Saturday, June 30, 2012

The perfect nation

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Markko Polo Adventurers - Scheherezade

Highly entertaining, humorous  "exotica" from 1959, arranged by Gerald Fried, who went on to score scores, maybe hundreds of TV show episodes  & movies, including "Star Trek" and "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." What I like about "exotica" is that good parodies of the genre are as highly regarded as the "serious" recordings. Perhaps an argument could be made that they are nearly all parodies.

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Affordable Healthcare Act

“We do not consider whether the act embodied sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the Nation’s elected leaders. We ask only whether Congress has the power under the Constitution to enact the challenge provisions.”
Chief Justice John Roberts, Affordable Care Act decision

When polled on the individual provisions of the ACA, a majority of Americans have consistently approved of them. But when polled on "Obamacare," the results have been different.

The ACA is pretty  much a reform Americans can & should accept. The idea for this kind of reform came from Republicans, with some Democratic support, in the 1990's as an alternative to the Hillary Clinton plan, & as a counter to the single payer plans adopted by nations with universal health coverage. Mitt Romney used this plan as the foundation for the Massachusetts plan.  The goal of a national (or state) plan is to get everyone covered. Poor people & people on fixed incomes mostly have health insurance now, through Medicare, Medicaid, & the private HMOs contracted by those programs. So there are two groups to get insured: working  & unemployed people who can't afford health insurance & healthy people who can afford it but  gamble &  deliberately opt out. The latter are a big  reason for the mandated coverage. So the latter are made to pay, as Justice John Roberts reasoned, a "tax" for their decision. The minority on court  denied this payment constituted a "tax."

On the face of it, I doubt if most Americans with health coverage care much that people who can afford but  refuse health insurance are treated as scofflaws. What Americans do resist are "mandates," being ordered by the government to do something. Americans are already mandated to do all sorts of important things: pay taxes, provide public education for children, have car insurance, on & on it goes. Traditionally, we tend to prefer these mandates, where possible, be decided on the state level.  Other nations have reasoned this through to providing health care for all, which can't be done state-by-state.  When "conservative" governments are elected in other democracies, they may act to "reform" their national health care systems, but they don't dare suggest dismantling those systems.

The Supreme Court decision is very bad for Republicans, who wanted the Court to do their dirty work for them. Even if President Obama is reelected, Repugs will hold the House of Representatives & probably take slim control of the Senate. As they attempt to repeal "Obamacare" they will have to argue it provision-by-provision: young adults staying on parents' coverage after college; rules against arbitrary hikes in  rates; prohibitions against denying   insurance  due to pre-existing conditions; expanded drug benefits;  "But we want those," Americans will say. Which brings up the problem of how to pay for them; the very reason mandated insurance is necessary. People who can afford to purchase insurance but do not cannot be allowed to be a drain on the system, driving up everyone else's premiums.  This is the same reasoning  as applies to other mandated forms of insurance, be it business liability or auto insurance or  insurance on mortgaged property.

ACA is not the health care reform I've always wanted. I don't believe it will control health care costs. I believe only a national, single payer system can do that. But ACA will ease the health insurance burden on millions of Americans & guarantee insurance for millions more.  I have not heard of any other feasible options  to the individual mandate that would satisfy the conservative ideologues who only a decade ago thought the individual mandate through private insurers was a pretty good idea.The Repugs got nothing. Go ahead, ask them what you're supposed to do when you can't afford health insurance for your family. 

I visited a  website that may or may not have been created  as a joke: Americans who want to move to Canada because of Obamacare. Some of the comments aren't  jokes. Anyone seriously considering it hasn't heard of the Canada Health Care Act or doesn't understand the word "irony." There are no other  western democratic nations without a national health care system.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Things liberals hate

A portrait of Lt. General Lewis "Chesty" Puller. He said these famous words as a Marine Corps Colonel when surrounded by Chinese at Chosin Reservoir in Korea.  Although enormous losses were inflicted on the Chinese, United Nations forces had to break out of the encirclement & engage in a harrowing, fighting retreat in brutal winter weather to the port at Hungnam. A very conservative friend posted this graphic on Facebook. It's the sort of thing he sometimes posts. But he had "shared it" from a page titled "Things liberals hate."

I commented, "I don't get this.  I mean I understand the USMC thing. But I don't get the 'Things liberals hate' thing." I'm a "liberal." I've known hundreds of liberals & haven't heard any of them express contempt for the United States Marine Corps or for any of America's men & women in the military services. Maybe for some of the upper echelon officers who have popped off on political matters they are supposed to avoid. That hardly counts. I used to hear radical anti-American leftists talk shit, but there aren't many of them around anymore. The most vicious anti-military group is the small, pathetic bunch of ultra-right losers from Westboro Baptist, the ones that show up waving homo-bigoted signs at military funerals.

I also just happened to finish reading, for the second time, The River and the Gauntlet by S.L.A. Marshall, subtitled "Defeat of the Eighth Army by the Chinese Communist Forces November, 1950 at the Battle of Chongkong River, Korea". Published in 1953, based on eyewitness & Army reports, it is one of the most disturbing war books I have ever read. a tough read.  It recounts a disorganized retreat through a valley, under constant enemy fire, marked by the failure of numerous commanders, at the front & at the highest levels (Gen. MacArthur)  as well as uncounted acts of valor, courage & leadership by men who stepped up & tried to keep a 20 mile long convoy moving to the safety of British-held lines, just beyond a narrow ravine through mountains where everyone came under deadly crossfire. S.L.A.  Marshall was a pioneer of interviewing platoon level soldiers to build a picture of a battlefield from the ground up, with all its horrors, which he initially did as an official Army Historian during World War II.

What I & other liberals hate is divisive right wing bullshit. Put a lie out there  about what "liberals hate" & even a conservative with a good heart, like my FB friend, spreads it around like it's a fact & an ideological truth.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

When a town claims it wants "artists" for its "arts district," what it really wants are architects, graphic designers, maybe a few working classical musicians tucked in there, & other well-behaved professional types. The last thing real estate investors want is "affordable housing." An "arts district" is a ploy to go directly to gentrification.

Monday, June 25, 2012


When I was a teenager, my best friend & I were swimming in my family's  circular pool when a thunderstorm came. We got out of the pool & took shelter in the awning-covered patio at the rear of the house. We had no sooner sat down when a bolt of lightning zipped  through the surrounding higher trees & blew a small hole in the corner of the garage roof a few yards from the pool, with a simultaneous ear-splitting explosion. A  puff of smoke or steam rose from the hole  as a torrential downpour drenched any fire that may been ignited. We looked at each other & said, "Wow."

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Big city Gay Pride parades are great. But when conservative folks in red states turn on the TV & see the float with the writhing man wearing only a cowboy hat, gun belt & holster, & bikini underwear with a sock stuffed down the front, they resolve to pass another nasty anti-gay law.

East Orange NJ

Dick Kollmar's Paris in the Sky

If you went to East Orange now, you'd ask yourself, "How could this be?" But it had in a past era  a sort-of hotel resort section. Some of those hotels catered to a Jewish clientele. That scene very quickly disappeared during the 1950's.   Dick Kollmar was probably Richard Kollmar, husband of newspaper columnist & "What's My Line?" panelist Dorothy Kilgallen,  with whom he had co-hosted a morning radio program, "Breakfast with Dorothy and Dick."  It's a good guess because Kollmar had also owned a New York City nightclub.

Dorothy Kilgallen was one of number of notable people who died mysteriously in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination.  Her death in 1965 was ruled a barbiturate & alcohol suicide, but all her notes on her interview  with Lee Harvey Oswald assassin Jack Ruby were missing from her apartment.

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

If we drove the streets around the perimeter of Roselle Park NJ,  I could easily show & explain how a one-sq mile town plunked down in the middle of similar towns & neighborhoods was able to maintain an island-like insularity. "Parkers" enjoy  discussing  all the aspects of this insularity except one: Its racism. Roselle Park successfully remained an all-white community. It  de facto segregated itself. It still has a negligible (5%) African-American population.

I'd also show you the Sunrise Village apartment complex,  where the  last remaining large piece of privately-owned vacant property became the worst, most ill-conceived development in the history of the town.

I have never written for people from Roselle Park. It was a conscious decision  I made during college. I didn't want my memories & opinions subjected to provincial nitpicking.


Friday, June 22, 2012


Got Sandusky. It will be more difficult to  bring the web of enablers & deniers to justice.  What the hell did his wife think was going on, the man sneaking down to the basement at night & staying down there for long periods of time? Let's be candid: Did he smell of sex sweat when he crawled back in bed with her?

 It isn't just that Sandusky "fit the profile" of a pedophile. One TV commentator noted everything fit the profile: him, his family, the insular quasi-religious Penn State football program, the charity Sandusky started to provide him a steady supply - & choice - of victims. & everything corresponds to similar conditions existing  in the Catholic Church.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Orthodox Priest

All the years I've lived in this neighborhood, I'd never done more than wave at & say "Hello Father' to the old  Russian Orthodox priest around the corner. He  pastors a beautiful golden dome church filled with wonderful icons, but a church that doesn't see much action except on major holidays. I've sat quietly for a few minutes  several times in a back pew when he had the doors open on weekday afternoons, so he knows I appreciate his church.  The priest resides across the street in an apartment above the social center. On warm evenings he sits out front on a folding chair. He used to plant &  tend flowers in large planters, but now he has to get around  slowly, bent over on a walker. Takes him five minutes to cross the street & more than that to go from one end of his church sanctuary to the other.

Last week I saw him wrestling a garbage can to curbside. I took it from him. It wasn't heavy - recyclables. I pointed at his walker & joked, "You should put a seat & a motor on that."

 He replied - the first words I ever heard from him, "Ah, then I'd be sittin' on my tukus all day."

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That is weird. My landline service went down late Tues afternoon, phone & internet. I managed to get a live person at Verizon, entirely by accident - pressing the wrong number, who ran a check & said the dial tone had somehow been lost at their end, they would turn it on by 1 pm tomorrow. Out of boredom, I just called my landline from my cell, the phone rang & my answering machine picked up. So I hung up, ran over, picked up the other phone, no dial tone. Hung up, picked it up again, dial tone. My Windows computer network center still says I'm offline & should contact the Internet service provider.

Used the evening. Going up to near 100 next two days. Listened to part of Mets game, walked to CVS for some stuff. Back home, Mets game on again (beat Orioles 5-0), wrestled a/c into window & got it sealed up, though I'll have to do a better job on that. Problem is that last year, for the first time since I've been here, some pigeons moved on my building, & there was a cozy little niche outside  next to the a/c that acquired  a pile of guano on the support board I take out at end of the hot season.  Flying rats as far as I'm concerned. I had to figure out out to seal off that niche. Temporarily taped a piece of plastic bag  over it. Need something little more inpenetrable.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ocean City NJ

Hogate's Seafood Restaurant

Passed this restaurant every trip into Ocean City. At dinner time it was packed, lines out the door,  Of course we would never eat there. I thought it was cool because of the dock & the view. A new high span was constructed to  the right of the old, beautiful drawbridge, through Hogate's property.

I didn't have dinner outdoors at Jersey shore bayside restaurant until 1995.

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

My Republican Dad

My Republican Dad in the tricorner hat. The cannon was his & it's real. Took his American history seriously, not so much himself. I'll match him up against anyone's Republican dad.

This photo probably explains something about me. & about the kinds of people I like. No, not exhibitionists. People who  know something about something & don't apologize for who they are & what they like. Without Dad's example  I never would've gone on WFMU with the music I brought to it.

An editor of Weird NJ, great magazine, once had the audacity to suggest the publication had influenced me. Didn't even warrant a response from me. He'd never driven around Jersey with Dad.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Republicans - the middle-aged ones, at least - always  have Ronald Reagan. Mitt Romney / Ronald Reagan. George W. Bush / Ronald Reagan. It's like connect the dots, but they never connect for me.  The gap between Reagan's out-sized reputation & his actual achievements still boggle my mind. Yeah, yeah you say he was great, but would you please remind me what he did? Oh, he "restored America's faith in itself." How did he do that? The Hollywood way. Keep our eyes on the screen, ignore the uncomfortable seat, the fake butter on the popcorn, & the fact that the movie isn't all that good   but we have to like it because of what we paid at the box office & the refreshment stand.  It's the paradox of Republican success: Focus on making the rich richer,  let everyone else struggle along, & somehow make us like it & wish they'd keep doing it.

We rant on about issues, but as with Reagan, what we really want is a comforting abstraction. Scream on about Big Government Socialism. What gets me is that the "conservatives," those defenders of individual freedom, have no problem with living in a National Security State where every cell phone call is recorded, every internet search monitored, every movement on the street captured on camera; where we have secret prisons & torturing for information is o.k., & nobody gets mangled in Afghanistan unless they "volunteer; " where collective bargaining - the many uniting to stand up to ruthless power - is outlawed (Men died by the thousands in WWII believing they were defending the American right to collective bargaining); public school systems dismantled because they're too "free" & too expensive & handed over to corporations who promise to run them more "efficiently."    Hell, they instituted it, it's their idea. & neither our "liberal" President nor his "conservative" opponent have any problem with it. The rationale: If you're an honest, decent, patriotic American, you have nothing to worry about. How about being against it because you're an honest, decent, patriotic American?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Exile on Elm Street

I think some young gangbangers have taken up residence in the smaller apt building around the corner.  They've infested that place before. This particular corner is rough around the edges, but it hasn't hosted  a regular gangbanger crew since the bar down the block closed for good four or five years ago, & this isn't a crew. The young gangbangers don't know how to be discreet. They think they're still in the projects, or the really tough streets on the other side of town. But this is  a working class neighborhood, becomes solidly middle class a couple of blocks away. It's also very Hispanic. So actually, a small group of late-adolescent, African-American punks with no roots here will feel isolated, definitely in the minority, discover nobody knows who the hell they are or cares what gang they belong to. They mill around in front of their building, maybe doing a little single-serve dealing, people just walk past them, through them, around them, pushing strollers, carrying groceries, taking little white dogs out for a poop.  Whoa, some respect, please. Then there's the Saturday night backyard parties, large extended families, all that loud Latino music,  the smoky smells of good food while they eat dried out wings from 7-Eleven & Burger King value menu. If it makes me envious it must drive the boyz to madness. At least I don't mind the music. Beats the plodding, thumping crap they listen to.  The more you try to be bigshots,  guys, the more this place will feel like your exile. What's a new beginning, a step up for many of your neighbors is the end of the line for you. Beyond here, you have to keep walking. Congregate  in one spot too long, nobody knows you,   folks  call the police, & the cops respond. Not a race thing. It's what people who own their houses do.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Blind Date no show

Coast Guard cost for N.J. boat explosion hoax adds up to $318K

SANDY HOOK — The cost to the Coast Guard for the 5 1/2 hour search for 21 passengers reported to be in distress but never existed has been tallied at more than $318,000, officials said this afternoon.

Now, officials are offering a reward of up to $3,000 for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the person responsible for making the call, according to a statement by the First Coast Guard District in Boston.

The cost includes the operating expenses for the four helicopters and two rescue boats dispatched to the area where the yacht was reportedly taking on water following an explosion, the statement said.

It does not include the cost of the helicopters and rescue boats dispatched by the New York City Police and Fire Departments, Nassau County Police Department and the New Jersey State Police.

Nor does it include the cost of the six medevac helicopters and approximately 15 ambulances gathered in Sandy Hook to receive the wounded.

State Police said their response to the false distress call cost their agency about $16,570. That price tag includes the operating cost of four helicopters, one 50-foot vessel and troopers to operate them.

In all, approximately 200 first responders were involved in the emergency response, the Coast Guard said.

About 4:20 Monday the Coast Guard received two radio transmissions from a man who sounds middle-aged with a slight rasp declaring to be the only person on board the Blind Date yacht as it took on water. He sounds calm and matter-of-fact and claimed to be standing in three-and-a-half feet of water on the burning bridge of the vessel.

"We have 21 souls on board, 20 in the water right now," he says. "I have 3 deceased on board, 9 injured because of the explosion we’ve had."

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Mitt for a safer, smarter America

"He [President Obama] says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It's time for us to cut back on government and help the American people."
 Mitt Romney

I would love for President Obama to get Mitt to say during a debate that America needs fewer firefighters, police officers & school teachers. It would not go over well with the demographic that will likely decide this election: independent white women. Listen for them demanding,  "Yeah, let's make America more dangerous for our families as we make our children dumber. What could be more helpful for America?"'

Governor Walker's reaction: He had exempted police & fire unions from collective bargaining restrictions, & responded to Miit's statement, " I know in my state our reform allowed us to protect firefighters, police officers and teachers; that's not what I think when I think of big government."

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Brielle NJ

Shore Hills Motel

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Saturday, June 09, 2012

My outrage is nonpartisan

America 1930

America 2012

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Friday, June 08, 2012

I started becoming a liberal when I sat at the supper table & realized all the other people there were racists, & I was the only one who didn't want to be a racist anymore. I thought, the first thing I need to do is stop listening to these people called "family." If they're wrong about racism, they might be wrong about a lot of other stuff. At the time, I didn't even know an African-American.

The downside is that adolescent idealism can become outright rebellion, & one loses access to the authentic wisdom imperfect people impart - since everyone is imperfect. As Mark Twain purportedly said (& probably didn't say), "When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years."

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Fleetwood Mac - Hypnotized

Written & sung by Bob Welch.
Bob Welch dead by suicide, apparently driven by ill health.
I hadn't known Bob Welch got screwed out of induction with Fleetwood Mac into the Rock Hall of Fame (shows how much attention I pay to that). Try getting from 1970's "Kiln House" to the 1975 hit-the-jackpot LP with Nicks & Buckingham without Welch's five albums as a full contributing member, & after Danny Kirwan left, as the frontman. All five LPs are good, & one, "Bare Trees," I consider a highlight from a year I don't recall as being a great one for rock.

Now here's a mystery. In 1970 a friend & I drove his girlfriend to the U of Rhode Island in my black Ford econovan.  While there,, we decided to drive up to Boston Tea Party to see Fleetwood Mac, quite a sidetrip. But it was a legendary rock club.  Opening for FM was the J. Geils Band, a local favorite, & they blew everyone away, including Mac. Now here's the mystery. I'm pretty sure the Mac I saw had Christine McVie on electric piano, & it was not the big blues jam band Mac recorded at the Tea Party in Feb 70 when James Gang opened for them.   I would have strongly resisted heading  into New England on a lark in the middle of the winter. I think I saw some post-Kiln House version of the band, after guitarist Peter Green quit, in Sept. '70,  which is why they weren't strong,  & that the other band, Fairport Convention, had canceled for some reason with J. Geils, the Tea Party house band, filling in.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Thunderstorm over there

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Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Primary Election Day

Elizabeth NJ Mayoral Primary
Oscar Ocasio 2,547 24%
x Chris Bollwage* 8,279 76%
This is even better than I expected.

The Mayor will receive no serious organized opposition in November.
At 5 pm my polling place was busier than I've ever seen it, & that includes 2008 primary & general. I don't know if it's good or not for my people. Two cops, I'd call that tight security, eying my black backpack with the white cat hair. I did see some Orthodox voting. I'd guess they're going with Mayor Chris Bollwage, who lives in the neighborhood. Mayoral primary, battle of slick flyers & brochures, daily mailings. No street money on display, no one standing on corners holding placards. No robo calls.

While I'm not great fan of the Union County Democratic Party machine, the bottom line is that their people legislate progressively. In my city the insurgents are from the right & are just as much a political machine, & even more an authoritarian machine with a "boss."

 Exasperated liberals often express their puzzlement & frustration that Gov. Walker could be reelected in Wisconsin while it's likely President Obama will carry the state in November; or that Scott Brown could beat Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts as Obama wins the state easily. It's difficult to unseat an incumbent unless the sitting legislator is a total screwup., or there's a general 180 degree reaction, toward Democrats in 2006 & Repugs in 2010. Many people ate inclined to vote against change. It isn't an ideological thing. They know what they got, they may not be enthusiastic about it but the incumbent is the devil they know. There's no way to slice it without becoming cynical. The voters are stupid, or swayed by campaign ads (Walker outspent Barrett like 10 to 1), the destruction of Wisconsin public unions over the past year. This is what we're up against.

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Sunday, June 03, 2012

Union NJ

The Flagship
225 feet long and 70 feet wide, opened in 1938.

One of the most famous "roadside attractions" in New Jersey. Still there, ship-shaped, on an island in the middle of a crazy highway, U.S. Route 22. *  It's been a nightclub (in several incarnations), 24/7 men's clothing store, furniture store, now electronics store.

*For  generations, the Union County stretch of Route 22 has been  one of the first great tests for new drivers from the area.  Many stores are located in the center median of the highway between east & westbound lanes; you have pull out of parking lots directly into the fast lanes as cars & trucks  on the highway constantly change lanes to avoid other cars  turning in & out of parking lots & shooting out of U turn ramps. We believe if you can drive there, you can drive anywhere in America.

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Saturday, June 02, 2012

"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."
-- U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864
(letter to Col. William F. Elkins)
Ref: The Lincoln Encyclopedia, Archer H. Shaw (Macmillan, 1950, NY)
No one would like this quote to be authentic Lincoln more than I. But a quote is not authenticated by the person quoting it, by dubious attributions, by its common currency, or because one agrees with its sentiment.

I read an entire, sincere defense of this quote in which the researcher was unable to authenticate the original source, the Elkins letter itself, widely considered a forgery. That Lincoln valued labor over capital is well known. But he did not value labor against capital.

The best Lincoln historians of the past 100 years have not "sanitized" Lincoln. That was in fact done  by the first few generations following the Civil War, when Lincoln was mythologized, finding its apotheosis in Carl Sandburg's massive biographies of the '20s & '30s.  Sandburg wrote an epic prose folk poem in several parts about Lincoln,  & his books can be appreciated on that basis.  Sandburg believed just about everything. He also wrote from the left. The right has its fake Lincoln quotes also. One of the favorites is the notoriously phony  "Ten Points," which includes such gems as:
  • You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
  • You cannot help small men up by tearing big men down.
  • You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
  • You cannot lift the wage-earner up by pulling the wage-payer down.
I first encountered one of the "Ten Points" on a box of Celestial Seasoning tea, no attribution at all.  I immediately thought it was one of the bogus Lincoln sayings. They don't even sound like genuine Lincoln, they are so witless. By 1864, President Lincoln had no objections to General Sherman marching through the South with the  purposes of weakening the strong, tearing big men down & destroying the rich.  Our current Republican Party overflows with antebellum emotions & attitudes.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Special night for Mets fans

Johan Santana makes Mets' history, throwing franchise's first no-hitter in 134-pitch epic

In year 51, in game 8,020, in ballpark 3, the New York Mets have a no-hitter of their own.

Johan Santana threw the first no-hitter in Mets history Friday night, the 275th in major-league history, and New Yorkers at Citi Field celebrated a moment more than a half-century coming, through the likes of Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Doc Gooden, Frank Viola, David Cone and equally capable pitchers.

But it was Santana, the Venezuelan-born left-hander, the two-time Cy Young Award winner whose career was threatened by major shoulder surgery in 2010. He stood on the mound after a grueling 134 pitches against the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals, punched his glove, raised his fists and became the first with an 8-0 Met win.

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"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson

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