Monthly Archives: January 2008

But At Least Iraq Is Safe

Military not ready for attack on US:

The U.S. military isn’t ready for a catastrophic attack on the country, and National Guard forces don’t have the equipment or training they need for the job, according to a report.

Even fewer Army National Guard units are combat-ready today than were nearly a year ago when the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves determined that 88 percent of the units were not prepared for the fight, the panel says in a new report released Thursday.

The independent commission is charged by Congress to recommend changes in law and policy concerning the Guard and Reserves.

The commission’s 400-page report concludes that the nation "does not have sufficient trained, ready forces available" to respond to a chemical, biological or nuclear weapons incident, "an appalling gap that places the nation and its citizens at greater risk."

Busy Busy

Light No posting today, it seems.  Lot of things in the fire.  Preview audience tonight for The Foreigner, too.

You’re not missing much.  I really had nothing to say, except for a few rather meandering thoughts about Lost.

Morons

A couple of badass gangstas in Florida made — and then uploaded — a YouTube video.  In it, they brandished their guns and assault weapons — braggin’ about what bad mofos they is, and challenging the Miami-Dade Police Department’s Special Investigation Gang Unit to come and get them.

The police complied with the gangstas’ request.

Making The Rounds

I’m not sure who this ad is meant to help, but it’s a very effective ad against its intended target.  Maybe one of those most effective ads I’ve seen all season so far….

P.S.  Effective though the ad may be, it’s paid for by a rathery shadow ultra-conservative group called the Citizen’s United Political Victory Fund, whose origins trace back to rabid anti-Clintonism (you know, how the Clintons killed Vincent Foster and all that rubbish).  Read some background here.

Gosh I Hate To Be Cynical…

…especially about Edwards on a day when he merits well-deserved kudos for a great campaign, but

"It is time for me to step aside," said Edwards, ending his second campaign in a hurricane-ravaged section of New Orleans where he began it more than a year ago. “With our convictions and a little backbone we will take back the White House in November.”

Edwards said Clinton and Obama had both pledged that “they will make ending poverty central to their campaign for the presidency.”

“This is the cause of my life and I now have their commitment to engage in this cause,” he said before a small group of supporters. He was joined by his wife Elizabeth and his three children, Cate, Emma Claire and Jack.

Edwards said that on his way to make his campaign-ending statement, he drove by a highway underpass where several homeless people live. He stopped to talk, he said, and as he was leaving, one of them asked him never to forget them and their plight.

Hard. To. Swallow.

P.S.  That said, it was a good speech.

EeP.P.S.  Over at The American Prospect, Ezra Klein writes about John and Elizabeth Edwards.  He posts a photo of Elizabeth Edwards.  Although he may not know it, the photo was taken when she appeared at Bethabara Park last September.  I’m the out-of-focus dude wearing a cap, standing behind her, behind the post.

Overpaid

Nice work if you can get it:

Lazard reported 2007 profits of $122.6 million today, and gave CEO Bruce Wasserstein a bonus of $36.2 million for the year – on top of a restricted-stock grant of $96.3 million. How did Lazard’s share price perform over the course of 2007? Well, it started the year at $47.33, and ended the year at $40.68 – a fall of 14%. It’s now lower still, at $37.39.

Think about that.

The company makes a profit of $122 million, and the CEO’s bonus (not including stocks) is one-quarter of that.  Despite the fact that the stockholders’ value in the company dropped 14%.

When Edwards campaigned about corporate greed and Two Americans, this is what he was talking about.

Obama Surge

The latest poll by Gallup shows Obama only six percentage points behind Clinton nationally.  This was taken last night . . . before Edwards announcement that he was bowing out.

Notice that ten days ago, Obama was a full 20 points down.

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They must be happy in Obama headquarters.

One Last Laugh At Rudy’s Expense

Here’s Rudy in 2000, at the height of his political career, dressed up in a costume from (we can only guess) The Lion King, and complaining somewhat nonsensically about the lions in the Bronx Zoo being on welfare.

Or something.

No, I’m not kidding….

Presidential, huh?

Everyman Photo Contest

The annual Everyman Photo Contest is a photo contest exclusively for non-photographers, operating on the assumption that every person has one taken one really excellant photo at one point in their lives.  I may be the sole exception to that rule, which is probably why I’m attracted to the site.

Anyway, I finally went to the site of the 2007 Everyman Photo contest winners.  It’s a good way to get wisked away for a few minutes.  I especially like the fact that they award prizes in an "From The Attic" category — photos taken long ago.

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Pictured above: "On Her Way" (1946)

Green

Sometime next month, I’m doing a stage reading of a one-act play called Green by Bekah Brunstetter.  It’s about a soldier named Clint, returning from the Iraq war, learning to adjust (not very successfuly — he holds conversations with his gun and cigarettes, who talk back). 

I play Alex, the soldier’s best buddy from childhood.  Alex is artistic, liberal, anti-war, and 22 years old.  (I may have a problem pulling that last one off).  He’s also kind of a dick — no problem pulling that last one off.  A typical exchange:

ALEX:  Actually, uh, fuck no, Clint.  It’s real stuff.  Like did you know that the government totally monopolizes everything and turns us into these robotic consuming voting machines?  Wait, so you got to vote when you were over there, right?

CLINT:  Yeah, we voted.

ALEX:  I mean, I assumed yeah, but – how messed up would that be, if you guys didn’t get to?  Man.  At least you’re back.  At least you didn’t end up some kinda faux martyr for some duies’s cause, I mean, Fucking Bush.  Sending like 300,000 more troops over as we speak.  Saw it on CNN, cross-eyed murderer, he–

The play itself isn’t a political polemic about Bush/Iraq, but my character is.  And a rather annoying one at that — the kind of liberal who think he knows all there is to know about all matters political, simply because he saw a Michael Moore film.

Ms. Brunstetter is an upcoming/struggling playwright in NYC.  In her introspective blog, she wrote this about Green last November:

Blurb:

When Clint returns from Iraq to his strangely liberal bible belt college community, Alex, his Bush-trash talking best friend, and Rhea, Alex’s confused and beautiful girlfriend await him with baited breath. Clint wants to settle back down into normal life, but his memories of his experiences at war make this adjustment harder for him than he ever anticipated.  Green is a fresh look at the high price of service, using magical realism and an amorous anthropomorphized fire-arm.

Something like that.

Lil’ Green has had quite the life: produced (as our first production ever) by WMC in 2004 – read in NYU’s HotINK festival of New Plays 2007 – finalist for the Tennesee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival 2007 – semi – finalist for ONeill Playwright’s conference 2007 – National Finalist, Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival 2007 – and now the Kendeda thing, through Atlanta’s Alliance theater – with a reading presented in conjuction with SPF and Fox Theatricals.

What I need to remember about this play is that I wasn’t thinking when I wrote it. That shows, yes, for sure – lots of things in it sort of lack poor planning, but: I had no agenda. I was just having fun and wrestling with something that confused/intrigued me. I think this is the correct way to enter a first draft, with no calculation. Maybe?

The agency I have been a-courtin for sometime is trying to find  the ‘money project’ that might come from these stubby fingers – something I muster up in down time, some dramaplay fed by cheap white wine, white girl angst and a delightful, whimsical perspective on humanity.

It might be Green. It wasn’t You may Go Now, it wasn’t Walls – maybe – I hope – please – it will be this. The guy who’s directing a reading of it through the Alliance Theater Kendeda reading series – Rajendra Maharaj – an amazing director who’s working at the Goodman  – is represented by this Agency, and is going to get them in the door to see it. Le Yay! I feel like pants need to be wowed until they are off.

People, I feel pressure. The good kind that makes impromptu birthday cakes happen in the span of two hours; the kind that makes your heart race and your product good.

I feel this is my chance to blow it, or not blow it. Over the next week, I will be squeezing writey time between work and babysitting to re-enter this story, find the humanity, make it fresh. Perhaps the gun and the cigarette will make out. Perhaps someone will monologue about oil prices, perhaps I will channel three years ago, and the things I then felt. I think it’s actually a story about comfort, and feeling comfortable in ignorance – I think it’s about home?  We shall see.

In conclusion, I have decided that everything is important – nothing is no big deal.

Nice to do something contemporary and "arty".  Should be fun.

Election 2008 Analysis: Florida And Beyond

Well, the landscape changed more than I thought it would.

McCain takes Florida.  Not too much of a surprise.  He was polling slightly ahead of Romney — ever so slightly — on the last day.  It’s a bit of a shame that he gets declared the "winner" when it was so close.  Then again, he does take all of Florida’s GOP electorates.

Rudy, naturally, is dropping out now (yes, yesterday was "Goodbye Rudy Tuesday"), although at least he didn’t entirely embarrass himself by getting beat out by Ron Paul (again).  Heck, he even beat the Huck.

The good thing about the demise of Rudy?  Well, I think the conservative Politico put it best: it marks the end of "9/11 politics".

Giuliani’s national celebrity was based on his steady, comforting appearance in Americans’ living rooms amid the terrorist attacks, and his campaign for president never found a message beyond that moment.

The emotional connection he forged that day, it seems, has proved politically worthless. After months of wonder that the former mayor seemed to have no ceiling to his support, he turned out to have no floor, trading fourth-place finishes with Ron Paul, a little-known Texas congressman.

"There’s a paradox for Rudy," said former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, who was a member of the 9/11 Commission. "One of the things he did very well on 9/11 was say, ‘We’ve got to get back to normal.’ And that’s what’s happened. We’ve gotten back to normal."

His expected endorsement of McCain comes as no surprise, and I expect that Rudy supporters will, for the most part, gravitate there anyway.

But the BIG NEWS, just coming over the wires, is Edwards.  He’s dropping out.

A bit of a shame — I liked what he was saying, but he simply doesn’t have a chance and he knows it.  It’s Barack and Hillary — a two-person race.  There was a lot of talk about him staying in the race, and getting enough delegates to act as "kingmaker" at the convention.  Guess that’s not to be.

He ran an excellant campaign, and certainly won the "ideas" debate, especially on the issues of health care and poverty.  And he possessed more passion, I think, than all his Democratic opponents combined.  Unfortunately, he just couldn’t overcome the media stampede to make it a two-person race — Barack and Hillary got all the attention.

The HUGE QUESTION MARK now is who, if anybody, will Edwards endorse.  And also, whether that endorsement makes any difference.

I suspect that Edwards personal inclination is to endorse Barack Obama. [UPDATE: Scuttlebutt is that he won’t endorse anyone "for the moment"].  I also expect that is the inclination of most of his supporters.  So yesterday, when all is said and done, probably was a "win" for Barack Obama, and he — more than McCain — will get the biggest bounce. 

But will the Barack bounce be enough to put Barack over Hillary?  Probably not.  But pretty close.  Take a look at this graph and the trendline for Obama.

Ustopzdems600

Now add the red of Edwards to the orange of Obama, and you’ve got as tight a horserace as can be.  This is putting Obama in an excellant position for Super Tuesday.  You can see this happening in the individual states of Super Tuesday, like California:

Catopzdems600

Again, adding Edwards and Obama puts Obama very close to Clinton.

Of course, as I said, not all of Edwards supporters will go to Mr. Obama.  And I suspect that, as I type this, Edwards is on the phone with someone in the Clinton campaign (are they making promises of Vice-Presidentship?).  [UPDATE:  Hillary and Obama are "banging down the doors" to get Edwards’ endorsement].

The absence of Edwards was written about two days ago by Dana Goldstein here.  A nice tribute, but she comes away thinking differently about where Edwards supporters might go:

Intuitively, it makes sense that Edwards supporters would trend toward Obama. Both candidates ran as the anti-Clinton. Edwards even spoke about his own affinity toward Obama’s "change" message at the last New Hampshire debate.

But some polling suggests otherwise. A Jan. 24 Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg News poll found that nationally, Edwards voters prefer Clinton to Obama by a slight margin. She could have an edge among those who are attracted to Edwards’ focus on the economy. "Hillary talks about the economy more than Obama, and she’s connected to the Clinton presidency, which people view as successful on the economic front," Teixeira said.

Edwards supporters bristle at the idea that Clinton could effectively assume Edwards’ mantle as the economic populist in the race. They point to her husband’s support for free trade and her own strong ties to corporate America. "John’s views on trade and tax fairness are just different than what the Clinton administration’s were, so there will be a credibility issue on these matters," said Leo Hindery, a former telecom executive and the senior economic policy adviser to the Edwards campaign. But most voters don’t have a grasp of the finer policy differences between the Democratic candidates, and low-income voters — those who would be most helped by Edwards’ populist policies — are especially loyal to Clinton. In recent weeks, she has doubled down on that appeal, speaking often about pocketbook issues such as the sub-prime mortgage crisis and health-care costs.

Well, time will tell.

At the risk of being disjointed, let me return to McCain.  I find it very curious that he is (by most accounts) the GOP frontrunner (some are now saying, prematurely in my view, that a McCain nomination is a done deal).  One wonders what his appeal is.  McCain is as close to Bush as one can get on the Iraq War.  The problem is, most Republicans are opposed to the Iraq War.  And McCain is talking about expanding it, and even growling at Iran.  (But then again, he’s emphatically anti-torture, for obvious reasons, so even the red-meat conservatives can’t be totally happy with him).

Okay, you say — maybe people are voting for McCain for other reasons.  Well, like what?  He’s not a social conservative by any means. He admits to knowing little about the economy.  He’s not anti-immigration at all, except on the days when he says he is (alternate Tuesdays and Thursdays, I think).

And — something that people forget (but I’m sure you’ll hear more about it) — McCain considered dropping out of the GOP in 2001 (McCain denies this), and entertained the idea of becoming Kerry’s running mate in 2004 (McCain can’t deny this).

It’s very bizarre.

I suspect that the McCain votes are, well, not very enthusiastic.  And man, talk radio (e.g., Rush) hates McCain. At best, he’s the best of a lackluster pack.  But who knows?  It wasn’t long ago when McCain was a "nobody" talking to small crowds in New Hampshire:

Several months ago I was covering a John McCain event in Keene, N.H. It was at the low point of the McCain candidacy, after his staff explosion and when the campaign bank account was dry. There was no bus and he was staying in the cheapest motels in town.

After the event, he invited the press corps out to dinner. I was the entire press corps. We went to a cheap hamburger place and I was tempted to buy him and his three aides dinner, since his campaign had no money. (Being a cheap journalist, I resisted the temptation.) But do you want to know what his mood was like?

He was fine. Winning the nomination, let alone the presidency, seemed like the longest of long shots back then. But he was fine with that…

So how did McCain get to be frontrunner?  Ross Douthat makes the case that McCain got really lucky.

[M]uch of what’s happened to make McCain the presumptive nominee has been luck, pure and simple. He was lucky, to begin with, that George W. Bush lacked an heir apparent – no Jeb, no Condi, no Dick Cheney – who could unite the movement establishment against him.

He was lucky that Mitt Romney was a Mormon. He was lucky that Fred Thompson, a candidate who might have succeeded in rallying both social and economic conservatives against his various heresies, was out-campaigned by Mike Huckabee, whose appeal was ultimately too sectarian to make him a threat. He was lucky that Rudy Giuliani ran an inutterably lousy campaign. (More on this anon.) He was lucky that Mike Huckabee won Iowa; lucky that the media basically treated that win as a McCain victory (though obviously his skill in cultivating the press made a big difference, in that case and many others); lucky, as David Freddoso suggests, that Huckabee decided to campaign in New Hampshire and (taking my foolish advice) Michigan instead of going straight to South Carolina; lucky that Giuliani decided not to campaign in New Hampshire after Christmas; and lucky, finally, that Fred Thompson decided to go all in against Huckabee in South Carolina, thus delivering McCain the Palmetto State and with it Florida.

And he was lucky, above all, that his strongest challenger was a guy that almost nobody liked — not the media, not his fellow candidates, and not enough of the voters, in the end.

Carpetbagger looks back to Apriol 2007 when the McCain campain was simply not in the news, and adds:

McCain didn’t have to do much of anything — the Republican rank and file already knew him, recognized what he brought to the table, and most of them liked him. He didn’t need commercials or the buzz from The Note; he was John McCain, and that was enough. That, plus the undying adulation from the media establishment, was more than enough to carry him through a “recuperation” period.

From there, it was simply a matter of waiting until everyone else collapsed. Giuliani was a joke candidate, Huckabee was a niche candidate, Thompson was a lazy candidate, and Romney was a Mormon candidate who was moderate-to-liberal up until a few minutes ago. And with that, McCain, through process of elimination, was the last man standing.

Sometimes, it really is better to be lucky than good.

Yup.  But one thing’s for sure — this ain’t over for anyone.

I Have A Theory About This Video

This is my theory, which is to say, that is it mine.  Here is my theory (by me):

This pro-Romney video, ostensibly by the Iowa College Republicans (but probably really just junior high schoolers) was put out on the Intertubes by the McCain people.

No Terrorist Attacks Since 9/11?

In his State of the Union address last night, Bush said, "We are grateful that there has not been another attack on our soil since 9/11."

Oh, really?

Anthraxreward

Carpetbagger adds:

I’m not trying to play a cute semantics game; I know what conservatives mean when they talk about “terrorist attacks.” They’re describing devastating, cataclysmic events that kill a lot of people at once. I get it.

But about a month after 9/11, someone sent weaponized anthrax to two Democratic senators and several news outlets. Five Americans were killed and 17 more suffered serious illnesses. For reasons that I’ve never been able to explain, the incident — it’s entirely reasonable to call it an “attack” — is hardly ever mentioned. No one knows where the anthrax came from, who sent it, or why. It was a horrifying incident, immediately on the heels of another horrifying incident, but more than six years later, it’s almost as if the episode never happened.

Stick Figures In Peril

Flickr has an entire pool devoted to them.  Some of my faves:

If you happen to be on the set of a Warner Brothers cartoon…

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And please, don’t slap the penguins.  It upsets them greatly, and when you think about it, there’s really no call for it…

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Jazz hands, people!

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The approach of large waves will cause Charlie Brown’s limbs to separate from his body….

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Sex with dumpsters?  That’s a no-no…

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If you are Spiderman, avoid casting your web onto, uh, these things…

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Modern ballet with industrial machinary?  Only on level surfaces.  Here’s why….

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And finally….

Absolutely NO Savian Glovers!!!

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Florida Showdown

Rudy thinks he’s going to win today.

How very very sad.

UPDATE:  I guess I should say a little more, as Rudy Giuliani is the only candidate that I’ve met (several times) personally.  This was all back in the late 1980’s, before he was mayor.  Back then, he was the U.S. District Attorney in New York.  I was a law clerk in a criminal defense law firm.  Despite being on opposite ends of the criminal justice system, Rudy and my boss, Barry Slotnick, had a professional friendship, and there were many times when Rudy would show up in the office after-hours.  (The two of them served together on various boards and civic organizations).  It was at that time that I came to "know" Rudy, to the extent that it afforded me special insight.

Barry and Rudy were cut from the same cloth.  Both of them possessed a quality of shameless self-promotion.  In Barry — who was, is, and always will be the pinnacle of self-promotion in my book — I found that quality to be slightly irritating; "irritating", that is, until I realized how much it generated business for the boutique firm which kept me gainfully employed.  After that, I had a begrudging respect for it (and smiled silently to myself when others called him a "media whore").

With Giuliani though, I really found his self-aggrandizement kind of creepy.  He was a public servant, appointed to his position of U.S. District Attorney.  He didn’t have to run for anything, and unlike Barry, he didn’t have to generate business.  So where did that pompousity come from?  A character flaw, I took it.

I guess it served him well in later years, when he did run for mayor, although I don’t know many New Yorkers (Barry excepted) who were too fond of him and his tactics at the time.

And when 9/11 rolled around, well, I had long since abandoned the city for greener pastures.  And seeing Rudy on TV back then — well, I can’t believe he’s been running on the basis of his performance on the day of, and the days immediately following, 9/11. 

I mean, what did he do exactly?  He gave press conferences.  Sometimes they were in the street (but that was only because he couldn’t go to the Emergency Command Center, having made the brilliant decision of putting it in the World Trade Center, after it had already been the target of the 1993 terrorist attack!).  And what did he say in those conferences?  Well, he praised the police and fire fighters a lot.  Really, that’s what he did.

Well, what would YOU do?  Exactly the same thing, I expect.  Does this qualify you to be president?

The one thing that struck me about Rudy Giuliani is this: he’s not very smart.  He’s really not.  And his campaign strategy, which I believe was his idea as much as his advisor’s, proves that.

The man is political toast now.  Time to join the lecture circuit, Rudy.

“No Duh” Headline Of The Day

Manager: Spears has ‘mental issues’

[Note:  I don’t mean to suggest that Ms. Spears is, you know, batshit insane, nor do I find merriment in that.  It’s just that — well shoot.  She’s practically a kid, she’s got all kinds of fame and money and no idea how to handle either, she’s going through a very public divorce and custody battle, she’s a constant punchline for late nite comics, CNN breaks into live coverage whenever she gets in a car, and — oh yeah — the papparazzi is literally stalking her and taking nude videos of her.  Is she responsible for her current status?  Sure, to some extent.  But not all of it.  In any event, that’s a lot of pressure on one person.  Frankly, there would be something wrong with her if she didn’t have mental issues as a result.]

Dear Boston Globe

I admire your optimism, but this kind of premature hubris is just asking for the Gods to serve up some humble pie. [UPDATE:  Link no longer working because Amazon removed it.  It was a listing for a book by the Editors of the Boston Globe.  Title: "19-0: The Historic Championship Season of New England’s Unbeatable Patriots".  An article in the Boston Herald is here.]

Be sure to read the comment by Amazon reader Matthew Valentinas:

This was a fabulous book. Excellent use of foreshadowing. The chapter dedicated to the Supber Bowl was written so well I can’t even compare it to any other books covering Super Bowl XLII. The author is clearly ahead of his time. Even though I knew the ending this book read like the Superbowl had not even happened yet. It made me re-live the the hype of Super Bowl week all over again. The way the author incorpates Einstein’s use of EMC squared by switching dimension and time brings a fresh new perspective to the linear concept of beginning middle and end. I highly recommend this book. Truly one of a kind.

Bush’s RNC Nomination Speech, 2000

Man, what a liar he turned out to be:

“America’s armed forces need better equipment, better training and better pay . . . A generation shaped by Vietnam must remember the lessons of Vietnam: When America uses force in the world, the cause must be just, the goal must be clear, and the victory must be overwhelming . . . I don’t have enemies to fight. I have no stake in the bitter arguments of the last few years. I want to change the tone of Washington to one of civility and respect . . . We’re learning to protect the natural world around us. We will continue this progress, and we will not turn back … to lead this nation to a responsibility era, that president himself must be responsible. So when I put my hand on the Bible, I will swear to uphold the laws of our land . . . I will not attack a part of this country because I want to lead the whole of it.”

A Snowball Sentence

A "snowball sentence" contrived by Dmitri Borgmann – each word is one letter longer than the last:

I do not know where family doctors acquired illegibly perplexing handwriting; nevertheless, extraordinary pharmaceutical intellectuality, counterbalancing indecipherability, transcendentalizes intercommunications’ incomprehensibleness.

Try to come up with one yourself.

So What Is The State Of The Union?

I missed the speech last night.  So what is the state of the Union?

Is it "strong"?  Yeah, I bet it is.  I bet that’s what he said.  It’s "strong".

UPDATE:  Well, looking through the text, he never actually said that.  Usually, within the first couple of sentences, the President will proclaim (not just "say", but literally proclaim) "The State of the Union is strong!" [Applause].

I guess his speechwriters saw the wisdom in not opening with a laugh line.

They did manage to weasel this in the end, though:

And so long as we continue to trust the people, our nation will prosper, our liberty will be secure, and the state of our Union will remain strong.

So, you know, it’s like he had already said the state of the Union is strong, and now he’s telling us it will "remain" that way.  Except, he never actually could say the state of the Union was strong.

Pat Boone: Modern Man

Seriously, this guy must have been big back in neanderthal times:

Women shouldn’t be trained to kill, to engage in hand-to-hand combat or to risk death facing hate-crazed enemies.

Now if that’s not bad enough, keep in mind that this is in the middle of an article talking about presidential nominees.  Which makes me wonder what Pat actually thinks the President does.

What man wants to let that happen, no matter how it might appeal to some women themselves? Sure, they can … but they shouldn’t. If it must be done, it’s a man’s job, a man’s duty….

And that’s how I feel about the idea of a woman president. Face it, Americans will elect a woman their leader only if there seem to be no qualified men – only if they feel she’s the best we can come up with. Have we come to that? Can neither party present a man who so clearly has the leadership qualities we need that we’ll decide to accept a woman – to sit across from Vladimir Putin or the Chinese, Korean or Pakistani leaders who all despise the idea of having to treat a woman as their equal, politically or otherwise?

Say what?  We should have a woman president so that we won’t be despised by our political opponents on the world stage?

Listen, Pat.  If you want to be misogynistic, that’s fine.  But at least have the balls to say it, and not put it upon your imagined misogyny of "the Chinese, Korean or Pakistani", mmm-kay?  (P.S.  As for Pakistani women leaders, does the name Bhutto ring a bell, Pat?)

P.S.  Pat would also like you to know that he would be all for a black (male) president — really, he would! — just not, you know, Obama for Chrissakes snicker doodle sakes.

Read This…

From the NYT Review of Books:

Many bloggers really don’t write much at all. They are more like impresarios, curators, or editors, picking and choosing things they find on line, occasionally slapping on a funny headline or adding a snarky (read: snotty and catty) comment. Some days, the only original writing you see on a blog is the equivalent of "Read this…. Take a look…. But, seriously, this is lame…. Can you believe this?"

True, that.  At least for me.

What Economic Downturn?

Nope, not if you’re Big Oil:

Shell will be at the centre of a political storm this week when it posts profits of almost $27bn (£13.6bn), the highest earnings ever made by a British company.

The record-breaking profits, on the back of soaring oil prices, seem likely to stir fresh allegations of profiteering. The price of petrol has been increasing sharply, rising from 71p a litre five years ago to about 104p a litre today, according to the AA.

Texas-based Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest privately-owned oil company, is expected to improve on its own previous record on Friday by reporting earnings of $39.6bn, the biggest annual profits that the US has ever seen.

Lego Turns 50

Some Lego facts:

  • There are about 62 LEGO bricks for every one of the world’s 6 billion inhabitants.
  • Children around the world spend 5 billion hours a year playing with LEGO bricks.
  • More than 400 million people around the world have played with LEGO bricks.
  • More than 400 billion LEGO bricks have been produced since 1949. Stacked on top of each other, this is enough to connect the Earth and the Moon ten times over.
  • 7 LEGO sets are sold by retailers every second around the world.
  • The LEGO bricks sold in one year would circle the world 5 times.

Here’s the original Lego patent.

And check out this Lego artwork by Nathan Sawaya:

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Ladder5

And finally, the very ambitious The Brick Testament — the entire Bible illustrated with Lego figures:

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Obama Gets Kennedy Endorsement

I think the media makes much more of endorsements than the general public.  I mean, does anyone vote based on a newspaper’s endorsement?  Or a celebrity’s?  Or another politician’s?  I don’t think so. [UPDATE:  Well, maybe I’m wrong…]

Still, Kennedy’s endorsement of Obama is a nice coup for that campaign.  And coming off of Obama’s South Carolina win 28-point blowout, it may be the start of some genuine mo’ heading into Super Duper Tuesday.

He’s gonna need it, as this WSJ graph shows:

Supertuesday

UPDATE:  For those who missed it, here’s why I’m leaning toward Obama.  It’s his victory speech from SC.  No, he doesn’t shine in debates, but this is where he shines:

MORE:  From TPM:

You cannot overestimate the significance of the Kennedy endorsement of Obama.

Suddenly Obama has become the candidate of generational change just as JFK was. His youth is transformed from a possible negative to a huge selling point. The message is that the world cannot be changed by leaders who evoke a previous generation.

As an early baby boomer, I’m a little sad to see late boomer Obama wrest the torch from our aging fingers.

But it’s time. We’ve had two Presidents –Clinton and W — and now its our younger brothers and sisters time.

There is no guarantee Obama will win or that he can change America the way we need to be changed. JFK was followed by Johnson and Nixon, two relics of the 1950’s.

But it is JFK (along with those other "kids," RFK and MLK) who still inspire us and who continue to remind the world that America was once something special, and can be again.

I think Obama will go all the way. But I can’t be sure of it. One thing I am sure of is that it’s his time. I talk to many kids (DC is full of them, some of the best in this country) and I haven’t met a single one who isn’t for Obama (okay, asome are for Edwards).

Call me a self-hating 60’s person but I’m happy to stand with the kids, with change and with the best parts of the Kennedy legacy.

That is what being a 60’s radical was all about. I’m old, the ideas remain young.

Yeah, it’s weird.  Obama is only 2 years older than me.

State Of The Union 2008

Not much to say about Bush’s last State of the Union speech.  I only note it because my first post ever on this blog was about the State of The Union — four years and one week ago today.  That was 5,301 posts ago.

But who’s counting?

Anyway, Bush will speak tonight — supposedly to calm American’s nerves about the impending economic crisis.  Of course, when he last spoke on that subject one week ago, the Dow dropped almost 150 points immediately (like, within the hour) after he got through.

Uh-Oh or Psychout?

MSNBC:

For the second consecutive day, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady wasn’t in the locker room or at practice when reporters and cameramen were allowed inside Friday.

During the 45-minute period in the locker room, several cameramen lingered near his locker, but he didn’t show up. Nor was he there for the first 12 minutes of practice that the media were allowed to watch.

Asked if he could say whether Brady would practice Friday, New England coach Bill Belichick said, “Not now. We’ll see.”

The Boston Globe reported that Brady missed all of the team’s first practice Thursday.

Brady was photographed in New York on Monday wearing a protective boot on his right foot. He took it off later in the day and hasn’t been photographed wearing it since. He reportedly has a minor high ankle sprain that isn’t expected to keep him out of the Super Bowl against the New York Giants on Feb. 3.

My guess?  Psychout.  His ankle is fine.

Election 2008: South Carolina Watch

There’s something going on down there.  Obama has a commanding lead and is set to win that state’s primary.  But the not-much-discussed story is Edwards who has been surging like a madman over the past few days according to this poll:

Candidate 1/22-24 1/21-23 1/20-22 RCP 5-poll Ave.
Obama 38 39 43 38.2
Clinton 25 24 24 26.4
Edwards 21 19 15 19.2

He’s now within 4 point sof Clinton.

What would happen, one wonders, if Clinton came in third in South Carolina tomorrow?

Clinton: “I Have To Defend Myself”

What?

Hillary Clinton said Friday she must respond in kind to attacks from rival Barack Obama even though she’d rather keep the race for the Democratic presidential nomination focused on their differences on public policy issues.

"I try not to attack first, but I have to defend myself — I do have to counterpunch," Clinton told NBC’s "Today Show."

Wow.  As I posted yesterday, Clinton is the one on the attackThat’s just ballsy — go after your opponents with Republican-like tactics and then play the "I’m the victim" card?

What’s distressing is that, in today’s climate, it’ll probably work with much of the electorate.  Publius calls it "the rube strategy":

But still, she and her campaign keep harping on this — dishonestly. What’s so infuriating is that, in doing so, they assume their audience is too ignorant to learn the truth. It’s not so much that they’re attacking Obama – after all, that’s politics. It’s that Clinton’s attacks illustrate a deep contempt for voters. Call it “the rube strategy” – we’ll say what we want and most people will be too ignorant to ever figure out the difference.

UPDATE:  Then again, maybe it’s backfiring….

UPDATE:  And then yet again, it must be working because the Clinton campaign is going to keep at it:

After three weeks of nearly nonstop campaigning, set off by Mrs. Clinton’s third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, Mr. Clinton has shown as much ability as his wife — or even more — to stir public and news media skepticism about Mr. Obama’s position on Iraq and his message of nonpartisan leadership, Clinton advisers say.

Mr. Clinton is deliberately trying to play bad cop against Mr. Obama, campaign officials say, and is keenly aware that a flash of anger or annoyance will draw even more media and public attention to his arguments. He will continue campaigning full-time for Mrs. Clinton after South Carolina in states with primaries on Feb. 5 where he is especially popular, like Arkansas, California and New York, they say.

They also see benefits in Mr. Clinton’s drawing the ire of the Obama camp, predicting that there will be a voter backlash against Mr. Obama if the former president looks like a victim in the cut-and-thrust of the race.

Thinking About The Conversation

For years, my brother has urged me to see the 1974 Coppola film, The Conversation.  I didn’t resist the suggestion; I just never got around to it.

But TIVO apparently thought I would enjoy it, because it recorded it the other day (For those of you without TIVO, the device will record shows it thinks you might like, based on your viewing habits).  So I watched it.

Yeah, it was good.  Bit dated, a bit slow, but a great cast.

And after it was over, I recalled a conversation my mother and brother had about the movie — specifically, the key line mentioned by Frederick Forrest/Cindy Williams (the "conversation" of The Conversation).  Yeah, I thought it was a bit of a cheat [warning — spoiler] myself, but that directorial trick wasn’t pivotal to my enjoyment of the movie.

Anyway, as I was watching it, I thought it would work well as a play.  And lo and behold, today I read that it is one, heading for off-off-Broadway in April (it’s been playing in Chicago for a couple of years).

Should be interesting.

Conversation

Since When Am I “Wealthy”?

Since today I guess.  The news:

House leaders and the White House on Thursday reached a tentative agreement on an economic stimulus package of roughly $150 billion that would pay stipends of $300 to $1,200 per family and provide tax incentives for businesses to encourage spending.

Okay.  Well it won’t help the economy and it will add to the deficit.  Why?  Because most people won’t make extensive, economy-reviving purchases on the basis of a single windfall. They are smart enough to know that their spending habits should be based on something lasting — a permanent tax cut or a wage increase, for instance — and data on rebates in 1975 and 2001 bear this out.

…[T]he Bush administration and House Republicans agreed that the stipend of at least $300 would be paid to all workers receiving a paycheck, even those who did not earn enough to pay taxes last year.

Cool.  I’m a worker and I receive a paycheck.

Workers who paid income taxes could receive more than $300, and families with children would receive an additional $300 per child, up to a cap of $1,200. The stipend, which some lawmakers were calling a “tax rebate,” would be subject to income limits so that the wealthiest taxpayers would not receive it. The White House official familiar with the outlines of the accord said that payments would go to individuals earning up to $75,000 and couples earning up to $150,000.

Wait.  What?  First it was — and I quote — "at least $300 would be paid to all workers receiving a paycheck" and a paragraph later, "all" apparently doesn’t mean "all".

Fine.  I guess I can’t be part of the stimulus package.  Because I’m soooooo rich (*chuckle* *snort*).

Bastards.

Extended Album Art*

Abbeyroadevolv

Soundsofsilenceoptimised

Floydyeah

Queenii_2

Chess_records

*  Fun fact for kids:  Recorded music used to be "burned" onto flat vinyl things called "records".  They were laughably large — bigger than CDs even.  They were packaged in cardboard holders.  One of the nice things about these "albums" was the covers.  Before videos, a lot of artistic effort was made into making interesting album art covers.

Not Happy With The Clintons

The bill of particulars, from an article by Paul Waldman:

Pick your tired metaphor — take-no-prisoners, brass knuckles, no-holds-barred, playing for keeps — however you describe it, the Clinton campaign is not only not going easy on Obama, they’re doing so in awfully familiar ways. So many of the ingredients of a typical GOP campaign are there, in addition to fear. We have the efforts to make it harder for the opponent’s voters to get to the polls (the Nevada lawsuit seeking to shut down at-large caucus sites in Las Vegas, to which the Clinton campaign gave its tacit support). We have, depending on how you interpret the events of the last couple of weeks, the exploitation of racial divisions and suspicions (including multiple Clinton surrogates criticizing Obama for his admitted teenage drug use). And most of all, we have an utterly shameless dishonesty.

On some of these points, Clinton hasn’t yet reached GOP levels of underhandedness. But on the simple question of honestly characterizing their opponent, the Clintons are giving any Republican campaign in memory a run for its money.

The latest example is the Clinton camp’s extremely effective effort to twist some remarks Obama made about Ronald Reagan and the years since his presidency beyond all recognition, which came up in their debate Monday night. In an interview with the editorial board of the Reno Gazette-Journal, Obama had said that Reagan had successfully "changed the trajectory of America, in a way that Richard Nixon did not, and in a way that Bill Clinton did not," a claim few people of any ideological stripe would dispute. He also said, "I think it’s fair to say the Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time over the last 10 or 15 years, in the sense that they were challenging conventional wisdom."

***

And that was only the latest. During the whole messy back-and-forth over race, a disagreement neither candidate seemed truly comfortable having, Bill Clinton went on The Tom Joyner Morning Show  (one of the most widely-syndicated radio programs in the country), and claimed that Obama’s advisors had said all sorts of terrible things about his wife. "No one," he said, "should accuse someone like Hillary of being a racist who’s responsible for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto." That would indeed be an awful charge to make, had anyone actually made it. But no one had….

Then there’s the argument Bill Clinton made on multiple occasions, that Obama couldn’t say he had always opposed the Iraq war: "How could you say that when you said in 2004 you didn’t know how you would have voted on the resolution?" As the article in question read, Obama "declined to criticize Senators Kerry and Edwards for voting to authorize the war, although he said he would not have done the same based on the information he had at the time. ‘But, I’m not privy to Senate intelligence reports,’ Mr. Obama said. ‘What would I have done? I don’t know. What I know is that from my vantage point the case was not made.’"

One might argue that although Clinton distorted Obama’s comment in attempting to argue falsely that Obama at some point went from being a war opponent to being something else, it’s hardly so egregious a sin of campaign legerdemain as to be unforgivable. Perhaps. So let’s try this one: Obama has said we should consider the possibility of lifting the cap on Social Security taxes, which in 2008 stands at $102,000 — any income above that amount is not subject to the tax. There are reasonable arguments on both sides of this question, but the whole point of such a move would be to make the tax less regressive than it is now, by making the wealthy pay the same share of their income in the tax as everyone else.

When Hillary Clinton decided to go after Obama for considering lifting the cap, she did it in the kind of deceptive, demagogic way you’d expect from a Republican: by sending out a mailer in Nevada accusing Obama of having "a plan with a trillion dollar tax increase on America’s hard-working families." Obama had no "plan" — he merely said that lifting the cap was something worth considering — and the people affected would be upper-middle class and wealthy Americans, not the blue-collar folk implied by the term "America’s hard-working families."

I know that’s a long excerpt, but it accurately describes the Clinton campaign tactics lately.  Very underhanded, very smear-y.

Ezra Klein says so what.  This is good training for Obama who might have to actually face underhanded tactics from a Republican opponent.

Well, maybe so.  But I’d rather see a Democrat fight against an underhanded Republican opponent, than fight underhandedly like a Republican opponent.

If Hillary Clinton can’t win without playing political games of deception, and telling lies — things she knows are lies — about her opponents, then maybe she’s not fit to the nomination based on her merits.

Sadly, it seems to be working in her favor so far.  But not with this voter.  I recognize that Obama doesn’t want to engage in tit-for-tat smearing, and I praise him for that.  But he’s got to fight back soon.  If Hillary wants to chastize Obama for some business associates he had 20 years ago, I suppose Obama could play that game as well.  And we’re talking about the Clintons here — there’s plenty of meat there.

UPDATE:  Clinton’s former Secretary of Labor and NPR contributor, Robert Reich, also ain’t too happy with his former boss (NOTE: they were also good friends since their college days).  From his blog:

I write this more out of sadness than anger. Bill Clinton’s ill-tempered and ill-founded attacks on Barack Obama are doing no credit to the former President, his legacy, or his wife’s campaign. Nor are they helping the Democratic party. While it may be that all is fair in love, war, and politics, it’s not fair – indeed, it’s demeaning – for a former President to say things that are patently untrue (such as Obama’s anti-war position is a “fairy tale”) or to insinuate that Obama is injecting race into the race when the former President is himself doing it. Meanwhile, the attack ads being run in South Carolina by the Clinton camp which quote Obama as saying Republicans had all the ideas under Reagan, is disingenuous. For years, Bill Clinton and many other leading Democrats have made precisely the same point – that starting in the Reagan administration, Republicans put forth a range of new ideas while the Democrats sat on their hands. Many of these ideas were wrong-headed and dangerous, such as supply-side economics. But for too long Democrats failed counter with new ideas of their own; they wrongly assumed that the old Democratic positions and visions would be enough. Clinton’s 1992 campaign – indeed, the entire “New Democratic” message of the 1990s – was premised on the importance of taking back the initiative from the Republicans and offering Americans a new set of ideas and principles. Now, sadly, we’re witnessing a smear campaign against Obama that employs some of the worst aspects of the old politics.

See also: "Some In Party Bristle At Clintons’ Attacks" – Washington Post

Cloverfield

Yeah.  I’ve been sucked in by the trailers, and like many, this is an action movie I actually kinda wanted to see.  But now that it’s out, I keep reading this a lot:

Cloverfield" is the first adrenaline-pumping monster hit of the year, bringing in more than $40 million dollars on its opening weekend. The thriller is told from the point of view of five young New Yorkers using their handheld camera. But for some viewers, being "part" of the movie is making them sick — literally.

One blogger on the popular movie database IMDB.com said, "I had to get up and leave the theater for nearly 20 minutes just to keep from hurling." Other moviegoers have reported being nauseated and dizzy.

Most viewers are unaffected by the film, but for those who are, experts say the problem is in their heads.

"This is a classic case of vertigo," said Dr. Michael G. Stewart, chairman of otorhinolaryngology (ear, nose and throat medicine) at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weil Cornell Medical Center. "You can look around and feel like things are moving, when they aren’t."

I’m not sure if the movie promoters will consider that good publicity, or bad.

UPDATE:  And look out.  There’s more movies being made from a "handheld" perspective:

UPDATE:  Cloverflu hits Emily (see comments)

What Do I Care If Teens Have Sex?

Over at Slate, William Saletan notes the 35 year anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and tries to move the debate forward (good luck with that, Bill!!) by suggesting that pro-choicers like me embrace the idea that the ideal abortion rate is zero.

Well, okay.  Sure.  Natch.  I think the ideal abortion rate should be zero.  I also think the ideal cancer rate should be zero too.  But let’s face it.  It ain’t gonna happen.

But somewhere in that morass of an article, he shifts the subject to teen sex, noting with approval some comments of NARAL President Nancy Keenan which suggest that she supports the ideal teen sex rate also being zero.

Well, maybe she does, and maybe she doesn’t.  As for me, I don’t know why we as a society should necessarily strive for a teen sex rate of zero.  As long as the sex is safe and consensual, the participants have a reasonable understanding about what they’re getting in to emotionally and physically (at least, an "understanding" on a par with the average adult), then why exactly should we, as a society, care?

Saletan’s reasoning only makes sense if you assume, a priori, that teenagers will never engage in safe sex, and/or are always ill-equipped to "handle" it emotionally.  And while this is probably true on the average (compared to adults), is it true across the board such that we should declare an "ideal" teen sex rate to be zero?

To me, that’s flawed logic.  It’s like saying, teens in general — compared to adults, at least — are more reckless drivers, and therefore the "ideal" number of teen drivers should be zero. 

Well, no.  The premise is probably true, but it is too much of a generalization to make the conclusion valid. 

Now, I’m not a parent, and not too many teenagers run in my social circle.  Perhaps Saletan has access to more data than I.  But it seems to me there are probably hundreds of thousands of teenagers out there who are just as "mature" emotionally (if not more "mature") than many adults I know.  Is there any earthly reason why we should cringe at those teenagers having sex?  I mean, other than the fact that our society seems to cringe at the concept of sex?

“And Then Out Of Nowhere, Heath Ledger Appeared, Ran Into My Burning House And Saved My Kitten” (and Other Stories)

I’m sure he was a nice guy, but… come on:

Dena Michnowich of Glen Cove, New York
I was walking in the lower east side of Manhattan one day and I noticed a really cute man holding his little daughter on his shoulders. She looked just like him. He told her that they had to make a right and asked her to point them in the right direction, which she did. I soon realized that it was Heath Ledger and I got really excited. I was walking right up to them as they were waiting to cross the street. When I got close, I waved and he smiled at me.

R. of Perth, Western Australia
I grew up with Heath around the speedway racing circuit. I remember the night he was a little boy and his Dad was racing speed cars at Claremont Speedway (my dad was in the race, too). …Later Heath would pit crew for Graham Jones, and I crewed for my dad and brother. Heath and I were both the youngest on our crews so that meant our job was to take the fiberglass bonnets over to the hoses and wash the mud off after each race really dirty work but he managed to stay cleaner than the rest of us.

Crystal Davis of Toronto, Ontario
I met Heath in L.A. at a mall a year or so ago. I was staring at him working up the nerve to ask for an autograph. He saw me, started laughing and walked towards me. He said I was white as an "egg" and asked if he could do anything. I said, No thanks … yes I forgot to ask for the autograph. He touched my shoulder and told me to take it easy and walked away. He looked back several times and smiled. What a great memory I have of him. My prayers go out to his family and friends.

Dan Bova of Larchmont, New York
Once when I was driving in Brooklyn, I got a flat tire. As I was jacking up my car, this deep voice from behind me said, "Need a hand?" It was Heath Ledger. I couldn’t believe it. He helped jack up my car and change the tire. He was really good with tools!

UPDATE:  The Westboro Baptist cult assholes, known for their pickets at military funerals (and funerals for the Viriginia Tech students, the Omaha mall shooting victims, etc.), are at it again:

Heath

The State Of Political Reporting

ABC News, yesterday.  Read this:

"I am trying to make sure that his statements by him are answered. Don’t you think that’s important?" Obama shot back, while walking away.

When Zeleny yelled a follow up question suggesting the Illinois senator had not answered the question, Obama fired back angrily, "Don’t try cheap stunts like that."

Obama then walked away and shook hands with the mass of voters that surrounded him.

A few minutes later, Obama came back and confronted Zeleny again.

"I will answer your question though off the record, would you like to talk off the record?" Obama asked. Zeleny refused to go off the record and then motioned toward the gaggle of TV cameras gathered around him.

(Emphasis added)

"Shot back"?  "Fired back angrily"?

Now take a look at the video and see if, in your view, ABC News accurately characterized the exchange:

Journalist license, my ass.

Bush Lied (Many Many Times); People Died

Not news, really:

Warcardchart

A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The study concluded that the statements "were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."

The study was posted Tuesday on the Web site of the Center for Public Integrity, which worked with the Fund for Independence in Journalism.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel did not comment on the merits of the study Tuesday night but reiterated the administration’s position that the world community viewed Iraq’s leader, Saddam Hussein, as a threat.

"The actions taken in 2003 were based on the collective judgment of intelligence agencies around the world," Stanzel said.

The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Mr. Bush and administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to al Qaeda or both.

"It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to al Qaeda," according to Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith of the Fund for Independence in Journalism staff members, writing an overview of the study. "In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003."

Named in the study along with Mr. Bush were top officials of the administration during the period studied: Vice President Dick Cheney, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan.

Mr. Bush led with 259 false statements, 231 about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 28 about Iraq’s links to al Qaeda, the study found. That was second only to Powell’s 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10 about Iraq and al Qaeda.

Now, I’m not one to stick my neck out for the Bush Administration, but I wonder exactly how many of these statements were knowlingly misleading or false.  The Bush folk may just have been stupid or engaged in wishful thinking, both of which lack the element of duplicity.  Unfortunately, I can’t get at a copy of the study, seeing as how the website is down at the moment (probably due to everyone trying to get the study).

Thompson Is Out Of The Race

No surprise.

In fact, I doubt his heart was ever in it.

UPDATED THOUGHTS:  This strikes me as odd timing.  Sure, he hasn’t done well so far, but he’s got some delegates in his column (see sidebar at right) — more than Giuliani and Ron Paul.  He’s also got some money.  Maybe he’s just disappointed that he didn’t do well in South Carolina (Thompson being from the South and all).  Still, one would have thought he would ride it out a little longer, unless (as I suspect) his heart really wasn’t in it in the first place.