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Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Great Debate: Here's what happened

CNN reported that tickets for tonight's Wolf Blitzer appearance (with a couple of obscure Democrats) were going for upwards of $1,000. Would Obama go hard or visionary? Gallup had him down only 4 points nationally now and he's made another big fundraising haul. Update #1: Most of the way through, both candidates speaking well, cordial, no sparks at all. But clearly Obama's best debate performance ever. Fun shots of celebs in audience: Jason Alexander, Pierce Brosnan, Bruce Willis, Diane Keaton, "Ugly Betty," Stevie Wonder, "The Nanny." And many more. Rob Reiner.

Update #2: Nearing end, debate takes a very bad turn for Hillary when asked about her vote for the war. She refuses to say it was mistake, argues that there was a "credible" case for WMD and that she only wanted to threaten force and couldn't imagine Bush was that obsessed with attacking. Blitzer asks if that means she was "naive." She denies, and then mentions "credible" again. Obama jumps in and says that everyone knew at time that it was an authorization for war not just a threat and that's why we need a new mindset. Very bad moment for her. Final question: Would they consider forming a "dream ticket"? Both have fun with idea and do not rule it out. Amazing conclusion: Obama gallantly pulls back her chair so she can rise and then they speak warmly in each other's ears and nearly embrace.

Meanwhile, you can't beat this video: John McCain as Gen. Buck Turgidsen.

Montel Williams hits Fox -- Fox stations ax him?

I have no idea if the cause-and-effect allegations are true, but we do know that Montel Williams lost his talk show gig yesterday just days after he appeared on Fox and dissed the network, and others, for obsessing on Heath Ledger's death when so many young Americans are still expiring in Iraq. The decision by Fox-owned local stations to not renew, leading to his cancellation, may have been in the pipeline anyway, and it's possible he spoke so frankly last weekend because he knew he was history anyway. In any case, let's go to the videotape:

Where is Borat when we really need him?

If you haven't caught up with the Bill Clinton/Kazakhstan story in today's New York Times, you really ought to, although apparently George H.W. Bush has been doing much the same thing for years. Here's my favorite part, about a certain meeting, buried near the end: "Both Mr. Clinton and Mr. Giustra at first denied that any such meeting occurred. Mr. Giustra also denied ever arranging for Kazakh officials to meet with Mr. Clinton. Wednesday, after The Times told them that others said a meeting, in Mr. Clinton’s home, had in fact taken place, both men acknowledged it....Wednesday, Mr. Clinton’s spokesman, Ben Yarrow, issued what he called a “correction.” The man they met even has a photo of him taken with Bill that day in Chappaqua.

Deliverance: My new book finally arrives

Got the first copy of my book in the mail today (pub date is March 19, the 5th anniversary of the start of the war). You can pre-order under Links at left rail. Here are some early blurbs for So Wrong for So Long:

"Greg Mitchell has given us a razor-sharp critique of how the media and the government connived in one of the great blunders of American foreign policy. Every aspiring journalist, every veteran, every pundit—and every citizen who cares about the difference between illusion and reality, propaganda and the truth, and looks to the press to help keep them separate—should read this book. Twice."
— Bill Moyers

"With the tragic war in Iraq dragging on, and the drumbeat for new conflicts growing louder, this is more than a five-year history of the biggest foreign policy debacle of our times—it's a cautionary tale that is as relevant as this morning's headlines. Read it and weep; read it and get enraged; read it and make sure it doesn't happen again."
— Arianna Huffington

"In war truth is too often the first casualty, and it is not just a President or a Secretary of Defense or assorted official spokesmen who do the killing. Our brothers and sisters in the media also participate in the execution. Greg Mitchell has taken that as his lesson and in so doing has done a service to future generations in our business."
--Joseph L. Galloway, military reporter and co-author, We Were Soldiers Once...and Proud

"Anyone who cares about the integrity of the American media should read this book. Greg Mitchell asks tough questions about the Iraq war that should have been asked long ago, in a poignant, patriotic, and thoughtful dissection of our war in Iraq. Mitchell names names and places blame on those who’ve blundered. Examining the most complex issue of our time, he connects the dots like no one else has."
— Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director, Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America and author of Chasing Ghosts

“The profound failure of the American press with regard to the Iraq War may very well be the most significant political story of this generation. Greg Mitchell has established himself as one of our country's most perceptive media critics, and here he provides invaluable insight into how massive journalistic failures enabled the greatest strategic disaster in the nation's history.”
— Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com writer and author of A Tragic Legacy and How Would a Patriot Act?

Bombshell 9/11 commission book coming

Max Holland has leaked contents from forthcoming Philip (NY Times) Shenon's book involving the conflicts of interest surrounding the commission's chief, Philip Zelikow, who is also said to have talked with Karl Rove out of school. ABCNews.com is now out with strong denials by Zelikow. Link:
www.washingtondecoded.com

Nature calls

A seriously ill video takeoff on all the Our Wonderful Planet documentaries, revealing what some of the creatures might really be thinking or saying at certain dangerous moments. (h/t Andrew Sullivan)

Suicides among U.S. soldiers soar

As some of you may know, this has been one of my pet issues for the past four years, and there is quite a bit about it in my new book. The great Dana Priest takes a long look at it in today's Washington Post, starting with a suicide attempt just this week...Other material is attached to her article, so go to home page:
http://www.washingtonpost.com

MY NEW COLUMN: Iraq is 'so over 'as an issue -- really?

More absurdity from the press and TV pundits. Imagine a debate tonight not between Obama and Clinton but between one of them and John McCain. I do, over at E&P in my new column:
http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/columns/pressingissues_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003704650

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

McCain cruises -- while Obama kicks the Big Dog

On the heels of his Florida win, John McCain smirked and chuckled his way, rather un-presidentially, through the GOP debate tonight, and reports have him picking up Arnold Schwarzenegger's endorsement tomorrow which, in contrast to Rudy's nod, actually means something. On the other hand, the Democratic contest is about to go to Code Red, with Clinton aides livid over a hard-hitting Obama speech in Denver today.

Obama argued that the Democratic race is a contest of "the past versus the future," and warned against "nominating a candidate who will unite the other party against us," rather than "choosing one who can unite this country around a movement for change." But maybe the blast that set off the alarms is that he mocked the Big Dog himself: "I know it is tempting, after another presidency by a man named George Bush, to simply turn back the clock, and to build a bridge back to the 20th century," Obama said, paraphrasing an old slogan of Bill Clinton. Let's see if his wife can keep off the campaign trail after that.

On The Daily Show tonight, Peggy Noonan really acted stumped by Rudy's fall -- she can find "no discernible" reason for it and she hopes "books will be written about it" so we can all figure it out. Jon Stewart, like nearly everyone else in the country, doesn't need to wait for that. Voters, he said, simply decided: "That guy -- I don't like him."

Murdoch's 'N.Y. Post' Backs Obama, Rips Hillary

Rupert Murdoch's New York Post had been surprisingly kind to Hillary Clinton for quite some time -- she is a home state Senator after all. That ended today when it endorsed Barack Obama in next week's key primary, and used some of its usual colorful language in doing it. While offering only a weak embrace of Obama, it let loose on Hill and Bill, as it fretted about "a return to the opportunistic, scandal-scarred, morally muddled years of the almost infinitely self-indulgent Clinton co-presidency...

"Bill Clinton's thuggishly self-centered campaign antics conjure so many bad, sad memories that it's hard to know where to begin. Suffice it to say that his Peck's-Bad-Boy smirk - the Clinton trademark - wore thin a very long time ago. Far more to the point, Sen. Clinton could have reined him in at any time. But she chose not to - which tells the nation all it needs to know about what a Clinton II presidency would be like....A return to Sen. Clinton's cattle-futures deal, Travelgate, Whitewater, Filegate, the Lincoln Bedroom Fire Sale, Pardongate - and the inevitable replay of the Monica Mess? No, thank you." Here's more:
http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003704589

Remember when Bill Kristol said Obama would have opposed Abraham Lincoln?

With William Kristol now entrenched at The New York Times, Barack Obama very much a strong favorite for the White House, and Rudy Giuliani, then the frontrunner now a total flop, let's return to this magical moment, less than a year ago. Kristol, on Fox, said that Obama would have opposed Lincoln in the runup to the Civil War -- while Rudy would have been Da Man.

"We're electing a war president in 2008," Kristol declared on February 11, 2007, just after Obama launched his campaign with a speech that included a call for an Iraq pullout. "If I can come back to Obama and Lincoln for just one second. Lincoln's 'House Divided' speech in 1858 was a speech saying we cannot live as a house divided on slavery and he implicitly says we'll have to fight a civil war if necessary on this. Obama's speech is a 'Can't we all get along?' speech -- sort of the opposite of Lincoln. He would have been with Stephen Douglas in 1858: Let's paper over these differences, rise above politics, and all get along. That's not Giuliani's mode." Here is the link:

Attorney General: Waterboarding not so bad....

If you haven't caught up with the disgraceful testimony by Mukasey today, here is Sen. Durbin going after him after Joe Biden took his shot -- and then declared that the AG's approval of torture "shocks my conscience a little bit." Only a little, Joe?

The Edwards exit speech

Back in New Orleans on a flood-ravaged street, he says it is "time to step aside" and let history be made by one of the two top candidates, with a unified party behind them (that is, he says, if they are willing to take tough stands). Pundits seem divided on whether his exit will most help Obama (uniting the anti-Clinton vote) or Hillary (with women flocking to her plus maybe some others not ready for a younger or black president leaning to her). Edwards reveals that he has talked to Obama and Clinton and that they will make ending poverty and seeking economic equality a central part of their campaigns -- and their presidency. He waves goodbye, and goes off with U2's 'Walk On' ringing out.

Atrios at his Eschaton blog notes wryly: "Maybe if Edwards had announced his exit from the race every week he would have gotten more media coverage." Over at Talking Points memo, Edwards' top guy, Joe Trippi (the former Howard Dean honcho) is claiming that people with Obama and Hillary are “banging down the doors" seeking an endorsement. Given his speech, I doubt it will be coming any time soon, if at all.

The end of torture: No small thing

Andrew Sullivan, in asserting that John McCain now has the race won: "a McCain nomination means one thing for sure. The era of legal, authorized torture in America is coming to a close. This is a critical moment. And it is more than fitting that a man who endured torture at the hands of America's enemies should now be picked to restore American honor after the disgrace of Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld."

AP: Edwards dropping out

Kind of a shock at this point, and decreases chances the fight will go to the convention: "Democrat John Edwards is exiting the presidential race Wednesday, ending a scrappy underdog bid in which he steered his rivals toward progressive ideals while grappling with family hardship that roused voters' sympathies but never diverted his campaign, The Associated Press has learned."

In other momentous news, the Wall Street Journal reports that Arlo Guthie has endorsed...Ron Paul, stating, “I love this guy....Dr. Paul is the only candidate I know of who would have signed the Constitution of the United States had he been there.”

A 'Hill' of a victory

Amusing Dana Milbank column in Washington Post today on the Clinton "win" in Florida: "Cheering supporters? Check. Election returns on the projection screen? Check. Andrea Mitchell and Candy Crowley doing stand-ups? Check and check. In fact, the only piece missing from Hillary Clinton's Florida victory party here Tuesday night was a victory....But in a political stunt worthy of the late Evel Knievel, the Clinton campaign decided to put on an ersatz victory party that, it hoped, would erase memories of Obama's actual victory Saturday night in South Carolina's Democratic primary. 'Thank you, Florida Democrats!' Clinton shouted to the cheering throng. 'I am thrilled to have this vote of confidence.' It was a perfect reproduction of an actual victory speech, delivered at a perfectly ersatz celebration at a perfectly pretend location: a faux Italianate palace with lion sculptures, indoor fountains and a commanding view of Interstate 595."

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Endless war -- Bush may halt reductions

Both the AP and The New York Times tonight are reporting that promised reductions in U.S. troops in Iraq may halt before they get below the pre-surge level. The Times opens its story this way: "Four months after announcing troop reductions in Iraq, President Bush is now sending signals that the cuts may not continue past this summer, a development likely to infuriate Democrats and renew concerns among military planners about strains on the force."

McCain takes Florida, Rudy to quit, Hillary tries to let Sunshine in

Early winners: the New York Mets, who have apparently won the Johan Santana derby. At 8:30, McCain is barely edging Romney with 35% in. Hillary way ahead of Obama and the spin will soon begin in the "unofficial" primary. Hillary then took the stage in Florida to declare "victory" (despite agreeing to not take it seriously). Finally, Rudy tops Ron Paul! Morning Joe and Crazy Pat at MSNBC agree that McCain's platform is "no jobs, let the illegals stay and more wars." At 9 p.m. most of the networks call it for McCain in a close vote. Rumors rampant that Rudy will drop out tomorrow -- and back McCain. Then NBC shortly after 9:11 p.m. confirms that news.

Obama campaign sends out email: "Breaking… Obama and Clinton tie for delegates in Florida. 0 for Obama, 0 for Clinton.” New reports surface that Hillary wanted to sit with Obama at the State of the Union address for sake of party unity, and he rejected it. His campaign denies this. In more excitement, see the new Caroline Kennedy TV spot for Obama below. I am updating at E&P:
http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003703646

Bombs away: The most overlooked Iraq story

Tom Engelhardt at TomDispatch takes up the surge in the U.S. bombing campaign in Iraq. These missions have long been under-covered by the media, and that has not changed despite the recent expansion. In one 10-day period earlier this month, the U.S. military dropped nearly 100,000 pounds of explosives on one Sunni-dominated area near Baghdad. Catch up with that and more, with a side trip to Guernica, here:
http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174887

Finally, it's Goodbye Rudy Tuesday -- still we're gonna miss ya?

'Daily Show' scribes review 'State of Union' speech

The New York Times offers today at its site an appraisal of Bush's address by a group of out-on-strike 'Daily Show' writers who call themselves The Topical Satire Initiative. They are bitterly disappointed that he did not "bring to the fore the most pressing issue of our generation: human-animal hybrids" Here is the link:
http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/01/29/state-of-the-union-a-shocking-omission/?hp

Obama as 'target': Harry Smith raises assassination threat with Ted Kennedy

You can't say that the thought had not already occurred to millions, but still one has to question the tact and taste of CBS morning guy Harry Smith raising today the question of Obama getting assassinated -- with Ted Kennedy, no less. Hey, why not send out a printed invitation to all the nut cases out there? According to my viewing of the video, Smith asked, "When you see that enthusiasm [for Obama] though, and when you see the generational change that seems to be taking place before our eyes, does it make you at all fearful?"

Kennedy seemed to not know what Smith was hinting at -- although he did stutter a bit -- and offered a bland reply about a "new generation." Smith then tried again: "I just, I think, what I was trying to say is -- sometimes agents of change end up being targets, as you well know. And that was why I was asking if you were at all fearful of that." This time Kennedy, who certainly does well know, surely understood what he meant but again evaded the question, just referring to Obama as an "agent of change." Good for him. Smith also tried to get Teddy to reveal what went down in his now-famous phone conversation with Bill Clinton regarding the pending endorsement. Kennedy chuckled heartily and said, no way. Here's complete video of yesterday's Kennedy and Obama speeches:

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Barry good column

Dave Barry returns with a column about the primary in his native Florida and a review of all the candidates. He concludes: "On Tuesday, it's your turn to stand up and be counted, unless of course you're a Democrat. But whatever you are, you should get out there and vote, even if you have no earthly idea what or whom you're voting for, or why, because that's what democracy is all about. Also, Rudy, if you're reading this: My hedge needs trimming." Link:
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2004145895_dbarry28.html

Va Tech student in famous photo sits with Laura Bush tonight

Among the dozen or more special guests sitting with Laura Bush in the First Lady's box at her husband's State of the Union address tonight is Kevin Sterne, the Virginia Tech student featured in one of the most famous and honored news photos of the tragic shootings there last year. Sterne, now 23, who graduated with a double degree in electrical engineering and in media communications, was in Norris Hall on Virginia Tech’s campus on April 16, 2007, when the shooter killing 32 people and then himself. Sterne was shot twice in the right leg while he was in German class, and he saw several of his classmates killed. The photo of Sterne being carried by rescue workers made front pages around the world. He returned to Virginia Tech this fall to pursue a master’s degree in electrical engineering.

Obama gains in latest Gallup -- but not so much?

Gallup's director, Frank Newport, issued a new analysis today based on the organization's latest daily polls -- which find Barack Obama and Mitt Romney gaining on the frontrunners nationally, though still a bit back. "Clinton now leads Obama by 11 percentage points in Gallup's three-day rolling average nationally; as recently as Jan. 18-20 she was ahead by 20 points," Newport writes. That three-day margin is 44% to 33%.

"At the same time, Gallup analysis of interviewing conducted [only] Sunday shows Clinton is ahead by 10 points, not the immediately significant impact of Obama's overwhelming win in South Carolina that Obama supporters may have hoped for." He notes that endorsements by various Kennedys may now provide a boost.

"The Republican race appears to be tightening," he adds. "John McCain's lead over Mitt Romney is now only 8 points, from a recent high of 14 points in polling conducted early last week. Mike Huckabee remains slightly behind Romney, while Rudy Giuliani is in fourth place with 13% of the Republican national vote. The results of Tuesday's Florida primary could have a significant effect on the standing of the GOP candidates nationally."

Cruising for Hillary

Another fun video today mashes Hillary's now-famous "crying" moment in New Hampshire with Tom Cruise in his now-famous Scientology video. (h/t Andrew Sullivan)

Barack and Ted's Excellent Adventure

Ted Kennedy, as promised, endorsed Obama, and Caroline introduced him, with Obama in attendance -- as he had returned to Washington to vote on the FISA bill. The torch has been passed?

Obama in his own remarks talked about his father's arrival in this country and "that part of what made it possible for him to come here was an effort by the young Senator from Massachusetts at the time, John F. Kennedy, and by a grant from the Kennedy Foundation to help Kenyan students pay for travel. So it is partly because of their generosity that my father came to this country, and because he did, I stand before you today – inspired by America’s past, filled with hope for America’s future, and determined to do my part in writing our next great chapter."

Here is AP story:
http://www.examiner.com/a-1184399~Kennedys_endorsing_Obama__expect_to_campaign_for_Democrat.html

Video of the Week: Turn and face the 'changes'

Hysterical mashup of all the candidates vowing to produce much needed "ch-ch-ch-change" with Bowie on the soundtrack. Or is it mainly a Ch-chain of Fools?

Iraq war is so 'over' -- but killing continues

Certain pundits and politicians have declard the war in Iraq "over," with just a little peacekeeping needed for a few more years (anywhere from five to 100). But today comes two bulletins from the AP:

"A roadside bomb killed five American soldiers Monday in the northern province described as one of al-Qaida in Iraq's last strongholds, just days after a massive house explosion and suicide attack killed 40 people in the provincial capital."

"Influential members of Muqtada al-Sadr's movement have urged the anti-U.S. Shiite cleric not to extend a cease-fire when it expires next month, officials said Monday, a move that could jeopardize recent security gains."

Tony Rezko back in the news

Tony Rezko, the alleged "slumlord" (in Hillary Clinton's phrase) and longtime Obama backer -- who also posed for a now-famous photo with Bill and Hill -- was arrested early Monday near Chicago on an alleged bond violation, the Chicago Tribune has reported. "Investigators had in recent weeks become concerned about the movement of some of his finances," a source said. Rezko is scheduled to stand trial on corruption charges in less than a month.

Meanwhile, the California primary looms large as a key decider, and Obama has just picked up the endorsement of the San Francisco Chronicle. And, amusingly, he also gained the backing of novelist Toni Morrison -- the woman who dubbed Bill Clinton "the first black president," which led to a question on this matter for Obama at the last debate. On the GOP side, Florida vote looking like a beauty tomorrow -- McCain and Romney tied in most polls. Rudy may edge Ron Paul this time. And as I wrote one week ago: Goodbye Rudy -- Tuesday.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Bill and Ted's Not So Excellent Adventure

Politico.com reveals that Bill Clinton made a desperate phone call to Ted Kennedy to try to forestall the latter's startling endorsement of Obama: "The announcement stunned Senate colleagues, who had expected Kennedy to remain neutral until the increasingly vitriolic nominating contest with Sen. Hillary Clinton settled out. 'This is the biggest Democratic endorsement Obama could possibly get short of Bill Clinton,' said a high-level Democrat.'"

New York Times
on Monday, meanwhile, reveals, "Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign team, seeking to readjust after her lopsided defeat in South Carolina and amid a sense among many Democrats that Mr. Clinton had injected himself clumsily into the race, will try to shift the former president back into the sunnier, supportive-spouse role that he played before Mrs. Clinton’s loss in the Iowa caucuses, Clinton advisers said....Yet some advisers expressed concern that Mr. Clinton might prove difficult to rein in."

Falling into a black hole in Iraq

In an all too typical occurrence, the family of a soldier who died in Iraq over a month ago -- former baseball star Ozzie Smith attended his funeral -- in a noncombat incident still has absolutely no idea how he died. I have chronicled the tragedy of the nearly 1000 nonhostile deaths in Iraq over the past few years and this is just the latest sad story. Link:
http://www.columbiatribune.com/2008/Jan/20080127News029.asp

Sunday transcendence

Continuing our regular feature: The great Nathan Milstein plays Beethovan's "Kreutzer" sonata, first movement. Milstein's recording of Beethoven's violin concerto, available at iTunes, is perhaps the greatest ever -- which is saying a lot.

Dynasties Clash: Kennedys vs. Clintons

As I hinted below, The New York Times now reports that Ted Kennedy will endorse Obama tomorrow, joining Caroline and a few other Kennedys in this. The Times calls the Teddy move a "decision that squarely pits one American political dynasty against another." All reports point to Kennedy barnstorming for Obama with one big boost in the Hispanic community, where Teddy is loved -- so California is really in play now.

Hillary on "Face the Nation" affirmed that Bill would continue on the campaign trail with her, despite the growing backlash, explaining, "You know, he loves me just like, you know, husbands and wives get out there and work on each others' behalf. I certainly did that for him for many years. She added that "what he is doing for me is obviously out of a sense of deep commitment to me personally but also based on his experience as president as to who he thinks would best lead our country. And I know that in my own support of him going back some years, I sometimes got a little bit carried away. I confess to that."

Another hit Obama victory speech last night:

This is really Rich

Frank Rich is tackling "Billary" with a Sunday column in the Times that looks at what has been a somewhat hidden aspect of the down side of his Bill's heavy involvement in his wife's campaign: all the muck still out there yet to be raked concerning secret Clinton Library financing, and other recent Bill related-matters that come with the two-for-price-of-one deal. Meanwhile, Mark Halperin at TIME's The Page hints broadly that Teddy Kennedy will join niece Caroline in backing Obama. Link to Frank Rich:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/27/opinion/27rich.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

I'm gonna Obama your butt, boy

John Dickerson on Slate offers an amusing take on the surprising landslide in South Carolina. Under the headline, "Opening Up a Can of Obama," he observes, "Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton so badly in South Carolina it may spawn some new kind of Southern colloquialism. When Clemson spanks an opponent by five touchdowns it will be called an Obama. Fans will taunt the losing team as they walk off the field by making an 'O' against their foreheads."

'Once' not enough in Oscar race?

David Carr at his always entertaining Carpetbagger blog at The New York Times tells us that the song from the wonderful indie film "Once" that is up for an Oscar may be ruled ineligible. A big meeting about it on Monday. He doesn't know why there is a dispute.

Well, here's the likely cause: The song, "Falling Slowly," appeared on two albums before the movie came out -- a big no-no for the Academy -- but the question is, was it written for the movie specifically and then ended up on the CDs as the film made its slow way to release? It appears on two excellent 2006-2007 CDs by the co-writer and male star in the film, Glen Hansard: One is from his band, The Frames, called The Cost, and the other is the duet album he made with his co-star in the flick, Marketa Irglova, The Swell Season. You can see The Frames do it via YouTube. He was definitely asked to write original songs for the movie (he wasn't supposed to appear in it himself at first) but whether "Falling Slowly" was one of them, I don't know. Damn shame if it's axed. When I saw the pair at a NYC concert a few months ago, Hansard was bubbling over the Oscar buzz.

Update: A commenter at Carr's blog writes that "Falling Slowly" was previously featured in a Czech movie called “Kráska v nesnázích” released in September 2006 in the Czech Republic. He includes a YouTube link to the trailer which includes the tune.

Here's the key scene in "Once" when Glen teaches Marketa the song:

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Caroline Kennedy op-ed in 'NYT'

The title for the pro-Obama pitch tomorrow is startling: "A President Like My Father." Whoa. It concludes: "I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans." Here's the link:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/27/opinion/27kennedy.html?hp

Update: Obama wins by "substantial margin"

NBC calls it right at 7 p.m. Exit polls show that Obama got 24% of vote from whites, twice the predicted number. He took 80% from blacks. Tim Russert 24% gives him right to claim a "coalition." Nearly all saying Bill Clinton may have caused backlash. NBC quotes Bill saying earlier today, "Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice, in '84 and '88." NBC's comment: "The reference to Jackson seemed a way to downplay today's result in a state where a majority of voters are African American."

Update: NBC says Hillary will beat out Edwards for 2nd. Bill Clinton is speaking from Missouri and refers to big vote coming up in Florida -- even though it is not supposed to count. He also refers to this as his "post-politics" years. NBC reveals that Caroline Kennedy will be endorsing Obama in the pages of The New York Times tomorrow More as night goes on over at E&P:

http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=10037025
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Five years ago: Predicting disaster in Iraq

Exactly five years ago, I edited a a special issue for E&P with George Bush on the cover that raised troubling issues about the administration's case for war. The simple cover line told it all: "Unanswered Questions." Inside we presented a half dozen articles that covered everything from the views of various pundits to war reporters showing maybe a little too much enthusiasm for their coming task. One of the highlights was my Q & A with famed Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg. While he is often criticized for his activism and edgy statements, the fears he expressed -- often mocked at the time -- turned out to be far more accurate than anything that emerged from, say, The Washington Post's editorial board or most of its columnists. The war would begin less than two months later. Here is the link, and I urge you to follow it:
http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003702568

If you loved Bush/Cheney you'll love Clinton/Clinton?

On the New York Times op-ed page today, Garry Wills, the fine author and historian, comes out against a Clinton "duo" presidency. Among other things, he points out that a somewhat similar arrangement -- Bush/Cheney -- hasn't worked out so well. After looking at constitutional issues he concludes: "We have seen in this campaign how former President Clinton rushes to the defense of presidential candidate Clinton. Will that pattern of protection be continued into the new presidency, with not only his defending her but also her defending whatever he might do in his energetic way while she’s in office? It seems likely. And at a time when we should be trying to return to the single-executive system the Constitution prescribes, it does not seem to be a good idea to put another co-president in the White House."

Meanwhile, Colbert King in his op-ed at The Washington Post today also lays into the couple he calls "Billary," and wonders if they would have his and hers desks in the Oval Office. One sample: "To elect Obama would be to 'roll the dice,' sniffed the former president. When Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992, he was governor of a small state, had no foreign policy experience and didn't know how to salute. He got his on-the-job experience in the White House." Here's the link to the Garry Wills piece:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/26/opinion/26wills.html?ref=opinion

Robert Capa, Redux

Terrific piece in tomorrow's New York Times on the discovery of missing Robert Capa negatives in Mexico. ICP now going through them and they hope to solve the decades-long debate over whether he staged the most famous war photo of all-time (see image above) or even if it might have actually been taken by his lover Taro. It amazes me that Hollywood hasn't done a bio-pic of that pair yet. I posted a couple of weeks ago about attending the Capa/Taro show at ICP in New York recently. I have to say, I was surprised to see a Capa photo of another guy getting shot in the same exact location, which raised some suspicions on my part. Here is link to the Times piece:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/27/arts/design/27kenn.html?ref=arts

Friday, January 25, 2008

Hillary one ups Bill -- she inhaled...

Or so said Merle Haggard on Bill Maher's HBO show tonight. Merle claimed he was once on Willie Nelson's bus with her and she couldn't help it. Of course Merle seemed maybe a little stoned himself when he said this. Or as he put it, "I don't spend a lot of time in Muskogee."

Merle has written a song that sort of backs Hillary's campaign, called "Put A Woman in Charge." Includes the lyric, "The country owes it to Hillary, and Hillary owes it to Bill." Here is Merle's perhaps drunken live version:

New Orleans JazzFest schedule out today!

For all you fans of the Jazzfest (and I know you are out there), this year's musical lineup was posted today, so check it out: Yes, you can can. To celebrate, here is the master, Allen Toussaint, with Bonnie Raitt, on his "What Is Success?" Words to live by, for sure:

Colbert -- and 'Scooby Do' -- on the Clintons

Meet Hillary's new black friend and Bill's new black enemy, and a certain cartoon joins in.

A media breakthrough?

Randy Lovely today was promoted to the top editor's post at the Arizona Republic in Phoenix, following Ward Bushee's departure to take Phil Bronstein's job at the San Francisco Chronicle. What makes this especially notable is that Lovely will become the only openly gay top editor at a very large paper -- in fact, we count only one previous. I am remember six years ago when we first wrote about him after he moved to Arizona and he expressed little fear of his greeting there. And he repeats today to us that he has found Arizona and its "libertarian" atmosphere quite tolerant.

Pam Fine, the openly gay managing editor of The Indianapolis Star, praised the appointment: "It's great to see it. I hope more companies will be less-afraid to pick gay editors."

Sympathy from the devil: McCain accepts 'NYT' endorsement

Sen. John McCain, like most of his fellow GOP candidates for president, has often ripped The New York Times in the past. So how is he reacting to receiving the paper's editorial endorsement on the Republican side in the state's upcoming primary? Some of his rivals are now mocking him for it.

Speaking to reporters today, McCain said that any endorsement doesn't mean "that I necessarily share their views." He added: “In the case of the Romney campaign, which I understand is the one that is making most of it, in all due respect -- I got the endorsement of both of his hometown newspapers. The Boston Globe, which is known to be liberal, and the Boston Herald, which is very conservative. We got the endorsement of all the people who know him best, in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts. I appreciate anyone’s endorsement."

Boycott Chuck Norris -- at your own risk!

Mark Halperin's The Page blog at TIME has this late-breaking scoop, apparently the brainstorm of a former Fred Thompson aide who resents Mike Huckabee's surge: "Citing Chuck Norris’s strong support for a candidate who does not believe in evolution and who has called for the isolation of AIDS patients, BoycottChuckNorris.com launched today to organize a boycott of products that Chuck Norris endorses or those who advertise on the television show in which he starred, Walker, Texas Ranger. 'While Chuck Norris has the freedom to associate with whatever out-of-the-mainstream views he would like, I am calling on those who don’t agree with him to vote with their dollars and boycott these products,' said Darrel Ng, the founder of the Boycott Chuck Norris effort. 'Undoubtedly, these companies know about Chuck Norris’s views and if they choose to continue their association with him, I, and I hope others who don’t agree with his views, will shop elsewhere.”

Does this mean you?

Fascinating new academic study on "burnout" among journalists chronicles a "moderate rate of exhaustion" and "a high rate of cynicism," which should surprise no one, but the details and forecasts are interesting. Conclusion: "In essence, with high levels of cynicism and climbing rates of exhaustion, journalists are moving closer to reaching burnout as defined by the MBI-GS. And the protective buffer efficacy – a feeling of accomplishment – continues to dwindle." Link:
http://srreinardy.iweb.bsu.edu/burnoutcrisis/conclusions.html

Peggy's turn to cry

Peggy Noonan, the former Reagan speechwriter and now Wall Street Journal columnist, proclaimed an almost starry-eyed faith in (some would say, crush on) George W. Bush for years. Today at the Journal she admits: "George W. Bush destroyed the Republican Party, by which I mean he sundered it, broke its constituent pieces apart and set them against each other. He did this on spending, the size of government, war, the ability to prosecute war, immigration and other issues.

"Were there other causes? Yes, of course. But there was an immediate and essential cause. And this needs saying, because if you don't know what broke the elephant you can't put it together again. The party cannot re-find itself if it can't trace back the moment at which it became lost. It cannot heal an illness whose origin is kept obscure.... The truth will out, like steam from a kettle. It hurts to say something you supported didn't work. I would know."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Obama does Letterman -- and Matt Lauer springs surprise on Hillary

Obama does a top ten list on Letterman tonight, via satellite, featuring campaign promises. One is "appoint Mitt Romney secretary of lookin' good." The No. 1 is: "Three words -- Vice President Oprah." Earlier this week, John Edwards allowed Dave to fuss with his famous 'do. But tonight Obama jokes that Lettermen can't repeat that, telling him: "you can't muss my hair."

This morning on the Today show, Matt Lauer sprung a "gotcha" surprise on Hillary Clinton, putting up on the screen a photo of Hillary and her husband, obviously during their White House days, posing with the very "slumlord" she had linked to Obama in the last debate. She denied knowing him at all and said that, in any case, she did not have a 17-year relationship with him like someone else she could name. Here is link:
http://thepage.time.com/clinton-on-the-today-show/

Crying Wolfy

This might be my favorite article opener of the year so far -- black comedy division -- courtesy of Reuters, as it captures the true absurdity in so few words: "Paul Wolfowitz, an architect of the Iraq war who was forced to resign from the World Bank because of an ethics scandal, will chair a U.S. advisory panel on arms control, the State Department said on Thursday."

Not really blogging the GOP debate

No time for this, but one high point so far comes when Tim Russert asks if the candidates still back the war going on endlessly despite polls showing that at least 60% of Americans think it was a bad idea in the first place and we ought to get out. Of course, they all say, screw the polls. Huckabee actually says that the fact we didn't find WMD "doesn't mean they weren't there." Romney, ignoring the 60% problem, defiantly declares that the Democratic nominee will really be in trouble when he or she has to tangle with the Republican nominee on this.

At the close of no-fireworks debate -- with barely a jab thrown by anyone -- most of the MSNBC analysts called it for Romney, simply because he was able to pretty much deliver his stump speech without having to endure attacks, which generally make him "flinch" and "look terrible" as one put it. Yet he is the one who said he couldn't wait to take on the Democrats....Meanwhile, Huckabee, given a chance post-debate to clarify his statement on WMD, said they must have been taken to Jordan, our ally (when surely he meant, Syria).

'NYT' endorses Hillary, McCain

Since the New York primary has gotten so little attention so far, it must have surprised many to find The New York Times suddenly endorsing for president tonight at the top of its web site. And it picked (drumroll please) John McCain and home state favorite Hillary Clinton. Here's the opening of the Democratic pick: "As Democrats look ahead to the primaries in the biggest states on Feb. 5, The Times’s editorial board strongly recommends that they select Hillary Clinton as their nominee for the 2008 presidential election....

"By choosing Mrs. Clinton, we are not denying Mr. Obama’s appeal or his gifts. The idea of the first African-American nominee of a major party also is exhilarating, and so is the prospect of the first woman nominee. 'Firstness' is not a reason to choose. The times that false choice has been raised, more often by Mrs. Clinton, have tarnished the campaign." It also observed: "As strongly as we back her candidacy, we urge Mrs. Clinton to take the lead in changing the tone of the campaign."

The GOP one knocks all the candidates on the war and the Bush legacy but still says it's an "easy" choice to pick McCain, as he is "the only Republican who promises to end the George Bush style of governing from and on behalf of a small, angry fringe." Here's the link to the Clinton one, and from there you can link right to the McCain one:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/25/opinion/25fri1.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Obama leads in S. Carolina but racial gap widens

While his edge his closer than in some other polls, Obama leads Hillary in South Carolina, "where their increasingly bitter rivalry has opened a deep racial divide among Democrats days before the party's first primary in the South on Saturday," McClatchy reports tonight in reviewing its new McClatchy-MSNBC poll. African-Americans break solidly for Obama, with 59 percent supporting him vs. 25 percent for Clinton, 4 percent for former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and 12 percent undecided. White voters: 40 percent support Edwards, 36 percent back Clinton, 10 percent are behind Obama and 14 percent are undecided.

Things get 'Rocky' for McCain -- he can fly now

Watch, live, as John McCain learns on camera that he has just earned the endorsement of Sylvester Stallone. It comes on the day Stallone in TIME magazine defends his use of human growth hormone (HGH) to bulk up. Now the big question: Can we get a Celebrity GOP Death Match together with Stallone grappling Chuck Norris -- with Johnny Damon as ref? Update: At tonight's debate, McCain actually proposes such a thing, leaving out the Johnny Damon part.

AP counts delegates -- says Super Tuesday won't decide anything

Nice, detailed look at where candidates stand in delegates -- Hillary up by 100 on the Democratic side -- the always-baffling "super-delegate" terrain, and why Super Tuesday can't decide things because of proportional rules.
http://apnews.myway.com/article/20080124/D8UC7RDO0.html

Kristol cleared: How did he get 'NYT' column?

Gabriel Sherman at The New Republic has a few details along with some damning quotes by (anonymus) Times staffers re: Mr. Bill.
http://tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=7b687811-caed-4ded-bda3-66d9c1b11f71

Hillary and the 'hit job'

An Associated Press report: "Hillary Rodham Clinton, defending her husband's increasingly vocal role in her presidential effort, sidestepped questions about whether Bill Clinton's suggestion that Barack Obama had put a 'hit job' on him was language befitting a former president. 'We're in a very heated campaign, and people are coming out and saying all kinds of things,' Hillary Clinton said in an interview Wednesday. People?

And, if you can't wait, here at above right is preview of TIME's cover coming tomorrow. Jay Carney writes, “Now having won two important early contests, McCain finds himself burdened with the front-runner label for the second time in a month, the third time in the past year and the fourth time since the 2000 primaries ... Up to this point in McCain’s career as a presidential candidate, becoming the man to beat has meant, inexorably, that he was about to be beaten ... If McCain loses Florida, and the nomination, it will be because Republicans couldn’t overcome their doubts about him—and because McCain wasn’t willing to make it easy for them.”

McCain says, referring to potential Democratic presidential nominees, “I am confident we’d have a respectful debate with any of the three ... Why not? I’ve worked with them all. They’re all patriots.” Ken Duberstein, a former chief of staff for Ronald Reagan, tells TIME, “McCain has his flaws, but everyone is starting to recognize that he’s the most electable Republican out there.”

Another top editor exits

Following the dismissal/departure of Jim O'Shea in L.A., Phil Bronstein moves on from the San Francisco Chronicle. No successor named. Phil had overcome the "Mr. Sharon Stone" sniping to hold his paper together and, most notably, break the BALCO case and, thankfully, help get Barry Bonds in a lot of hot water. Kudos for that, for sure.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Fox News: U.S. economy tanking because of fear of Democrats taking White House

Jon Stewart tonight played clips of various "experts" on Fox declaring that the main culprit behind our sinking financial picture and the selloffs on Wall Street is fear of a Democratic victory in November. Stewart's comment: "How bad do the Democrats have to be to pre-fuck the economy?"

He also played statements by numerous pundits hailing Fred Thompson's chances last summer, closing with Bill Kristol calling him truly "formidable." Stewart: "Oh, Bill Kristol, aren't you ever right?" He also suggested that the idea of Fred Thompson as candidate put him way up there in the polls but the reality made the poll numbers plunge. Ergo, now that he is out again, he may rise again and yet become the nominee. Lending credence to that: a National Review article today pointing out that a pro-Thompson uncommitted slate carried the Louisiana caucuses yesterday after he dropped out. The Fredmentum has started!

Best music of the week: On Colbert show?

Yes, give it a listen, it happened last night following a funny but somewhat touching Colbert interview with Andrew Young, in which the civil rights leader (and former Atlanta mayor) recalled working with Stephen's father long ago to settle a strike. The point was that Stephen should now step forward to fix the writers' strike, since he may be genetically predisposed to do so. After a break, he returned with Young, a gospel choir -- and a geeky Malcolm Gladwell (who just could not clap in time) -- to sing "Let My People Go." It's not Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers but it's pretty terrific:

Goodbye, Rudy -- Tuesday?

The St. Petersburg Times headlines its blog item tonight: "Bye-bye Rudy?" The reason -- its new poll shows America's Mayor a distant third in the Florida race, and sinking. It states: "Among Florida voters likely to vote in Tuesday’s primary, 25 percent are backing McCain and 23 percent Romney, a statistical tie, while Giuliani and Mike Huckabee were tied for third place with 15 percent each." The polls was sponsored by the St. Pete Times, The Miami Herald and a local TV outlet. "Giuliani's decision to pull out of the early states is going to go down in history if he finishes out of the money in Florida as one of the worst political decisions,'' said pollster Tom Eldon. Meanwhile, an L.A. Times/Bloomberg national poll finds McCain 22%, Huckabee 18%, Romney 17%, Giuliani 12%.

It's ain't the meat, it's the notion

You gotta love this item, from the Saginaw (Mich.) News web site: "Kristen DeGroat wants to make one thing clear: Her horse is not on the menu." Because of a goof at The Saginaw News, a classified ad for her 3-year-old mare, Foxy, ran under the header ''Good Things to Eat'' instead of the one for horses and stables. DeGroat has fielded dozens of calls over the past two days from unhappy animal lovers. Now here's the best part: The ad (see picture) that runs in the middle of the web story shows two people -- on horses -- in Arizona.

The 'war' at the 'Wash Post' continues

I wish I had a dollar for every time in recent years the fine reporting by The Washington Post's news staff caused (or should have caused) embarrassment for the hawks on the paper's editorial board. This past Sunday, the paper carried an op-ed by three of its favorite contributors, Michael O'Hanlon, Fred Kagan, and Gen. Jack Keane, once again touting the "surge." Right at the start they hail the new de-Baathification law as "an important step toward political reconciliation."

Today, guess what? A front pager in the same paper by Amit R. Paley and Joshua Partlow relates, "Approved by parliament this month under pressure from U.S. officials, the law was heralded by President Bush and Iraqi leaders as a way to soothe the deep anger of many ex-Baathists -- primarily Sunnis but also many Shiites such as Awadi -- toward the Shiite-led government." However: "More than a dozen Iraqi lawmakers, U.S. officials and former Baathists here and in exile expressed concern in interviews that the law could set off a new purge of ex-Baathists, the opposite of U.S. hopes for the legislation."

Then there's the shockingly much-overlooked financial cost of the war: "Funding for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and other activities in the war on terrorism expanded significantly in 2007," the Congressional Budget Office said in a report released on Wednesday. War funding, which averaged about $93 billion a year from 2003 through 2005, rose to $120 billion in 2006 and $171 billion in 2007 and President George W. Bush has asked for $193 billion in 2008.

Bill Clinton announces he is running for president!

Or so claims The Onion. Well, it would at least split the Clinton vote -- and he would spend just as much time attacking his wife as he would hitting Obama. The Big Dog, according to the paper, calls Hillary a "wonderful wife and worthy political adversary." But does he have the "constitution" for it?
http://www.theonion.com/content/news/bill_clinton_screw_it_im_running

Incredible interest in study of false statements on war

I'm happy to report that (see post below) the new online archive of over 900 misleading statements or outright lies about Iraq and the war that just opened yesterday has drawn tremendous attention both from the media and many average folks -- there's so much traffic that even a New York Times reporter had trouble logging on and searching for stuff. Rightwing blogs, meanwhile, are slamming the report and the coverage because the project is linked to the boogeyman (George Soros). For now, here is video that gets into the findings.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The falsehoods that led to war -- now in one place!

The New York Times reports today on a new online archive -- produced by two reputable journalist organizations -- which has assembled all the misleading or downright false claims spread by the Bush administration in the run-up to the Iraq invasion (and afterward). In case you've ever wondered, they have come up with a total number of false claims: "at least" 935. That's about three per day in that period. See chart above. Here's the link. Go wallow:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/23/washington/23database.html?hp

Another loss on Ledger

What a great day for the media. The New York Times, among others, reported that Heath Ledger was found at the apartment of one of the Olsen twins, and now apologizes for that. Many, many others stated that pills were found scattered around his body: Not true. It's the TMZ-ification of the news. The L.A. Times tonight dubs this "speed reporting" where news is spread -- even by mainstream outlets -- with facts trailing behind. Now AOL's home page is displaying his corpse being wheeled out to the street. Well, at least that did happen. Unfortunately.

In this vein: photo at above right shows the famous incident when photogs in Australian sprayed the star with water pistols at Brokeback premiere. He left the country almost immediately and never looked back.

The delegate count: Obama leads (trails)

It gets little attention, but in case you are wondering (since it is, in fact, the most important thing): Obama officially leads Clinton in delegates for the nomination 38 to 36, according to NBC News tonight. But Tim Russert helpfully points out that this doesn't include the "super-delegates" -- elected Democrats who strongly back Hillary. She claims about 90 while Obama only names 40 of them, so put it together and she leads by about four dozen right now.

But this will seem trivial after California and New York vote in two weeks. And Hillary will win New York (trust me) and leads Obama by 12% in latest Field poll in California -- and seems to be gaining in picking up Hispanic votes (through racial politics or not). Hence: she left little South Carolina today and flew to California. Obama will get his must-win in South Carolina this weekend but he should be heading out to L.A. as well. Meanwhile, Bill Clinton said in South Carolina today, "I know you think it's crazy, but I kind of like to see Barack and Hillary fight....They're flesh and blood people and they have their differences -- let them have it."

Heath Ledger dead in New York

Damn shame about his passing. Became a fine actor, even in the regrettable I'm Not There. Probably overlooked will be what I felt was his finest work, as the troubled, hard-drinking prison guard in Monster's Ball -- his true breakthrough performance, not Brokeback. His life in Monster's Ball ended when he blew himself away with a shotgun.

In a recent interview with WJW-TV in Cleveland, Ledger was asked how having a child (with Michelle Williams) had changed his life.“You’re forced into, kind of, respecting yourself more,” he said. “You learn more about yourself through your child, I guess. I think you also look at death differently. It’s like a Catch-22: I feel good about dying now because I feel like I’m alive in her, you know, but at the same hand, you don’t want to die because you want to be around for the rest of her life.” Here's a clip from Monster's Ball with (sorry) music:

No quiet on the Western front...

Anger and confusion continue to reign at the L.A. Times following the firing/exit of Editor Jim O'Shea. And there's not even an Oscars show to look forward to. Well, at least the Super Bowl is not far away, in Arizona, and the California primary circus is coming to town. Here's the latest at E&P:
http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003699789

Gallup: Voters satisfied with candidates this year

As usually happens at about this time in a race for president, some pundits are suggesting that large numbers of the electorate are not satisfied with the selection of candidates, or feel they are not fully addressing the key issues, or are dreaming of someone else to jump into the race (Al Gore?) or run as a third-party savior (Mike Bloomberg? Ron Paul?). Didn't Ross Perot get 19% of the vote in 1992 as an independent candidate, the last time the economy seemed to be falling apart? Reuters revealed today: "Consumer advocate Ralph Nader said on Monday he will decide soon on whether to make a another bid for the White House in 2008."

There's one big problem with these scenarios, Frank Newport, head of the Gallup organization, reports today: Voters are actually pretty darn happy with the choices they already have. The poll found, quite tellingly, that 84% answered yes when asked if there was alraedy someone running who would make a "good president." This compares with 71% in March 2000, 57% in May 1996 and 47% in April 1992.

After reviewing the January 10-13 Gallup poll, Newport concludes: "The data reviewed above suggest that the environment would not be nearly as propitious this year as it was for Perot that year. It is true that Americans are broadly dissatisfied this year with both the state of the nation and the economy, as they were in 1992. But Americans at this juncture seem much more willing to say that the current crop of candidates running in the major parties have discussed good solutions to the nation's problems and, as a result, there is a high level of satisfaction with those currently running. Thus, were Bloomberg to jump into the race, his first job would be to convince voters that he would bring to the table something that the major party candidates have not."

Almost 3 in 4 agree that the candidates as a group are "talking about issues you really care about." Again, this compares favorably with past races. And by a 58% to 36% margin, they say that one or more presidential candidates "have come up with good ideas for solving the country's problems."

Oscar mania makes brief appearance

After last night's Democratic debate, it's almost a relief to consider something as trivial as the Oscars (do they even count this year as that?). Anyway, glad to see Michael Clayton get a best picture nod today, but I'm down on all the others in that category except Juno. I would have put The Diving Bell and the Butterfly in there myself (though Schnabel did get a best director slot). Glad that "Falling Slowly" made it from Once as best song, even if it wasn't the best tune in that picture. Various best actors/actresses more or less expected and deserved, although Tommy Lee Jones came out of nowhere (they got that one right). Best song from Once:

Monday, January 21, 2008

Obama in debate goes after the Clintons -- and all hell breaks loose

As I predicted below, Obama quickly went after Bill Clinton along with Hillary early on in the debate tonight -- or as he said, "President and Senator Clinton." It was part of his attack objecting to them allegedly lying about his statements. Hillary then defended them, and then launched an assault on Obama supposedly backing the value of some GOP ideas. He denied this and then things really got hot. When he hit Bill again, she said HE wasn't there, and Obama said, "Sometimes I don't know who I'm running against." Then he said that when he was working to help people in the 'hood, she was a corporate lawyer for WalMart. She countered by referring to a slumlord he defended. Finally Edwards pointed out that voters out there in S.Carolina probably didn't want this "squabbling." Things cooled for awhile then, but the "hottest" moment of the campaign had transpired.

A few minutes later Wolf gave Obama a chance to respond to the slumlord charge. He admitted he had done five hours of work in this regard long ago. He then hit HIllary for raising so many untrue charges against him and people might not trust such a person as president. She then charged him with not ever taking responsibility for his record -- producing boos from the audience. She then went into a litany of times he had voted "present" in Illinois. Obama responded heatedly about twisting his record and denounced those "willing to say anything to get elected." Here is a link to the rest of the debate, and below that, courtesy of Talking Points Memo, is the big Obama/Clinton flareup:
http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003699513

Colbert flushing out new visitors to National Gallery

From the embattled L.A. Times (see posts below) something on a lighter note: "The line outside the bathroom at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. has been out the door ever since museum officials decided to hang a portrait of late-night host Stephen Colbert in between the men's and women's restrooms. 'The lines have been extraordinary,' museum director Marc Pachter said today as he prepared to end his 33-year tenure with the Smithsonian Institution. 'A friend e-mailed that it was good I was leaving with my dignity.'"

Colbert has advised: "All employees must wash hands before returning to work."

Obama's best chance: Running against BILL Clinton?

Just my two cents, but: Based on what's gone down the past few days, Obama may sense that a kind of "buyer's remorse" is already setting in, regarding the Democratic nominee, as it usually does in campaigns -- but with an odd twist this time.

True, Hillary is a long way from locking it up, but she looks like a better bet now. The problem for Obama is that huge numbers of Democrats (probably including himself) actually like Hillary and/or think she is a fine candidate. However, a growing number either realize that they never really liked her husband, or never really forgave him, or loved him until recently -- when he started acting obnoxious on the stump -- or simply are now troubled as they finally realize that they don't really want to live through another eight years of gabby/grabby Bill and the Clintons' marital dynamic. Anyway: I see all this playing out on liberal blogs and some mainstream media sites and I wouldn't be surprised to see Obama keep hitting Bill -- while sweet-talking Hill.

Update: At a meeting today with editors of The State, the leading paper in South Carolina, Obama charged that the media had distorted his recent remarks about Ronald Reagan. And, the paper reports, "Obama continued criticism of what he says is a strategy by the Clinton campaign to use former President Bill Clinton to attack him. 'There is a concrete strategy by the Clintons,' Obama said, saying the former president has attacked his war record unfairly and with inaccurate information." If you haven't caught Obama's Ebenezer Baptist Church speech (now a YouTube sensation) here is the whole thing:

Did he jump or was he pushed?

Fascinating and important uproar continues at L.A. Times today, with new owner Sam Zell and publisher David Hiller continuing to claim that editor Jim O'Shea left of his own accord -- while he states flatly, in a memo to staff today, "In discussions about the current and future budgets, it became clear that Publisher David Hiller and I didn’t share a common vision for the future of the Los Angeles Times. In fact, we were far apart. So David decided he wanted a new editor. As I’ve said on numerous occasions over the past 14 months, I intended to stay here and lead this newspaper to the greatness it deserves. But David decided he wanted to terminate my employment and get another editor." Stay tuned. Here's link to O'Shea blast:
http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003699465

'L.A. Times' meets 'The Wire'

As I noted in a post yesterday, it was ironic that the axing of L.A. Times editor Jim O'Shea (allegedly over his resistance to budget cuts) came to light the same day as job cutbacks were to be announced at The Sun in Baltimore -- in HBO's "The Wire." Like the Times, The Sun has a Tribune Co. connection.

On the TV show last night, a very familiar scene showed the paper's publisher calling everyone together in the newsroom (see photo at right) to announce that because of revenue shortfalls and that damn free Internet, heads would have to roll, or at least buyouts ordered. Showing that the script is at least a little dated, there were suggestions that this was ordered "from Chicago." The editor, who physically looks not unlike actual Sun editor Tim Franklin, expressed his regrets while repeating the mantra of we-must-do-more-with-less. Much moaning ensued about the state of modern newspapers, along with references to a possible guild fight.

As often happens in real life, a veteran reporter refused a post on the copy desk and decided to accept a buyout, taking years of experience and insider knowledge with him. When the key younger reporter at the paper blithely suggested that the older fellow was just "dead wood" (wasn't that another HBO series?), he was promptly dissed by his editor. Partly in response, the young guy then made up a juicy quote for a story -- the second time he has done that this season. The first time he made up from scratch an appealing profile of a fan at an Orioles game, and hasn't been nailed for that yet. Prediction: a Jayson Blair-type scandal is fast approaching. We hope only on HBO.

Elsewhere on the show last night: another young reporter complained about her first front pager getting cut in half and moved to Metro. She had driven all the way to the paper's printing plant to get an early copy. And a mayor's aide leaked a police department story to the paper.

Campaign update: Rudy losing in New York, video of Obama messing with Bill

After a bit of a breather on Sunday, politics is coming hot and heavy again, even if is (or maybe because it is) MLK Day. There's a Democratic debate tonight in S. Carolina. Meanwhile, a new poll in New York finds Rudy, even in his home state, losing (as he has everywhere else), though there's at least a chance that here he will at least beat Ron Paul. McCain tops him 36% to 24%, while Hillary slams Obama by a 2-1 margin (he will just have to win California or call it a day).

Obama and Clinton camps still trading charges of vote manipulation in Nevada. Here's the video of Obama hitting back at (Bill) Clinton on TV this morning -- with the Clinton camp claiming, again, that Obama is merely issuing right wing talking points.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

We will, we will, Iraq you -- seemingly forever

I have posted below on the Michael Gordon and Andrew Bacevich pieces on Iraq today. Here's a link to my new column on this at E&P: http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/columns/pressingissues_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003699323

Chuck Norris: McCain may up and die on us

From CNN: "Chuck Norris brought his tough-guy approach to the campaign trail Sunday, taking aim at John McCain's age and suggesting the Arizona senator might not last even a single term. Norris, an ardent supporter of Mike Huckabee, told reporters he believes serving as president accelerates the aging process 3-to-1. 'If John takes over the presidency at 72 and he ages 3-to-1, how old will he be in four years? Eighty-four years old — and can he handle that kind of pressure in that job?' Norris said, as Huckabee looked on. 'That's why I didn't pick John to support, because I'm just afraid the vice president will wind up taking over his job within that four-year presidency.' added the action star."

Obama to hit Bubba tomorrow

ABC News reports tonight that in an interview with Robin Roberts to air Monday on "Good Morning America," Obama hits back at Clinton -- Bill, that is -- pretty hard. "You know the former president, who I think all of us have a lot of regard for, has taken his advocacy on behalf of his wife to a level that I think is pretty troubling,” Obama said. “He continues to make statements that are not supported by the facts -- whether it's about my record of opposition to the war in Iraq or our approach to organizing in Las Vegas. This has become a habit, and one of the things that we're gonna have to do is to directly confront Bill Clinton when he's making statements that are not factually accurate." Maybe the Big Dog will have to learn some new tricks?

Life imitates art, again, at 'L.A.Times'

The HBO series "The Wire," as some of you know, focuses partly this year on newsroom turmoil at the non-mythical The Sun of Baltimore. Tonight, in fact, the hammer comes down on job cuts, as far as I can guess. Well, the editor of the Los Angeles Times, Jim O'Shea, just got shit-canned, in real life, after what reportedly was a heated dispute over budgetary matters....

Bacevich vs. Gordon on Iraq

Old reliable Michael Gordon of The New York Times, who helped bring us this war, explained today what's wrong with all the Democratic plans for a phased withdrawal from Iraq. His prime assumption, as always, is that only the U.S. can save the Iraqis from each other. Umm, I believe we have spent thousands of lives, billions of dollars, and almost five years training a very large Iraqi army and police force?

For a more sane commentary, try the redoubtable Andrew Bacevich at The Washington Post, one of the sharpest analysts (who also happens to have lost a son in Iraq, unlike virtually anyone else who writes about the war): "In short, the surge has done nothing to overturn former secretary of state Colin Powell's now-famous 'Pottery Barn' rule: Iraq is irretrievably broken, and we own it. To say that any amount of 'kicking ass' will make Iraq whole once again is pure fantasy. The U.S. dilemma remains unchanged: continue to pour lives and money into Iraq with no end in sight, or cut our losses and deal with the consequences of failure. In only one respect has the surge achieved undeniable success: It has ensured that U.S. troops won't be coming home anytime soon. This was one of the main points of the exercise in the first place."
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/18/AR2008011802873.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

McCain as frontrunner? Mitt still leads in delegates

Matt Yglesias at TheAtlantic.com points out that on Saturday morning "Mitt Romney had more delegates than John McCain. Following today's primaries, Romney's lead has grown even larger because Nevada has more delegates than South Carolina and Romney won a larger proportion of the vote in NV than McCain got in South Carolina. Naturally, the press is declaring this a big win for McCain. I just saw Howard Fineman explain that 'there is no longer any strong candidate in the race' to oppose McCain. Nobody but the guy who's leading, that is."

A poet -- and combat vet -- cuts to the core in Iraq

My friend Dennis Anderson -- probably the only newspaper editor who has covered Iraq and also has a son who served there -- has written another remarkable column at E&P on an Iraq vet who also happens to be a poet.
http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/columns/shoptalk_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003699296

Saturday, January 19, 2008

McCain declared winner in South Carolina -- Obama beats Hillary (in delegates) in Nevada

After holding a narrow lead, McCain handed win over Huckabee by AP and the cable news networks. Apparently the pro-Confederate flag vote is somewhat limited. Ron Paul again doubles the hapless Rudy's vote: 4% to 2%. Meanwhile, Obama people suggesting that even while losing in Nevada he may pick up one more delegate there than Hillary -- but this is unclear. Would be big moral and morale win if true.

AP does report now: "She captured the popular vote, but Obama edged her out for national convention delegates at stake, taking 13 to her 12." The Clinton camp disputed this, but the Nevada Democratic party has issued this statement: "No national convention delegates were awarded. That said, if the delegate preferences remain unchanged between now and April 2008, the calculations of national convention delegates being circulated by the Associated Press are correct. We look forward to our county and state conventions where we will choose the delegates for the nominee that Nevadans support."

'Gender Gap' helps Hillary again


The Washington Post at its The Trail blog late this afternoon explored the gender vote in Nevada, with Hillary again winning the female vote. You had to love the AP photo posted with it (here, at right) under the headline "Gender Gap Benefits Clinton." Only in Vegas! Here's an excerpt: "In her Nevada caucus win today, Hillary Rodham Clinton benefited from a sizable gender gap and big turnout from mainline Democrats. According to the network's entrance poll , women made up 59 percent of all caucusgoers, and went for Clinton over Illinois senator Barack Obama by a wide margin (51 percent to 38 percent.

"Race was also a factor for the first time in the Democratic contest. White caucusgoers went for Clinton 52 percent to 34 percent for Obama, while African Americans broke heavily for Obama, 83 percent to 14 percent for Clinton. Nearly two-thirds of Latinos opted for Clinton."

Clinton wins in Nevada


At 4:10 PM, NBC and CNN both proclaim Hillary the winner in Nevada. With 52% of vote in she is winning by about 8%, with Edwards, surprisingly, not a factor at all. Apparently even the Vegas casino caucuses did not go for Obama -- he reportedly lost 6 of 9 -- suggesting that the union power was just not there or overstated. Will this be the pattern elsewhere? Obama does well but falls short, with Hillary piling up delegates? Will this mood cost him South Carolina which in turn will tip Super Tuesday against him? Close but no cigar?

Details from the CNN entrance polls: African-Americans -- Clinton 16%, Obama 79%. Hispanics -- Clinton 64%, Obama 24%. Of Clinton's vote, 58% were women and 42$ men. Also, some evidence of Republicans registering as Dems to vote for Clinton.

See post below for link to much more at E&P.
href="http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003699288">http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003699288

Romney wins Nevada: Updates here all afternoon on voting there and in South Carolina

At one p.m. ET, NBC declared that Romney had won the Nevada caucus. This was not a shocker though the early call might have been -- it was based purely on "entrance polls." AP calls it for him but CNN, with newfound caution, says it will not call it until the votes are actually in.

Ben Smith at Politico.com has a fascinating claim by Bill Clinton of "voter suppression" in Nevada, with the culinary workers allegedly telling people who want to vote for Hillary that they will be given a shift that will prevent that. See the E&P link below or go to Politico for the full story.

As customary, I will be blogging the rhetoric and the results all afternoon here but mainly at E&P. UPDATE: See blog posts above and the E&P story for details on how Hillary and McCain won their races. Here is the handy link for E&P and below that the official Ralph Wiggum for president political ad : http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003699288