BASEBALL IS BACK!!! March 30, 2008Posted by Mongo in Baseball.
Tags: Baseball, Chicago Cubs, Cubs
Here we go…another baseball season is beginning, and once again there are high expectations for the Cubs. This year they’re so high that experts are actually picking them to make the World Series – some even to win it all. As a goofy die-hard Cubs fan I sometimes get caught up in the hype but have wisely learned to temper my expectations. Still, there’s always that glimmer of hope that this may be the year. Could it really be here???
I’d like to take a moment to share an article written by Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. He covers 100 questions for 100 years of the Cubs. Exciting, humorous, interesting and, well, let’s face it – pretty sad all rolled up into one giant article. Enjoy!
The Chicago Cubs: 100 questions for 100 years
By Paul Sullivan, Chicago Tribune staff reporter
March 29, 2008
(click here for the link to the article on Chicagotribune.com)
1. What is the tastiest treat ever sold at Wrigley Field?
Frosty malts. As Steve Goodman sang: “Give everybody two bags of peanuts and a frosty malt, and I’ll be ready to die.”
2. In front of which player did the black cat walk near the visitors’ dugout on that infamous day at Shea Stadium in 1969?
Ron Santo. It was the start of a beautiful relationship.
3. Whose toupee caught fire on that infamous day at Shea Stadium in 2003?
Ron Santo. Luckily, it wasn’t “the gamer.”
4. Which Cub took a sledgehammer to strength coach Tim Buss’ car this spring?
5. Which two current Cubs pitched back-to-back one-hitters in 2001?
6. Which Cub’s dropped third strike against Pittsburgh in the ninth inning of the last game in 1974 gave the Pirates the division title over St. Louis?
Steve Swisher. His son, Nick, now plays for the White Sox.
7. What was the name of the greasy doughnut shop on Clark Street just west of the park?
Yum-Yum Donuts. The Cubs’ media relations department now works there.
8. Which Cubs reliever told Mitchell report investigators he watched two Cubs teammates inject themselves with steroids at their spring training residence in 1999?
Matt Karchner. The Cubs gave up top prospect Jon Garland for Karchner in Ed Lynch’s ’98 masterpiece.
9. To whom was LaTroy Hawkins referring when he interrupted a group interview and asked the subject, “Is it true that your teammates have nicknamed you Mr. Bitterman?”?
Mark Prior. That was the last time Hawkins impersonated a reporter.
10. Which trainer threatened to blow the whistle on Cubs management after he was fired following the ’04 season, only to have his case thrown out of court?
Sandy Krum. He later took a job on the TV reality show “The Biggest Loser.” Seriously.
11. How did the Cubs block rooftop views to force building owners to pay for having for-profit rooftop parties during games?
Balloons. “Probably not one of my better thoughts,” Cubs Chairman Crane Kenney acknowledged.
12. Where did reliever Kyle Farnsworth go until 4 a.m. the nights before day games as his Cubs career was going to waste?
Tai’s Till 4 on Ashland Avenue. Perhaps fittingly, Farnsworth now plays in the city that never sleeps.
13. Who said he would jump off the John Hancock Center if the Cubs blew the pennant in 1969?
Catcher Gene Oliver. They did, but he didn’t.
Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life,” a song the ’04 Cubs thoroughly hated.
15. Which Cub smashed Sosa’s boom box?
Still a mystery. Whoever it is should fess up, take a bow and allow us to move on.
16. Which Cubs manager said he was fined for inciting fans to litter the field?
Dusty Baker, after umpire C.B. Bucknor ejected him during a heated April 2004 game vs. the Reds and fans threw debris on the field.
17. Whose double was wiped out when Bucknor ruled he had batted out of order after Baker allegedly failed to inform Bucknor of a double switch, leading to Baker’s ejection?
18. Who is Dow Finsterwald, and what position did he play?
Finsterwald was a golfer and didn’t play anywhere. But the 1958 PGA champion’s golf tip of the day was shown after Cubs games on WGN in the 1960s.
19. Who is “Stan” from one of Bill Veeck‘s first promotions, “Smile with Stan”?
Stan Hack. Veeck, then 21, decided one day in 1935 to hand out mirrors to fans with Hack’s picture on the back. Naturally, fans used them to reflect sunlight into opposing batters’ eyes, and the umpires threatened to have the Cubs forfeit the game. Mirrors later were banned.
20. Who were Sammy Sosa’s best friends during the great home run race of ’98?
Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble.
21. What was the name of the fictional Cubs character invented by Chicago Daily News columnist Mike Royko?
Dave Ding-Dong, a parody of a Tribune column “written” by slugger Dave Kingman, actually ghostwritten by a Tribune staffer.
22. What likely was the loudest moment ever at a Cubs game at Wrigley Field?
Kerry Wood’s home run in Game 7 of the 2003 NLCS. Hope sprung eternal, at least until the inevitable collapse.
23. Where does the term “Dump Durocher clique” come from?
A letter to fans printed in a newspaper ad after owner P.K. Wrigley bought space near the end of the 1971 season to give a vote of confidence to beleaguered manager Leo Durocher. “Leo is the team manager, and the ‘Dump Durocher clique’ might as well give up,” Wrigley wrote.
24. Who is the most reviled umpire in Cubs history?
Bruce Froemming, who retired after the 2007 season. Froemming’s final Cubs-related incident was criticizing manager Lou Piniella for kicking dirt on Mark Wegner last June.
25. To whom was departing manager Herman Franks referring when he said: “I just got tired of being around him. There isn’t enough money in the world to pay me to manage if I have to look at that face every day.”
Mike Vail. Franks unloaded on Vail, Kingman (“flaky”), Bill Buckner (“nuts”) and others after being fired at the tail end of the ’79 season. Did any manager ever dislike his players more than Franks?
26. To whom was Ken Holtzman referring when he said the Cubs needed a manager “who can relate to the modern players and the modern system. A guy who refuses to deal with reality is going to have trouble”?
Franks. No team ever disliked its manager more than the ’79 Cubs did Franks.
27. Whom did Dusty Baker claim committed “assault with a deadly belly?”
Reliever Antonio Alfonseca, after he belly-bumped rookie umpire Justin Klemm during a game against the Cardinals in the 2003 race.
28. What did Tribune Co. pay for the Cubs in 1981?
The Wrigley family sold the Cubs for $20.5 million. Now the club may be sold for close to $1 billion.
29. Which former Cubs general manager, returning to town as manager of the Yankees, said of Cubs fans, “I still can’t believe people here respect losing that much”?
Dallas Green, asking Chicago reporters in 1989 why Cubs fans had such deep-seated feelings for the ill-fated ’69 Cubs.
30. Who holds the Cubs’ single-season record for home runs by a pitcher?
Fergie Jenkins (1971) and Carlos Zambrano (2006), with six apiece. Zambrano hit only two homers in 2007 and vows to rebound in ’08.
31. Which Chicago manager once said, “What am I, a piece of garbage in Lake Michigan?”?
Don Zimmer, after being fired for giving an ultimatum to team President Don Grenesko to renew his contract in May 1991.
32. Which current Cubs player has been accused of streaking outside a Lincoln Park establishment known as Stanley’s?
Ryan Dempster. He steadfastly denies the story, insisting it’s a Chicago urban legend.
33. Which incoming Cubs manager said he didn’t expect to “make great changes or use pseudo-psychology” to stop the losing?
Jim Essian. “It’s my job to provide a spark,” Essian said. He turned out to be one of the more spark-free managers in Cubs history. The Cubs went 59-63 under him in 1991.
34. Who was responsible for buying Ronnie Woo-Woo new teeth in 2000?
The Chicago Sun-Times.
35. Which newspaper reported in 1987 that Ronnie Woo-Woo had “vanished amid murder rumors?”
Also the Chicago Sun-Times. The Tribune located him working in a pizza parlor.
36. Who hit Benito Santiago and was ejected in retaliation for Eric Show hitting Andre Dawson in the face, prompting Dawson to charge the mound and start a bench-clearing brawl?
Cubs rookie starter Greg Maddux. “I’ll play behind him anytime,” Dawson said after getting 22 stitches in his cheek.
37. Who said of Cubs fans: “About 85 percent of the world is working … the other 15 percent come out here.”?
The immortal Lee Elia in his 1983 tirade. The updated version: About 85 percent of the world is working, and only 15 percent can afford Cubs tickets.
38. To whom was the immortal Elia referring when he complained “We’ve never heard of this guy” after the Braves rookie beat the Cubs with a homer and three RBIs?
Gerald Perry. Elia was fired for the remark, which GM Dallas Green called “an embarrassment to the team and the whole organization.” Elia later coached under Lou Piniella. Perry is in his second year as the Cubs’ hitting coach.
39. Which Cubs manager once replaced Joe Pepitone as hitting coach of the New York Yankees?
Piniella. Everyone in baseball either has worked with or been replaced by Sweet Lou.
40. What company’s name was displayed on the rotating ad board behind home plate during the fateful top of the eighth inning of Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS?
41. Which Cubs manager said at his introductory news conference, “I’m still the same SOB I always was.”?
42. Before he became Cubs manager, Durocher scouted what fictional TV character in a 1960s sitcom?
Jethro Bodine, who was using performance-enhancing possum grease on his pitches when Durocher, playing himself, scouted him for the Dodgers in an episode of “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
43. Which former Cubs catcher once was traded for himself?
The immortal Harry Chiti, who was purchased by the Mets from Cleveland in April 1962 for a player to be named, then sent back to Cleveland two months later as that player.
44. Which Cubs minor-league instructor was fired for critical comments against the organization?
Jimmy Piersall, who said upon Jim Riggleman’s firing that “two other guys” should be fired: Andy MacPhail and Ed Lynch.
45. Which Cubs legend was nicknamed “Handy Andy”?
No, not Andy MacPhail. It was Andy Pafko.
46. Who threw the pitch to Babe Ruth when Ruth called his shot at Wrigley in the 1932 World Series?
Charlie Root. It is the most famous pitch in Wrigley Field history.
47. Who threw the pitch that Luis Castillo fouled off toward Steve Bartman in left field in Game 6 of the NLCS?
Mark Prior. It is the second most famous pitch in Wrigley Field history.
48. Where is the so-called Bartman seat?
Aisle 4, Row 8, Seat 113.
49. Which Cubs ball girl was fired for appearing nude in Playboy?
Marla Collins. At least it was favorable publicity.
50. What was the worst trade in Cubs history not involving Lou Brock?
Dealing two-time batting champion Bill Madlock to San Francisco for Bobby Murcer and Steve Ontiveros in January 1977. “When these players are impossible to deal with, I’d rather let somebody else have them,” owner P.K. Wrigley said. Madlock won two more batting titles.
51. Which 1950s-era Cubs outfield was so slow it was dubbed “the Quicksand Kids” by Mike Royko?
Hank Sauer in left, Frank Baumholtz in center and Ralph Kiner in right.
52. Which Cubs double-play combo led its team to the College World Series title?
53. When did the Cubs turn their last triple play at Wrigley Field?
June 2, 1983, against Pittsburgh. Rick Rhoden grounded to Ron Cey, who tagged third and threw to Ryne Sandberg at second for another force. Sandberg threw to Bill Buckner at first for the third out.
54. Which Cubs player did in-studio sportscasts for WGN-TV in the 1960s?
Ernie Banks: “And then I came to the plate.”
Mitch Webster, who played for the ’89 Cubs.
56. Who sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” in Game 7 of the 2003 NLCS?
Billy Corgan. “It’s still a painful thing,” Corgan said later. “How do we know that 25 years from now we’re not going to look back and say, ‘That’s as close as we came’?”
57. What did Felix Pie twist this spring to cause men all over Chicago to groan?
A testicle. It’s still a painful thing.
58. Which Cubs manager said upon his exit: “We had more unhappy players than I had seen on any team … and no kind of an organization. I asked myself, ‘What in the hell are you doing here?’ “?
Preston Gomez in 1980. Many Cubs fans asked the same question.
59. Which Cub has the World Series record of striking out four hitters in an inning?
Orval Overall in the 1908 Series. He’s also the last Cubs pitcher to win a championship-clinching game, beating Detroit 2-0 in Game 5 of the 1908 Series.
60. What was Joe Pepitone’s bar named?
Joe Pepitone’s Thing. It didn’t last long after Pepitone opened it on Division Street, just off Rush.
61. What was Joe Pepitone’s limo driver’s nickname?
Fabulous Howard. He unfurled a red carpet whenever Pepitone exited the limo.
62. Who was Sammy Sosa’s go-fer?
Julian Martinez, who wore a Cubs shirt with BC (bullpen catcher) on the back. Players joked that BC stood for “Bring Coffee.”
63. Who was the bigger hot dog, Joe Pepitone or Sammy Sosa?
Depends on how you like your dog. Both are first-ballot picks in the Cubs Hot Dog Hall of Fame.
64. Whose photo did teammates tape to Carlos Marmol‘s locker this spring?
Barack Obama. Some players think the presidential candidate looks like Marmol, especially the ears.
65. Which Cubs player told an ESPN reporter he urinated on his hands to toughen them and help with his batting grip?
Moises Alou. No one high-fived him again.
66. How many victories do the Cubs have in their history?
The Cubs are 9,985-9,459 since 1876, and soon they will join the Giants as the only franchise with 10,000 victories, unless they go 14-148.
67. What nickname was printed next to Ryan Dempster’s nameplate in camp?
Madam Cleo, the late-night infomercial astrologer. Dempster is the team astrologist.
68. Who is Anton Migursky, and what position did he play?
Migursky is the Wrigley Field security guard who made a clothesline tackle of a fan who approached Bob Howry on the mound last June. He could play linebacker.
69. Who was the Cubs’ play-by-play man for the 1908 championship season?
Radio had not been invented when the Cubs last won a World Series.
70. What street besides Clark, Addison, Waveland and Sheffield is within spitting distance of Wrigley Field?
Kenmore Avenue. In the movie “I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With,” Jeff Garlin‘s character leaves his car parked at Kenmore and Waveland because “it’s a good spot.”
71. Which manager was fired during spring training when he predicted the Cubs would finish in the “second division”?
Phil Cavarretta, by P.K. Wrigley in 1954. The Cubs went 64-90 under Stan Hack and finished in seventh place.
72. Who had the greatest fight among Cubs teammates in the 20th Century?
Joe Tinker and Johnny Evers. They fought in an exhibition game in 1905 and stopped speaking to each other for three years. The Cubs won both their titles, in ’07 and ’08, with the trio of Tinker, Evers and Frank Chance.
73. Who has had the greatest fight among Cubs teammates in the 21st Century?
Carlos Zambrano and Michael Barrett. They eventually hugged it out, but Barrett was traded within weeks.
74. What did the Cubs finally do in 1932 to conform with the rest of baseball?
Put numbers on the backs of their uniforms.
75. What did the Cubs finally do in 1988 to conform with the rest of baseball?
Install lights and play night games at home.
76. What have the Cubs yet to do to conform with the rest of baseball?
No video scoreboard at Wrigley. Every other ballpark has at least one Jumbotron.
77. Who was responsible for the hand-operated center-field scoreboard?
Bill Veeck, in 1937, when he also planted the ivy. In his final years, Veeck sat in the first row on the right-field side of the upper center-field bleachers, just under his majestic scoreboard.
78. When did WGN-AM broadcast its first Cubs game?
On April 14, 1925. Charlie Grimm made his major-league debut, and the Cubs beat Pittsburgh. But they finished last at 68-86.
79. When did WGN-TV televise its first Cubs game?
April 16, 1948. The White Sox beat the Cubs 4-1 in an exhibition at Wrigley Field, with Jack Brickhouse behind the mike. The Cubs went 64-90 that season and finished last.
80. What is the highest-scoring game in Cubs history?
A 26-23 victory over the Phillies in 1922. But the Phillies rebounded big-time with a 23-22 triumph in 10 innings in 1979.
81. Which pitcher beat the Cubs twice in the 1918 World Series and then began a curse two years later?
Boston Red Sox ace Babe Ruth. The Curse of the Bambino began in 1920 after he was sold to the New York Yankees and ran to 2004, when Boston ended its 86-year drought.
82. Who is the best football player on the Cubs’ 40-man roster?
83. Which Cubs pitcher threw a no-hitter in only his fourth major-league start?
Burt Hooton, on April 16, 1972, a 4-0 victory over Philadelphia.
84. Which Cub tied the major-league strikeout record in only his fifth start?
Kerry Wood, on May 20, 1998, with 20 strikeouts in a one-hit 2-0 victory over Houston.
85. Which Cubs pitcher had the fewest fingers on one hand? The most?
Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown had the fewest, and Antonio Alfonseca, with six, had the most.
86. Which Cubs slugger hit three home runs while nursing a hangover?
Hack Wilson, on Aug. 10, 1930. In “Veeck as in Wreck,” his autobiography, Bill Veeck wrote that a Cubs trainer “had Hack in one of those big, high old tubs, sobering him up. In the tub with Hack was a 50-pound cake of ice.”
87. Which Cubs pitcher was famous for his “nothing ball”?
Dizzy Dean. After arm ailments curtailed his dazzling career in St. Louis, the Cubs acquired Dean in 1938. His fastball was gone, so Dean invented an off-speed pitch he called the nothing ball.
88. Why is it always sound advice to bet against the Cubs?
In 1935, James Ridner lost a bet that the Cubs would beat Detroit in the ’35 World Series and had to push Arson “Fireball” Stephens 500 miles, from Harlan, Ky., to Detroit, in a baby carriage. It took 30 days and ended at home plate at Tiger Stadium.
89. What is “hoopsa,” and what is its role in Cubs history?
A Russian meal of hamburger and cabbage. In 1940, Lou “Mad Russian” Novikoff said he couldn’t hit on the road without the “hoopsa” meal his wife made for him.
90. What was the name of the hotel in which a former girlfriend shot Billy Jurges in 1932?
The Hotel Carlos on Sheffield Avenue, one block north of Wrigley. It’s still there, but an awning hides the original name engraved in stone over the front door.
91. Which Cubs player attacked a heckling milkman in a game in 1928?
Hack Wilson. After Edward Young had insulted him all day during a doubleheader at Wrigley, Wilson climbed into the stands and punched him. Wilson was fined $100.
92. Which 22-year-old Cubs drought ended in 1967?
On July 2, the Cubs went into a first-place tie with St. Louis, their first appearance atop the standings that late in the season since 1945.
93. Which Cubs player batted 13 times in a doubleheader?
Billy Herman, on Aug. 21, 1935. The Cubs split with the Phillies, losing 13-12 and winning 19-5.
94. What was the Cubs’ best signing?
Ernie Banks. Purchased from the Kansas City Monarchs for $35,000 in 1953, Banks hit 512 home runs, won two Most Valuable Player Awards and became “Mr. Cub.”
95. What was the Cubs’ worst signing?
Mel Rojas. Flopped as the closer after signing a three-year, $13.75 million deal in ’97. After pitching in Montreal’s dome, Rojas told the Cubs he didn’t like to pitch in the cold.
96. Which Cubs team holds the record for most victories without finishing first?
The 1909 Cubs. Coming off their ’08 championship, the Cubs won 104 games but finished 61/2 games behind Pittsburgh.
97. What invention was patented six weeks before the Cubs’ inaugural game?
The telephone. The Cubs began as the White Stockings on April 25, 1876. Albert Spalding shut out Louisville 4-0, and the Cubs won the first NL pennant with a 52-14 record.
98. Which Cub came closest to hitting the center-field scoreboard?
Bill Nicholson. His homer off the Cardinals’ Al Brazle on April 24, 1948, went to the right of the scoreboard and hit a car on Sheffield Avenue. No one has ever hit the scoreboard.
99. What two words strike fear into every Cubs fan?
100. Will the Cubs win the World Series and end the 100-year drought?
In your wildest dreams.
Something is VERY WRONG with our country March 12, 2008Posted by Mongo in Uncategorized.
Tags: Amnesty Bill, Lou Dobbs
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There’s been much said in the news and the political campaigns about illegal immigration and possible “amnesty” considerations for those currently residing in the USA illegally. Though the current candidates all have similar agendas on the issue, none seem to be offering a fair solution to the problem. Even my man McCain, who despite offering stronger regulation rhetoric than the Democrats, still seems to be a bit too forgiving on the overall problem. Anyway, take a look at this video that’s from CNN/Lou Dobbs, talking about the unbelievable silliness of the proposed Amnesty Bill. As a law abiding, tax paying, lifelong citizen of these United States, just the thought that this bill has been given some serious consideration is nothing short of infuriating.
An interesting take on Obama March 12, 2008Posted by Mongo in Uncategorized.
Tags: Barack Obama, Democrats, Obama, Politics
Though I’m a McCain supporter, I find Barak Obama a very charismatic and interesting character. Not enough to vote for him of course, but if I had to choose between him and Hillary, I’d definitely be an Obama guy! The following article was sent to me from a friend, and it originates from the Asia Times out of Hong Kong. It seems to be generally hostile towards America, and I can’t honestly say I concur with all that is written here, but it does give an interesting perspective on Obama. It’s rather long so go grab yourself something to drink before starting.
Obama’s women reveal his secret
By Spengler, Asia Times
“Cherchez la femme,” advised Alexander Dumas in: “When you want to uncover an unspecified secret, look for the woman.” In the case of Barack Obama, we have two: his late mother, the went-native anthropologist Ann Dunham, and his rancorous wife Michelle. Obama’s women reveal his secret: he hates America.
We know less about Senator Obama than about any prospective president in American history. His uplifting rhetoric is empty, as Hillary Clinton helplessly protests. His career bears no trace of his own character, not an article for the Harvard Law Review he edited, or a single piece of legislation. He appears to be an empty vessel filled with the wishful thinking of those around him. But there is a real Barack Obama. No man – least of all one abandoned in infancy by his father – can conceal the imprint of an impassioned mother, or the influence of a brilliant wife.
America is not the embodiment of hope, but the abandonment of one kind of hope in return for another. America is the spirit of creative destruction, selecting immigrants willing to turn their back on the tragedy of their own failing culture in return for a new start. Its creative success is so enormous that its global influence hastens the decline of other cultures. For those on the destruction side of the trade, America is a monster. Between half and nine-tenths of the world’s 6,700 spoken languages will become extinct in the next century, and the anguish of dying peoples rises up in a global cry of despair. Some of those who listen to this cry become anthropologists, the curators of soon-to-be extinct cultures; anthropologists who really identify with their subjects marry them. Obama’s mother, the University of Hawaii anthropologist Ann Dunham, did so twice.
Obama profiles Americans the way anthropologists interact with primitive peoples. He holds his own view in reserve and emphatically draws out the feelings of others; that is how friends and colleagues describe his modus operandi since his days at the Harvard Law Review, through his years as a community activist in Chicago, and in national politics. Anthropologists, though, proceed from resentment against the devouring culture of America and sympathy with the endangered cultures of the primitive world. Obama inverts the anthropological model: he applies the tools of cultural manipulation out of resentment against America. The probable next president of the United States is a mother’s revenge against the America she despised.
Ann Dunham died in 1995, and her character emerges piecemeal from the historical record, to which I will return below. But Michelle Obama is a living witness. Her February 18 comment that she felt proud of her country for the first time caused a minor scandal, and was hastily qualified. But she meant it, and more. The video footage of her remarks shows eyes hooded with rage as she declares:
“For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country and not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. And I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction and just not feeling so alone in my frustration and disappointment.”
The desperation, frustration and disappointment visible on Michelle Obama’s face are not new to the candidate’s wife; as Steve Sailer, Rod Dreher and other commentators have noted, they were the theme of her undergraduate thesis, on the subject of “blackness” at Princeton University. No matter what the good intentions of Princeton, which founded her fortunes as a well-paid corporate lawyer, she wrote, “My experiences at Princeton have made me far more aware of my ‘Blackness’ than ever before. I have found that at Princeton no matter how liberal and open-minded some of my White professors and classmates try to be toward me, I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus; as if I really don’t belong.”
Never underestimate the influence of a wife who bitch-slaps her husband in public. Early in Obama’s campaign, Michelle Obama could not restrain herself from belittling the senator. “I have some difficulty reconciling the two images I have of Barack Obama. There’s Barack Obama the phenomenon. He’s an amazing orator, Harvard Law Review, or whatever it was, law professor, best-selling author, Grammy winner. Pretty amazing, right? And then there’s the Barack Obama that lives with me in my house, and that guy’s a little less impressive,” she told a fundraiser in February 2007.
“For some reason this guy still can’t manage to put the butter up when he makes toast, secure the bread so that it doesn’t get stale, and his five-year-old is still better at making the bed than he is.” New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd reported at the time, “She added that the TV version of Barack Obama sounded really interesting and that she’d like to meet him sometime.” Her handlers have convinced her to be more tactful since then.
“Frustration” and “disappointment” have dogged Michelle Obama these past 20 years, despite her US$300,000 a year salary and corporate board memberships. It is hard for the descendants of slaves not to resent America. They were not voluntary immigrants but kidnap victims, subjected to a century of second-class citizenship even after the Civil War ended slavery. Blackness is not the issue; General Colin Powell, whose parents chose to immigrate to America from the West Indies, saw America just as other immigrants do, as a land of opportunity. Obama’s choice of wife is a failsafe indicator of his own sentiments. Spouses do not necessarily share their likes, but they must have their hatreds in common. Obama imbibed this hatred with his mother’s milk.
Michelle Obama speaks with greater warmth of her mother-in-law than of her husband. “She was kind of a dreamer, his mother,” Michelle Obama was quoted in the January 25 Boston Globe. “She wanted the world to be open to her and her children. And as a result of her naivete, sometimes they lived on food stamps, because sometimes dreams don’t pay the rent. But as a result of her naivete, Barack got to see the world like most of us don’t in this country.” How strong the ideological motivation must be of a mother to raise her children on the thin fair in pursuit of a political agenda.
“Naivete” is a euphemism for Ann Dunham’s motivation. Friends describe her as a “fellow traveler”, that is, a communist sympathizer, from her youth, according to a March 27, 2007, Chicago Tribune report. Many Americans harbor leftist views, but not many marry into them, twice. Ann Dunham met and married the Kenyan economics student Barack Obama, Sr, at the University of Hawaii in 1960, and in 1967 married the Indonesian student Lolo Soetero. It is unclear why Soetero’s student visa was revoked in 1967 – the fact but not the cause are noted in press accounts. But it is probable that the change in government in Indonesia in 1967, in which the leftist leader Sukarno was deposed, was the motivation.
Soetero had been sponsored as a graduate student by one of the most radical of all Third World governments. Sukarno had founded the so-called Non-Aligned Movement as an anti-colonialist turn at the 1955 Bandung Conference in Indonesia. Before deposing him in 1967, Indonesia’s military slaughtered 500,000 communists (or unfortunates who were mistaken for communists). When Ann Dunham chose to follow Lolo Soetero to Indonesia in 1967, she brought the six-year-old Barack into the kitchen of anti-colonialist outrage, immediate following one of the worst episodes of civil violence in post-war history.
Dunham’s experience in Indonesia provided the material for a doctoral dissertation celebrating the hardiness of local cultures against the encroaching metropolis. It was entitled, “Peasant blacksmithing in Indonesia: surviving against all odds”. In this respect Dunham remained within the mainstream of her discipline. Anthropology broke into popular awareness with Margaret Mead’s long-discredited Coming of Age in Samoa (1928), which offered a falsified ideal of sexual liberation in the South Pacific as an alternative to the supposedly repressive West. Mead’s work was one of the founding documents of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, and anthropology faculties stood at the left-wing fringe of American universities.
In the Global South, anthropologists went into the field and took matters a step further. Peru’s brutal Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) guerilla movement was the brainchild of the anthropologist Efrain Morote Best, who headed the University of San Cristobal of Huamanga in Ayacucho, Peru, between 1962 and 1968. Dunham’s radicalism was more vicarious; she ended her career as an employee of international organizations.
Barack Obama received at least some instruction in the Islamic faith of his father and went with him to the mosque, but the importance of this experience is vastly overstated by conservative commentators who seek to portray Obama as a Muslim of sorts. Radical anti-Americanism, rather than Islam, was the reigning faith in the Dunham household. In the Muslim world of the 1960s, nationalism rather than radical Islam was the ideology of choice among the enraged. Radical Islam did not emerge as a major political force until the nationalism of a Gamal Abdel Nasser or a Sukarno failed.
Barack Obama is a clever fellow who imbibed hatred of America with his mother’s milk, but worked his way up the elite ladder of education and career. He shares the resentment of Muslims against the encroachment of American culture, although not their religion. He has the empathetic skill set of an anthropologist who lives with his subjects, learns their language, and elicits their hopes and fears while remaining at emotional distance. That is, he is the political equivalent of a sociopath. The difference is that he is practicing not on a primitive tribe but on the population of the United States.
There is nothing mysterious about Obama’s methods. “A demagogue tries to sound as stupid as his audience so that they will think they are as clever as he is,” wrote Karl Krauss. Americans are the world’s biggest suckers, and laugh at this weakness in their popular culture. Listening to Obama speak, Sinclair Lewis’ cynical tent-revivalist Elmer Gantry comes to mind, or, even better, Tyrone Power’s portrayal of a carnival mentalist in the 1947 film noire Nightmare Alley. The latter is available for instant viewing at Netflix, and highly recommended as an antidote to having felt uplifted by an Obama speech.
America has the great misfortune to have encountered Obama at the peak of his powers at its worst moment of vulnerability in a generation. With malice aforethought, he has sought out their sore point.
Since the Ronald Reagan boom began in 1984, the year the American stock market doubled, Americans have enjoyed a quarter-century of rising wealth. Even the collapse of the Internet bubble in 2000 did not interrupt the upward trajectory of household assets, as the housing price boom eclipsed the effect of equity market weakness. America’s success made it a magnet for the world’s savings, and Americans came to believe that they were riding a boom that would last forever, as I wrote recently .
Americans regard upward mobility as a God-given right. America had a double founding, as David Hackett Fischer showed in his 1989 study, Albion’s Seed . Two kinds of immigrants founded America: religious dissidents seeking a new Promised Land, and economic opportunists looking to get rich quick. Both elements still are present, but the course of the past quarter-century has made wealth-creation the sine qua non of American life. Now for the first time in a generation Americans have become poorer, and many of them have become much poorer due to the collapse of home prices. Unlike the Reagan years, when cutting the top tax rate from a punitive 70% to a more tolerable 40% was sufficient to start an economic boom, no lever of economic policy is available to fix the problem. Americans have no choice but to work harder, retire later, save more and retrench.
This reversal has provoked a national mood of existential crisis. In Europe, economic downturns do not inspire this kind of soul-searching, for richer are poorer, remain what they always have been. But Americans are what they make of themselves, and the slim makings of 2008 shake their sense of identity. Americans have no institutionalized culture to fall back on. Their national religion has consisted of waves of enthusiasm – “Great Awakenings” – every second generation or so, followed by an interim of apathy. In times of stress they have a baleful susceptibility to hucksters and conmen.
Be afraid – be very afraid. America is at a low point in its fortunes, and feeling sorry for itself. When Barack utters the word “hope”, they instead hear, “handout”. A cynic might translate the national motto, E pluribus unum, as “something for nothing”. Now that the stock market and the housing market have failed to give Americans something for nothing, they want something for nothing from the government. The trouble is that he who gets something for nothing will earn every penny of it, twice over.
The George W Bush administration has squandered a great strategic advantage in a sorry lampoon of nation-building in the Muslim world, and has made enemies out of countries that might have been friendly rivals, notably Russia. Americans question the premise of America’s standing as a global superpower, and of the promise of upward mobility and wealth-creation. If elected, Barack Obama will do his utmost to destroy the dual premises of America’s standing. It might take the country another generation to recover.
“Evil will oft evil mars”, J R R Tolkien wrote. It is conceivable that Barack Obama, if elected, will destroy himself before he destroys the country. Hatred is a toxic diet even for someone with as strong a stomach as Obama. As he recalled in his 1995 autobiography, Dreams From My Father, Obama idealized the Kenyan economist who had married and dumped his mother, and was saddened to learn that Barack Hussein Obama, Sr, was a sullen, drunken polygamist. The elder Obama became a senior official of the government of Kenya after earning a PhD at Harvard. He was an abusive drunk and philanderer whose temper soured his career.
The senior Obama died in a 1982 car crash. Kenyan government officials in those days normally spent their nights drinking themselves stupid at the Pan-Afrique Hotel. Two or three of them would be found with their Mercedes wrapped around a palm tree every morning. During the 1970s I came to know a number of them, mostly British-educated hollow men dying inside of their own hypocrisy and corruption.
Both Obama and the American public should be very careful of what they wish for. As the horrible example of Obama’s father shows, there is nothing worse for an embittered outsider manipulating the system from within than to achieve his goals – and nothing can be more terrible for the system. Even those who despise America for its blunders of the past few years should ask themselves whether the world will be a safer place if America retreats into a self-pitying shell.