Monday, March 31, 2008


Big treat in the Sunday New York Times yesterday, a profile on longstanding Mad magazine hero, Al Jaffee, creator of both "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions" and, the subject of the article, the Mad Fold-In.

At 87 years-old, Jaffee's work still looks and feels fresh. And he does it without computers -- or actual folding:

And Sam Viviano, the art director, seems in awe of Mr. Jaffee’s old-school technique. “I think part of the brilliance of the fold-in is lost on younger generations who are so used to Photoshop and being able to do stuff like that on the computer,” he said. “It’s matching the colors and keeping the sense of what exists at two levels, the original image and the folded-in image. We’ve never actually known anyone else who could do that.”

Mr. Jaffee does have a computer, but its main benefit, he said, has been to make the typographic tricks in the fold-in easier to create. He doesn’t draw with it, which leads to another surprise: the master of the fold-in never actually folds.

“I’m working on a hard, flat board,” he said. “I cannot fold it. That’s why my planning has to be so correct.”

I guess this is where human intelligence, which arguably reached its greatest development (thanks to new technology and tools) in the 20th Century, has since been replaced by digital intelligence. It's the same question as who will handle all those things for which we now depend on computers should an electro-magnetic wave sweep the earth and wipe out all RAM -- who would know how to manually typeset a newspaper, keep accounts in a ledger, operate a telegraph, paste up a comp?

Ah, well, time moves on, and sometime over next ten or fifteen years, we won't have Al Jaffee to fold around anymore. Per the magazine's Art Director:

“I can’t imagine a fold-in done by anyone else but Al,” Mr. Viviano said. “But the fold-in is such a part of Mad that it’s hard to imagine Mad without it.”
It's such a part of Mad that it should go on, even if interpreted by a new regular artist able to settle into the job, a younger talent already skilled on digital image creation and manipulation, hopefully someone with their own point-of-view, suited to our times, but in keeping with the original spirit. Only a crank begrudges the young for their own way of doing things, as long as the ideas are there, and maybe some new ones thanks to the new tools.

At the same time it's important to enjoy something when you have it, enjoy it for what it is, even its temporal nature. Imagine a world without Jack Nicholson (10-15 years?), a world without Mick Jagger (20-40?), a world without any remaining members of The Usual Gang of Idiots? (Maybe Sergio Aragones breaks all the records and goes another 30?)

Good times, good times.

Extra-treaty: the Times presents a wonderfully interactive Fold-In gallery including some greatest hits: anti-Vietnam War protests, Charles Schultz love, and even Jamie-Lynn Spears.

Yep, Al Jaffee is still relevant. Still clever to the point of brilliance.

Not folding yet.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


A friend of mine, Grace Lee, has a new movie out, a "much less than $1 million" mockumentary, American Zombie, all about zombie rights in Los Angeles. It's playing at a limited run here at the Sunset 5, and hopefully will find its audience. That may be some combination of zombie movie fans and non-zombie indie film fans.

Zombie films have a tradition of social satire going back to George Romero's skewering of consumer culture in Dawn of the Dead. For the first part of Lee's film, the high-functioning undead (as opposed to the menial-suited low functioning and dangerous feral zombies) appear as metaphor for any alienated ethnic or other oppressed demographic group who want their fair place in the American dream machine. But as we dive into the struggles between Director Lee, playing herself, her collaborator and the zombies themselves, the movie becomes an anti-p.c., irreverent shot at the liberal documentary's relationship to such an interest group, and what it says about the documentarians.

Lee achieved IFC programming and a lot of accolades with The Grace Lee Project, about the surprising number of Asian-American women who have been given her same name, so there's a sense of American Zombie commenting on her own practice, which certainly informs the believability of the filmmaking-within-a-film side of the story.

The handling of the zombies is more ambiguous, as the high-functioning ones Lee and co-writer Rebecca Sonnenshine have chosen to focus on sometimes (particularly early on) don't seem very zombie-like, save for patches of dry skin or alarming moles on their cheeks. Even their zombie frailties, like loss of memory, seem almost human. The cast plays even the most comic moments naturalistic and the shooting is more documentary than horror film, with satisfying payoffs in the last third of the movie, when the doc crew follows their subjects to the "Live Dead" festival retreat, and the narrative builds most clearly.

It will be interesting to see where zombie film fans place this in their canon in the years to come. Its premiere at the 2007 Slamdance Film Festival, which runs as an even indier counter to the Sundance Film Festival (also in Park City the very same January dates, but in fewer and smaller venues), makes it the zombie Sundance film, i.e. the zombie social satire of the Sundance film.

Most of all, there's several moments near the end that unsettle as they wrap up the coverage of several key characters. Zombie is a one-way trip, from healthy living tissue to endlessly rotting flesh, and all the zombie characters are growing differently now, darker. They may band together to protest, "We're here, we're dead, get used to it," but maybe that's not what's most important to them.

After all, you've got to kill the brain to kill the ghoul.

News of the World

Good news:

Zimbabwe's opposition claims win on early results

Bad news:

Police Mutiny, Refuse to attack Sadrists;
Clashes continue in Basra;
Sadrists open New fronts throughout Shiite South

Soon to be news?:

Clinton campaign manager was director for failed subprime lender

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Story

Every campaign contest has a main story that emerges -- that of the victor -- and dozens of side stories and subplots, all of which play a part in the main narrative, no matter how tangential. Without a doubt, the big story this week, the one that seems to be peaking but might not ever go away anymore, is that of Hillary Clinton's "war tale", her whopper.

Josh Marshall and the crew at Talking Points Memo have put together a fascinating, rather complete collection of clips that for the first time showed me the breadth of this campaign disaster. It's not just Hillary vs. the news footage, it's everybody who was associated with the trip that could get near a microphone, from accompanying journalist Andrea Mitchell to the pilot who landed the airplane in Bosnia, all united in revealing Clinton's story as a crock. And to his credit, there's no smear material in the piece:
With the exception of Howard Wolfson, Sen. Clinton's Communications Director, we've tried only to include material from the senator, the trip and people who were actually there and witnesses to anything -- so no random ex-military folks or campaign spinners or Fox goons just there to trash her.

Is it possible the news cycles beyond this? Or is this now the punchline, a check to be cashed over and over again by late night comedians like the name, "Spitzer":

There is really little left to say. For all of Clinton's arguments about Obama's lack of experience, this lie shows her supposed foreign policy advantage for what it is: The misty water-colored memories of an egotist.

This will be the punch-line of every statement made about her campaign from here on out. "Sniper fire" will be what the invention of the internet was to Al Gore, except, in this case, Clinton actually said the words which will be used to demonstrate her falsity.

The worst part of the lie is that it's ridiculous. Not only is it not true, the lie itself does nothing more to justify Clinton's foreign policy experience and seems merely an attempt to build some sort of drama. Hell, I was in Bosnia for nine months. I slept with the sounds of RPG fire troubling my dreams and, even shook a bunch of hands, too. I spent a year in Afghanistan and once awoke during a C-130 flight to find the plane shucking and jiving to avoid a shoulder-launched surface-to-air rocket. I spent hours in bunkers during mortar and rocket attacks (which really isn't as scary as it sounds, since the bad guys lacked both the equipment and the cojones required to make their attacks accurate). I also ate meals with provincial governors and (supposedly former) warlords, smoked hookah pipes with Herati shopkeepers and shook hands Hamid Karzai himself.

None of those things make me a foreign policy expert.

Senator Clinton's superior organization has been the only thing keeping her in the running. Were she just another candidate, she would have been out of this race some time ago and Senator Obama would be spending his time--our party's precious time--going after the Republican nominee. After this embarrassing stumble--which would most assuredly come back to bite Clinton in the general election--I think Clinton is toast.

Lastly, what does the story say about Sen. Clinton as a parent?

Hillary's venture into sniper fire may have been merely a confused delusion but the question arises: what kind of parent fantasizes about willfully placing her daughter in such a perilous situation?...

...I suspect that Hillary may have fantasized herself into a heroic situation. While this is not an uncommon reverie, it is an extremely dangerous presidential indulgence. From a President's daydream, it is just one more step to using the globe in fulfilling one's longing for grandeur, honor, and heroism.

Doubly dangerous it is to bring one's child, even in fantasy, along for the ride. Who would do this? In our current primary season, turning on questions of character as well as on particular issues, the public has every right to speculate as to what drives basically good people to deceive themselves. Hillary is probably not a scheming liar in the traditional sense of the word, but this is a vignette that reveals a gilding of the nonexistent lily. It suggests her perceptions cannot be trusted under stress. It also implies that her need for power or glory is such that she is willing to sacrifice her child's safety in her own fantasy. How would it then stand with the rest of us?

Nothing fascinates us more than a story with an ironic twist. This one turns on the very phrase she used as the basis for her campaign legitimacy: Ready on Day One.

Sure, Ready on Day One.

To implode.


Bad news for a nice planet:
Some 220 square miles of ice has collapsed in Antarctica and an ice shelf about seven times the size of Manhattan is "hanging by a thread," the British Antarctic Survey said Tuesday, blaming global warming.
The scientists watch one piece break off over the course of a day, then went to look at the damage:

"We flew along the main crack and observed the sheer scale of movement from the breakage," said Jim Elliott, according to the group's Web site.

"Big hefty chunks of ice, the size of small houses, look as though they've been thrown around like rubble -- it's like an explosion," he said.

"Wilkins is the largest ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula yet to be threatened," David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey said, according to the Web site.

"I didn't expect to see things happen this quickly. The ice shelf is hanging by a thread -- we'll know in the next few days or weeks what its fate will be."

I've spent a lot of time in New York City lately. The idea of an ice mass equal to seven Manhattans breaking off is crazy-making to think about.

As usual these days, I'm with Al:
Confronted by Stahl with the fact some prominent people, including the nation’s vice president, are not convinced that global warming is man-made, Gore responds: "You're talking about Dick Cheney. I think that those people are in such a tiny, tiny minority now with their point of view, they’re almost like the ones who still believe that the moon landing was staged in a movie lot in Arizona and those who believe the world is flat,” says Gore. "That demeans them a little bit, but it's not that far off," he tells Stahl.

Okay, maybe Al's wrong here.

It doesn't demean them enough.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


And so it begins.

She alienates the very Superdelegates she's been crowing about:
The Clinton campaign has been actively wooing these delegates, believing a plurality represents the strongest, and increasingly the only, way for her to win the nomination. But one undeclared delegate, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the recent tactics are turning her and other superdelegates off.

"I don't think anybody's saying 'step aside,' but 'stop with the garbage' is what people want to say," the delegate said. "Just chill a little bit."

As activists committed to the party, they said, they have been impressed by Obama's ability to bring new Democrats into the fold, and they worry that Clinton is threatening that.

"We like the fact that there is a candidate that has won so many states overwhelmingly," the delegate said. "We're feeling her advisors are leading her in a path that diminishes her as well as him."

Several said they were angered by comments from James Carville, who called Bill Richardson "Judas" for backing Obama after serving in the Clinton White House. One delegate said Richardson's rationale for supporting Obama, and his implicit frustration at the Clintons' heavy-handed approach to garnering his support, was echoed among superdelegates.

Her oligarchical backers threaten the sitting Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi:
Pelosi has not publicly endorsed either Clinton or Barack Obama in their hotly contested White House battle, but she recently said superdelegates should support whoever emerges from the nomination contests with the most pledged delegates -- which appears almost certain to be Obama.

Among the signees of the letter were prominent Democrats and Clinton supporters like Robert Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television; Bernard Schwartz, former chairman of Loral Space and Communications; and venture capitalist Steven Rattner.

The signees reminded the House leader from California of their support for the party's House campaign committee and said "therefore" she should "reflect in your comments a more open view" about superdelegates.

Smart to do with arguably the most powerful woman in American politics?

And the public agrees -- her support is starting to melt:
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's positive rating has dropped to a new low of 37 percent in an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released on Wednesday.

According to the poll, the New York senator's positive rating slid 8 percentage points in two weeks and she had a negative rating of 48 percent in a week where she admitted making a mistake in claiming she had come under sniper fire during a 1996 trip to Bosnia.

And what's best for America?:
When asked which candidate could unite the country if elected, 60 percent said Obama, 58 percent said McCain and 46 percent said Clinton.

Meanwhile, does Obama maybe really have a chance in Pennsylvania?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Deadly John

The nightmare mosaic.

The nightmare goes on, until the day he vacates office and residences:

Mr. Bush announced no final decision on future troop levels after the video briefing by the commander, Gen. David H. Petraeus, and the diplomat, Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker. The briefing took place on the day when the 4,000th American military death of the war was reported and just after the invasion’s fifth anniversary.

But it now appears likely that any decision on major reductions in American troops from Iraq will be left to the next president. That ensures that the question over what comes next will remain in the center of the presidential campaign through Election Day.

Coming apart at the seams again:

Armed Mahdi Army militiamen appeared on some Baghdad streets for the first time in more than six months, as al-Sadr's followers announced a nationwide campaign of strikes and demonstrations to protest a government crackdown on their movement. Merchants shuttered their shops in commercial districts in several Baghdad neighborhoods.

U.S. and Iraqi troops backed by helicopters fought Shiite militiamen in Baghdad's Sadr City district after the local office of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa Party came under attack, the U.S. said. Residents of the area reported intermittent explosions and gunfire in the area late Tuesday...

...The burgeoning crisis — part of an intense power struggle among Shiite political factions — has major implications for the United States. An escalation could unravel the cease-fire which al-Sadr proclaimed last August. A resumption of fighting by his militia could kill more U.S. soldiers and threaten — at least in the short run — the security gains Washington has hailed as a sign that Iraq is on the road to recovery.

The confrontation will also test the skill and resolve of Iraq's Shiite-led government in dealing with Shiite militias, with whom the national leadership had maintained close ties.

It gets worse:

Rockets fired from the capital's Shiite district of Sadr City slammed into the Green Zone Tuesday, the second time in three days, and firefights erupted around Baghdad pitting government and US forces against the militia allied to the influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

At the same time, the oil-export city of Basra became a battleground Tuesday as Iraqi forces, backed by US air power, launched a major crackdown on the Mahdi Army elements. British and US forces were guarding the border with Iran to intercept incoming weapons or fighters, according to a senior security official in Basra.

The US blames the latest attacks on rogue Mahdi Army elements tied to Iran, but analysts say the spike in fighting with Shiite militants potentially opens a second front in the war when the American military is still doing battle with the Sunni extremists of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney says:

Noting the burden placed on military families, the vice president said the biggest burden is carried by President George W. Bush, who made the decision to commit US troops to war, and reminded the public that U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan volunteered for duty.

“A lot of men and women sign up because sometimes they will see developments. For example, 9/11 stimulated a lot of folks to volunteer for the military because they wanted to be involved in defending the country.”

Republican Presidential Candidate-in-Waiting, Sen. John McCain says:
"We're succeeding. I don't care what anybody says."

Sound familiar?

It also appears that he agrees with our nation's #1 enemy:
“For the first time I’ve seen Osama bin Laden and General Petraeus in agreement. And that is, the central battleground and the battle against al Qaeda is in Iraq today, and that’s what bin Laden is saying and that’s what General Petraeus is saying — and that’s what I’m saying.”

Maybe it's all good. But it all sounds bizarre. Like the officer played by Nick Nolte in The Thin Red Line -- finally this is McCain's war to win.

Like we owe it to him?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Just Another Liar

So now Hillary Clinton herself admits that she "misspoke" in her long public statement regarding her landing in Bosnia, per her endorsement-seeking interview with the editors of the Philadelphia Daily News today:
"Now let me tell you what I can remember, OK -- because what I was told was that we had to land a certain way and move quickly because of the threat of sniper fire. So I misspoke -- I didn't say that in my book or other times but if I said something that made it seem as though there was actual fire -- that's not what I was told. I was told we had to land a certain way, we had to have our bulletproof stuff on because of the threat of sniper fire. I was also told that the greeting ceremony had been moved away from the tarmac but that there was this 8-year-old girl and, I can't, I can't rush by her, I've got to at least greet her -- so I greeted her, I took her stuff and then I left, Now that's my memory of it.

I followed-up, noting that the episode has raised questions about her credibility on foreign policy. She responded:

"No, I went to 80 countries, you know. I gave contemporaneous accounts, I wrote about a lot of this in my book. you know, I think that, a minor blip, you know, if I said something that, you know, I say a lot of things -- millions of words a day -- so if I misspoke, that was just a mistatement."

Millions of words a day.

How many of them true?

If her supporters think this isn't going to be the "Al Gore invented the Internet" cudgel used by Republicans (and alienated Dems) to beat her general election chances into the ground, should she succeed in wresting the Democratic Presidential nomination from leader Barack Obama, they are inhaling the very substance Bill Clinton claims he did not.

I posted the video yesterday, but here's a link just in case you missed it.

This goes to the heart of the biggest complaint against the Clintons: They will do anything to win and love power more than truth. It neatly undermines her supposed strength, her pumped up claims of "experience", particularly foreign policy experience, over Obama.

Will it reach the low-information Democratic voters she's been relying on, Rove-like, for so much of this contest? Is the media too cowed by the Clintons to make it known?

The weird thing is that she didn't have to lie, she went there, did her thing, and whatever it was, it counts for something. Just not as much as she is trying to make it count.

It's not the actions of a fearless leader. It's the lie of a cynical, fundamentally frightened politician.

And yes, it matters that she lies.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Last March is was the movie 300. This March it's the real-life nightmare of 4,000 soldiers and counting dying for Presidente George W. Bush's lie.

How about that surge..."success"?:
As many as 20 mortar shells were fired Sunday at the heavily fortified Green Zone, one of the fiercest and most sustained attacks on the area in the last year.

The shelling sent thick plumes of dark gray smoke over central Baghdad and ignited a spectacular fire on the banks of the Tigris River. It ushered in a day of violence around the country that claimed the lives of at least 58 lraqis and four American soldiers. According to a tally by The Associated Press, those military deaths pushed the number of American service members killed in the five-year-old Iraq war to 4,000.
Haven't had enough yet? There's a Presidential candidate for you:
As America's war in Iraq enters its sixth year, Sen. John McCain is hoping that his long effort to send thousands more U.S. troops -- a "surge" that has helped lower casualties -- will propel him into the White House.

But McCain's record on Iraq is decidedly mixed. If the Arizona Republican proved prescient in his calls for a military buildup, many of his other predictions and prescriptions turned out wrong.

Before the war, McCain predicted a quick and easy victory, not a vicious insurgency. He issued dire warnings about Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons of mass destruction but didn't read the full 2002 National Intelligence Estimate that showed gaps in the intelligence.
That's right, vote for "Wrong."

Meanwhile, the other remaining candidate who voted for the war, didn't read the NIE and claimed Saddam had vast weapon o' mass destruction may be losing from the inside:

On Chris Matthews' show, panelists Norah O'Donnell, Clarence Page, and Elisabeth Bumiller all basically agreed that Clinton was nowhere near the point where she'd be thinking about leaving the race. But there was one outlier: New York Magazine's John Heilemann, who echoed some of the things Noonan would say on Meet The Press:

HEILEMANN: I think that one thing that's happening internally is that some of her top people are starting to say to her, "We won't stick with you. We won't keep working for this campaign if it's going to destroy Barack Obama." She's starting to hear that from her people and she's starting to kind of see it.

MATTHEWS: How do you know that?

HEILEMANN: [archly] How do I know that? Reporting.

Videos like this aren't doing her any favors, either:

Is the plot quickening? What with even a prominent rightwing theological lawyer endorsing Obama:

Today I endorse Barack Obama for president of the United States. I believe him to be a person of integrity, intelligence and genuine good will. I take him at his word that he wants to move the nation beyond its religious and racial divides and to return United States to that company of nations committed to human rights. I do not know if his earlier life experience is sufficient for the challenges of the presidency that lie ahead. I doubt we know this about any of the men or women we might select. It likely depends upon the serendipity of the events that cannot be foreseen. I do have confidence that the Senator will cast his net widely in search of men and women of diverse, open-minded views and of superior intellectual qualities to assist him in the wide range of responsibilities that he must superintend.

This endorsement may be of little note or consequence, except perhaps that it comes from an unlikely source: namely, a former constitutional legal counsel to two Republican presidents.
Here's to Pennsylvania joining in the emerging consensus four weeks from Tuesday, and none too late.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Just watched the second episode of HBO's John Adams, and without going into a detailed analysis, I just have to say how gratifying it is to be reminded that this great nation was born of insurrection.

The short pieces of battle scenes, like with the Massachusetts patriots in the woods after routing the British redcoats attacking Concord, play almost like science fiction genre, what with our ridiculous inability to teach Civics any more.

The episode climax with the vote for and unveiling of the Declaration of Independence, intercutting the big event public reading in Philadelphia replete with drums and John Adams, and Abigail Adams reading it with their children, touched all that deep American patriotism I learned as a child and am ready to believe in again should a certain Senator from Illinois be sworn in as President next January.

Thanks to our Constitution, America can have a revolution every four years without a single drop of blood being spilled. There are times for boldness and times for moderation. Maybe the makers of John Adams thought that with this episode they would mainly tap into contemporary feelings about our own Kingly George. But there's something else going on here that they could not have predicted.

I've begun to argue that a consensus is building. It can still be derailed, but it is a powerful thing when it builds, it is out of the ordinary, it has vast consequences, all of which is what makes it historic should it succeed.

It's important to be reminded, as I was by the episode tonight, that our Declaration of Independence, the decision to dissolve union with the mother country and invent a brand new government, had to be by acclamation (12 for, NY abstaining due to deep Tory ties but not standing in the way).

The decision of the Founding Fathers to accept the mantle of insurrection is why we're all here today. And at this moment of American history, consensus on insurrection, through the legal means of Presidential Election, is going to be what's needed.

Not impossible.

Friday, March 21, 2008


This is the week that Barack Obama seized the mantle of the Presidency on the road to getting elected. Maybe it's not a perfect situation, but it is hard to imagine how he could have better proven his mettle than in how he responded to the news storm about his old church leader.

He won wide and definitive national approval when he boldly spoke for all of us in one way or another in his speech on Monday, which has now been viewed close to three million times on YouTube (2,500,000+ on the main upload, with multitudes of views on other uploads). He ended the week with one of the maybe three most valuable endorsements in the Democratic Party, leaving John Edwards and grandmaster Gore back in the wings.

When you look at this picture, it's hard not to imagine an awesome running team, with the hands-on foreign policy expert Richardson as VP to Obama for Chief Executive.

The Clintons lost big on this one, and I lump them together because of how much Richardson was Bill's project. This was supposed to be the moment when loyalty triumphed:

Mr. Clinton helped elevate Mr. Richardson to the national stage by naming him his energy secretary and ambassador to the United Nations. And Mr. Clinton left no doubt that he viewed Mr. Richardson’s support as important to his wife’s campaign: He even flew to New Mexico to watch the Super Bowl with Mr. Richardson as part of the Clintons’ high-profile courtship of him.

But Mr. Richardson stopped returning Mr. Clinton’s calls days ago, Mr. Clinton’s aides said. And as of Friday, Mr. Richardson said, he had yet to pick up the phone to tell Mr. Clinton of his decision.

The reaction of some of Mr. Clinton’s allies suggests that might have been a wise decision. “An act of betrayal,” said James Carville, an adviser to Mrs. Clinton and a friend of Mr. Clinton.

“Mr. Richardson’s endorsement came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver, so I think the timing is appropriate, if ironic,” Mr. Carville said, referring to Holy Week.

Judas Richardson. Nice, James.

In fact, Clinton's Mark Penn publicly downplayed the value of Richardson's endorsement, which the Governor did not let pass lightly:

"I resent the fact that the Clinton people are now saying that my endorsement is too late because I only can help with Texans — with Texas and Hispanics, implying that that's my only value," the New Mexico governor told CNN's John King.

"That's typical of some of his advisers that kind of turned me off."Earlier Friday, Clinton campaign senior strategist Mark Penn said he thought Richardson's endorsement came too late to make an impact.

“The time that he could have been effective has long since passed," Penn told reporters on a conference call. "I don’t think it is a significant endorsement in this environment.”

Look, maybe the graciouslessness of the Clinton campaign will serve her well in the hardscrabble parts of Pennsylvania. But while their big message of the day is that the Obama campaign is "amateur hour," you have to start wondering if Baghdad Bob has taken over as their Press Secretary.

It's the Obama moneyraising juggernaut that appears to have $30 million left to spend on the primaries while hers may have as little as $3 million, which is why he's on the air first in Pennsylvania, defining himself in advance of whatever attack ads she may try to toss his way.

And her "professional" campaign is having "Another Bill Clinton Moment":
MSNBC is reporting that on the campaign trail today in Charlotte, North Carolina, the former president said a general election matchup between his wife, Sen. Clinton, and Sen. John McCain would be between "two people who love this country" without "all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics."

It's difficult to determine exactly what Clinton meant by this. Howard Wolfson, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign, said the former president was not implying that Obama didn't love America. As for "this other stuff," that Clinton referred to? He was talking about "the politics of personal destruction," said Wolfson. "He was lamenting that these kind of distractions 'always seems to intrude' on our politics."

Not everyone had the same interpretation. MSNBC, for example, was quick to suggest that the former president was implying there were doubts about Obama's patriotism, and that those doubts would play a role in the general election. Which seems, on its face, hardly a stretch.
The story is starting to be written about how the press has been complicit in keeping the illusion of a virtual tie between the campaigns alive. Well beyond the math now, the logic of her campaign is against her.

Obama is the story. Richardson sealed his week of trials. And regular folks are still meeting him as part of the campaign process:

He was grabbing a photo op and a bite at out local pizza joint "American Dream". It was a friendly audience and Barack proved to be incredibly approachable....

...Then came Obama. Great guy. Energetic, friendly, and smiling. I shook his hand and told him I switched from independent to Democrat so I could vote for him in the Oregon primaries. Then I asked him not to be distracted by the wing-nut types like Hannity and BillO. He smiled. Then I asked him if he really believed he could bring the troops back from Iraq and re-invest that money on domestic issues like energy independence and new technologies. He took on a serious look and said that would be one of the cornerstones of his administration.

He went on kissing babies and eating pizza. I left downtown thinking one thing; I will help this guy get elected.

And tell me that this isn't the best speech you've ever seen from Bill Richardson, a total pleasure:

You have to wonder if that anecdote about Obama saving Richardson's hide when he spaced out on a question in one of the debates wasn't the start of his turn to Obama. So revealing of inner character.

I have a feeling there are some great days ahead. It won't always be easy, it's not a lock yet so there's no resting easy, and there's mortal danger every step of the way.

But something feels like it's building.

It smells like consensus.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Even Paranoiacs

The old saying, "Even paranoiacs have enemies," and it's brother, "Only the paranoid survive," could not be more apt than tonight. Although with Obama's cool, it might be, "Just because you're not paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you."

Exhibit A: Who's been looking at Barack Obama's passport file?:
Two contract employees of the State Department were fired and a third person was disciplined for accessing passport records of Sen. Barack Obama “without a need to do so,” State Department officials confirmed to NBC News…

A monitoring system was tripped when an employee accessed the records of a high-profile individual,” a department official told NBC News. “When the monitoring system is tripped, we immediately seek an explanation for the records access. If the explanation is not satisfactory, the supervisor is notified.”

Turns out it was three (3) separate "contractors," making one wonder if they all worked for the same villain, and who that might be.

After all, the Bush I regime did the same thing before the 1992 election to Bill Clinton.

Easy guesses are some agent for the Republican National Committee or Barack's distant cousin himself (how Shakespearean that would turn out to be). Who knows, I wouldn't even put it past the Clintons. Would you?

I mean, the breaches all took place after key Democratic Primary moments for Obama. I mean, (Exhibit B) after all, it's her campaign having her play the angel while she won't deny them pushing the Reverend Wright story like devils behind the curtain:

However at a Thursday press availability in Terra Haute, Indiana after a report surfaced that the Clinton campaign was pushing the Wright story to superdelegates arguing that the relationship hurt Obama's electibility -– Clinton refused to deny that her campaign was pushing the story.

When asked, Clinton ignored the Wright portion of the question and said “well my campaign has been making the case that I am the most electable that I have said that for a year or more that I am the person best able to make the challenges that our country faces as commander in chief.”

When Clinton was then asked specifically if her campaign was pushing the Wright story –- she shrugged and took the next question, ignoring the reporter.

Funny thing about Reverend Wright -- another connection to Bill Clinton, perhaps an exonerating one:
A photograph of Wright and President Clinton, which it says was taken on September 11, 1998 -- the date of a White House gathering for religious leaders.

Hillary Clinton, according to her recently-released schedule for the day, was present at the gathering.
Oh, and Wright received a commendation letter for his aid to President Lyndon Baines Johnson during surgery.

The fact is, unless the endless drumbeat of rightwing talk shows and 24-hour news echo chambers manage to change public opinion, most people believe Obama's views differ from the Reverend's. Certainly I have views that differ from a Rabbi within my own family, but I love him nonetheless.

So if Obama now has reason to be paranoid (this is so late 1960's-early 1970's, see The Parallax View) about the current Cheney/Bush Administration now, and about the Clintons' campaign, there's the McCain campaign as well (Exhibit C). Sure, they identify someone spreading the new, most offensively edited rightwing Wright/Obama smear video, but they don't do a firing, they simply "suspend."

Oddly enough, the two people speaking truth on all the Wright stuff are Mike Huckabee and Geraldine Ferraro. Huckabee first:
As easy as it is for those of us who are white, to look back and say “That’s a terrible statement!”…I grew up in a very segregated south. And I think that you have to cut some slack — and I’m gonna be probably the only Conservative in America who’s gonna say something like this, but I’m just tellin’ you — we’ve gotta cut some slack to people who grew up being called names, being told “you have to sit in the balcony when you go to the movie. You have to go to the back door to go into the restaurant. And you can’t sit out there with everyone else. There’s a separate waiting room in the doctor’s office. Here’s where you sit on the bus…” And you know what? Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder and resentment. And you have to just say, I probably would too. I probably would too. In fact, I may have had more of a chip on my shoulder had it been me.
He may have some kooky political notions, but there's something I've always liked about that guy.

Ferraro's truth isn't what she's saying now, but her initial outburst, albeit a truth she didn't intend:
"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position."

Amen, sister.

3,982 in 5

Five years, 3,982 American military individuals killed.

A developed society burnt to the ground.

American treasure wasted.

One dead dictator and his two dead sons.

Mr. 100 Years of War doesn't even know who's arming whom, unfit to serve, dangerous per Josh:

This one's now reeking of squalid desperation.

This man stands in fascist opposition to America and everything it stands for.

This bitter, twisted little root should also be in an insane asylum.

Meanwhile, the one politician who talks to us like we're adults:

A responsible plan to end it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Just Words

Hillary Clinton and her echo chamber campaign are right.

It was "just words."

It was just with words (well, and a classic delivery) that Barack Obama pried open the issue of resentment in America. Race, gender, busing, Ferraro. All in one.

It was just words:


1. guided by truth, reason, justice, and fairness: We hope to be just in our understanding of such difficult situations.

2. done or made according to principle; equitable; proper: a just reply.

3. based on right; rightful; lawful: a just claim.

4. in keeping with truth or fact; true; correct: a just analysis.

5. given or awarded rightly; deserved, as a sentence, punishment, or reward: a just penalty.

6. in accordance with standards or requirements; proper or right: just proportions.

7. (esp. in Biblical use) righteous.

8. actual, real, or genuine.

It was just this:

The turning point passage:

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

The key connection:

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience - as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation.
The gauntlet:

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle - as we did in the OJ trial - or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time."
I know where I stand.

Welcome to history, America. Take it or leave it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Boy Can't Help It

Bill Clinton taking zero responsibility for his behavior a month or so ago in South Carolina:

"What happened there is a total myth and a mugging," Clinton told CNN's Sean Callebs in New Orleans, Louisiana, over the weekend.

"It's been pretty well established. Charlie Rangel ... the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in unequivocal terms in South Carolina that no one in our campaign played any race card, that we had some played against us, but we didn't play any."

Oh, Bill. Why do you have to continually reinforce what my Republican friends always said about you back when I didn't believe them?

Why do you have to call it a mugging, you self-victimized, crypto or (charitably) unconsciously racist bastard?

I know it hurts the one thing you care about the most:
It seems that the more voters see of Bill Clinton, the less they like him. The poll shows a significant shift in his approval rating from a year ago. In March 2007, some 48% of those surveyed had a positive view of the former president, and 35% had a negative view. Now his negatives outpace his positives, 45% to 42%.
I think the only question left for us political junkies is (a) whether Bill cares about his legacy rating more than his wife's political aspiration, or (b) whether he believes the only path to salvaging his reputation is if she gets nominated, damned whatever reallignment they have to destroy in the process.

Fortunately, Bill and Hillary get help from the press. Not only the Reverend Wright affair, which Barack Obama will face off against Tuesday night in a JFK-esque speech, but jus' reg'lar Ron Fournier of the AP, who's not incidentally been covering Bill and the Clintons since waaay back in Arkansas:

But there's a line smart politicians don't cross — somewhere between "I'm qualified to be president" and "I'm born to be president." Wherever it lies, Barack Obama better watch his step.

He's bordering on arrogance.

No shit. 2008, and the Associated Press is essentially calling Obama "uppity".

Hillary's arrogance of being owed or due for the crown? McCain's taxpayer-funded campaign trip to Iraq? And this community organizer turned State Senator and then Senator is the only arrogant one?

One again this strange electoral season, I'm with Andrew Sullivan on Obama, his past connection with Wright, and what his candidacy can mean for America if even possible:
But he did not merely sit back; he also dedicated his career to racial integration and understanding. It was a wide bridge, perhaps too wide for the weight it is bearing. And maybe America is not ready for this bridge, for these contradictions, for this complexity. But the promise of Obama is that his campaign appears poised to show that America is ready for this - and the immense healing it would bring.

And so we are suspended between the old politics and the new, between a Clinton who believes in her heart that America is not ready and may never be ready for this leap and should therefore adopt a politics that assumes the ineradicability of this gulf and the need to disguise it and play cynical defense - and an Obama who offers all of us a chance to see that sometimes authentic identity requires an element of contradiction, a bridging of the resentful, angry past and a more complex, integrated future.

He may fail; and the Clintons may be proven right. But he may also succeed - and what a mighty success that would be. These things are never easy; and we were lulled perhaps into an illusion that they could be. So now the real struggle starts. And it will not end with an Obama presidency; it ends with a shift from below that makes an Obama presidency possible.

Or to put it in a phrase that is as true as it is wilfully misunderstood: We are the change we have been waiting for.

I do believe this. The Clinton/Bush generation has made their mistakes, and we're suffering even this week for them -- Iraq, Wall Street, all things she tacitly or actively went along with.

It's time for the next generation to take charge, make our own mistakes, sure, but take responsibility, and hopefully in the balance make a more promising future for our children.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Fire Sale

Is the U.S. economy poised to lose a majority of its value?

Not good:

Pushed to the brink of collapse by the mortgage crisis, Bear Stearns Cos. agreed -- after prodding by the federal government -- to be sold to J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. for the fire-sale price of $2 a share in stock, or about $236 million.

Bear Stearns had a stock-market value of about $3.5 billion as of Friday -- and was worth $20 billion in January 2007.
According to the article, the federal government told Bear Stearns to sell rather than go bankrupt and spook the market even worse. Meanwhile the major Asia stock markets have tumbled tonight:

The markets responded negatively to the purchase of Bear Stearns over the weekend by JPMorgan Chase. The acquisition, backed by the Federal Reserve, underscored the severity of the credit crisis in the United States and the weakness of the American economy.

In Tokyo, the region’s largest stock exchange, the benchmark Nikkei 225 index was trading at an almost three-year low. By midday, the index dropped 4.2 percent to 11,726.99, falling below 12,000 for the first time since August 2005.

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea’s benchmark Kospi index was also down 2.4 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index fell 2.4 percent, and in New Zealand, the NZX 50 index dropped 1.9 percent.

The declines in Tokyo came even as the Japanese central bank, the Bank of Japan, moved to shore up financial markets by injecting $4.1 billion into short-term money markets.

The U.S. dollar getting dumped -- don't want to be stuck with worthless paper:
The dollar plunged 3 percent against the yen on Monday to hit a 13-year low below 96 yen, with investors dumping the U.S. currency on fears that more major financial firms will become casualties in the fast-spreading credit crisis that claimed U.S. investment bank Bear Stearns...

..."The market is totally panicking," said a trader at big Japanese bank. "The fact that the Fed had to announce its emergency steps on Sunday night highlighted the seriousness of the situation."

But not only is the Fed essentially taking over Bear Stearns with their $30 billion credit line to push the deal, but:

In a potentially even bigger move, the Federal Reserve also announced its biggest commitment yet to lend money to struggling investment banks. The central bank said its new lending program would make money available to the 20 large investment banks that serve as “primary dealers” and trade Treasury securities directly with the Fed.

Much like a $200 billion loan program the Fed announced last Tuesday, this program will essentially allow the government to hold as collateral a wide variety of investments that include hard-to-sell securities backed by mortgages. But Fed officials told reporters on Sunday night that the new program would have no limit on the amount of money that can be borrowed.

In a conference call with reporters, the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, said the central bank was moving to provide money to financial institutions that need it.

What will Monday bring?


Obama gets ahead of the potentially damaging Rezko story:

On Friday afternoon, Sen. Barack Obama sat down to talk with the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune. It was a 92-minute discussion in which he talked at length about his relationship with now-indicted businessman Tony Rezko. And the Tribune editors believe that he "offered a lengthy and, to us, plausible explanation for the presence of [Rezko] in his personal and political lives."

"The most remarkable facet of Obama's 92-minute discussion was that, at the outset, he pledged to answer every question the three dozen Tribune journalists crammed into the room would put to him," writes The Tibune in an editorial. "And he did..."

..."Barack Obama now has spoken about his ties to Tony Rezko in uncommon detail. That's a standard for candor by which other presidential candidates facing serious inquiries now can be judged."
As with his association with fiery retired preacher Jeremiah Wright, Obama is sure to face negative advertising attempting to smear him on this minor connection to a Chicago moneyman now under indictment. But by being forthright about it now rather than handling it the way, say, a certain political couple handled their money scandal(s) in the 1990's, hopefully he's substantively put it behind him for good.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Good News

Have you -- or maybe one of your parents -- received one of those emails damning Barack Obama as a Muslim or closet Islamic terrorist setting up to destroy America from the inside?

Yep, all lies, urban legend already debunked, but designed to sow seeds of doubt in the bigoted voter, the 9/11-blinkered patriot, the Islam-averse Jewish voter.

But a lie, as Winston Churchill so famously intoned, "gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." Is there anything candidate Obama might do to once and for all expose this story to light?

How about a mini-scandal with his former (Christian) Minister:
Sen. Barack Obama's pastor says blacks should not sing "God Bless America" but "God damn America."

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's pastor for the last 20 years at the Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago's south side, has a long history of what even Obama's campaign aides concede is "inflammatory rhetoric," including the assertion that the United States brought on the 9/11 attacks with its own "terrorism."
Leave aside the question of whether people whose ancestors were kidnapped from their homes and families forever first in their homeland and then under their domestic enslavement, over and over again should bless and curse the nation built on their torture, Obama's campaign started simply:
In a statement to, Obama's press spokesman Bill Burton said, "Sen. Obama has said repeatedly that personal attacks such as this have no place in this campaign or our politics, whether they're offered from a platform at a rally or the pulpit of a church. Sen. Obama does not think of the pastor of his church in political terms. Like a member of his family, there are things he says with which Sen. Obama deeply disagrees. But now that he is retired, that doesn't detract from Sen. Obama's affection for Rev. Wright or his appreciation for the good works he has done."
But that wasn't enough and Obama knew it, so again with the blazing-fast response, tonight the campaign took three concrete steps to putting the pastor behind him.

First, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright stepped down from his "honorary membership on the campaign's African American Religious Leadership Committee."

Second, Obama blogs his detailed response on Huffington Post. He denounces and later in the same paragraph he rejects (witty touch), he provides context:

As I have written about in my books, I first joined Trinity United Church of Christ nearly twenty years ago. I knew Rev. Wright as someone who served this nation with honor as a United States Marine, as a respected biblical scholar, and as someone who taught or lectured at seminaries across the country, from Union Theological Seminary to the University of Chicago. He also led a diverse congregation that was and still is a pillar of the South Side and the entire city of Chicago. It's a congregation that does not merely preach social justice but acts it out each day, through ministries ranging from housing the homeless to reaching out to those with HIV/AIDS.

Most importantly, Rev. Wright preached the gospel of Jesus, a gospel on which I base my life. In other words, he has never been my political advisor; he's been my pastor. And the sermons I heard him preach always related to our obligation to love God and one another, to work on behalf of the poor, and to seek justice at every turn...

...Let me repeat what I've said earlier. All of the statements that have been the subject of controversy are ones that I vehemently condemn. They in no way reflect my attitudes and directly contradict my profound love for this country.

With Rev. Wright's retirement and the ascension of my new pastor, Rev. Otis Moss, III, Michelle and I look forward to continuing a relationship with a church that has done so much good. And while Rev. Wright's statements have pained and angered me, I believe that Americans will judge me not on the basis of what someone else said, but on the basis of who I am and what I believe in; on my values, judgment and experience to be President of the United States.

Third, he appears live on MSNBC:

While it's still too early to judge the entire net effect, Zacapoet suspects it a work of genius:

The false meme of being a Muslim was dragging Obama down in the polls so that his national lead over hillary was only 6-8%. But now that even Sean Hannity has recanted and is berating Obama for being a Christian, that drag should soon whither away.

My guess is the Obama camp was holding back on the Wright story until they could use it to jolt the psyche of the electorate regarding the phony Muslim accusations. The people who vote for Obama, the liberals, high-school or better voters, Independents, don't really care about what Obama's minister said, so long as he wasn't saying it from a church of Devil Worshipers.

As a Catholic who goes to the Lutheran Church because of the radically right-wing views of my Church, I fully understand why Obama is in the predicament he's in regarding Wright. People who participate in religions generally do so because of their links to the community. If you look at polls you see that religious conservatives don't vote for Obama anyway. People who are tolerant in their religious views, likely Obama voters, will generally tolerate the rants of Obama's former minister.

As The Field elucidates:

The bottom line: The more controversy around Obama’s Christian pastor, and his refusal to throw him under the bus, the less Obama will have to beat back the (more potentially destructive, ‘though false) Muslim smears in the fall. One might even say that the Wright controversy is, for Obama, a gift from a god that “speaks in mysterious ways.”

Once again, people are worrying too much about “what might offend others,” a signature of 1970s, 1980s and 1990s politics. But beyond the partisan feigners of outrage, or the “concern trolls” fretting aloud about how “others” could be turned off, who is really offended out there?

We’re in the 21st Century now, when a certain amount of crazy is expected from all religious leaders.

Amen to all that.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


When it opened with "Bang a Gong" by T-Rex, I know The Bank Job was my type of movie. Based on the true 1971 robbery where suddenly the papers stopped covering the crime and money was never recovered, the movie follows a small gang of London friends as they decide to break in and then have to deal with the desperate consequences. The period detail, starting with the music, is much appreciated.

There are two kinds of heist movies. One kind works to trick the viewer -- think the "they messed up / oh no they planned this" moments of the Oceans movies, or the gut-punch (gut-shot) twist in Reservoir Dogs. This is the a different kind, an anatomy of a heist or conjecture of a heist following some characters you like led by Jason Stratham and Saffron Burrows' remarkable lips and cheekbones.

The theme of The Bank Job is not unlike that of another 1970's period piece, American Gangster: corruption. Something about that decade... But from the adulerous underwater frolicking that opens the picture through the corrupt cops, government ministers in brothels ("Spitzer" shouted someone from the audience), and even the touch of attraction threatening Stratham's marriage, this is a world where everyone is defined by their degree of corruption, where they draw (or erase) the line.

The movie isn't very profound, but it moves quickly, delivers genre thrills, and has us rooting for the good (bad) guys.

Now was that so much to ask?

Girl Can't Help It

If we identify the candidate with the person, and the surrogates for performing surrogate duties, and the day to day of how Hillary Clinton has run her campaign or, if indeed it's being run by others and she's just the star or the product then how it manifests her "brand values" to the world at large, one starts asking questions about how to characterize it.

Is her campaign either blindingly optimistic, Machiavellian, or some sort of scam?

Is it out-of-control narcissistic?

Is it banking on victimization?

Is it suicidal?

All of these questions coalesced around one-time Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, Geraldine Ferraro, and her inject of race into the discourse, under the banner of some form of grievance in older women voters, those who bore the front line battles of the emergent feminist movement.

There's no question that the United States of America are overdue for a female President. This year I'd like it to be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, after the historic first double impeachment of Cheney and Bush. But Sen. Clinton has not proven herself, on the campaign trail, as particularly worthy or suited to this office. She has not united -- she has divided. And either let or strategically used her surrogates do it for her.

Per Josh Marshall, Geraldine Ferraro, in her own words and appearances:

Ferraro finally quits, but unlike Samantha Powers, who quit the Obama campaign after referring to Hillary as a "monster" in an overseas paper, she doesn't even think of apologizing, doesn't take any responsibility for what she's saying or how she's perceived, instead going on rightwing Bill O'Reilly's show and demanding an apology herself. And this isn't the first time she's blown the racist dogwhistle.

On Kos fetalposition asks the question, "Geraldine Ferraro: Dispicable Racist or Batshit Crazy?"

It's all really a generational thing. Pat Buchanan doesn't get it, but young feminists Rachel Maddow and Keli Goff do.

Now Clinton's off in another one of her Sybil-like personalities and apologized three times in one setting to black voters. But it's many weeks too late to be trying to set Bill Clinton's racial slur/victimization words right after Obama won the South Carolina Primary in "context," especially with the Republican-lite slurs that have followed. No matter how SNL may try and spin it, the die is cast:

It's come to the point that women themselves are starting to ask the most serious question of all:

Is the Hillary Clinton campaign on the verge of setting back the feminist movement a generation or two?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

He's Back

So the top U.S. commander on the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars was just quoted in an Esquire profile as disagreeing with the Administration's Iran policy (and who in their right mind does agree?) and today he "resigns":

Fallon had made several comments reflecting disagreement with the administration's stance on Iran, most recently in an Esquire magazine article last week that portrayed him as the only person who might stop Bush from going to war with the Islamic republic.

"Recent press reports suggesting a disconnect between my views and the president's policy objectives have become a distraction at a critical time," Fallon said in a statement. Though he denied that any discrepancies exist, he said "it would be best to step aside and allow" Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates "and our military leaders to move beyond this distraction."

Fallon is expected to step down at the end of the month, after barely a year in his position, and just eight days before Petraeus is scheduled to testify before Congress about conditions in Iraq. Military officers said it appeared that it was made clear to Fallon that nobody would object if he stepped down.

Remind anyone of, say, five years ago?

And yesterday it was announced that:
Vice President Dick Cheney will visit the Middle East next week and meet with leaders of Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Palestinian West Bank and Turkey, his office said on Monday.

Cheney's trip to Israel and the West Bank follows last week's visit by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who urged leaders to move forward with peace talks that were dealt a blow by violence in Gaza and Israel.

Ah, yes, Dick Cheney, emissary of peace. I'd forgotten about that role of his. Somewhere between "Iraq" and "Iran".

So what will Cheney really be doing?:
Cheney's office did not provide any details of what issues would be discussed during his trip or what dates he would stop in each country.
Reassured now?

Monday, March 10, 2008


So today I'm already hit by a conversation I can no longer have with my lifelong friend who died on Friday. Mo went to Princeton with now disgraced New York Governor Elliot Spitzer (it seems they may have been in the same "eating club"), and now I can't call him to exchange extreme snark.

As everyone surely knows by now, Spitzer just got busted for his involvement with a prostitution ring, a federal crime (client money facilitating women crossing state lines to break the law) that could lead to a conviction, and likely resignation this week.

About a month ago I had a conversation with Mo about the New Yorker profile on Spitzer's slamming drop from earning 70% of the vote in 2006 to a 36% approval rating, George W. Bush territory. When I asked if Spitzer, in college, was as repulsively, explosively arrogant as he appeared to be in the article, Mo simply replied, "No comment."

Damn his discretion!

Soon after the story broke, another friend sent me an email that asked, simply:

Spitzer = Carcetti

Ah, at least! Back on solid ground with an analogy drawn straight from The Wire, which ended its scorching, epic 5-season, 60-episode run last night. That's approximately thirty feature films worth of entertainment, the lion's share of what I see in a theater in a year.

On the show, Thomas Carcetti starts out as adulterous city councilman, runs for Mayor, wins and (SPOILERS AHEAD),
caps last night's series closer in montage as Governor. He successfully navigated the waters of McNulty's serial killer fraud, and everyone ends up better for it in the end.

What I found in the close to The Wire was a sense of surprise and surely relief that it wasn't as tragic as expected. The writers had called this the Dr. Strangelove season, and the ending had more comedy than pathos, save for the final scenes with Duquand, condemned to a soulless hell of addiction and poverty, just like the "family" we first saw hints of, the fate he momentarily escaped thanks to his drug-dealing buddy, Michael.

McNulty is arguably better off having left the force even if sans pension, Lester is pensioned off at 30 years with the devoted Shardene coming onto him while he's making the doll house furniture that earns him a pretty penny. Daniels sticks to his conscience and ends up free of the institution. Perlman is a judge. Rawls is promoted to state police by a grateful Carcetti. Narese becomes Mayor of Baltimore and -- the most hilarious moment in the montage -- promotes Valcek to Police Commissioner.

Best of all, Cheese gets it right in the head from Slim Charles after threatening an upstanding drug co-op member with his pistol and talking about how he's going to be the Marlo now. Boom! Payback for Tall Man and, most of all, Prop Joe. And in some ways seeming like justice for Omar.

This is now brilliant the storytelling is. I'm cheering for gangster Slim Charles (who takes over the drug trade with Fat Faced Rick). Nice.

While maybe the story didn't end with some maybe adolescent idea of tragic gotterdammerung, and maybe in a weird masochistic way it feels like a gyp, the actual choice made by creator David Simon (nice cameo in that newsroom pan) and crew is perhaps more humanistic, while still provide the closure release you maybe didn't feel at the end of The Sopranos.

The show began with McNulty, and among a cast of equals Dominic West is the only cast lead to receive first billing, not alphabetical. His intellectual vanity kicked off the very first wiretap unit in the very first season. It took a few episodes for him to get it, but he's the catalyst for everything that unfolds on the law enforcement side. The thorn in Rawls' side. The ringleader.

Famously, The Wire took a perpendicular turn with its fourth season, when evidently Dominic West wanted more family time and McNulty, having completed the Avon Barksdale arc over the course of the first three seasons, took a backseat to the four new schoolkids who broke our hearts over thirteen episodes. That was arguably the finest season, brazen it its risks, devastating in its rewards.

With its mere ten episodes (the final being 1 1/2 hours) after the usual twelve, and sudden introduction of the newsprint institution, this fifth and final season seemed at times almost coda on the rest of the series. The cameos by characters past combined with the jarring choice made by McNulty to mess with homeless corpses and create an impossible-to-sustain fiction, in order to fund the actual druglord sting, felt forced, not exactly the show we knew, almost like comment on the preceding body of the series.

Bottom line: who cares. Simon and company again took a perpendicular turn, only this time centered on the character we knew and loved for three straight seasons, keeping the series fresh (it may have felt weird but it didn't feel like retread) and still, in one of those famous second-to-last episodes, pulling all the threads until the tension was eye-poppingly maximus.

I resisted writing about the series closer last night because I wanted a day to reflect on it, see if I had anything to add to Andrew Johnson and Alan Sepinwall (both linked about, along with Sepinwall's lengthy, Wire-literate interview with David Simon), anything original to say, preferably momentous.

Well, I'm short on the momentous, but from a pure narrative point of view, the fact that the series ended with McNulty getting out of his car, carrying in his passenger's seat the last neat little piece of the closure puzzle, staring off at downtown Baltimore while having his first-time version of the usual season-ending musical montage; the fact that the montage was to the original Blind Boys of Alabama opening credits version of Tom Waits' "Down in the Hole" (each season, of course, the opening theme was performed by a different artist or ensemble); the fact that McNulty's last line is, "Let's go home," just points to the simple fact that they knew what they were doing.

This is McNulty's story. Sure, it's Stringer's and Carcetti's and Daniels' and Greggs' and Bunk's -- the list goes on over scores of speaking parts. But at the core was Jimmy, and since we suffered with him, caroused with him, fornicated and investigated with him, we needed to close him out.

While we don't know what job he'll be doing next (Private detective? Series sequel?) we do know that he's completed his arc. The serial killer scam storyline, climaxing with Marlo Stanfield and associates getting arrested (even if Marlo walked away, into his own private purgatory), allowed the writers to take McNulty to the farthest extreme, actual rogue policework, not just bending the rules and skirting the bosses.

Jimmy needed a win to leave, that or die trying (my prediction throughout the season, gladly wrong). He ended up getting one. He's sated; there's nowhere further to go with undercover wiretap investigation. The game goes on and now it's Syndor and Slim on the gerbil wheel, but McNulty has scratched that itch and escaped by the skin of his teeth. There's no going back but no need to.

The remarkable narrative trick was how the powers moved the human pieces to get a desired media and hence new reality result. Everybody ultimately plays their part, disregarding any "truth", and everybody gets paid. The lucky implausibles included the conveniently timed copycat killer at the nick of time and Lester's speedy identification of the courthouse leak, and maybe Elliot Spitzer will hand onto his job thanks to such a twist in real life.

If nothing else, after watching the full breadth of The Wire, it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Now, if Mo were here I'd hit him with the same note I sent back to my buddy who equated Spitzer with Carcetti. It seems that the Lt. Governor, who may step into Spitzer's shoes by the middle of this week, would not only be New York's first African-American Governor, he would be the state's first blind Governor as well.

Not unlike Butchie, the beloved safe haven for the late Omar Little.

So if Spitzer = Carcetti...

Does Paterson = Butchie?


Sen. Barack Obama made ads endorsing Bill Foster for the Illinois Rep. position vacated by former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, and Foster beat his Republican opponent. Not only does this show that, as orrg1 puts it, "Clinton Talks, Obama Delivers", but this is Obama's first victory against McCain, who endorsed the GOP candidate.

Obama is once again up over Clinton in one of the usual polls. He campaign: squabblers.

Amazing article by ex-Clinton financial staffer who switched to Obama after the Clinton campaign tried to steal her money. She writes of Hillary's main line of offense:
I think Barack Obama can win the so called big states like Caliorfonia, NY and NJ during the general election. Dems will gladly vote for the affable uniter and fighter Obama...The Clinton argument that she won the big states and that is why she should be the corinated nominee is what I call in my line of work

-a false cause argument...

For the first time, in the south and west -so called small, medium, and big size states (and in every region of the country) are turning out an unprecedented number of Dem voters and a colorful future....In Wyoming a % of Rep and Indep could easily go for Obama in the general...More than Hillary will capture for sure.

Where the states have no names. In the context of the big picture and in the fullness of time: we are the United States of America.
And she notes, of Hillary and Bill saying all weekend that Obama would be a great VP:

For I believe the Clinton camp knows deep down (most definitely unconsciously) that Hillary on top is a TINDERBOX waiting to happen and during the entire course of the general election.

Barack Obama is not going to take the Clinton offer to be be Hillary's VP. -This good cop / bad cop baiting is insulting to the intelligence and sensitivities of the electorate and defies credulity.

Former Senator Tom Daschle said this morning on Meet The Press: "Until the Clinton's shouted out the Obama VP proposal, I, have never ever heard of in our entire history: the number two candidate running for President smugly offering the Vice Presidency to the clear front runner -Barack Obama!

Andrew Sullivan says to nervous Obama supporters, just chill out:

Obama has essentially won this thing already. He should use the next few weeks to demonstrate what a tough campaigner he can be; to broaden his appeal as he has done in every major primary as the campaign has gone on. The good news about the kitchen sink is that you can only throw it once. He just won Wyoming after being battered by a barrage of negativism and refusing to throw a much larger kitchen sink back. He should now focus on Mississippi. And on reality.

The Clintons just got into our heads. We need to get them out. Keep going; keep focused; remind people why only Obama can provide change in a way the Clintons never have and never will.

Don't be confused.