John’s Busier Blog Has a New Name

Before the election, I called it “Politics and Profits:  Business and the 2008 Election.”  Now it’s called “Politics and Profits: The Meltdown.”  In a “rebranding post,” I explain the new direction.


I’m Still Here…

…even though I’ve gone nearly a month since my last post.

Do I still want to be a blogger?  I enjoy writing, in fact I need to write.  I’m writing all the time, commenting quite frequently on a couple of blogs (Dodger Thoughts and Althouse) and sporadically on others, sometimes using my real name, sometimes one of a couple aliases.   I have a screenplay I’ve been working on since 2005, which I’m still editing (and of which a few friends are waiting to see drafts — coming!)  I’ve been arguing with or trying to entertain (sometimes hard to tell the difference) a few friends and family members concerning the election.  And, most importantly, I’ve been working.

As some might recall, this blog began during a long period of unemployment caused by my shocking encounter at the crossroads of politics and the criminal justice system.  The blog was my lifeline during that period.  It was how I maintained my voice in the communities of which i had long been a part.  It was also a kind of journal of that period, although a journal in only the most oblique sense, since I could not discuss my case except superficially (and still can’t, since the case is still on appeal.)  It was also my personal exploration of the blogging medium.  And it was my refrigerator, serving the same function of providing a white space where I could tape an article where my housemates could see it, except now my house is the virtual world.

For the first year or so, I wrote in this blog almost compulsively, posting every day, sometimes two or three times a day, writing about things I understood–like Los Angeles, politics, PR and marketing, the environment and related public policy issues, sports and music–and things I didn’t.  No one could tell me not to write whatever I wanted.  That freedom is the essence of blogging.

Part of that freedom is also…not to write.  Or to write something or somewhere else.  And then come back to this.

If you like reading my stuff or want to keep up with me, here’s what I think I’ll do.  I’ll put an RSS feed of this blog on my page on Facebook.  I’m on Facebook. You’re probably also on Facebook, whoever is reading this. The feed will show you when I’ve updated this blog.  I will also leave a note if there is a particularly noteworthy (notes for the noteworthy? What a concept) post.  The rhythm will be arhythmic, but you’ll never feel like you’re reading filler.  That’s my only guarantee.

The Obama and McCain Buddy-Cop Show

A month ago, I tossed off a comment on Althouse that included the following lines:

So that leaves Obama and McCain. I wish they could run together. They’d be like one of those old 1970s cop shows. The crusty old seen-it-all guy who goes by his gut, partnered with the brilliant rookie whose got courage to match his brains.

They both seem like leaders to me. Contrary to extremely popular belief, the presidency is not an ideological office. The needed skills are inertia-busting on the domestic front, and strategic courage on the international front. Plus the right kind of ego, an ego strong enough to surround themselves with very smart advisors and encourage candor from them.

Both seem to have these skills. If they end up running against each other, I don’t yet know which way I’d go. But if only one of them is in the race, that’s the one I’m voting for.

I was sort of kidding.  In the same comment, I discussed briefly my distaste for Hillary Clinton and at greater length my dislike of Mitt Romney. 

Recently, Salon’s Edward McClelland wrote a column suggesting that guys are supporting Obama and/or McCain — just to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House.  His take-off point was my post:

John Stodder, a 52-year-old blogger from Palos Verdes Peninsula, Calif., looks at the presidential field and sees another buddy-cop pairing: John McCain and Barack Obama, supposed mavericks who break their parties’ rules, bound together by a common mission — keeping Hillary Clinton out of the White House.

“I wish they could run together,” Stodder swoons. “They’d be like one of those old 1970s cop shows. The crusty old seen-it-all guy who goes by his gut, partnered with the brilliant rookie who’s got courage to match his brains.

I give McClelland huge props for crediting me with the line.  I think it’s funny.  I don’t actually think the White House is like a grungy detective precinct in a gritty urban core.  The fact that I like both candidates (Obama more than McCain) is incidental. 

The fact that they’re both men has nothing to do with why I like them.  I was prepared to vote for Sen. Clinton until this year despite some misgivings, until her campaign’s empty-headed and scurrilous nature became apparent. 

You hear a lot about the failure of the Clinton “inevitability” strategy.  In America, what else could such a strategy do but fail?  “Vote for me because you have no choice” might work in Cuba or Iran, but not here. 

Anyway, my little brainstorm got another push into potential meme-dom today on NPR’s “Wait…Wait…Don’t Tell Me.”  Listen to the first couple of minutes.  (And thank you to my wife’s aunt for happening across the show.)

It makes me want to blog some more!

Okay, I’m Back

I’ve been thinking about how to get this blog back up and running, even though I’m supposed to be focusing mostly on my new blog, From 50,000 Feet.  That’s a blog about business, which means it’s about almost anything I want it to be, since everything is business and business is everything. But it’s not about me.

The problem is simply this:  When I was committed to this blog on a daily basis, I wrote what were essentially articles.  They were bloggy, but because I’ve written journalism and PR most of my life, I couldn’t let anything go if I hadn’t at least done some research on it and thought about how I wanted to present it.  Even if the search was purely personal, I still wanted people to take information from it, information you could use.  

Now, that article-writing mentality is switched to my new blog.  I just don’t have the time or energy for two such projects.  And, well, the other one…I’m getting paid to do it.

But in the two years of steady work on this blog, as I labored over my posts, oh how I envied those great models of blogging, LA Observed, Instapundit and DodgerThoughts for their concision, for their gift of open-endedness, their willingness to just let a thought or an idea live on its own, without all the struts and supports that I felt mine needed.  For Kevin Roderick and Glenn Reynolds, that meant they could do 4, 5, 10, 20 posts a day sometimes, while I struggled to do one.

It’s been my problem as a writer for as long as I’ve been a writer. Not writing fast — I’m a whiz, actually — but writing too much.  Probably, I should blame my math teachers who drilled into my head that I must “show my work.”  But it’s not a #2 pencil world anymore.  You’ve all got calculators, and the great thing about calculators is once you’ve got the answer, how you got there doesn’t matter anymore.

So that’s how it’s going to be.  I’m not just going to get to the point on this blog. It’ll be all “point” and no “getting to” it.

So what am I thinking right now? 

That I need to go for a swim.

That I need to take some paper to be shredded.  Three bags full, accumulated over a year or more. 

That my feet are cold.

That I can’t believe I’m agreeing with the Dodger management about their hiring of Joe Torre.

That Maureen Dowd’s column on Hillary Clinton is a major return to form for a seemingly burned out writer.  A lot of pundits are getting blood transfusions with the approaching end of the Bush era, where the intellectual air had gotten pretty stale. 

Keep in mind, if I had to guess right now, I would guess I’m going to be casting my presidential ballot for Mrs. C.  But, still, this was good:

When pundettes tut-tut that playing the victim is not what a feminist should do, they forget that Hillary is not a feminist. If she were merely some clichéd version of a women’s rights advocate, she never could have so effortlessly blown off Marian Wright Edelman and Lani Guinier when Bill first got in, or played the Fury with Bill’s cupcakes during the campaign.

She was always kind enough to let Bill hide behind her skirts when he got in trouble with women. Now she deserves to hide behind her own pantsuits when men cause her trouble.

We underestimate Hillary if we cast her as Eleanor Roosevelt. She’s really Alfonse D’Amato. Not just the Senator Pothole role, but the talent for playing the aggrieved victim.

D’Amato pulled off a dramatic upset in ’92 against Robert Abrams, the New York attorney general, by pouncing when Abrams slipped one night and called D’Amato a “fascist.” Though never a sensitive soul about insulting other ethnic groups, D’Amato quickly cast “fascist” as an insult to Italian-Americans, producing an ad with scenes of Mussolini.

“It was sheer gall,” Anthony Marsh, D’Amato’s media consultant, proudly told The Times’s Alessandra Stanley.

Like Alfonse, Hillary has the gift of gall. She can be righteous while playing brass-knuckle politics. She will cozy up to former enemies she can use, like Matt Drudge and David Brock, and back W.’s bellicosity if it helps banish her old image as antimilitary.

There is nowhere she won’t go, so long as it gets her where she wants to be.

That’s the beauty of Hillary.

Well…gotta go to the gym! 

Thank You

Sometime in the past 24 hours, From the Desert to the Sea‘s total “hits” passed 200,000.

It means so much to me that so many visitors come read what I have to say every day. So thank you.

This blog will keep going. However, the frequency of posts will slow, and the focus of them will be more personal. This is because I’ve started a new blog for the company for which I work, Dolan Media, and I need to prioritize writing there.

Dolan is a publisher of business and legal information and so the new blog — called From 50,000 Feet — is completely focused on those topics. My role will be more like a reporter and editor, sharing things I think will be of interest to people in the business and legal realms. I will also share with you some of the best of our company’s reporting and blogging.

I can’t help being me, so the new blog will probably have a disproportionate focus on the business and legal subjects with which I am most familiar — environmental issues, the practice of PR, business and public policy — but I can stretch. That’s one great thing about the blogging medium. It’s not my job always to have the best information or ideas; just to point you there.

Dolan has newspapers and related websites in New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island, Louisiana, Mississippi, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arizona, Colorado, Wisconsin, Missouri, Michigan, Oregon, Idaho and Minnesota. There are links to all of them here, and on my new blog. The new blog also links to all of our affiliated blogs, where you’ll find a wealth of good writing.

I’m working with a fearless group of editors and web designers. We’re in the process of bringing the tools of social media to our readers in what we believe will be new and useful ways. I’m grateful for the opportunity the company has given me to explore and help create the future of news and information.

But I’m also so grateful for being able to talk to the readers of this blog for the past two years–and for all your support. I’m proud of a lot of the work I’ve done here, and I’m not done with it yet. But please visit my new thing, make a comment if you’re so moved, and tell your friends.

Thanks again.

Yankee Class

Last night, the New York Yankees were defeated by the Cleveland Indians, 6-4 and thereby ousted from the playoffs. Normally this is something in which I would take devilish delight. But not today. Because that loss is almost surely the end of the remarkable tenure of their manager for the past 12 years, Joe Torre.

Just for fun, I followed the game via an open thread on Bronx Banter, a Yankee fan blog affiliated with Jon Weisman’s great Dodger Thoughts via the Baseball Toaster. I’ve checked out that blog before, but generally didn’t hang around because it struck me as a place where someone might throw a piece of loose concrete at your head and everyone else would say it fell off a building.

I made up my mind early not to be a “troll.” Even though I’m a confirmed Yankee-hater going back to 1964, I didn’t want to be rude to fans who might be grieving. When Yankee pitcher Chien-Ming Wang gave up four runs in the first two innings and was gone in the second without having gotten anyone out, grief loomed closer. You can’t count a lineup like the Yankees’ out, ever, but the tone of the fan comments got gloomy right away. I tried to keep my comments positive, though. These guys seemed to appreciate a boost now and then; plus I didn’t want any chunks of concrete flying my way (some did anyway, but I think it was a case of mistaken identity).

torre-baseball-card.jpgAs we now know, the Yankees home run prowess went for naught as each dinger flew over the fence with no one else on base. Bronx Banter is a far more profane world than Dodger Thoughts, but I found myself increasingly protective of these guys. The community around that blog were tough-but-tender types. And far more than I, they recognized they were watching the end of something — the end of Joe Torre’s astounding 12-year reign as manager during which he brought the Yankees into the post-season every year.

For these fans, Joe Torre is a complex kind of father figure. He’s a gentle man, wise and kind, with a record of success you can’t argue with. But fans being fans, they always wanted something more from him. In his case, I think they wanted him to be more brutal. He was the too-nice father who let Roger Clemens pitch Game 3 even though he was in no shape to do so. He was the befuddled father who let Wang pitch Game 4 even though he’d massively failed in Game 1. Since the last Yankee world championship, the perception is Torre “let” inferior teams like the Diamondbacks, Angels, Marlins and finally the hated Red Sox overcome the Yankees because Torre made bad decisions. There’s nothing more painful and infuriating than watching your father fail in front of everyone else.

After years of raging against him, it started to sink in that he was really going to leave. George Steinbrenner had promised to fire him if they didn’t win the playoff series with the Indians, and they didn’t win it. Some Bronx Banter posters were already discussing whether Joe Girardi or Don Mattingly should replace him, but most of them refused to play. The unimaginable was happening. It was Joe’s last game. Continue reading

Trying to Beat Somebody with Nobody

Matt Bai’s excellent reporting on the netroots — a term he scrupulously avoids in a story that is meant to show the growing influence of the West Coast on the Democratic Party — contains the kernel of what I predict will be the movement’s ultimate frustration:

That these new progressives don’t have a West Coast politician to represent them in the Iowa caucuses is in keeping with the point of their entire movement. The progressive uprising inside the Democratic Party isn’t about trading in one group of politicians for another; it is about building a party in which politicians in general matter less. In their view, the 20th century may have been all about candidates dispersing their messages to the populace through the bullhorn of paid media ads, but the 21st century is about the populace sending its message to the politicians, thanks to the democratization of the online world. Who leads the charge at the top of the ticket hardly matters, as long as he (or she) says what the progressives want to hear.

“A party in which politicians in general matter less” is not the kind of party that can succeed in America.  We do not have a parliamentary system.  As of now, we pick our candidates, Democrat and Republican, through primaries.  There is no effective mechanism of party discipline, particularly on presidential candidates. 

If the movement Bai describes is so powerful, how is it that the Internet-based progressives’ favored candidate, John Edwards, is running a distant third to the candidate the progressives dislike most, Hillary Clinton?  (The Republicans are facing a similar quandary:  Their most popular candidate, Rudy Guiliani, only agrees with some of the GOP’s bedrock principles.  Liberal northeastern Republicanism was supposedly dying, but Guiliani might wind up as the most liberal Republican presidential candidate since Theodore Roosevelt.) 

Bai tries to demonstrate the progressive movement’s power this way: Continue reading