Thursday, January 31, 2008

Q-and-A with Daisy - Volume One

Answering some of my mail, which has accumulated.

Q: When you went to The Grit, did you meet anyone from Widespread Panic or REM? What's the best thing to order?

No, I didn't. I did see people talking about Bonnaroo and one kept saying "My band at Bonnaroo--" so people kept looking at him as if he was important and whispering, "Who is that?" but I don't think he was a star or anything. (Admittedly, if any of the WP guys cut their hair, I'd be easily fooled.)

The grilled vegetarian Reuben sandwich is to die for!!!!

Q: Which of JG Ballard's novels is your favorite? Which do you think would make the best movie?

I am passionate about Cocaine Nights, Hello America, Rushing to Paradise, High Rise and Super-Cannes.

Concrete Island would make a fantastic movie, but not over, say, 80 minutes. Optimally, it should be done swiftly, like an early-60s Twilight Zone episode, not a lot of introspection and talk. Done well, it could kick serious ass.

Ditto Running Wild, which needs to be carefully crafted to keep the very-obvious ending from being so very obvious. Whoever successfully does that?--could make a blockbuster, classic movie. Because the plot is just too fabulous.

Q: Which of PKD's novels-into-movies have you liked best?

I really liked Minority Report, although the ending turned all touchy-feely and was nothing like Phil. Yech. However, the mutants are portrayed perfectly; the whole plot is true to the novella up to the Dr Feelgood-lets-all-hug finale. Also, the subplot about Tom Cruise's son dying was an unnecessary addition, part of the touchy-feely thing. Blech. The F/X were fantastic!

The short story Second Variety was molded into a well-done fantasy/horror movie, titled Screamers. Again, they had to prettify the ending (which is right out of left-field and really makes no sense), but until then, good stuff. If you enjoy sci-fi/horror, look it up.

I loved Richard Linklater's animated version of A Scanner Darkly, but I don't know how enjoyable it is for folks who don't already know the story. I think it may well be hard to follow or understand. And I realize: animation isn't for everyone. The casting of Keanu disturbed me at first, but I now see the choice of NEO as nothing less than mythic. Keanu Reeves looks GREAT animated! (See photo, left.) Robert Downey Jr. is a genius, as we all know, and Rory Cochrane is a real gem. As usual, Woody Harrelson gives us another truly funny, inspired doper. However, Winona Ryder was ALL WRONG for her role as Donna, which demanded a more duplicitous, stab-you-in-the-back Brittany Murphy-type character. Moviemakers once again hedged and prettified a bit, turning mean Donna into a somewhat more sympathetic person... Cmon, we all know that there is NO SUCH THING as a sympathetic female character in a Philip K Dick novel.

To Linklater's credit, he left the novel's ending intact... pure magic!

Aside: I hate how they enforce happy endings in Hollywood, because my guys often don't do happy endings.

Keep those cards and letters coming in.

Edit #1: I did not mention Blade Runner in my above reply, because I think it's as much a creation of Ridley Scott as it is PKD, but let me assure everyone that yes, I adore it! (Once again, we see Sean Young's sociopathic character was considerably softened, although at least they left Daryl Hannah's killer female android alone.)

Edit #2: The female character of Angel Archer, in The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, is a wonderfully, painfully three-dimensional and sympathetic character... so there IS such a thing as a sympathetic female character in a PKD novel. However, that IS the only one I can think of, the exception that proves the rule.

And to be fair, his male characters aren't bastions of decency either, but usually more hapless than malicious.

Listening to: Lou Reed - I'll Be Your Mirror
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Well done, good and faithful servant

Left: John Edwards, photo from C-Span's Campaign Network.

Goodbye, good friend! We'll be seeing you around. As we say here in the south, don't be a stranger.

We love you and Elizabeth. Kisses and hugs; go with God.


Edwards to Quit Presidential Race

By NEDRA PICKLER – January 30, 2008

DENVER (AP) — 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, The Associated Press has learned.

The two-time White House candidate told his staff that he planned to make the announcement at a 1 p.m. EST event in New Orleans that had been billed as a speech on poverty. The decision came after Edwards lost the four states to hold nominating contests so far to rivals who stole the spotlight from the beginning — Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

"He just said it was time to get out," said Dave "Mudcat" Saunders, Edwards' rural affairs adviser. "I still don't like walking away, but it was John's decision."

The former North Carolina senator will not immediately endorse either candidate in what is now a two-person race for the Democratic nomination, said one adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of the announcement. Clinton said Wednesday that Edwards called her to inform her about his decision.

"John Edwards ended his campaign today in the same way he started it — by standing with the people who are too often left behind and nearly always left out of our national debate," Clinton said.

Obama told reporters Edwards had exited the race in a "classy" way. "I think he's run a great campaign," said Obama, who aides said also spoke with Edwards Tuesday and asked for his endorsement. Obama aides said Edwards called again Wednesday morning to confirm the news he was dropping out.

In a statement from his campaign, Obama said Edwards "spent a lifetime fighting to give voice to the voiceless and hope to the struggling, even when it wasn't popular to do or covered in the news."

"While his campaign may end today, the cause of their lives endures for all of us who still believe that we can achieve that dream of one America," the statement said.

Four in 10 Edwards supporters said their second choice in the race is Clinton, while a quarter prefer Obama, according to an Associated Press-Yahoo poll conducted late this month. Both Clinton and Obama would welcome Edwards' backing and the support of the 56 delegates he had collected, most of whom will be free to support either Obama or Clinton, though some will probably look for guidance from Edwards.

Edwards' advisers said officially he would "suspend" his candidacy, but that was simply legal terminology so that he can continue to receive federal matching funds for his campaign donations.

An immediate impact of Edwards' withdrawal will be six additional delegates for Obama, giving him a total of 187, and four more for Clinton, giving her 253. A total of 2,025 delegates are needed to secure the Democratic nomination.

Edwards won 26 delegates in the Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina contests. Under party rules, 10 of those delegates will be automatically dispersed among Obama and Clinton, based on their vote totals in those respective contests. The remaining 16 remain pledged to Edwards, meaning his campaign will have a say in naming them.

Three superdelegates — mainly party and elected officials who automatically attend the convention and can support whomever they choose — had already switched from Edwards to Obama before news of Edwards' withdrawal from the race.

Kate Michelman, an adviser to the campaign and former president of NARAL-Pro Choice America, said she spoke to Edwards Wednesday morning and was disappointed to hear he planned to leave the race.

"He felt that this was the moment to take this step, given the reality of this campaign. This campaign has been about two celebrity candidates — excellent and qualified candidates — but celebrity candidates," Michelman said.

Edwards waged a spirited top-tier campaign against the two better-funded rivals, even as he dealt with the stunning blow of his wife's recurring cancer diagnosis. In a dramatic news conference last March, the couple announced that the breast cancer that she thought she had beaten had returned, but they would continue the campaign.

Their decision sparked a debate about family duty and public service. But Elizabeth Edwards remained a forceful advocate for her husband, and she was often surrounded at campaign events by well-wishers and emotional survivors cheering her on.

Edwards planned to announce his campaign was ending with his wife and three children at his side. Then he planned to work with Habitat for Humanity at the volunteer-fueled rebuilding project Musicians' Village, his campaign said.

With that, Edwards' campaign will end the way it began 13 months ago — with the candidate pitching in to rebuild lives in a city still ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. Edwards embraced New Orleans as a glaring symbol of what he described as a Washington that didn't hear the cries of the downtrodden.

Edwards burst out of the starting gate with a flurry of progressive policy ideas — he was the first to offer a plan for universal health care, the first to call on Congress to pull funding for the war, and he led the charge that lobbyists have too much power in Washington and need to be reined in.

The ideas were all bold and new for Edwards personally as well, making him a different candidate than the moderate Southerner who ran in 2004 while still in his first Senate term. But the themes were eventually adopted by other Democratic presidential candidates — and even a Republican, Mitt Romney, echoed the call for an end to special interest politics in Washington.

Edwards' rise to prominence in politics came amid just one term representing North Carolina in the Senate after a career as a trial attorney that made him millions. He was on Al Gore's short list for vice president in 2000 after serving just two years in office. He ran for president in 2004, and after he lost to John Kerry, the nominee picked him as a running mate.

Elizabeth Edwards first discovered a lump in her breast in the final days of that losing campaign. Her battle against the disease caused her husband to open up about another tragedy in their lives — the death of their teenage son Wade in a 1996 car accident. The candidate barely spoke of Wade during his 2004 campaign, but he offered his son's death to answer questions about how he could persevere when his wife could die.

Even as Obama and Clinton collected astonishing amounts of money that dwarfed his fundraising effort, Edwards maintained a loyal following in the first voting state of Iowa that made him a serious contender. He came in second to Obama in Iowa, an impressive feat of relegating Clinton to third place, before coming in third in the following three contests.

The loss in South Carolina was especially hard because it was where he was born and he had won the state in 2004.
Associated Press Writer Mike Baker in North Carolina contributed to this report.


NOTE: The last video was posted by Peace Takes Courage, not the Edwards campaign.

Declaring for Obama

No more strategic voting for me, and as I write this, John Edwards has just dropped out of the presidential race, so today I declare for Barack Obama.

I was pretty disturbed by Hillary Clinton's behavior here on Saturday. After losing the South Carolina primary, she hightailed it out of the state:

Clinton Flies as Race Goes to Obama

Updated 7:50 p.m.
By Anne E. Kornblut

COLUMBIA -- As the race was called, Sen. Hillary Clinton sped to the airport, arriving at 7:15 p.m. She waved wordlessly to ground crew workers on the tarmac as she walked solo up the stairs to the plane, carrying a black handbag. In addition to her aides, her daughter, Chelsea, joined her on board.

By 7:37 pm, Clinton was in the air headed toward Nashville.
Bill Clinton then appeared behind a podium, I think in Myrtle Beach, and started babbling, as Hillary was in the air. I was watching MSNBC, who gave him respectful and uninterrupted attention. I believed, at first, he was actually GIVING Hillary's concession speech. So did several other local people... wait, we thought, what's HE doing? This is Hillary's contest, so what the frack is Bill doing, authoritatively taking the stage and talking about what went right or wrong since the Republicans took over? Are they the glimmer twins again? Who is running for president, anyway, Bill or Hillary? writes:
Washington’s liberal establishment — members of Congress, fundraisers and commentators — has coalesced around the view that Bill Clinton is soiling his legacy and wounding Hillary Rodham Clinton’s prospects as he rambles around the country in a peevish, piece-of-my-mind monologue ostensibly devoted to helping her win the Democratic nomination.
And that is exactly what kind of monologue it was. Self-indulgent, self-centered, and score-settling. It had little, if anything, to do with Hillary's campaign; it was all about Bill.

Isn't everything about Bill?

Can she control him? Because it certainly didn't look like it. Are they running as a TEAM? Because while I am riveted by the opportunity to vote for a woman, I am far less riveted by the specter of Don't Cry for Me Argentina, which has always been lurking in the shadows. This is, after all, an ex-president's WIFE. This is a woman whom we called First Lady. She was not an elected politician until relatively recently. Up to now, I could make my peace with that, since I realize all women in male-supremacist societies do whatever we need to do to take the reigns of power. But that means: take the reigns. Do not waffle. Do not cower. Do not allow the hubby to monologue while you are in the air, giving the impression that he is doing the heavy lifting. Do not use him as a pit bull to attack the black candidate; learn to attack him yourself. If you can't, you don't belong in politics.

I am not voting for a team. I am voting for one person, whom I hope is a grown-up and does not need sugar-daddy to rescue her whenever she finds herself in a tight spot. She needs to be able to put on her big-girl panties and deal with whatever comes her way. As president, things will get plenty hairy on a regular basis--does she intend to call in Bill every time the shit hits the fan?

Is he going to be the president, or will she be the president? Is this run-for-the-White-House actually all about a covert way for Bill to get back in, via the back door?

I am accusing the Clintons of being disingenuous. I am accusing Hillary of not being able to keep the dog on the porch. In which case, I would say, she is not ready to run the country.

And further, the attacks on Barack Obama by Bill Clinton, pissed me off:
During his presidency, Clinton was buoyed by the overwhelming support of African-Americans, who were indignant at what was being done to someone they regarded as a friend. Now, their support is going overwhelmingly to someone Clinton is trying to beat, and many blacks are indignant at Clinton himself.

Who can say what Clinton’s effect on the campaign trail really is? However much journalistic critics and Obama supporters cringed at Bill Clinton’s performances, they seemed to help Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire and Nevada.

But those experiences seemed to unleash something more antic and unruly in Clinton’s attacks on Obama and the media, making the Clinton campaign even more about him and less about her. The effect was a bit like a dieter who reads on the Internet that doughnuts are actually good for you.

But the gluttony strategy backfired in the South Carolina primary, and it backfired again in the Kennedy endorsement primary.

In his own career, Clinton’s errors have always been followed by recovery, self-indulgence by self-correction. The next several weeks will determine whether he can follow the same pattern on behalf of his spouse.
Too late for me, sorry. The presidency is not a dress rehearsal. Hillary has proven, to me at least, that she is not ready for prime time.

In this video-clip, Bill goes on for three solid minutes, in an example of what I am talking about. Here is the now-infamous "Shame on you!" footage, as shown originally on CNN and repeatedly shown here throughout the Democratic primary battle in South Carolina:

No thanks.

Go Obama. I put the bumper sticker on my car, and it's official.

Monday, January 28, 2008

You gotta have Faith

One of the things I do is put out magazines for consumers to flip through while they wait impatiently in the checkout line at my über-healthy place of employment. As they exhale noisily, loudly emoting that the line is not moving fast enough, they zealously flip through the mags-- flip-flip-flip--looking for... what? Patience? A faster line? A different and superior lifestyle? Recipes? I have stopped wondering about it, since I now realize the ritual page-flipping of the checkout-line magazines is a BASIC RIGHT, an actual sacrament of American consumerism. People get upset if you don't rearrange them regularly, import fancy new ones and keep them primped. Then they can put them back in the wrong slots. Then I go back and straighten them up again, so they can start all over.

Some of the local fundamentalists don't like certain of the magazine covers, and earnestly flip them over to protect the eyes of children and (presumably) other impressionable people. For example, the cover of Psychology Today is one of the main offenders this month, featuring a scantily-clad couple. (Psychology is a pretty sexy business, in case you didn't know!) The all-time winner would be the Rolling Stone cover featuring Rosario Dawson and Rose McGowan, which caused some major hyperventilating. I finally put some cardboard over it, with just the title ROLLING STONE peeping out.

A recent controversy, here and elsewhere, is the matter of Faith, this month gracing the cover of Animal Wellness magazine. Faith was born without her front legs, and is known as the amazing Biped Dog. Of course, Oprah got there first, and now Faith is famous. She endorses dog collars and visits disabled veterans.

Not a dirty magazine cover, but to many folks, still plenty alarming. Some people have asked that the magazine be removed, so that "children won't be upset." Others love the cover, and become angry at the idea that anyone would remove it. It seems to be selling well. Nonetheless, a lot of people recoil from the cover: "Ewww!" The children observe the adults carefully, and most want to see what their parents will say; they hold up the magazine to their parents and wait for the reaction.

"Awww! Poor doggie!"

"See what a happy doggie? People have rescued her and taken care of her, isn't that nice?"

"Eww! Gross! What the hell is THAT?!?"

"I saw that dog on Oprah!"

"In the wild, that dog would die off. I think it sends the wrong message to the children."

"That's fucking disgusting!!!"

"What happened to the poor dog??!"

"Can the dog walk without help? Whoa, that's amazing!"

"I had a dog/cat with three legs once!"

"Is the dog friendly/happy/healthy/affectionate? Well, that's the important thing!"


Left: Faith as a puppy, from Faith the Dog.

I keep wondering how these sentiments translate to the way we encounter disability in humans. The comments sound similar, don't they? I think it's interesting that people will say right out loud how they feel about Faith, but have learned to keep their comments about, say, an armless person, to themselves. (Most of the time, anyway.) But what thoughts are roiling through their heads, that get acted out on people with disabilities?

If Faith upsets them, would a human with no arms upset them? I think that's a given.

Or is it somehow different when it's a dog? Why?

I am fascinated with the public reaction to Faith. Is Faith a poster-dog? For what, exactly? Faith's owner, Jude Stringfellow, is very open about her agenda. She believes Faith is all about faith. That's the reason for her name. She writes about how they wouldn't give up on little Faith; she became a family project. (And how many people born with disabilities can also identify with that?) She believes seeing the positive in everything is part of Faith's journey, and why she is with them today.

And how do you feel about Faith?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Just dropped in... do two memes I was tagged with, by Ren and Lady Banana! (I've been waiting for an excuse to type LADY BANANA!)

For this first one, I hereby tag Alphabitch, John Powers and yes, the wonderful Lady Banana!


Five things I regret:

1) Not enjoying how lovely I was in my youth, because I was so busy comparing myself to other women--not tall enough, not thin enough, butt, thighs, yada yada. It was all rubbish. I was beautiful and didn't know it. (And so are you, my dear ones!)

2) Marrying my second husband. We should have just hung out.

3) Not staying in touch with various people over the years, to wit, former best friends MARGARET SARBER-NIE and THOMAS WAITE. My email is in my profile, so drop me a line. If you don't know who I am, my photo is here.

4) Not having more children. I would have liked a son, as well as another daughter.

5) Not going to my stepfather's funeral. (Long story, maybe someday.)

Five things I don't regret:

1) Dropping out of college(s). What a huge waste of time.

2) Having a daughter.

3) Marrying the incredibly fabulous Mr Daisy.

4) Rescuing my cats, world's greatest felines.

5) Taking my current job, which I (usually) enjoy.


For this one, I tag anyone willing to participate, because it's a lotta busywork. :P

I enjoyed doing it, though, or I wouldn't pass it on:

Alphabet Tagging

Rule #1

Copy all the links below and replace a single link under the appropriate alphabet. If your domain name, or even the title of your blog, starts with an ” A,” you’d replace the link under that alphabet and put the replaced link at the bottom. Also, don’t forget to credit the tagger, or where you got the list from, at the end of the list with a full URL of the post so that a pingback gets generated.


Replaced link:
Previous tagger:

Rule #2

You now have to “tag” at least five people and encourage them to participate so that this thing spreads like a virus. Remember, though, that not everyone’s into these kinds of things, so don’t be upset if they don’t participate. Just simply replace your tag.


And now, we close out with The Dude from The Big Lebowski:

Friday, January 25, 2008

Democratic primary eve roundup

Left: Senator Barack Obama at Furman University, Tuesday. Photo from Greenville News.


What upsets everyone locally is that candidates fight like hell for our votes during the primaries, then ignore us during the general election, when we are written off as a red state. I remember being in Ohio around Halloween, 2004, and I was shocked to get leafleted three times in one day; it was kinda nice to be in an important battleground state near the end of the game.

Then again, if Obama is the nominee, the large black population of South Carolina might up the ante. Would we become a blue state? COULD IT HAPPEN?

It's certainly fun to contemplate.


As everyone knows, Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are at each others' throats, or at least it feels that way. I hate to see Democrats tear each other up during the primary, knowing their words will later be quoted by the Republican nominee.

Nonetheless, Politico's John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei suggest that Obama needs to get rougher:

Imagine if at the next presidential debate Barack Obama — who is agitated about what he calls Bill Clinton’s misleading criticisms — cocked his head, smiled ruefully and, in Reaganesque “there you go again” tones, said something like this to Hillary Clinton: “You know, I admired some aspects of Bill Clinton’s presidency. But let’s recall that it was precisely these sort of too-cute-by-half statements that caused him to be reprimanded by a federal judge and stripped of his law license. Senator, you may want to go back to those days and that style of politics, but I think most Americans are ready to move on.”

Had you forgotten that Bill Clinton voluntarily agreed in the closing hours of his presidency to be disbarred and pay a sizable fine in the fallout from the Monica Lewinsky scandal?

No doubt most Democrats have forgotten — which is testament to both Clintons’ indefatigable talent for framing political debates on their terms, rather than those of their opponents.

Obama’s strategists would probably say that engaging a popular former president in such a direct manner might backfire. But recent days would suggest that Obama’s alternative is also backfiring.

He has wandered into a tactical battle — over who is behind what radio ads or robocalls, or over the correct interpretation of stray quotes — with the best tactical politicians in the business. The Clintons have assembled a team that has thought through plausible defenses to virtually every vulnerability. They turned the practice of fast and forceful response into an art form.
Obama seems reluctant to argue with Hillary or Bill. Obviously, he wants to be seen as 'above' that kind of rancorous politics-as-usual. This is all about his time for a change rhetoric. As Harris and VandeHei argue:
[Obama's] vague, spacious rhetoric hardly indicates he has a coherent critique of the Clinton administration or clear ideas about his own alternative. Here is an area where his appeals to a new style of politics could stand more substance.
Is it just rhetoric, or does he really intend to stay above the fray and remain positive?
Obama, however, has flinched from making his Reagan argument in the way that would be required to convince Democrats — by actually making a case about what the Clintons did and did not do the last time they held executive power.

Hillary Clinton has been the beneficiary of Obama’s failure to engage. She has turned the health care reform debacle of the 1990s into an advantage by talking vaguely about how she “wears the scars” of that effort and has returned older but wiser.

But she has never been pressed on the details of that effort — how it was not simply Republicans and insurance companies but senior officials within the Clinton administration such as Lloyd Bentsen and Donna Shalala who recoiled at the process she ran.

Health care is not the only blemish on her decision-making record.

Obama has never insisted that she explain her record in an area in which she had virtually unchallenged authority — staffing the legal apparatus of the first-term Clinton administration.

Hillary Clinton’s decisions led to the appointment of Bernard Nussbaum as White House counsel (fired after a year), and former Rose Law Firm partner Webster Hubbell as a top Justice Department official (forced to resign and later sent to prison).

These colossal misjudgments about personnel should hardly be the sole basis for judging potential as an executive. But they are more relevant than subjects Obama has raised, such as her service in the 1980s on the board of directors of Wal-Mart.

What’s more, it is almost delinquent of Clinton’s Democratic opponents not to ventilate this history and make Clinton defend it before she faces a general election.

As she taunted Obama the other day, “The Republicans are not going to have any compunctions about asking anybody anything.”

For now, however, it is the Clintons who are on offense and Obama who seems flummoxed in a way that Newt Gingrich would have found familiar. Little wonder that Obama snapped at New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny when he asked, “Are you allowing President Clinton to get in your head?”

A politician who claims he is ready to lead the Democrats into the next decade won’t get there until he figures out how to navigate the most skilled politician of the last decade.
Until very recently, most primary-watchers agreed that Senator Barack Obama had it wrapped up. Now? Totally up for grabs, even the African-American vote. Tuesday, Obama campaigned at Furman University, where Mike Huckabee asked for votes only last week. It was one of the nastiest days of the season, in terms of weather, and he was still able to pack the house quite easily. Hillary left the state earlier in the week to campaign elsewhere, with Bill and Chelsea covering for her. (Obama, of course, has no such powerhouse to campaign for him while he tries to lay groundwork for future primaries.) Short videos here.

Race takes different tone in South Carolina primary
Black voters say issues matter more than skin color
Friday, January 25, 2008

By Ron Barnett
STAFF WRITER, Greenville News
A good measure of how far South Carolina has come in the role race plays in politics is that Barack Obama, while leading in the polls among blacks, is by no means the only choice of black voters, a political scientist who has studied the issue extensively says.

"African-Americans aren't voting as a bloc," said John Simpkins, a professor at the Charleston School of Law who is on sabbatical in New Zealand. "They're making up their minds on the candidates based on the issues and who they feel they align with on the issues."

For example, Greenville County Councilwoman Lottie Gibson, who is black, said she thinks Obama is "a bright young man" but she's endorsing Clinton.

"It ain't about race for me. It's about experience and where we are at this time in life," she said.
For this reason, I have to say, the primary is too close to call. If Hillary's legions of ladies come out to vote, as they did in New Hampshire, the polls (now showing Obama ahead) mean nothing.

Still, I'll go out on a limb and predict Obama wins by a nose.

Left: Hillary Clinton at Furman University's Younts Conference Center, yesterday. Photo from Greenville News


Candidates turn focus to economic issues

Democrats criticize Bush policies' effects on working Americans
Friday, January 25, 2008

By Dan Hoover
STAFF WRITER, Greenville News
The Clintons, Hillary and Bill, dropped the attack rhetoric Thursday as they campaigned furiously throughout South Carolina, while two new polls suggested she and John Edwards are tightening the race with Barack Obama.

After two weeks of increasingly bitter exchanges that culminated in Monday night's verbal bloodletting between Hillary Clinton and Obama in their nationally televised debate from Myrtle Beach, a truce of sorts settled in as the trio shifted the Democratic presidential primary dialogue back to domestic issues.

The Zogby and Clemson University Palmetto polls showed a lessening of Obama's lead and upward movement by Edwards. The Zogby poll indicated some erosion of Obama's black support.

At Furman University, Hillary Clinton told a packed meeting room of nearly 500 people that President Bush is partly to blame for the nation's economic troubles.

"The problem of our economy is not the American people," Clinton said. "Instead, the problem is in part the bankrupt ideals that have governed us over the last seven years. They have rewarded the very few at the expense of the many."

Campaigning along the coast, Obama hosted a roundtable discussion with military veterans in Beaufort that focused on his view of the need for a president with the judgment to keep America safe and the willingness to be held accountable for decisions.

"As a candidate, I know I am running to become commander-in-chief -- to safeguard our security, and to keep our sacred trust with those who serve," the Illinois senator said. "There is no responsibility I take more seriously."

Bill Clinton, who both gave to and got back from Obama, had become the hit man for his wife's campaign when it reached South Carolina where she trails Obama. On Thursday, he sounded a more conciliatory tone during a stop in Lexington.

A Clinton supporter asked that the campaign "stop taking the bait from Obama" and stick to the issues.

The former president called it "pretty good advice. It's probably good advice for me, too," he said.

He said Thursday that it's a lot harder to hear people criticize his wife than it ever was to be the target himself.

"When I was running, I didn't give a rip what anybody said about me. It's weird, you know, but if you love somebody and you think that they'd be good, it's harder."

Edwards, a Seneca native and former North Carolina senator, campaigned through his native Upstate, promoting his local roots and condemning the bipartisan economic stimulus package agreed to in Washington by Bush and congressional leaders of both parties.

It was 30 days too late and misdirected, he told a crowd of about 200 at The Beacon restaurant in Spartanburg.

Trailing in the polls, the wealthy trial lawyer has emphasized his working-class roots and us-vs.-them message with imagery of rapacious corporations, abetted by politicians, growing richer at the expense of everyday working folks.

"You can just guess, among the three of us (candidates), who's the person who first came out with a plan to strengthen the economy in the rural areas of America?" Edwards asked the crowd. "The only candidate who's from rural America."

Two polls released Thursday suggested a closer race and an improving picture for Edwards.

Clemson University's Palmetto Poll showed Obama at 27 percent, Clinton, 20 percent and Edwards, 17 percent. The poll, which had an undecided percentage of 36, had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percentage points, putting Clinton and Edwards into a statistical dead heat.

A Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby Poll showed that although Edwards remains in third place in South Carolina, he has gained significantly, while Obama and Clinton have experienced slippage.

The Jan. 21-23 tracking poll showed Edwards at 19 percent, up four points from the Jan. 20-22 survey; Clinton at 24 percent, down one; and Obama at 39 percent, down four points. The poll of 811 likely primary voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

"Obama still has a healthy lead among African-American voters, but lost almost nine points since (Wednesday), dropping from 65 percent to 56 percent support among that group," pollster John Zogby wrote on his Web site.

"Edwards, who registered no support from black voters the day before, picked up five points and Clinton added about two points to reach 18 percent of black support."

Zogby said nearly one in five black voters -- 19 percent -- remained undecided, up a point.

In Columbia, some of Clinton's black legislative supporters said they remain hopeful she will win.

"We're getting signs that people are fluid," state Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Columbia, said at a luncheon for U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., and former New York City Mayor David Dinkins. Both were in the state to shore up Clinton's support among blacks.

Jackson predicted that Obama would get more black votes than Clinton, "but I think we're going to hold our own."

In addition to her Furman appearance, Hillary Clinton held a town hall meeting in Anderson, while Bill Clinton made stops in Lexington, Orangeburg, Barnwell and Winnsboro.

Obama campaigned in the Lowcountry.

After visiting Spartanburg, Edwards went to Laurens, Greenwood and Anderson, wrapping up with a rally in Seneca.

Edwards has scheduled a "Young People's Town Hall" meeting at 12:30 p.m. today at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. He also is scheduled to be at Tommy's Ham House in Greenville at 9 a.m.

Clinton will hold a town hall meeting at historically black Benedict College in Columbia at 9 a.m. and will speak at 1:30 p.m. at The Freedom Center in downtown Rock Hill.

Bill Clinton will speak at a 10:15 a.m. event in Spartanburg at the Chapman Cultural Center, then campaign for his wife in Laurens, Beaufort and Charleston.

Obama is scheduled to be at the Clemson outdoor amphitheater at 4:30 p.m.

Clinton's campaign launched a new 60-second radio ad in which the former president describes his wife as a problem-solver with the vision to deal with the nation's economic problems.

"The question is what to do about it," he says. "You've got a great decision to make, but I believe it's Hillary who can help solve these problems. I also know that African Americans have been hit the hardest these last seven years. Who can fix health care, who can fix our economy, who can create new jobs, who can reduce the price of gas at the pump?

"Hillary can. I've known her for 36 years. When it comes to seeing a problem and figuring out how to solve it, she's the best I've ever seen. She's always heard your voice and you'll be heard in the White House."
Edwards campaign commercials focus on his roots here in South Carolina:


Meanwhile, Dennis Kucinich has thrown in the towel, for now. The big question for us cynics? Will his young, beautiful and British globe-trotting Elizabeth stick around, now that the excitement is dying down? Can someone who hangs with Shirley MacLaine, Tim Robbins and other movie stars be satisfied with.... Cleveland?

I think it would make a great reality show.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The case of Lance Cpl. Walter R. Smith

Left: Nicole Speirs, from

The disturbing, heart-wrenching story of Lance Cpl. Walter Rollo Smith was featured in the New York Times on Sunday. I found it so upsetting, I had to read it in shifts. It made me cry. One life taken and another life shattered--and to what end?

For every war ever fought, there are Walter Smiths, the uncounted war casualties.

And let's not forget his victim, Nicole Speirs, the 22-year-old mother of his twin children, whom he drowned in the bathtub, for no apparent reason that anyone can understand.

Mr. Smith confessed to the killing at a Veterans Affairs hospital, which immediately set his crime in the context of his deployment and of a growing concern about care for veterans with combat stress. The fact that Mr. Smith was discharged from the Marines for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, made the prosecutor reluctant to bring the case to a jury.

“Did we want to go through a trial where basically we were going to have to defend the United States’ actions on how they treated him?” Mr. Searle said.

Nobody believes that Mr. Smith’s killing of Ms. Speirs can be justified. But many involved in the case have wondered aloud, at some point, whether Ms. Speirs’s life might have been spared if the marine’s combat trauma had been treated more aggressively.
Understandably, Nicole's family is having none of it.

“When they mention Nicole, it’s like an aside,” Mr. Speirs said, his voice quiet, his emotion muted. “I feel like a lot of people are using her death as something against the war. They practically are like saying that President Bush killed Nicole. Well, Walter killed Nicole. The war can be a factor. It’s not a reason or an excuse for it.”

Mr. Smith himself, in a long, dry-eyed interview in October, almost agreed. “I can’t completely, honestly say that, yes, PTSD was the sole cause of what I did,” he said, speaking through a plastic partition in a courthouse holding cell. “I don’t want to use it as a crutch. I’d feel like I was copping out of something I claim responsibility for. But I know for a fact that before I went to Iraq, there’s no way I would have taken somebody else’s life.”
I believe him.

In high school, Walter Smith was a typical geek, belonging to the math club and chess club. He played in the school band and sang in the school choir. The Times describes him as having been "a squeaky-clean Mormon boy," and by all accounts I have read, this seems largely accurate. One of 12 children, he didn't smoke or drink and almost decided on a Latter Day Saints mission abroad, rather than enlisting in the military.

Yet at a high school career day, Mr. Smith was drawn to the Marine Corps booth partly because the military seemed like a departure from a preordained path. “Growing up LDS,” he said, using the abbreviation for Latter-day Saints, “you’re pretty much told what you’re going to do. At the age of 19, the young men are supposed to go off on mission.”

In early 2000, Mr. Smith went off to boot camp instead, enlisting in the Reserves, like many other young Mormon recruits, so that he retained the option of mission duty.

Mr. Smith made an impression on the recruiters, scoring in the 99th percentile on the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery tests, said Christopher Nibley, a fellow reservist from Utah. “I was doing a stint in the recruiting office then,” Mr. Nibley said, “and I remember a recruiter saying, ‘Damn, that boy is so smart!’ ”
After deployment, the turning point appeared to be April 8, 2003, described by the Times correspondent as one of the war's "furious engagements."

I guess that's one way to put it:

As dawn broke just outside Baghdad, they woke to find themselves staring at Armageddon, as Mr. Nibley said, with fires burning, helicopters shooting rockets and explosions echoing through the early-morning air. Entering the city, they climbed down from their trucks and fanned out. While the first platoon to move forward took fire immediately — with one marine shot through his helmet — others found themselves walking into the arms of exultant Iraqis.

Before long, however, as they arrived at a five-point intersection near the Republican Guard headquarters and the Defense Ministry, the cheering civilians disappeared, traffic vanished and the streets turned ghostly. As they set up roadblocks, rocket-propelled grenades and machine gun fire began whizzing toward them from the heavily defended compounds.

“I felt like I was in the middle of a duck shoot and we were the ducks,” said Mr. Smith, who was a SAW — squad automatic weapon — gunner. “I don’t know how many R.P.G.’s we took. One landed about five feet to the right of me and my buddy. I don’t know how it it did not detonate, but instead it bounced. Bounced! I can’t believe we’re still alive.”

The fighting did not let up for many hours. “Whether or not I actually killed anybody with my own bullets, I don’t know,” Mr. Smith said. “I suspect so. But there were two to 12 guns going off at once, and only the snipers knew for sure.” At a certain point, the Iraqi fighters commandeered civilians’ cars, taking them hostage and ordering them to drive straight at the Marine positions. The marines were forced to shoot at everything headed their way.

“We were opening fire on civilians,” Mr. Smith said. “We were taking out women and children because it was them or us.”

Sergeant Major Lopez, his superior officer, said that his marines were “put in that position” and “trained to protect themselves first.”

“Our marines tried to limit civilian casualties,” he said. “Not a person there didn’t feel bad. But it had to be done.”

That day traumatized the reservists. [Christopher] Quiñones recalled a father carrying toward them the limp body of a young child. His voice cracking, he described a 5-year-old boy screaming as his car “turned into Swiss cheese.”

“I called cease-fire and I wanted to run and grab him, but there were machine gun rounds flying all around,” Mr. Quiñones said. “I watched this kid’s head get blown away, his brains splattering while his screams still echoed. Those images haunt me — haunt many of us — to this day.”

After returning home, Walter reported to the rifle range in Quantico, Virginia, with a friend from Fox company, the combined Salt Lake City-Las Vegas battalion nicknamed the Saints and Sinners:

Raising his rifle, he stared through the scope and started shaking. What he saw were not the inanimate targets before him but vivid, hallucinatory images of Iraq: “the cars coming at us, the chaos, the dust, the women and children, the bodies we left behind,” he said.

Each time he squeezed the trigger, Mr. Smith cried, harder and harder until he was, in his own words, “bawling on the rifle range, which marines just do not do.” Mortified, he allowed himself to be pulled away. And not long afterward, the Marines began processing his medical discharge for post-traumatic stress disorder, severing his link to the Reserve unit that anchored him and sending him off to seek help from veterans hospitals.

This treatment infuriated his fellow soldier, Christopher Nibley:

“All I ever heard was Walter went nuts on the firing range, and then I never see this guy again until I see his picture on the front page looking like Grizzly Adams because he killed his girlfriend,” his fellow reservist Mr. Nibley said.

Mr. Nibley, who describes himself as adrift after two tours of duty in Iraq, said he was infuriated to learn later that Mr. Smith had been processed for discharge.

“I can’t tell you how angry I am at the Marine Corps that they just fast-tracked him out,” Mr. Nibley said. “It’s the culture and mentality of: ‘We don’t want a loser on our team. We’re not here to help you, you’re here to help us.’ ”

“I understand that we’re an infantry unit and if you’re not able to carry a gun and go into combat, that’s a problem,” Mr. Nibley said. “But we were his anchors, and we would have been his advocates. He was a mentally injured person because of his service to this country. He should not have been kicked out to go off on his own and deal with it all outside.”
Walter didn't deal. Although he resumed his job at the Wal-mart, he was also severely shaken by the divorce of his parents. He saw a psychiatrist on a few occasions at an Air Force base in Utah, and attended a group session for returning veterans, in which he felt out of place:

“I’m sitting there and these guys are talking about the hard time they’re having because their supply unit heard some fire one time,” he said. “They never saw their buddies get hit. They never killed anybody. They had nothing to worry about. I never went back.”
He started taking various medications, which did nothing to help him. He stopped taking them.

“Nothing seemed to quiet the storm in my head,” he said. “I started having nightmares and flashbacks or hallucinations. During the day, I was functioning O.K., but I was feeling antsy. I couldn’t find peace.”

Two things helped: drinking — 18 to 24 cans a day of Utah’s lower-alcohol beer — and pulling a trigger. “One day, I went out skeet shooting with a buddy, and I realized I felt so much better having a shotgun in my hand and watching something explode,” he said. He bought three guns of his own.
At one point, Walter became suicidal, took his guns and fled to the nearby mountains:
Mr. Smith left goodbye messages for everyone in his cellphone directory. One of his Fox Company buddies was awake, though, and took his call. He forced Mr. Smith to tell him his location and then he called the Pleasant Grove police. The police intercepted Mr. Smith near a trail head for Mount Timpanogos, and when he saw the officers approaching, he loaded his shotgun. He later told a close friend that he had been hoping for “suicide by cop.”

The police did not oblige. Capt. Cody Cullimore, the former assistant police chief, said Mr. Smith was compliant. He was taken to a mental health center and admitted briefly for observation.

“Sometimes I think,” Mr. Smith said, “that if I had taken my life that day, I would have saved Nicole’s.”
Walter began meeting women on MySpace, which is where he met Nicole.

Chillingly, the Times describes several alarming warning signs that were ignored.

In November, Mr. Smith called the Pleasant Grove police asking for help. The officer who was dispatched to his house was the one who had intervened in his suicide attempt five months earlier. Mr. Smith advised the officer “that he was having thoughts of taking the life of his girlfriend while she was asleep,” Captain Cullimore said. “He asked to be transferred to the hospital, which he was.”
Nicole Speirs became pregnant with twins, which Walter did not believe were his. He met another woman, but it ended badly:
One night, he came home with duct tape and demanded that the woman accompany him to the basement, said Mr. Searle, the prosecutor. Once downstairs, Mr. Smith turned to the woman and implored her to get away from him quickly before he did her harm. She ran away. The couple broke up. In a further sign of his deterioration, Mr. Smith filed for bankruptcy and moved in with a marine buddy.
Seven months after their twins were born, Walter re-connected with Nicole. He saw photos of their babies on MySpace, "smiling out at him like carbon copies of his own baby pictures." Nicole, raising twins alone, was ecstatic that Walter had come back to her.
They moved into an apartment together in Tooele. Both of them were working at Wal-Mart, she as a cashier at the Tooele store, he as the manager of the photo lab at the West Jordan store. They did not fight, according to their friends and families, and “he was not mean to her,” said Pauline Speirs, her mother.
And just like that, something snapped inside Walter. Reading the account, you are grateful young Nicole did not see it coming, and probably didn't fully understand what was happening. (I like to think she didn't, anyway.)
In the post-midnight hours of March 25, 2006, the couple took a bath after making love. Ms. Speirs turned to rinse her hair under the faucet, and Mr. Smith pushed her head underwater and held it there until she died. Then he left her in the tub, dressed, fetched the twins, put them in their car seats and drove off, as planned, to a family reunion in Idaho.
Obviously, Walter had lost touch with reality, even leaving a message on Nicole's cellphone that he would be returning early from Idaho. The water was still running when he returned, and he lifted Nicole's body out of the tub, performing CPR. He called 911. He called her parents and without emotion, told them their daughter was dead.

Walter had no record of arrests, not even a traffic violation. There was no history of domestic violence; neighbors had never even heard them raise their voices to each other. He was not a suspect, and besides that, Tooele, Utah, doesn't even have a homicide team. Nicole's death was officially listed as "a drowning from unknown causes."

Walter drew attention to himself during the funeral, as he showed no emotion. He commented that he had seen a lot of death, and it didn't affect him anymore.

Walter then began a relationship with Michelle Zeller, who describes Walter's further descent, as he alternately slept for long periods, only to awaken with tremors. He decided to try more counseling, and finally, went to the VA hospital and confessed to the murder.
At first Mr. Searle, the prosecutor, was cautious. “I didn’t want to just take his confession based on his history that we knew,” he said. Doubt was planted in part by something that Mr. Smith said to the police: “The biggest thing I want to get out of this is help.”

Further, when Matthew Jube, the lawyer hired by Walter Smith’s family, asked Mr. Smith what had happened, Mr. Smith asked him “which version” of events, the one that he had told the police or the one that he saw in his dreams. Mr. Jube began to think that Mr. Smith had given a false confession as a “cry for help,” motivated partly by guilt, both over his relationship with Ms. Speirs and about his killing of civilians in Iraq

Left: Walter Smith at his sentencing, photo from the New York Times.
A manslaughter plea was negotiated, which according to state guidelines, means a sentence of one to 15 years. At his sentencing, he mumbled and didn't want to speak, but finally did:
“I didn’t plan on doing what I did,” he said quietly. “I wish I could take it back, but I know I can’t. All I can say is I’m sorry. I’m not asking for leniency.”

The judge asked him to turn and address his victim’s parents directly.

“I’m sorry,” he said to them, his head falling down once more. “There’s nothing else I can say beside that.” His face crumpled, his voice cracked and his eyes watered. “I couldn’t ask for better people to raise my children,” the former marine continued, adding yet again, as his and her relatives wept, “I’m sorry.”
We're sorry, too, Walter, that we have not been vigilant as a society. We are negligent, we have sinned; we haven't halted this brutal insanity. We are sorry, too, Nicole, that your life was taken from you, as so many other women and children's lives have been taken, by this sordid, immoral, disgusting, reprehensible act of butchery that is the Iraq War.

Sorry is the word.


Listening to: Nina Simone - I Shall Be Released
via FoxyTunes

Monday, January 21, 2008

Odds and Sods - nipple-rubbing herbalist edition

During a heated discussion recently at a blog I will not name (and thereby give hits to), I was called burnt out hippie chick, trailer trash, "nasty as Mammy," shit-kicking moron from Dogpatch, someone who quotes singing sluts and ignorant bitches (i.e. their term for a popular country-and-western singer), an inbred southerner, and my special favorite, nipple-rubbing herbalist. People like me, said the proud yankee, exist only to clean his toilets.

No one objected, being serious liberals and all.

And so, since I see from my stat-counter that a good lot of those brave, courageous liberals--intrepid fighters for truth and justice everywhere--have come over here snooping to see just how low-class I really am, I've decided to give you all the guided tour. At left, a photo from White Trash Parenting, an entry over at Stealth's blog. (Thanks Stealth!)

Enjoy! I know that's exactly what you're looking for!


Speaking of privilege and the damage it does to all of us (how's that for a civilized segue?) Sudy writes a brilliant, searing post titled A Bi-Racial, Bi-Cultural Pinay Sings Maybe about the fault lines in her own identity. Really fierce, honest testimony:

My parents did not come to this country to give their unborn children a better life. They came to this country to help their families who were alive and poor, sick and marginalized, stuck and helpless. My parents came to work to send their earnings home, to do better not for themselves but for their immediate families. Selfless, sacrificing, and urgent, my parents reaped the benefits of this country for others, never themselves.

I was sixteen when I attended my parent's naturalization process. Uncertain as to why I was resistant to their American citizenship, I watched with sadness as they proclaimed their allegiance, but could never articulate exactly why. Their legal ties to the Philippines, on paper, were gone. A land I had never seen except through stories of poverty and heat, the Philippines cradled my parents' hearts and loyalties. Today, I see the reasoning as to why becoming a citizen was necessary for them, but the ceremony rang false to me. I kept questioning the logic, "Why not let patriotism be reflected through human service, merit, decency, and dedication, rather than history tests and ceremonies? Why ask my parents to essentially choose between birthplace and home?" It did and continues to seem like such an unjust choice.

My parents were in constant flux in how to let their children be Filipino-American. Only now I can appreciate how difficult it must be to pass traditions along to your children in a completely unfamiliar environment and then watch it simply be considered and sometimes disregarded. The sound of cultures clashing arrives in the form of unasnwerable questions. Is dating in the US better because we have freer sex with less guilt and more condoms? Is American Catholicism better than Filpino spirituality that celebrates family prayer, tradition, and rosaries? Is it better that college students in the US typically blow off their undergraduate experience in favor of beer, experimentation, and spring break roadtrips? Do I lead a "better" life than my parents?
Homework assignment, read it all!


Again with the Comics shares with us the wisdom of Ask Golden Age Wonder Woman, a sort of Penthouse Forum/Dr Drew for Comics fans. Questions about sexuality are answered with actual panels from old Wonder Woman comic books. Example at left.

Such wisdom in comics, yet to be unearthed!


Coming up this week, full coverage of the South Carolina Democratic Primary!

Listening to: Lou Reed - Street Hassle
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Lookin out my back door...

I see more snow in Carolina! And pigs might fly!

How will this hurt/help the GOP candidates? I have no idea. Stay tuned!

My precinct had a long line. As predicted, they looked surprised to see me there. ;)

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And here's the song, too!

Lookin Out My Back Door - Creedence Clearwater Revival

[via FoxyTunes / Creedence Clearwater Revival]

Friday, January 18, 2008

Republican primary eve roundup

Left: Huckabee rocks out at Clemson University. Standing next to him (blue shirt) is former South Carolina governor David Beasley.

Strange bedfellows doesn't even begin to describe it. Lt. Governor Andre Bauer, whose exploits have been written about before on this blog, has endorsed Arkansas Governor and nice-guy Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee for president. One might compare this to Keith Richards endorsing Jerry Falwell, something like that. The Greenville News is on hand with the suitably cryptic references:

Republican Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer on Thursday endorsed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for the GOP presidential nomination.

Bauer, who will campaign with Huckabee today, said he made a late selection of Huckabee after comparing the contenders and determining he has "the character, integrity, and proven leadership to ensure our greatest days are yet to come."

Reflecting on his own political close shaves, Bauer said he admires Huckabee's history of winning against long odds.

"Nobody knows better than I do that it's the people, not the polls, which determines the winner on election day," Bauer said.
Long odds, huh? Is that what they are calling it now?

I think they refer to Bauer's well-publicized freakout in 2003, wherein he ran amok in downtown Columbia, running red lights with abandon and clocking 60 miles-an-hour in a 35 miles-per-hour zone. After stopping Bauer, a police officer found it necessary to hold the Lt. Governor of South Carolina at gunpoint! Bauer has had numerous other wacked-out driving incidents, fueling speculations by irresponsible bloggers such as your humble narrator.

And yes, they re-elected his sorry ass. Those are the "long odds" he is winking at. Does Huckabee have a clue?

Probably not, he is pretending to be a Clemson fan whilst partying with Chuck Norris and Ric Flair. Bauer is small potatoes!

Huckabee brings road show to Clemson
Friday, January 18, 2008
CLEMSON -- Tiger cheers and live music rocked the Jervey Athletic Center gym at Clemson University, while a crowd of about 2,200 waited more than an hour Thursday for GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

It was the biggest turnout of the campaign so far, Huckabee headliner Chuck Norris told the crowd that overflowed the bleachers and filled much of the gym floor.

It was akin to a giant pep rally and was covered by scores of local and national reporters.

Ric Flair, a popular martial artist and World Wrestling Entertainment figure, pumped up support for the GOP presidential candidate as the former Arkansas governor came onstage and joined the band, Mae West, on the bass guitar.

Introduced by former South Carolina Gov. David Beasley, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and state GOP Chairman Mike Campbell, Huckabee joshed about Beasley's past as a student on the Clemson campus before launching into more serious business.

"The decisions I'm going to make as the next president will have some effect on people my age, but not nearly as much effect as they will on people your age," said Huckabee, who is 52.
Good to know!

He is hitting the fundie circuit hard. Wednesday, Huckabee gave a rousing speech at local Southern Baptist college, North Greenville University.

Meanwhile, Ron Paul notably DID NOT get the star treatment over at Bob Jones University, as the antiwar, free-the-weed candidate. They are NOT readily forgiving that shit over there! My spies tell me a core group of libertarian Calvinists (and God Bless em) showed up, but mostly, not a real hospitable place for Dr Paul:
Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul paid a visit to Bob Jones University late Thursday afternoon, speaking to a group packed into a small classroom.

Outside, more than a hundred people tiptoed through the snow and stuck their heads through windows to listen to and take photos of the Texas congressman and physician as he made a stump speech and took questions from those who managed to find a way inside.
Apparently, most people didn't even realize he was there. But they couldn't keep his appearance a complete secret in the cell phone age. Our trusty Greenville News reports from the campus of BJU:
Paul, who opposed authorization to invade Iraq, told the audience that calls not to withdraw from Iraq are the same made in 1968 during Vietnam, after which 30,000 more American troops were killed.

Paul said the people who express fear for America's safety in the event of a withdrawal "are the same people who said it would be a cakewalk" to invade the country.

Paul said he opposed plans to build American bases in Iraq.

He also said America's war on drugs has cost the country countless amounts of money in pursuit of a failed cause. And he said that despite marijuana being illegal, it is just as accessible as alcohol.
Can you think of another politician who would actually go into the heart of BJU and say this stuff?

Left: Greenville News photo of John McCain with Bobby Harrell (center), the speaker of the South Carolina House, and Senator Lindsey Graham (right), campaigning yesterday in downtown Greenville.

Senator John McCain, whom I project as the winner, has been all over the state in the past few days. In fact, like The Flash, he almost appears to be in two places at once. As they used to say about Reagan, he is a TIRELESS CAMPAIGNER, and any concerns about his age seem pretty silly, just watching him hustle all over the place like that.

The news about McCain has been the nasty smears against him by various shadowy forces, one calling themselves Vietnam Veterans Against McCain. During his last run for the presidency, I personally received two such anti-McCain robocalls. (Now that I have the marvel of BellSouth's Privacy Detector, I don't get bizarre pre-campaign calls, but I do still get polled.) The New York Times reports:
Vietnam Veterans Against McCain [have] sent out a crude flier accusing the candidate of selling out fellow P.O.W.’s to save himself.

By Tuesday evening, a group called Common Sense Issues, which supports Mike Huckabee, had begun making what it said were a million automated calls to households in South Carolina telling voters, according to one of the calls, that Mr. McCain “has voted to use unborn babies in medical research.” (The campaign of Mr. Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas, said it had no connection to the group and had asked it to stop the calls.)

Mr. McCain quickly fired back, but he has seen this movie before. In the 2000 South Carolina primary, one of the most notorious smear campaigns in recent American politics peddled distortions and lies about him, among them that Mr. McCain’s current wife, Cindy, was a drug addict and that the couple’s daughter Bridget, adopted from Mother Teresa’s orphanage in Bangladesh, was a black child Mr. McCain had fathered out of wedlock.
Whoa, hold the phone. Am I reading THE NEW YORK TIMES? Don't they have fact-checkers? The part about Cindy McCain is true. This is common knowledge in recovery communities.

Does the NYT know how to Google? It's all right there, in the Arizona Republic:
In August 1994, a group of Valley journalists received an unusual phone call from Jay Smith, McCain's political strategist.

They were offered an exclusive story in exchange for agreeing to certain terms. They would attend individual interview sessions Aug. 19 and sit on the story until Aug. 22. The five journalists - three print reporters, a television reporter and a radio reporter - agreed.

One by one, they went to the McCain home, where they heard an incredible story.

Cindy McCain, 40, told them that she had been a drug addict for three years. From 1989 to 1992, as the Keating Five made headlines, she was addicted to Percocet and Vicodin. Worse, she had stolen pills from the American Voluntary Medical Team, a relief organization that she founded to aid Third World countries.

"More than anything, I wanted to be able to face my children, for them to know I wasn't lying to them," she said at the time. "They're too young to fully understand right now, but someday they will."

Cindy blamed two back surgeries and the Keating Five scandal - a blend of physical and emotional pain - for hooking her on drugs.

Things started to unravel when a Drug Enforcement Administration audit found irregularities in the charity's records, prompting an investigation, Cindy told the reporters.

In 1992, as the Keating affair surfaced again during McCain's run for a second Senate term, Cindy's parents confronted her about her drug use.

What had been clear to Cindy's parents was lost on McCain, who said he had not noticed his wife's addiction.

"I was stunned," McCain said at the time. "Naturally, I felt enormous sadness for Cindy and a certain sense of guilt that I hadn't detected it. I feel very sorry for what she went through, but I'm very proud she was able to come out of it. For her, it was like the Keating affair had been for me, a searing experience, and we both came out stronger. I think it has strengthened our marriage and our overall relationship."

The late Phoenix Gazette political columnist John Kolbe helped break the story.

His Aug. 25, 1994, column was headlined and led with a powerful quote:

"I'm Cindy, and I'm an addict."
So, it's no fiction. Why are they saying it is? In any event, the Times assures us that this time, the McCain campaign is ready for the dirty tricks:
On Tuesday, within hours of the first reports of the veterans’ flier, Mr. McCain’s campaign held a conference call with reporters to denounce the mailing, which showed a cartoon of Mr. McCain in a prison cell. Writing on the wall behind him said “Elect Me, Elect Me, P.O.W. for President” and “An Enormous Crime, The P.O.W.’s I Helped Leave Behind.”

Orson Swindle, a former prisoner of war with Mr. McCain in Vietnam, also issued a statement on Tuesday calling the flier a “vicious” fraud. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” the statement said. “I know because I was there. The truth is, the North Vietnamese offered John McCain early release, and he refused.”
My opinion is that these dirty tricks have strengthened McCain's campaign and made him look like the good guy under attack by lowlifes, while also giving him a chance to remind everyone about his war record.

Making a cynic like me suspicious, all over again. Hm. Too many viewings of The Parallax View and both versions of The Manchurian Candidate I guess.

Stay tuned, sports fans.

Listening to: The Smashing Pumpkins - Disarm
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Snow in Carolina... Ron Paul redux... Alice Cooper for president!

Left: One of the foot-bridges over the Reedy River, downtown Greenville, South Carolina. Photo from the Greenville News.

It's always a shock when we get snow here, which doesn't happen often. Panic reigns. Milk and bread disappear from local shelves, and everyone collectively freaks out.

Two years ago, we had a power-outage of FOUR DAYS, meaning no heat, no hot water, no lights, no--(this will strike terror into the hearts of BLOG READERS!!!)--no computers!!! We were living on peanut butter and bottled drinks. It was horrendous, and I wondered how people managed that a hundred years ago. Then I realized, you know, they had lanterns and stuff and WERE PREPARED.

The power-outages happen because the snow and ice usually starts to melt very quickly during the heat of the day, drip-drip-drip, making enormous puddles and streams. THEN the temperature drops at night and re-freezes the whole mess. At that point, the power lines fall under the weight of the ice. And if you happen to live close to that, you are fucked. That is also the genesis of the term Black Ice, which looks like any other large, dark puddle. You don't even realize you're on ice until your car does a 180 (or a 360, as mine memorably did some years ago).

And so, I stomped out into the already-slushy snow to buy groceries; gotta stock up on peanut butter and cat food in case it all happens again tonight. Pray the temp don't get too low!!


Left: The GrannyWarriors tour bus, which follows Ron Paul on the road. They have a pet monkey, too!

I've been soundly taken to task in private over my last Ron Paul post, so in fairness and in the interests of TRUTH and EQUAL TIME, I offer the following links:

Anthony Kennerson: Why Ron Paul is Political Kryptonite for the Left (Or, Would You Vote for David Duke if He Opposed the War?) Ron Paul's race problem

Feministe: Another safe assumption: Ron Paul knows how to rally the base and How exactly are we defining "racist" these days?

DailyKos: Ron Paul in his own words

If anyone has any more articles, feel free to post them in the comments.

Although I have to say, Anthony asks a good question. We all know that David Duke could never win a mainstream party nomination . Is it moral to vote for him if it takes votes away from, say, Mitt Romney? And we know he would never actually win? People used to ask these same questions back in the day, about voting for George Wallace (to take votes away from Nixon), so I don't find it too shocking to discuss. As Tip O'Neill liked to remind us, politics ain't beanbag.

Also, a deeper question: Which kind of racism is most damaging, the kind with power to implement actual programs, or the flaky, fringe kind? (Does one form of racism in fact feed the other?) When we organized against the kkk in the 70s, we argued endlessly over these sorts of ideological twists-and-turns. Obviously, nothing really got resolved, since we are still discussing them.

The people with the power (Dubya) are far too savvy to make comments considered overtly racist, but that doesn't necessarily mean they haven't done far more actual damage to people of color than fringe white supremacists living out on some separatist acreage in Idaho or somewhere.

I've always found this discussion interesting, so fire away!


Do any of you kids remember when Alice Cooper ran for president? It was great fun! Enjoy!

Alice Cooper - Elected

[via FoxyTunes / Alice Cooper]