Monday, April 16, 2012

The sordid history of VP picks

All that is left now in the presidential race is for Mitt Romney to pick his vice presidential candidate. That an a lot of polling and horserace reporting.
But while VP picks tend not to have a significant impact on an election outcome, I still find it intriguing how we seem recently to have had a whole string of really wretched and horrific VP picks by both parties - Dan Quayle, Joe Lieberman, Sarah Palin, John Edwards....
But it didn’t used to be that way. The VP slot used to be considered the on deck circle for the presidency with Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon all being prime examples. During modern times, you might turn back to Richard Nixon’s first VP choice of Spiro Agnew as an example of a bad choice. But I don’t think it was considered a bad pick at first, but only after the scandals that came in Nixon’s second term that led to Gerald Ford becoming the first person to ever assume the presidency without ever having been voted on by the electorate.
There were not a lot of problems with VP choices back then - George McGovern’s choice of Thomas Eagleton being a rare exception. Walter Mondale, tapped by Jimmy Carter, went on to win his party’s nomination for president. Reagan’s choice of George Bush launched a political dynasty. Even Mondale’s choice of Geraldine Ferraro was seen as a politically smart move at the time.
So the real trouble seems to have started with Dan Quayle who was instantly panned the moment he stepped into the limelight. And even though Bush won anyway, Quayle was not able to build up any political capital out of his tenure as VP and saw his post-VP presidential campaign flameout almost unnoticed by the political mainstream.
However, Mike Dukakis’ choice of Lloyd Bentsen was almost universally praised, even though it did not help him win the election. And the next set of VP candidates - Al Gore and Jack Kemp - were considered good choices all around.
Then in 2000 we had Al Gore choosing the conservative Joe Lieberman while Dick Cheney chose himself to be VP for George W. Bush. In retrospect, Lieberman was a lousy choice for Gore and may have cost him the election. Cheney, on the other hand, while considered to be one of the worst VPs of all time by most liberals, proved to be highly influential and powerful in office as opposed to the hapless and largely ineffectual Quayle.
And even though Lieberman did everything he could afterwards to stab his party in the back, he was not as bad of a choice in retrospect as John Edwards was for John Kerry. We now know that Edwards was carrying on an affair at the time that has since landed him in court facing felony counts of misuse of campaign funds.
Not to be outdone, however, Republicans turned around the next election and chose Sarah Palin, who managed to turn herself into a political celebrity even as the presidential ticket she was on crashed and burned.
Presently, despite the best efforts of Republicans to characterize Barack Obama’s VP as a loose cannon, Joe Biden has proved to be a pretty steady and reliable asset to the campaign.
So now all eyes will be on Romney as he weeds through a long list of potential VP picks looking for one that could satisfy the Tea Party base without scaring away even more moderates - assuming there are any left at this point.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Little League Baseball

My son's Little League Baseball team is doing terrific this year. They currently have the best record in the Machine Pitch division of North Side Little League.
Until last night they were undefeated after 8 games, but they finally had an off-night. The first run through the batting order everyone struck out and the team fell behind 4-0. And yet, they still managed to nearly come back in the last inning and ended up only losing by one run.
Nathan got a hit his second time up that scored a runner from third, however he got sloppy running the bases and ended up getting picked off at second.
But tonight's game was completely different. Tonight they played the second best team in the league and walked away with it. The final score was 17-8, but only because we gave away 4 runs in the last inning.
Nathan got a hit every time up to bat, but only scored once. In his last at bat he hit a clear double - not a single where he advances to second on a throwing error which is very common at this age - but a solid hit that went all the way into the outfield and allowed him to run to second before they got it back in. I only hit one double the entire time I played Little League and I played all through junior high school. Nathan is only in the third grade.
Nathan's team is the Nationals, which ironically is one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball. The second best team is the Cubs.
Machine Pitch ball can be rough. The machine pitches the ball hard and fast every time. You have five chances to hit the ball and there are no walks. The only way to get on base is to hit the ball. But tonight, everyone was hitting the ball. We had a small team - 8 kids, just enough to field a team without being disqualified - because three kids were gone for Easter Break. That meant that they went through the batting order quicker. I think Nathan got to bat four or five times, whereas the night before he only batted twice.
The first time up, Nathan was able to drive in a run even though they got him out at first. Later on in the game, however, he kept coming up to bat with the bases empty because the kid in front of him kept hitting home runs. That was Andrew, the team slugger and the coach's son. Andrew had a fantastic night hitting three back-to-back-to-back home runs over the fence.
Isabel has been having a good time playing baseball too. She is in her third year of T-Ball and is enjoying it. In T-Ball they don't keep score and everyone gets to bat and play in the field each inning. Isabel can hit the ball pretty solidly every time off the tee and get on base. I've been pitching to her in the batting cages lately and am impressed with how well she can swing the bat and hit the ball. I think she will do fine moving up to machine pitch next year if she wants to keep going.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

John Wayne films

I’ve been watching John Wayne movies lately. Just watched the Howard Hawks-directed trio of Rio Bravo and its two variations - El Dorado and Rio Lobo - in sequential order. 
They are all good in their own way. If I had to combine them, I would take the Dean Martin character from Rio Bravo; the James Caan character from El Dorado and the Jack Elam character from Rio Lobo.
Maybe because Deano is more believable as a recovering alcoholic, but I think he bests Robert Mitchum in the role as the down-and-out lawman who the Duke helps out. But then the young James Caan as the knife-wielding "Mississippi" out does the guitar-strumming Ricky Nelson as "Colorado" in Rio Bravo. And the wild-eyed Jack Elam is in top form as the crusty old guy with the itchy trigger finger who helps to guard the prisoner.

That got me to thinking about my John Wayne movie collection which is substantial but nowhere near complete. I own the following John Wayne movies on DVD:
Rooster Cogburn (‘75)
Big Jake (‘71)
Rio Lobo (‘70)
True Grit (‘69)
The Undefeated (‘69)
The War Wagon (‘67)
El Dorado (‘66)
In Harm’s Way (‘65)
The Sons of Katie Elder (‘65)
McLintock (‘63)
Donovan’s Reef (‘63)
Hatari! (‘62)
How the West Was Won (‘62)
Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (‘62)
The Comancheros (‘61)
The Alamo (‘60)
North to Alaska (‘60)
Rio Bravo (‘59)
The Searchers (‘56)
The Sea Chase (‘55)
Blood Alley (‘55)
The High and the Mighty (‘54)
Island in the Sky (‘53)
Hondo (‘53)
The Quiet Man (‘52)
Rio Grande (‘50)
Angel and the Badman (‘47)

Plus the following movies in a 4-disc collection:
Hell Town (‘37)
Winds of the Wasteland (‘36)
Paradise Canyon (‘35)
Rainbow Valley (‘35)
Texas Terror (‘35)
The Dawn Rider (‘35)
The Desert Trail (‘35)
Blue Steel (‘34)
‘Neath the Arizona Skies (‘34)
The Lawless Frontier (‘34)
The Lucky Texan (‘34)
The Man From Utah (‘34)
The Star Packer (‘34)
The Trail Beyond (‘34)
Randy Rides Alone (‘34)
West of the Divide (‘34)
Riders of Destiny (‘33)
Sagebrush Trail (‘33) 
Desert Command (‘33) (‘46)
His Private Secretary (‘33)
Shadow of the Eagle (‘32)
The Hurricane Express (‘32)

There are many more Wayne movies.
The ones at the top of my want list include:

Red River (‘48)
Stagecoach (‘39)
They Were Expendable (‘45)
Fort Apache (‘48)
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (‘49)
Sands of Iwo Jima (‘49)
The Horse Soldiers (‘59)
Flying Leathernecks (‘51)
The Fighting Seabees (‘44)
Back to Bataan (‘45)
Operation Pacific (‘51)
The Shootist (‘76)
Brannigan (‘75)
McQ (‘74)
Cahill: U.S. Marshall (‘73)
The Cowboys (‘72)
Green Berets (‘68)
Chisum (‘70)
Hellfighters (‘68)
The Train Robbers (‘73)
Legend of the Lost (‘57)
The Fighting Kentuckian (‘49)
Wake of the Red Witch (‘48)
Flames of the Barbary Coast (‘44)
Dakota (‘45)
Tall in the Saddle (‘44)
A Lady Takes a Chance (‘43)
The Spoilers (‘42)
In Old California (‘42)
Flying Tigers (‘42)
The Dark Command (‘40)
The Three Godfathers (‘48)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Movie List 2011

I'm late getting my year end movie list up.
 Here are the 2011 movies I have seen so far:
 Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
 Cars 2
 Captain America: The First Avenger
Kung Fu Panda 2
The Smurfs
Super 8
Winnie the Pooh

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
 Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Puss in Boots
X-Men First Class
 Cowboys and Aliens
 The Muppets
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Adventures of Tintin
War Horse
We Bought a Zoo
Arthur Christmas

 And here are the movies I expect that I will see eventually:

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
 The Help
Midnight in Paris
 J. Edgar