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Archive for January, 2020

I’m not going to write about every day’s developments in President Trump’s impeachment trial, but I can’t resist writing about the first day, which went so long it bled from Tuesday into today.

And who was the star of the first day? Well, it was the same person who was the congressional star of the House Intelligence Committee hearings on Trump’s impeachment — U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff.

As you probably know by now, the Senate on Tuesday — and early today — debated and rejected one proposed amendment after another put forward by the House prosecution managers, led by Schiff. On each amendment, the vote was the same: 53 to 47, with the 53 Republicans voting “no” and the 47 Democrats voting “yes.”

As repetitive as the formula was, I kept watching the proceedings past midnight. The Democratic case managers’ oratorical onslaught kept me glued. (Some of you must be wondering if I’m pretty easily entertained.)

Pat Cipollone

The highlight for me came just before and after midnight (1 a.m. Washington time) after White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said this while arguing against a Democratic amendment to subpoena former National Security Adviser John Bolton to testify…

“President Trump is a man of his word. He made promises to the American people. And he delivered over and over and over again.”

When the words “President Trump is a man of his word” left his mouth, I laughed out loud.

After recovering, I thought that would be the end of it — an incredibly stupid statement that would soon be forgotten.

I should have known better though; I should have known Schiff would not, could not, resist that juicy piece of red meat.

In rebuttal, Schiff made a few unremarkable comments before turning to Cipollone’s jaw-dropping statement.

Here’s what Schiff said…

Finally, Mr. Cipollone says President Trump is a man of his word. Well, it’s too late in the evening for me to go into that one, except to say this: President Trump gave his word he would drain the swamp…And what have we seen? We’ve seen is personal lawyer (Michael Cohen) go to jail; his campaign chairman (Paul Manafort) go to jail; his deputy campaign chairman (Rick Gates) convicted of a different crime; his associate’s (Rudolph Giuliani’s) associate, Lev Parnas, under indictment.

The list goes on and on. That’s, I guess, how you drain the swamp: You have all your people go to jail.

I don’t think that’s really what was meant by that expression. But for purposes of why we’re here today, how does someone who promises to drain the swamp coerce an ally of ours into doing a political investigation? That is the swamp. That’s not draining the swamp, that’s exporting the swamp.

**

Despite losing every vote, it was a great day for the Democrats and another big step toward wresting the White House from Trump. As Jonathan Alter, a columnist for The Daily Beast, said on MSNBC, the Democratic managers outgunned the Republican managers all day. Regarding Schiff in particular, Alter said: “I think it will go down as one of the great performances…He just shreds the other side very time he gets up.”

Thanks, Adam. And thank you, Pat Cipollone, for being such a convenient and willing straight man.

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The New York Times significantly ratcheted up the prospects of a woman being elected president this year when it endorsed on Sunday U.S. senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar for the Democratic nomination.

Even though the two women’s politics are at odds — with Warren being on the progressive end and Klobuchar being in the moderate wing — The Times’ made a logical case for why either could be successful…

“There are legitimate questions about whether our democratic system is fundamentally broken. Our elections are getting less free and fair, Congress and the courts are increasingly partisan, foreign nations are flooding society with misinformation, a deluge of money flows through our politics. And the economic mobility that made the American dream possible is vanishing.

“Both the radical and the realist models warrant serious consideration. If there were ever a time to be open to new ideas, it is now. If there were ever a time to seek stability, now is it.

“That’s why we’re endorsing the most effective advocates for each approach. They are Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar.”

(Note: The endorsement came out online Sunday. In today’s, Monday’s, print edition, the endorsement editorial consumes both the editorial page and the Op-Ed page.)

Don’t underestimate the significance of this endorsement. With the power and influence of major metropolitan papers greatly diminished and that of the three most prestigious national papers (NYT, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal) correspondingly strengthened, millions of Democrats will take note and at least give closer looks to Warren and Klobuchar.

The Times’ editorial board has spent the last couple of weeks interviewing all the Democratic candidates, and in an excellent public service, The Times recorded the interviews and posted them online.

The Times wasted no time in following up the interviews with its endorsement. The caucus/primary season gets underway two weeks from today, with the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses.

The paper acknowledged that its endorsement would probably surprise many people, but, again, it was careful to explain its digression from past approaches…

“The history of the editorial board would suggest that we would side squarely with the candidate with a more traditional approach to pushing the nation forward, within the realities of a constitutional framework and a multiparty country. But the events of the past few years have shaken the confidence of even the most committed institutionalists. We are not veering away from the values we espouse, but we are rattled by the weakness of the institutions that we trusted to undergird those values.”

I’m not sure what all institutions the editorial was referring to, but it could be interpreted as taking a shot at the Democratic Party machinery for going along with the “comfortable” candidate in 2016, Hillary Clinton, when Sen. Bernie Sanders was generating much more excitement and captivating millions with his anti-establishment rhetoric and bold agenda.

**

The Times was careful to explain why it passed over Sanders and each of the other leading Democratic contenders:

Sanders is too uncompromising: “He promises that once in office, a groundswell of support will emerge to push through his agenda. Three years into the Trump administration, we see little advantage to exchanging one over-promising, divisive figure in Washington for another.”

Pete Buttigieg is too green: “He shows tremendous promise, though he has never won more than 11,000 votes in any election. His showing in the lead-up to the primaries predicts a bright political future; we look forward to him working his way up.”

Andrew Yang is similarly unprepared: “He points to new solutions to 21st-century challenges rather than retrofitting old ideas. Yet he has virtually no experience in government. We hope he decides to get involved in New York politics.”

Michael Bloomberg is trying to buy the nomination: “Rather than build support through his ideas and experience, Mr. Bloomberg has spent at least $217 million to date to circumvent the hard, uncomfortable work of actual campaigning.”

Joe Biden is too old and not bold enough: “But merely restoring the status quo will not get America where it needs to go as a society. What’s more, Mr. Biden is 77. It is time for him to pass the torch to a new generation of political leaders.”

**

And why, more specifically, did The Times chose Warren and Klobuchar?

Klobuchar is down to earth and pragmatic:

“Amy Klobuchar has emerged as a standard-bearer for the Democratic center. Her vision goes beyond the incremental. Given the polarization in Washington and beyond, the best chance to enact many progressive plans could be under a Klobuchar administration.

“The senator from Minnesota is the very definition of Midwestern charisma, grit and sticktoitiveness. Her lengthy tenure in the Senate and bipartisan credentials would make her a deal maker (a real one) and uniter for the wings of the party — and perhaps the nation.”

Warren is authentic and inspirational:

“Senator Warren is a gifted storyteller. She speaks elegantly of how the economic system is rigged against all but the wealthiest Americans, and of ‘our chance to rewrite the rules of power in our country,’ as she put it in a speech last month. In her hands, that story has the passion of a convert, a longtime Republican from Oklahoma and a middle-class family, whose work studying economic realities left her increasingly worried about the future of the country. The word ‘rigged’ feels less bombastic than rooted in an informed assessment of what the nation needs to do to reassert its historic ideals like fairness, generosity and equality.”

**

Let the primary season get underway, then, and, as The Times said in closing its editorial, “May the best woman win.”

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It’s not often that news of the death of a very well-known person can be kept quiet for more than a week, but it happened this week and last.

I learned about the death of former Walmart CEO and former Kansas City Royals owner David Glass from a story posted this afternoon on The Star’s website.

Just as surprising to me about his death — there had been no reports of ill health — was the fact that he died on Jan. 9 — eight days ago.

The Star’s report said he had died of “complications associated with pneumonia” but did not say where he died.

I presume he died in or near Bentonville, AR, his home. He was 84.

I have no idea what the Glass family had in mind when they decided to withhold news of his death, but it is, indeed, strange.

The fact that they were able to keep it quiet has a lot to do with where he lived. Northwest Arkansas, which revolves around the towns of Fayetteville, Bentonville, Rogers and Springdale, is pretty insular. Although Bentonville is home to Walmart, which Glass formerly headed, and Fayetteville is home to the University of Arkansas, Northwest Arkansas is a bit isolated.

At the same time, several people in Kansas City almost surely would have known about his death about the time it occurred. Glass had a close relationship with Royals General Manager Dayton Moore, and Glass’s son Dan has been — and still is, I presume — president of the Royals. Others who I would think would have known were John Sherman, leader of a local group that bought the Royals from Glass last year, and George Brett.

It is a mystery to me how Glass’s death got by the media. The two main organizations I would have expected to have the news last week were The Star and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette. But neither did.

The Star has a full-time Royals “beat” writer, Lynn Worthy. Where was he? In addition, columnists Sam Mellinger and Vahe Gregorian are well connected to Royals’ brass, and I would think someone would have tipped one of them. In fairness, they and most of The Star’s sports staff have been singularly focused on the Chiefs and their attempted run at their first Super Bowl in 50 years. Worthy, on the other hand, has no excuse: He has been covering Royals’ developments during the off season and has not been involved in Chiefs’ coverage.

In the bigger picture, the media’s inability to sniff out Glass’s death earlier could well be due to the massive contraction in the newspaper industry, particularly at the metro level. Metro papers almost everywhere are having big troubles. The Star’s owner, the McClatchy Co., is on the verge of reorganization or bankruptcy, and its focus is on its survival and what the future holds for the company itself as much as what’s going on in the world.

**

Death is always sudden, but this is another instance of how time slips away…I have this mental image of Glass as an energetic, burly, craggy faced guy. But a photo I came across of him in the Royals’ dugout around the time former manager Ned Yost announced his retirement shows him to be very thin, almost emaciated.

Glass with Ned Yost and TV sports reporter Karen Kornacki.

Glass announced his intention to sell the Royals to the Sherman group for about $1 billion last August. (Glass told The Star then he had no known or immediate health problems.) In September, Yost announced he would retire at the end of the season. That’s when this photo was taken.

Glass’ connection with the Royals officially ended Nov. 21, when Major League Baseball owners approved the sale of the team to the Sherman group.

Relatively speaking, it seems like an eternity between Jan. 9, when Glass died, and today, when the Glass family announced his death.

This looks like the Glass family’s biggest and final victory — sitting on news of the patriarch’s death for eight long days. Why the delay? We’ll probably never know.

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The Star has two special sections on the Chiefs today, and one of them, contrasting the members of the 1969-70 championship team with the 2019-2020 team, was particularly interesting.

Some of the Super Bowl IV players who were highlighted included defensive tackle Buck Buchanan, tight end Fred Arbanas, safety Johnny Robinson, wide receiver Otis Taylor, linebacker Bobby Bell, kicker Jan Stenerud, and, of course, quarterback Len Dawson.

Over time, those players and many of the others from that team became legendary, awesome figures. Bigger than life-size, they were towering icons, looming high above us average, toiling mortals.

I had arrived in Kansas City to work for The Star in September 1969, and, to tell you the truth, I wasn’t caught up in the magic of that season. I was mostly caught up in my new job and getting settled in my new city. I don’t recall even watching the Chiefs games on TV that season, although I’m sure I must have watched the Super Bowl, assuming I wasn’t pulling a Sunday shift at 18th and Grand that day.

What I do remember is that when the championship parade took place a day or two after the Super Bowl victory over the Minnesota Vikings, the parade went right by the east windows of The Star building, along Grand Avenue. Everyone in the newsroom went over to the tall east-side windows and watched parts of the parade go by.

For me, the members of that team didn’t become legendary until I started going to games in the early 1970s and the Super Bowl heroes began retiring one at a time. It was hard to see them step out of the limelight. I met a few of them over the years, and I have clear memories of others.

Today, as the Chiefs try to take another step toward what would be their second Super Bowl, here are a few of my faint connections to and memories of some of those phenomenal figures…

Mo Moorman

Mo Moorman and I went to the same high school, St. Xavier in Louisville, KY. He was the star of our team, which won the state championship in 1962. I never met Mo, a hulking guard, but I remember an incident that occurred one day after school. Moorman and another kid got into it and were mouthing at each other. The other kid, much smaller than Mo, pried a hubcap off a car and got set to go after Mo. About that time, the football coach, Johnny Meihaus, came upon the dust-up and restored the peace. Mo went on to attend Texas A&M, and was the Chiefs’ first-round draft choice in 1968. In the Super Bowl, he threw the key block on the famous “65 Toss Power Trap” that Coach Hank Stram called on the sidelines and then chortled about as he was mic’d for sound on national TV. (In the video, Moorman, No. 76, is the right guard who pulls out to the left and opens a big hole for running back Mike Garrett.) After retiring, Moorman returned to Louisville and became a successful beer distributor. Now retired, he still lives in the Louisville area.

Fred Arbanas

I got to know Fred in the early ’70s, after he was elected to the Jackson County Legislature, which I covered for The Star from 1971 to 1978. He was always friendly and cooperative — a good guy to cover as a reporter. The most amazing thing about Arbanas as a football player is that he played the bulk of his career, and did well, with just one eye. In today’s special section, reporter Blair Kerkhoff says Arbanas “lost sight in one eye in an accident.” Well, it was hardly an accident. Arbanas told me the story…He was outside a bar on the southeast corner of Armour and Troost — the bar was called either King Arthur’s Round Table or Knights Round Table — when a guy approached him and said, “Are you Fred Arbanas?” Arbanas said, “Yes,” and extended his hand to shake the man’s hand. Instead of returning the gesture in kind, the man took a big swing at Arbanas and struck him in the eye. It was a sucker punch that cost Arbanas the sight of one eye. Arbanas lives in eastern Jackson County

Buck Buchanan

I met Buck sometime in the 1990s, after the Chiefs had qualified for the playoffs for the first time since the glory years. I was doing a story on Chiefs’ owner Lamar Hunt, who allowed me to accompany him as he greeted tailgaters in the parking lot before a playoff game and then to join him in his suite at Arrowhead. Buchanan and his wife Georgia were among those in the suite, and I got to meet them. I remember Buck being humble and friendly and smiling. I knew he was associated with the Black Chamber of Commerce at the time, and I asked him if he was president of the organization. “Oh, no,” he replied, “I’m just the chairman.” (Later, Buck was the subject of one of the most ridiculous reporting errors that ever appeared in The Star. Features columnist Hearne Christopher reported that Buck was the designer of a Japanese garden outside a home at 66th and Ward Parkway. In fact, the designer was a landscaper named Buck Buchan.) Buck Buchanan died of lung cancer in 1992 at age 51.

Ed Budde

Ed, an offensive guard, was the Chiefs’ first-round draft pick in 1963. In the 1970 Super Bowl, he was able to contain the Vikings’ right defensive tackle, Hall-of-Famer Alan Page. I was at the stadium the day Ed retired in 1976. Summoned to the center of the field, he blew a kiss to the cheering fans on one side of the stadium, then turned around and blew a kiss to the fans on the other side. Several years later, I saw him at a Kentucky Derby and introduced myself. He was with Paul Hornung, a Louisville native who had starred at Notre Dame and then with the Green Bay Packers. I told Ed how much I had enjoyed his kiss-blowing goodbye. He broke into a big smile and said, “Did you like that?” Ed’s son, Brad Budde, played for the Chiefs from 1980 to 1987. Ed and Brad have been the first and only father and son in NFL history to be drafted in the first round by the same team and played the same position. Ed Budde is still alive and, I trust, still living in the Kansas City area.

I hope some of the Chiefs players on the field today become as memorable and legendary as those four Chiefs greats.

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One of the best stories I’ve seen in The Star lately is one written by a Star photographer about a former Star photographer.

Longtime photographer Tammy Ljungblad yesterday posted a story about Roy Inman, who worked for The Star from the late 1960s to the early or mid-1980s. Inman, who lives in Olathe, went on to do very well as a commercial photographer and, at age 78, is still going strong.

I was fortunate enough to work with Inman on one story, a profile I wrote in the early 1970s on the legendary baseball star Ted Williams, who was managing the Washington Senators at the time. The main thing I remember about that interview is that about 30 minutes into it, Williams, who was notoriously testy with the media, turned to me in the visitors’ dugout at Kauffman (then Royals’) Stadium and said: “Aren’t we about through? You’ve got enough to write a book!”

Ljungblad’s story is about Inman convincing Star editors to let him photograph Super Bowl IV on Jan. 11, 1970, when the Chiefs beat the Minnesota Vikings 23-7.

At the time, Inman was a staff photographer for the Star Magazine, the paper’s former Sunday feature magazine. Inman lobbied with Star editors to let him travel from Tampa, where he was shooting a story on the Kansas City Royals’ rookie of the year, outfielder Lou Piniella, to New Orleans to cover the big game.

The Star had other photographers covering the game, but Inman convinced them he could provide a different perspective by focusing on the atmosphere in and around the sidelines. The editors’ decision to approve Inman’s detour turned out to be very wise.

After Inman got back to Kansas City on Monday, the 12th, he and Robert Pearman, then-managing editor of The Kansas City Times (the morning KC Star), reviewed his photos. Several ran in the Tuesday morning paper.

Below are three of those photos…

Note the uniforms and the wholesome, natural look of these Chiefs’ cheerleaders. Note also how the uniform colors blend with the golden color of the evening sky.

Chiefs’ center E.J. Holub wasn’t a bit self-conscious about his missing teeth as he celebrated the team’s victory. (This was the pre-mouth guard era.)

And here was Quarterback Len Dawson, poised to throw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Otis Taylor. This photo ran on the front page of the Tuesday morning paper.

Finally, here are photos of Inman and Tammy Ljungblad…

Thanks to these two great professionals for bringing us this special story and some wonderful, timeless photos.

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I was sitting around reading The New York Times and watching the Patriots-Titans game tonight, when I suddenly got transported back into the 1960s, my favorite decade. (I’m sure many of you fellow Baby Boomers can relate.)

Jack Sheldon

What sent me tumbling into the past was an obit about a big band trumpeter named Jack Sheldon, who died Dec. 27 at age 88. The obit said in part…

Known for his warm rich trumpet sound, Mr. Sheldon was also a busy studio musician, accompanying singers like Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee and playing on the soundtrack of numerous movies. He was a favorite of soundtrack composers like Johnny Mandel — who featured him on “The Shadow of Your Smile,” from the 1965 movie “The Sandpiper” — and Henry Mancini.

The reference to “The Shadow of Your Smile” stopped me cold…That was it for the football game; I was off to the computer, Googling various YouTube versions of that song, which I hadn’t heard or thought about or in maybe decades.

But, God, did I — and do I — remember it. It’s one of the most beautiful and haunting songs ever. A commenter on one YouTube version likened its mesmirizing effect to watching a leaf descending gently, to and fro, from a tall cypress tree.

The movie, starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, came out in 1965. At the time, I was a lost-in-the-world freshman in college back in Lousville. I’d had a rough time in my all-boys, Catholic high school, and the blues persisted in that first year of college. One of the main things that propelled me forward and gave me hope for future happiness was the great music of the ’60s.

In my freshman year at Bellarmine College, I remember one of the priest-teachers at Bellarmine College talking about the power of music in class one day. He looked at me — I was sitting in the front row, as I recall — and said, “Music soothes the soul, doesn’t it, Fitzpatrick?”

“Yes, Father, it does,” I said, nodding in unequivocal agreement.

“The Shadow of Your Smile” is certainly a song that soothes the soul, not only with its lilting melody but the great lyrics (written by Paul Webster), which include these lines…

The shadow of your smile
When you are gone
Will color all my dreams
And light the dawn

Many artists have recorded the song, including Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, Bobby Darin, Barbra Streisand, Astrud Gilberto, Johnny Mathis and Engelbert Humperdink.

It was so good it won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year and the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

The best vocal version I came across tonight was, not surprisingly, Tony Bennett’s. He’s a master, of course, of slow, romantic songs. His phrasing and sense of timing are phenomenal. Time seems to slow down when you listen to a Bennett song.

For three and a half minutes, then, settle back and listen to this…

Even more haunting, if that’s possible, is the original Johnny Mandel arrangement with Jack Sheldon on trumpet. The instrumental version accompanies the opening of the movie, with the credits rolling against scenes of gentle, ocean waves lapping at a rocky shore line.

The effect is overwhelmingly soothing and calming. Relax again now and let this terrific song wash over you and soothe the soul…

 

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