Let me see if I have this right.
The people wearing jackets with FBI and ATF on them, the ones who supplemented the admirable Boston and Massachusetts officers, are part of top-heavy federal government?
The brainy public officials, current or retired, who went on television, glowing with expertise and assurance, are a drain on our tax dollars?
The men and women driving off into the Boston night, to the sounds of applause and cheers from the crowds lining the roads, are the ones who are going to come and take guns away from the so-called good guys?
The 50 states could all put up web sites like the FBI's, with its photos of the two suspects?
Ever since last Sunday night, I have been thinking how cool it was that Barbra Streisand sang “The Way We Were”
in tribute to Marvin Hamlisch. She had not sung at the Oscars in 36 years but showed up with immense energy for her friend.
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Having covered one conclave and a few papal trips, I’d like to express my admiration for the way Pope Benedict XVI resigned. I am sure he was giving an intentional signal that the human part of his organization is not working so well. He showed the world that six centuries of tradition did not have to continue – a good reminder in our lives, public and private. .
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I never thought I’d see the day when the Yankees would not spend money to improve their team. With Curtis Granderson out for a few months, The Boss would be trying to buy an all-star level outfielder, no matter the cost. He was insatiable. I’m not a Yankee fan, but I got used to his zeal for perfection. His sons want to cut the payroll. They must not be making money in their theme park in the Bronx.
As a huge fan of The New Yorker, I was interested when a saw a long piece by the estimable Ryan Lizza
with a photo of Rep. Eric Cantor, but the current article is mostly about the mechanics of ominous politics and economics. I wanted to find out how somebody so low in personality could possibly get elected to public office, but the article gave no clue. What produced this sour and inarticulate human being? The only thing I learned was that he gets along with his mother-in-law, apparently a liberal Democrat. That’s nice, but in his public appearances, lurking behind the shoulder blades of John Boehner, there is no trace of a mensch.
In the News, 2013
In the News, 1973
I’ve seen worse on New Year’s Day – death in the snow one year, hearing of death in the Caribbean two years later.
The fiscal-cliff frolics are a passing diversion. The schmendricks of Congress will eventually be shamed into pretending to be rational adults for a while.
It’s all made-for-television fare, like the musty pageant of Kathy Griffin trying to de-pants poor Anderson Cooper on CNN. Are they not ashamed? Well, Boehner and McConnell don’t seem ashamed. Why should a network?
But I’ve seen worse days.
New Year’s Day of 1971 started with my being marooned in a mountaintop motel in Harlan after a snowfall. I had rushed to the coal-mine explosion in Hyden on the night of Dec. 30th, and spent the next day unable to drive because of the snow.
Now in the early hours of a new year, I tried to learn how thirty-eight miners had met their doom in an explosion. I went to the first funeral the next day, a rush job for the shot man of that crew.
It took people a while to figure out he had been using outdoor explosives, with a live spark, underground. Mixed with rising methane gas, it blew the mine to kingdom come.
Happy new year.
Two years later, we had moved from Kentucky back home to Long Island. The temperature was close to 60 on New Year’s morning and I went running in my shorts. When I got home I discovered Roberto Clemente had died the night before when his plane dove into the sea off San Juan, while ferrying goods to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua. That striking man with Harry Belafonte looks and the best right-field arm in baseball was gone.
The next day my photographer friend Luis Requeña told me how people were staging impromptu memorials in the barrio.
Clemente vive aún.
Forty years ago I was mourning a hero. Today, what do we have? Schmendricks in the House. Happy new year.
Did these signs exist? The point is, there are always newcomers
As the holder of an Irish passport (as well as my American passport), I think I can safely ask just exactly what Bill O’Reilly is trying to say.
O’Reilly tried to wax profound last week after President Obama was re-elected with help from African-American and Hispanic votes. (One perky guest on MSNBC suggested a new motto for the Republican party: “Hello, Brown People.”)
On Election night, O’Reilly said
: “It’s a changing country, the demographics are changing. It’s not a traditional America anymore, and there are 50 percent of the voting public who want stuff. They want things. And who is going to give them things? President Obama.”
O’Reilly added, “The white establishment is now the minority.”
In noting the shift in America, O’Reilly seemed to be harking back to some golden era in America when the Cabots and the Lodges sat around the Boston Common and sang Kumbaya with the Flynns and, dare I say it, the O’Reillys.
Was there ever a time in America when we were all just one happy family? After the settlers took the country away from the native Americans, that is. There were always newcomers to the land and the voting booths. They were noticeable by their clothes and their accents, if not their color.
It isn’t quite clear to me whether some of my Irish ancestors (on my maternal grandmother’s side) ever ran into help-wanted signs that said NINA – No Irish Need Apply. Did those signs actually exist
in large numbers in the 19th Century, as some people claim? In a way, it doesn’t matter. There are always newcomers, always outsiders. And it’s funny how new people want things, like work and housing and education and a chance to vote, without public officials in Ohio and Florida making it tough for them.
O’Reilly seemed downright lachrymose when confronting the new reality – that voters of color now tilt the majority and helped re-elect a candidate who, despite being Kenyan and Muslim and, worst of all, an introvert, just might be the smartest person in the political room. The country keeps changing. Always did.
Thank you; merci beaucoup
On Sunday our son spotted a utility truck near his home.
It was from New Brunswick, the one in Canada.
That night, his electricity was restored.
Think of it: workers from a country with socialized medicine turned on the lights in the woods of Long Island.
I am tired of stumbling around in the dark.
I am also tired of the campaign, which amounts to the same thing.
Earlier in the year I was reassuring my wife that I met that guy during the Olympics, and he could run the country if he had to.
She knew better, long before his 47-per-cent remark and the Jeep-to-China lie.
Now I read that Democrats would work better with a Republican president than vice versa.
I also read blather about Obama being such a terrible person because he is an introvert. Something going on inside. Awful. .
It’s a race. Workers from Canada vs. returns from 50 states.
Maybe on Wednesday this will all be over.
In this long and ugly campaign, I am getting tired of the suggestion that President Obama should imitate Lyndon Baines Johnson.
By that theory, Obama should have long ago grabbed his opponents and saboteurs by some vulnerable part of their anatomy and squeezed until they cooperated.
This thoughtful and active president has been catching hell for four years for the crime of PWB – Presiding While Black. We all know that race is the subtext for this campaign. Obama has had to deal with congressional leaders with the smirks of southern sheriffs and South African apartheid enforcers back in the bad old days.
Just the other day, when that great American Colin Powell endorsed Obama, John Sununu made the despicable suggestion
that Powell was only doing it for racial reasons. (Piers Morgan, an outsider currently working in American television, did not know the territory well enough to push Sununu on this.)
Obama would only have made it worse by morphing into LBJ. Lately I’ve been talking to veterans who watched their companions die in Vietnam, and when they lived long enough to read memoirs and histories they discovered Johnson and his pals had known the war was not working.
Yes, give credit to Johnson for pushing through civil-rights and anti-poverty legislation, for muscling the southern tier, his own constituency. He was also a bully who could not face his grotesque mistake.
Obama did fine in his second and third debates against a candidate who swerves all over the place
, as Colin Powell said. Reason and record -- and dignity -- will win out.
Think this guy would be any worse than the jokers they are using? (see below) Photo courtesy of Wahoo Gazette
The National Football League knew it was in trouble when David Letterman mocked the officiating fiasco Tuesday night. A very bedraggled Alan Kalter trudged across the stage wearing a don’t-mess-with-me scowl and striped referee gear. He just had a bleeping day, he said.
Then there was a Top Ten List cataloging the mistakes by the ringers, with sports maven ace writer Bill Scheft from the wings explaining the N.F.L. misery.
Now we read in Judy Battista’s excellent front-page piece
in the Times that new, intransigent owners are responsible for the hard stance.
If I read between the lines, some of these new people want to solve the ills of the world right here and now – by stiffing the help.
They are willing to dilute the product for a ridiculously miniscule piece of the action – what the Times says is $3.2 million extra, out of the $9 billion in annual revenue of the N.F.L. In other words, the owners are saying, it’s not the money, it’s the principle.
They could downsize the limos at the Super Bowl and afford real refs by next Sunday.
We haven’t seen such haughtiness toward the working class since…since…since Mitt Romney talked straight from his avaricious little heart to his rich friends in that now-infamous tape.
Mitt can’t worry about poor people; the N.F.L. owners can’t worry about fans. They all have their agendas.
If I read the tea leaves correctly, some new owners are trying to make their points against a society they just joined. In that, they remind me of the 40 or 50 new tea-party types who came to Congress in 2011, with no intention of actually belonging to it. They slept in their offices and rushed home as soon as they could, scorning the institution and, in effect, the country.
By ignoring the expertise of the referees, the nouveau hard-line owners have jeopardized the product they recently bought into. They have their own tapes proliferating – the botched calls, the yowling fans, the twittering players, and the laughter on the late-night shows -- contempt, rocketing around the world.
This league is already in trouble because generations of ignored brain damage are catching up with it. Now the owners are showing us who’s boss.
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Clint making a fool of himself, left. Clint making a terrific movie, right.
Because he’s an artist.
In his relative old age, Clint has made films that forced me to think and feel; given the male-slacker crap I see advertised as fall films, I would say that is quite an accomplishment.
It’s true, Clint made a fool of himself in public, on cue, during the Republican convention. Apparently, he was put in that slot because Mitt Romney likes his make-my-day message. We should not be surprised after watching Romney sneer at half the country
in front of his own people, the entitled rich. So Clint was no accident.
However, if Chris Christie can pine for respect from Bruce Springsteen, (ignoring the messages in the man’s songs), then I reserve the right to respect Clint the film-maker, Clint the actor.
I never had any interest in Clint’s first decades, the inarticulate avenger riding across the west or the urban landscape. But he got interesting in his old age.
Somehow I sought out The Unforgiven
in 1992, knowing I would like it. It’s about an aging gunslinger who expects he will not be forgiven for the murders and robberies he has committed. Raising two children in poverty, his wife dead, he has acquired a sense of mortality along with morality -- an emergence of conscience, rarely encountered in American films,
When he is pulled back in through his need to care for his children, Clint now lives by a code. Killing makes him sick. He can no longer sleep with a woman, even when that offer is made from tender appreciation of his protection. His gravel Clint voice says, I aint like that no more.
It’s not a bad code to tuck in our wallets.
Ultimately, he shoots up the bad guys. It is, after all, a Clint movie. He walks into the saloon and asks: Who’s the fellow owns this shithole?
(How many times have I muttered this line in some crummy restaurant or motel? Without ensuing damage, of course.)
After the carnage, Clint rides out of town, warning people to bury his murdered pal (Morgan Freeman) and addressing the entire citizenry: “Better not cut up nor otherwise harm no whores or I’ll come back and kill every one of you sons of bitches….” He is still threatening what he will do as he vanishes into the rainy night. We understand the gunslinger is a parable; it’s only a movie; but still.
In 2008, Clint issued Gran Torino
, about an aging autoworker in fading Detroit, now being populated by Hmong refugees from the hill country of Laos. The film could have been called Unforgiven II because it is about a man who knows he can never escape what he did during the Korean war.
My favorite part is where Clint advises his young Hmong protégé how to carry himself like an American, including ethnic insults to friends. I also like when Clint is charmed by the young man’s college-going sister, who slyly persists in calling him Wally, causing him to grunt that his name is Walt. It would not be a Clint movie if he didn’t menace a few punks and bring about justice through a hail of bullets.
Of course, Clint could have used some of that tolerance when he addressed an empty chair that represented the President of the United States. We have known all along, watching the resentful ‘50’s redneck pusses on McConnell, Boehner and Cantor, that these last four years have really been about race. Now we watch Mitt Romney address his own kind. For the first time in this campaign, expressing scorn for collective modern society, the man comes alive; he’s the guy who brought in Clint, undoubtedly knowing of the contempt within.
Still, Clint has grown to make movies about conscience, about the potential for growth.He’s an artist. I hold him to a different standard.
Trayvon Martin: Guilty of Walking While Black
Never touch anything in a store.
I still remember an African-American colleague telling me what she warned her two sons, decades ago. When they went to a department store or a toy store in New York, they were under strict orders to keep their hands at their sides, lest somebody get the wrong idea.
Knowing how people love to touch things – and how hands-on is tolerated as a normal part of business – I could only cringe at the double standard my friend had to inculcate in her sons.
The perceptions are still out there, even with an African-American president in the White House. Or maybe because of it.
Take back our country. That sentiment careens around the Internet. What is worse is that versions of it are put forth by elected officials like Eric Cantor, the man with the most sour expression in Congress, who recently said Mitt Romney would “get us back on track.”
Everybody knows the code. It was no accident that Cantor echoed the resentful tone that has been going around since November of 2008. The Trumps and Palins and McConnells of the country have been treating the president as an interloper, an outsider. Wonder why.
I have no way of knowing what was bouncing around in the mind of George Zimmerman, 28, who allegedly followed and killed Trayvon Martin
, 17, in Florida three weeks ago. Was this volunteer vigilante hopped up by the rhetoric in Congress and the campaign trails, that things are not quite right at the moment? Or does the traditional racist undertone of the country survive on its own, without blatant help from prominent politicians?
Any of us with friends and relatives of color know the double takes and the stares.
Children, particularly boys, are warned to watch their step when they go out.
The photos of Trayvon Martin will break your heart. The sweet trusting smile. Surely, this young man heard the warnings from loved ones to be careful out in public.
Even then, with the gun laws and the stand-your-ground law in Florida and the inflamed rhetoric going around, any caution Trayvon Martin had learned in his 17 years was not enough, as he ran into a stranger with his own notion of taking something back.
Why Is This Man Smilling?
I always figured Mooney Lynn was the luckiest man in the world.
I loved Mooney. When I was helping Loretta Lynn write her book, Coal Miner’s Daughter, Mooney would put his pistol down on the table and never fuss when I asked about his indiscretions. He also held the family and the business together while Loretta was out on the road, and it was easy to see why she loved him so much.
Mooney was stumpy and weather-beaten, but in the movie he got to be portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones, a handsome football player from Harvard. For millions of people who have seen the movie, that is their lasting image of Mooney Lynn – a college lineman who could move pretty fast. How cool was that?
I was thinking about Mooney last Saturday night while watching the HBO production, Game Change, about the Hail-Mary pass the McCain campaign heaved in 2008 when it brought in Sarah Palin to run for vice president.
Palin lucked out, just like Mooney. She will never escape the hilarious impersonation by the inimitable Tina Fey, but for the two-hour television movie Palin was played by Julianne Moore, who did wonders for her.
Moore did not try to serve up Palin’s dance-hall-queen strut or smirk, but rather gave her character a minimal gravitas never before detected by my personal seismograph. For the two-hour haul, Moore (and the writers and director) gave Palin a tinge of fear that she might be bombing in public, the slightest bit of awareness that maybe she should know some of those things people were prattling about.
I almost felt sorry for her – well, at least until some television commentator would note that she could be one cardiac event from the presidency. Then it all came back to me.
John McCain did not come off as well. He’s been lurching around in a coma since politely scolding that bigoted woman in the red dress in 2008, but he’s still more appealing than Ed Harris’ bland character in the movie. Woody Harrelson stole the show as campaign maestro Steve Schmidt, who is currently performing community service as commentator on MSNBC, discussing the current lot.
Of course, none of the spinmeisters in 2008 had a chance what with that smart, handsome, confident figure making speeches before huge crowds in Berlin or Washington. Where did the movie-makers find that guy? He’s a natural.
And that made me wonder:
When HBO decides to make a movie about Grumpy, Sleazy, Dopey and Starchy, the last four standing, who will play them?
Clearly Rick Santorum will be played by another simplistic type. (See below.)
Mitt Romney could be portrayed by his own wax statue from Madame Tussaud’s – an upgrade in personality, if you ask me.Ooops: This just in, from Ry Cooder, one of the artists behind Buena Vista Social Club and Chavez Ravine. It's called The Mutt Romney Blues
Ron Paul could be fun if Jerry Stiller could tear himself away from all those runway models in his current commercials.
But Newt Gingrich? A few decades ago, Mickey Rooney could have impersonated Newt’s pretentious bluster but I’m guessing somebody more courant could serve up Newt as he cajoles people into donating to his dubious cause.
That inevitable movie has to be more enjoyable than this long and silly season.
Your nominations for the leading roles are welcome.
Who plays Bachmann? Who plays Cain? Who plays Newt?
Look for a brief comeback by this guy when the 2012 movie gets made.