Monthly Archives: February 2008

RIP William F Buckley

The New York Times is reporting that Buckley has died.

Not unlike the brand of conservatism for which he stood.  (Buckley was an outspoken critic of the Bush Administration, and the whole neocon movement).

Like him or hate him though, he was a giant.

Ezra Klein:

As a slightly more general point, in the last two or three years, a whole host of giants have passed away, men who were political thinkers at a time when that made you a cultural figure. John Kenneth Galbraith, Milton Friedman, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Norman Mailer, and now, William F. Buckley Jr. Gore Vidal is just about the last of their number left. And that’s a shame. They would write serious books of political analysis and sell millions of copies — they were the writers you had to read to call yourself an actual political junkie. Now, the space they inhabited in the discourse is held by the Coulters and O’Reilly’s of the world. Where we once prized a tremendous facility for wit, we’re now elevating those with a tremendous storehouse for anger. Run a search on quotes from Galbraith, Buckley, or Friedman, then do the same for O’Reilly and Coulter. We’re really losing something here…

Can You Name The 11 Planets?

Eleven planets? 


Makes my head explode, too.

For future reference (in case you get on a game show), they are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto and Eris.

"My Very Exciting Magic Carpet Just Sailed Under Nine Palace Elephants".  That’s the mnemonic device.

The Last Primary Debate

Last night, and I didn’t watch it.  It was probably the most important one for Hillary and Obama, especially Hillary.

Man, there were twenty of those things on the Dem side, and I don’t think I saw a single one.  I don’t know.  I think they are too canned.  And the questions that get asked — they tend to be "gotcha" questions, or invitations to get one candidate to diss another candidate.  Yawn.

Apparently that’s what Russert tried to pull last night.  He tried to get Obama to answer for Farrakhan’s support of the Obama campaign.  Pretty dumb.  Since when is Obama supposed to answer for the views of one of his supporters?  Obama doesn’t pick his supporters; his supporters pick him.


Drum’s wrap-up is pretty typical of what I’ve read:

Seriously, though, can someone please put a sock in Tim Russert? I didn’t even see the entire exchange, but his badgering of Obama on the Louis Farrakhan issue was pretty wretched. It was maybe legitimate to bring it up in the first place, but to keep at it well after Obama had made his position crystal clear was beyond the pale.

Nor did Hillary cover herself with glory on this question, with her inane "denounce" vs. "reject" comeback. Obama’s response — Fine, if it will make you happy, then I denounce and reject Farrakhan — was dexterous and smooth.

Overall, I thought Clinton did about as well as she could have on the attack front, but it just wasn’t enough. Obama seemed the better, more grounded debater tonight. For example, when Hillary made the point that although Obama’s 2002 anti-war speech was all well and good, once he was actually in the Senate he ended up voting the same way she did, I was nodding along. It’s a legitimate point. But Obama’s answer was pretty good:

It was not a matter of, well, here is the initial decision, but since then we’ve voted the same way. Once we had driven the bus into the ditch, there were only so many ways we could get out. The question is, who’s making the decision initially to drive the bus into the ditch? And the fact is that Senator Clinton often says that she is ready on day one, but in fact she was ready to give in to George Bush on day one on this critical issue.

Clinton and Obama are too skilled for either one to ever land a knockout blow in these things, but I’d give tonight’s debate to Obama on points. Whether voters who are tuning in for the first time feel the same way, I couldn’t say.

15 Years Ago Today

I am republishing a portion from an earlier post (written in September 2006):

February 26, 1993

I was a third-year law student at NYU in 1993.  As any third-year law student will tell you, a 3L’s focus in the second semester is not so much on completing law school and passing law school exams, but preparing for the impending bar exam. 

Throughout law school, I clerked part-time at the law firm of Slotnick & Baker, a small "boutique" law firm specializing in high-profile criminal defense cases.  The firm consisted of 4 lawyers, me, a paralegal, and a secretary.  I had worked there since 1987 (I started as a paralegal).

A few weeks earlier, I had informed the senior partner Barry Slotnick that it was my intention to cut back on my time with the firm during my second semester, so I could focus on BarBri bar exam preparation courses.  So I was there only once or twice a week.

I was not supposed to work on February 26, 1993.  But I made an unscheduled visit to the law office, mostly to tie up some loose ends.

Wtc18_1Slotnick & Baker at that time was located at 225 Broadway, just diagonal from the World Trade Center towers.  Pictured here is 225 Broadway on 9/11/01 (it’s the tall building on the right side of the photo — one of the Twin Towers behind it is collapsing).

Every day when I was employed there, I took the subway to work.  I typically would get off at the WTC stop, and come up to the street through the underground concourse mall two stories below the entire WTC complex.

I only planned to be at the firm for only a few hours on February 26.  I had just finished a class that morning, and I had another one sometime in the early afternoon.  I was just going in to get a few things, grab some lunch, and go back to school.

Nadia was glad to see me.  She was the paralegal there, having replaced me a few years earlier when I moved up to "law clerk".  A few days earlier, she had been given an actual office with an actual window.  She no longer had to work in the law library, sitting at a long desk.  "Come see my office," she said.  "I’ve decorated it."

I was happy to oblige.  Her office, in fact, was my old office (or one of them, I should say).  It was full of girly Nadia-things, as I expected.  We did our usual amount of chit-chat and flirting.  I looked out her window from the 22nd floor, which faces south. 

"Nice view," I said sarcastically. 

"At least I have a view now", Nadia smiled.

We chatted a few minutes more about various things.  Office gossip.  Nadia’s second job as a tour guide for Big Apple NYC Bus Tours.  More flirting.

Suddenly, the building shook.  The window, which I was leaning against, rattled.  And a large bang.

"Bangs" are not uncommon in New York.  Usually, it’s a sanitation vehicle slamming down one of those large green industrial trash bins.  But this is something different.

"Whoa", I said. 

Nadia giggled (because that’s what she does).

We speculated as to what it might be, but seeing nothing from her window, we quickly forgot about it.  And ten minutes later, I was saying "so long" and venturing out of the office to get lunch somewhere in the WTC concourse, and eventually return to NYU up in the Village.

As soon as I stepped outside 225 Broadway, I heard the sirens.  I turned the corner and headed toward the WTC and that’s when I saw the flashing lights.  I connected it to the blast I heard ten to fifteen minutes ago.  My initial reaction was one of annoyance: will this prevent me from getting lunch in the WTC concourse?

Then I wondered if there might have been a subway accident — a collision of trains perhaps — which might explain the bang we heard.

I hovered for several minutes, inching my way closer to what appeared to be the center of attention at the foot of the towers.  Others on the street were craning their necks upward, and so — like a lemming — I did, too.

I was almost at the base of the towers, on the plaza (which was surprisingly devoid of people), when I saw them: two women coming out one of the doors on the east side of the North Tower.  They were holding each other and looking very fatigued.  One of them was covered in soot and coughing.

The explosion, as we know now, was a bomb set off in one of the underground parking garages by an al Qaeda terrorist bent on causing one of the towers to collapse.  He grossly underestimated the strength of the building.  However, smoke from the explosion had poured up through the tower’s interior, and cut off power inside.  Just as they would eight years later, workers were evacuating the building — sometimes through smoke — by stairwell.

I went to the women and asked if they were okay.  One of them — the sooty one — asked for water.  I said I didn’t have any, but I said I would take them to where I had seen emergency vehicles minutes before.  And the three of us walked.  They asked me what had happened.  I said I didn’t know, even though I suspected it had something to do with that "bang" I heard half an hour ago.

As we walked around the base of the building toward the west side.  A fireman saw us approaching and helped the stricken woman to a paramedic vehicle, her friend in tow.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw another fireman looking up, and I looked up as well.  There was a plume of smoke coming from one of the high floors in the tower.

Just then, I head a scuffle and looked over to see a man in a gray business suit collapse to the ground.  I assumed he was another worker in the office, although (from the glimpse of him I caught) he didn’t appear to be covered in soot.  Several firemen and policemen quickly went to his aid.

Apart from me, there were a few other civilians in the immediate area.  I heard a policeman instructing them to move back several blocks.  He was concerned about falling glass from the upper floors plummeting down to the streets below.  Not needing a hint, I left the scene and made my way to the subway, looking back over my shoulder to watch the events.  On my way, I ran into a few other people looking for medical attention, and I directed them to the emergency workers.

I arrived at the subway entrance, where a policeman said that they were closing the subway.  This meant that I would have to walk several city blocks uptown to get to the next station. 

I doubted that the subways were running, so walking to another station didn’t make much sense.  With nothing else to do, I stayed around for a while (behind police barricades) watching what I could.

About 20 minutes later, I happened to see an empty cab, which I hailed. I took it to NYU, just in time for class.  The cabbie said he heard it was a bomb on the upper floor (he was wrong, it was in the underground garage).

Six people died that day, and over one thousand were injured, in the first largely forgotten al Qaeda attack on American soil.


Post script:

  • 6 civilians killed
  • Over 1,000 injured
  • 105 firefighters injured – 5 admitted to local hospitals
  • reinforced floors almost 30 inches think blasted away on 3 levels below grade, plus a concourse level floor,leaving a crater about 150 feet in diameter at it’s largest point.
  • On the B1 level, the operations control center of the Port Authority Police Department (and the fire command station forthe complex) was heavily damaged and rendered out of service.
  • On the B2 level, various walls of elevator shafts and freshair plenums severely damaged, allowing smoke to enter and rise through the cores of both towers.
  • Numerous concrete walls destroyed or damaged.
  • 200,000 cubic feet of water poured into the lowest grade fromdamaged refrigeration unit supplies (from the Hudson River),sewer lines, fresh domestic water lines, steam pipes, and condensate return. Water 1.5 feet deep across the B6 level.
  • 124 parked cars destroyed, 102 damaged.
  • Partition walls blown out onto PATH train mezzanine.
  • Numerous telephone conduits collapsed from ceiling onto cars (but phone service was not cut, miraculously).
  • Fire alarm and public address systems out of service.
  • Elevators out of service.
  • Water cooled emergency generators shut down due to overheating when their water supply was cut. This disabled the emergency lighting.
  • Sprinklers & standpipes out of service.
  • 2,500 tons of rubble removed.
  • Clean up effort involved 2,700 workers per day, plus a total of 160,000 gallons of cleaning fluid and 200,00 gallons of detergent.
  • Restoration cost: $250,000,000.
  • Tenants began moving back into tower 2 on March 18, 1993,tower 1 on March 29, 1993.
  • Pictures:





    Immigrant More Law-Abiding Than The Rest Of Us

    One of the right wing’s favorite anti-immigrant claims is that immigrants are dangerous and commit high levels of crime.

    A new report by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, however, finds that these claims are baseless:

    “In California, as in the rest of the nation, immigrants … have extremely low rates of criminal activity,” said Kristin Butcher, a co-author of the report, “Crime, Corrections and California: What Does Immigration Have to Do With It?”

    Available data, the report’s authors said, “suggest that long-standing fears of immigration as a threat to public safety are unjustified.”

    Starting with the fact that immigrants make up 35 percent of the state’s adult population but only 17 percent of its prisoners, researchers said they discovered several “striking” findings.

    That Yeats Could Turn A Phrase

    When by my solitary hearth I sit,
    When no fair dreams before my “mind’s eye” flit,
    And the bare heath of life presents no bloom;
    Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,
    And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head.

    Whene’er I wander, at the fall of night,
    Where woven boughs shut out the moon’s bright ray,
    Should sad Despondency my musings fright,
    And frown, to drive fair Cheerfulness away,
    Peep with the moon-beams through the leafy roof,
    And keep that fiend Despondence far aloof.

    Should Disappointment, parent of Despair,
    Strive for her son to seize my careless heart;
    When, like a cloud, he sits upon the air,
    Preparing on his spell-bound prey to dart:
    Chase him away, sweet Hope, with visage bright,
    And fright him as the morning frightens night!

    Whene’er the fate of those I hold most dear
    Tells to my fearful breast a tale of sorrow,
    O bright-eyed Hope, my morbid fancy cheer;
    Let me awhile thy sweetest comforts borrow:
    Thy heaven-born radiance around me shed,
    And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

    Should e’er unhappy love my bosom pain,
    From cruel parents, or relentless fair;
    O let me think it is not quite in vain
    To sigh out sonnets to the midnight air!
    Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,
    And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

    In the long vista of the years to roll,
    Let me not see our country’s honour fade:
    O let me see our land retain her soul,
    Her pride, her freedom; and not freedom’s shade.
    From thy bright eyes unusual brightness shed—
    Beneath thy pinions canopy my head!

    Let me not see the patriot’s high bequest,
    Great Liberty! how great in plain attire!
    With the base purple of a court oppress’d,
    Bowing her head, and ready to expire:
    But let me see thee stoop from heaven on wings
    That fill the skies with silver glitterings!

    And as, in sparkling majesty, a star
    Gilds the bright summit of some gloomy cloud;
    Brightening the half veil’d face of heaven afar:
    So, when dark thoughts my boding spirit shroud,
    Sweet Hope, celestial influence round me shed,
    Waving thy silver pinions o’er my head.

    What “Pro-Choice” Means (And Courting The Evangelical Vote)

    From a Salon interview with author Amy Sullivan ("The Party Faithful"), a Christian evangelical who is a Democrat:

    You’re pro-choice. Does that interfere with being an evangelical?

    Well, I don’t like the [pro-choice] label. I guess the reason I wrote about abortion the way I did in the book is because I have serious moral concerns about abortion, but I don’t believe that it should be illegal. And that puts me in the vast majority of Americans. But unfortunately, there’s no label for us.

    There is a label for people who have serious moral concerns about abortion, but who believe that women have the right to decide what to do with their bodies.  It’s called "pro-choice".  That’s what "pro-choice" means.

    "Pro-choice" isn’t a euphamism for — I don’t know — mandating abortions.  It doesn’t mean that one has to view abortions as "moral".  It just means that each woman gets to make those moral decisions, not the government.

    I run into this a lot — people who say, "Well, I’m pro-life.  I think abortions are immoral and wrong.  But I don’t think they should be made illegal, and that women should be sent to jail for it."  Those people, although they can’t bring themselves to admit it (probably because they feel they will be demonized), are pro-choice.

    Pro-choice and pro-life are not opposites.  One can be both.  In fact, like Amy Sullivan says, most people probably are. 

    UPDATE:  Kevin Drum ponders the Amy Sullivan interview and adds this:

    In the rest of the interview, she basically suggests that about 60% of the evangelical community is politically conservative and won’t ever vote for a Democrat. But the other 40% will, and those 40% are worth trying to appeal to. And one way to appeal to them is to acknowledge their moral qualms about abortion even if you don’t happen to share them yourself. Like this guy:

    I think that the American people struggle with two principles: There’s the principle that a fetus is not just an appendage, it’s potential life. I think people recognize that there’s a moral element to that. They also believe that women should have some control over their bodies and themselves and there is a privacy element to making those decisions.

    I don’t think people take the issue lightly. A lot of people have arrived in the view that I’ve arrived at, which is that there is a moral implication to these issues, but that the women involved are in the best position to make that determination. And I don’t think they make it lightly.

    That’s Barack Obama, likely the next Democratic candidate for the presidency. All he’s doing is acknowledging the moral dimension of abortion, while remaining solidly in favor of abortion choice, reducing unwanted pregnancies, and encouraging responsible sexual behavior.

    UPDATE:  More of the same, from Shakesville:

    Here’s the thing: I agree that pro-choicers need to develop a dialog with people who consider themselves pro-life, but really could be convinced that abortion should remain legal.

    But the way to do that is not by saying, "Well, pro-choice doesn’t describe me, because abortion is all icky and stuff." The way to do that is to focus on the term, "pro-choice."

    As it seems to need to be said over and over and over again, pro-choice is not the same as pro-abortion. I know many, many people who personally would not have abortions, but nevertheless believe it should absolutely be legal for those who would. Pro-choice means believing that women should have the right to make their own moral decisions on abortion, even if you disagree with those decisions.

    I, like many people, have my own personal opinions on when abortion is right and when it is wrong. I just don’t believe my views should be translated into government control. If I was a woman, I might even have the opportunity to act on those opinions — or find that they’ve changed once the situation wasn’t a hypothetical anymore.

    That’s the essence of choice — saying that you trust women to decide. Sullivan can have "serious moral concerns" about abortion all she wants to. She can voice them, explain why she feels that way.

    That’s a pro-choice position. The way to convince those fence-sitting evangelicals is not to say, "Well, I’m not pro-choice like those angry feminists are." The way to convince them is to say, "I have my problems with abortion, too. But I’m still pro-choice, because I think it’s a choice that’s up to a woman based on her morality, her religion, her situation." People who are willing to come over to the pro-choice side are going to be receptive to that message. People who are not receptive to that message are going to stay Republican. Let them.


    You Have To Wonder….

    I understand that many on the right really really really hate Islam — the entire religion — simply because of the extremist element within that religion contain some terribly bad people.

    But you have to wonder about a winger who is do dedicated to his anti-Islamic beliefs that he says he will commit suicide as a sign of protest against Islam, and the liberals who (in his mind) allows it to prosper.

    A hardcore right wing blogger named Ronald Barbour did just that.  From his final post, dated Feb. 19:

    I understand the ______ building is more than 150 feet tall. At the time of my last recon I noticed easy access to the roof that would allow someone to leap to their death to the parking lot below. I’m not an expert in these matters, but if I recall from my physics classes in college at 100 feet a falling object reaches a speed of about 100 MPH. This means that the falling man would hit the pavement at a speed great enough to cause instant death. I understand that over the years since the construction of this building several persons have died by jumping from this structure.

    I plan to make such a leap. I do this in memory of the several hundred victims on 9/11 who jumped off the World Trade Center as a means of avoiding burning to death, and the over 3,000 American soldiers killed fighting Islamofascism in Iraq and Afghanistan. A parallel reason is a protest against the American Left and the Democrat Party who have stabbed the Armed Forces in the back in the early stages of what is shaping up to be The Third World War.


    What I did is not suicide. It is the action of a patriot and idealist who loves God and Country, and who makes a very public statement as a warning of a New Dark Age that looks America straight in the face armed with a hideous ideology that makes the German Nazis or Russian Communists look like bleeding heart liberals. I hope my fellow Countrymen will rally once gain in the defense of liberty no matter how long and hard the struggle.

    Here’s his obit.

    P.S.  It’s important to note that this person probably was not particularly balanced.  After all, according to a reprint of a Florida Today article on his blog, Barbour spent time in federal prison for attempting to assassinate Bill Clinton.  (Barbour claimed he was framed).

    Elmo Making Death Threats

    Ok then:

    ElmoLITHIA – A Lithia family says a cuddly, programmable Elmo doll revealed its dark side yesterday after fresh batteries were installed.

    Instead of singing songs or reciting the favorite color of its 2-year-old owner, James Bowman, the doll started making death threats, the family says.

    With a squeeze of its fuzzy belly, the Sesame Street character now says, in a sing-song voice, "Kill James." "It’s not something that really you would think would ever come out of a toy," said Melissa Bowman, James’ mother. "But once I heard, I was just kind of distraught."

    The Elmo Knows Your Name doll, which connects to a computer to learn certain phases and names, recently ran out of battery power, Bowman said.

    About an hour after she put new ones in, "I noticed exactly what it was saying," Bowman said. "And my son was repeating exactly what it was saying."

    Clinton Campaign Circulates Photo Of “Muslim” Obama

    OaAccording to Drudge:

    With a week to go until the Texas and Ohio primaries, stressed Clinton staffers circulated a photo over the weekend of a “dressed” Barack Obama.

    The photo, taken in 2006, shows the Democrat frontrunner fitted as a Somali Elder, during his visit to Wajir, a rural area in northeastern Kenya. The senator was on a five-country tour of Africa.

    “Wouldn’t we be seeing this on the cover of every magazine if it were HRC?” questioned one campaign staffer, in an email obtained by the DRUDGE REPORT. 

    This is a "wink and nod" tactic of the Clinton campaign, and I don’t think anyone except the most extremely ignorant voter is going to buy it.  A sheer sign of desparation.

    Even Rick Moran, one of the most conservative on the conservative blogosphere, ain’t having none of it:

    It embarrasses me to no end to see fellow conservatives who actually believe that Barack Obama is some kind of “Manchurian Candidate” sent by Muslims to undermine American society. Or that Obama is a closet Muslim just waiting to take power before unmasking himself. Or perhaps most bizarrely, since Obama was born to a Muslim father, he is a Muslim whether he wants to be or not and that Muslims elsewhere will not let him forget his heritage.


    Most of this idiocy takes place in comment sections of blogs and conservative boards where new Vince Foster murder theories still generate excitement. Occassionally, one of these stories goes mainstream and for a brief period, conservative are made to look like paranoid loons who believe Barack Obama is a cross between the anti-Christ and Osama bin Laden’s long lost brother.

    Well, today conservative stupidity regarding Obama and his supposed ties to Islam hit paydirt – as in generating a ten on the laugh-o-meter. Evidently, the probable next president of the United States was caught in flagrante dilecto, dressed to the nines in what appears to be some kind of native garb (probably Kenyan) and with a (gasp!) turban on his head. To some of my unschooled, ignorant conservative friends, this is further proof that if we elect Obama president, there will be a department of Sharia Affairs.


    …the idea that Obama in traditional Kenyan garb proves he’s some kind of closet Muslim or Islamic sympathizer is absurd. Kenya is 70% Christian and only 10% Muslim. To extrapolate that Obama’s dress denotes anything other than acknowledging his birthright not to mention playing the gracious guest by donning the clothing of his hosts is irrational, stupid, ignorant, and totally without foundation.


    I would say to my conservative friends who continue to insist that this is a rich vein to mine that you are so off base as to be a laughingstock. Just because my middle name is David doesn’t mean I’m a Jew despite a long, illustrious connection of that name to the history and faith of the Hebrews. Hence, this nonsense about Obama’s middle name being “proof” that he is a Muslim has got to stop. There’s no evidence that name was given to him for any other reason except the given one – it was his father’s middle name as well.

    Nor does Obama dressing up in local garb make him a Kenyan elder or a shadow Muslim. The fact that he is wearing a traditional headress is irrelevant to what he believes. When Calvin Coolidge was photographed wearing a Lakotan headdress, no one came out and said Coolidge was a devotee of The Great Spirit. Politicians wear all sorts of funny hats and clothes. It’s part of Americana. For Obama to be singled out for honoring his hosts by dressing in traditional garb is the height of stupidity and my conservative bretheren should be ashamed of themselves.

    I really wish this meme would stop. There is so much else to criticize Obama for that to start tilting at windmills by claiming he’s a danger to our Judeo-Christian society is a waste of time, effort, and resources. I would imagine the candidate himself rather than being hurt by these accusations probably gets a good laugh out of them, so silly they are and so revealing of the stupidity that permeates a large subset of the right.

    Get a grip, friends.

    As even Drudge himself notes, political leaders often dress in the garb of the people they are visiting.  It "means" nothing.



    UPDATE:  Obama, naturally, has called the circulation of the photo by the Clinton campaign "divisive".  The Clinton campaign response as follows:


    If Barack Obama’s campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed. Hillary Clinton has worn the traditional clothing of countries she has visited and had those photos published widely.

    This is nothing more than an obvious and transparent attempt to distract from the serious issues confronting our country today and to attempt to create the very divisions they claim to decry.

    We will not be distracted.


    Here was the Clinton campaign’s chance to deny that they were circulating the photo.  They didn’t.

    Instead, they send the nonsensical message: "Circulation of the photo by us is not devisive nor an attempt to distract from the serious issues confronting our country today.  But saying that we’re being divisive by circulating the photo is an attempt to distract from the serious issues confronting the coountry today".

    OTHER OBAMA-RELATED THOUGHTS:  Count me among the many who have concerns about Obama being assassinated.  They did it to John, Bobbie, Martin, and Malcolm…..

    And certainly the photos of him in non-Western garb have the potential to set off the most unstable elements of our society….

    The Obama Faux Outrage Of The Day

    I’ll let Yglesius explain:

    Conservatives have been all over Barack Obama (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here) for telling the following anecdote during last night’s debate:

    You know, I’ve heard from an Army captain who was the head of a rifle platoon — supposed to have 39 men in a rifle platoon," he said. "Ended up being sent to Afghanistan with 24 because 15 of those soldiers had been sent to Iraq. And as a consequence, they didn’t have enough ammunition, they didn’t have enough humvees. They were actually capturing Taliban weapons, because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief.

    Basically, as you can see if you check the conservative blogs above, that story can’t possibly be true, and the fact that Obama would say it reflects either his dishonesty or else his gross ignorance of military matters. Alternatively, you can read Jake Tapper who got in touch with the Captain in question: "Short answer: He backs up Obama’s story." The story itself is, as Tapper says, pretty interesting and worth checking out on its own merits. Obama’s conservative critics will, I’m sure, be taking note of this additional reporting.

    UPDATE: Phil Carter has an excellent post following up on some of these issues. Bottom line:

    In light of my experience in Iraq, Sen. Obama’s comments last night are eminently believable. Sen. Obama is also absolutely right to use this anecdote as a critique of the administration’s decision to go to war in Iraq. It is incontrovertible that the war in Iraq diverted scarce military resources (manpower, equipment, etc.) from Afghanistan to Iraq. The cost for that diversion was paid by America’s sons and daughters, and our Afghan brethren, who continue to fight in Afghanistan against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. We owe our troops better.

    Well said.

    Straight Talk Express Derailing?

    I really don’t care about the sex aspect to the whole McCain story.  I don’t think it’s relevant.  But the whole influence-peddling thing is troublesome.

    And now, McCain’s got a problem with his story.  From Newsweek:

    On Wednesday night, the Times published a story suggesting that McCain might have done legislative favors for the clients of the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, who worked for the firm of Alcalde & Fay. One example it cited were two letters McCain wrote in late 1999 demanding that the Federal Communications Commission act on a long-stalled bid by one of Iseman’s clients, Florida-based Paxson Communications, to purchase a Pittsburgh television station.

    Just hours after the Times’ story was posted, the McCain campaign issued a point-by-point response that depicted the letters as routine correspondence handled by his staff–and insisted that McCain had never even spoken with anybody from Paxson or Alcalde & Fay about the matter. "No representative of Paxson or Alcalde & Fay personally asked Senator McCain to send a letter to the FCC," the campaign said in a statement emailed to reporters.

    But that flat claim seems to be contradicted by an impeccable source: McCain himself. "I was contacted by Mr. Paxson on this issue," McCain said in the September 25, 2002 deposition obtained by Newsweek. "He wanted their approval very bad for purposes of his business. I believe that Mr. Paxson had a legitimate complaint."

    WI Court Upholds Conviction Of Man Who Had Sex With A Dead Deer

    The statute forbids sex with an animal.  Since the deer he had sex with was dead, and since "animal" implies a living creature, he cannot be convicted (so argued his appellate lawyer).

    It looks from the opinion that the appellate court was somewhat convinced by that argument.  However, it still upheld the conviction on the grounds that the man pleaded "no contest" to the charge, which means that he basically admitted guilt to the words of the statute, whatever they might mean (dead, alive, etc.)

    Deer in Wisconsin celebrated the court ruling.  News story here.

    “Assassins” Banned

    Assassins_mediumArt suffers:

    After the Virginia Tech murders a year ago, Yale University banned the use of stage weapons in a student theatrical production — infuriating actors and educators who believed audience members could distinguish drama from real life. After a few days of ridicule, Yale backed down.

    A year later, after another gun tragedy, college officials are still trying to figure out how to make their campuses safe — and theater still is a target. A student production of Assassins, the award-winning musical, was to have premiered Thursday night at Arkansas Tech University, but the administration banned it — and permitted a final dress rehearsal Wednesday night (so the cast could experience the play on which students have worked long hours) only on the condition that wooden stage guns were cut in half prior to the event and not used. Assassins is a musical in which the characters are the historic figures who have tried to kill a U.S. president.

    Robert C. Brown, Arkansas Tech’s president, issued a statement explaining the decision as follows: “All of us have a healthy respect for the freedom of artistic expression that college theater represents, and all of us agree that out of respect for the families of those victims of the tragedies at Northern Illinois University and Virginia Tech, and from an abundance of caution, it is best at this time not to undertake a campus production that contains the portrayal of graphically violent scenes.”

    It is best not to undertake a campus production that contains the portrayal of graphically violent scenes?

    Why, exactly?

    What’s the fear?  Is it likely to send students into a gun-shooting frenzy?  Cannot Arkansas students recognize the difference between "violence" in a freakin musical (and really, it’s not terribly violent) and actual violence?


    I like this paragraph in the above article:

    Further frustrating faculty members, there have been reports of gun shots — and a recent shooting injury — at parties organized by Arkansas Tech students, but the students organizing those parties were reportedly football players, not thespians. Some questioned why what they see as a false concern (fake guns in drama) was getting attention, as opposed to what they view as more serious problems. Others said that they viewed an order to stop a play as a violation of academic freedom.

    Yeah.  Football is violent.  It’s actual violence, too, not pretend stage violence.  You gonna ban that , Arkansas Tech?

    [Pictured above.  The graphic for "Assassins".  Since Arkansas students apparently cannot distinguish between a gun and a finger, I feel compelled to report that the "assassin" in the photo is extending a finger.]

    I Missed The Debate

    This one would have been interesting.

    Here’s a roundup:

    * Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic: The Debate Belongs To Obama, But The Best (And) Last Moment Belongs To Hillary.  The "last moment" refers to Hillary’s last answer:

    Talk about a final answer.

    "She was blessed" to "give others the same opportunities that I take for granted. That’s why I get up in the morning. That’s what motivates me for this campaign. No matter what happens in this contest, and I am honored to be here with Barack Obama… whatever happens, we’re going to be fine. I just hope that we’ll be able to say the same thing about the American people."

    I guess you had to see it.  I think it’s nice, but not standing-o worthy.

    * Josh Marshall looks at "that line" from Hillary as well, and notes that it echoes what Bill Clinton said in 1992, i.e.

    "The hits that I took in this election are nothing compared to the hits the people of this state and this country have been taking for a long time."

    * John Amato of Crooks & Liars: "I thought they both did quite well tonight outside the line above. Debating is a very good platform for Hillary and she shined—especially her closing statement, but so did Barack. This used to be a weakness for him in my mind, but he’s improved dramatically and is quite comfortable going one on one."

    * CNN analysis: Clinton likely didn’t slow Obama’s momentum

    * MyDD‘s Glenn Smith: "Nothing happened that will change whatever is going to happen anyway in the March 4 primary. Everyone assumed Clinton would try to knock Obama down a peg, throw him off his game, do something that would generate at least a fews days worth of news. There wasn’t even one day worth of news generated [by the debate]. In that sense, Obama succeeded at his task. Clinton didn’t."

    * The Atlantic‘s Matthew Yglesias: "If [HRC] was still the front-runner, this would have counted as a clear Clinton win — Obama had some good moments, but her ability to rattle off policy details on the fly really comes through whereas Obama needs to pause to think. But she’s not the front-runner anymore, and it’s hard to see anything she did to make up lost ground."

    * AMERICAblog‘s Joe Sudbay: "Clinton needed more. Her campaign made a very big deal about the debates — as if she would dominate. She didn’t get the boost we were led to believe she needed."

    *Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice: "It proved to be largely a studious debate that was surprisingly (and refreshingly) issue-oriented. Clinton’s home run didn’t quite materialize but she gave an answer about adversity that brought the crowd to its feet — but it is unlikely to prove to have been a major vote-changing, election-turning response."

    * TNR’s The Plank: "I think …all the television analysis is basically correct: Obama had a very good debate and kept his momentum despite Clinton’s marvelous final answer. I would just add that there were a couple of moments where Obama’s cockiness was extremely off-putting. His comment about "very good" speeches was tonally wrong, and he needs to stop saying "I was right" about matters of foreign policy (especially when the subject is murky questions like what to do about Pakistan). Still, it’s probably fortunate for him that the main soundbite from the night will be Hillary’s attack on the plagiarism charge, which fell very flat."

    * The Nation: "In tonight’s CNN-Univision debate, Hillary Clinton personified the empathy of Franklin Roosevelt, while Barack Obama invoked the new spirit of John F. Kennedy. I thought Clinton excelled with her wrap-up statement, which led to a standing ovation. She succeeded in expressing a deep empathy for working families.

    "Obama won on the issues of Cuba and Iraq, and held his own on healthcare against her severe attacks. They seemed equal on their opening statements, on what they would do on Day One, Mexican-American issues and Bush earmarks. Once again, Clinton’s attacks seemed to bounce right off Obama.

    "Clinton’s performance might re-ignite her campaign, but it also could be a memorable farewell, a dignity in defeat, for which she will be well remembered and honored."



    That’s a deadlock.  In Ohio, Clinton is up by about seven.

    Dick Marple Of Hooksett NH Is A Doofus

    Just sayin

    Oh, and Dick, there are other parts to the Constitution.

    UPDATE:  Ah, he’s a Free State whacko.

    UPDATE:  Found a pic


    UPDATE:  Feeling ornery, I wrote a letter to the editor of the Concord Monitor:

    In his editorial dated February 20, 2008 entitled "Legally, A Woman Can’t be Elected President", former NH legislator Dick Marple makes a bold argument: that the 19th Amendment, which brought about women’s sufferage, "did not identify women to be qualified to become elected president."

    He’s quite correct.  To that I would add, the Second Amendment (the "right to bear arms") also does not grant woman the qualification to become president.  Trust me, I looked.  I read it closely — it just ain’t there.

    In fact, carefully scrutiny of the entire U.S. Constitution reveals the same result: nowhere does it specifically say that women are qualified to be President. 

    True — Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution gives a few requirements for presidential office: the "person" must be a U.S. citizen (or a natural born citizen), must be 35 or older, etc.  But nowhere does it specifically say that a *woman* can be President. 

    Clearly, the Supreme Court will have to resolve whether or not a woman qualifies as a "person", but until they rule on this thorny legal question, I advise caution.

    I was going to write a tongue-in-cheek, smart-ass "Letter To The Editor" in response to Mr. Marple’s commentary, but then it dawned on me: there’s nothing in the Constitution which permits me to do so.  (The "free speech" clause of the First Amendment gets me close, but since it doesn’t specifically permit me to write a Letter to the Editor to the Concord Monitor, I guess am out of luck).

    Still, here I am, writing.

    Please don’t turn me in.

    I don’t expect it to be published, but it was fun to write.

    The McCain Feeding Frenzy

    NY Daily News:

    Get ready for a feeding frenzy, with the press as the sharks and John McCain as the bloody chum…

    All that said, the political damage to McCain will be considerable. His lawyer and staff issued fiery denunciations of The Times last night and swore McCain never violated the high principles for which he is known.

    The campaign also said McCain would address the article today in a public appearance, but one aide said McCain would not take questions. That would be a gigantic mistake that would feed the media’s hunger and suggest a level of guilt. Like a suspect invoking the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination, McCain would be suggesting he has something to hide.

    However McCain handles the story, it’s not going to be a pretty sight. Then again, with numerous surprises in the campaign so far, it’ll be par for the wacky course.

    WaPo and Howard Kurtz

    The Times has an on-the-record confirmation from John Weaver, McCain’s former top strategist, regarding an aide to the senator warning Iseman at a Union Station meeting to stay away from the boss. Weaver e-mailed that he arranged the meeting after "a discussion among the campaign leadership" about her…

    The McCain/Bennett strategy, of course, is to make the Times the issue. The senator’s statement doesn’t deny any of the specifics in the piece.

    As for the political fallout, the issue should be the confirmable facts and what they say, or don’t say, about McCain’s run for the presidency. In Bill Clinton’s case it turned out to be quite relevant, and he had sexual relations with that woman, and some others. In this case, we have two people who deny such a relationship.

    And there’s over 500 other stories as well.

    CBS: Starting Gate: McCain’s First Test

    CNN: McCain denies inappropriate relationship with lobbyist

    Houston Chronicle: McCain’s ties to female lobbyist in question

    Seattle Times: McCain lobbyist ties ruffled aides in 1999

    Bloomberg: NY Times reports on McCain link with lobbyist

    Here’s my take on the whole thing, something I haven’t heard anyone suggest.

    Let’s say your John McCain, the persumptive nominee for the GOP for the presidency.

    You don’t exactly know who your Democratic opponent is, but you know it is going to be a tough battle.  It’s like to get personal; it’s likely to get ugly.

    You believe that character and ethics will be an issue, because character and ethics are always an issue at some point.

    You know there is this story about you and this lobbyist.  It know the other side (or the liberal media) will use it at some point.

    When then is the best time to have this story — even if it is false — come to the fore?  The week before the general election?  The month before?

    Nope, the best time is now.  Get the rumor out there, deny it, let people speculate, and move on.  In one month, it will go away.

    Conclusion: I think the McCain people are behind this story, or at least welcoming it now (as opposed to later).

    I also think it "helps" McCain in shoring up the conservative base.  I mean, even McCain hater Rush Limbaugh is calling out the New York Times.  Nothing motivates and unites the conservative base like the "drive-by librul" media.

    That said, I think the AP version of the Iseman story touches on something less titillating, but less innuendo-based, and potentially damaging for real:

    In late 1999, McCain twice wrote letters to the Federal Communications Commission on behalf of Florida-based Paxson Communications — which had paid Iseman as its lobbyist — urging quick consideration of a proposal to buy a television station license in Pittsburgh. At the time, Paxson’s chief executive, Lowell W. "Bud" Paxson, also was a major contributor to McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign. McCain did not urge the FCC commissioners to approve the proposal, but he asked for speedy consideration of the deal, which was pending from two years earlier. In an unusual response, then-FCC Chairman William Kennard complained that McCain’s request "comes at a sensitive time in the deliberative process" and "could have procedural and substantive impacts on the commission’s deliberations and, thus, on the due process rights of the parties."

    McCain wrote the letters after he received more than $20,000 in contributions from Paxson executives and lobbyists. Paxson also lent McCain his company’s jet at least four times during 1999 for campaign travel.

    In other words, McCain intervened in a federal regulatory process on behalf of a company, after receiving contributions and favors from that company.

    Democracy for sale?

    Sure looks like it.

    George Will On Obama, The Presidency, And Experience

    Think about this:

    The president who came to office with the most glittering array of experiences had served 10 years in the House of Representatives, then became minister to Russia, then served 10 years in the Senate, then four years as secretary of state (during a war that enlarged the nation by 33 percent), then was minister to Britain. Then, in 1856, James Buchanan was elected president and in just one term secured a strong claim to being ranked as America’s worst president. Abraham Lincoln, the inexperienced former one-term congressman, had an easy act to follow.

    BREAKING: McCain Relationship With Female Lobbyist?

    I think this New York Times article is a little short on facts, long on innuendo.  And, it was 8 years ago.  Nevertheless, it’s going to be the story for the next few days…

    20mccain190a_2Early in Senator John McCain’s first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers.

    A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, in his offices and aboard a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

    When news organizations reported that Mr. McCain had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist’s clients, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement.

    Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.

    Hillary: Final Nails?

    I don’t agree with those who are saying that Hillary is done, she’s toast.

    I think the race is Obama’s to lose now, but he still can manage to do it.  He can still trip up; she can still cause him to trip up.

    I’ll say one thing: the Obama people better prep their supporters before they go on national television.  More embarassing things like this, and the Obama glory will fade fast:

    Bush: Now Officially The Least Popular Prez Evah

    19%.  And look at the drop from last month….

    Bush job approval Approve Disapprove Undecided
    Feb 2008 19% 77% 4%
    Jan 2008 34% 59% 7%
    Dec 2007 32% 66% 2%
    Nov 2007 31% 64% 5%
    Oct 2007 25% 67% 8%
    Sep 2007 34% 60% 6%
    Aug 2007 28% 65% 7%
    Jul 2007 25% 71% 4%
    Jun 2007 27% 67% 6%
    May 2007 31% 64% 5%
    Apr 2007 33% 62% 5%
    Mar 2007 32% 63% 5%
    Feb 2007 39% 56% 5%

    Of course, this is only one poll, but if other polls come up with the same thing, then Bush will be the first President to ever have an approval rating under 20%.  The lowest in history was President Truman, who had 22%.  Nixon had 24% at his lowest.

    Total Lunar Eclipse Tonight

    What’s up?

    A total eclipse of the moon tonight is expected to delight skywatchers across the United States and much of the world. It will be the last total lunar eclipse until 2010.

    The easy-to-watch event will play out in several stages as Earth’s shadow blocks sunlight from shining on the moon. Weather permitting, the eclipse will be visible from all locations in the United States, according to NASA. Along the Oregon and northern California coasts, the moon will rise during the early stages of the eclipse, however.

    Here’s how it will go down:

    The moon will enter Earth’s umbral shadow (the full shadow) at 8:43 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Feb. 20. It will appear as though an ever-larger bite is being taken out of the moon.

    Some 78 minutes later, the moon will slip into full eclipse. About 51 minutes later, a bright scallop will appear as the moon starts emerging. It will be completely out of the umbral shadow at 9:09 p.m. Pacific time, which is 12:09 a.m. ET on Thursday morning.


    Clinton’s Latest Tactics

    After another huge loss to Obama in Wisconsin last night (and Hawaii, although that was to be expected since Obama lived there), it looks like the Clinton campaign is going more negative against Obama:

    ABC News has learned that a group of Democratic politicos have set up a new independent 527 organization called the American Leadership Project (ALP) with the express purpose of helping Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, beat Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, in Ohio, and possibly Texas and Pennsylvania as well.

    Free from campaign finance rules, ALP will not be legally permitted to coordinate with the Clinton campaign, but it is clearly intended to help her.

    The group is targeting through TV ads, mail, and phone communications white women under 50 in the Ohio area — specifically Cleveland, Columbus, Youngstown, Charleston (WV), Wheeling- Steubenville, Zanesville, and Parkersburg (WV).

    White men will also be a focus, and if there are any excess funds Latinos in Texas and middle class families in Pennsylvania will also be targeted.

    ALP has developed three ads aimed at pushing the idea that Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, is a talker and not a doer — the ads are called “If speeches could solve problems" — and they will contrast Obama and Clinton on issues of importance to middle class voters, such as the economy, health care, and the mortgage crisis.

    "Our purpose is to encourage audiences to look beyond the campaign speeches and political rhetoric to specific proposals to address these core issues," says an ALP mission statement obtained by ABC News.

    The plan right now is for the TV ads to never actually mention Obama — rather, the statements about rhetoric vs. reality will go after him through implication, the contrast between Clinton and Obama already being so well-known.

    I don’t think this is necessarily an eeeevil underhanded tactic (it is, after all, totally legal, except that I doubt the Clinton campaign isn’t involved). 

    But I don’t think it is particularly helpful.  First of all, there is a mixed message.  You can’t say, on the one hand, that Obama is nothing more than a really good rhetorical speaker, and then, with the other hand, encourage voters to compare and contrast Obama’s stance on issues with those of Hillary.  That alone is a tacit admission that Obama actually does have a stance on the issues, that he is more than just a dynamic speaker.

    And where does Clinton get the confidence that people will actually prefer her positions over his, assuming that they actually do compare and contrast?  I suspect that if people actually do the comparison, they’ll see that the two are not very much different on most issues.  So then it comes back to "who can get it done" — i.e., leadership qualities.  And that’s a heavy plus in Obama’s column (according to most polls).

    On a larger scale, I think part of the problem with Clinton’s going after Obama is that she is doing it in a way which echoes how McCain is going after Obama.  Now, Obama criticizes Clinton, but not in a way that is destructive to the party, nor in a way which turns people off to Democrats.  And that’s an important difference.

    UPDATE:  As unsavory as that is, this is even worse:

    This morning brings the news that the campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, has launched a new website where they are announcing how they are officially preparing to make the case that the rules of the Democratic nomination process should be changed.

    Among many "facts" they declare are some accurate ones, such as the idea that superdelegates, which in true nomenclatural dexterity they now term "automatic delegates" "are expected to exercise their best judgment in the interests of the nation and the Democratic Party."

    But then comes this juicy non-fact:

    "FACT: Florida and Michigan should count, both in the interest of fundamental fairness and honoring the spirit of the Democrats’ 50-state strategy."

    That’s not a fact, that’s an opinion.

    And it’s clear evidence (not that there was any mystery about it) that the Clinton campaign is trying to change the rules in the middle of the game.

    John Cole comments:

    Don’t like the rules- change them. Isn’t that precisely what has been wrong with the criminal Bush administration the past eight years?

    Ezra adds:

    And then we get, "FACT: Florida and Michigan should count, both in the interest of fundamental fairness and honoring the spirit of the Democrats’ 50-state strategy." …

    But it’s not a fact. It’s an opinion, and a wrong one at that. Indeed, you want a fact? "Clinton’s own senior adviser, Harold Ickes, voted as a member of the DNC committee to not recognize these two state delegations because they violated the rules of the primary scheduling process. Now as a Clinton campaign representative he’s making the case that they should count." There’s your fact: Hillary Clinton’s representatives helped make the very rules Hillary Clinton is now breaking.

    Even more insulting is what comes beneath their "FACT" — lies, like the campaign’s contention that though Hillary Clinton was literally the only candidate on the ballot in Michigan, "she had no intrinsic advantage over her opponents other than the will of the voters." Right, and I had no intrinsic advantage finishing first out of 6 billion in the Ezra Kleinathon, even though I was the only individual on earth who competed.


    Cuba And The Candidates

    For those who think that all politicians are the same — take a gander on the statements of Obama, Clinton, and McCain on Cuba, now that Castro has resigned.

    In a nutshell, Obama wants to move toward normalizing relations, starting with allowing Cuban Americans to travel freely to Cuba and send money to their family members back there (Bush disallowed this practice a few years ago).  This would serve as a "test" to open up further inroads to Cuba and move it into the 21st century.

    Clinton, on the other hand, would continue Bush’s hard-line stance and does not believe in easing up travel restrictions.  She does, however, favor that Cuban exiles be allowed to send money back to their family in Cuba.

    McCain, of course, has the hardest line of all against Cuba.  Basically, to keep sanctions against them until the become a democracy.  The same policy that hasn’t worked in 45 years.

    Obama Surging In Polls [UPDATE: Sorta Kinda]

    New Gallup data.

    He’s not only surged ahead nationally this month (see graph below), but among all subgroups.  Including Hispanics — the conventional wisdom as recent as two weeks ago was that Hillary had locked up the hispanic vote.  Not so anymore.  They split right down the middle.

    He’s pulled ahead among middle-aged and women too, also a Clinton stronghold.  In fact, the only demographic where Clinton still holds a commanding lead are the over-55, and the high-school-or less.


    UPDATE:  Well, shit.  Gallup has an even newer survey showing a bounceback by Hillary…


    Really, it’s still too close to call.

    Political Terms

  • absentee ballot

    A form of voting that does not involve the inconvenience of having to get up off the couch and walk to a high school gymnasium.

  • ballot

    An object recording a voter’s decision that is frequently counted toward an election’s outcome.

  • caucus

    The process by which Americans are quadrennially reminded of Iowa’s existence.

  • change

    Can be found

    1. In the air/wind.
    2. At hand.
    3. Inside us all.
  • convention

    The best four-day-long chance a politically active, overweight Kia salesman from Tulsa has to nail one of them blond Fox anchors.

  • corruption

    The most effective and efficient way to produce results in government.

  • debate

    A contest to see which candidate can answer the fewest questions.

  • delegate

    A demented, often screaming individual who experiences intense arousal at the sight of a vertically printed placard bearing his or her state’s name.

  • democracy

    A moderately representative plutocracy.

  • Diebold voting machine

    A sophisticated, computerized balloting terminal that electronically changes your vote into a vote for Mitt Romney.

  • election worker

    A male or female at least 70 years of age.

  • electoral college

    A process by which the number of states in the Union is narrowed down to the most important seven or eight.

  • experience

    A quantitative score any politician may increase by slaying foes or solving riddles.

  • likability

    The degree to which each candidate is able to hide the extent to which he or she is full of shit.

  • lobbyist

    A better-paid legislator.


    A company offering routine tests of your e-mail’s spam filter.

  • platform

    1. A list of the subjects that candidates are willing to discuss.
    2. A raised structure, almost entirely covered by flags, upon which candidates are placed.
  • political consultants

    Individuals who are very savvy politically, but don’t have enough hair to run for office themselves.

  • political philosophy, conservative

    1. A great way to meet chicks at Princeton University.
    2. U-S-A; e.g., U-S-A, U-S-A(!).
  • political philosophy, liberal

    An ideology steeped in a proud tradition of ineffectual whining.

  • pollster

    A person who willingly communicates with the elderly.

  • Rock The Vote

    Something that is, apparently, still happening.

  • voter apathy

    The reason most American politicians are able to achieve and maintain office.

  • — from The Onion

    Pepsi Raw

    Only available right now in certain bars and clubs in England, the new style of Pepsi contains only natural ingredients including apple extract, caramel coloring, coffee leaf, tantaric acid from grapes, gum arabic from acacia trees, cane sugar and sparkling water.  More here.


    Clinton To Go After Pledged Delegates?

    One needs to consider the source (Roger Simon, not known for accuracy), but if this is true, this is a baaaad move:

    Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign intends to go after delegates whom Barack Obama has already won in the caucuses and primaries if she needs them to win the nomination.

    This strategy was confirmed to me by a high-ranking Clinton official on Monday. And I am not talking about superdelegates, those 795 party big shots who are not pledged to anybody. I am talking about getting pledged delegates to switch sides.

    What? Isn’t that impossible? A pledged delegate is pledged to a particular candidate and cannot switch, right?


    Pledged delegates are not really pledged at all, not even on the first ballot. This has been an open secret in the party for years, but it has never really mattered because there has almost always been a clear victor by the time the convention convened.

    But not this time. This time, one candidate may enter the convention leading by just a few pledged delegates, and those delegates may find themselves being promised the sun, moon and stars to switch sides.

    “I swear it is not happening now, but as we get closer to the convention, if it is a stalemate, everybody will be going after everybody’s delegates,” a senior Clinton official told me Monday afternoon. “All the rules will be going out the window.”

    The Obama people are all over this:

    Says Obama manager David Plouffe in statement: “As it becomes increasingly clear that Senator Clinton may not be able to secure the nomination by winning the support of actual voters, the Clinton campaign has once again floated a strategy that would essentially say that the preference of Democratic voters is a mere obstacle to their win-at-all-costs strategy."

    I agree.  The strategy of poaching pledged candidates from Obama has the stank of gangsterism.

    UPDATE:  Clinton campaign issues denial.

    RELATED:  For those only tangentially following the Dem race, here’s a good primer on the whole delegate thing.

    Bye Bye Castro

    Well, it was to be expected I suppose.  Fifty years if a pretty good run.

    What this means, or should mean, is that we get to visit the lovely island of Cuba (or, if you are JFK, "Cuber").  On this point, I think Steve Clemons is right:

    Of all the low cost opportunities to demonstrate a new and different US style of engagement with the world, Cuba is at the top of the list. Opening family travel — and frankly all travel — between Cuba and the US, and ending the economic embargo will provide new encounters, new impressions, and the kind of people-to-people diplomacy that George W. Bush, John Bolton, Richard Cheney, and Jesse Helms run scared of.

    This is a huge potential pivot point in US-Cuba relations. Will Hillary Clinton step up to the plate — and will Obama move beyond the somewhat timid proposals he offered previously and go to the gold standard in US-Cuba relations articulated by Senator Chris Dodd?

    By the way, many people know that Castro was a minor league ballplayer in the United States before he rose to political fame in his homeland of Cuba.  Did you also know he was a movie extra?  Here’s his credits from IMDB.

    A Conversation Between Lee Harvey Oswald And Jack Ruby

    An excerpt from the newly-discovered transcript:

    Lee: You said the boys in Chicago want to get rid of the Attorney General.

    Ruby: Yes, but it can’t be done … it would get the Feds into everything.

    Lee: There is a way to get rid of him without killing him.

    Ruby: How’s that?

    Lee: I can shoot his brother.

    Ruby: But that wouldn’t be patriotic.

    Lee: What’s the difference between shooting the Governor and in shooting the President?

    Ruby: It would get the FBI into it.

    Lee: I can still do it, all I need is my rifle and a tall building; but it will take time, maybe six months to find the right place; but I’ll have to have some money to live on while I do the planning."

    Yeah, it’s bullshit.  If you ever had the opportunity to read an actual transcript of an actual conversation by actual people actually talking, it never sounds like what’s printed above. 

    Nope, that was written by someone.

    Happy President’s Day!

    Pictured below: Ruby and Oswald during less congenial times


    Hillary’s Firewall

    She’s even said that Texas is her firewall.  She needs to win it.

    When she said that a couple of weeks ago, it meant nothing.  After all, she was ahead there by double digits.

    But then the nation caught Obama fever and now

    (CNN) — It’s all tied up in Texas.

    A new CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll suggests the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination between Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois is a statistical dead heat in Texas, which holds primaries March 4.

    In the survey, out Monday, 50 percent of likely Democratic primary voters support Clinton as their choice for the party’s nominee, with 48 percent backing Obama.

    But taking into account the poll’s sampling error of plus or minus 4½ percentage points for Democratic respondents, the race is a virtual tie.

    We’re Shooting Down Satellites Now?

    Not comforting:

    The shuttle Atlantis left the International Space Station on Monday and headed home for a planned Wednesday landing, clearing the way for a Defense Department effort to shoot down a failed spy satellite.

    Um, why?

    Why does Atlantis have to be out of outer space before the Defense Department has to shoot down a satellite? 

    I mean — space, as Douglas Adams would say, is very very big.  And if there’s a chance that the missile might miss and hit the Atlantis space shuttle, isn’t there a chance that the missile might miss and hit, say, the Triad?

    Just wondering out loud….

    Has The Obama Bubble Burst?

    Obamamania has been sweeping the nation, and he has been compared to Kennedy (John), Kennedy (Bobby), and Jesus.

    Not surprising — because such is the way our culture works — a backlash was expected.

    Kevin Drum thinks it is just about here:

    Bubbles always burst, and Obama has been riding a major league bubble for months now. Before too much longer his supporters are going to come down to earth. Reporters will start wondering why Obama doesn’t like to talk to them very much — and then they’ll get bored and cynical and start doing to him what they did to Howard Dean in 2004. John McCain is going to find his rhythm (though he hasn’t yet) and start making some effective jabs.

    This backlash meme is already widespread, and you can almost feel in the air that it’s about to explode into a feeding frenzy. In other words, it ain’t over yet. Wisconsin and the two weeks after it should be interesting, shouldn’t they?

    I haven’t been paying attention much to the political landscape, so I can’t weigh in on this.  I do agree with the major premise though — a backlash will happen.


    That said, I think the Clinton campaign is (once again) erring by suggesting that Obama "plagerized" when he borrowed a rhetorical riff from Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick without giving due credit.  I think the "message" that the Clinton campaign is trying to send is that Obama doesn’t have the rhetorical gifts that everything thinks he has — i.e., he STEALS it.

    Well, he may have taken one phrase from someone else, but that does not mean that Obama lacks oratory skills.  I think the Clinton campaign is barking up the wrong tree here.  Worse yet, I think she’s showing signs of desparation.  [UPDATEPot, kettle, black?]

    UPDATE:  Video added..

    UPDATE:  Obama has borrowed from Patrick before (Patrick is an Obama supporter and friend), and admitted it.  From a 12/21/07 ABC report, this is what Obama told a crowd in Portsmouth, NH:

    "But you know in the end, don’t vote your fears. I’m stealing this line from my buddy (Massachusetts Gov.) Deval Patrick who stole a whole bunch of lines from me when he ran for the governorship, but it’s the right one, don’t vote your fears, vote your aspirations. Vote what you believe."

    God, Ignorance, And The State Of The Nation

    I have no problem with religion and faith per se, but I do honestly believe that in the extreme it fosters ignorance, and on a grand scale, the result is detrimental to our country.

    Exhibit A

    RELATED:  Shorter Marie Jon Apostrophe:

    Barack Obama’s is a Christian who attends an all-black church devoted to, among other things, adoration, salvation, and biblical and cultural education — and not devoted to black liberation theology.  Why would he choose to join a church that so bigoted white people like me find so offensive?

    Southern Baptist Sissies

    Hey, there’s a play going on right now here in Winston-Salem that is really important, and really well-done.

    It’s called "Southern Baptist Sissies" and it’s running for one more weekend.  Info here.

    It tells the story of four young men coming to terms (or, for some, not coming to terms) with their homosexuality in the Baptist bible belt.  Each one confronts the conflict between their religion and their orientation, and each one charts a different path.  While one character might embrace his orientation with flamboyance, another lives in denial.  Another lives in fear.  Mark Lee Fuller, the main character, played wonderfully by Bryan Daniel, wrestles through the conflict, and in the end finds the happy medium between his orientation and his God (which is not necessarily the church’s).  (Don’t worry — I’m not giving anything away; how he gets there, and the unfolding of the events that bring him there, are where the meat of the play are at).

    For audience members who are gay and raised in the South, the play has spoken powerfully to them.  But for those like me who are neither, you might find yourself like I did — identifying with the grander theme of finding acceptance while being true to yourself.  There are pearls in there for everyone.

    Not a downer by any means, this play.  Lots of comic relief.  But a great message, and excellent performances.  You’ll find yourself thinking and talking about this play long after you leave the theatre.

    Licking People

    If you open up this month’s People magazine, you’ll find an ad for Welch’s grape juice.  Within the ad, there is a strip.  You are asked to peel it away and lick what’s underneath.


    Like the scratch-n-sniffs in their heyday, you’re going to be seeing a lot of the peel-n-licks, thanks to new technology, according to this Wall Street Journal article.

    So if you are in the airport and see someone licking a Computer Shopper magazine, he’s not weird.  He’s just sampling.

    NOTE:  It doesn’t work with Internet ads.  I tried.

    A Major Victory For The Cause Of Freedom And Democracy

    Deep in the heart of Texas, and just in time for Valentine’s, a court overturns the ban on sex toys:

    A federal appeals court has struck down a Texas law that makes it a crime to promote or sell sex toys.

    "Whatever one might think or believe about the use of these devices," said an opinion written by Justice Thomas M. Reavley of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, "government interference with their personal and private use violates the Constitution."

    Under Texas law it is illegal to sell, advertise, give or lend obscene devices, defined as a device used primarily for sexual stimulation. Anyone in possession of six or more sexual devices is considered to be promoting them.

    The Texas law dates back to the 1970s and is seldom enforced. Travis County prosecutors say that they haven’t charged anyone with a sexual device-related crime in at least the past seven years, and probably much longer.

    In 2003, a woman in the Fort Worth suburb of Burleson drew nationwide attention when she was arrested for selling erotic toys at a Tupperware-type party. The charges against Joanne Webb were later dropped.

    In addition to Texas, whose law has survived previous state court challenges, three other states have a similar sex toys statute: Mississippi, Alabama and Virginia. Laws in Louisiana, Kansas, Colorado and Georgia have been thrown out by courts in recent years.

    The 2-1 opinion by a panel of the 5th Circuit was based heavily on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in Lawrence and Garner v. Texas, which struck down a Texas law prohibiting private consensual sex among people of the same sex.

    That case established a broad constitutional right to sexual privacy

    Tomorrow Is Bitterest Day

    World O’ Crap explains the concept:

    So, since people who need people are the luckiest people in the world, we think that it’s only right that the 22% of the populace who are not in a relationship get a holiday of their own. Thus, for everyone who won’t be getting flowers, a diamond, or dinner and an amateur strip show this Valentine’s Day, we would like to propose a special day, just for us. We call it Bitterest Day.

    Bitterest Day, celebrated on the 15th of February, will be the official anti-romance holiday. It will be a legal holiday, involving time off work with full pay, but only for those who are nobody because nobody loves them. Its motto will be, “I am not appealing to the opposite sex, so I have lots of disposable income to spend on consumer goods.”

    Let us now explain some of the customs and traditions of this newest American holiday:


    We all know that an integral part of Valentine’s Day is those frilly, mushy, overpriced bits of cardboard which all spouses and sweethearts are required to buy, under penalty of a booty moratorium. Bitterest Day also has its cards, but you don’t send them to that Special Someone. No, you send them to one member of that Special Twosome. Indeed, you choose the cutest, sweetest, ickiest couples you can think of, and “Care enough to send the very worst.” And although you may address the card to Marsha, your intended audiences is John (or vice versa). After all, they do share everything, right?



    While lovers get 5-pound boxes of chocolates and expensive candlelit dinners at French restaurants, what do we, the non-adored get? Well, we also get expensive dinners at French restaurants. This is how it works. You call up “Danny,” your ex-boyfriend, and you tell him that you read in Ann Landers that it’s “Reconciliation Day” today, and you want to invite him to sup at Chez l’Imbecile to demonstrate that you’ve “gotten beyond” everything. Mention that you also want to invite Klamidia, the stewardess he dumped you for, since you know she must be a special lady.

    When they arrive, tell them that this is a special occasion, and urge them to order the most expensive things on the menu—you do the same. During dinner, offer small talk such as, “I’m so happy to see that the two of you are still together. It’s rare to see somebody forgive the person who gave them . . .oh, but I shouldn’t be talking about periodic discharge at the dinner table!” And, “Danny, I have such special memories of our time together–I think of them whenever I watch the videos. Hey, have you heard about those websites where they pay for amateur bedroom tapes? Kind of intriguing, huh?”

    Then, while they are enjoying dessert, get up to “powder your nose.” Keep on walking right out of the restaurant, leaving the check for them. Worried about repercussions? On Bitterest Day, there are none. It’s the law.

    ****Bitterest Day Holiday Specials

    Let’s face it; we all lead rushed, harried lives that leave little time for the simple joys of an old-fashioned holiday celebration. That’s where the media comes in, since it often takes a showing of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” or “Frosty the Snowman” before we can begin to feel the Christmas spirit. So it is with Bitterest Day.Of course, in our version of the typical Rankin-Bass animated special, Frosty has nerve-endings, and he screams as he melts. Screams quite a lot, actually, until the children who pranced so gaily around him are left pale and shaken, and his last, whispered words, “I’ll be BACK again, someday…!” haunts the dreams of all who witnessed his hideous demise.

    For the adults, meanwhile, there’s that Bitterest Day perennial, “The Bishop’s Wife,” in which an angel is sent to Earth to restore a churchman’s wavering faith, and help him to erect a cathedral. In short order, the angel cuckolds the hapless cleric, then hatches a ghost payrolling scheme with the mobbed-up local union boss to funnel the construction funds to an offshore account, leaving the Bishop behind to face charges of peculation while the angel and the Bishop’s wife enjoy an extradition-free life on Grand Cayman.

    So, in conclusion, we urge you to open your heart to Bitterest Day, the one day a year in which it’s okay to be an old maid living with nine cats, or a quiet loner with a large collection of guns and porn. For the most important part of Bitterest Day is feeling good about yourself as a person in your own right, and realizing that you don’t have to be part of a couple in order to be okay. Plus, on Bitterest Day, you don’t have to wear anything that makes you look like a prostitute Care Bear, and can wander around your dusty house in the tattered remains of a wedding dress without enduring any snide references to “Great Expectations.” So get on the phone to Merlin Olson today, and say it with Bitterness.

    I’m not bitter this year at all, but I thought this was funny.

    RELATED:  Valentine’s Day: Holiday From Hell.  A snippet:

    Breaking a date on Valentine’s Day is definitely bad form, but automatically expecting one to happen (a much more common scenario) is also problematic. To avoid a disconnect with your significant other, McGuire suggests being honest. Simply expecting your partner to know what you want is unrealistic.

    Who Is Winning?

    It’s really interesting not paying attention to the political news for several days, and then paying attention.

    When I last looked, sometime late last week, the Hillary juggernaut was in full steam.  The uphill climb was Obama’s to make.

    But he killed in the primaries over the weekend, and killed in the Potomac primaries.  Hillary sacked her campaign manager.  A deputy Clinton campaign manager resigned.  Senior staffers fled.

    And the whole Obama steamroller is so forceful that I’m even reading a lot of sighs about the possibility of a brokered convention, etc.

    And then there’s this:


    That’s pretty amazing.

    Clinton is resting her campaign future on the Ohio and Texas primaries, which are on March 4.  A full three weeks away.  Right now, she’s in a good position in both the states.  But Obamamania is in full swing.  Of course, that means an Obama backlash is right around the corner.

    For reasons that I’ve stated before, Obama would be a much better candidate against McCain.  He embodies change in ways that Hillary (oh God, another Clinton) can’t.  He’s 100 times more dynamic than McCain, who is 142 years old.

    So all this is good news.  I note that the Obama campaign is now spinning the words "inevitability".  He’s got reason to be confident, but "inevitable"?  Nope.  Not yet.

    Is It Officially Too Sad To Make Fun Of Britney Spears?

    From Playbill:

    A lyric has been changed in the Broadway, London, Las Vegas and touring productions of the Tony-winning musical Monty Python’s Spamalot.

    The Associated Press reports that a reference to the much-in-the-news Britney Spears has been removed from the song "Diva’s Lament," which is performed by the Lady of the Lake.

    About the change, Spamalot co-creator Eric Idle had this to say to AP via e-mail: "Because we don’t laugh at sad people. Mike Nichols (the show’s director) requested it and he’s right. We changed the lyrics in London, on tour, on Broadway and in Las Vegas. We think that it’s now too sad. Britney Spears is being tortured to death and we don’t want to be on that side."

    The original lyric stated: "I am sick of my career/ Always stuck in second gear/ Up to here with frustration and with fears/ I’ve no Grammy no rewards/ I’ve no Tony Awards/ I’m constantly replaced by Britney Spears/ Britney Spears!" The revised lyric follows: "My love life is a mess/ I’ve got constant PMS/ My career is about as hot as ice/ They hate me there backstage/ They say I’m too old for my age/ They’re trying to replace me with Posh Spice/ With Posh Spice!"

    Heather asks "is it now officially too sad to make fun of Brittney Spears?"

    Well, first of all, let me say that the newer lyrics are better in my opinion.

    Secondly, and speaking as no stranger to making fun of Britney Spears, I think it’s kind of nice that we, as a society, lay off a little.  Nobody enjoys razzing pop culture more than me, especially when the object truly invites it, but I think in Britney’s case, there may be some real issues there.  As grownups ay, "It’s always funny until someone gets hurt".

    Tattoos: The Vaccination Of The Future

    At the moment, I am sporting two tattoos.  This is on my right bicep:


    …and this is on my left bicep:


    They’re just temporary tattoos that I am wearing for a play ("The Foreigner") this weekend at the Little Theatre of Winston-Salem.  (I’d urge y’all to come, but we’re practically sold out).

    Anyway, the prominence of these rather un-me like symbols on my arm has given rise to a number of discussions about tattoos, and specifically, whether I would ever get permanent ones.

    The answer is no, mainly because I can’t think of any symbols or words so endearing to me that I can say, without reservation, that I would still want them 40 years from now. 

    I mean, sure, forty years from now I’ll still be Libra.  But I don’t care enough about being a Libra now to get some scale etched onto my butt (or whereever).

    All this is a rather roundabout segue to the new use for tattoos, and a practical medical one:

    The tattoo of the future may be good for your health rather than just your image.

    German scientists said on Thursday that work on mice showed that tattooing was a more effective way to deliver a new generation of experimental DNA vaccines than standard injections into muscle.

    Using fragments of DNA to stimulate an immune response is seen as a promising way of making better vaccines for everything from flu to cancer. Until now, however, the concept has been hampered by its low efficiency.

    "Delivery of DNA via tattooing could be a way for a more widespread commercial application of DNA vaccines," said Martin Mueller of the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg.

    Sadly, the "tattooing" referred to by these medical researchers involved no ink, "so the tattoo left no permanent mark".

    That’s all well and good, but if that’s the case, I think they need to come up with a better term for the medical procedure.  Something other than "tattooing".

    Hog Brain Disease

    For most of us, we don’t have to worry about contracting this stange paralysis-related illness which has yet to be named.

    But for workers who suck the brains out of dead pigs in a Minnesota Hormel plant, it’s a big concern.

    In any event, what’s been happening in Austin, Minnesota makes for an interesting and still-to-be-solved medical mystery story.  Kind of like "Fargo" meets "Outbreak".

    Will O’Reilly Live Up To His Promises?

    From a January 30 broadcast of The O’Reilly Factor:

    O’REILLY: Continuing now with "Campaign ’08." Earlier today, John Edwards dropped out of the race, as we said, but he’s still on bridge patrol.

    EDWARDS : I want to say to everyone here, on the way here today, we passed under a bridge that carried the interstate where 100 to 200 homeless Americans sleep every night.

    O’REILLY: Now, we called the Edwards campaign and asked where exactly is that bridge so we could help those people. Apparently, they don’t know or they wouldn’t tell us. The Edwards campaign can’t pinpoint the bridge. And John Edwards apparently is not involved in a rescue mission. I know you’re shocked.


    O’REILLY: Joining us now from Washington with analysis, Fox News guy Juan Williams and Hillary supporter Kiki McLean. All right, we’ll get to Edwards in a minute. The guy — you got to, Kiki, you got to call him and tell him to knock it off with the bridges. He’s obsessed with the bridges.

    McLEAN: Listen, listen —

    O’REILLY: Just tell me where the bridge is. We will help those people. They can’t tell me. OK.

    McLEAN: You know what? You know what? Whether it’s that specific bridge or somewhere else in America, he’s right. There are people who are sleeping under a bridge without a roof over their head. And that’s the point.

    O’REILLY: OK, Kiki, all you need to do is tell me where the bridge is, Juan and I will go out there and we’ll help those folks. OK?

    From TellMeWhereThe BridgeIs.Com:

    They’ve even provided a map to help Bill O.  It’s right in New Orleans, where Edwards was talking about.