Alex Acosta has resigned. Now, how about Cy Vance?

As a result of the fallout over the deal his office cut with pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta has resigned.  That’s a good thing.

Now, how about Cy Vance?

If not for the man’s name and his parentage, Cyrus Vance, Jr. would just be another obscure attorney in New York.  Because he was born with the right connections, Cy Vance is now Manhattan’s district attorney.  Since that time, his record has been one of putting the poor in jail while looking the other way for the rich and powerful.  Along with not pursuing a case against Harvey Weinstein (until the pressure of public opinion forced him to do do), Vance’s office also continually sought reduced sex offender status for Jeffrey Epstein.  Looking over Vance’s record, it is easy to see a pattern where, as long as you had enough money and influence, you could get away with almost anything.  Instead of protecting the victims, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has a history of protecting the predators.

By all means, Acosta should have resigned.  New York’s Democratic Party should pressure Cy Vance to follow his example.

I Need To Re-Read Ball Four

I just heard that Jim Bouton died yesterday.  Bouton was a major league baseball pitcher who played from 1962 to 1978 and he was also occasionally an actor.  He played the key supporting role of Terry Lennox in Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye (1973).

What Bouton is best known for is writing a book called Ball Four.  Ball Four was a memoir of the 1969 MLB season, during which Bouton pitched for both the Seattle Pilots (in their only season of existence) and the Houston Astros.  Ball Four was controversial when it was first published because Bouton basically didn’t hold anything back.  He wrote about popping pills.  He wrote about all of the casual racism that was still present even during the civil rights era and long after Jackie Robinson integrated baseball.  He wrote about Mickey Mantle’s drinking and he also wrote about politics, religion, and everything that was going on in the country in 1969.  (Bouton was a liberal, a nonbeliever, and an intellectual, which made him the odd man out on most baseball teams.)  Bouton is also very honest about his own struggles during the season and the feeling that he was in decline as a pitcher.

It’s been a while since I read Ball Four but I remember being really impressed by it.  I guess it’s time for me to dig through my collection of paperbacks and give Ball Four another read.

If You Haven’t Ever Watched The Larry Sanders Show….

…you should.

The Larry Sanders Show aired on HBO from 1992 to 1998 and it was one of the funniest shows in the history of television.  It was also one of the most influential.  I think this was the first show in which celebrities would often appear as themselves and then act like total assholes.  Before The Larry Sanders Show, most celebrities appeared as idealized versions of themselves.  After The Larry Sanders Show, it became more common for celebrities to poke fun at their own image.

The show was dominated by three brilliant performances.  Garry Shandling, Jeffrey Tambor, and Rip Torn all played familiar show business types and what made the show memorable was how fearlessly it dug into how screwed up each of them were.  Shandling played insecure talk show host, Larry Sanders.  Tambor was Hank “Hey Now!” Kingsley, the sidekick whose main talent was not having enough talent to overshadow the host.  Best of all, Rip Torn was Artie, the producer who knew everyone who was anyone and who could turn profanity into poetry.  Sadly, both Shandling and Torn are no longer with us.  Meanwhile, Tambor’s career seems to be over, the result of the type of #MeToo revelations that probably would have taken down Hank Kingsley as well.

What was the best episode of The Larry Sanders Show?  I’d have to go with Hank’s Sex Tape overall.  If you want to see a great Rip Torn episode, watch Arthur After Hours.

I guess because they both aired for in the 90s and featured a cast of self-centered neurotics, I always thought of The Larry Sanders Show as being a companion show to Seinfeld.  Curb Your Enthusiasm feels like the child of both of them.

Ross Perot Is Gone But His Legacy Lives On

Ross Perot, who ran for President in 1992 and 1996, has died at the age of 89.

My father voted for Ross Perot twice.  I was too young to really pay attention to the election of 1992 but, by the time 1996 had rolled around, I had started to get into following politics and elections.  I can still remember watching Ross Perot accepting the first Reform Party nomination while former Colorado Governor Richard Lamm and Ed Zschau (the Congressman who would have Lamm’s pick for his running mate if Lamm had won the Reform nomination) stood in the background and tried to figure out what had just happened.

Perot was one of the first presidential candidates to campaign on the idea that he was so rich that he wouldn’t be beholden to special interests and his success undoubtedly led to many other nontraditional candidates looking at the presidential race and thinking, “Why not me?”  Perot was big into fiscal responsibility and he didn’t have any of Donald Trump’s personal baggage but it’s still easy to draw a line from the national anger that propelled Perot’s 1992 campaign to Donald Trump’s victory in 2016.  Perot and Trump’s voters both felt they were being screwed by the system and that Washington D.C. had no interest in the lives of regular Americans.

(Donald Trump’s first official foray into elective politics was when he briefly ran for the Reform Party presidential nomination in 2000.)

On the same day that Perot died, billionaire Tom Steyer announced that he was running for the Democratic presidential nomination.  Steyer may not have wide name recognition or a base of support.  He may be entering the crowded race late and he’s already missed the first debate and it’s doubtful he’ll be invited to the second.  But what Steyer does have is two very important things:  a belief that, despite having no political experience, he can do a better job than the people who do and  a personal fortune to spend on his campaign.  Ross Perot may be gone but the legacy of his campaign lives on.

Eric Swalwell Is Out

Eric Swalwell, braving the New York winter to get a cup of coffee at a location not owned by the Trump family

If you had money on Eric Swalwell being the first Democratic presidential candidate to withdraw from the race …. well, you lost.  That honor actually goes to former West Virginia State Senator Richard Ojeda, who announced for President in November of 2018 and then dropped out in January, long before Swalwell even announced he was running.

(If you’re asking, “Who is Richard Ojeda?,” you’ve pinpointed the reason why his presidential campaign only lasted a month and a half.)

Eric Swalwell is, however, the first candidate to drop out after the first round of Democratic debates.  Ironically, Swalwell didn’t do that badly at the debates.  Though he was overshadowed by Kamala Harris, he was the first candidate to suggest that it was time for Joe Biden to pass the torch to a younger generation.  Swalwell may not have set the stage on fire but he still did considerably better than Beto O’Rourke or Michael Bennet.

As a candidate, Swalwell focused on youth and guns.  That approach previously helped him build up a following online but it never made much of a dent in the polls.  Swalwell was best known for claiming that the Democrats were the Avengers and the Republicans were the Hunger Games, which always led me to speculate that he hadn’t seen either film.  On the right, Swalwell was notorious for telling a pro-2A activist on twitter that a civil war over gun control would be short because the government has nukes.  While Swalwell was obviously trying to make a joke, bragging about being able to use nuclear weapons is never a good way to win a debate with someone who claims that the government can’t be trusted.

Swalwell’s withdrawal is not a surprise.  After the first debate, he said that if he didn’t start to poll higher than 0% in the polls, he would probably have to drop out and run for reelection to the House.  Since Swalwell’s district is in California, he’ll probably have his seat for a while to come.

Swalwell was first elected to the U.S. House in 2012.  Interestingly enough, he was elected over another Democrat, 20-term incumbent Pete Stark.  (Because of California’s jungle primary, the top two vote getters in the primary move on to the general election, regardless of party.)  At the time, Stark accuses Swalwell of being a member of the “Tea Party,” which is even more humorous when you consider the efforts to which Swalwell went to shore up his woke credentials during his presidential campaign.  It is true, though, that many Republicans were happy to see Swalwell defeat Stark, who had a reputation for being one of the biggest pricks in Congress.  (Stark famously called one female colleague “a whore” and referred to a Jewish congressman as being “Field Marshal Solarz in the pro-Israel army.”)

Swalwell leaving the presidential race brings the number of “major” Democratic candidates down to 24 but rumor has it that billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer will be announcing his candidacy tomorrow.  

One Of My Favorite Comic Book Moments: Alex Ross Brings Spider-Man To Life In Marvels

It’s Sunday and I really don’t feel like writing anything today so, instead, I’m going to share one of my favorite comic book moments.  This is from the 4th issue of 1994’s Marvels, in which Kurt Busiek reimagined the early history of the Marvel Universe through the eyes of photographer, Phil Sheldon.  The artwork is by the amazing Alex Ross.

On this page, Spider-Man is climbing up the Daily Bugle.  That’s something that happened frequently in Spider-Man’s own comics but Marvels was the first comic to capture what it would be like for the ordinary people inside the building to suddenly look over and see Spider-Man climbing up the outside windows.  Long before any of the movies were released or the PS4 game meticulously recreated New York, this page from Marvels made Spider-Man seem real.

Is Mike Gravel Ending His Presidential Campaign?

It sure sounds like it.

We shouldn’t be too surprised.  Gravel is one of the few people to announce his candidacy for a major party’s presidential nomination by saying that he wasn’t running to win.  He was running to get invited to the debates and “critique American imperialism.”  Some people on twitter described Gravel’s campaign as being “elder abuse” and felt that the 89 year-old former senator was being manipulated the two teenage Chapo Traphouse fans who were running his account.  But, for those of us who remember 2008, there wasn’t much difference between Gravel’s previous presidential campaign and this one.

I didn’t agree with Gravel on many issues but he was an unpredictable and uninhibited debater in 2008 and I was hoping he’d make it onto the stage at least once during this campaign.  I’m guessing the hardest hit by Gravel’s withdrawal will be Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, who no longer have a candidate in this race who makes them look young by comparison.

UPDATE:  Here’s more from Gravel’s twitter:

Robert Blake on 20/20

Last night, 20/20 did a story on the career of Robert Blake and the murder of his 2nd wife, Bonnie Lee Blakely.  Considering that Blake has not acted since 1997 and was acquitted of killing his wife 18 years ago, never let it be said that 20/20 is no longer a relevant news program.

I know Robert Blake best for his performance in Lost Highway and a bizarre appearance that he made on an episode of The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder in June of 1997.  The interview, in which Blake rambled that he had a message for someone who he would not name, was strange enough that I can still remember seeing it over 20 years later.  As The New York Post‘s Austin Smith wrote in 2001, after Blake was charged with murder, the actor had a history of memorable talk show appearances.

Unfortunately, Blake will always be best known for being accused of murdering his wife.  He was acquitted at his criminal trial but found liable in a civil case.  Blake was one of three celebrities to be accused of murder and, while I’ve always believed that O.J. Simpson and Phil Spector were guilty, I’ve always felt that Blake probably wasn’t.  At the very least, I thought there was a stronger case for reasonable doubt than in the Simpson and Spector cases.

One thing that last night’s 20/20 did remind us of was that Blake could really act, which is something that has gotten lost in all of his subsequent infamy.  Even though I think In Cold Blood is stolen by Scott Wilson, Blake still gives a very good performance as the more neurotic of the two murderers and his pre-execution monologue is a classic scene.  He was also great in Electra Glide In Blue.  Blake also turned down roles in some huge movies.  He could have very easily have played Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy.  Even before his murder trial, Blake was an actor who was often his own worst enemy.  If not for his demons, he’d probably have a career similar to Robert Forster’s right now.

Robert Blake, upholding the Law in Electra Glide In Blue. Yes, that’s Nick Nolte in the background.

Is Justin Amash running for President?

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (I–MI)

I have no idea.

I do know that, for a while now, there have been rumors that Michigan Congressman Justin Amash is considering running for the Libertarian presidential nomination.  Yesterday, Amash, who is the only GOP member of Congress to call for President Trump’s impeachment, announced in a Washington Post op-ed that he was leaving the Republican Party and would be serving in Congress as an independent.  He did not say that he would be joining the Libertarian Party and an aide said that Amash would be running for reelection to the House, as an independent, in 2020.  Of course, every congressperson says that until they either retire, get indicted, or run for higher office.

If Amash is considering running for President, the main appeal of winning the Libertarian nomination is that he would be nearly guaranteed to appear on the ballot in all fifty states.  The main drawback would be that Libertarian conventions are unpredictable and there’s no guarantee that the delegates would embrace a candidate who hasn’t even been a part of the party until election time.  (Even Gary Johnson, the most successful LP presidential candidate to date, had his detractors in the party.)  Does Justin Amash want to run the risk of ending his career as an also-ran to John McAfee or Vermin Supreme?

(For what it’s worth, it appears that there is a group of Libertarian activists who are lobbying for a Justin Amash/Tulsi Gabbard presidential ticket.)

There’s an established history of disgruntled Republican politicians finding their way onto the Libertarian presidential ticket.  If Amash did end up on the ticket, he would be following in the footsteps of Ron Paul, Bob Barr, Gary Johnson, and Bill Weld.  Though not a Republican, former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel also made a brief run for the 2008 Libertarian presidential nomination.  (This year, Weld is back to running as a Republican and Gravel is back to running as a Democrat.)  If Amash did win the Libertarian nomination, he would be the first sitting congressman to make a third party presidential bid since John Anderson in 1980.

Who would Amash hurt that most if he ran for President, Trump or the Democratic nominee?  The conventional wisdom is that Libertarians always take away votes from Republicans but, in Trump’s case, that might not be true.  Trump has a solid base of supporters who are going to vote for him no matter what.  Meanwhile, there are people who are going to vote Blue no matter who the nominee turns out to be.  Amash seems likely to appeal to voters who dislike Trump but aren’t comfortable with the idea of voting for someone they feel leans too far to the left.  Along with the voters who always support the Libertarian nominee regardless, Amash seems likely to be supported by the people who, if the race was solely between Donald Trump and someone like Elizabeth Warren, would otherwise stay home.

Personally, I don’t see what Amash has to lose by running for President.  He’s cut his ties with the GOP and the Democrats who applaud him for criticizing Trump will never forgive him for opposing both abortion and gun control.  He’s politically homeless in Congress so why not run for President?  If Evan McMullin could do it…