Friday, October 2, 2009

Free Period: Friday Random Ten

Like thousands of bad headline writers before me, I’ll go ahead and indulge my corniest instincts: Blame it on Rio.

Earlier today, Rio de Janiero emerged as the victor in the heated competition to play host for the 2016 Olympic Games. Madrid and Tokyo finished second and third. And Chicago – thought to be one of the favorites coming into the day – finished last.

But there remains lots to love about Chi-Town: the skyline, the deep-dish pizza, the history, the Obamas and, of course, the music.

So over at PostBourgie, we saw fit to honor the great musical tradition of the City of Big Shoulders on a day when the disappointment seems to be weighing pretty heavy this afternoon. My contributions to the list were as follows: Brand New by Rhymefest featuring Kanye West; Reminding Me (of Sef) by Common featuring Chantay Savage; Po Pimp by Do or Die featuring Twista.

As I mentioned over there, off top, I know we missed Muddy Waters, Herbie Hancock, almost anyone who’s ever recorded house music, R. Kelly and, er, Lupe Fiasco (homey is boring, imo). And a couple readers threw Chaka Khan and Lou Rawls into the mix, too. We could run off names all day, you know?

There’s no denying Chicago’s rich musical history. But in the end, it’s hard to compete with this.

At least they’ve got the Cubs.

Continue Reading »

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Rep. Alan Grayson

The man is making sense:

"The reaction is overwhelmingly positive, and it’s because people like it when a Democrat shows guts," Grayson said. "They like it when people speak truth to power. That’s a big part of what being a Democrat really means."

And he could use your support.

No go run and tell dat to Baucus and Co. Some of these bears need to use their chainsaws. Continue Reading »

Free Period: Your Monday* Random-Ass Roundup

Now released on c.p. time.

Anyway, I don’t know what, if anything, can be learned from the fatal beating of 16-year-old Chicago honor student Derrion Albert. I don’t know if there are enough words to appropriately convey the tragedy. And I don’t know if watching the gruesome video footage will help much.

But I do know that this is no referendum on “the black community.” Derrion’s death is no more a reflection on me, my kin, my friends or my neighbors than, say, Thomas Junta was for hockey dads:

But most importantly, RIP Derrion. You deserved far better. And so do we.

Here's a link to this week's long-forgotten edition of Your Monday Random-Ass* Roundup.

More later.

Continue Reading »

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Be like Mike

SI digs into its priceless archives and comes up with these photos of His Airness in college:

I thought Ms. Pac-Man sucked too. So we had that in common. Continue Reading »

How 'bout those Coogs?

I might have been one of a handful of kids anywhere who dreamed of someday playing sports at the University of Houston. It was merely a matter of figuring out which sport to settle upon: did I want to pledge Phi Slamma Jamma, or did I want to play in the Run-n-Shoot?

I never got to make the choice. Puberty handled most of that decision: I topped out at 6-foot, filled out to more than 200 pounds, never developed a jumpshot, wanted to move away - if only four hours away - for college and decided to attend TCU in Fort Worth.

Over time, I lost my love for U of H. But last night the spark was rekindled. If only for a few hours. (I mean, Hakeem Olajuwon was on the sidelines last night. The Dream! I almost passed out.)

It's been a long time since anyone other than me and a few thousand alums cared about Houston's football program. That might have changed following the Cougars' 29-28 victory last night over big-brother program Texas Tech.

I don't expect the attention or the adoration to last for long. It never really does at forgotten Division I outposts like Houston. Richard Justice knows this: "When was the last time it felt like something really special was about to happen? Ten years? Twenty? Try never."

Indeed, things have really changed. Few people remember the days when U of H routinely beat Texas and Texas A&M, sent highly rated quarterbacks to the NFL and competed for conference championships and Cotton Bowl berths.

But I remember. Who else but a long-suffering Cougars backer could think of Andre Ware and David Klingler as gridiron heroes? And one memory, more than all the others, stands out.

Of course, growing up a football fan in Houston, it was something I tried to forget.

In the days before we had cable in our home, my father paid for a night (couldn't have been more than $30) at a run-down, trucker motel off Interstate 10 to watch the Coogs take on the mighty Miami Hurricanes on ESPN - the first Thursday night college football game shown on the network. It was a pivotal moment for the Houston program.

Unfortunately, nothing went well that fall night in 1991: Miami mauled the Coogs, the hotel room was so filthy that I refused to eat our snacks, and I was all kinds of tired and frustrated at school the next morning.

Well, the Coogs dropped out of the rankings the following week and didn't return until a couple weeks ago. That was 18 long years ago.

I'm glad they're back. Makes me feel like a kid again. Continue Reading »

The Dumbshow

This piece from The Nation is more than a week old, but Charles Pierce gets to the heart of the health care debate in the skillful way that only he can:

Last week, through serendipitous circumstance, I found myself staring down the very nasty gun-barrel of the despicable way we do "healthcare" in this country. The details are unimportant, but I can say that it had something very much to do with this Kaiser Foundation study that Ezra Klein limns here. This concentrated my mind wonderfully on the current dilemma. I came to the not unreasonable conclusion that most of the politicians involved in this business--up to and including the lemon in the White House--don't care about the simple fact that this country is going to allow people to sicken and die because they can't afford to do anything else. Period. Everything else is dumbshow, a WWE card covered by people engaged in a really bad form of sportswriting--people, I might add, who could care less themselves that this country is going to allow people to sicken and die because they can't afford to do anything else.

Does anyone honestly believe that this White House has acted in good faith? With its allies in Congress? With its constituents? Hell, with its own campaign promises? Does anyone honestly believe that, say, Chuck Todd gives a rat's ass how many people out in the country slowly sicken and die as long as Chuck can tell us who's up and who's down, and what's politically feasible and what's not, and that he can still get a good table at the Palm? Never in my long career as a professional cynic have I seen an spasm of Beltway bubblehood so far removed from the actual concerns of people's lives--so far removed that, last weekend, we had a gathering of the politically halt, lame, blind, and crippled in Washington, gathered for the sole purpose of petitioning various oligarchs to keep screwing them with their pants on. Never in my long career as a professional cynic have I seen a spasm of Beltway bubblehood so far beyond even the limits of Irish Smartass to describe it. The political class in this country - politician and journalist, lobbyist and legislator, Republican and Democratic, Executive and Legislative -- has made a collective decision to protect the profits of one of the least popular industries in the history of the Republic, to preserve the iron grip of corporate bureaucrats over the practice of medicine in America, and to refuse vitrually without serious discussion to adopt measures favored by 77 percent of the voting public. It is to be in awe, is what it is.

And I hate to personalize this, but one of the prime Democratic waffle salesmen throughout this whole unholy mess has been Senator Mark Udall (D-Colorado) Now, as it happens, I spent half of 1975 and almost all of 1976 working to get Mark's pappy--Mo, of sainted memory--elected president. In the course of my duties, I handed out--or arranged to have handed out--about eleventy bajillion of these handbills. I handed them out at diners in New Hampshire, and hung them on people's doors in Massachusetts. I sent people out at 5:30 in the morning to distribute them at factory gates in Wisconsin in the middle of February. I even brought them (briefly) to the land of the Amish, where nobody votes and few people own telephones. Looking at the old flyer now, I am struck by this passage right here:

Why in America, with our immense wealth, should the poor get sicker and the sick get poorer? We have been promising ourselves a system of national health insurance for a quarter of a century. I am tired of apologizing year after year as we fail to achieve it. We have put a premium on conversation instead of coverage. America is the only industrialized nation in the world which does not provide basic health service as a universal right. As President, I will make sure that we do.

I didn't freeze my cojones off in front of the Allis-Chalmers plant so Senator Udall one day could calculate a half-dozen good political reasons why some people simply have to die. I didn't nearly get killed on a dark road outside Manchester in the snow so Mark Udall could come along thirty-three years later and quibble about which insurance company gobbler can suck up the biggest bonus this year. Jesus, Mark, if you won't listen to the people out there, at least listen to the spirit of the great man who was your father.

In a better place, in another time, we might be talking about a single-payer system and nothing so conciliatory as a public option. But we're not nearly going to be that fortunate because, for far too many people, single-payer is not a politically viable option.

Which is, once again, proof that we usually get the government - and accordingly, the health care - that we deserve.

Sort of related, I recommend checking out McKenzie Funk's piece (subscription only) about AIG's private fire protection service. Though the story mostly centers on the problem of housing development creeping into fire-prone areas of California, even more interesting is the story of how fire insurance came into existence.

Following the Great Fire of London in 1666, English doctor, real-estate developer and economist Nicholas Barbon thought up the idea of the first insurance company. Things didn't work out so well from there.

Also, Barbon died deeply in debt. Which makes sense. Continue Reading »