Dependable Erection

Friday, October 20, 2006


Congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals on their dramatic ninth inning win over the Mets last night in game 7 of the NLCS. As the Great Baseball Scribe himself has said, "Wait till next year."

The Cardinals' victory sets up a rematch of sorts of the 1968 World Series between these same two teams, a Series which was a true October Classic in every sense of the word. The Cardinals had future Hall of Famers Lou Brock and Orlando Cepeda in their everyday lineup, Bob Gibson on the mound for Games 1, 4 and 7, and three other playres (Curt Flood, Roger Maris, and Tim McCarver) for whom Hall of Fame credentials can be claimed. The Tigers were led by their aging superstar Al Kaline, former AL batting champ Norm Cash, and Denny McClain, the first (and last) 30 game winner in 3 decades.

Gibson beat McClain in Games 1 and 4, Mickey Lolich defeated Nelson Briles in Games 2 and 5, and by virtue of their 7-3 victory in Game 3, the Cards had a 3-2 advantage when the Series returned to St. Louis for Games 6 and 7. Denny McClain took the mound on two days rest for Game 6, and shut the Cardinals down, giving up only a single run in the 9th inning of a 13-1 blowout. It was up to unlikely hero Mickey Lolich to do the same against Cardinal ace Gibson in Game 7, and he came through, again giving up just a single run in the 9th and winning 4-1.

The 68 Series was also noted for the stirring, soulful, and very Hispanic version of the National Anthem sung by Jose Feliciano before Game 5 in Detroit, which was not recieved very well by fans and viewers around the country. Feliciano's website notes:

He wanted to sing an anthem of gratitude to a country that had given him a chance; who had allowed a blind kid with a dream reach far above his limitations, far beyond the expected to a place few at his young age, had achieved. He wanted to sing an anthem of praise to a country that had given a better life to him and his family.

Playing slowly and meaningfully on a sunny October afternoon, he felt the vastness of the stadium and the presence of so many listening to him as he began to sing, " Oh, say, can you see?..." . Before he had completed his performance, however, he could feel the discontent within the waves of cheers and applause that spurred on the first pitch. "Wonder what that was about?," he thought, as he was escorted to the press box to enjoy a couple of innings before his flight back to Vegas for his shows later that evening.

"Do you know what you did?", He was asked by someone in the box. "You're causing a furor! The switchboard is lighting up with calls from people complaining about your singing The National Anthem!"

"My God", He thought, as the great controversy exploded across the country. Veterans, reportedly, threw their shoes at the television as he sang. Others questioned his right to stay in the United States, suggesting he should be deported (to where, exactly, had never been mentioned as those from Puerto Rico are, of course, American citizens)! Still others just attributed it to the times and felt sad for the state of our country.

There were, obviously, many who understood the depth and breadth of his rendition. Those, young and old, who weren't jaded by the negativity which surrounded anything new, anything a little different. It was unusual. It was beautifully done. It certainly was sincere.

The controversy was to shadow Feliciano and his music for many years. It inspired a sense of compassion about our Anthem which, until that time, had pretty much been taken for granted. It became the topic of conversation in circles that never discussed patriotism and, it brought about a sense of commitment to whatever side of the line one stood.

Today, it is common to hear our National Anthem performed in a stylized fashion. Some renditions are clearly better than others, still sparking some criticism. You will, however, notice that it is very acceptable, indeed admirable, to deliver an intensely personal interpretation of The National Anthem.

This was not the case before Jose Feliciano.

As the comedian Robert Klein later joked, "I guess the only reason they didn't kill him on the spot is that he's blind."

2006 is reminiscent of 1968 in other ways than just a World Series rematch. An unpopular president trying to rally the country around his unpopular war, a potential sea change in the political climate.

1968 of course, was a watershed year in American history, and even as a twelve year old experiencing it mostly through TV and newspapers, the extraordinariness of the turmoil was painful. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy both assassinated in the spring, the former shortly after he began speaking out against the continued US engagement in the Vietnam war, the latter as he celebrated a victory in the California primary which would likely propel him to the Democratic party nomination for the presidency. Riots in many cities changed the urban landscape permanently. The 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago scarred the party for generations. In many ways, it never recovered. Racial and class schisms, for which a general prosperity of the 50s and early 60s had been able to minimize, were now being exploited by a conservative movement which saw an opportunity to achieve power that had not existed since before the Great Depression. The new Republican Southern strategy, embraced by Richard Nixon, pitted working class whites against blacks and Hispanics, claiming that white prosperity was threatened by minorities on welfare. In its most extreme and virulent form, the right wing would claim (and still does) that the survival of white, christian America was at stake.

Another reminder of 1968 has been in the news this week. With all of the pre-election madness, the polls showing the likelihood of a Democratic victory, perhaps a landslide; the Mark Foley/Dennis Hastert coverup in the House of Representatives; the emergence of a second Republican in the Connecticut Senate race; with all that, i think a recent acknowledgement by President Bush of the parallels between his Iraq war and the war in Vietnam marked an important rhetorical and psychological change that has gone largely uncommented on. This change in rhetoric and psychology should indicate to those of us who opposed this war from its inception that the time is now right to push for the US to conclude its part in the war, to ensure that those who led us into this war are punished for their criminal arrogance and willful violation of both the Constitution of the United States and international law, and to fight to make sure that our elected representatives and leaders are never able to do this again.

Tom Friedman wrote a column the other day, as off target as most of his work. But he said this:

In the competition for the biggest “October surprise” of the 2006 election cycle, it might seem hard to top North Korea’s nuclear test. But I’d suggest that in time we’ll come to see the events unfolding — or rather, unraveling — in Iraq today as the real October surprise, because what we’re seeing there seems like the jihadist equivalent of the Tet offensive.

For those of you too young to remember, the Tet offensive was the series of attacks undertaken by the Vietcong and North Vietnamese armies between Jan. 30, 1968 — the start of the Lunar New Year — and June 1969. Although the Vietcong and Hanoi were badly mauled during Tet, they delivered, through the media, such a psychological blow to U.S. hopes of “winning” in Vietnam that Tet is widely credited with eroding support for President Johnson and driving him to withdraw as a candidate for re-election.

For someone possessed of the Moustache of Understanding, Friedman is uncannily dense. And for someone who has the platform and audience he does, that denseness can rise to the level of a felony.

The lesson of the Tet offensive is not that the VC and the NVA "delivered, through the media, such a psychological blow to U.S. hopes of “winning” in Vietnam", that Lyndon Johnson had to decline to seek re-election. What the Tet offensive did was put the lie to 4 years of American propaganda bullshit that the war was going well, that we were winning, that our body counts were constantly improving, that the puppet government we had installed in South Vietnam had the support of the people, that there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

What Tet did was reveal to the world, and to the American people, who are not that dense after all, that our government had been doing nothing else but lying about the Vietnam war. That our government was putting at risk half a million of our soldiers at a time, perhaps 2 million total, to defend absolutely nothing else but the government's own ability to project bullshit. Tet made crystal clear that US military actions in Vietnam, including chemical and ecological warfare, and virtually unimaginable death and destruction, had no chance of succeeding, and had, as its sole purpose, its own self-perpetuation. We were in Vietnam because we were in Vietnam, and we were going to stay because if we didn't, we wouldn't be in Vietnam.

Friedman alone is not enough to signal the rhetorical and psychological changewinds which are blowing, even if he is somewhat like a weathercock on a fallingdown barn. But the acknowlegement by none other than George W. Bush, whose intellectual acuity may rival that of Friedman, even if he's not as wealthy, that Friedman is right, is a key milemarker.

"He could be right," the president said, before adding, "There's certainly a stepped-up level of violence, and we're heading into an election."

"George, my gut tells me that they have all along been trying to inflict enough damage that we'd leave," Bush said. "And the leaders of al Qaeda have made that very clear. Look, here's how I view it. First of all, al Qaeda is still very active in Iraq. They are dangerous. They are lethal. They are trying to not only kill American troops, but they're trying to foment sectarian violence. They believe that if they can create enough chaos, the American people will grow sick and tired of the Iraqi effort and will cause government to withdraw."

Bush said he could not imagine any circumstances under which all U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Iraq before the end of his presidency.

From the beginning, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, the whole lot of them currently sitting in the seats of power in Washington, have done nothing but lie to the American people about Iraq. Whether it was weapons of mass destruction; the toppling of Saddam's statue; the predictions of a cakewalk with candy and flowers for liberating American troops; to the depiction if Iraqi fighters as "deadenders;" claims that the Iraqi resistance would fade away following the death of Saddam's sons, the capture of Saddam himself, the killing of al-Zarqawi; Operation Forward Together and its recent abandonment; all we have gotten from our leaders are lies.

When morons like Thomas Friedman spout nonsense that claims our media are handing a propaganda victory to our enemies by reporting on the heightened violence in Iraq, when a tinpot would be dictator like George Bush repeats the claim that "They believe that if they can create enough chaos, the American people will grow sick and tired of the Iraqi effort and will cause government to withdraw," all they are really doing is condemning thousands of more people to violent and bloody deaths in the name of preserving their own power. And that power is only used as an end in itself. The Amreican adventure in Iraq, predicated as it was on lies, greed, and manipulation, has already failed. Recovering from it will take a generation or more. The sooner we start, by removing at least some of the levers of power from these criminals on November 7, the better.


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