Wednesday, January 30, 2008

...and then there were two. Sort of.


The Political "Brief"
Giuliani out...so is Edwards?!, FL crowns a Republican & possibly Hillary; Who is Governor Sebelius?

With his poll numbers folding faster than the French army, Rudy Giuliani is set to announce his is bowing out of the race for the President...but not Vice-President. He will endorse John McCain, another atypical Republican, and this will lead to a further view of the "Mac" as inevitable nominee. The former mayor of NYC had a great run-up to his swift collapse. Over much of 2007, he was seen as the frontrunner, or at least tied with McCain until the latter's campaign imploded. With Romney and Huckabee still ramping up their efforts and Thompson undecided, Giuliani enjoyed a summer and early fall at the head of the pack. All that came to an end when serious campaigning started in the primary states and it became apparent Rudy wasn't sustaining in the face of stronger competition.

He withdrew, essentially, from all but the Florida primary saying he would win there, and in doing so, begin the serious part of his campaign. Huckabee took Iowa, McCain New Hampshire and South Carolina, Romney Michigan, Nevada and Wyoming - Rudy was no longer seen as viable with these new poll leaders. While he may still play a part in McCain's campaign - and possible presidency, should that happen - it is certain that he's the first major withdrawal from the primary season. The Republican contest has ratcheted up a notch.

***

More surprising that Giuliani's rise and then utter collapse is the exit of John Edwards after his third place showing in Flordia, a popularity contest in the absence of any delegates (remember? Early schedule = punishment (stripped delegates)). What did we find out? Edwards really isn't all that popular. No matter how much Hillarious and Obama snipe at each other - directly or through proxy - Edwards just didn't get the boost he needed, the footing, to place himself even with them in the polls. It could be his policy ideas, which fly in the face of his Senatorial voting record and his millionaire status, or the appeal of the "new" and ground-breaking (first black, first woman). Whatever the reasons you bandy about, he just didn't resonate with enough voters, didn't raise enough money and can't compete with the Obama and Clinton celebrity machines.

I doubt he's now in it for the VP, maybe cabinet or another shot in Congress. He might try to become an Al Gore, championing a cause across party lines, raising awareness of poverty ("We live in two Americas...where some people pay others to make them lattes, and some have to make their own..."). He will participate in Habitat for Humanity for a while in New Orleans. He doesn't have enough delegates to be a kingmaker, unless it is so close in August that his several dozen will make a difference.

There was no endorsement from Mr. Edwards, but both his rivals praised him for bringing the struggle of many Americans to rise out of poverty to the fore of political discussion. His wife's health (her breast cancer returned last year) was not cited as a reason, as she campaigned just as hard as he did.

***

The Republican nomination is not locked. However, there is a clear leader in the diminished pack. John McCain won with 36% of the vote to Mitt Romney's 31%. Rudy Giuliani trailed in third with 14.6% and close behind was Mike Huckabee at 13.5%. Ron Paul (3%) and Fred Thompson ( 1%, though he's out of the race) rounded it off. With a solid win in a state more diverse than Iowa or New Hampshire, McCain proves he has a broad appeal to Republican votes. And that last part, he hammered home: this was a closed primary, Republicans only, and he finally won without independent help. Granted, the conservative wing still sided with Romney and Huckabee, but not all.

Of course, this was the apocalypse Giuliani feared, and he's out. Huckabee will stay and run with no money, hoping for a delegate - and press - boost after Super Tuesday and the Southern contingent cast some votes his way. I heard it said last night that he's hoping whoever wins will forgive his war debts, as it were, and he's playing nice with Mitt and Johnny Mac to get some of their eventual cash. Paul is still Paul, and you can't trust a guy with two first names, right? Not exactly, as he still holds a hardcore group of supporters scattered nationwide who hope to make a dent in things Feb. 5th.

Romney has several hundred million (MM) dollars. Let that sink in. He has also spent $40MM of his own loot in the election so far. Let that sink in even more. Insiders say he's willing to dump another $20MM in, 'cause he's in it to win it (...or buy it). Like Paul with isolationists, like Huckabee with evangelicals, Romney appeals to the fiscal conservative, a strata of voter that cuts across many other factions of the party. Hundreds of delegates are up for grabs next Tuesday, and many will go to McCain. But Romney is no also-ran, but still a major contender.

A personal aside on Romney: he is the wrong candidate to run against a woman or a black man. He is too white bread without anything to offset his own whiteness. McCain at least has military service and bi-partisan legislation to fall back on. Mitt's religion though black people were smart monkeys - not people - until the 70s. Elect him, and you choose the unelectable and defeat.

***

Hillary won the popularity contest in FL with 50% to Obama's 33% and Edwards' 14%. Them's big margins. But she has to soldier on through Super Tuesday, when 22 states will apportion their delegates commensurate with the raw numbers - no winner-take-all. Given his level of support and the famous people that like him, Obama is not out and could chomp away at Clinton's national numbers (she leads him by double-digits among Democrats as their choice for nominee) this week and come out of Feb. 5th with enough delegates - and maybe a few wins - to really get things cracking. Brokered convention! I say it again!

***

Mike Gravel has still not dropped out.

***

There will be a "special update" later this next week on two-term Kansas (D) Governor Kathleen Sebelius, and what she might mean for Obama's chances.




Hooper McFinney


Read on, faithful few!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Just Like JKF, and He Doesn't Even Need Penicillin!


The Political "Brief"
Florida Primary, Obama advances...(Camelot 2), Apathy & Energy


We are less than a day away from the (potential) anointing of the Republican nominee for President. Forget Super Tuesday or a primary season that stretches into June. The way the four lead candidates are positioned politically, in the media and monetarily, Florida is of paramount importance. But with all the backbiting in the last week and change, and a Republican party struggling to find cohesion, will Florida decide anything or muddy the waters further?

Giuliani needs to win to stay in the race, or he's effectively out; he is spending a million dollars a week there on ads. Huckabee needs 2nd or he's dead where he stands; there is no money left and he desperately needs to appear relevant. The frontrunners, McCain and Romney, aren't in as great of money woes, though the former could use a cash boost. This primary is essentially a test for McCain to see if he can strike a chord with Republicans - honest-to-God conservatives - the block he's been trailing with throughout the contest. Romney has money, the look and sound bites, but can he wrestle control of the conservative side of things past the economic angle? Ron Paul will not win anything, but may act as a spoiler of sorts in a Republican-only contest.

According to Zogby, the numbers stand at McCain (33%), Romney (30%), Giuliani (14%), Huckabee (11%) and Paul (2%).

Giuliani's number here represents a hovering pattern for the last few rounds of polling (if a round is from primary to primary), and a probable bronze medal. If he wins, the Votemaster at Electoral-Vote.com says pigs will fly, and I have to agree with him. Unless the strife betwixt Romney and McCain overshadows their strong points, leaving Giuliani the only feasible, non-argumentative candidate (Huckabee is the latter, but hardly the former), the vast majority of data points to a loss for the Mayor.

***

The Democrats aren't counting Florida, as I've said. But they are. Though really...not exactly so, but still keep it on the radar! Their delegates, reinstated, could be vital in August, so pay attention to Hillary as she stumps around there tomorrow night after the voting and see if anyone else visits there after Super Tuesday if the results are evenly split.

***

The Kennedys - remember them? - are endorsing Barack Obama as the heir to the JFK presidency. To some, this means civil rights progress and social reform, while to other historians (and Republicans), the JFK inheritance is one of a mismanaged administration that was in serious reelection trouble in the fall of '63. The gloss of "Camelot" covers the reality of a troubled presidency, but in a way, this is perfect for Obama. He needs some gloss to mask his deficiencies in foreign policy, defense and a lack of hard numbers-backed plans (though early in the game, to compete these days one needs more than "hope" and "change" to get elected; a few Perot charts could go a long way). The Kennedys provide a sheen to Obama's candidacy, old guard liberal quality epitomized in JFK now reflected in the eyes of Illinois' junior senator.

Though not all of the Massachusetts brood are backing Obama (RFK Jr. backs Hillary, for example), it certainly helps to have JFK's last brother and daughter on your side. Caroline Kennedy sees in Obama the promise of her father, and Ted sees "extraordinary gifts of leadership and character, matched to the extraordinary demands of this moment in history."

***

In discussing the Democratic and Republican primaries/caucuses with a friend and Obama campaigner, we touched on the numbers game going on that cold spell, regardless of candidate, a victory for Democrats in the fall. In South Carolina, there were approximately 530,332 votes cast for Democrats. (Only) 442,918 voted for the Republicans. It may not seem like much, but extrapolate that over the country and in areas far less Republican. Is this early apathy on the Republican side indicative of a "wait and see" approach to the convention and declaration of a nominee or of a deep-seated apathy in the Right caused by seven years of difficult legislation, war and factionalizing within the GOP?

Surely the Democrats are suffering from no lack of enthusiasm. Has there been a Democratic competition filled with such electricity thrumming behind every word and idea, with the idea of something at stake, instead of the same old game?

Battered by scandals and an unpopular, though somewhat recovering President, the Republicans have no leaders right now to really gather around, and beyond that, no core message. Is there some immigration package they all gather around? A way to approach Iraq (and in doing so, leave)? What about gay marriage, abortion, stem cell research and other domestic affairs? The divides are sharp and deep in the party of Lincoln. As we move towards what may be the defining moment for McCain or Romney, our thoughts are cast months ahead to November. Can a Republican win in this political climate?

In 2006, the Republicans "went into the wilderness" after a brutal Congressional and gubernatorial defeat and have yet to emerge. While the Democrats have realized that hating Bush isn't a strategy, they can hate the GOP platforms - in all its myriad forms - and march under a banner of "change."



Hooper McFinney

Read on, faithful few!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

"You won't have Dennis Kucinich to kick around anymore...hello, I'm still talking!"



The Political "Brief"
Kucinich Out, NYTimes Endorses..., S. Carolina (D) Primary, FL Run-up


Dennis Kucinich, bastion of ideals, has taken his graceful bow from the presidential (campaign) stage. And boy (mayor), is his supporter going to miss him. All kidding aside, we must respect the former mayor of Cleveland and current US Representative for sticking in the race for purely ideological reasons. He never had a chance of winning. If all the other candidates blew up, well...then they'd just vote for Pedro.

Obama will win the South Carolina Democratic primary, all sources are saying tonight. This is a major win for him and
not a major loss for Hillary, despite what you might think. Demographically, she was up against a wall, with a popular black candidate running in a state that's 50% black. If Obama didn't win here, his candidacy would've been over, as that would've said to the world, "Black people don't even like him! They'd rather vote for the ice queen!"

***

The New York Times named its endorsements for each party, and I find them not surprising at all. They name Hillary Clinton for the (D)s and John McCain for the (R)s. Hillary, they say, is extremely bright, driven, has experience and can bring America to a better place internationally. That isn't to say Obama wouldn't do the same, but he is "incandescent if still undefined," and the Democratic party needs a strong hand at the tiller. McCain is obvious, becasuse despite what they call "pandering" to a faction of the party (the conservative Right), he is still the candidate who best epitomizes the social change and forward momentum they want to see out of a Republican.

That they didn't choose Obama is a little surprising; it would make sense for them to hope that his lack of experience would be compensated by advisers and a cadre of Old Guard Dems. We'll see how his win in South Carolina turns their opinion page.

***

This week has seen two debates, the Democrats in South Carolina and the Republicans in Flordia. I commented earlier on the Dems, and how if you can, you should find some video of the crossfire between Hillary and Obama. That is past, though the enmity it created lingers.

The Republican debate in Boca Raton was not as hostile for the candidates on the Right side of things, but Clinton sure took a whalloping. The idea was to gang up on her, their most-desirable Democratic opponent, and in doing so clearly defining her as the one they are concerned about. This is strategic: McCain can win against Hillary in November, as his "personal" rating is higher than hers. More Americans, in short, trust him to lead them. That, and there's no huge target like Bill Clinton hanging on his back. That's not to say they didn't take some swipes at each other, but this was far more restrained than the Democratic debate. In Florida, they have to appear presidential, whereas in South Carolina, it was a brawl to see who came out with the boldest words and ideas and made the others look like fools. Floridian voters, the elderly a large group, don't want the mud-slinging. That's old hat in Carolina.

Currently, McCain (28.75%, avg over four recent polls) has a slim lead over Romney (26.25%), Giuliani (15.75%) and Huckabee (13%). One poll (ARG, done on Jan. 24) has the breakdown as follows:

McCain - 31%
Romney - 26%$
Huckabee - 15%
Giuliani - 14%
Paul - 3%

Were those numbers to hold, or McCain at least to keep the barest of margins, he would win. You see, Florida has a few quirks going for it: it's a winner-take-all primary, and it's a closed primary. "Closed" means that only Republicans can vote in it, the demographic that (haha) McCain does worst in. However, Romney and Huckabee are still splitting that vote, and the recent exit of Fred Thompson - lacking and endorsement - means his conservative backers are directionless. Thompson backed McCain in 2000, not Bush, and he could do so again before Super Tuesday, to add a little gasoline to this contest.

The Florida primary is Tuesday, with the polls closing at 7PM Central. Find yourself a news station at 7:15PM to see how things are shaping up, and be in for a long count. Half the delegates in the state are up for grabs; the others were stripped as punishment for the early scheduling (before Feb. 5th), but will probably still sit at the Republican National Convention come September, should the 1) need arise or 2) a clear winner magnanimously request it.

***

The Democrats next "compete" in Florida, though like in Michigan, it doesn't count. As Florida was stripped of its Democratic delegates for scheduling its primary so early (again, before Feb. 5th). Though, for the same reasons above, these delegates may still sit in August at the DNC, it's unknown right now. Should they sit, and the voting on Tuesday tie - proportionate to the vote - delegates, it could mean a heck of a lot. I believe the big three are still all on the ballot, though don't quote me. It might just be Hillary again.

Aside from Florida, the next step is Super Tuesday, the de facto national primary, and the Democrats proportion their delegates by popular vote percentage, no winner-take-all. This means that it's unlikely one person will take every delegate. It also means no one will come out with the required 50% +1 delegate to secure the nomination. A clear frontrunner may be determined, making the rest of the primaries a formality on the road to coronation. I think it'll be tooth and nail between Obama and Clinton, with Edwards bogarting his delegates until he is asked to choose sides and make the pick (a theory).

Going back to South Carolina, this will boost Obama tremendously going into Super Tuesday. Truly, his loss there would've been catastrophic, but the victory propels him like a rocket across next week. Provided he can stay above the Clinton machine's slander and craftiness, he should make this a contest worth watching.



Hooper McFinney

Read on, faithful few!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"Looks like it's back to the security of a scripted drama for me..."


The Political "Brief"
Fred Thompson exits, per script

So the crystal ball was a little cloudy.

I was honestly convinced that, with no major announcement Sunday, Thomspon would tough out Florida and Super Tuesday, despite a lack of funds, just to get some more delegates away from Huckabee and for his friend McCain. The prevailing wisdom there being that McCain couldn't get these votes by himself, as they would normally go to a "conservative" candidate, like Thompson or Huckabee; better Fred than Mike.

The Republican field has been officially winnowed by two since Saturday, Duncan Hunter and Fred Thompson. This leaves us with still a four-way race for first: McCain, Giuliani, Romney and Huckabee. Ron Paul soldiers on and continues to get a wider audience for his views so long as he makes it into the debates. View him as the Dennis Kucinich of the Republicans, in it long after hope has faded (with no upstart victory so far, it ain't gonna happen, Tex), but remaining to spread his message and decrease the overall votes and delegates the leads can get. He is denying any one of them a clean victory, because he'll always be there, that little imp at their elbows.

***

Last night the Democrats - Clinton, Obama and Edwards; no Kucinich - debate in Myrtle Beach, and let me tell you it was a really corker. Find some video of the Obama/Clinton exchanges to see the heat that needs to start entering all political discourse. Whether its passion for the job/ideals or simple rage at being challenged, the two threw down without bothering to include lost puppy John Edwards.

***

One interesting bit of trivia that came out of it all: during his time in the Illinois legislature, Barack Obama voted "present" around a hundred times, instead of yes or no. Now, Hillary and Edwards did bend this out of proportion; while there, he cast around 4,000 other votes. The question that arises - and his reaction - is what did he vote "present" on? Voting "present" in IL means essentially "no," without having to take a position that puts you in a vulnerable spot later on (politically) and allowing you to register dissatisfaction with the legality or structure of a proposal. There were times when Obama, a law professor, was the sole "present" voter, or one of a small group. Really, it's a non-issue on the whole. If people want to attack Obama's voting record or legislation, they'll go after the concrete positions instead of the frustrating neutrality of just being in a room.


Hooper McFinney


Read on, faithful few!

Monday, January 21, 2008

"Hey...you wanna score some delegates, man?"


The Political "Brief"
Post-Mortem: Nevada Caucuses & South Carolina Primary (R)


Saturday was busy. Long/short: Hillary (51%) comes out with a win in the Nevada caucuses over Obama (45%) and Edwards (4%).

Romney (51%), by dint of being the only one campaigning in Nevada outside of Ron Paul (14%; go TV ads!), wins the Republican NV caucuses over the other serious contenders, McCain (13%), Huckabee (8%) and Giuliani (4%).

Though not a commanding win at first glance, McCain (33%) beat out Huckabee (30%), Thompson (16%) and Romney (15%) in South Carolina's primary.

What does this mean for Florida, South Carolina (D) and the overwhelming Super Tuesday?

By winning South Carolina, McCain has reinvigorated a campaign that faced serious questions after Michigan. Yeah, I know, Romney came from Michigan, but McCain should've been able to close that gap easier. Still, the "gateway to the South" is a major win for any Republican candidate because every one to secure a victory there in the last 20 years has gone on to win the party's nomination. Thompson is effectively out, as his scored half the votes of McCain. Expect to see him throw support behind McCain either right before Super Tuesday or right after; he can wrest a few more delegates out of Huckabee's hands and place them in his old Senate buddy McCain's lap.

With the most gold medals of any Republican, and the most delegates, Mitt Romney should be gracing more headlines, but the truth is, he's made it in 1) his homestate and 2) the West, where Mormons are a lot more common. One in four voters in Nevada was a Mormon, and over 90% voted for Romney. He won't see those numbers west of the High Plains, though, but he'll still rack up a fair number of delegates on Super Tuesday.

Giuliani, even if he loses Florida, has a chance come Super Tuesday when CT, NY and NJ all vote. He's holding steady around 20% nationwide if you bend the numbers right, and I'd guess many are waiting for Florida to see if he has what it takes. Should he lose in the Nation's Retirement Village, expect quick poll plunging.

Duncan Hunter is out, Ron Paul will have some delegates to assign in September and Huckabee is praying the South rises in better numbers than the North has.

***

John Edwards is a man on a mission. He was trounced on Saturday; no hyperbole does it justice. Yet he remains. I've stated before he has his sights on the Vice Presidency...again...but personally, I see him as poison for a Democratic ticket. For those of us who have no lives around election season and watched the 2004 VP debate, we saw VP Dick Cheney mercilessly eviscerate then-Senator Edwards for all to see with logic, facts and wit. I cannot see the Republicans choosing a VP nominee who couldn't mop the floor with Edwards. No, Johnny sticks around on the off-chance of a VP-ship, cabinet position or just simple kingmaker. HE HAS NO CHANCE AT WINNING THE NOMINATION, MUCH LESS THE OVAL OFFICE. His delegates will be a key part in what is shaping to be a brokered convention for the Dems.

Brokered conventions are not new in American politics, but because of delegate totals, the major parties haven't entered that back-door territory in decades. Basically, when two or more candidates enter the convention with a goodly number of delegates, but not the required amount, supporters and bosses go around and try to get those delegates to change sides after rounds of voting. Since 1980, the nominees have all been picked in first-round voting, as clear choices enter the conventions without any major opposition. Reagan almost upset the apple cart in 1976 by winning only 17 less delegates than President Gerald Ford, who had the required majority. Both the Republicans and Democrats may face a tough nomination process if the fractured voting continues through Super Tuesday.

Hillary's decisive (popular vote) win in Nevada keeps her rolling to Feb. 5, even if she takes 2nd in S. Carolina. Obama may have gotten more delegates in NV, due to the district split they each took, but the headlines read "Hillary Wins!" I can pass on how honestly frustrated the Obama campaign was at losing, and there are talks of disenfranchisement, caucus bosses closing doors early in the hopes of keeping black voters out. The theory there, racist of course, that black people are lazy and would show up at the last minute. Arguments were had to keep the doors open, but alas, they fell on deaf ears. "But this is democracy!" "My caucus, my rules!"

I don't think this really puts a major kink in Obama's campaign. He has yet to go South, where blacks make up a far larger proportion of the primary/caucus-goers. No, that isn't a racist thing, but a racial thing: he is identified as the candidate of choice by over half of black voters (according to several polls), and that is no doubt due to his being the first, serious black candidate for the Presidency. Who counts Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson anyway? I thought so. Expect Obama to win in S. Carolina in a week, but not by much. If he messes up, if Clinton can sneak her claws into his image somehow, that lead he enjoys (45% vs 39%) will quietly vanish, like in New Hampshire.

***

Next up is South Carolina for the Dems, Saturday the 26th, followed by the Flordia primaries for both sides, though like in Michigan, only the Republicans are campaigning. Maine has a nominal caucus (R) on Feb. 3.



Hooper McFinney

Read on, faithful few!

The Breaking of the Hour: Parts 1-3 of 5


In anticipation of the upcoming completion of this delayed Rick Slade adventure, I present the first three parts, uninterrupted, for your reading pleasure.

So without further adieu, Rick Slade stars in...



The Breaking of the Hour!


Rick Slade turned the watch over in his hands. It was a man's watch, squarish and silver, with a smaller face that also showed the date. The band was leather, but the brand was worn off of the fastener. The hands stood still at 2:14, the 12th of some month. He checked his own pocket watch and saw that it was correct there, and the date was the 12th.

Carefully, Slade set the watch down on his table and waited. Gears inside his own pocket watch ticked the seconds and minutes and soon, hours by, a testament to Slade's ultimate patience in all things fantastic. In this, he was rewarded, at 5:00 PM, when the strange watch shuddered and, for just the batting of an eyelid, was gone from sight.

He rose from his chair, slow and deliberate, and took the watch up. The hands rested at 10:10, the date at the 15th.

"Well this is peculiar."

Ignoring all outside distraction, Slade slipped the watch on and fastened it. Nothing happened. Perhaps whatever occurred had just been a freak event, he thought, a mechanical fault coming through-

The room bent on its ear and folded through a ceiling that had shifted to a maelstrom of black and coruscating blue lighting. Like a magician's handkerchief, Slade was twisted and drawn through the opening, the core of him screaming against the impossibility of it all, but his mind grappling onto the cause - to the watch - and its innate realness. This was terrifying and horrific, but manageable.

He'd been through worse.

His perceptions and senses split a hundred times over, until he could discern no more than banded light and a rushing, like a mountain stream. Shutting his eyes, as they were little more than a hindrance, he reached out a hand towards the sound and felt it break some barrier and collide with a surface like hot gravel coursing through his fingers.

Concentrating, he forced his hand to close into a fist as he tried to gain some anchor in the world outside this one (or was he in some great outside?). He fought the colossal battle, opening his eyes to the struggle and saw a gash in the light spiraling around him, and through it was the real world. Cursing wildly in Zulu, Mongolian, Mayan - anything that came to mind - he plunged his other arm through, and as soon as the wrist wearing the watch passed the wall of energy, the madness ended.

Coughing, he banged against a wall, holding on with one hand. He looked up and saw a groove cut diagonal along the side of a skyscraper made of marble and steel and glass and soaring a thousand feet above the streets below. Pain awakened and condensed his fractured senses as he realized it was his hand that had done the damage as it sought purchase.

"I see," he sighed. "At least the worst that can happen is I plunge to my bloody doom."

"Ah, that is what you think, Amerikaner!" a voice screamed from behind him.

Slade leaned back and saw a man standing on a hovering platform, his brown jumpsuit snapping in the sharp breeze. With a stitch of a mustache below the shadow of his nose, dark brown, greasy hair fluttering around his head and the familiar twin lightning bolts on his lapels, this could be only one man.

Maximillian Hitler, time-traveling son of Adolph Hitler and Joseph Goebbels, grown in the robotic womb of Eva B.R.A.U.N.

"Max, shouldn't you be dead in a Sumatran volcano?" Without active thought, Slade snapped around and pistoned off the building into the floating facist. "Let's see if we can't fix that."

* * *

They fell, curses in high German and broad American laughter trailing them like a kite's string. Max Hitler's silver-smooth platform followed closely above them, falling only as fast as it pleased. Slamming an elbow to Slade's gut, Max broke free of the bigger man's grasp and pulled a gun. Slade slapped it away like a child's toy.

"I don't think I've ever seen a Nazi driven through a sidewalk before," Slade shouted over the wind.

"Nor have I seen an American pig turned into sausage, Scheissehund!" Depressing a button on an electronic gauntlet, Max rotated in midair until he was falling straight up and down, right next to Slade. "But from here, I'll have an uberview!"

The platform slid under Max's jack-booted feet, slowing him gradually until he was cackling far above our beleaguered hero. The ground was a vast sheet of death marked with speeding cars, bewildered people and uncaring buildings. Slade squinted and growled, the always-hidden barbarian creeping through.

"I can do this." He grinned at the challenge he'd faced before.

Falling to his death? Old hat.

Working through the faint annoyance, past the anger, Slade calmly looked at the silver watch on his wrist. It was still ticking. How did it know when to shunt through space? Was there a button or command? Slade took the watch off and checked its backing, and felt a wave of heat through his insides.

Sticking the watch back on, he cast aside thoughts of that feeling and peered for a way to slow his fall. The ground was fast-approaching, and time was wearing thin. From off to his right, Slade saw large movement and raised his hands as a streetcar...flew past him.

"Where am I?"

With that last thought, Slade fell the remaining hundred feet, not into the concrete, but a vortex of energy and perception beyond normal human thought.

* * *

He awoke in a sheen of sweat, laying on his office floor and the ruins of the table.

A two-inch thick piece of ironwood, and he'd broken it under his fall?

Pushing through the grogginess, he stripped off the watch and lurched across the room to a small glass dome on a oil-sheened plate of gold. He stuck the watch inside, replaced the glass and flipped a switch, locking the containment jar.

"Mack needs to hear about this."

* * *

Whirling electrified coils, smoking beakers, the tangy smell of burned air and growling, locked boxes - these greeted Rick Slade as he entered the labyrinthine laboratories of Professor Mack Andersen. Slade paid them no mind, as he'd investigated most in this lab in his previous visits - and helped procure some of the more...unique materials.

"No earthquakes localized to churches, flying death commandos or dark continent beasts lurking in the shadows," exclaimed the bespectacled professor under a cap of blond-grey hair, "and yet...and yet...."

The two colleagues shook hands and laughed. It had been nearly two years since Ooranla Turu and the lost elements.

"I did run into our old friend Max Hitler, and he was hovering." Slade set the glass container on Mack's table. "But that's for later, over a red beer. Tell me what this is."

"A man's watch, slightly worn." Laughing at his own joke, Andersen took off his regular glasses and replaced them with a pair of magnifying specs. He made to remove the lid, but Slade's hand shot out and gripped his wrist.

"I don't think you want to do that."

While Professor Andersen examined the watch as thoroughly as he could through a half-inch of glass, Slade walked around the main room of the lab, noting the new items and concoctions on the shelves that stretched floor to ceiling along all the walls. Broad wooden tables, criss-crossed with the scars of science and progress, held objects not seen outside of hidden jungle civilizations, ancient kingdoms, the holds of long-sunken ships and a few items some museums still thought stolen.

"Rick, you'd better come over here." Mack waved for Slade and pointed at the watch. "Where did you say you got this?"

"I didn't, but if it matters, off a man's severed forearm."

"How I wish to hear that story, but it's irrelevant. No deep expedition to a lost kingdom or a mad scientist's charnel house in the depths of the Black Forest? Perhaps another jaunt to South America-"

Slade turned cold. "No, none of it. And I haven't been to South America since...." He sighed. "Just go on."

"It's not from around here, Rick, you know that. Was the arm just laying around?"

Shaking his head, Slade said, "No, it fell from a building. Right here in Chicago. I ran to the roof, checked every room, but there was no body to match it."

Mack rubbed his chin and replaced his normal glasses. "Probably a malfunction of the chronal trigger...this is serious, Rick. Deadly serious."

"Why? Sure it can jump a man across the world, but-"

"No, Rick-" Mack grabbed his shoulders and looked dead even into his oldest friend's weathered face "-it can jump a man through time, and God help us if the wrong man had access to this-"

And with a deafening BOOM!, the world outside exploded.

* * *

Splintering inward like a rotten door, the wall imploded in shards of brick and glass. Slade covered his face while pulling the stunned professor to the floor. When the tinkling of falling debris had stopped, the screaming started in the street. Panicked voices of men, the wails of women and children, sirens in the distance - and behind it all was the crackle of a burgeoning inferno.

Chicago was on fire.

"Rick *cough* are you-?"

"I'm fine, Mack. Stay behind the desk."

Pulling a gun from under his jacket, Slade approached the jagged opening in the wall and looked out.

His heart pained to see his city this way. A long strand of iron scaffolding, bent and blackened by heat, lay in the middle of the street, straddling the remains of several exploded cars. Buildings around showed signs of damage, as from bombing. He looked up, but saw no planes, just the rising plumes of smoke from nearby streets.

"Devastation stretches for a least three blocks east and longer north and south. We're on the edge."

Slade's eyes followed the smoke and saw a black metallic disk move across the sky and against the wind. His cursing startled the professor into standing.

"God above, Rick, what's wrong?!" Mack joined him at the window.

Slade pointed at the disk. "Max Hitler. This was his doing." He stormed through the wreckage of the lab towards a fallen glass container. He popped the clasp and took out the watch.

"I don't know how to use this, but if I can hop through time, I'll stop him."

"Be careful, Rick! It took you to him once, and if I know my super-science it will again."

Smiling, wicked and eager, Slade strapped the watch on. "That's just what I want."

In a flash of light and the rushing of water, he was gone.

* * *

It was yesteryear, and not apple pies and Grandma. The sky was a bleak grey like overwashed clothes. Slade braced himself against an alley wall and stared out at the plaza before him. He'd been here, but long ago.

Friedrichshafen, Germany. Home to the famous Zeppelins.

In the distance, Slade saw the completed shape of a zeppelin. Noting a newspaper at his feet, it was probably the Graf Zeppelin II, sister-ship to the Hindenburg. 1938. The country was on the eve of war, but that wasn't something Slade could stop. He had to find Max, if Max were here.

And he was sure the slippery Nazi was, though what was he doing here and what it had to do with that...explosion was…. An ominous bolt slammed home in his head.

He left the alley at a dead run towards the airfield on the edge of town. American had been spared large-scale tragedy when the Hindenberg erupted in fire over a largely empty airfield. The floating bomb taunted him, its duralumin ribs standing out even at this distance, heat-treated alloy framework just waiting to crash into the city streets of Chicago. He would stop it; there was no choice.

A gun's CRACK, followed after a moment by several more, split the day, pedestrians flinching at each one as they hurried their way to the market or work or home. The shots came from the direction of the zeppelinfield and no doubt heralded Max Hitler’s arrival. "God, I hope he brought friends." After seeing the charnel house outside Mack Andersen’s window, Slade felt eager to return the kindness of a horrific death.

"Herr Slade! Achtung, Herr Slade!" The voice called from behind him, accompanied by the stomping of many booted feet.

Slade stopped in his tracks and turned around. A small group, a dozen maybe fifteen, all SS; they were more familiar than the town.

"Herr Thomas, so nice to see you," Slade said in German. "How long has it been?"

"Perhaps ten, fifteen minutes." The straight-backed younger man let his hand drop to a side holster. "When last we parted, you had just been arrested by the Gestapo for espionage. And were at least ten years younger."

Eyeing his surroundings, Slade took in the open garbage barrel, the nearby fruit vendor cart and, most lovely of all, a butcher shop.

"A misunderstanding. I'm sure you get those all the time." Slade started to turn, stepping back towards the barrel.

"We heard gunfire and wondered, did our Amerikaner friend make more trouble?" Herr Thomas’s hand now rested fully on the holster. Those SS behind him who could were raising their machine guns. No sense waiting.

Rocking back, Slade grabbed the barrel and, using his momentum, threw it into the crowd. A few bursts of machine gunnery pitted the eaves of the buildings on the street. The crowd began to scatter. Forgetting his wares, the fruit seller threw his hands up and darted away from the excitement. Kicking the wheel blocks off, Slade ducked behind the cart and rushed it passed the Nazis and into the wall next to the butcher's door. Once inside, Slade knew the game was his.

No Nazi could match his skill with a blade.

Vaulting over the counter, he took a cleaver in one hand and threw it. It spun across the room and out the door, catching a goosestepper in the chest.

"C'mon, Thomas! I have places to go today, Zeppelins to save."

From outside came a clatter and shouting about preserving the wonders of the sky, the great German achievements that had only recently been tarnished by the Hindenburg's obliteration in the States.

"Here, sir." Slade turned and saw the butcher, cowering in a back door and holding an old shotgun. "Give them a taste of our anger."

Accepting the gun, the American adventurer chambered a round, grabbed another thick-bladed knife and darted out the door, firing the scattershot round into the mass of SS. He whirled the blade around, stabbing it in and out a half-dozen times before sliding the next round home and letting loose.

In the pain and confusion, Rick Slade jogged through the winding streets to the great expanse of green, the zeppelinfield. Moored by thick ropes and cables to the ground, the Graf Zeppelin II looked both as innocent as a child's balloon and deadly as a torpedo. Near the mooring tower at the ships stern, a black-clothed figure strode from a pile of bodies to cabin pod slung under the great airship. He paused, looking over his shoulder and straight at Slade.

"Keep staring, Max," Rick growled through gritted teeth. He was a scant two hundred yards from the mechanically grown fascist, too far for the butcher's knife to be accurate or the shotgun.

With a final smile, Max raised his right arm, moving his fingers along the gauntlet he’d used to control the floating disc. Fire and earth spewed from the ropes tethering the zeppelin and the tower itself buckled inward under the strain of precisely controlled detonations.

The Graf Zeppelin II began to move away from the ground, trailing its useless cables like streamers. Quickening his pace, Rick Slade dashed the last yards and leapt, grabbing a trailing rope. He wrapped it tightly around his wrist and shut his eyes; he knew what was coming next.

Wind, noise, light from Heaven piercing his soul and then...cool air on his face, the sound of motors.

He opened his eyes and with a free hand wiped away the tears brought on by the cool air. Staring back at him was a sight he'd often seen, but not at this height: the Chicago skyline, 1953. Stretched below him, the row after row of man-made hills led to the greater city set against a grey northern sky. To the right was the lake, an undulating plane of blue crossed with white.

No one knew what flew above them yet, waiting to rain down such misery and death.

Rick Slade unwound the rope and started to climb.

***

Read on, faithful few!

Friday, January 18, 2008

"Say 'lobbyist' again - say 'lobbyist' one more Moroni-damned time!"

*
*
*
**Election 2008 Update: Run-Up to the Nevada Caucus (R & D) & South Carolina Primary (R)**


McCain leads in the South Carolina polls, holding around 27-29%, with Huckabee in second at 22-26%, so neck-and-neck right to the end. 8% are undecided. Romney is in the low teens and Fred Thompson, who has to get at least a strong second if not a tie for first, is in the teen as well. Based on polls trailing back several weeks, it seems apparent that Thompson has not reverberated with the voters as he had hoped, and will bow out after a 3rd or 4th place finish. There is a chance he and Huckabee will get a boost from the ads about the Confederate battle flag being run, praising them while decrying McCain and Romney. The Yankees see the flag as a holdover symbol of racism and sectional divide, while the Good Ole Boys think it's just about Southern pride. If enough hear or see those ads in time, it could give them the bounce to make this a three-way race for the top until the last polling station closes.

Mitt Romney made the news yesterday during a small appearance at a Staples in Columbia, South Carolina. While speaking about how he doesn't "have lobbyists running my campaign," AP reporter Glen Johnson piped in to ask contest that point, claiming he does in the guise of Ron Kaufman, an "adviser" to the former Governor and also prominent lobbyist. Romney fired back that he was simply that, an adviser, not involved in policy meetings, senior strategy sessions and the like. The video is over three minutes and shows an obviously perturbed Romney, one of the few times his polished veneer has cracked. After closing his remarks, he went back, off-microphone, and continued to talk with Johnson who argued back. Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney's traveling press secretary, pulled his candidate out of Johnson's face and upbraided Johnson for being "out of line" in interrupting, putting opinion before news and being "argumentative with the candidate."

Romney has already ceded South Carolina to McCain and is campaigning in Nevada to lock in their delegates at Saturday's caucus. No other Republicans are campaigning hard in slot-jockey land, as South Carolina—though possessing fewer delegates than NV—is more important psychologically as a gateway to the South, which McCain for one desperately needs to win.

***

In another close race, the Democratic Nevada caucus, Clinton (42%) and Obama (37%) are racing to garner support and make sure they can all get to the caucus sites. The state tossed out the casino caucus site lawsuit, though this has enraged Bill Clinton (there's a video of him berating a reporter, the angriest he's ever been on film). The casino sites can be used by anyone working within 2 ½ miles that can prove they work on Las Vegas Blvd, "the Strip." Edwards (12%) insists he is still in this race, that the media only follow the celebrity candidates, his message is just as valid, etc. The reality is in the numbers: he is lucky to break 20% in any state at this early stage in the primary season. His poll numbers are low, single-digits in many cases, as Democrats see Hillary and Obama as the two feasible candidates to get elected in November. While people agree with his opinions, admire his stances (really?) and love the idea of change, he's not their man.

I still think he's one of the leaders in the slow-boiling VP struggle. The biggest slap in the face would be if he was left out of a Democratic cabinet overall. At least give him Agriculture!

***

President Bush unveiled a proposal to give rich people 10% of all poverty-level families' children, in a bid to make their lives better. The other 90% would be forced to work in Mexico to make up for a labor shortfall.

::chirping crickets::

Anyway, President Bush's proposal called for relief in the form of 1% of the GDP (~$140 billion) in tax breaks, incentives and credits. $800/person was bandied about as a refund, cutting the corporate tax rate (tossed around by McCain, so products can have their prices lowered, as there isn't a need to cover as much tax, saving the consumer money. Bush likes this, too) and providing immediate assistance whatever the fix may be. Prominent Democratic lawmakers, among them Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, have shown surprising solidarity with the President and agreed that if a plan can be crafted that receives simply majority support – while agreeing to the broad stipulations Bush laid out – it could be passes as soon as March 1st. How about that!

All the candidates are chiming in on this, and really their comments are less than interesting. Some Republicans say we're in a recession; all the Democrats do. Controversy over the economy will drive the actual election throughout the late summer and fall, and everyone wants to get in crushing blows early to give the appearance of foresight into the crisis or rough patch[1], depending on candidate and the level of pandering to the owners of the 6.8% of mortgages (those with sub-prime ARMs). That's cynical of me, let me rephrase: "level of sympathy with the downtrodden middle class who've been abused and mislead down a shaky economic slope."

***

I should really cut the commentary out at some point. I only have about three figures to back up my opinions, and two of them I borrowed from Ross Perot.

***

Look for more Monday, or maybe Sunday if I can get my act together. We could see the Republican race tighten up going into Florida (and Maine) or another wild ride. If Obama sneaks a victory in Nevada, expect the media to report the Clinton campaign in a tailspin. There to follow will be poorly disguised racial comments ("brown people stick together, and there are a lot in Nevada!") by Clinton-affiliated personnel.


-Hooper McFinney


---------------

[1]"The policies of failure have failed…or succeeded. However that works out."

Read on, faithful few!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Foreign Policy That Wasn't There


NPR challenged its listeners the other day: write a brief essay detailing the best "foreign policy" candidate among the current slate of Presidential contenders. It's not a small list to choose from, though at this stage in the game we've certainly slimmed things down a touch.

Who do we choose? The obvious choices on both sides are Governor Bill Richardson - freelance diplomat, former Secretary of Energy, former UN Ambassador, 2-term border state Governor - and John McCain - has served in both the House (2 terms) and the Senate (4 terms and counting) on various committees, aside from his military service. You could pour thousands of words into dissertations heralding either as the best choice to "reintroduce America to the world," as some in the media have said.

But why not go a little contrarian, and choose Ron Paul. After all, his foreign policy exists of not having a foreign policy.

Revert our international outlook to the isolationist early 20th Century, and you have a glimpse of Ron Paul's America. He is for removing all assets on the ground from the Mid East. In this, we will promote peace, for they will certainly come to us for advice. In fact, that is the worldwide aim, to distance ourselves from entanglements, extricate our military forces from defending borders and regimes not our own and trusting to the power of the American Dream, that shining city on the hill, to draw the world's diplomats back to our door. [1]

He claims his withdrawal is not one bred of a desire to isolate us, but to reestablish our role in the world. Free trade and travel, open communication and diplomacy will still remain. We'll simply not be the world's police force. Another point he advocates as a part of this is removing ourselves from the UN - entirely - and NATO, backing out of any free trade agreements (which are "managed trade" plans, opposed to open borders) and any other diplomatic alliances that could endanger our interests down the line (such as those that existed throughout the 19th Century and led to World War I).

So is this lack of foreign involvement, the "sit back" approach the best approach, as asked by NPR? It is the most dynamic and aggressive foreign policy, certainly, for it poses a completely new modus operandi not only for our state department and military, but those of every other country the world over. Why aggressive and not bratty? By not being involved, by holding back our might and negotiating leverage, we send a stark message: our interests are our own, not yours - tread wisely.

In our global village, the rolls of various countries are changing as I write this. India and China are becoming superpowers, with the latter pretty well there. The EU is consolidating itself, under one banner, and for the first time since the Holy Roman Empire might just present a united front. South America could further fall under the pall of autocracy masked as socialism. And Africa is a warground, with no end in sight. The US stands currently as the sole superpower in the world, the one arbiter that, grudgingly or not, all eventually come before. Should we not use that leverage, Congressman Paul might argue, to reduce the thread on our citizens and assets abroad?

Or do we keep our military in play, our truces ensconced with dictators, our economic welfare dependent on the changing tides in countries that frankly dislike us? Congressman Paul is awaiting your answer.

-Hooper McFinney

-------
[1] Think of it this way: he wants us to be the old man in the house behind the outfield fence of a sandlot baseball diamond. Let the kids play their game, let them skin their knees and charge the mound, but when that ball goes flying over the fence and drops in our yard - never mind what happens if it breaks our window - then we'll get off our rocking chair and see what the problem is. They come to us, asking for a favor. We are in a position of power; after all, we're the old man, the equalizer among the teams. Hat in hand, they approach and ask for their ball back, to see if it was a foul, where it dropped. And we can help them...or not.

Read on, faithful few!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"It is my quest to find your lost jobs! I'll just need a few midgets and an elf."

*
*
*
*
**Election 2008 Update: Michigan Primary Postmortem**

"What happened, Hooper?" you might be asking. "Why didn't you send us that GOP follow-up yesterday?" Work and American Idol obviously precede politics.

Were I to have sent another political brief, I would've stated my belief that McCain would eke out a small victory or a statistical tie with Romney, that McCain's economic view would've put more into Romney's camp, but independents would balance that at the polls, and that Huckabee would be for naught. Furthermore, I would've expounded at length on Romney's penchant for handing out verbal rose-colored glasses, false optimism that the same jobs lost would return, instead of McCain's pragmatic and far more encouraging idea that the old jobs are lost for good and it is up the people and the government to promote new jobs and their necessary training (community colleges, learning annexes and the like), the sum total being to move the economy away from oil-dependent technology to newer pastures. Beyond the GOP, I might've spouted about how if Hillary doesn't get at least 50% of the vote, she'll have lost to Obama and Edwards, the anti-Clinton, pro-change vote that would fall into the "undecided" category.

***

So what really happened that night in Michigan?

Conservative Republicans chose Romney (39%) - Republicans in general chose him 2:1 over McCain. While McCain (30%) picked up the lion's share of Independent and Democratic votes, they were not enough to offset his showing with the rank-and-file party members. Huckabee made an OK showing, but distant third (16%). Giuliani, Thompson, Paul, "undecided" and Hunter trail in the single digits. CNN has a pretty good breakdown of the exit poll, but it's all stuff you've read before. Romney pulled ahead thanks to his "conservative" credentials (that he bought someplace last year) and McCain suffered from his darker (though realistic) take on the economy.

What does this mean? The South Carolina primary this weekend is a wonderful toss-up. You have Fred Thompson making his last stand (and what a poor one it will be) and Mike Huckabee playing up the evangelical bent, two major forces that could damage the (nominal) front-runners Romney and McCain leading into Florida, an even more wonky affair. Giuliani is again sitting it out. If he doesn't win Florida, expect a major collapse on Super Tuesday for the Giulianians of the Republican party. He and McCain are centrist candidates that stand a decent chance against either Hillary or Obama; the others would get trounced (it would be beautiful in its tragedy, a defeat of Shakespearian proportion that put the Republicans just a notch about the US Communist party in national prominence).

My predictions about last night did not come through and Michigan votes said, "Give us our boy!" Romney is the son of George Romney, one-term (but popular) governor of Michigan, successful businessman, one-time Presidential candidate ('68; made some odd "Viet Nam" remarks that bombed his chances), Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Nixon (first term), an all-around senior statesman for Michiganites. Some might argue it was a forgone conclusion that Romney would at least manage a slim victory. He came out 39% to McCain's 30%.

As I said, it was the economy that did it. Michigan leads the country in unemployment at around 7.4% if my spottily checked sources are right. Detroit has taken a drubbing in the last few years (decade?) with the rise of oil prices, fuel economy, cheaper foreign cars (the perennial threat) and "green technology." Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost - according to McCain, for good; Romney says they're hiding in the woodshed - due to massive lay-offs in the automotive industry. It's old hat, we all know this but many have deluded themselves into thinking there's some cycle underlying the industry. People will want big, gas-guzzling behemoths (or small, two-door ones) as gas prices tick closer to historic highs (adjusted for inflation, we haven't reached the ceiling yet…). There is no cycle, only memory. McCain's view, that we must inexorably move only forward towards a new, not recycled future fell on deaf ears in some of the harder-hit areas of the state. South Carolina will be the second verse of this song, as they too have economic woes not exactly felt by the rest of the country.

On a lighter note, the Michigan GOP sent out this statement when returns started coming in: "In a close-fought victory, Senator John McCain succeeded again (in) the Michigan Republican primary, winning over a traditionally unpredictable voter base in Michigan." Five minutes later they sent out a corrected response: "In a close-fought victory, native son Governor Mitt Romney won an important contest here tonight." They had both statements prepared and "pressed the wrong button."

***

Sen. H. R. Clinton won the Michigan primary…against no one! Over 40% voted for "undecided," meaning Obama and Edwards, as their campaigns instructed supporters to do. Should the DNC grant Michigan its delegates in the fall, and if it's a close race, Clinton will be glad she did not show solidarity with the party in keeping her name on the ballot. It is awfully funny to see her barely get half the vote when she's running against Dodd (dropped out a while ago) and Kucinich (who…sigh. It's too easy, really. Let's say he can't win for lack of trying).

The Dems are tested next in Nevada, where controversy is a-brewing! Unions are arguing over whether to hold caucuses in casinos, as there are nine casinos servicing tens of thousands of individuals who work for the Culinary Union (supporting Obama). The Teachers' Union (supporting Clinton) filed suit, saying this gives the CU unfair advantage with the caucus. The state dropped the lawsuit, but the issue remains.

Posit this: is Edwards solely in the race now to become Obama's VP candidate, should the IL Senator get the nod?

***

The Dems held a debate last night in Nevada where Hilary and Obama exchanged words about toning down the harsh campaigning (race issues). They were also asked what the they thought the Presidency was. Obama said that being president "involves having a vision of where the country needs to go," while Hillary agreed that there was certainly vision involved, but "the president is the chief executive officer…I think you have to be able to manage and run the bureaucracy." Just a little FYI.

***

And sitting comfortably in New Mexico, if a little despondent, Gov. Richardson was interviewed today by NPR, saying the campaign was an "extraordinary experience" and he's glad the other candidates have adopted his view on total withdrawal from Iraq, calling it an "aggressive policy" in the short term that would be followed by major diplomatic effort.

When asked about his experience, and whether it helped or hurt him, he responded that his "message of change and experience didn't catch on as much as just change," what Edwards and Obama were preaching. "You can't escape what you've done before."

He will likely endorse a candidate after February 5th and his New Mexicans (Mexicoans?) get a chance to voice their choice.

***

This Saturday (Jan. 19th) is the Nevada caucus (R & D) and the S. Carolina primary (D). Expect coverage Friday and a wrap-up Monday as we look to the Dems in S. Carolina, Florida and SUPER TUESDAY!

More news as I see fit to comment.


January 19—Nevada Caucus / Republican South Carolina Primary
January 26—Democratic South Carolina Primary
January 29—Florida Primary
February 1-February 2―Republican Maine caucus


-Hooper McFinney
The trusted psuedonym for political commentary

Read on, faithful few!

Buckshot: Zero Hour: 9 AM

Not that the political commentary by Hoop isn't interesting (Hell, sometimes he's the only source I pay any attention to.), but I'd like to switch gears for a moment here and share this with you all. Raise a glass with me to commemorate the 30th anniversary of William Shatner's legendary performance of Elton John's "Rocket Man" at the 1978 Science Fiction Awards Show.



Gaze upon it, and be transformed.

-Buck

Read on, faithful few!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"...some of my best friends are of midnight hue! I mean...uh..."

*
*
*
***Election 2008 Update***

Sen Hillarious Clinton may yet win her party's nomination, but damned if her campaign isn't trying its hardest to lose it for her. At least if the media and Obama camp have anything to say about it.

Word from the weekend going into today's (weak, unimportant) Michigan primary and beyond to Nevada and S. Carolina is that black people just don't truck with her as they do with Obama. Could it be the drug references her supporters bring up (white and black) or perhaps just the issue of race in general, as I said Prof. Dyson had last week with the "crying game" of hers?

Whatever the reason, S. Carolina's primary might be indicative of a wave of support against her, turning into an unyielding tide, should she "lose" the black vote as polls indicate. Obama charts nearly two to one against Hillary with black people; Hillary has less than a 20% spread between her and the junior IL senator among them thar whites. There are a lot of people of color (as I am reminded people refer to them still) in our sovereign nation, many of them registering for the first time but many more unregistered for the primary. A commentary on NPR the other day rambled off some figures in Southern states about the number of unregistered black votes (amounting to hundreds of thousands, possibly as much as a million, between South Carolina, Georgia and Florida). The question on pundits' brains is whether there are enough registered to matter in the primary, or if the "black vote" won't be an issue until they have a chance to all register for the general election.

In (rare) defense of Hillary, nothing she's said is inherently racist, but if you want to twist it to be superior or condescending, you can. That can be done with any statement, if the listener is sensitive enough, and I think the last week has proven just how exposed our citizenry's nerves are in cases of race. We haven't moved very far that we think behind every statement is a subtle barb at someone because of the color of their skin. It's been 143 (just about) years since the Civil War ended, (nearly) 44 since LBJ signed into law the Civil Rights act. Generations have come and gone in the mean, but the feelings have remained. Why do we have to boil it all down to race? Can't people dislike, distrust or just not choose a candidate for reasons other than color?

It's getting old, beating this dead horse. Propping up the spectre of racism - playing the race card, as some might say - just reminds us as a nation of the hardships we've gone through and seek to avoid. Forget history, and you are doomed to repeat it, is the argument. Take this into account: erasing the sin of slavery from our collective conscious is impossible, but so long after its demise, we have to move on. More pressing issues are at stake than fighting the Civil War again. People will be intolerant. Just live with it. No society is perfect, though we strive for such.

That was longer than I wanted it to be. More on Michigan for the GOP later.

-Hooper McFinney

Read on, faithful few!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

"We can ill afford another New Hampshire..."

*
*
*

Election 2008 News!


News is…not exactly swirling, more meandering…that Bill Richardson will announce today that he is withdrawing from the presidential race after poor showings in Iowa and New Hampshire (which should've given him more votes and Edwards less). Democrats in the audience, hang your head in shame. Here is a man, as I've stated, far more qualified than most candidates have been in the last several elections, and he's yet to break out of single-digits in major polls. Let's run down in brief what he has going for him:

*US House Representative (14 yrs)
*US Ambassador to the UN (1yr, moved to…)
*US Secretary of Energy (2+ yrs)
*Governor of New Mexico (2000-present)
*DNC chair (2004)
*Democratic Governor's Association Chair (2005-2006)
*(For the Left) Is Pro-Choice
*(For the Right) Is Pro-Gun RIGHTS, not Control

And he's Hispanic, which helps with that growing minority. Sure, he's a bit tubby and not nearly as flashy as Obama or Clinton. But he speaks well, knows how to get a point across and get things done. He's not hardline left on all issues, so he won't alienate the "right" as it were. I disagree with his Iraq policy, his views on education and health care, but all around, he's a stellar candidate that knows how to manage. Why the hate?

Personally, I think it's because he's Hispanic. Despite not running as a "race" candidate, Barack Obama is nonetheless the best hope the nation has (outside of Colin Powell) for a black president. Michael Eric Dyson is swearing up and down the wall that 1) Obama's New Hampshire loss was race-related and 2) Clinton's teary comments from this past Monday were a racially charged jab. It all comes back to the a black man in the Oval Office. With the media concerned with the double barrel of a black man and the first, serious woman candidate (though that should go to Elizabeth Dole), there's no room for a Hispanic man. I also think there's a stronger prejudice against Hispanics than blacks, possibly fueled by illegal immigration debates and the visible role certain of Latino heritage play (dishwasher, lawn maintenance, fast food worker you can't understand on the other end of the microphone at the drive-thru). They are looked down on more, seen as hard workers, but workers still. Not leaders.

Despite the racial strife between white and black since time immemorial in this country, in the last 20-30 years a lot of that tension has rightfully faded. Still there? Sure! But less so. Politically, and as leaders, the country has begun to embrace more than just old, white men. Now, being black or a woman is no longer a handicap. And yet….

The quiet, disappearing racism in the nation has to draw the line somewhere, and it follows the Rio Grande.

***

In further Election news, Mitt Romney has withdrawn his advertising (TV) from South Carolina and Florida, instead focusing on Michigan as his "take it or leave it" state, much as South Carolina is for Edwards and Thompson. His father was governor there some four decades ago, made a (failed) bid for the presidency and is fondly remembered. Can Mitt assay that into votes? Eh. He is currently around 21%, versus McCain (10%) and Giuliani (12%), but that poll data is from mid-December, and certainly out-of-date now that Huckabee has won Iowa and McCain popped back into prominence. Tracking polls, McCain was on top there last spring and early summer, statistically tied with Romney and then the implosion of his campaign came, dropping him below 10%. He's come back, and will strike at Romney's base in the coming weeks. Moroni, protect your spiritual son!

***

John Kerry supports Obama. Obama (regrettably) does not decline the "favor"…

***

That's a wrap this morning. Keep an eye on the various sites and stations for the Richardson speech (and endorsement. Who will it be?!).

http://www.electoral-vote.com (left-leaning, and just amazing)
http://www.electionprojection.com (right-leaning and better-than-average)

-Hooper McFinney

Read on, faithful few!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

"What do we want? Change! When do we want it? Maybe next time...?"

*
*
*

Election 2008 Update!


So we have Clinton (39%) over Obama (36%), with Edwards (17%) and Richardson (5%) trailing, in New Hampshire. Great news for Evita Clinton, but considering Obama's speech and his lack of acquiescence, I don't think it mattered to him. They are turning their attention to South Carolina (Jan. 26 for Dems) and Michigan (Jan. 15), though the latter is not playing as important to them right now. The "make it or break it" race in S. Carolina for Edwards holds his attention, and here is a state where Obama and Clinton get to test on key demographic still considered mythical in New Hampshire: black people.

Crotchety Gravel got a token few votes, but his campaign was effectively over the moment he opened his mouth, and Bill Richardson - the most qualified of any (D) or (R) candidate, save maybe McCain - still can't get those votes to stack up. He'll truck along to Nevada where he hopes his West/Southwest roots will stand him in good stead. For my good friend Hew, I would be remiss if didn't mention the boy mayor of Cleveland, Rep. Dennis Kucinich. Running yet again, and promoting his ideas, he has yet to realize that few if any are listening. He'd do better to raise a stink in the House or find a sympathetic media outlet than leap off this electoral cliff yet again and hope his ideas give him wings.

***

On the Republican side, McCain solidified his McComeback with a 35% to 32% win over Romney. Huckabee (14%), Giuliani (9%) and Paul (8%) rounded out the part that matters. If McCain can convert this win to points in Michigan next Tuesday, defeating Romney in the state of his birth and his father's gubernatorial career, there'll be no stopping him. South Carolina is teetering towards Huckabee in the polls, but expect a McCain bounce to at least dead even with Romney if not a few points ahead.

Remember, this is all moot until Jan. 29, the date of the Florida primary when Rudy formally enters the field. He's running a "big state" campaign, ignoring or lightly visiting the smaller, earlier states. Count out everyone but McCain, Romney, Huckabee and Giuliani. Ron Paul has support, but it's scattered; Fred Thompson is sleepwalking through it all. Duncan Hunter...let's not waste time on his waste of time.

More later...

-Hooper McFinney

Read on, faithful few!