Archive for Passing


Sunday Morning Music

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R.I.P., champ.

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A man like no other

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Muhammad Ali after receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush on November 9, 2005. (Public Domain.)

Now Ali, “The Greatest.” Tributes are pouring in from across the planet for Muhammad Ali, the three-time World Heavyweight Champion who captured boxing and the world through, speed, skill, and sheer force of personality after he upset Sonny Liston in 1964. Ali, 74, died at a Phoenix-area hospital last night after a long decline from a respiratory illness aggravated by Parkinson’s. Ali died a Sufi Muslim.

A report in the New York Times quotes Jim Murray of The Los Angeles Times on Ali’s talents, “He didn’t have fights, he gave recitals.”

The “Rumble in the Jungle” against George Foreman (1974, Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and the “Thrilla in Manila” against Joe Frazier (1975) are legendary. But outside the boxing ring, as his Wikipedia entry notes, “Ali’s actions as a conscientious objector to the [Vietnam War] made him an icon for the larger counterculture generation.” Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., Ali converted to Islam at 22, changed his name, and in 1967 refused induction into the army claiming “his Muslim beliefs forbade him to go to war.” His conviction for draft evasion was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1971 and he returned to the ring.

The Washington Post summarizes:
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Categories : News, Passing
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Sunday Morning Music

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RIP, Guy Clark

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Standing Ovation

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Photo by TJ Amos

Photo by TJ Amos

I’m an inside/outside player. On the outside, I get to throw stones at the Democratic Party on national blogs when I get a bug up my ass. On the inside, as someone who helps get local and statewide candidates elected, people think I bring something valuable to the table and they listen to me. And I have a national platform to take them to task if they don’t. But if I were on the outside completely, I’d just be another harping lefty activist who’s all sticks and no carrots. But since I’ve been doing field successfully for 7 cycles, I’m now an old guy and maybe even The Establishment. When George W. Bush arrived, I knew I needed allies to fight back, so I went to where I could find them in bulk in one convenient location. Do I agree with all of them on everything? Hell, no. But that was never the point. Strength in numbers was. When I got there, local politics was still a southern old-boys club. Now, I’m one of the people in charge. My chair and I and my “Moral Monday” arrestee state senator are from Chicago.

I do not understand the need among many progressives to bet it all on one spin of the roulette wheel with everything bet on black, or on the long bomb with time running out, or on who’s running at the top of the ticket in a presidential year. My job description doesn’t change depending on who’s at the top of the ticket. As long as someone from our side of the aisle wins and gives me the next three SCOTUS picks, I’m good. Some coattails would be nice as well. That’s just a part of why I don’t much care about the Bernie v. Hillary thing.

Last week I went to the funeral of a friend of mine who was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer just weeks before. People said he was too focused on helping the community to look after himself. Isaac Coleman was a Freedom Rider and a member of SNCC. Two years ago he was declared a local “Living Treasure.” The church was packed. They started the “service” by naming off groups he had worked with and asked people from those groups to stand. Some got to stand multiple times. The largest group was the local Democratic Party. Isaac was a fierce advocate for the right to vote. “Take five,” he would say, “and if you can’t take five, take ten.”

The very idea that as an activist you would bet so much on a single, big political race would have seemed alien to him. It is to me. The local needs are too great.

I live in a state taken over by a T-party legislature that has passed one of the worst voter ID bills in the country, drafted absolutely diabolical redistricting maps, passed HB2 as a get-out-the-vote tool, and launches regular legislative attacks against our cities where the largest block of blue votes are. President Bernie isn’t going to fix that for me. Neither is President Hillary. And not in Michigan or Wisconsin either. We have to beat them ourselves. Here, not in the Electoral College.

But friends on the left now talk about the Democratic Party the way conservatives talk about “the gummint,” as though it is some sort of monolithic beast with agency of its own apart from that of its voters and activists. I get it. That’s how it looks if your focus is Washington. It looks a mite different out here in the provinces where we’re fighting the border wars. Sometimes out here — and more regularly than every four years — we get to win. That’s what keeps us going. Because the battle never ends.

I work with some very good people and some very good Democrats. But I’m seeing smart, good-hearted (many new) activists who didn’t learn from 2008. They think ideology is what’s most important. Talk the nuts and bolts of winning — practical politics — and they see you as gutless, cautious, calcified, afraid to bet it all on black and lose dramatically, because grinding out yardage on the ground is selling out. (A Princeton historian addressed that in part on air last week.) Their focus is the Big Enchilada (the presidency) when the fights that have more immediate impact on their lives are more local. That’s not to say global warming and national issues are not important. But if you want to sustain yourself for the Long March, you need to drink in some local victories or you’ll burn out before getting there.

Isaac never did. At then end of the service, we all gave him a long, standing ovation.

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Requiem for a movement?

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Donald Trump all but officially clinched the 2016 Republican nomination for president when Sen. Ted Cruz bowed out last night after a crushing loss in the Indiana primary. Bernie Sanders upset Hillary Clinton to keep his campaign alive, but because Democrats assign delegates proportionally, he gained little ground in the delegate chase.

Politico reports that Sen. Elizabeth Warren wasted no time in launching an assault on the presumptive Republican nominee, “hitting him with a blistering late-night tweetstorm in which she cast the presumptive Republican nominee as a racist with a dangerous authoritarian streak.” She defined the challenge ahead both for herself and the country:

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Sunday Morning Music

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R.I.P., Prince. Here’s a rarity:

Also, Richie Havens:

And you thought 2015 sucked.

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About last night

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Where to begin? In a nice bit of irony, Republican candidates for president were on the bill of a cage match last night at Greenville, South Carolina’s “Peace Center.” It was a good warm-up for the rumble in the Senate when President Obama nominates someone to fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. Unless you were under a rock and missed it last night, Scalia died in his sleep Friday night in Texas. The announcement hit in the late afternoon, Eastern time.

Wingnuts had the skinny: Obama had Scalia whacked. (Hillary must have been at a fundraiser.)

Republicans immediately circled the wagons and by debate time insisted it would be inappropriate for the president to continue doing his job and nominate a replacement with a year still left in his presidency. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY):

“The American people? should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” he said in a statement. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.”

Shorter McConnell: Elections have consequences except when they have Democrats. The American people who elected Obama in 2008 and 2012 must demur to the all-new, less old-and-white, 2016 American people, signalling that Republicans in the upper chamber will hold their breath until the Senate turns blue.

A real poker player, that McConnell. Did he even watch the debate? Here’s just some of what we learned:

Ronald Reagan tore down the Berlin Wall. [Jeb! Bush]

The Constitution is not a living and breathing document. [Marco Rubio] (A friend observed that the older Talmud is still being interpreted.)

The way to hold Wall Street executives accountable for financial crimes is to eliminate the laws and reduce enforcement. [Ben Carson]

It was intense. Josh Marshall was keeping score:

I find it hard to know quite what to say about this debate. It was chaotic and disordered. Lots of candidates called each other liars. Donald Trump used variations of the actual word numerous times. Our initial count from the rough transcript has Trump saying “single biggest liar” twice, “this guy lied” twice and “why do you lie” no less than three times. Rubes said Cruz “lies” a handful of times. And that was just the start of it. I don’t think there’s ever been a presidential debate where so many of the candidates have called each other liars so many times. At some moments the trash talking and chest-puffing and general drama got so intense I thought this might be a fair approximation of West Side Story if you’d written it about two battling country clubs, the plutocrats versus the plutocrat flunkies.

Donald Trump must have decided the way to score points in an anti-establishment election was to double down on conservative blasphemy. In Greenville, South Carolina, no less, Trump declared that Planned Parenthood actually does “wonderful things having to do with women’s health.” Then he attacked Jeb’s mother and brother:

BUSH: And he has had the gall to go after my brother.

TRUMP: The World Trade Center came down during your brother’s reign, remember that.


BUSH: He has had the gall to go after my mother.

Hold on. Let me finish. He has had the gall to go after my mother.

TRUMP: That’s not keeping us safe.

BUSH: Look, I won the lottery when I was born 63 years ago, looked up, and I saw my mom. My mom is the strongest woman I know.

TRUMP: She should be running.

Ohio Governor John Kasich was gobsmacked, “This is just nuts, OK? Jeez, oh, man. I’m sorry, John.”

That was moderator John Dickerson of CBS News, who at one point threatened bickering candidates that he might have to “turn this car around.”

Candidates pretty much ignored Rubio, except Cruz:

CRUZ: You know, the lines are very, very clear. Marco right now supports citizenship for 12 million people here illegally. I oppose citizenship. Marco stood on the debate stage and said that.

But I would note not only that, Marco has a long record when it comes to amnesty. In the state of Florida, as speaker of the house, he supported in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. In addition to that, Marco went on Univision in Spanish and said he would not rescind President Obama’s illegal executive amnesty on his first day in office.

I have promised to rescind every single illegal executive action, including that one.


CRUZ: And on the question…


RUBIO: Well, first of all, I don’t know how he knows what I said on Univision because he doesn’t speak Spanish. And second of all, the other point that I would make…


In Spanish, Cruz challenged Rubio to debate him in Spanish. Rubio is done.

Looking forward to McConnell blocking a new appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court until he’s proven Republicans are as utterly dysfunctional as their candidates.

Categories : National, Obama, Passing
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Sunday Morning Music

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R.I.P. Paul Kantner

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R.I.P. Alan Rickman

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I am so going to miss Alan Rickman.

I’m such a Galaxy Quest geek.

Categories : Passing, Popular Culture
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Sunday Morning Music

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R.I.P., David Bowie.

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