Despite all the craziness in Washington at the moment,
today’s BLAST will focus on cultural events. Once
the dust clears a bit in this impeachment imbroglio,
The BLAST will offer comments and opinions.
In the Arts (Music)
While I am not a fan of opera, it is important to note the passing of Jessye Norman this week, a towering figure in that world and the music world in general. Following in the footsteps of Marian Anderson (1897-1993) and Leontyne Price (who is still with us at 92), Ms. Norman was prominent as an opera singer and recitalist for almost a half century. Like Anderson and Price(and Paul Robeson), she served notice that opera was not a whites-only domain (Anderson only performed operatically once, as she believed she didn’t have the acting background --- though she surely had the voice!). The importance of role models like these cannot be discounted, though they are often overlooked or considered anomalies by the “dominant” culture. That all three of these women became well-known in a nation that is not particularly attuned to opera speaks to their significance and, hopefully, becomes more “mainstream” as this century moves ahead.
On a totally different front, we also saw the passing of Ginger Baker this week, the renowned rock’n’roll drummer in Cream and Blind Faith, as well as Ginger Baker’s Air Force, and other musical groups over the years. That Baker made it to the age of 80 in itself seems miraculous. Back in the late Sixties, many of us believed the gaunt, clearly speeding drummer, would not make it to the Seventies, much less his seventies. Baker’s impact on the world of popular music was significant. When I arrived at college in the fall of 1967, rock music was ascendant --- Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band had just been released in June --- and it was during that fall that I was introduced to the British “supergroup” Cream, featuring Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker. Many of us had heard about Clapton, the guitarist in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, who had inspired London graffiti proclaiming, “Clapton is God.” We quickly learned about Bruce and Baker, a couple of jazz/blues virtuosos on bass and drums, respectively. While Fresh Cream, their initial U.S. album was good, it wasn’t until Disraeli Gears and Wheels of Fire (the first platinum selling double album in history) that the group became household names to the “youth” of America in 1968-69. Shortly after that, of course, the band dissolved, largely due to Baker’s and Bruce’s inability to “agree artistically.” Baker then joined Clapton and superstar Steve Winwood (of Traffic fame) to create Blind Faith, a short-lived “supergroup.” After one album and one live tour, Blind Faith was over.
If you have a chance to see the documentary Beware of Mr. Baker, please watch it! Ginger Baker was a brilliant innovator, fusing jazz and African rhythms into rock and roll, the first to popularize using two bass drums in his kit. He was also legendary for his over-the-top excesses (more than obvious in Beware), leading most of us to believe we would be reading his obituary long before October 6, 2019. Either way, Baker was a comet who flashed across the sky for many of us in the late Sixties, leaving an indelible memory of a wildly flailing, yet always “on time,” percussionist, helping create some of the most memorable music of that era.
Who’s Watching This?
One of the blessings/curses of retirement is that you get an inordinate amount of time to Channel Surf. While watching endless re-runs of Law & Order (all three franchises) we are subjected to countless ads for the “reality” shows Temptation Island, Life After Lockup, and Love After Lockup. Temptation Island is an American reality television program broadcast on Fox and USA Network in which several couples agree to live with a group of singles of the opposite sex, in order to test the strength of their relationships. It's based on the Dutch TV-program Blind Vertrouwen (translated as Blind Faith” wiki – there’s your segue from Ginger Baker!). Life After Lockup and Love After Lockup are “reality/documentary” shows that follow inmates as they try to return to society (Life After) as well as their “romantic entanglements” (Love After) with people they have “connected” with on the “outside.” I will admit that I have only seen the teasers for these shows but those are enough for me to ask: “WHO is watching this?” My knee-jerk reaction, of course, is simplistic: Trump Voters. Another thought is: “The same people who are watching The Masked Singer!”
If anyone who reads The BLAST watches any of these shows, I would love to hear WHY? and what is there about any of them that would make you watch more than one episode!
Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing from you.
Trump’s Watergate Moment?
The Watergate Scandal of 1972-74 gained such notoriety that any scandal in the succeeding 47 years receives a “Gate” suffix (TravelGate, BridgeGate, WeinerGate, FileGate, SharpieGate, etc.). As we are now in the first stages of UkraineGate, I think it’s important to be clear as to how close the parallel is between what Nixon did covertly and what Trump is doing in plain sight.
All these years later, folks may have forgotten what “Watergate” was all about. In its simplest terms, operatives from the Committee to Re-Elect the President (aptly acronymed “CREEP”) broke into the Democratic headquarters in the Watergate Hotel complex in Washington, D.C. on June 17, 1972, in search of damning materials about Nixon’s opposition. What was initially deemed a “third-rate burglary” grew into a scandal that led to the resignation of the President of the United States.
What most people would cite as Nixon’s “high crimes and misdemeanors” that led to Congressional charges of abuse of power, obstruction of justice, and contempt of Congress was the cover-up after the break-in. Nixon and his “men” devised elaborate schemes (all captured on audiotape!) about how to quell the growing scandal. The now-infamous White House Tapes documented the Byzantine machinations of Nixon and his minions in their efforts to cover-up who, exactly, was behind the break-in. Had Nixon been a more honest broker, he simply would have claimed he knew nothing about the break-in beforehand (which he didn’t) and some “rogue actors” were “overzealous” in working for CREEP. But Nixon chose the dishonest route --- because he did, in fact, know about the existence of “the Plumbers,” a covert group of investigators created after the publication of the Pentagon Papers (classified files about the Vietnam War that Daniel Ellsberg leaked to the New York Times). The group was supposed to plug up any other “leaks” to the press. Under the guidance of Attorney General and CREEP campaign chairman John Mitchell and others, however, the Plumbers became covert operatives who were used to subvert the Democratic Party’s nominating process --- guaranteeing that Nixon would run against the least imposing candidate possible. Engaging in “dirty tricks” (planting false news stories, starting rumors about candidates and their spouses, actively disrupting Democratic rallies, etc.) the Plumbers --- led by E. Howard Hunt, Charles Colson, G. Gordon Liddy, and Egil Krogh --- not only subverted the Democratic Party (Nixon ultimately crushed the Democratic candidate George McGovern, 520 to 17, 49 states to 1) but, more significantly subverted the democratic process. They fixed the election.
Fast forward to 2019 and we find we have a President who barely denies he received assistance from the Russian government in the 2016 election but is now blatantly, publicly recruiting foreign governments (so far Ukraine and China) to help him win the 2020 election. By late July of 1974 Nixon and the Republicans in the Senate could read the writing on the wall: the American public had clearly turned against the President and the Republicans in the Senate would have to vote to remove him from office. We can only infer that a deal for a Pardon was struck between Nixon and his appointed Vice-President, Gerald Ford (Nixon’s elected Vice President, Spiro Agnew, had resigned a year earlier, pleading guilty to tax evasion --- to avoid a charge of public corruption for taking bribes when he was Governor of Maryland and Vice President!). Be that as it may, Trump is blatantly, publicly attempting to FIX the 2020 election --- just as Nixon’s Plumbers did in 1972. The high crime is in full sight. Will the American public slowly but surely turn on this President as they did in 1974 --- resulting in another resignation? Or will be see the entire impeachment process play out and hope that 20 Republican Senators have the integrity to do the right thing?
That “Teachable Moment”
The news shows and their pundits have been raising quite a ruckus about this whole Trump Impeachment story, haven’t they? What I keep hearing is how significant it is that the House has finally commenced an Impeachment Inquiry. “This has only happened four times in United States history!” they keep telling us --- and that’s true, of course. But let’s put some perspective on that claim.
If we agree that the United States, as an independent, sovereign government/country began on July 4, 1776 then this nation is currently is 243 years old. While other places are older, by a lot (Rome, 713 BCE, Mumbai 3rd Century BCE, Paris 508, London 4th Century CE, Cairo 4th Century CE, Beijing 221 BCE), the U.S. has the oldest working government around (the British monarchs maintained power right up until Victoria’s reign, China is celebrating its 70th birthday, Russia is no longer the Soviet Union, etc.). If you were born in 1949, as I was, you have actually been alive for 28% of the United States entire history. And if we consider all the hullabaloo surrounding the 50th anniversary of 1969 (Moonwalk, Woodstock, etc.), it’s significant to note that 50 years is over 20% of U.S. history --- a pretty good size chunk. Returning to our pundits, who keep announcing how historic this Impeachment Inquiry is, I’d offer this: yes, there have only been four Presidential impeachment proceedings in U.S. history BUT three of those have occurred in the past 46 years. That means if you are between the ages of, say, 55 and 100, you only missed Andrew Johnson’s impeachment in 1868!
Let’s also keep in mind that the Nixon impeachment proceedings never went to the Senate for a vote --- short-circuited by his resignation from office --- and the Clinton impeachment was a farce from Day One. The Trump supporters, of course, are trying to claim that this inquiry is just the result of jealous Democrats who still haven’t gotten over losing the 2016 election. Here are some simple facts --- Clinton was impeached for lying about receiving oral sex and we already have evidence of this President paying off a porn star to keep quiet about a sexual affair. There also seems to be significant evidence regarding violations of Emoluments Clause, and we have the Twitter-in-Chief’s own admission to his “perfect” conversation with the President of Ukraine, in which military aid was clearly being withheld unless there was a “favor” regarding an investigation into a potential political rival in the 2020 election. Oh, yes, and there is quite a bit of evidence in that Mueller report about Trump and his minions “ignoring” (if not abetting) Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The Teachable Moment
We shall see how this all plays out, of course, and maybe we’ll have a front row seat to a full-blown Impeachment. Back in the early 1970s I had just started my teaching career at Blind Brook Jr/Sr High School in Westchester County, New York. I was teaching 7th and 8th grade “American Studies” (history and literature, coordinated with the English Department) and, despite being a “novice” teacher, saw no reason U.S. history should be taught in the plodding chronological manner I had been subjected to --- there is not one shred of evidence that people remember historical information best if it is taught that way. In fact, there is evidence that people seem to remember things better if they see patterns and connections. That said, in the fall of 1973, particularly after the October 20th “Saturday Night Massacre” (When Nixon ordered the firing of the Special Counsel Archibald Cox and his Attorney General Eliot Richardson and Assistant Attorney General William Ruckelshaus both resigned, believing his order was illegal. The Solicitor General, Robert Bork, carried out Nixon’s firing, which resulted in the Congress shifting into high gear in its Impeachment Inquiry), it seemed a great way to get my students interested (and possibly involved) in how the U.S. government works. This was a perfect vehicle for addressing Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances, cornerstones of our Constitutional system’s design. THIS is the “teachable moment” teacher’s always long for. And now, in 2019, we have one again --- if you can wade through the Administration’s and Media’s incessant blathering and distractions and simply focus on facts.
For those who may be unclear as to the mechanics of Impeachment, here’s a quick summary (the “teachable moment” of this essay): “the President, Vice President, and all Civil Officers of the United States” may be removed from office for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” A classically vague and malleable statement. The process for impeachment follows the procedure of a trial with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presiding, the House of Representatives serving as investigators and Prosecutors, and the Senate acting as the Jury. This is why the House is currently conducting an Impeachment Inquiry. If they believe Trump has committed “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” they will pass a Bill of Impeachment, specifying charges. In Nixon’s case, for example, he was charged with obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and contempt of Congress. The Founders did not want Impeachment to be used frivolously, of course, (there have been 64 impeachments in all of U.S. history --- including Judges, Justices, Senators, etc.) so conviction requires a supermajority (2/3rds of the Senate --- which means 67 Senators would have to vote to convict Trump). Conviction only results in removal from office --- there are no other penalties. Once someone is removed from office, though, they may face civil or criminal charges in various courts of law (which is why Gerald Ford’s Pardon of Nixon created such a furor). Basically, that’s all there is to it --- kind of like a Law and Order episode. The House investigates and prosecutes just as our police departments and District Attorneys do in local matters. John Roberts would get to be the Judge and the Senate would listen to the case the House brings before it and vote “yea” or “nay” to convict.
I’d predict that the Democrats will not rush through the investigation and drafting of specific charges --- even if they have a preponderance of evidence --- because they probably want to run this whole circus right up to November of 2020, so Trump will have to defend himself every step of the way. In this crazy environment, though, they may have damning evidence against Pence, too, which might lead to a quick trial, removal and, dare we say it, President Pelosi?
Okay, class, that’s all we have time for today. Any questions before the bell rings?
The Unintended Consequence
Regular readers of this Blog know that baseball is a recurring theme here. Given the furor in Flushing, New York, over the past few days, as well as Monday night’s Yankee bullpen meltdown by relief pitcher Jonathan Holder, it seems an apt time to take a look at how the New York City baseball clubs are being managed, and general managed, as the season’s mid-point approaches.
To truly appreciate where baseball, in general, stands in late June, 2019 --- and New York baseball, in particular --- we need to time-travel back to the turn of the Millennium and the Oakland Athletics’ General Manager, Billy Beane’s then-unique approach to running his team. All of that was well documented in Michael Lewis’s 2003 book Moneyball, as well as the 2011 Brad Pitt film of the same name. As noted in Wikipedia, the book’s focus:
is the team's analytical, evidence-based, sabermetric approach to assembling a competitive baseball team despite Oakland's small budget.
If you are not familiar with the term “sabermetric,” it refers to analysis of empirical data to measure player performance, developed by the Society for American Baseball Research (“SABR”) and coined by Bill James, the Godfather of sabermetricians. Breaking from a century of conventional wisdom where scouts, coaches, managers, and general managers assessed player potential based on batting averages, runs batted in, and how many “tools” (running, hitting for average, hitting for power, fielding, and arm strength) the player had, sabermetrics illustrated that on base percentage and slugging percentage (which calculates the kind of hit --- single, double, triple, home run --- in relation to at bats --- not counting sacrifices, walks, or hit by pitches) were more successful in predicting Major League success. Because of the success of the low payroll Oakland franchise year after year, sabermetrics slowly but surely gained sway among savvy owners and general managers and now dominates baseball --- sometimes to a maddeningly nerdish degree (exit velocity, “pop rate,” spin rate, etc.).
The Saga of Brian and Brodie
What sabermetrics has led to, by 2019, is that General Managers have become baseball’s Showrunners. Managers are still in the dugout but nowadays most of them get their marching orders from the G.M. Yes, the Managers make a number of decisions during the game but those decisions are often made within guidelines and strictures issued by the General Manager. If you don’t think that’s the case, here’s some recent New York City baseball history that reflects the General Manager Moneyball norm.
The Mets are not having a great season, despite predictions to the contrary from General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen. Van Wagenen, of course, is a first-year G.M. who was formerly an agent (for two of the Mets highest paid players: Yoenis Cespedes & Jacob DeGrom). Van Wagenen made a big splash over the winter executing a trade with the Seattle Mariners that sent two of New York’s prime prospects to the West Coast for a young closer, Edwin Diaz, and a very expensive old player, Robinson Cano. Diaz was what they wanted but this past weekend illustrates how baseball has changed in the Moneyball era. As players have developed more specialized skills and roles (as a result of sabermetrics) General Managers instruct Managers on how those players should be used. So, over the weekend the Mets were in a situation where they needed five outs to win their game. It seems that Mickey Callaway, the Mets barely competent Manager, has been told in no uncertain terms that Edwn Diaz cannot be used for more than FOUR outs. Toeing the company line, Callaway did not bring in Diaz to get five outs and, before you knew it, the Met bullpen gave up the winning runs to their opponent. In the aftermath both Callaway and pitcher Jason Vargas verbally attacked a reporter (receiving fines from MLB for their actions). Truth be told, Callaway and Vargas may well have been angry with Van Wagenen, who exhibits a malignant narcissistic need to be the center of attention always. At the root of the problem --- and the Mets poor season (so far) --- is the new Moneyball approach. In this case we have a former Stanford outfielder-cum agent- cum-rookie G.M., Van Wagenen, running a team that is helmed by a proven model of incompetence, Mickey Callaway. And poor Met fans, remembering their World Series appearance in 2015, fear spiraling into the abyss of the playoff desert.
The Yankees, of course, have Brian Cashman as their General Manager, a man who sports 4 World Series rings and a playoff run that is the best among current G.M.’s. Upon further review, however, we see that Cashman fired Joe Girardi after that Manager not only led the Yankees to the playoffs in 2017 but also came within one game of going to the World Series. But Girardi, apparently, failed to buy into Cashman’s notions of how the team should be run and, after the 2017 season, bye-bye Joe. I was not, and am not, a fan of Joe Girardi, despite his World Series win in 2009 and the great playoff run of 2017. His replacement, however, has, in one and a half seasons, shown himself to be a true dimwit. Aaron Boone has a Major League pedigree --- his grandfather, father, and brother all played Major League baseball with some distinction. Boone is a Yankee fan favorite for his playoff game-winning 10th inning home run against the Red Sox in 2003. As a manager, however, Boone is a slug --- but a slug who clearly executes Cashman’s game plan night after night. This is particularly --- and excruciatingly --- evident as he mis-uses the bullpen. Because he clearly has orders from Cashman as to “how to” employ his relievers, Boone continues to leave pitchers in too long, The last two nights are prime examples.
Monday night, with the Yanks sporting a comfortable 10-2 lead against the Toronto Blue Jays, Boone brought in the struggling young reliever, Jonathan Holder for the 7th inning. Holder’s last few outings had been disasters. Nonetheless, it was 10-2. Boone is clearly under orders to not over-use his “high leverage” relievers (Green, Ottavino, Kahnle, Britton, Chapman). Holder proceeded to give up a home run to his first batter, then two straight singles, at which point any manager with a brain would have at least made a mound visit and gotten someone up in the bullpen. Not Boone. Holder gives up another single and the bases are now loaded. No mound visit, no one up in the bullpen. The next hitter: Grand Slam Home Run. Five batter, five hits, five runs. Now it’s a 10-7 game. Nice job, Aaron Boone. The Yankees ultimately won the game, despite their puppet manager.
Last night the Yanks used the “Opener” strategy, an idea created by the Tampa Bay Rays last season. The “Opener” is a relief pitcher who starts a game and faces three or six batters. He is then followed by a “long” reliever (a pitcher who can go 3,4,5 innings, but is not good enough to be a starting pitcher). The plan is that the “Openers” get you to the 6th or, ideally, 7th inning and then your “high leverage” guys take over and win the game. The Yankees “opener’ strategy has been very successful (6-0) by employing Chad Green for two innings and Nestor Cortes, Jr. for four innings. The “high leverage” guys then clean up 7, 8, 9. Last night, though, because Boone had to use Green the night before to bail Holder out, Chad could only pitch one inning. Nonetheless, Boone, sticking to his script, wanted Cortes, Jr. to get through the 6th inning --- despite the fact that he has shown he’s not very good after four innings. So, Cortes pitches into the 6th and is roughed up for 2 runs and Boone now has to use his “high leverage” guys for the rest of the game. That means he has an over-used bullpen for the Wednesday afternoon game where the notoriously erratic James Paxton is the starting pitcher.
Is the mismanagement Boone’s fault? Without a doubt (just as it is Callaway’s with the Mets). BUT because these managers are on very short leashes with their Moneyball General Managers calling the shots, it’s not totally their fault. Are Boone and Callaway barely competent Major League Managers? Yes, with an emphasis on barely. Are their General Managers responsible for how their teams are doing? Yes. In Cashman’s case, he is good enough evaluator of talent (we won’t talk about Jacoby Ellsbury or the last years of A-Rod’s horrendous contract) that this team could win with almost anyone in the dugout making out the lineup card. Poor Callaway is clearly in over his depth and will probably be fired before or just after the All-Star break.
Make no mistake, this is the world Moneyball has ushered in. Appreciate guys like Joe Maddon in Chicago and Bruce Bochy in San Francisco. They are a vanishing breed of Major League manager. The age of the General Manager is upon us, along with sabermetrics. Baseball has always evolved and changed. This is simply the latest iteration.
On Wednesday and Thursday evenings this week you can get your first look at the array of Democratic candidates for President in a debate on NBC/MSNBC/Telemundo from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. While some well-known personalities will be on the stage, there will also be a vast number of barely-known candidates vying for your attention. While we will surely hear a lot about the economy, student loans, taxing the rich, and foreign policy (Iran), it will be interesting to see if we get anything more than the usual platitudes regarding Climate Change. A story came out this morning about the Trump administration’s Agriculture Department burying a report about the adverse effects of climate change, particularly on rice production around the world (Politico, June 23, 2019). We have, of course, come to expect this from the Climate-Denier-in-Chief and his lackeys (which includes the entire Republican Congress!) but there does not seem to be any outcry or urgency from the Democrats about the issue either. Sure, there’s the “Green New Deal” (scoffed at by some, even in the Democratic ranks) and all the Democrats are for some kind of action (?) about climate change --- but, again, there seems to be no sense of urgency on their part.
When discussing this with the ever insightful and thoughtful Del Shortliffe recently, I likened it to all of us watching Jim Morrison in the late Sixties. Everyone knew he was self-destructive but somehow there seemed to be no possible intervention that would prevent the inevitable. It wasn’t a matter of “if” Morrison would kill himself; it was just a matter of “when.” Our politicians, Republicans in their denials and Democrats in their passivity, seem to have taken the same stance regarding Climate Change. It’s not a question of whether it will destroy life on Earth; it’s simply a matter of when. As emissions continue to choke the planet, as plastics continue to destroy our oceans, as glaciers continue to melt before out very eyes, those in power act as if Climate Change is Jim Morrison and there’s nothing they can do to stop it.
Last week I wrote a piece about Charles Reich’s Greening of America and how it was naïve and idealistic but, at the time, provided a brief window of hope for the future (that some of us clung to for many years). Charlie ignored the signposts indicating the Sixties would not sustain --- Altamont, the systematic destruction of the Black Panthers, the sheer power of Corporate America to co-opt, etc. Yet in losing the naïve idealism that created Earth Day in April of 1970, we have consigned ourselves to becoming spectators at our own execution. “Climate Change” is not a “sexy” issue, the way the economy or paying off student loans or taxing the rich might be. It is far more urgent and far less fleeting. Big Media’s abject failure to NOT make it a lead story on everyone’s daily newsfeed has contributed to advancing our destruction just as much as Big Oil and callous politicians.
If you watch the debates on Wednesday and/or Thursday night, pay attention to which Democrats say what about Climate Change, as you consider who might take on Agent Orange and become our first “Green” President.
On a Lighter Note
As baseball season moves closer to the All-Star break in mid-July I find that I am like an Alzheimer’s victim or someone with dementia. It takes a couple of months of watching the Yankees on television or listening to them on the radio for me to actually remember that the YES and WFAN broadcasters are utter and complete imbeciles! On the TV side, there is nothing more excruciatingly painful than being subjected to Michael Kay, Paul O’Neill, and David Cone in the booth. The Farrelly Brothers could make a movie entitled Dumb and Dumber and Dumberer about these three. With Kay barely providing play-by-lay, O’Neill and “Coney” ramble on and on about their former exploits as big-league players until you want to scream. They are like three hours of fingernails on a blackboard. The Lovely Carol Marie noted that I wasn’t an Alzheimer’s or dementia victim; she noted it was more like childbirth --- where one says she’ll never do it again and, after a year passes, she forgets and subjects herself to the pain one more time!
On the radio side we are now in our 14th year of the AARP broadcasting team of Suzyn Waldman (72) and John Sterling (80). Not to be age-ist, but these two should be forced into retirement! Rather than belabor my complaints, I’ll let John Sterling’s Wikipedia page do the talking.
Sterling is heavily criticized in the media, with over 100 websites dedicated to denigrating his style and calls. Many baseball writers and websites have ranked him the worst or close to the worst of current baseball radio announcers. Much of the criticism stems from calling balls home runs that are not home runs, mixing up fair and foul balls, and his personalized home run calls, which some people view as "over-the-top" or "too much". Regularly criticized by Craig Carton and Phil Mushnick for his inaccurate calls, Mushnick has called him a "dishonest, self-promoting clown". He has also been heavily criticized for making the call of the game more about himself than the play on the field with over the top excitement for routine plays or insignificant events. Many of his critics further accuse him of blaming someone or something else for his confusion. He has also been consistently rated one of the most biased sportscasters in the industry. The New York Times has described John Sterling as "frequently awful and laughable", often miscalling plays or not describing a play accurately – blaming confusion on the field on other reasons. The New York Daily News was also critical of Sterling's domineering of the booth, whereas most teams employ a two-man booth where duties are shared, Sterling does 100% of all play-by-play with his partner, Suzyn Waldman limited to ancillary commentary.
Waldman adds little to the broadcasting, particularly since Sterling is as self-serving a sexist as you’ll find in the media. That Sterling is referred to as “The Voice of the Yankees” surely has Mel Allen rolling over in his grave and, for those of us who heard Mel, feeling it is a blasphemous pronouncement.
Thankfully, the Yankees play two “Subway Series” against the Mets and we can watch the Yankees play while listening to erudite and astute Mets announcers (Gary Cohn & Ron Darling, in particular, but even Keith Hernandez is pretty good). The Yanks are occasionally broadcast on Fox Sports and ESPN but then, of course, we have to listen to the preening “A-Rod” and his adoring lackeys.
My advice: watch Yankees baseball with the “Mute” button nearby. If you have to listen in the car, try to find an out-of-town broadcast (we were particularly impressed with the Baltimore radio announcers). So it goes.
Charles Reich passed away on June 15th at the age of 91, one year shy of the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Greening of America, a monumental best seller in 1970-71. While the phrase “greening” has become part of our nomenclature (often associated with the environmental movement) the name of Charles Reich is far less well known. When The Greening came out in the fall of 1970 it created a momentous stir. Preceded by serialization in The New Yorker and excerpted on the op-ed pages of The New York Times the concepts presented in the book were familiar to the public before the hardcover edition was published by Random House --- and proceeded to sell 250, 000 copies within weeks! The book posited that United States history evolved by way of three distinct “Consciousnesses.” Consciousness I were those whose values emerged in the 18th century, with a strong belief in the individual (for good and evil). Consciousness II developed in the 20th century and was shaped by the Corporate State and large-scale government control/regulation (The New Deal). Consciousness III, which received the most attention (and is where many critics believed the book went off the rails), was a paean to the Youth Culture of the late 1960’s. When I learned of Reich’s death this week, I went back and re-read The Greening of America, as well as numerous articles written about the book starting 50 years ago.
My connection to Charles Reich (“Charlie”) began during my sophomore year at Yale in 1968-69. My future housemate, Karl Pavlovic, told me about Charlie (in some insightful, yet cynical way --- which is Karl’s style to this day) and introduced me to him. At that time Reich, a law professor, was teaching one undergraduate course, American Studies 36a – The Individual in America, which was already legendary on campus. Charlie spent a great deal of time in the Morse and Stiles dining halls, often observing and writing, but also striking up friendships with undergraduates (little did we know we were part of his research for The Greening). I took the course in the fall of my junior year and became friendly enough with Charlie that by the fall of 1970 (my senior year) I was a Teaching Assistant for AmStud36a. We all knew about The Greening but were skeptical when Charlie told us it was going to be “big,” predicting the book would have an impact when it was published.
There’s no doubt that Charlie had a romanticized view of the Youth Culture he glorified in The Greening of America. Basically the book was a literary version of John Lennon’s Imagine --- and it was its hopefulness that made it popular, as well as a target for criticism. As many noted at the time, we had moved from Woodstock to Altamont, students had been gunned down at Kent State before the book was published, and Hendrix and Joplin were dead. The book is still seen by right-wing critics as all that was “wrong” with the late-Sixties and its liberal/radical movements. Nonetheless, the book’s analysis of U.S. history and culture (Consciousness I & II) is wide-ranging and impressive --- and quite applicable today.
Charles Reich was an intellectual and The Greening of America demonstrates the breadth and depth of his thinking from the start. His command of history, politics, sociology, the arts & literature, as well as music is impressive page after page. The analysis of U.S. culture and society in 1970 remains accurate, illustrating the vise-like grip “rugged individualism” and the Corporate State have on our nation. By page 6 Reich enumerates the problems facing American society: #1. Disorder, corruption, hypocrisy, war. #2. Poverty, distorted priorities, and law making by private power. #3. Uncontrolled technology and the destruction of environment #4. Decline of democracy and liberty; powerlessness #5. The artificiality of work and culture #6. Absence of community #7. Loss of self. Certainly characteristics we can see all around us today. Reich also discusses “willful ignorance.”
Ignorance of existing injustices, such as the treatment of the black
minority, ignorance of social problems, ignorance of the world.
Americans . . . were willing to see the news about their government
come to them in the form of tabloid or television entertainment; they
tolerated ignorance and incompetence in high office; and when
something went wrong, it was childishly blamed on ‘them.’” (p.37)
Clearly, that could have been written in 2019.
Reich’s solution to the problems created by Robber Barons and the Corporate State was a transcendent “Consciousness” that he believed he saw in the Youth Movement of the late-Sixties. As Rodger Citron noted in a New York Law School Law Review article in 2007, Reich wrote “with the rigor of an intellectual and the enthusiasm of a teen-ager.” (p.388) I’d say that’s accurate. Charlie Reich was very much a wide-eyed innocent, even at the age of 42. He was, by his own description, “seriously deficient socially and emotionally” and “physically . . . clumsy and fearful.” (Citron, p. 390) You couldn’t hang around with Charlie and not see how inherently shy he was --- and how he reveled in the openness of the undergraduates around him. There’s no doubt his belief in those young people inspired the Consciousness III description in The Greening of America. Charles Reich naively and idealistically believed in the values of the Youth Movement of the late-Sixties and, like John Lennon said: “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” The problem was, of course, that by 1970 the tide was turning. Very few young people, including my Yale classmates who were Reich’s most closely observed subjects, could escape the tentacles of the Corporate State and the Government. We were naïve as to how easily our “alternative lifestyle” could be co-opted to serve the Corporate State (Levi’s blue jeans, part of our “uniform” of rebellion quickly became a popular “product”). The music industry raked in billions, caring little about their artists (Reich’s analysis of the music of the era, with its comparisons to symphonic composing as well as jazz is pretty brilliant).
For all that, the Youth Movement of the late-Sixties did, eventually, end the War in Vietnam while fomenting societal change regarding women’s’ rights, civil rights, gay rights, and environmental protection, to name a few things. While the Baby Boomers may never have demonstrated the Consciousness resulting in the “revolution” Charles Reich predicted, there have been accomplishments that have made the society more “livable” --- which leads to one last Charlie Reich story.
As a Teaching Assistant for Charlie in the fall of 1970, I got a first edition copy of The Greening of America (we didn’t get any pay for the job!). When the box of hardcover books arrived we were all shocked to discover the title in RED LETTERS with a sub-title reading: “How the Youth Revolution is Trying to make America Livable.” Needless to say, Charlie was aghast and immediately made a call to Random House. They changed the cover (seen below), featuring the title in GREEN and using a quote from the text as its sub-title. That Random House would create a cover with the work “Greening” in RED reflected exactly the insensitivity of the Corporate State Reich describes in the book.
R.I.P. Charles Reich