in the face of a continuing threat." (Subsequent terror alerts by the FBI, CIA and Department of Homeland Security have maintained and expanded this fear of unknown, sinister enemies.)

Contrast this rhetoric with Franklin Roosevelt's speech delivered the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He said: "No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. ... There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger. With confidence in our armed forces with the unbounding determination of our people we will gain the inevitable triumph so help us God." Roosevelt focuses on an optimistic future rather than an ongoing threat to Americans' personal survival.
The writer sees the best anecdote to this politics of pessimism and fear as a return to the optimistic rhetoric about the future perfected by FDR and Ronald Reagan. [link via Pandagon]