Politics

Translating Eliot Spitzer Resignation Speech

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I feel the need to provide a public service. Eliot Spitzer, Governor of New York, resigned today. He gave a heart-felt speech, that was carefully crafted to communicate as clearly as possible with everyone in the country.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the appropriate decoder ring necessary to un-craft the true meaning of his message. Thankfully for the rest of you, I have one. I ran his speech through the magic decoder, and here’s what came out:

In the past few days I’ve begun to atone for my private failings with my wife, Silda, my children and my entire family.

In the past few days, I have been very quiet, and have allowed my family to look at me with horror and disbelief. When I break the law, it’s a private failing, when others broke the law, I was there to demolish them.

The remorse I feel will always be with me. Words cannot describe how grateful I am for the love and compassion they have shown me.

I know that this will forever be on the Internet for all to see. I am grateful that my family hasn’t pulled off my fingernails, at least not yet.

From those to whom much is given, much is expected. I have been given much - the love of my family, the faith and trust of the people of New York, and the chance to lead this state.

I have been given much, and have taken a lot more, from many people. I deserved it all, and if I crushed people along the way, including innocent ones, I was on a mission, so it was all necessary.

I am deeply sorry I did not live up to what was expected of me.

I am deeply sorry that I was caught. Being Governor certainly wasn’t the last stop on my road to ultimate power, though now it looks like it might be.

To every New Yorker, and to all those who believed in what I tried to stand for, I sincerely apologize.

To everyone, I couldn’t stand for anything in an honest manner, but at least I tried to appear to stand for something. For the fact that you now know that I was more of a do as I say and not as I do kinda guy, well, I’m very sorry you found out.

I look at my time as governor with a sense of what might have been,

I look back, still remembering what it was like before I was caught, ah, the good old days.

but I also know that as a public servant, I and the remarkable people with whom I worked have accomplished a great deal.

I’m sorry, but I can’t leave in complete shame, I simply have to take another bow, pat myself on the back, and throw a bone to some people who I hope don’t completely abandon me in the coming days.

There is much more to be done and I cannot allow my private failings to disrupt the people’s work.

I had more to do (privately and publicly), but now that my private crime spree has become public, my work has been disrupted.

Over the course of my public life I have insisted, I believe correctly, that people, regardless of their position or power, take responsibility for their conduct.

While in power, I have insisted that people cave to my every whim, I believe correctly. It served my personal purpose. I made them take responsibility for everything, whether they committed a crime or not.

I can and will ask no less of myself.

Now that I have been caught, I have decided to hold myself to a similar standard, given that I would have been held to that standard by others, if I didn’t do it first. Of course, not exactly the same standard, since I didn’t resign immediately and I certainly don’t intend to go to jail. It’s not like I actually knew I was doing anything wrong before I got caught, so it’s really OK that I didn’t hold myself up to that standard a tad earlier.

For this reason I am resigning from the office of governor, and at Lt. Gov. David Paterson’s request, the resignation will be effective on Monday, March 17, a date that he believes will permit an orderly transition.

Don’t be mad at me for not resigning immediately a few days ago, nor for hanging in there for another few days. Other people urged me to take this route, and you know how much of a giver I am, I simply couldn’t refuse them.

I go forward with the belief, as others have said, that as human beings our greatest glory consists not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.

The people that I put away, or nearly ruined, had no redeeming qualities. I, on the other hand, will rise to greater heights shortly. Stay tuned!

As I leave public life, I will first do what I need to do to help and heal myself and my family,

As I leave public life, I will duck and hope that I survive the coming storm at home,

then I will try once again, outside of politics, to serve the common good and to move toward the ideals and solutions which I believe can build a future of hope and opportunity for us and for our children.

I will then try and assert my two-faced moralistic views on the rest of you, but I’m not sure exactly how just yet, given that I won’t be in a position of authority. That said, I’m a clever and very rich guy, and I have little doubt I’ll figure it out.

I hope all of New York will join my prayers for my friend, David Paterson, as he embarks on his new mission and I thank the public once again for the privilege of service. Thank you very much.

It’s unfortunate that David Paterson will now enjoy everything that is rightfully mine, but please, join me in a golf clap for his ascendancy to my throne.

Meaningless Opinions

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Once again, The New York Times proves how relevant and in touch it is with the country. Today, they ran an editorial which gives voice to eight former presidential candidates.

I couldn’t bring myself to click through to a single one of these. I’m not saying that the issues aren’t important. I am saying that none of these people has anything to say which can possibly affect this election.

Between the eight of them, they probably sewed up 37 delegates (or was that votes?), so clearly no one cared what they had to say before. (No, I didn’t actually check how many delegates they had collectively, it was a joke, that was directionally accurate…)

Thank goodness we have The New York Times to ensure that also-rans get a megaphone to scream that their opinions are still relevant, when millions of people have made it clear that they are not.

All we need is hope and change, we don’t need no stinking issues. Don’t make us think, let us dream!

Presidential Candidates Three

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Disclaimer: There are no facts in this post. Everything below is my opinion only. I have made no attempt to find any supporting facts either, life is too short!

Whew, now that that’s out of the way, let me also say that everything I’m about say is also correct. ;-)

I’m rushing this post out today, because as of next Tuesday, it’s possible that the title will no longer be accurate (unless at that point, you will be silly enough to count Ralph Nader). ;-)

Apologies to Mike Huckabee for not crediting him with the courage to hang in there until he’s mathematically eliminated.

So, we’re down to three, Obama, Clinton and McCain.

I’m not writing this to promote any candidate, nor any party. I am writing this to make some claims on what a vote for each of these specific candidates means, whether you are considering that angle in making your decision or not!

For the record, I am not looking forward to the presidency of any of the remaining candidates. I am also not fearful of any of their presidencies, largely due to the broken (and nearly unfixable) political system that they will have to operate in.

So, without further ado, let’s analyze what we’re all getting if each of the candidates were to be elected this November.

Hillary Clinton: Given where she is at the moment, there are two ways that she gains office:

  1. Superdelegates over-ride the will of the people
  2. She wins Texas and Ohio, and momentum swings to her and she actually wins the nomination the old fashioned way

Along the way, she has proven to be far from cool and collected. She’s an emotional roller coaster who is flailing in an attempt to find a chink in Obama’s armor. She prefers to surround herself with a cabal of super strategists. Unfortunately, aside from their obvious errors in strategy, she simply can’t pull off their strategies, assuming some might have been workable.

As a President, she will be very strong willed, needing to prove to the world (and to Bill!) that she deserves the job. She will be unlikely to take compromising positions, because she will have been vindicated by the mere fact that she won!

She will undoubtedly have a Democratic congress (both houses), and she will ride them as hard as possible to create a legacy that matches, and even exceeds Bill’s.

For those who are worried that this will become a co-Presidency, don’t worry. Hillary has about as much respect for Bill as Paula Jones does. As long as she believes that she can use him as an asset, she will. Once she’s President, she won’t need him unless the world is falling down around her, in which case he will become one of the cabal that will craft the new strategy to save her presidency.

Since she can’t create a lasting personal legacy if people believe that Bill was really pulling the strings, she will do everything in her power to distance herself from him, once she actually has the real power!

Summary of Hillary Clinton as President? A very personal agenda, pushed hard, likely successfully, through a Democratic congress who is unlikely to stand up to her, no matter how she overcame Obama. If you agree with her agenda (and many do!), then she will make a very good President (in terms of getting her agenda implemented!).

Barack Obama: The good news is that if he is elected President, it won’t be because Hillary garnered more delegates legitimately, but Barack got the nomination due to a superdelegate reversal!

Obama is running on a platform of Hope and Change. Laudable goals indeed. My cynicism above about not being fearful of any of these candidates shows my agreement with Obama that we need change, desperately. I want change too, which means that I am (or should be!) hopeful.

In practically everything in life, I am a glass is half full kind of guy, no matter how awful the situation is. I can be downright cynical (no, really?), but I am also an eternal optimist (as anyone who knows me, in particular in bad times, will attest!). So, I should be very hopeful that Obama can and will make a meaningful difference in the political system if he gets elected.

While I would hope that he would, and would be pulling for him (big time!), I simply doubt it (one of the few times I’m falling on the glass is half empty side of the equation). The problem is too enormous, and the entrenched interests (on both sides) are too powerful (and, well, entrenched). They only need to wait him out, they don’t really need to beat him. He can’t be President for more than eight years, and if he doesn’t effect change, perhaps only four!

So, in order to get anything done, Obama will not be able to drive his agenda through congress (even though Democrats will control both houses!), like Hillary would. She would be playing the current game with all of the aplomb of a true insider, and she would get her way (I am 100% convinced). He will decry the game (or not be able to figure out how to play it without appearing to be a flip-flopper), and therefore won’t be able to implement his agenda of change!

So, who will be setting the agenda if Obama becomes President? Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. I have no doubt of that. They will pass bill after bill and present them to him for rubber stamp approval. They will privately explain to him how things are done, and that this is the first time in a very long time that they (collectively) can actually get the things done that they have wanted/needed to get done. He will not be able to resist or overcome them.

Perhaps that doesn’t scare you, and perhaps it shouldn’t. But, at least you should be aware that this is precisely what will happen if he’s elected, and now you are. :-)

Summary of Barack Obama as President? A vote for Obama is a vote for Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. The real question is this? Is Obama naive enough to really believe his message, or is he clever enough to say what people are desperate to hear, just to get elected? Neither scenario is all that attractive to me. Since I think there is a reasonable chance that he will be our next President, I hope that I’m completely wrong. Notice, I used the code-word: hope, and I meant it!

John McCain: I can’t believe that he’s going to be the nominee. Not because I have anything particularly against him, but because he couldn’t have been deader at the end of his 2000 campaign. In fact, he could have been, as he was even deader than that up until the time he decided to embrace Bush at the Republican National Convention in 2004.

In fact, he was pretty dead early on in this race as well. There are a number of theories as to what caused his resurrection, a number of them revolving around Giuliani’s self-engineered demise, but one way or another, he’ll be the Republican nominee.

Should Republicans rejoice? Many aren’t. Should Democrats rejoice? Many should (because the alternatives to McCain should have scared them a lot more, other than his stance on Iraq).

Here’s why McCain scares me the least of the bunch (though remember, I’m really not fearful of any of them!). I believe that if you truly pine for the Clinton Years (1992-2000), whether you admit it publicly (which most Democrats do), or privately (as a fair number of Republicans probably do!), then you should be embracing McCain.

For all of his personal flaws (and heaven knows, he’s got more than his fair share of them), Bill Clinton was actually a reasonably good President (by my definition!). For sure, he screwed up certain things immeasurably, but I think even a perfect President will screw up many things. What made Bill a good President was that he was more concerned with getting something done, than with being an ideologue.

When he became President, he presided over two Democratic houses of congress. After a number of mis-steps (most notably, Hillary’s failed Health Care initiative!), Republicans swept both houses of congress for the first time in memory! In 1994, Bill had to decide whether to pass any legislation that would be good for the country, or battle endlessly with congress and hope that he was re-elected in 1996 and they weren’t.

He chose the pragmatic approach, and some good things happened. Many people credit him for the good economy we had for most of his administration. I laugh when I hear stuff like that, but at least he wasn’t an obstructionist who harmed the economy.

In my opinion, McCain would govern in the same pragmatic manner. It would not bother him one iota that the congress is controlled by Democrats. In fact, on some issues, he is more aligned with them, which, of course, is what scares many Republicans (conservatives) about him. To that, I say that he’s not an evil-doer, so wherever he’s aligned with the Democrats, we’d be better off getting something done, than more of the same bickering and ineptitude.

In that regard, I say that John McCain can easily be the next Bill Clinton. Of course, if you don’t think Bill was a good President, and it’s not for personal reasons, but policy ones, then you won’t like McMain either, because he’ll appropriately compromise (in my opinion), to make some progress rather than none.

Summary of John McCain as President? A get something done kind of guy, who will have zero problems reaching across the aisle, regardless of what he’s telling conservatives today, in order to get the job to begin with. That might sound distasteful, saying one thing, intending to do something else, but then that’s why I’m comparing him so strongly (and favorably) to Bill Clinton.

Feel free to let me know how wrong I am. But, keep in mind that I won’t be confused by facts. Remember, I didn’t use them to pound my opinion down your throat, so don’t feel the need to use them to pound yours down mine. ;-)

P.S. Today, Michael Bloomberg penned an op-ed in The New York Times. It’s a well written, well-thought-out piece. I agree with his sentiments completely. I don’t consider him naive, because he isn’t claiming to be able to deliver on the hope of change. All he’s doing is committing to help get the person that he can believe in elected. Amen!

Also today, Dave Winer posted an MP3/podcast of an interview with George Lakoff. It’s overly long, and Dave does a yeoman’s job of trying to reel George back on track (not always successfully), but, it’s also fascinating throughout, even in the meanderings. So, if you have 40+ minutes to concentrate on it (it’s not lightweight listening, so don’t be reading a book while you’re listening), it’s filled with worthwhile nuggets of information and analysis.

Geraldine Ferraro Leads The Way

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I rarely read the editorials in The New York Times. The regular contributors are mostly predictable, and spew venom rather than articulate thoughts. I religiously read the lead-ins in the daily email summary. They typically make me laugh. I don’t know whether the author picks the particular sentence or paragraph, or the editors do (I suspect it’s the editors).

Yesterday (Sunday), Frank Rich had his usual hate-filled opinion piece. I don’t have the summary email in front of me, but I’m pretty sure the lead-in was this:

The Clinton camp has been the slacker in this race, more words than action, and its candidate’s message, for all its purported high-mindedness, was and is self-immolating.

When I read that lead-in out loud to Lois, she asked me to read the entire op-ed to her, as she refuses to register at the NYT site, even though it’s free. ;-)

I admit to being too lazy to check now (this isn’t a normal Political Blog, so please forgive me!), but in the past, I believe that Frank Rich was a supporter of the Clintons. I know that hasn’t been true for a while, but this piece is an interesting hatchet job. Why?

Rather than just make the points that he makes (many of them are excellent, and the entire piece is extremely well written), he has to not only bash Bush (his favorite activity), but he has to ensure that anyone who hates Bush must now hate Hillary as well, since, according to him, they are now one and the same creature…

I wasn’t going to blog about it even though it amused me. Then, this morning, I read this opinion by Geraldine Ferraro. After reading, I couldn’t resist sharing a few thoughts, so why not throw in the Frank Rich opinion as well. :-)

Here was the lead-in that got me to read her entire op-ed:

Superdelegates were created to lead, not to follow. They
were, and are, expected to determine what is best for the
Democratic Party and best for the country.

An interesting premise. I have no idea whether that’s true or not, so I decided to read on. It seems to start off accusing the party of having been populated by cowards (my word, not hers!) previous to the brilliant stroke of creating superdelegates.

Most of the points that she makes are laughable, but in the spirit of not making this a mega-post (I know, most of mine are, like it or not), I’ll pick on a few. Here is the first:

Besides, the delegate totals from primaries and caucuses do not necessarily reflect the will of rank-and-file Democrats. Most Democrats have not been heard from at the polls. We have all been impressed by the turnout for this year’s primaries — clearly both candidates have excited and engaged the party’s membership — but, even so, turnout for primaries and caucuses is notoriously low. It would be shocking if 30 percent of registered Democrats have participated.

Where to begin? First, “Most Democrats have not been heard from at the polls.” So, those that don’t bother to go to the polls somehow prefer the elites of the party to make decisions for them, in particular, over-riding the wishes of those that did go to the polls? Could it be that those that don’t go to the polls weren’t active in electing the elites that Geraldine now claims have a responsibility to those same Democrats?

Here’s the next paragraph:

If that is the case, we could end up with a nominee who has been actively supported by, at most, 15 percent of registered Democrats. That’s hardly a grassroots mandate.

So, by her own admission, turnout is greater now than in most years. Sure, this race is closer, but let’s do some napkin math. She claims that 15% does not a grassroots mandate make. Other than in a year when everyone else drops out (think Kerry in 2004), even a wide margin in delegates would likely be at most something like 75-25% (and that’s likely a stretch, or the second candidate would likely have dropped out).

If in that year, the turnout was more normal, it would be below 30%, perhaps significantly. In that case, the wide-margin victor would have less than 19% of the purported registered Democratic votes (75% of the 25% turnout). Should the superdelegates rush in to save the day? After all, the few idiots that turned out to the polls might be wrong…

This next paragraph was the middle one in a string of three related ones:

In the Democratic primary in South Carolina, tens of thousands of Republicans and independents no doubt voted, many of them for Mr. Obama. The same rules prevail at the Iowa caucuses, in which Mr. Obama also triumphed.

So, a candidate that can excite both parties (plus independents), what a horror, better get the party elite to wipe out that kind of across-the-aisle sentiment! Or, perhaps, her intended point is that Republicans and Independents crossed over to vote for Obama just to ensure that Hillary wouldn’t be the candidate, and that they have no intention of voting for Obama come election day. Who knows, as she doesn’t say!

No matter, Obama topped Hillary in South Carolina by 145,000 votes, so he crushed her, even if Geraldine’s assumptions about non-Democrats are correct. But, who cares about those Democrats anyway…

Then this:

Perhaps because I have endorsed Mrs. Clinton, I have noticed that most of the people complaining about the influence of the superdelegates are supporters of Mr. Obama. I can’t help thinking that their problem with the superdelegates may not be that they’re “unrepresentative,” but rather that they are perceived as disproportionately likely to support Mrs. Clinton.

Huh? Is this an admission that they aren’t representative, or is it just a put-down of people who feel that Obama is legitimately creaming her? It might be a smaller turnout than Geraldine likes (even though it’s a larger turnout than usual), but Obama has now won 11 straight primaries/caucases, some by incredible margins. Where are all of the supporters for Hillary that weren’t turning out earlier, because they thought she was the inevitable candidate, but now know that without their vote, she’s toast?

Now we get this:

And I am watching, with great disappointment, people whom I respect in the Congress who endorsed Hillary Clinton — I assume because she was the leader they felt could best represent the party and lead the country — now switching to Barack Obama with the excuse that their constituents have spoken.

Really? It couldn’t possibly be that both Hillary and Bill have blown up in public so many times that it seems statistically unlikely to be an anomaly, and those same superdelegates have legitimately changed their minds on Hillary’s ability to lead the country? Not only does Geraldine know better than grassroots Democrats, now she knows better than superdelegates who switch from Hillary to Barack.

The hit parade continues:

But if they are actually upset over the diminished clout of rank-and-file Democrats in the presidential nominating process, then I would love to see them agitating to force the party to seat the delegates elected by the voters in Florida and Michigan. In those two states, the votes of thousands of rank-and-file party members will not be counted because their states voted on dates earlier than those authorized by the national party.

This one really makes me laugh, sorry, while I pause and catch my breath. So, the same party officials who are clever enough to give themselves superdelegate status, and know better than ordinary folks, should now be ignored (until the convention, of course). After all, who made the rules to not count the Florida and Michigan votes? Which candidates promised to honor that decision, and which candidate (singular!) went back on that promise?

Geraldine is so worried about disenfranchising those voters. She also points out that Hillary won those two states handily. Of course, she conveniently forgets to point out that the candidates all agreed not to campaign in those states. So, she wins (for whatever reasons), and now the other candidates, who might have won had they campaigned, should just accept the will of the people (of course, only if/when the will of the people selects Hillary). Simply amazing logic.

The bottom line is that Geraldine Ferraro has a distaste and disregard for people who want to exercise their democratic right to vote. Why not come out and say what’s really on her mind? Namely: everyone should stay home and let us leaders anoint the next nominee, since we clearly know better than the rest of you!

It amuses me that this is happening to the all-inclusive Democrats, when they could only wish this was happening to the demonic Republicans…

Al Jarreau and Najee at the Beacon Theater

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The Beacon Theater has been running a Valentine’s Day Concert for some number of years, sponsored by CD101.9, the local NYC Smooth Jazz radio station.

Last year was the first time Lois and I went, and we saw Dave Koz, along with David Benoit and Jonathan Butler. The mention of that concert was one paragraph buried in a very long post about Rediscovering Live Music. That’s too much to read, so here’s the relevant paragraph:

We saw Dave Koz at the Beacon Theater on Valentine’s Day. It was an amazing show, even though the acoustics were horrible! He had two special guests that played most of the evening with him and his band. David Benoit and Jonathan Butler. David Benoit is one of the great jazz pianists. Lois is now one of his biggest fans. I had never heard of Jonathan Butler before. He’s a South African singer and guitarist. He blew me away. Anita Baker was supposed to be a special guest, but she got snowed in and couldn’t make it. Koz got his buddy Be Be Winans to step in at the last minute. Be Be sings “The Dance” on the Koz album of the same name, and is one of our favorites. It was a special treat to see him sing that song live!

When I saw that there was another Valentine’s Day Concert this year, headlined by Al Jarreau with Najee opening for him, I grabbed the tickets immediately. A little over a week ago, I received an announcement that CD 101.9 would no longer be playing Smooth Jazz (they’re switching to some kind of Rock format). They made sure to point out that the concert was going to be held as planned.

I’ve written about the Beacon Theater a number of times, and the fact that they are owned by Cablevision, which also owns Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall. Of the three, I’ve also noted that the Beacon starts its concerts on the late side.

Last night, we decided to take the bus. I left plenty of time, and we didn’t have to wait for the bus that long. Lois always wants to leave earlier than I do, but last night, she relented. Unfortunately (for me), there was more traffic than I anticipated, and a police action in Times Square, and a Fire Engine a little further up, and it was clear that we wouldn’t get there as early as I had hoped. Still, I wasn’t nervous, because they always start late.

We got there at 8:04, so not too late. The house lights were still up, whew. But, as we walked down the aisle to find our seats, the lights went off, and Najee’s band started to play. Oops. Luckily/thankfully, the usher at the head of the aisle guided us perfectly. She said: “You’re in the fourth row from the stage, five and six seats in from the aisle.” We were able to find our seats without reading the numbers. Another whew.

The seats were a huge (and very pleasant) surprise. I knew we were in row DD, but in some theaters, AA comes after Z, in others (perhaps most Broadway theaters), AA is the first row, as turned out to be the case at the Beacon. Yay!

I wasn’t familiar with Najee’s music, though I’ve know of his reputation as an amazing musician for many years, so I was excited to see him. He was awesome, as was his entire band. He plays a number of instruments (different forms of Saxophones, a flute, etc.). Here he is playing the flute (click on any photo to see a larger version):

Najee on the Flute

While every member of his band was incredible and deserves a direct mention, I’ll cop out and call out two of them. Unfortunately, while I paid attention each time Najee named the band members, I also assumed that I could easily find their names on the Internet today, and for whatever reason (brain addle, etc.) I simply can’t! :-( The only name I am sure I can recall is the percussionist (different than the drummer) who is Victor Williams.

The drummer (feel free to leave me a comment and fill in his name! Update: as you can see in the comments, his name is Kentric Morris) was extraordinary. While he was playing an awesome solo, Najee came on the stage, grabbed a bottle of water, showed it to the crowd, then handed it to the drummer. He drank the entire bottle (holding it in his left hand), and continued the solo (feet and right hand), without missing a beat, in a pretty wild (in the good sense) solo. Wow.

Then, while still playing the same solo, a minute later, Najee came on the stage with a Blackberry in his hand. He asked the audience to yell “Hello” as he pointed it to the crowd. We did. He asked us to yell louder, we did. Then he handed the phone to the drummer. Again, the drummer continued the solo while speaking on the phone. It turns out it was his mother, and he had to excuse himself for having to get off so quickly. It was hysterical, especially when he promised her that he had attended church this past Sunday. ;-)

The other guy to single out was the guitarist. He was formerly with the B-52s. I thought the name was “Chuck”, but I can’t find any mention of that, so I’m sure I was wrong. Anyway, aside from being an excellent guitarist, all but one of Najee’s numbers were instrumentals. The one exception was sung by the guitarist, and he did a heck of a job. He’s from Roanoke, VA if that helps identify him. :-) Perhaps, one of you can recognize him from his photo:

Najee Guitarist Singing

Update: People in the comments confirmed that the guitarist is Chuck Johnson.

Aside from making great music, Najee is personable and very conversational with the crowd. They were on for just under one hour, leaving the stage at 9pm.

As happened the previous night at MSG, they didn’t cover the stage between acts. Since we were in the fourth row, we got to see the entire disassembly and reassembly of all of the equipment for the two groups. They opened up the back of the stage to get the equipment straight out to the trucks. That meant that the outside air was rushing in during that operation. I was in a T-Shirt, but loved the breeze. Lois was in long sleeves, and had to put on her winter coat. ;-)

Al Jarreau’s band came on the stage at 9:32, and they started to play at 9:34 while the lights were still on. The lights were turned off by the third note, and people rushed to their seats. A minute later, Al came on the stage to a thunderous applause, along with a female singer (again, really sorry about not nailing people’s names last night!). She joined him on four or five numbers, and they sang wonderfully together.

Al Jarreau in a Duet

In addition to having one of the silkiest voices around, with a mind-boggling range, Al is also a great entertainer, who is enjoying himself on the stage as much as the crowd is enjoying him. He’s 68-years-old, and hasn’t lost even a touch of his vocal capabilities. When he sings in a deep register, it’s smooth, clean, powerful, and you’d think he was a 400 pound bassist. When he reaches for high notes, there’s no strain in his voice, and he can whisper them, or belt them out. To repeat my characterization above, simply mind-boggling.

I’ve been a fan of Al’s forever. I bought Breaking Away on vinyl, when it first came out (in 1981), so it’s at least 27 years that I’ve been listening to him. I love that album so much, that I also own the CD.

If you don’t know him, get to know him. ;-) In addition to phenomenal singing, he also scats with the best of them. But, in addition to normal scatting (whatever that means), he scats all of the instruments in his band. If you close your eyes, so that you don’t know it’s him, you could easily confuse his voice for a real instrument. It’s cool, trust me. :-)

As with Najee (who joined Al for one wonderful number!), Al has an incredible rapport with the crowd. There’s something Buddha-like about Al. He radiates love, peace and joy, and openly promotes prayer and mindfulness throughout the show. Here’s a photo of the two of them together:

Al Jarreau and Najee

He played an extraordinary set for just under 90 minutes, including an encore. He never left the stage after saying the first goodnight, slipping into the encore. I was thrilled to be there last night!

One political footnote.

If you’ve read my stuff before, you know I really can’t stand when an entertainer mixes politics into the show. I’ve also said, if you’re going to do it, make it part of the music, not a speech.

Both Najee and Al made exactly one reference each to something that could be considered political. In both cases, it was classy and understated, and most definitely not preachy. Both could have (and possibly should have) avoided it, but I can’t imagine they offended anyone, certainly not me.

First Najee. He pointed out that he was in LA (Ventura Boulevard I think) and saw 25 people demonstrating on behalf of Obama. What amazed him was that all 25 were white people. He (Najee) pointed out that 50 years ago, that sight would simply have been inconceivable, and it made him proud to be an American, and very hopeful about what it meant for our collective future.

I completely agree with him, as did the crowd. This wasn’t an endorsement of Obama, nor a refutation of Hillary, nor a put-down of Republicans. Merely, an observation that something fundamental may finally be changing (for the better) in this country, when it comes to tolerance of differences (racial and otherwise). Amen!

Al’s was more political, but as classy as could be in that regard. In introducing one of his more famous songs, We’re In This Love Together, he said that he was dedicating it to sending a message to Washington that we don’t want any more war. He then wove that theme into the song itself, two or three times.

But, I say it was classy, because he never once mentioned Bush, The Administration, Republicans, Conservatives, Right-Wingers (those who conspire vastly and those who don’t), etc. He didn’t need to curse any of the above, to get his message across.

To that, I also say Amen. We can all have our own points of view, but we’ll never come to any collective understanding if the civility in our dialog continues to be rhetoric and defamatory based.

The New York Times Makes Me Laugh

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I wanted to write about this immediately when I saw this last Friday. But, I really don’t write about politics per se, and my comments here have nothing to do with politics anyway.

But, since I just wrote a few minutes ago regarding Caroline Kennedy’s endorsement of Barack Obama, I had little trouble convincing myself that this was in that same vein. ;-)

So, last Friday, The NY Times endorsed Hillary Clinton in this op-ed. I don’t begrudge them their opinion (they even label it that ;-) ), but I do find some of their phrases amusing (to say the least). This is, after all, supposedly the paper of record. What a joke.

Tell me if you think the following sentence doesn’t make the editors of The New York Times sound like schoolgirls:

“The idea of the first African-American nominee of a major party also is exhilarating, and so is the prospect of the first woman nominee.”

Exhilarating? Really? No, wait, sorry, they too realized what an extremely silly thing to say that was, since they followed it up immediately with the next two sentences:

“‘Firstness’ is not a reason to choose. The times that false choice has been raised, more often by Mrs. Clinton, have tarnished the campaign.”

Ah, so, it tarnished her campaign to bring it up, yet you (the vaunted editors of The NY Times) couldn’t resist coloring it even further with the word exhilarating.

When I read that, I had an immediately exhilarating thought as well, some might even call it ironic. What if Condoleezza Rice were running for president. Would The NY Times editors be exhilarated at the thought of the first African-American Woman nominee? Let’s not waste too much time on that imponderable. ;-)

Barack Obama Kennedy

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This past Sunday, Caroline Kennedy penned this editorial in The NY Times, endorsing Barack Obama for President. A day later, her uncle, Senator Edward/Ted Kennedy also endorsed Obama, and both appeared with the candidate.

This is not a blog about politics, nor is it likely to ever become that. This is a blog about things that interest me on a personal level, that I wish to document or comment on, mostly for my own amusement.

Comedy, irony, satire, etc., are very important aspects of my life, and that’s the only reason that I choose to comment on this particular endorsement.

For the most part, Caroline Kennedy waxes eloquently. I have little doubt that it is heart-felt. But, both she and her famous uncle felt the overwhelming need to add either code words or code phrases to their respective endorsements, to ensure that people would understand that they were going out of their way to differentiate between Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Ted’s was less complicated, when he told the crowd at American University: “I know that he’s ready to be President on day one.” This was specifically targeted at no one other than Hillary Clinton, who continues to claim that Obama simply isn’t ready, but she (of course) is.

Back to Caroline. Her endorsement is very historic, and I don’t discount that. Why then, in choosing her anti-Hillary code phrase, did she have to muck it up so badly with the following?

“And when it comes to judgment, Barack Obama made the right call on the most important issue of our time by opposing the war in Iraq from the beginning.”

True or not (meaning, Obama’s position on Iraq, versus Hillary’s), it actually separates Obama from her father, rather than making him the second coming of JFK. I found it quite ironic.

There is little doubt that JFK inspired the masses. If his life hadn’t been tragically cut short, who knows what else he might have accomplished. That said, there is also little doubt that he was instrumental in plunging us into the Vietnam war. A war that so many are so quick to equate with the current Iraq war. Here is one take on JFK’s role in Vietnam (typos and all).

He also came desperately close to plunging us all into World War III, with his handling of the Bay of Pigs.

History is a harsh mistress. We are all (myself included) geniuses at this moment in time looking back at President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, and second guess it. Most Americans feel the same way about our involvement in Vietnam. That said, while many blame and deride Bush with ulterior motives, few would hold JFK’s motives up to that same harsh light. He simply acted in good faith, and things didn’t work out as planned.

So, in my opinion, Caroline should have avoided that specific line of thought…

I should stop now, I know that (deeply). That said, since this is about irony, I simply can’t help myself. I can’t help recalling, now that we’re remembering past presidents and comparing them to current candidates (and their spouses perhaps?), that JFK also shared some very strong traits with Bill Clinton. In particular, their well-known dalliances. JFK was lucky enough to live in a time when it was unseemly even to report such matters, let alone investigate them…

Now back to our more regularly scheduled musings. ;-)

Breaking a Promise to Myself

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When I started blogging, nearly a year ago, I decided to avoid politics and business. I really wanted to blog about personal stuff (computers, food, music, poker, etc.). Aside from a minor comment or two about how certain performers use the stage to share their politics, I’ve resisted (sometimes mightily) from jumping in.

I’m about to go back on that decision, and I’m none too happy it. I seriously hope that I can avoid the inevitable slippery slope, and I certainly intend to try hard to do that.

If you know me, you probably think you know my politics, but you’re also likely as wrong as you might be somewhat correct. In fact, I think 99.999% of all politics and politicians is/are corrupt. I don’t mean that so many individual politicians are corrupt, and take bribes, etc. The entire system is skewed to selling out your principles if you hope to get anything done.

The only saving grace in all of this is that most legislation stalls, and that which gets through is usually watered down (and unfortunately laden with pork), so that the sheer inertia of our government is what keeps us from spiraling into hell.

Whew. Now that that’s off my chest, I can get to the real point of this post.

While the volume and proportion hasn’t been overwhelming (so far) at the concerts that Lois and I choose to go to, it annoys the hell out of both of us whenever any performer feels compelled to share their politics with the audience. Last I checked, we didn’t pay (darn good money in most cases!) to come to a political lecture in general, nor did we specifically anoint this performer as the know-it-all keeper of political knowledge.

To be clear, I don’t want a lecture that supports my beliefs either, so this has nothing to do with not wanting to hear a dissenting opinion. Of course, it’s rare (nowadays) with the majority of the groups that we see, and the fact that the venues are in and around NYC, that the lectures are anything but anti-Bush and anti-war. Wow, how clever, as we don’t get enough of that sentiment on TV.

Some are classy about it, but guess what, I don’t appreciate that either, though I’ll quickly admit that it’s a tad less painful than a rant. An example of class is Kathy Mattea. We loved her concert (which you can read about here). I can’t even recall the exact comment she made, but she dedicated one song to a polite, but clear anti-war sentiment. Like I said, classy, no rubbing it in anyone’s face, but the dig was still unmistakable.

A different form (and much less prevalent) of political agendas was Kathy specifically promoting Al Gore’s presentations on behalf of raising awareness for Global Warming. Again, not over the top.

One more example before I get to the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I also reported that we enjoyed seeing Treble at Joe’s Pub. This is hardly a well-known group with a platform or following, where you might expect (unfortunately) to hear any political opinions. While they didn’t give any speeches, they had a generally clever song that I assume they wrote (they don’t write many of their own songs), and in two of the verses, they are just plain ugly about President Bush. Wow, they’re just so darn accomplished that their opinions about politics deserve to stand the test of time by being burned into their CDs.

I don’t begrudge them their opinions, and as I said to Lois right after we heard the song, I’d much rather hear the opinions in the form of a song than in an actual speech, but still, give me a break, please.

OK, now the ice-breaker. As I’ve mentioned a number of times, David Bromberg is one of my all-time favorite performers, in particular live, but I have many of his CDs, and love most of them as well. Clearly, he grew up in the Viet Nam era, and the strong Folk singer culture (Dylan, Baez, Seeger, Bromberg ;-) etc.), so I get that he feels the need to speak out.

So, the first time I saw him in over two decades was last September (2006) which was before I started blogging. So, there was no individual post about him, though I summarized it in my uber getting back into live music post. We saw him again solo at Joe’s Pub.

In both performances, his encore was a speech, with background guitar. It annoyed the daylights out of Lois. She would have happily got up and left if I was willing, which I wasn’t. It annoyed me too, a lot, but the first time, I pointed out to Lois that at least, he truly was trying to communicate, rather than rant. Specifically, when he started speaking against the current administration, the majority of the crowd whooped it up. He immediately asked them to be silent (in other words, he didn’t use the opportunity for self-aggrandizement). He said: “I don’t need to reach those of you who agree with me, I need to speak calmly to those that disagree.”

They quieted down and respected him. I respected him as well, because most artists in his position prefer the applause than actually making an intelligent argument. I listened, so he got what he wanted. That said, it’s not what I paid for, and I was thankful that he waited for the encore, and didn’t waste a lot of show time lecturing me.

As noted above, he repeated the exact same act at Joe’s Pub. Oh well…

Last night, we went to see him again, at the Paramount Theater in Peekskill, NY. I will blog separately about the concert, and give all of the appropriate links in that post. As in the first show at BB King, Angel Band (his wife’s group, that David’s band backs up) opened the show.

We were (unfortunately) fully prepared to hear the same speech again at the end of the show. Most gratefully, we didn’t. But, we didn’t, because he didn’t need to. Instead, his wife, Nancy Josephson, used her microphone time when Angel Band was in the spotlight to tell a story about how she came to write an anti-war song. The speech came complete with her acting out the head banging on her kitchen counter that occurred (to her) and therefore inspired the song, when she first heard the term “the surge” on the radio.

The song itself is gorgeous (melodically, and harmony-wise). The words are interesting, if not quite as inspiring as Nancy would like us to believe. If there was no explanation at all, I would have appreciated the song, and the universality of the message. Essentially, the song is about mothers uniting against war, refusing to let their children participate. A nice message (if ultimately naive beyond description, though I’ll try anyway down below ;-) ). For me, by tying it specifically to “the surge”, it became embroiled in the current divisive politics that are destroying this amazing country!

My point is that as an ideal it’s fine to wish for a world that never saw another war. But, to shape the argument in a way that claims that no war is ever worth fighting, quickly loses me.

Since I can’t resist, I’ll point out two issues with the “can’t we all just love each other and resist all wars” messages. Don’t get me wrong, I’m adamantly anti-war (I even demonstrated at the age of 13 at Bryant Park against the Viet Nam war). That said, anti-war, at all costs, is too high a cost, and there’s ample proof of that.

First, let’s look at the brilliant Sally Field, who at the Emmys, made the astoundingly insightful claim (quoted exactly, as I just watched the clip again a second ago) “If mothers ruled the world, there would be no god-damned wars”. Ah, of course. It reminds me of watching 60 Minutes interviewing Palestinian mothers, who lamented (while crying to the cameras!) that they had only lost three sons as suicide bombers, and that their remaining two sons hadn’t yet given themselves to the glory of becoming a suicide bomber. Thanks Mom!

Second, let’s look at Nancy Josephson’s view that no mother should give up any child to war. I think there were a lot of Jews that behaved all-too-passively while being politely marched to the death camps. Surely (they thought), it can’t be worth fighting, we’re only giving up material things. Surely (they thought), there is not so great an evil in the world that could conceive of the final solution, so we don’t have to resort to violence.

The point is, there are things that are worth fighting for, as appalling as that notion is. It may very well be true that Iraq is not. For sure, both Lois and I strongly wish we had never gotten involved there, and we wish there was a way to get out that wouldn’t leave us worse off than we already are. But, to confuse and conflate a legitimate distaste for the current specific situation in Iraq, and try to push a naive message that no war is ever necessary, and our kids should all be flower children, is equally appalling to me, if not actually more so…

I’m done, except to beg all performers who are being paid by their audience to entertain, to stop pretending that your opinion is more important than mine. If your music itself is known to be political, that’s great, as I can easily self-select whether I want to hear it. But, if your music is inherently not political, then I shouldn’t have to pay for the privilege of being lectured.

P.S. Note that this message isn’t being forced on you, you didn’t have to read it. It wasn’t presented to you as part of another activity that you chose to participate in, and therefore couldn’t avoid this little insert. Also, you weren’t charged for the privilege of reading my opinion, nor did I attempt to profit from you in any way, by running an Ad on this page, etc. This is a major difference from what we are subjected to as an audience in the above matters!