Monday, June 30, 2008

Other Countries (Part I): Spain is Cool

Spain lost its collective mind sometime on Sunday evening and doesn't hope to recuperate it for say...another 44 years.

That's how long it has been since the Spanish selection won a major soccer tournament, which is quite a wait for a people who deserved better.

Many of you know the highway scribe has an enduring history and passion for Spain. He has visited Spain, lived in Spain, and staked his career on a signature novel for which the country serves as backdrop and protagonist alike.

A first visit came in 1968 when the country was a pariah to the rest of the world; hardly existed.

Firmly ensconced in the 19th Century by the policies of a dictator, Generalissimo Francisco Franco, the country was still largely transported by burros and ruled by a terrifying combination of fascism and state Catholicism.

Or so history tells us.

What the scribe remembers was a primarily agrarian culture centered around drinking, relaxation and lousy service. A place where children could roam freely unescorted about the cities because no criminal in their right mind would touch them for fear of the consequences.

It was then that the scribe first heard about the Real Madrid and Barcelona soccer clubs. Skills picked up that summer playing futbol in the plaza of tiny Langreo in northern Spain would help him stand out a few years later back in America.

The country remained unchanged on another visit two years later, and three years after that, when the scribe's family took an American Express tour called the "Iberian Beachcomber," that featured a completely undeveloped Costa del Sol where they ate sardines seared on a spit, and mounds of finger-nail size clams in garlic, olive oil, and parsley.

Franco died in 1975 and, in 1980, the scribe returned to a country in political ferment, where the left was a fashion for young people celebrating freedom (political anyway) for the first time; a period that has marked him to this very day.

And so on, until 1992 when the scribe cashed-in, checked out and went on to live the greatest adventure of his life, writing a novel, five screenplays, all the while traveling up and down the Iberian peninsula on the hunt for some of the world's most beautiful young women in some of its thinnest, and most romantic white-washed streets.

Throughout it all, the country's apparent passion for soccer and success at what they call the "club" level, seemed to clash with an inability to win at the international level, with a lingering sense that somehow Spaniards, and those of us with Spanish blood, were inveterate losers: held back by natures too passionate, temperaments more focused on beauty than outcome, and plagued by tempers short and explosive.

In 1984, the Spanish selection (as the national all-stars are known) lost the EuroCup final to France, a team it has never beaten at anything, but exhibition matches, thanks to Napoleon's romp through the country early in the 19th Century.

In 1986, an exciting team choked in the World Cup quarterfinals against Belgium, and their unappealing goaltender Jean Marie Pfaff, durig a penalty shootout.

A few years later, when the scribe was working as a script reader at Creative Artists Agency, Pfaff was peddling a movie adaptation of his own courageous autobiography. The story department passed it onto the nut who'd just returned from an expatriate's turn (yours truly) and that nut promptly blemished the piece with a "no recommendation" tag.

In 1988, Spain failed to qualify for the second round of the EuroCup marked by another familiar loss to Italy. In 1990, Yugoslavia knocked the Spaniards on their asses in the (again) quarterfinals. A year or two later Yugoslavia was dismembered as a geographic entity (and rightfully so).

In 1992, the country failed to qualify at all for the EuroCup and in the 1994 World Cup went down to a heart-wrenching defeat at the hands (feet really) of Italy's (again) Roberto Baggio in the 89th minute of play.

Spain got knocked out in the (again) quarterfinals of EuroCup 1996 by England in (again) a penalty-kick shootout for which the national character seemed particularly ill-suited.

A squad stacked with what were now considered international stars, failed to get out of the opening round in the World Cup of 1998 by failing to defeat soccer giants Nigeria and Paraguay...yes, Paraguay.

In 2000, the scribe and Mrs. Scribe watched a match against France in the 2000 EuroCup from a bar in La Cala de Mijas, Spain. Bar Nuestro to be precise. Its world famous striker, (Spain, not the bar) Raul, missed a penalty kick at the end of the game and France won yet again.

In 2002, the World Cup was held in South Korea where a superior Spanish squad lost to the home team during the (you guessed it) quarterfinal round.

the scribe was sitting in front of the television watching hordes of hysterical Koreans jump for joy when his mother-in-law, not very knowledgeable about these things, asked, "Did Spain win?" unleashing the scribe's fist upon the nearest piece of furniture, setting the mother-in-law to jumping out of her seat, and drawing Mrs. Scribe from the rear of the house, screaming all the way about the value of her coffee table.

In 2004, the EuroCup moved to Portugal, which is only a train ride way, but geography was no assistance in preventing another dismal showing.

More anguish awaited in the last World Cup, which was held in Germany where Spain lost to, you guessed it, France.

But there was something different about that squad. Something physical and daring that many attribute to its being comprised of the first generation not born under the shadow of dictatorship.

Maybe, maybe not, but it sounds good...a Team Democracy.

In spite of their loss, it seemed clear the Spanish team's extreme youth - for they were all around 20 years old - coupled with the fact they played for big teams overseas like Liverpool and Arsenal, seemed to suggest their time would (maybe) come.

Which it did.

Spain are champions of EuroCup 2008, which was held jointly in Austria and Switzerland. The team gave up the fewest goals (2) scored the most, and took the hard road to victory by facing down phantoms of the past; beating Italy first, followed by Germany in the final; the most respected names in the international game.

Long viewed as victims and lousy losers, the Spaniards gave as good as they got.

More importantly, they turned their signature one-touch passing style into something more than an interesting side dish on the major tournament menu. They turned it into a beautiful way of winning and demonstrated that a team could attack and defend simultaneously.

After Liverpool's Fernando Torres (picture) scored against Germany the Spaniards did not retreat into their end with a plan to withstand 75 minutes of Teutonic target practice.

Instead, they attacked relentlessly with speed and grace and valiance.

The whole long process was strikingly akin to making a young Spanish girl. So much resistance, so many twists and turns that when you finally bed her down, the pleasure is boundless.

On the home front, a nation long-characterized by its multiple separatist movements danced in the streets to Manolo Escobar's "Ole Espana"; a sixties anthem for tourists long considered an embarrassment to any Spaniard with a functioning thinking cap.

Some marketing genius came up with the idea of putting the black-bull silhouette of the Osborne sherry empire on the nation's flag and in one felled swoop rescued it from decades of fascist and right-wing monopolization.

Now the flag is cool...Just like Spain.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Film Nerd: "Surfwise"

"Surfwise" killed the soul surfer.*

Two movies in one, Doug Pray's documentary about the remarkable Paskowitz family confirms our most optimistic sentiments of how life spent chasing waves leads to a higher plain of existence... only to cruelly crush them in the end.

"Surfwise" takes us back to the days of wooden boards and the opening chapters of author Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz's ("Surfing and Health") remarkable life story.

The narrative is familiar: A man cookie-cut into the American profile of success by virtue of a Stanford education, a thriving doctor's career, and the burdens of a community pillar, breaks down.

"It was the lowest point in my life," the still-living Paskowitz tells Pray.

What follows is a less familiar path hacked out by a man with courage enough to break with the past. It starts with a trip to Israel as the prophet of a new, exhilarating sport and the goal of unleashing a previously repressed sexuality.

Conquering everything in a skirt, traveling the world over in search of the best breaks, Paskowitz finds his paramour in a sexy 26-year old Mexican gal whom he puts to work bearing nine children; most given biblical names.

Together the tiny Judaic tribe roam the planet in the 1970s, "off the grid," the church of surf providing the lessons, parents lecturing that swimming with the sharks is okay, but the public school system deadly dangerous.

The many photos of the eight beautiful, shaggy-haired boys and one girl growing-up wilder than cattails are enough to make any Family Father heed that call, ditch the mortgage, buy a crappy 24-foot camper, and give the gift of a surfing life to those he loves most.

But the happy snaps are patched together in false camera-ready moments; like so many family portraits.

As the film moves beyond Doc's narration, and gives itself over to the angry ruminations of the now middle-aged rugrats, we learn that not every camper was happy at Camp Paskowitz.

The elder David served as dad's "captain" and beat those who strayed from the fearless leader's dictates. The food sucked and the quarters were too cramped. Worst of all, the grown-up Paskowitz kids wail, The Great Man's strategy was flawed.

Parents will recognize the ungrateful carping of kids who were given so much. Doc himself calls his offspring, "lazy," and recounts, like any family elder, all the boons bestowed over the years.


Yet the early successes as champion surfers, musicians with record deals, boardshort sponsors, and such, would suggest these original cuts of cloth designed by Dorian benefited much from the off-beat regimen.

Dan Paskowitz's griping that he failed to capitalize monetarily on his early luck thanks to poor-preparation might be uttered by any product of a "real world" school.

But you have to feel for the kid cutting onions in a San Clemente kitchen, because he can't find work elsewhere, or the medical student aspirant denied entry to school because he lacked the necessary credentials and accumulating them would take ten years (that he missed while surfing).

Yes, nature teaches, surfing disciplines, and the ocean cleanses us ready for new battles awaiting in those mean streets and foreboding crystal towers.

The Paskowitz yarn reminds us that even those battles, those streets, and those towers, are entered by invitation only.

*Refers to a surfer approaching the sport more as meditation than competition; as a path to deeper truths.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

More on FISA

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Ct.), most responsible for delaying tactics that have prevented passage of the FISA "compromise" skewered in the post below, has given a comprehensive and important speech on this miserable measure.

Obama: Wrong on FISA

Maybe it's a question of his being so close he can taste it.

Maybe a recent Bloomberg poll showing Illinois Sen. Barack Obama with a double-digit lead over the hapless Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz), has Team Obama assuming the defensive posture of Team Italia (inside soccer joke).

In any case, and no matter what bland excuses Obama comes up with about "the threats we face," his decision to support the bipartisan "compromise" on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is unacceptable at best and disappointing at worse.

More so is Obama's backsliding on an earlier promise to filibuster any measure providing immunity for the telephone companies that caved before the Bush administration's warrant-less requests to access peoples' private stuff.

highwayscribery called Obama's headquarters yesterday to detail the financial support, numerous blog posts, and insults endured by this otherwise cynical enterprise in the HOPE there would be PROGRESS through him.

The lady who answered was articulate and on top of the issue. She informed that the senator was a constitutional law professor and that, given how the measure had not cleared the Senate, he would be "looking for legislative solutions to some of the problems with the bill," or some other mealy-mouthed hoo-ha.

the scribe responded that Obama was no longer a constitutional law professor nor a legislative plumber, but the STANDARD BEARER OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY and that we (Democrats) don't go in for government spying without warrants; nor are we crazy about spying with the warrants, since the judges in these cases usually golf with the overzealous prosecutors who see a terrorist under the seat of anybody who opposes government policies.

We don't care what Rep. Steny Hoyer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi say, the compromise is a sop to a (p)resident with nothing to do and no political power other than the veto pen.

The American people don't have to take this crap anymore. These guys are done. Bush can't steamroll the Democrats the way he could in 2003 and for Obama to try and play the, "we're just as tough on national security" card by not standing up for a core party principle makes one wonder...

...are civil rights really at the core of the Democratic Party's principles?

As Jeff Greenwald at "Salon" has noted in a series of excellent posts on this sellout, the FISA compromise gives a lame-duck administration everything it wants, while the Democratic leadership runs around claiming some kind of victory, because now there's a law that permits the executive to do what it had been doing illegally over the past few years.

The bill sucks, but don't take highwayscribery's word for it. Read this assessment by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

They list a number of flaws in this boner (H.R. 6304), but we'll highlight two favorites (for lack of a better word):

1. According to the ACLU, the legislation, "trivializes court review by explicitly permitting the government to continue surveillance programs even if the application is denied by the court;"

For those of you who aren't political bloggers, here's a translation: After a court tells the government they can't sift through your cybersurfing destinations, they can go ahead and do it anyway.

2. The bill permits "mass, untargeted surveillance of all communications" coming in and going out of the country "without any finding of wrongdoing."

It's that last phrase that really gets the scribe's goat: "without any finding of wrongdoing."

On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington ruled that a Chinese Muslim guy held in Guantanamo Bay for SIX YEARS without being charged had a right to appeal his detention.

The defendant, Huzaifa Parhat, is of the Uighur Muslim minority who was caught in Afghanistan while fleeing persecution from our biggest business partner and loan shark.

Parhat is still designated an "enemy combatant," although the U.S. military no longer considers him a "significant threat," or the possessor of any valuable intelligence (a department in which they are sorely lacking).

David Cole, constitutional law professor at Georgetown University, said, "And here is somebody that the military has been holding onto for six years and the federal court now says he shouldn't have been held in the first place. Absent this independent judicial review, he might have been sitting in there for another 10 to 15 years."

Maybe the constitutional law professor from University of Chicago needs to have a chat with the constitutional law professor from Georgetown, because fighting terrorists is all well and good, as long as you know they're terrorists and not using the label to silence people you don't care for.

Barack Obama didn't become presumptive Democratic nominee by being a poor politician and he's not about to start being one now.

That's a tired old Democratic trick.

The girl manning the campaign's phones pointed out that "the senator is still opposed to the immunity for telecom companies contained in the bill."

But as the blogger at "Balkinization" noted, a President Obama (tasting it!) won't mind having all those sweeping powers.

On the other hand, he could give a hoot about the telecom company part, which is getting all the play and drives his base crazy, because of their weariness with the corporation's privileged position in American life.

So he's against it without breaking a sweat.

We're still crazy about Barack Obama at highwayscribery. We don't expect the senator as president to forward our anarcho-syndicalist views in sweeping legislation, but we'd like to advance them without being snooped on and labeled terrorists.

We don't expect to always agree with him, because we're ready for a president who governs for both halves of the country and unites us.

But like, which has supported him wholeheartedly, we expect the change he is promising us, and now is as good a time as any to signal the reigning-in of an overzealous security state that treats dissent as a crime.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cela's Friends (by highwayscribery)

Cela has friends like cartoon characters
popsicles with hearts like the pulsing red
core of the planet

In Lovedrunk Alley Catalina
she slinks.
Is a pussycat on the ledge
of the window to the

Night lady, she may be sitting out
the nuptial sweepstakes;
all this jockeying for passion has
puffed her weary.

We took each other for a spin
and both of us got sick and dizzy.

Cela’s friends’ smiles are persistent
sharp-edged things.
Sliced crescent moons,
if somewhat tilted:

Two hundred earthquakes a day
and Nana feels them all.
she finds her sleep in the
eastern sway
of the grass out close by
the western ocean.

Salt she used there for
coaxing and calming wounds
that could not resist clutching to her
along the way…

…tasted good to me.

She was pretty and
she was weak.
My flaws were
my own most charming feature.

We became close. It almost
worked out.

Cela still
talks to the both of us.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Back to Bush

With all that Democratic primary business eating up our space highwayscribery almost forgot George W. Bush was still (p)resident.

But today the Supreme Court - five of them anyway - came to the aid of those who can't forget Bush's undemocratic reign: the internees at Guantanamo.

Once again, the sacred nine, most of whom are in Bush's pocket, slapped his silly, unconstitutional face red, by ruling that those held in Gulag Gitmo have a right to contest their detention in federal court.

Now there's a revelation.

Justice Anthony Kennedy served once again as pivot man between right and left, siding with the latter in defense of those guarantees that make our country unique (most of the time).

Here's the scribe's favorite quote by Kennedy: "The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system they are reconciled within the framework of the law (emphasis added). The Framers decided that habeas corpus, a right of first importance, must be a part of that framework, a part of that law."


The "Washington Post" noted that Justice Antonin Scalia highlighted his dissent by taking the rare step of summarizing it from the bench like some lowly House member, rather than a sage of the highest tribune.

Scalia called the ruling a "self-invited...incursion into military affairs," which suggests that the military is not subject to any of the country's laws.

He then went on to suggest that the ruling, "will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed," which seems to us like an, er, um, "self invited incursion into military affairs" on Scalia's part.

He should be ashamed of himself, uttering this passive inversion of w.'s "Bring it on."

highwayscribery, many of you know, hates the prison at Guantanamo. In "Gitmo Girl," and "Gitmo Girl Gone Wild," we leaned upon no less a connection than the scribe's cousin Heather Rogers who was given the thankless task of legally representing some of the Allah-forsaken schlubs caught in the CIA's bounty-primed dragnet.

The Bush administration's idea was that holding prisoners in an offshore hellhole would deny them protections onshore detainees enjoy (for lack of a better word).

the scribe has always thought there was something adolescent about that reasoning; like a teenager forbidden to have parties at the house arguing that all the drinking and dancing was out in the backyard.

It is a cheap and technical evasion that sums up the administration's approach to our Constitution and the Democratic principles contained therein.

Bush said he "strongly disagreed" with the court's ruling, but promised to abide by it; as if there were another option open to him.

He said "legislation might be necessary" to deal with the invalidation of the reasons for even having a prison at Guantanamo, but Tom Delay's gone and this is 2007 so Bush shouldn't hold his breath.

Meanwhile - and you didn't read about it anywhere in the mainstream media - the House of Representative mustered up 251 votes (to 166) to send 35 articles of impeachment (House Resolution 1258), introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, to the Judiciary Committee.

Certainly an embarrassment for a sitting president conducting diplomacy overseas and a move highwayscribery wholeheartedly supports.

It's not enough that these crooks surrender power. They need to go to jail and highwayscribery plans to comb the articles of impeachment for interesting things and report back if worthwhile items turns up.

Here's a little flyer from the crowd at you can print out and send around if you're interested in helping this thing along.

highwayscribery does not know how the measure got to the floor for a vote, what with the Dems' desire to keep it clean and smooth the way for an Obama administration. the scribe does not know what the Judiciary Committee's posture is on the matter.

But it's worth noting that, unlike a lot of things that happen in the House, this one is not subject to reconciliation with Senate prerogatives or subject to presidential veto.

The business of bringing charges against a sitting president lies with the House alone.

And it's not out-of-orbit to wonder if lower chamber leaders are steamed enough at the administration's Bronx cheer in response to the service of subpoenas on Harriet Miers, Karl Rove, etc., to follow through on criminal charges.

There is more than one way to skin a cat.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Consolidating Power

"Genius: You either have it or you don't," wrote Salvador Dali.

Since claiming the mantle of Democratic presidential nominee on Tuesday night, Sen. Barack Obama has begun a consolidation of his power in a way that seems to exceed what many consider his thin resume; strutting Washington D.C. as if it were his roost.

Which it may be if John McCain's speech Tuesday night is any indication of where we're heading.

Hillary Clinton's claims from the same evening seemed strong the next day, but by now amount to nothing more than a close second, which is still second as became clear with the New York senator muffling her earlier claims to the number two spot while taking her place on the Obama train before it left the station.

The Illinois senator promised changed and if sporting a yarmulke on Wednesday morning suggested hints of another power hungry candidate playing the game, his announcement later in the day that the Democratic National Committee would no longer take money from lobbyists represented a first down payment on the promise.

That's not putting money where your mouth is so much as taking money out of your mouth, but there will be no change until lobbyist influence is pulled from party coffers.

This is not new for Obama, but woefully underreported. In Pennsylvania and West Virginia the campaign's decision not to pay ward heelers for the delivery of votes hurt him and helped pad Sen. Clinton's heroic tallies in those places.

Obama can bite a bullet.

The same article noted that in consolidating his leadership over the party, Obama decided to keep Howard Dean as DNC chairman, which should tell you a lot, in spite of the chat channels' failure to discuss "what it means."

As a presidential candidate, Dean harnessed the passion of the Democratic grassroots only to have his campaign's head chopped off by the party establishment in Washington.

An apparently selfless person, the former Vermont governor decided to change the way things worked, got the committee chairmanship and spent the last three years empowering state organizations, emphasizing the local over the national, and grooming a new generation of Democrats for a revolution we are now poised to witness.

This year, Obama was able to translate grassroots support into real power and if you don't think Dean's efforts had something to do with it, then you don't understand why Obama kept him in that rather choice position.

Elsewhere in the media constellation, at the same moment, came a news account about how Medicare drug benefit costs had gone up 16 percent this year, where outpatient care had only gone up 3 percent.

That's because the Bush administration rammed a drug benefit program through Congress that essentially funneled public health care patients to pharmaceutical companies with an added caveat that the government could not negotiate for better prices.

You can bet your bottom dollar that is what lobbyists wanted out of the largest benefit expansion in a generation and their money was the way this legislative stinker found its way through the House and Senate.

And though it will be hard for some career pols in the party to forego the easy green, with all winds blowing Democratic, now is about as good a time as any to pledge the golden rule and make it stick.

"We will not take a dime from Washington lobbyists or special interest PACS," Obama announced. "They will not fund our campaign, they will not run our party, they will not drown out the voices of the American people."

The "Washington Post's" David Broder wrote a piece highlighting Obama's weak closing to the Democratic nominating race, but highwayscribery thinks he missed the point; even if Broder was the first pundit back in February to predict a McCain/Obama faceoff.

Obama's was an insurgent candidacy that studied the rules of the game (read: delegates) and did what it had to win that game. The braintrust never planned to beat Hillary Clinton everywhere, all the time; rather do just what it needed (and probably all that it could).

And so Obama ran out the clock at the end, knowing full well the delegates were in the bag. But the general election is a completely different game, played on different field with a different clock than the primary/caucus roulette and Broder's parallels probably don't apply.

Morton Kondracke has a different take that says it will be very difficult for McCain to defeat Obama this year.

His piece makes a scientific attempt to monitor a series of indicators that decide watershed elections and those indicators are all breaking Obama's way. You can read them for yourself.

"Voters clearly want 'change'," he writes. "McCain has a long way to go to convince them that his kind is better than Obama's even though - on the merits - it may well be. At the rate things are going, history will repeat itself with a Democratic victory in 2008 and liberal domination of the government until voters change their minds again."

Meanwhile, "Salon" reports that Obama had a little chat with Sen. Joe Lieberman who was once a Democrat and has now decided to form something called "Citizens for McCain."

Quoting ABC News' Jake Tapper, Salon noted (that Tapper noted), "The conversation was a stern rebuke to Lieberman for his criticism of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee on a conference call, as well as a discussion about how far Lieberman is willing to go in his advocacy of McCain, and the tone of his campaign."

"Salon" ran the above picture of Lyndon Baines Johnson leaning in on some forgotten U.S. Senator to dramatize what transpired between Obama and Lieberman.

Obama's only 47 and yet he's cracking the whip at older more experienced politicians, getting the capital city in hand.

Genius: You either have it or you don't.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Bobby: 40 Years Ago Today (annual reprint)

(Reprinted from last year)

Tonight the scribe takes special pleasure in updating this Web log, for the subject is the memory of the late Bobby Kennedy. June 5th was the 37th anniversary of his assassination in Los Angeles.

the scribe thought it was today, and it is a reflection of our rightward drift and division that so little, if anything, was written on Sunday about this man whom, whatever his political inclinations, gave his life to the country.

In any case, we’ll do this a few days late; the sentiment is no less deep or profound.

Once a guy is dead and not around to defend his own name the enemy tends to do a dance all over their reputation. The Kennedys, Jack and Bobby, were by virtue of their murders raised to the level of saints. In reality they were politicians with all that implies and which left them open for some pretty vicious hits post mortem.

And furthermore, the scribe doesn’t go in much for family dynasties, which by their very nature are anti-democratic. You only need to look at what’s going on now to get an idea.

Nonetheless, the scribe lives his life in the belief that Senator Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign represented the high point of the American experience and that his murder marked the beginning of our decline as a special and enlightened nation which, through its ideas and not its armies, led a democratic revolution around the world.

To go back and listen to Bobby’s speeches from that terrible and tremendous time is to wonder what country they might have been delivered in, because it’s not the America any of us are experiencing. He and his brother the President were the closest thing to social democrats the post-war United States ever produced and both were shot like dogs for their efforts.

His own presidential candidacy featured a discussion about inequality and poverty never, ever repeated in American politics. He took the anti-war movement mainstream and gave it a head of steam and respectability it did not lose until they had killed him.

If you ever get frustrated at Democratic presidential candidates and wonder why it is so goddamn hard for them to just come out against a war they know is wrong, remember what happened to the last guy who tried it.

As they say in Spain, “Haz bien, trae mal” or “Do good, bring bad.”

That he was shot by Sirhan Sirhan is a certainty. That more bullets than the eight Sirhan’s gun could hold were found is also a certainty. That the doorway beam from which two bullets were pried was inexplicably burned by the Los Angeles Police Department is also a known fact. The rest can be left to those with the time to sort out conspiracies; for us it serves as a stark reminder of how the American right wing plays for keeps.

They talk a lot about the bankruptcy of American liberalism, the loss of direction and lack of ideas. They never wonder what the murders of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King Jr., meant in that regard. They were young men, standard-bearers of the left with many years of fight, maturity and leadership still ahead when they were struck down. And they could not be replaced.

We should remember that.

The recently departed Hunter S. Thompson wrote about Kennedy in his classic “Fear and Loathing on Campaign Trail ‘72”. He was addressing the McGovern campaign’s idea of using Bobby’s voice on commercial spots:

“In purely pragmatic terms, the Kennedy voice tapes will probably be effective in this dreary campaign; and in the end we might all agree that it was Right and Wise to use them...but in the meantime there will be a few bad losers here and there, like me, who feel a very powerful sense of loss and depression every time we hear that voice – that speedy, nasal Irish twang that mailed the ear like a shot of ‘Let It Bleed’ suddenly cutting through the doldrums of a dull Sunday morning on a plastic FM station.

There is a strange psychic connection between Bobby Kennedy’s voice and the sound of the Rolling Stones. They were part of the same trip, that wild sense of breakthrough in the late Sixties when almost anything seemed possible.

The whole era peaked on March 31, 1968 when LBJ went on national TV to announce that he wouldn’t run for re-election – that everything he stood for was fucked, and by quitting he made himself the symbolic ex-champ of the Old Order.

It was like driving an evil King off the throne. Nobody knew exactly what would come next, but we all understood that whatever happened would somehow be the product of the ‘New Consciousness.’ By May it was clear that the next President would be either Gene McCarthy or Bobby Kennedy and that the War would be over by Christmas...”

the scribe lived that connection before ever reading the passage. The Stones marked the boundaries of his lifestyle as a young rake, Bobby his political activism as a reformed one.

As a reporter with the “Los Angeles Business Journal” the scribe had to do a story about the Ambassador Hotel where Kennedy was slain. He asked to be taken into the infamous “pantry” where the nefarious act went down. He didn’t stay long.

In 1966, Kennedy gave perhaps his most famous speech to an arena filled with young people in Cape Town, South Africa.

We close tonight with an excerpt from the same:

“[T]he belief there is nothing one man or woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills – against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence...Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.

“It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Let it bleed indeed.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

No Veep Spot for Hillary

We have a Democratic nominee (again).

Our national media has done the math and decided that Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois will have accumulated enough delegates to make him the Democratic Party's nominee for president at its August convention in Denver.

Of course Sen. Hillary Clinton has never let a media proclamation nor the hard math affect the perpetual motion machine she claims to be a presidential campaign.

Obama's speech was historic in every sense, riveting and emotional, but the long road to the stage in St. Paul, Minn., has not been pretty.

Watching Clinton run around the country beating up Obama while he tried to focus on the coming battle with Arizona's Sen. John McCain was truly frustrating and undeniably damaging.

It has not been pretty nor has it been good for the party as the Clintons, who seem to confuse their own fortunes with those of all Democrats, have suggested.

highwayscribery hates to say he told you so, but he told you so numerous times: this thing was over in February.

It was exciting, for a time, watching a woman and a black man vie for the party's top spot, but after a while grew unnerving.

Feminism and African-Americanism -- and all isms really --are very particular lenses through which those who adopt them choose to see the world.

Geraldine Ferraro was so drunk with her long-time job as standard bearer for all things feminine that she became blind to the travails of a black man.

Obama's camp shed some of its holier-than-thou aura by jumping all over Bill Clinton for making a fair comment about the Illinois senator having won a state (South Carolina) with a lot of black people just like the last serious African-American candidate had done.

Any white male of the kind that have dominated presidential politics since George Washington would have come in for similar skewerings had they inflated their Croatia visit to include sniper fire, or in-your-faced the religio-redneck crowd by calling them bitter.

They would not, however, have enjoyed the luxury of shifting blame for a job poorly done to their outward appearance.

As the hawker of literary wares in the marketplace of books for 15 years, the highway scribe can tell you the last thing you want to be is a college-educated white guy with his parts screwed on right, a family, and BMW.

the scribe has patiently bided his time through the Latina trend of the early '90s, the subcontinental saffron and mango tree rage of the late '90s, and the "my-life-is-fucked-up" confessional craze of the early 2000s with no daylight ahead for his particular demographic.

Life's unfair to most of us (except George W. Bush) and those people seeking the kind of power that's packed into the American presidency can expect a rough ride no matter what.

Of course, Clinton's South Carolina gaffe was less about racism or bruised black feelings than it was about Bill roaming off the statesman's pasture to join his wife in tag-teaming a decent man.

They seemed to meld with the FOX crowd just as it took up cudgels against the guy they were grounded enough to see would be the Democratic nominee.

Clinton, Bill that is, was a complete disaster this campaign season and should have known better than to get involved with the wife's effort, or, she should have known better than to pencil his name onto the line-up card.

Back in 2002, when his electoral fortunes took a turn for the worse, George Bush (I) asked James Baker to take control of his reelection campaign. Baker, who had spent the prior three years conducting American diplomacy, bristled at the assignment.

After all, he'd done the political plumber's dirty work in exchange for a post as Secretary of State and now papa Bush wanted him to get all oily again. He did so grudgingly.

But Bill Clinton did so willingly and he and his wife's rabid behavior once things turned Obama's way were not pretty, either.

It was actually quite devastating to be on the other end of their "never-say-die," "never-admit-a-mistake," "never-surrender" brand of politics, which were exhilarating when applied to Republicans, but cancerous when used in a Democratic family affair.

However gamely they fought, the Clintons appeared driven by a sense of entitlement rather than any inherent nobility, which they seemed to suggest was the other guy's weakness.

They blamed the press for their misfortunes, but the media were only too complicit in validating their claims that Texas and Ohio were "do or die," when they were already dead.

And that same media played ball with the whole Michigan and Florida thing; elevating the Clintons' arguments as worthy of debate when those claims were the height of cynicism.

Whipped when it came to ground organization, Ms. Clinton began to ply the superdelegate game, which was another new toy she passed onto a gleeful media that seemed woefully unschooled in the mechanics of party politics.

Irony of ironies, "Hillary" lost there, too, getting buried by the Super-Ds she'd expected to bail her out; even as she ran a nice skein of wins through the NASCAR belt.

Meanwhile, Obama sagely pulled big names out of his hat whenever it looked like some phony scandal or other would bring him down. He did it with New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson in the midst of all that ridiculous Rev. Wright hoo-ha and later with John Edwards after the campaign decided to take a dive in West Virginia.

But the unkindest cut of all has been Ms. Clinton's purposeful delusion of her followers; the silly insistence there was a candidacy to salvage when just the opposite was true.

And so for months idiots from both camps -- secure behind their computer screens in lonely rooms -- insulted each other with grim ferocity over the Internet.

For highwayscribery there has been nothing less discouraging than reviewing the "comments threads" unspooled beneath articles on the campaign, because of the way they discredited the value of vox populi and demeaned the idea of giving all people in democracy a voice.

Without fail these "debates" crumbled immediately into the name-calling antics of sixth graders.

Surely we can do better as a people. Surely we can understand each other and share a common project. It seemed that many went out of their way to trash Obama's request we come together if only to undermine his campaign, which is sort of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Clinton's graceless non-concession speech was both more of the same and the last straw.

She's "open" to the vice presidency?

Obama should go it alone and skip the ring kissing. Hillary's done such a number on him its doubtful her followers could bring themselves to join the Movement for Change in any case.

And it is change we are after here. Obama should go out and get more new folks and leave those who thought this election was a national referendum on gender behind. It's what the nominee's good at and, really, he doesn't need their sour grapes while trying to sell a sweeter blend of chocolate.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Flashflood Love by the highway scribe

distant and threatening
promise and bubbling
the soul is a stretch, dry
before you it lies
race, spill, thrill
you fill it
rushing emotions hither
moistening, enriching, widening, deepening
you hurry stick and stone
into this heart chasm
pricking and wounding
washing with windswirls
and swells
whirlpooling sadness, joy, wonder
onward pushing the course, cleansing
horsepower force, a giant blunder
running, fleeing,
threatening tributaries
in your wake
a bed of rubble
asunder gone under
alone, a mudcake
higher and dryer and
you are gone
a once wild river
now a waterfall
next a thread of stream
that is all
a trickle of sun gleam
a shadow of wet sliver
two drops of amber eye
wicked little glimmer
a wafting of whispermist
a sigh
my love a thundering memory
my flashflood