Friday, July 27, 2012


By Jack Random

I didn’t know Alexander Cockburn. When I read his columns I found much to agree with and some significant points of contention but I always found integrity. I admired his irreverence, his fierce independence and his unwavering respect for documented facts.

Alexander Cockburn served no party, no corporate or political entity and owed no allegiance to ideological doctrine. He suffered neither fools nor folly no matter where they originated on the political spectrum. If you took him on, you had better be prepared to defend your position. If he took you on, you had better hunker down and brace for the storm.

For those who are not aware, Alexander Cockburn (pronounced Koh-burn) was the longest running columnist at The Nation (Beat the Devil) and co-editor with Jeffrey St. Clair of CounterPunch. On July 20 (coincidentally my birthday) he died of cancer and the world of political discourse suffered the loss of one of its most poignant voices.

I didn’t know Alexander Cockburn but I believe I owe him a personal debt of gratitude as a writer. In the years leading up to 2000 I was writing fiction, including a contemporary political novel that told the story of an independent organization challenging the dominance of the two-party system. Imbedded in that work was a series of commentaries that I published under the title The Jazzman Chronicles: Volume I.

Then came the stolen election of 2000, the September 11 terrorist attack, the Patriot Act and the relentless march to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. These events rendered my novel impotent if not irrelevant but they aroused my political passion. I published a second volume of the Jazzman Chronicles (The War Chronicles) but discovered that publishing was far too time consuming and financially untenable. As a writer, I wanted to devote my limited time and energy to writing. So I searched for an outlet on the worldwide web.

In those days of mass protest, the largest social uprising since the days of Vietnam, I found a forum for my brand of rabblerousing first at CounterPunch and later at Dissident Voice and Pacific Free Press. Over the years I’ve published hundreds of articles on various sites but in my heart I will always be a CounterPuncher.

There came a time when CounterPunch stopped posting the Chronicles and I stopped submitting. Then, a year or so past, I emailed Mr. Cockburn to ask why. Had I made mistakes? (Of course I had.) Had I been sloppy? (At times.) Had I offended the sensibilities of CounterPunch? (I didn’t know but there are occasions when the left can be as intolerant as the right.)

Looking back today, I suspect I knew the answer. Despite my own unwavering independence, confronted with war and threats of war, I have a tendency to become pragmatic during presidential elections. In 2004 and again in 2008 I advocated the lesser of evils on the grounds that even the slender difference between lesser and greater evil could translate to tens of thousands of lives if not more. I am not proud of that advocacy but I stand by it. In my view, George W. Bush was one of the worst and most destructive presidents in history and Senator John McCain was and is one of the last persons on earth to be trusted in possession of the nuclear trigger.

It enrages me that our system offers these kinds of choices: the corporate party that is openly eager for war and the corporate party that at least seems more restrained. The truth is: War is good business for incumbent presidents but that’s another matter.

I never received a response to my query but some time after the Chronicles began appearing on CounterPunch again. Who knows what if anything transpired behind the scenes? I certainly didn’t know that Mr. Cockburn was fighting for his life. Had I known, I would not have inquired. But I believe that either he or someone at his desk empathized with my cause and sanctioned the return of my voice at CounterPunch.

Mr. Cockburn was attacked for his dissenting views on many occasions and often became the target of liberal spokespersons and Democratic advocates. He never bent to pressure and he never backed down from a fight.

Alexander Cockburn was fiercely independent. He did not compromise and never wavered. He was a writer among writers and he wrote to the very end. In short, he was what I aspire to be and I thank him for the inspiration.

My working title for this piece was: RIP Alexander Cockburn. But then I realized that Mr. Cockburn would probably not be content with either rest or peace in an afterlife should there be one. I suspect he would be happier sitting in a tavern or café engaged in passionate discourse on the affairs of the day.

Here’s hoping he’s tipping one to Howard Zinn at this very moment. Carry on, Mr. Cockburn. Carry on.



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Sunday, July 22, 2012



Overcoming a triple bogey on the par-four sixth hole, Tiger Woods came roaring back to win the 141st British Open at the Royal Lytham & St. Annes golf course.

With his rivals for the Claret Jug wilting under the pressure of this granddaddy of major championships, Tiger stared down a ten-foot putt on the seventy-second hole, willing the ball in the side of the cup. He then waited to see if Brandt Snedeker, his last challenger on a brutal day of links golf, could hole out from six feet to join him in a playoff. When the putt slid off the cup to the right, Woods claimed his fifteenth major golf championship, leaving the record eighteen majors by Jack Nicklaus dead in his sights.

Those who watched this year’s Open know that didn’t happen but it could have. If the Royal and Ancient Golf Club had done its duty but outlawing the anchored putter, this championship might well have come down to Snedeker and Woods. Instead, we watched the belly putter beat the long putter to claim its first British Open.

Before last year at the PGA golf had gone 140 years without crowning any golfer who used a putter that many consider an unfair advantage. The anchored putter has now won three of the last four major golf championships.

Ironically, in 2004 this year's golfer of the year (Open Champion) Ernie Els called for the both the belly and the long putter to be banned. In 2011 he switched to the belly putter and saw his scoring average drop by a full stroke over a single round.

In October of last year he was quoted as saying: “As long as it’s legal, I’ll keep cheating like the rest of them.”

He has a point. What are the odds that Keegan Bradley or Webb Simpson could have won a major championship without the anchored putter? What are the odds that Els’ chief rival for this year’s Open could have done so without his long putter? What are the odds that Barry Bonds could have hit 73 home runs in one season without some form of chemical assistance? The answer is nil or very close to that level of probability. The difference is: Bonds was a great player who probably sacrificed three or four years of his career to become Babe Ruth for three seasons. He paid a price and is probably still paying a price in terms of his health and prospects for a long life. These championship golfers face no similar sacrifice.

Adam Scott, always an excellent ball striker, had lost his putting stroke when he switched to the long putter, which he anchors to his chest, before last year’s Masters. His tour rank for putting went from 143rd to 76th, an improvement that enables him to compete for major championships.

Ernie Els won the Open with a regulation putter in 2002. He is a gentleman and a great golfer but he knows in his heart he stole this one from more deserving competitors. This one deserves an asterisk.

The time has come to outlaw the anchored putter for the good of the game.


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