Friday, February 29, 2008

Texas: End of the Road For Hillary Clinton

It is doggoned poetic that the last stand in Hillary Clinton's botched quest for the White House will almost certainly be next Tuesday in Texas, a state that in all its crazy quilt hugeness gave us three presidents who presided in times of war and economic distress, took away one other president in his prime and is about to set the stage for a man who could become America's first black president.

Clinton is likely to lose Texas because there is no potentially controversial photograph of Barack Obama at this late date that could check the extraordinary momentum that he has kept building and building. Seriously folks, she has simply run out of effective talking points because she had too few to begin with in a campaign smugly predicated on the aura of experience and inevitability, while Obama will be able to outspend her for TV commercials and other advertising by a 2-1 margin.

In fact, Clinton may lose the delegate race by a wider margin than the popular vote because of what wags refer to as the "Texas Two-Step."

This is a system that her campaign had to acknowledge it didn't even understand until last week, much too late for it to try to change another set of rules that it found to be inconvenient. Some 126 delegates will be designated by primary vote results and 67 decided in caucus elections attended by people who enrolled for them when they voted. The remaining 35 are superdelegates.

Clinton's campaign never gave a prairie dog's ass about building grassroots organizations state by state as Obama has done to great effect in all 50 and this will hurt her in Texas.

The substantially larger Obama ground operations have repeatedly tripped her up as Obama has amassed 10 of his 11 straight victories by margins greater than 20 percent and by a mere 17 percent in Wisconsin, yet another state that had seemed tailor made for a candidate who was fitting herself for a tiara before the first primary vote was counted.

The Texas system will be especially cruel to Clinton because Obama is likely to pick up the lion's share of the 67 caucus delegates. With the exception of Nevada way back on January 19, Obama's hyper-committed supporters have killed Clinton at caucuses.

Wait! It gets worse for Clinton.

The delegate apportionment of the primary popular vote will be based on turnout in the 2004 and 2006 Democratic primaries. Turnout was highest in African-American areas of Dallas and Houston and in Austin and environs, home to the rich liberals who have turned out in droves for Obama in other states. Clinton is likely to pick up comparatively few delegates in areas heavy with the Latino voters who were going to be her firewall.

Finally, the increase in early voting in Texas has been astronomical, in some counties 600 percent higher than in 2006. Not coincidentally, these are the areas where Obama would appear to be the strongest.

With chickens coming home to roost every which way, Hillary Clinton can't win for losing in the Lone Star State. And lose she will. She has nothing to be ashamed of. But if she doesn't concede after Texas she may.
Image: "Surrender of Santa Ana" by William H. Huddle (1890).
Texas became an independent nation following the Mexican
general's 1836 surrender to Sam Houston and then a state in 1845.

Campaign Bumper Sticker du Jour

John McCain's Achilles Heel

No, it's not all his lobbyist buddies or that woman who looks strikingly like his wife. It's President Bush, who in a new national poll has surpassed Richard Nixon as the modern president with the highest negative rating.
Some 52 percent of those surveyed place Bush at the bottom end of the scale as either "below average" or a "failure", compared to 50 percent who said the same about Nixon. Bush also beats out Nixon on the failure scale - one in three Americans (33 percent) say Bush is a failure as a president, up from 30 percent who said the same last year. Most Democrats (60 percent) view Bush as a failure, but half as many independents (29 percent) feel the same, compared to just 7 percent of Republicans.
McCain has been chary to criticize Bush, and its hard to see how he'll get much traction beyond the shrunken Republican base if he doesn't.

It's Enough To Make an American Proud

A reader responding to my post on what a Democratic president and Congress should do about the Bush administration’s many scandals had a pretty good idea, albeit tongue in check: Send The Decider, Cheney, Gonzo and Company to the Navy brig at Guantánamo Bay where they would be held without rights and waterboarded to see if they would yield any good intelligence.

The idea in fact has great appeal in the wake of a startling development:
Colonel Morris D. Davis, the former chief prosecutor at Guantánamo and an outspoken champion of the administration’s extralegal military commission system, has agreed to testify at Gitmo on behalf of detainee Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a driver for Osama bin Laden.
Davis acknowledges that Hamdan is guilty as sin, but the commission system itself needs to be put on trail because of its inherent unfairness, including the potential for rigged outcomes.

The Air Force colonel is not the first career military lawyer to part ways with the Bush administration over its perverse compunction to turn the Rule of Law on its ear in order to railroad terror suspects, but he is certainly is the most promiment to put his career on the line.
Davis' change of heart is somewhat mitigated by his reputation as a hot dog and the fact that he is nearing retirement, but it nevertheless is a salutatory act of conscience and would be deeply embarrassing to the White House if it had a conscience.

Buddy Miles (1947-2008)

Sorry to be a bit late on this one. More here.

The Economy & The 800-Pound Gorilla

There is a growing recognition, to use my very own phrase, that the Iraq war is a sucking chest wound on the U.S. economy, but you wouldn't know that if you've followed the recent peregrinations of Federal Reserve Chief Ben "Rate Cut" Bernanke.

A review of 30 recent news stories on Bernanke and the crash-and-burn economy found not a single reference to a war that has cost in the vicinity of $500 billion and is likely to cost $1 trillion before it's over, whenever the heck that will be, and Bernanke didn't even allude to it when he gave his semi-annual monetary policy report to Congress this week.
The reason, of course, is obvious. Beyond the feat of actually making us miss his predecessor, Alan Greenspan, it would be impolitic for Bernanke to utter the obvious because.

Doing so would be an inconvenient dent in the Bush administration's facade that the war is all good and has required no sacrifice other than the occasional dead or brain damaged soldier.
Beyond the here and now -- that the war is damaging the U.S.'s overall fiscal health as the economy spirals ever deeper into recession and contributing mightily to a burgeoning budget deficit that our children's children will be paying for long after the last American combat trooper slouches home -- there are less obvious aspects:

* Every dollar spent on a bullet is not being spent at home on education, improving and repairing infrastructure and paying down that immense deficit that is Bush's second biggest gift to us beyond the war itself.

* The extensive use of National Guard units has left many communities scrambling to replace police officers, school teachers and others who serve extensive and in some cases repeated war tours.

* Among the indirect costs, the bill for caring for returning vets with physical and emotional problems will be staggering. Conservative estimates put the number of vets in need at over 200,000.

* Tens of billions of dollars have gone into the gaping maw that is Iraqi government corruption never to be seen again.

* Contrary to the president's assertions, his war has further destabilized the Middle East, including playing havoc with oil prices, which is a further drain.

Come to think of it, war isn't the only word that never seems to escape Bernanke's lips. There's also recession.

Beautiful Photograph du Jour

By Joakim Eskildsen

Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere

Lanny Davis' claim that it's hard to criticize Barack Obama without being accused of playing the race card seems to me to be pretty typical of the myopia of the Clinton campaign. I've never heard anyone allege that Hillary Clinton's criticisms of Obama's health care plan involved a "race card." Nor have I heard her criticisms of his support for the 2005 energy bill describe in such a way. Nor have I heard the general idea that she has more political experience dealing with the right-wing attack machine described that way. What's more, in the campaign I watched Clinton's campaign was actually doing pretty well with those criticisms and then wound up running off the rails later.

After teasing us for a year, Mike Bloomberg is putting his billion dollars back in his wallet and leaving a few platitudes on the plate instead.


There are a few themes developing that should be called out now for what they are.

First, the racist junk that right-wing radio. blogs, and conservative interest groups are going to throw out. That somehow a black candidate secretly hates; whites, Jews, Christians, Latinos, Asians, old people, veterans, rich people, middle class people, corporations, and especially ducks.

And while this is happening, John McCain will just talk about how terrible this stuff is but he can't stop it; and the media tut tuts it 24/7. And yet FoxNews and Howie Kurtz will keep having these same people on their shows and in their columns and treat them like the respectable contributor to the public discourse they believe them to be.


I can't wait for the moment that the right finally understands it needs positive arguments to defeat Obama, not smears.


The major issue at hand is that John McCain's love among moderates and liberals is that they think that he secretly sympathizes with them. He did work to cultivate an image as being working with Democrats when they're right, and trying to lead his party to the sensible center on some issues. That's why a lot of people like the old guy, and not entirely without reason.

Ultimately, though, John McCain's embrace of the right will no doubt harm him with these groups, who will probably finally put it together that he isn't really one of them, and his hagiographical press coverage has made the public quite unaware of his stances on many issues, as well as the personal baggage he carries. In essence, most of the people who dislike McCain already aren't likely to change their minds, while the McCain fans will no doubt be presented with some new evidence to test their affection for him. The same might very well be true of Barack Obama, but Obama doesn't really have any damning stuff in his back yard that falls into the "secret to everyone" camp--unless anyone really thinks that all this Rezko business is really going to catch on after about fifty failed attempts.

-- LEV

The media fluff fest on Mr. O. is ending.


Although [John McCain's] campaign is run by lobbyists; and although his dealings with lobbyists have generated what he, when judging the behavior of others, calls corrupt appearances; and although he has profited from his manipulation of the taxpayer-funding system that is celebrated by reformers -- still, he probably is innocent of insincerity. Such is his towering moral vanity, he seems sincerely to consider it theoretically impossible for him to commit the offenses of appearances that he incessantly ascribes to others.

Such certitude is, however, not merely an unattractive trait. It is disturbing righteousness in someone grasping for presidential powers.


Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson/Philadelphia Daily News

Thursday, February 28, 2008

What To Do About All Those Scandals?

If the next president is a Democrat (and that is by no means a foregone conclusion) what if any investigations of Bush administration criminality and other misdeeds should be persued?

Or, should the Democratic president and Congress, in the spirit of a new era and an appeal to bipartisanship, wipe the slate clean?

The criminality and misdeeds include:

* The refusal of Alberto Gonzalez, Harriet Miers and other key adminstration officials to answer subpoenas in connection with the politically motivated firings of U.S. attorneys.

* The refusal to hand over to congressional investigators certain testimony from Vice President Cheney and other key administration officials in connection with the Wilson-Plame leak scandal.

* The official embrace of torture in contravention of the Constitution, treaties and conventions and common decency.

* The Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

Pre-9/11 CIA and other intelligence failures.

* The willful destruction of millions of White House emails sought by congressional investigators.

* Voter supression efforts directed by the Justice Department.

A full accounting of the costs of the Iraq war.

* No-bid contracts given Halliburton and other firms working in Iraq and Afghanistan with close administration ties.

* The consequences of the multiple Bush signing statements.

* Government and government-funded scientific research and studies skewed for political reasons.

* Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s legal conflicts of interest.

And the list goes on.

How To Fill the GOP's Black Hole?

I got into a pretty lively debate with a blog radio talk show host earlier this week over the Republican Party doing a pretty good imitation of not only being exclusionary to blacks but showing no interest in changing that unfortunate state of affairs.
The host, a Republican activist from a Midwestern state who has no great affection for George Bush but notes that he has named a goodly number of black officials to Cabinet and other posts, took umbrage at my assertion and after some nudging made a pretty good point:

It's not that the GOP goes out of its way to exclude blacks, but it has been so preoccupied with its own agenda that blacks have every reason to feel left out.
Now I suppose that is damning with faint praise since Bush appointed those blacks and they were not elected, and I suppose the whole discussion was probably ill timed since the Democratic nominee looks more and more like it will be an African-American.

Additionally, I am of the view that even though John McCain will give the Democratic nominee a good run for their money, the GOP defeat nationally, congressionally and even at the state level will be enormous and only then -- and maybe only then -- Republicans who have a stake in regrowing the party will take a long, hard look in the mirror at their Caucasian selves and vow to begin turning things around.

The radio host had a damned good idea how to begin that process -- at the very grassroots level where Barack Obama has had such extraordinary success with coalition building. She noted that her local Republican organization is reaching out to blacks and other minorities. It knows that it can't turn the trick overnight, but is determined to succeed.
That is a worthy -- and noble -- beginning.

As is the Republican National Committee's very public smack down of the shameless Robin Smith, the Tennessee state committee's chairman, for refusing to pull an "Anti-Semites For Obama" piece that begins:
"The Tennessee Republican Party today joins a growing chorus of Americans concerned about the future of the nation of Israel, the only stable democracy in the Middle East, if Sen. Barack Hussein Obama is elected president of the United States."
A modest suggestion: If the GOP is serious about cleaning its Augean stables, forcing Smith to quit -- with or without an apology -- would be a terrific start, but methinks that it knows exactly what Smith knows. Her pedagogery appeals to the party's red-meat base.

Linda Greenhouse Writes '30'

Linda Greenhouse, one of the Big Four of American legal reporting, is calling it a day.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Greenhouse, who has covered the Supreme Court for The New York Times for 30 years, has accepted a buyout offer.

So who are the other three of the Big Four? How about Nina Totenberg of National Public Radio, Lyle Denniston, a longtime Associated Press reporter who currently writes for ScotusBlog, the terrific online news site, and Jeffrey Toobin, the New Yorker reporter and author of The Nine: Inside the World of the Supreme Court, the best book barn none on the high court.

Greenhouse has played her beat pretty close to the vest in and out of print, but provoked a controversy in 2006 when it was revealed that she had criticized the government and court in a speech at Harvard University because it had:
"[T]urned its energy and attention away from upholding the rule of law and toward creating law-free zones at Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Haditha, other places around the world . . ."

Book Review: 'Joe Sixpack's Philly Beer Guide' & Why American Beer Is So Lousy

You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.
In the interests of full disclosure, I have been drinking beer since I was 14 and Don Russell, the author of Joe Sixpack’s Philly Beer Guide, is a former colleague and old friend. Oh, and I'm a terrible beer snob.

My first taste of beer was not a secretive swig from a quart bottle of Miller High Life behind my junior high school but a Heinecken from a German uncle's amply stocked beer refrigerator with his full approval. And so from the outset of my 40-plus year love affair with beer I was hooked on fuller bodied European brews and never developed a taste for watered down American brands.
Don Russell is a consummate journalist with whom I labored for many years at the Philadelphia Daily News, a street-smart tabloid that dispatched him to Phillies game in a toilet known as Veterans Stadium on a cold April day in 1998 with a notebook and measuring cup to check out a rumor that concession stand workers were short pouring beers.

The front-page headline the next day said it all:

Suds Fans Cheated 2 oz. Per Cup At Vet
Adding Up To Big Bucks

Wrote Russell with appropriate indignation:

"In a town where beer is a fundamental part of baseball lore . . . failing to give an honest pour is worse than striking out with the bases loaded.

"It's un-American."
And so was launched the career of Joe Sixpack, who has gone on to become an award-winning beer columnist (it's a tough job but somebody has to do it) and now the man behind Philly Beer Guide, a delightfully written and highly informative book on all things Philadelphia and beer.

Mr. Sixpack calls Philadelphia "the best beer-drinking city in America" and it's hard to disagree after a ramble through his 220-page treatise on some 450 neighborhood taverns, brewpubs and breweries in the City of Brotherly Suds and environs. It includes a chapter titled "Excuses to Drink," a terrific beer-centric guide for tourists and tips on treating hangovers.

The illustrations are by another old friend, Signe Wilkinson, the first attack Quaker (and woman) to win a Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning whose work I shamelessly lift and republish at Kiko's House.

With nothing better to do on a Sunday afternoon other than . . . well, drink beer, I got to wondering why Americans embrace beers that are pale imitations of their foreign counterparts and while less filling do not taste great.
There is a reason why Buttwiper, Millard and Boors, which dominate the $90 billion a year U.S. beer market, use big-breasted women, golden retrievers wearing sunglasses and college frat house pranks to push their brews: Taste-wise, they don’t compare very well to what little competition they have – imports (about 7-8 percent of the market) and domestic craft beers (about 3-4 percent).
American brewers did not always have to find creative ways to market their beers.

Prior to the advent of Prohibition in 1919, most American cities had at least one brewery (Philadelphia had a dozen) with beers and ales that compared favorably to their tasty counterparts in the Old County, most often Germany. This is because the owners and brewmasters were from the Old Country or were first or second generation Americans.

But a funny thing happened in the years after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. Brewery owners who survived those 14 dry years and the shakeout as shuttered breweries began to get back on their feet realized that they had a big marketing problem -- There wasn't a ready-made way to increase sales.
But with millions of beer drinkers returning home at the end of World War II, brewers stumbled on an idea startling for its ingenuity: If their beers were watered down, people would drink more of them.
I got Mr. Sixpack on the blower to put a head on this phenomenon. He explained that:
"After the war it wasn’t just beer getting dumbed down. It also was in all the food we were eating, the way we were living. This was more a product of where Americans were headed. This was the age of being bland, of TV dinners and the suburbs."
Mr. Sixpack and I share the view that what makes a beer good are the edges – the robust flavors that vary so much from one good brand to another.

But, he says, post-war beer lost those edges because brewers not only began watering down their product but also used cheaper grains and other ingredients, in part because there was a premium on supplies.

Surprisingly, Mr. Sixpack notes that the precedent for the move toward lighter beers was in Germany before Prohibition, of all places, with the advent of lagers that were much less dense and flavorful than dark beers and ales.
So what is American taste?

Beers that are indeed watered down, explains Mr. Sixpack, but not because they necessarily are made wrong. Again, Mr. Sixpack:

"It's all based on image. It's human nature that we associate ourselves with specific brands. AB (Anheuser Busch) has two completely different markets for Bud and Bud Lite. That's why people drive the car they drive. And some people do like being seen with an imported bottle in their hand at a bar."
Just not that many.

As it is, Heineken has not only slipped in quality in what would seem to be a conscious effort to mimic that American taste, it has celed its longtime title as the best-selling imported beer to Corona, a Mexican beer. Kind of ironic considering that most Americans want to tighten the borders at a time when Mexican and Latin American foods, beers and other products have never been more popular.

Mr. Sixpack:

"Sure, some Mexican beers are being consumed by immigrants, but the majority of drinkers are born-and-bred U.S. residents. Heck, sales of tortilla chips are now growing faster than potato chips. Isn’t that sort of a contradiction?"

Having lost the cachet of being a "special" import, Heineken is now trying to cash in on the popularity of Mexican beers and recently bought the marketing rights to Tecate and Dos Equis.

Would Frank Zappa approve?

Beautiful Photograph du Jour

By Cara Barer

Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere

Liberal smarties and sophisticates are having fun mocking John McCain , but assuming he gets the nomination, he will a formidable candidate. He may look like a grumpy old man -- specifically, as my friend Kathleen Geier joked, the grumpy old man who yells at kids to get off his lawn -- or the nutty old uncle who rags on everyone at Thanksgiving before passing out in front of the football game. But that's another way of saying McCain is a familiar, indeed family, character. It does not require an imaginative stretch to get John McCain. How many voters know someone like Barack Obama?


For weeks, the Barack Obama campaign has warned that Hillary Clinton would try to use her ties to the Democratic establishment to muscle 'super delegates' into backing her presidential bid, overriding a popular vote majority and Obama's plurality of pledged delegates elected in primaries and caucuses.

Now, however, as Obama has gained steadily in the polls, the Clinton campaign has reversed field. Top Clinton aides are pleading with uncommitted super delegates to hold off making any commitments, fearful that any commitments they make would be to back Obama, not Clinton.


If the Paul movement can persevere and cohere—neither of which is certain—it can go beyond a cult of personality and be a beginning rather than an ending. The challenge that awaits the thousands of activists who have been inspired by Dr. Paul isn't to run and register under a new third party as the number of dedicated constitutionalists in Congress is reduced to zero. It is expanding the ranks of Ron Paul Republicans—and small-government supporters of all stripes—in a hostile political climate. That takes more than one man. It requires a real movement.


Hillary Clinton can’t turn on her own charm and wit because she can't get beyond what she sees as the deep injustice of Barack Obama not waiting his turn.


In the first Democratic primary debate ten months ago, Hillary Clinton didn't have to charge that Barack Obama wasn't ready to be president on day one. He did the work for her. He was halting, mumbling and tentative. The only confidence he instilled was in Clinton. Nineteen debates later, he's improved so much that if he's not ready to be president on day one, you could imagine he might get there after a little study. At what may be the last debate of the Democratic primary, Obama was commanding, at ease and magnanimous. Clinton needed him to stumble and he didn't. He won the night.

How a candidate performs in a debate only tells us a little about how they would perform as president, but that's not the way Clinton aides told us we should view these debates. During the tough February slog, while Clinton was losing electoral contests to Obama, her aides promised that in one-on-one sessions, voters would see how she towered over her puny rival. It didn't happen. Clinton didn't have a bad evening in Cleveland Tuesday night; it's just that she didn't scratch Obama and the moderators didn't much either.


After about two weeks of confusing reports about whether he was really switching his endorsement from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama, Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) has made it official.

"Something's happening in America, something some of us did not see coming," Lewis told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Barack Obama has tapped into something that is extraordinary."

Lewis' defection to Obama is definitely a hit to Hillary Clinton's strategy of using a super-delegate advantage to secure the nomination, as the civil rights leader's switch could end up being a big green light for other Hillary supporters to follow him.


Speaking on "Squawk Box" this morning, [billionaire Sam] Zell attributed much of the current economic troubles to fear-mongering and politicking by Democratic presidential contenders Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

"Obviously what we have going on is an attempt to create a self-fulfilling prophecy," said Zell, chairman of Equity Investments Group and owner of the Chicago Cubs, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and other companies. "We have two Democratic candidates who are vying with each other to describe the economic situation worse.

"The reality is that if you live on Wall Street and you're in the credit markets the world couldn't be worse. If you're a farmer and you're getting $25 for your wheat, you're having a great time. If you're a CEO and you've got a balance sheet that's bullet-proof, you're in a great position. This whole thing is way out of control, way out of hand."


I have a new rule, which I consider in the nature of an absolute: In presidential election years, it is never too early for a drink.

Cartoon by Tony Auth/The Philadelphia Inquirer

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley Jr. (1925-2008)

Say what you will about William F. Buckley's contributions to conservatism and civil discourse. They were immense. But he picked a really lousy time to die.

Republican conservatism today bears scant resemblance to the movement that Buckley nurtured over a half century as the founder and longtime editor of National Review, a widely read syndicated columnist and host of the popular Firing Line program on PBS.

There is no question that Buckley's greatest achievement was making conservatism respectable.,

If it was a neoconservative brain trust that was the engine behind the ascendancy of George Walker Bush and helped open the door to the extremists who have hijacked his beloved GOP, it was Buckley more than anyone else who was responsible for the nomination of Barry Goldwater in 1964 and the coming of Ronald Reagan in 1980, who checked the liberal advances made since the New Deal in the 1930s.

Buckley, ever the independent and outspoken thinker, had been one of the first conservatives to break with Bush. I can only imagine that he went to his grave embittered over how his legacy has been so tarnished by self described conservatives drunk with power who champion fear mongering and cultural warfare above all else.

Buckley, who died earlier today, was 82 and had been suffering from diabetes and emphysema.

* * * * *

In keeping with his patrician bearing, William Frank "Bill" Buckley Jr. was born in New York City 1925 to an oil baron lawyer of Irish-Catholic descent and a Southerner of Swiss-German descent. His first and second languages were Spanish and French, and he didn't have any formal training in English until he was seven.

His childhood was an idyll filled with horseback riding, sailing and skiing, and he developed a fondness for music and storytelling at an early age.

After attending a series of finishing schools, Buckley went to university in Mexico before being commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army in 1943. After the war ended, he enrolled in Yale University, where he became a member of the secret Skull and Bones society as both George Bushes were to do, and was a member of the Conservative Party and of the Yale Political Union.

Buckley was recruited into the Central Intelligence Agency in 1951, but served less than a year – most of it in Mexico City under the supervision of Watergate figure E. Howard Hunt – before turning to politics and writing full time.

He initially was a strong defender of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy and his crusade against communism, but his ardor cooled as an American Mercury editor and later as founder of National Review in which he tirelessly promoted the union of traditional conservatism with libertarianism.

Buckley helped form Young Americans for Freedom in 1960 and used the National Review as a forum to push Goldwater's nomination and candidacy in 1964.

His only run for political office came the following year when he faced off against and lost to fellow Republican and Yale alumnus John V. Lindsay in the New York City mayoral primary.

Asked what he would have done if he had won, he replied: "I'd demand a recount." Lindsay later became a Democrat.

Later that year Buckley broke with more radical elements of the Republican Party in denouncing Robert W. Welch Jr. and the John Birch Society as lunatic-fringe conspiracy freaks.

In 1968, Buckley and novelist Gore Vidal kicked off a years long feud over how demonstrators were treated outside the Democratic National Convention that year. Buckley supported Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley's jackbooted riot police and Vidal was deeply critical of them, leading Vidal to call Buckley "a proto- or crypto-Nazi," to which Buckley responded during a televised debate: "Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I will sock you in your goddamn face, and you will stay plastered."

In 1973, Buckley served as a delegate to the U.N. and as he had with Goldwater, gave Reagan his blessing in the former B-movie actor and California governor's successful 1980 run for the White House.

Many Americans, myself included, knew Buckley through his weekly Firing Line show, which ran from 1966 to 1999, and delighted in his gentle and often humorous grilling of guests and use of big words.

He also wrote nearly 50 books, including spy novels, and edited many more.

Buckley retired as active editor from National Review in 1990 but continued to write his syndicated column, which he may have been doing when he was found dead at his desk on his Connecticut estate.

More here.
Photograph by Nubar Alexanian

Why Obama Isn't Fit To Be President

His father was a Muslim. He doesn't have to go first in debates. He sometimes dresses like a foreigner. He's too young. He experimented with drugs as a teenager. He's naïve. He has an unfair campaign spending advantage. He's not a war hero. He bought a house from a slumlord who once had a business deal with a former accomplice of Saddam Hussein. His middle name is Hussein. Louis Farrakhan endorsed him. Lou Dobbs plans to endorse him. Tina Fey doesn't like him. His superdelegates are committed to him. He doesn't try to retaliate when attacked. He's a radical centrist. He once was invited to a coffee klatch at the home of a former Weather Underground member. He's a cult leader. He hasn't had to lay off any campaign workers. He doesn't cry on cue. He doesn't wear an American flag lapel pin. He's not black enough. He's a secret Manchurian Candidate put up by radical Islamists. He's too charismatic. The news media is biased for him. He doesn't have to tone down his rhetoric. His campaign is organized from the bottom up. He doesn't have enough experience. When people offer him lines for his speeches he uses them. He's a leftist. He once had a teacher who was a Communist. He refuses to play the race card. He wants to withdraw American troops from Iraq. He doesn't engage in fear mongering. He lives in Chicago. He'll take away votes from Ralph Nader. His wife says she only recently found a reason to be proud of America. He's no Mike Huckabee. He scares the Washington defense establishment. He hasn't been able to attract elderly white woman voters. He's an idealist. He keeps giving the same damned speech.

How the heck can anyone believe in this guy, let alone vote for him?

Image courtesy of American Digest

Pet Drugs & Rolling Rover Over

Having succeeded in getting a staggering number of people to make mind-numbing medications, Big Pharma is now moving on to the next frontier – getting us to drug our pets.
Eli Lilly, the maker of Prozac, is first out of the gate with Reconcile, a chewable anti-depressant tablet flavored with beef, and meds for cats and other critters are not far behind.
The experts (but who the heck needs them to figure this out?) say biggest reason for pet depression is their being left alone for long periods while their owners work or play.

Well, as someone who has cared for dogs, cats, hamsters, tropical fish, horses, goats, sheep, geese, ducks, chickens and peacocks over the years, I'm an expert, too.

My advice: Don't get a pet if you're going to leave it alone. And if you've got one that you leave alone, find it a suitable home, okay?

More here.

Money Talks & Emeril Walks

I owe the Food Network a debt. Every time I peel an onion, squeeze a lemon or slice a pepper I do so based on the techniques of the network's many fine chefs, who make those more rudimentary culinary chores so much easier. And I still have all my fingers and thumbs.
But now, in an effort to increase profits and draw in younger viewers, the Food Network is moving away from this kind of programming because, well, it costs more. It has canned Emeril Lagasse and Mario Batali and is increasing reality programming like Ultimate Recipe Showdown while offering more of the chirpy Rachel Ray.
Now I really like Ray even though she does too much with meat (which I don't eat) and not enough with fish and veggies (which I do) for my taste. And while I fear Ray is a sneeze away from bursting her buttons and gaining 20 pounds right before our eyes while preparing one of her quickie dinners, she really is a delight.

Meanwhile, the Food Network apparently is committed to keeping Alton Brown, my biggest chefly fave, for the time being. I hope they understand that to do otherwise would be a recipe for disaster.

Beautiful Photograph du Jour

By Lara Shipley

Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere

Obama won it - quite easily. It was overwhelming before the final break. But decisive nonetheless. I can't see how she manages to rescue her campaign now. And his momentum will continue. It's over, right?


If Barack Obama is sworn in next January, last night's debate may prove to be the turning point when American voters started seeing him as more than a gifted candidate. Hillary Clinton's job was to create doubts about his fitness to be President, but she ended up giving Obama the opportunity to demonstrate he has the qualities for the job.

As the long campaign has gone on, Obama's command and self-confidence have been visibly growing, thereby undermining the arguments about inexperience the Clinton campaign has tried to use against him.

In this last debate before the nomination is decided, he demolished them. In the general election campaign, John McCain will have to work very hard to prove that his years in Washington qualify him to make better decisions about the future than Barack Obama.


My take? NBC stinks. Tim Russert stinks. Brian Williams stinks. Keith Olbermann stinks. Chris Matthews stinks. Who won the debate? No one. Who lost? Everyone.

NBC's coverage of its coverage? We are fair. We are great. How could anyone complain? What a joke.

I think this is probably the first debate (and there have been twenty) where a candidate really got clobbered and clearly lost. The debate in Philadelphia was the only other debate where I thought a candidate did poorly, but that was only Hillary's tortured answers on the driver's licenses for illegal immigrants question. Tonight, she hurt herself repeatedly from the first question to the last. I actually expect her to lose support as a result of her performance tonight, and I rarely think that about debates.


Tolstoy wrote that "happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." In American politics, however, it's the unhappy campaigns that are all alike. In their growing desperation to stave off defeat, they tend to behave in very similar ways. And the Hillary Clinton campaign is currently a textbook case for three reasons:

The candidate is exhibiting multiple personalities, mellow one day and volcanic the next, seemingly incapable of settling on a consistent tone and approach. . . . The campaign is blaming the media for its woes. . . . Another standard practice for losers is to try and explain away primary defeats as either statistical flukes or aberrations. The Hillary people have been trying this all along.


"A friend of mine told me how the Marines train people in hand-to-hand combat," says retired Über-consultant Bob Shrum. "If your opponent has a weapon and you don’t, you pick up an ashtray, a lamp, a chair, anything you can, and keep throwing stuff. It seems to me that’s what the Clinton campaign is doing."


With a week to go before climactic tests in Texas and Ohio, Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign team has slipped into full recriminations mode.

Looking backward, interviews with a cross-section of campaign aides and sympathetic outsiders suggest a team consumed with frustration and finger-pointing about the apparent failure of several recent tactical moves against Barack Obama.

Looking forward, it is clear Clinton's team has only a faint and highly improvisational strategy about what to do over the next seven days. Simply put, there is no secret weapon.


If Hillary Clinton wanted a graceful exit, she’d drop out now — before the March 4 Texas and Ohio primaries — and endorse Barack Obama. . . . Withdrawing would be stupid if Hillary had a reasonable chance to win the nomination, but she doesn’t.


President Bush predicted that voters will replace him with a Republican president who will "keep up the fight" in Iraq. "I'm confident we'll hold the White House in 2008," Bush told donors at the Republican Governors Association annual dinner, which raised a record $10.6 million for GOP gubernatorial candidates.


The Buzz on Saturday incorrectly described when a Dallas crowd applauded Barack Obama. It was when he blew his nose.


Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson/Philadelphia Daily News

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

John McCain Stakes His Campaign On Iraq & Other News From The Forever War

McCain's infamous Baghdad shopping trip
In what is a miscalculation of epic proportions, John McCain says he will stake his fall campaign on having been right about the Iraq war.

With the exception of this stale sales pitch having an built-in appeal for the presumptive Republican nominee's base, who are a mere fraction of the voters that McCain needs to give Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton a run for their money, it is wrong every which way:
It is backward looking at a time when most Americans are sick and tired of the war and its tremendous drain on the economy and want to look forward. The last thing they will want to hear is McCain's view that keeping U.S. troops in Iraq for 100 years "would be fine" with him.

McCain will tout the success of the Surge strategy, but that is a fiction because the military gains are in all likelihood temporary, are substantially based on bribing and arming former insurgents, and they have not been matched by political gains.

Furthermore, it is now obvious that the downturn in sectarian violence is in part a result of the success of sectarian cleansing in key urban neighborhoods, giving them a ghost town appearance, while the violence in Basra and some other urban centers continued unabated.
McCain's miscalculation is all the more egregious if Obama is the Democratic nominee since he was one of the few congressfolk to oppose the war from the get-go and has pledged to bring American troops home by 2009.
Some contrast, eh?
Now that Barack Obama is acknowledged as being the real deal and not a flash in the electoral pan, some of his opponents have tried to distort his record on Iraq.

Michael Crowley, writing in The New Republic, reminds us that Obama was against the war before there was a war to be against, but the record shows that neither his opponents nor supporters have gotten it right.

Money quote:
"The press's failure to closely examine Obama's Iraq record is a source of perpetual frustration for the Clinton camp--and a fair gripe. It has allowed Obama's supporters to mythologize him as a fearless crusader. At the same time, it has enabled the Clintons to mount overzealous attacks on his record.

"Many of the Clintons' specific attacks on Obama are unfair distortions. But it's also true that a close look at his Iraq record reveals more nuance than the Obama campaign acknowledges. It shows that Obama is cautious and pragmatic, hardly immune from political pressures, and sometimes prone to shading his rhetoric for convenience. But, ultimately, in substantive policy terms, he is also open to intellectual reexamination based on changing events. This may not be quite the Obama of the popular imagination, and it is certainly not the Obama of his own campaign ads. Nor is it, after 2002, substantially different from Hillary Clinton's own course on Iraq. But it is no 'fairy tale,' either."

More here.

Hillary Clinton, of course, voted for the infamous Senate resolution in support of the Iraq war. While there is nothing that she can do to change that, she has tacked and yawed so incessantly since then about where she stands that it's enough to make a voter seasick.

Steven Zunes, writing at Spero News, reminds us that even though Clinton was repeatedly warned that the Bush administration's rationales for going to war failed to hold water, she bought into them lock, stock and barrel and her peregrinations since show how she would approach international affairs and security policy.

Money quote:
"Whether Senator Clinton lied in order to frighten the American people into accepting a costly U.S. takeover of that oil-rich country or whether she was simply naïve and ignorant, her false statements regarding Iraq’s WMD capabilities - given that this was her central argument in justifying the invasion - raises serious questions regarding her fitness to become president of the United States. There is little reason to doubt, therefore, that she would again be willing to either lie or to blindly accept transparently inaccurate and alarmist intelligence data in order to lead America into another tragic war."
More here.

Barack Obama wants to ban the use of cluster bombs while Hillary Clinton and John McCain don't.
What makes the use of these submunitions, which are miniature bombs nested inside a mother bomb, so insidious is that they drop beneath tissue parachutes and are magnets for unsuspecting Iraqi children.
Some 82 countries have signed the Wellington Declaration to ban cluster bombs, but don't expect the U.S. to join them anytime soon.

Russ Wellen has an excellent Q&A on the matter at Scholars and Rogues.

More here.
Like neary 10 million other veterans, I finished my college education on the GI Bill, but some returning veterans are finding it harder to make it through college than making it through Iraq.

This is because while the original GI Bill provided full tuition, housing, and living costs, it was scaled back to a peacetime program in the mid 1980s that pays a flat sum, usually no more than about $9,600 a year for four years - no matter what college costs and it usually costs a heap more.
Now, five years into a war that will last at least 95 more if John McCain has his way, there is support building in Washington to return the GI Bill to a wartime benefit footing, but the White House and Pentagon are resisting the move for an unpleasantly obvious reason:

With an all-volunteer military they fear that too soldiers will shed their uniforms for college and civilian life.
More here.

As alluded to above, a key to the "success" of the Surge has been the enlistment through bribes and weapons of 30,000 or so Iraqis into what is loosely called The Awakening.

Nir Rosen, writing in Rolling Stone, says the strategy is backfiring for entirely predictable reasons:
People whose loyalty can be bought are allies as long as the lucre keeps coming, while the people who haven't been bought are left deeply aggrieved.
More here.


Senator Tom Coburn, the way conservative Oklahoma Republican, startled people attending a town meeting in Muskogee the other day by stating that "I will tell you personally that I think it was probably a mistake going to Iraq."
But then things got really weird: Coburn is refusing to elaborate except to say that he did not believe the U.S. could withdraw from Iraq and had to stay.
More here.

Still Broken After All These Years

Has there been any worse Bush administration trait than corrupting intelligence gathering by suborning it for political and propagandistic purposes?

Yes there has, but that will do in the context of yet another book making its way toward Kiko’s House by snail mail -- Still Broken: A Recruit's Inside Account of Intelligence Failures, from Baghdad to the Pentagon by A. J. Rossmiller.
Rossmiller, moved deeply by the 9/11 attacks, joined the Defense Department's Intelligence Agency in 2004 after getting a degree in Middle East Studies and volunteered to join a DIA unit in Iraq.

There he said U.S. forces were repeatedly handicapped by bad or outdated intelligence and he and his peers were under enormous pressure to cook their reports if they were too pessimistic. If they failed to do so, their superiors did so anyway.
It should come as no surprise that the result was devastatingly low morale.

More here on Still Broken.

A Secret GOP Program & An Open Sore

Today's Republican Party (as opposed to the Big Tent GOP of the Goldwater-Rockefeller era) has welcomed blacks with open arms -- as long as they use the back door on their way to the kitchen or maid's quarters -- and has been only somewhat less unfriendly to women.

So the possibility that John McCain will be facing an African-American or a woman in the November election is scaring the bejeebers out of party bigs, who have launched a secret operation to try to determine how far they can go in attacking either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.
Before I go any further, please note that this is not a satire like my Saga of the Cedars. And pause to consider the extraordinary fact that one of the two major political parties in America has become so extreme that it has to take steps to try to immunize itself against what it sees as inevitable charges of racism or sexism.

And marvel that the secret operation is not meant to sensitize the party faithful, let alone draw in black and woman voters, but to gauge how to best attack Obama or Clinton.

Jack Kemp, the 1996 Republican vice presidential nominee, is one of the few prominent Republicans to speak out about the GOP's raving intolerance.

Kemp tells The Politico that:

"You can’t run against Barack Obama the way you could run against Bill Clinton, Al Gore or John Kerry.

"Being an African American at the top of the ticket, if he makes it, is such a great statement about the country. Obviously you have to be sensitive to issues that affect urban America. . . . You have to be careful."

More here. And here for a sneak peek at what the Republican attacks might be like if it's Obama.

The War That Keeps On Giving

More here.

Why Does CNN's Website Suck?

Any suggestions as to why CNN has what is undisputably the suckiest website of any major news organization?
It was slow enough before a recent redesign, but the load times are beyond ridiculous whether I use IE, Mozilla or Firefox from a variety of computers, several with DSL and the rest with super high-speed access from a major university.
Then once CNN's site loads, it frequently has dead links or gets you in a bear hug and you can't back out of it.
And you know what? I wrote this post while trying to load CNN and it's still l-o-a-d-i-n-g.