Friday, February 29, 2008

Clinton's Last Stand

Nobody in the mainstream media wants to say it, so highwayscribery will.

With the big boys cowed by Sen. Hillary Clinton's rants about "favoritism," what you need is a good solid blogger to explain how she goes down on Tuesday.

A few weeks ago, Clinton had a double-digit lead in Texas and Ohio and her husband was saying she needed to win in those states to stay viable.

But the Lone Star State is lost for sure.

Among the signs are her campaign's threat to sue the Texas Democratic Party, which she wouldn't be doing if things looked good there.

And that will do it.

Nonetheless, the Clinton campaign is spinning the notion Sen. Barack Obama must win ALL four states up for grabs on Tuesday or be vulnerable to charges the party is having second thoughts.

It's not. The spin is so desperate it maintains Obama's role as primary protagonist (pun intended).

Not that they have a choice, but Hillary's campaign wants you to think it is all about perceptions; that this almost political horse race is unfolding in a rarefied media air so permissive that Obama has flogged her for a month with "speeches" alone.

But Obama's substance is evident in the actual winning; in his bowling the Clinton machine over, in the genius of his strategy, and in the long, wide arc of his gathering success.

"Obama" and "momentum" are terms that have become mutually inclusive.

Remember when Mike Huckabee had it?

Well, Obama kept it, because in state after state, he has put the machinery down and people on the ground spreading a message that inspires large numbers of those touched by it.

Texas lost, Clinton will be in Ohio on Tuesday night, hoping for a photo-op that, even if it comes, will not be enough.

Apparently, the Clinton brand is especially rooted in Rhode Island, which may explain the new explaining going on, because if they take that state, well, um, Obama's in big trouble.

The bottom line is she needed to win Texas and Ohio big, because beyond cosmetics there is the matter of Obama's widening lead in delegates, which a split on Tuesday will not close.

So her operatives and consultants are up on the ladder trying to reframe that picture of the political landscape yet again.

But take it from us. All you will see is Obama. Obama. Obama. Obama.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Recipe: An Active Writer's Life

It helps to know what you want from life, and the more specific the better.

Early on, those writers who somehow melded meditation and action posed very positive models for this scribe.

Letters between Sartre and Camus on the French existential left were thrilling in their pointed jabs, simple presentation of complex arguments, and implication that what writers thought was not only important, but crucial to a society's direction.

South American writers who ran for Senate or president or parliamentary deputy took the Frenchmen's debates further; went beyond engaging the ideas of public policy to make policy itself.

In Spain, exiled poet Rafael Alberti returned upon the Franco regime's demise to represent the Spanish Communist Party in the first democratically parliament in some 40 years.

Alberti didn't really like the job, thought it too hard and mundane, but you get the point.

Spain was faced with the task of reinventing itself visa vis modernity and similar souls answered the call such as philosophy writer and professor, Enrique Tierno Galvan, leader of the Peoples' Socialist Party and the best mayor Madrid ever had.

Driving this scribe's life-long inclination was a sort of famous John F. Kennedy quote: "I've always felt that if more poets engaged politics and more politicians read poetry, the world would be a better place."

Shelley's designation of poets as "unacknowledged legislators" was another inspirational archetype so that frequent descents from the ivory tower into the political arena as journalist became well-established habits.

The recipe has always been fulfilling.

All of which leads to a very interesting article in an attractive environmental publication called, "Orion."

"Our Storied Future," written by Rebecca Solnit, dissects this phenomenon for writers and other bearers of the idea.

Her point of departure is the European tradition of opposites found in the vita contempliva and the vita activa.

The former, she writes, "gives us the depth, the ethics, the imagination, and the understanding to become active, to work for what we believe in. And action brings our contemplative work to life, gives it purpose and meaning."

When you spend your life shouting quietly (writing) from the margins of all activity and following little-used maps for existence, you can get quite excited when stumbling across a kindred spirit.

It was enough to call it a day, though it had just started, when this passage from the essay rose up and bit the eyes:

"I often joke that I want to be a Latin American intellectual -- a loose rubric for the remarkable contributions of Ariel Dorfman, Eduardo Galeano, Elena Poniatowska, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Subcomandante Marcos and many more writers from south of the border -- because these writers offer great examples of the union of the active and contemplative lives, the union of art and politics."

These writers, Solnit opines, refuse to see a dividing line between politics and art. "Apolitical art," she says, "and artless politics are the fruit of a divide-and-conquer strategy that weakens both; art and politics ignite each other and need each other."

She sees a variation of the dichotomy from those who feel the writer's proper posture, especially in the Anglo world, is that of cynic.

At the risk of running far afield, it may be worth pointing that there is a certain degree of this going on amongst intellectuals drawn by Senator Barack Obama's candidacy,
but repulsed by their perceived duty to stand apart, and critique, rather than lend energies to a fledgling movement addressing the dichotomies now afflicting us.

This is not electioneering for Obama or an attempt to pull Solnit into his camp without permission, just to draw an immediate and concrete example for those wrestling with the proposition, which is airy and wrought of thought.

Solnit writes that cynicism itself is, not only naive in its insistence we play it safe since there's no change to be had, but handmaiden to despair, which is a luxury.

"If I despair I can drive a Yukon and watch bad television. Despair makes no demand upon us; hope demands everything."

The nut of her argument, for writers in action, is to meet the task of telling the world's story: "To write, to make art and film, to work as a journalist or an educator can be a radical act, one that blurs the lines between action and contemplation by employing ideas as tool to make the world as well as understand it."

By way of example, Solnit concedes the Zapatista insurgency in Chiapas, Mexico may have "lost" by conventional military criteria, but enjoyed a storytelling victory that, "inspired people around the world to rethink power, participation, revolution, and the possible in the most beautiful and unexpected way."

Specifically, Solnit asserts that before the Zapatista uprising in 1994, few people cared about corporate globalization and the economic forces shaping their lives, "but that has all changed, in part because of them."

The bait you lay determines the fish you pull in.

"Orion" came to the scribe, in the form of a free subscription, thanks to his paid membership in the Society of Environmental Journalists.

Closing rank with members of a shared craft to improve the trade's standards and better portray environmental realities was product of the vita activa inspired by Sartre and those Latin American intellectuals.

The reading of "Orion" was product of the vita contempliva.

This synthesis of Solnit's article, the product of her preaching, a marriage of the two.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Wisconsin Win (and now the hard part)

And now comes the hard part.

In this compressed primary run and 24-hour news cycle, concern that Obama would never "catch on" in time has been replaced with worries of whether he can "hold on."

Full focus is happening now. It's hard to tell from today's coverage that Obama actually won last night.

Now the campaign is a cult, a band of lunatics, it's a delusional mass poised for shattering disappointment, it's an unwashed phenomenon wanting a washing.

All of which is true, but happening so fast that by the time July comes around, everybody will be in love with Obama once more.

Journalists and columnists are raising the hard questions and, reduced to a completely defensive posture, Sen. Clinton is attacking Obama with all she's got (which ain't much).

She should, of course, step down for the good of the party.

Instead, invisible Bill and Shrill Hill continue to enjoy the good graces of establishment media and political types whom allow them to define the race's terms and write their own ticket.

Now we've got the "firewall" in Ohio and Texas, which implies they are hers to lose, which is true only to the extent she's lost everything else. The prevalent do-or-die script was cooked up a few weeks ago, which should have tipped us off about Hillary's true chances in Wisconsin.

Everybody, but the voters, has taken this bait, because the voters made up their collective mind on who the next president will be, even as the slime machine overtook their choice.

The Clintons' is an admirable gambit. Who else could be literally trounced in every region of the country, and Polynesia, and still claim to be contending?

John McCain, of course, knows what Sen. Clinton doesn't and has taken to assaulting Obama with an eye to the general election, which kicked-off this morning after Hillary's "major" address ridiculing the Illinois senator.

The oldest candidate in the country's history, McCain can't run from that so he'll bank on it, citing his "experience" and "service" in a political season where those virtues have, to date, shown little appeal.

Clinton and McCain have already pushed Obama a little off his game, forcing him into a more boring victory speech last night laden with the kind of "specifics" that have put Clinton on the path back to Capitol Hill where she can draft helpful solutions like a good Democrat.

In doing so, he lost a chance to fire-up a new wave of supporters following another big win in Wisconsin. Obama shouldn't fix what is not broken. He should continue to give good speeches because good speeches are good politics.

Presidential campaigns are not the domain of "specifics." They are broad-stroked, themed affairs whereby the country decides in what direction it wants to go.

We are still betting on Obama's train pulling the United States, and the rest of the world, in a direction opposite that pointed to by those representatives from the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain (R) and Clinton (d).

Presidential campaign "plans" rarely come into play once the bunting and banners are down and the legislative haggling begins. And nobody can predict the future.

After all, what was George W. Bush's "terrorism plan" during the 2000 campaign? The man was a walking tax cut-for-the-rich beneath the shadow of the still-standing Twin Towers.

Obama and supporters need not get into a back-and-forth regarding his legislative accomplishments. He's a junior senator who has been running for president since he got into that club and shouldn't be embarrassed about his charmed political life.

Were "legislative accomplishments" (ie: passing laws) a true measure of what we wanted in a president, we'd be choosing between Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WVa) and Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss), which, thank heavens, we are not.

John McCain, for all his years in the Senate, has a rather thin layer of "accomplishment" to boast about and, if he wants to make a big to-do about it, maybe Obama can bring up the Arizona senator's role in the 1980s savings & loan fiasco.

There's an experience Obama can "bank" on.


Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Alameda Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Spc. Michael T. Manibog of Alameda , CA :

“Maria and I join all Californians in mourning the loss of Specialist Michael Manibog. His bravery and unwavering loyalty to this country are a testament to the ideals embodied by every member of our nation’s armed forces. We hold Michael’s family and loved ones in our thoughts and prayers as they mourn this tragic loss.”

Manibog, 31, died Feb. 8 as a result of wounds suffered when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device in Taji , Iraq . Manibog was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, United States Army, Schofield Barracks, HI.

In honor of Spc. Manibog, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Pixley Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Sgt. Timothy P. Martin of Pixley , CA :

“Sergeant Timothy Martin’s extraordinary courage and selflessness remind all Californians of the heroic sacrifices made to keep us safe. Maria and I extend our deepest sympathies to his family, fellow soldiers and friends during this time of mourning. Timothy’s patriotism and service to this country will be honored forever by the people of California .”

Martin, 27, died Feb. 8 as a result wounds suffered when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device in Taji , Iraq . Martin was assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, United States Army, Schofield Barracks, HI.

In honor of Sgt. Martin, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Orange Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Pfc. Brandon A. Meyer of Orange , CA :

“Private First Class Brandon Meyer devoted himself to serving his country with honor, bravery and integrity. His selfless commitment to the United States will never be forgotten by the people of California . Maria and I extend our thoughts and prayers to Brandon’s family, friends and fellow soldiers during this difficult time.”

Meyer, 20, died Jan. 28 as a result of wounds suffered when his unit encountered an improvised explosive device during convoy operations in Mosul , Iraq . Meyer was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, United States Army, Fort Carson, CO.

In honor of Pfc. Meyer, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Orange Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Pfc. Brandon A. Meyer of Orange , CA :

“Private First Class Brandon Meyer devoted himself to serving his country with honor, bravery and integrity. His selfless commitment to the United States will never be forgotten by the people of California . Maria and I extend our thoughts and prayers to Brandon’s family, friends and fellow soldiers during this difficult time.”

Meyer, 20, died Jan. 28 as a result of wounds suffered when his unit encountered an improvised explosive device during convoy operations in Mosul , Iraq . Meyer was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, United States Army, Fort Carson, CO.

In honor of Pfc. Meyer, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Book Report: "On the Road" (Scroll) by Jack Kerouac

The continent "groans" again and again.

The night is too often "sad," the cities are "mad" or "wild" and "sad" some more. New York is the "edge of the continent," and San Francisco, too and sometimes they're the "rim of the world," or some similar allusion.

Jack Kerouac and his friends, hanging outside New York City's Harmony Bar in this jazz/romantic video capturing their "beat" essence, would be considered drunks and losers by the standards of most. The author's muse and messiah, Neal Cassady, is a fellow too easily distracted, undisciplined and, by today's measurements, a candidate for depression medication.

In the recently released On the Road: The Original Scroll (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)Cassady's criminal bent and complete disregard for his friends' concerns or the safety of strangers are drawn in much starker contrast than they are in the (we now know for sure) much toned-down Viking Press version of the 1950s.

But it works and wonderfully so.

Whatever the personal flaws of the roadgoers, and they are multiple, whatever the prosodic sins of their faithful secretary Jack, equally numerous, The Scroll is blessed with energy and truth and dynamism, a beatific rhythm and sound that hold up, even though 50 years on we've read it all before.

But where what was once novel becomes cliché with the passing of time, The Scroll takes on enhanced value as snapshot of a country long-disappeared.

The Scroll contains a hundred pages more than the edited "On the Road," and that's a lot of adventure and resulting ruminations, as Kerouac takes us to Denver and San Francisco, and back out to New York and down to North Carolina, back up again, and then down through Louisiana back up to San Francisco, New York again and finally through Texas to damp and sexy San Antonio before shooting through "biblical" Mexico, now gone, too.

Even the "normal" people in this frantic tome, those with wives and jobs they stick with are not like us anymore, working on ships and in factories as they do, residing in company towns and city centers.

The Scroll is a sweeping panorama of America and of thought beaten out on teletype paper by a guy on speed; maybe drug speed, maybe coffee, but probably something else that burned out of Kerouac like heavy kerosene and which caused his death when the last vapors rose from his being and poofed into the dusty firmament.

It has politics without the jeremiads and program points, just whole manifestoes in a masterful word-stroke such as "sullen unions," a flavor and entire reality nailed to the mind's wall.

"The American police are involved in psychological warfare against those Americans who don't frighten them with imposing papers and threats. There's no defense. Poor people have their lives interfered with ad infinitum by these neurotic busybodies. It's a Victorian police force; it peers out of musty windows and wants to inquire about everything, and can make crimes if the crimes don't exist to their satisfaction."

It is loving landscape portraiture as in this passage laid down about Neal, his "whore wife" Luanne (meant here as flattery), and Jack's departure from New Orleans:

"Port Allen -- Poor Allen -- where the river's all rain and roses in a misty pinpoint darkness and where we swung around a circular drive in yellow foglight and suddenly saw the great black body below a bridge and crossed eternity again. What is the Mississippi River -- a washed clod in the rainy night, a soft plopping from drooping Missouri banks, a dissolving, a riding of the tide down the eternal waterbed, a contribution to brown foams, a voyaging past endless vales and trees and levees down, down along, down along, by Memphis, Greenville, Eudora, Vicksburg, Natchez, Port Allen, and Port Orleans and Point of the Deltas, by Venice and the Night's Great Gulf out. So the stars shine warm in the Gulf of Mexico at night. From the soft and thunderous Carib comes electricity, and from the continental Divide where rain and rivers are decided come swirls, and the little raindrop that in Dakota fell and gathered mud and roses rises resurrected from the sea and flies on back to go and bloom again in waving mells of the Mississippi's bed, and lives again."

The passage lies almost exactly at the book's midpoint; stands as strong backbone to all the word swirling before and after, a fine spine, like the Mississippi in its marriage with the landscape.

Everywhere lively applications, symbols, poetry pulled from the very map that is America, multiple magic in Missouri and Mississippi, no invention with Port Orleans and Point of the Deltas, by Potash, and Venice, just the natural ordering of an evident and obvious song about the land itself.

Early on in this passage the prose become unnecessary, the point made, ripe for a Sixth Avenue editor's pen. But gripped by the author's sweaty hand, we are yanked along, pointed here and there on the keyboard toward ecstatic sites he has taken the time to see for us.

Can the Carib be both soft and thunderous? Does the oscillation between them make electricity? On paper it does. Is there such a thing as a mell or does his lazy resort to something that sings make it go down so much easier, and isn't that part of the job?

Mell is a swell on the Mississippi and we know that, even if we didn't before.

It is not easy to sift through all the postmodern swill that has come after and still be awed at the pure audacity of Kerouac; the audacity to make up words, to appear at his New York editor's office sweating and stinking of chemical ooze with a manuscript written on 120 feet of rolled paper demanding respect of The Scroll as if it were plumbed from Dead Sea depths.

So goes it with the aspiring philosopher whom, even if he is a bum, still philosophizes for all of us and not just for those of high brow and intentions:

"death will overtake us before heaven. The one thing that we yearn for in our living days, that makes us sigh and groan and undergo sweet nauseas of all kinds, is the remembrance of some lost bliss that was probably experienced in the womb and can only be reproduced -- tho we hate to admit it -- in death. But who wants to die. More of this later."

Beyond bum philosophy or travel writing The Scroll renders social commentary still relevant today:

"On the sidewalk characters swarmed. Everybody was looking at everybody else. It was the end of the continent no more land. Somebody had tipped America like a pinball machine and all the goofballs had come rolling to LA in the southwest corner. I cried for all of us. There was no end to the American sadness and the American madness. Someday we'll all start laughing and roll on the ground when we realize how funny it's been. Until then there is a lugubrious seriousness I love in all of this."

There's that "end of the continent" bit while "sadness and madness" appear elsewhere in a vignette of Kerouac's entitled "October In the Railroad Earth," as "end of the land sadness end of the land gladness" not precisely alike, but essentially the same literary trick.

Yet if you're hip to all of this, if you can dig it and know time, then it's not lack of imagination so much as your favorite band playing the same songs at a second show. And Kerouac likened his writing to "blowing," which is what the trumpeters and saxophoners of his time did, in fact, do.

And then there's Neal; stripped of Dean Moriarity's mask and draped in a legend Cassady came to embody for three generations of misspent youths, stealing four cars at a roadhouse party outside Denver, denied entry into the homes of kith and kin alike, boy to his father's bum and disappeared dad, wrangler, brakeman, seducer of everybody else's girlfriends (and boyfriends), absentee father himself.

Says "Naked Lunch" author William Burroughs of Cassady when they visit him in the Louisiana swamps, "He seems to be headed for his ideal fate, which is compulsive psychosis dashed with a jigger of psychopathic irresponsibility and violence."

Pretty smart fellow Bill Burroughs, as were they all, in spite of their nasty habits.

Cassady floats free of all preconceived notions regarding expected behavior, free of the bars others attempt to bind him with through holy judgments...part-time N.Y. hipster and happy pervert to Kerouac's ambiguous French-Catholic curiosities.

"He lived with Diane in a coldwater flat in the East Seventies. When he came home at night he took off all his clothes and put on a hiplength Chinese silk jacket and sat in his easy chair to smoke a waterpipe loaded with tea. These were his coming-home pleasures: together with a deck of dirty cards. 'Lately I've been concentrating on this deuce of diamonds. Have you noticed where her other hand is? I'll bet you can't tell. Look long and try to see.' He wanted to lend me this deuce of diamonds, which depicted a tall mournful fellow and a lascivious sad whore on a bed trying a position. 'Go ahead man, I've used it many times!'"

Drunken romantics bound early to your graves. Who should purchase your peddlings? A dank Detroit theater is no palace at 4 a.m. and an alley is an alley is an alley in the crappy part of a marginal Texas town. Or is it? Throwing down your challenge, your example was enjoyment. "Man can you dig the beauty and kicks!"

"We wandered out and negotiated several dark mysterious blocks. Innumerable houses hid behind verdant almost jungle-like yards we saw glimpses of girls in front rooms, girls on porches, girls in the bushes with boys. "I never knew this mad San Antonio! Think what Mexico'll be like. Lessgo! Lessgo!"

Yet for all its ebullience, "On the Road" is but a marginally successful search for joy that, at bottom, asserts something is not right in these sojourners nor in the America which spawned them.

"Looking at snapshots of Cassady's children," Kerouac writes, "I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth and well-ordered lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness of the riot, or our actual lives, our actual night, the hell of it, the senseless nightmare road. Juices inform the world, children never know."

Nightmare and dream sit on different sides of the same coin and to know one, you must be familiar with the other.

The extension of the Mexico trip, trimmed to a classical dénouement in the edited version, renders the American break with an organic world wrought by the big bomb drops on Japan.

It is mentioned vaguely, as if to do so more emphatically might conjure another nuclear massacre, but in this passage we hear it and understand that, for all their rebellion and dissociation, the roadgoers are tainted by food from the same poisoned factory farm.

The indigenous peoples they saw, "knew who was the father and who was the son of antique life on earth, and made no comment. For when destruction comes to the world people will stare with the same eyes from the caves of Mexico as well as from the caves of Bali, where it all began and where Adam was suckled and taught to know."

Jack and Neal and the third wheel rolling with them are no heroes. They are car escapees from the psychic slaughter unleashed in their homeland, a sudden clanking folly from America with its three broken bozos inside. And the choice has been the same for half a century now: to be with them or against them.

Lead the way you lost and lonely bozos.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hillbert Clintphrey

Hillary Clinton is not Hubert Humphrey, and 2008 is not 1968.

Or is she? And is it?

An article about the Democratic Party's presidential primary delegate count in the "New York Times," makes clear that Sen. Barack Obama's lead in that category will be tough for Hillary's campaign to erase. And that is mostly because where he has won, it has been a trouncing of 20 percentage points or more and pulled the lion's share of delegates.

Whereas, her much trumpeted, but slim, victories in places like New Hampshire and Nevada resulted in an equal take for both candidates.

As such, the article reads, "Mrs. Clinton's advisers also made it clear that they were prepared to take a number of potentially incendiary steps to build up Mrs. Clinton's count. Top among these, her aides said, is pressing Democrats to seat the disputed delegations from Florida and Michigan, who held their primaries in January in defiance of Democratic Party rules."

Which, we dare say, smacks of desperation and somewhat beneath a candidate promising a break from the old ways of doing politics.

Julian Bond, president, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, has asked the party's Chair Howard Dean to do as she wishes or risk disenfranchising minority voters.

That's going to be a tough sell because the guy with everything to lose, let's emphasize everything (again), is, well, an African-American who is pulling in millions of other African-Americans as supporters.

On another, equally undemocratic, front Sen. Clinton would be happy to take the nomination from the actual vote winner by currying favor with party functionaries known as "superdelegates," which you've all read much about.

She must do this because she is, what's the word here? Losing.

Another article in the same edition of the "New York Times," explains how Ms. Clinton's wins in New Hampshire, California, and New Jersey broke the bank and left the campaign "flat-footed."

With all the talk about Texas and Ohio being friendlier territory for the New York senator, scribes Patrick Healy and Katharine Seelye ask, "So why is she just opening campaign field offices across those states?"

After being told there were insufficient funds to bankroll a mailer he wanted to send in support of Clinton, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell (D) had a fair answer: "It sure didn't look like they had a game plan after Super Tuesday."

But Obama did.

Here's an article from the "L.A. Times," detailing how his claims of a true "bottom up" movement aren't mere pap. How by simply clicking here, millions of small donors have been dropping $10 or $20 into his kitty as things roll along, whereas Clinton's larger contributors have already hit the cap on giving.

All of which has paid dividends in states like Virginia and Maryland where the "Washington Post" said Obama, "showed his campaign's success in turning out voters and broadening his formidable coalition of supporters in the week since Super Tuesday."

The article observes that 400,000 more people came to the polls than expected in the Old Dominion. And we know who they came for because we know who won Virginia.

The Illinois senator, it reported, was the first candidate from either party to get on the ballot in that state with signatures gathered by volunteers that other campaigns paid people to round up.

Larry Byrne, a Clinton adviser in Virginia, told Tim Craig and Bill Turque, "I don't know how you look at it other than to say, he did an amazing job of getting people organized."

Of course, anyone who has read "Dreams of My Father," knows that "community organizer" in Chicago was Obama's first job, and he is showing the "substance" of his remarkable candidacy by running rings around a vaunted political machine.

It was the same in Washington D.C. where Clinton supporter and Democratic ward heeler Thomas Smith said, "Frankly, what I really think is that the Clinton strategy was really wrong."

The Clinton team, "assembled a who's who of supporters - five seated D.C. council members, at least five former council members and a host of the city's Democratic elite - to endorse her or work on her steering committee, Smith said."

Which explains the Clintons' emphasis on superdelegates or, in other words, their friends in the Democratic Party.

In an e-mail sent out on Tuesday, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass), said Obama's sweep, "blew me away: in Barack's victory in Virginia last night, he won 142,000 more votes than all of the Republicans combined, and his victory margin over Senator Clinton was larger than McCain's entire vote total."

Which brings us to our point here.

If Sen. Clinton loses to Mr. Obama in total popular vote and delegates, and then moves to sway superdelegates into contravening the will of party voters, while simultaneously seeking to seat delegates nobody truly campaigned for, there will be hell to pay.


The uproar among this veritable tidal wave of enthusiastic and often new voters will be tough to ignore, and Hillary will neither be able to portray herself as an agent of change, nor count upon the party to coalesce around her once the nomination is stolen, er, secured.

This is not 1968, when a brokered convention put a booby-prize of Hubert Humphrey on the ballot while the cops smashed Sen. Gene McCarthy's campaign headquarters to smithereens, and clubbed protestors in the streets of Chicago.

But it could be.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Attack of the Ironists

If ripe supporters have not yet caught up to the phenomenon of Obama and become voters, our ever- present commentariat is feeling about for the pulse and begun the dissection.

The "L.A. Times'" Joel Stein, is ambivalent, which is perhaps the most responsible posture at this point. Obama has done nothing to deserve an outright discrediting. He has his message and he is truly singing it.

"You are embarrassing yourselves," writes Stein. "With your "Yes We Can" music video, your "Fired Up, Ready to Go" song, your endless chatter about how he's the first one to inspire you, to make you really feel something..."

He says Obamaphilia has "gotten creepy," but in the end can't bring himself to resist.

"All of this is clear to me, and yet I have fallen victim.".

At the "New York Times," David Brooks has "Questions for Doctor Retail," which labored much to put the Billary and Barack candidacies in categories; she somehow for the stupid, but hard working bunch; Obama for the people with enough economic security to go in for a more fulfilling politics.

But this is too easy as this article in the "Washington Post," entitled "Divided Democrats," makes clear. White women and Latinas vote for Obama, too, and there are black men who support Hillary.

Curiously, Obama has talked these folks into a corner with a rhetoric that bemoans their tendency to easily break a nation into demographic fractions and, more importantly, by sensing the resentment of people to be rendered rats in a pollster's maze.

By winning with that message.

The "Yes We Can" musical mash-up they mock as touch-feely and emotional anticipates the criticism:

"We have been told," says the candidate, "that we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics. They will only grow louder and more dissonant. We've been asked to pause for a reality check. We have been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America there has never been anything false about hope."

Brooks and Stein are part of something that was supposed to have died after 9/11; but we were in mourning at that time and doing stupid things like passing The Patriot Act, waterboarding and predicting the end of irony.

These and other writers are, intelligent folks, doing their job of vetting large storms on the demographic radar. They have deemed intelligence as something estranged from a politics of poetic conception. Politics that does not lean upon Ms. Clinton's "program/policy for every problem" approach.

But the marriage of intelligence and poetry is not unreal, only uncommon. It represents the best in us and cannot be pulled off by just anyone. It doesn't appear in succeeding generations, rather once in a true and blue moon.

"Sidewalk Smokers" Reviewed

Tough to get off Obama-juice. This blog's numbers, especially at the My Space edition, go through the roof when we cover the phenomenon of that particular candidacy, but we must mix it up a little so...

..below is a review for the scribe's novel, "The Sidewalk Smokers Club," by Readers View. highwayscribery doesn't know much about the outfit or what they do; only that the book was entered into a contest and got the review as a result. Contest news is still pending.

An eclectic, eccentric group of mostly underachievers finds themselves bonding with each other while they are banished, by smoking laws, to smoking outside on the sidewalk. There are times in story where it seems like the right to smoke is more important to this group than their actual desire to smoke. They first begin to congregate outside of one restaurant in particular. The group savors the times when restaurants actually allow them to smoke inside.

On their own, they haven't accomplished much. There is an attractive lesbian, who still seems like she hasn't fully decided. One couple is struggling to keep up with living the American dream. A beautiful woman who modeled nude and pretends to regret it, finds herself the object of many fantasies, by both men and women. One man keeps himself underemployed. Another, who seems to be totally unemployed, calls himself a "Bum Philosopher." This was a new term to me. He describes bum philosophy as: "The things that are known by all, but must be said simply because the mundane truths beg repeating to each new generation." He and some of the others unite to create more bum philosophies. These ideas were very entertaining.

As the group bonds over the right to smoke issue, they also take on other issues that individuals in the group are facing. They seem to mainly do this to empower themselves. As a united front, they are getting attention. Some relationships unite, and some divide in this story. As The Sidewalk Smokers Club fight for their causes, they also find their strengths.

Stephen Siciliano has written an incredibly entertaining story. He brings each character to life and whether you like them or not, you take notice and usually laugh. Making the characters seems so real, you feel more like a fly on the wall watching the scenes play themselves out, rather than just being reader. The imperfections of the characters seems so real, you feel more like a fly on the wall watching the scenes play themselves out, rather than just being a reader. The imperfections of the characters are what make them seem so real. Most of their actions are based on selfish, self-serving purposes. They might think that they are acting for the group, but in many cases, the expected result is for themselves. "The Sidewalk Smokers Club" is an intelligently written gem of a novel, even to an unsympathetic. non-smoker like myself.

Paige Lovitt

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Super Tuesday Redux

Senator Obama held his own for a guy runnning an "insurgent" campaign.

We've been told his "surge," fell short, but nobody from Obama's team said the spectacle of packed and raucous rallies would equate with sweeping away the Clinton machine.

The media drink their own Kool-aid way too often. They are the ones who should know better, but then get drunk on it.

Naturally Obama declared it an "extraordinary night," but the real revelations came from the Clinton camp with news the former first couple had to loan the Hillary campaign $5 million, suggesting things are a little more shaky than they would like the country to believe.

Public life, it would seem, has been good to the Clintons.

Then there is Sen. Clinton's press conference claim, "We wanted to be competitive and we were."

A number of weeks ago Super Tuesday was to be a coronation. She still has many strengths and advantages, but clearly Obama has put an end to any claims of inevitability.

Now, Obama has more money as the primary season swings into states the punditry have claimed favor him.

Don't be fooled.

The Obama campaign could not have expected more from the first "national primary" of its kind. The strategy of holding exciting rallies in small states rather than trying to take on big-time machines with an overpriced war of commercials appears to have paid dividends.

It is hard to argue against the idea that Obama's trajectory is upward and Clinton's down, even if she's slipping gamely.

George Will has written an excellent article about the impact of advanced voting on the Obama candidacy.

He notes that Obama actually did better than Clinton where votes cast on Tuesday alone are concerned. Those who voted early "in a rush to judgement" he said, now feel like "ninnies" for having missed a chance to join the apparent surge - the expectation of which, Will added, also dampened the response to his excellent showing.

Our unscientific methods out here in California provided highwayscribery with anecdotal evidence of people who were "bummed" they'd voted early.

But there is now more, if not tons of, time for folks to join Obama and avoid the backward step of putting Billary back in charge of the Democratic Party.

A comment on the post below from Spain seems to put it better than all than hours of expert commentary on Obama phenomenon.

"Looks like it can still happen."

Monday, February 04, 2008

highwayscribery on Super Tuesday

Barack Obama gave highwayscribery something to do again.

This Web log was launched as outlet for frustration at our national acquiescence before Bush administration travesties.

For almost three years highwayscribery peppered poems and literature around rants against the criminal administration, until others caught up.

And then the blog went silent in November. The pyrrhic victory which saw the administration rendered history's worst, brought no reward other than having been right about something that was terribly wrong.

Now there was a mess to clean up and highwayscribery, whatever its virtues, was in no position to handle that job.

At the same time, in that hopelessness like-minded people were feeling, Sen. Barack Obama's walk through Iowa began to take on a resonance. His word began to catch-on in that strangest of places for an African-American to try his fortune.

Today, Rudy Giuliani, who knew he'd never fly in that Midwestern bastion of homespun values, is out, his attempt at niche-marketing a presidential campaign dead. And another guy who had every reason to believe the same about his road show has gone national, threatening to overturn the candidacy of a former president's wife, with a celebrity all her own.

Barack Obama has made the highway scribe feel like a kid again. Willing to embarrass himself once more. Game for getting behind someone and taking the hits as the years in power unspool. Ready to be soiled by the dirty business of trying to make our world clean.

In a lovely Op-ed, "Obama vs. the Phobocracy," Michael Chabon, author of "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay," (which we read and loved) and more recenty, "The Yiddish Policemen' s Union" (which we haven't) has expressed the same willingness to stare down the cynics who will be right, in their sad way, but wrong because of their reasons.

Chabon places the tragedy of our country not on George W. Bush, but upon ourselves for letting in the "serpents and liars," for exchanging our "shining ideals for a handful of nails and some two-by-fours," for submitting to our fears.

The most pitiable fear of all, he wrote, "is the fear of disappointment, of having our hearts broken and our hopes dashed by this radiant, humane politician who seems not just with his words, but with every step he takes, simply by the fact of his running at all, to promise so much for our country, for our future and for the eventual state of our national soul. I say 'pitiable' because this fear of disappointment, which I hear underlying so many of the doubts that people express to me, is ultimately a fear of finding out the truth about ourselves and the extent of the mess that we have gotten ourselves into. If we do fight for Obama, work for him, believe in him, vote for him, and the man goes down to defeat by the big-money machines and the merchants of fear, then what hope will we have left to hold on to?"

Which is the only point worth arguing here.

Of Obama's qualifications we might add that there is nothing "inexperienced" about being 46-years-old. Your elders begin to lean on you and your children clamor for answers and resources, while your body begins its betrayal.

Obama has spurred the glacial pace of this scribe' s maturity. Made it okay to look at a man his very age and admit he is made of better stuff, built sturdier, blessed with a quicker mind. Made it a thrill, rather than some kind of self-pitying defeat.

We do not "endorse" Obama under the pretense that highwayscribery has influence as a media outlet.

Instead we lend our voice to swelling numbers who in recent days have decided in favor of this, to quote Chabon again, "at once brilliant and sensible, vibrant and measured, engaged and engaging, talented, forthright, quick-witted, passionate, thoughtful and, as will all remarkable people experience has taught both the extent and the bitter limits of their gifts, reasonably humble," candidate.

We ask you to put aside your gender, your loyalty to union, philosophy, institution, party, and even your country in making a vote for your own tremendous and endangered world.

If you live and plan to vote in one of the "Super Tuesday" primary states, we ask you to grow your country, to tend an olive branch to the world and, rather than follow Obama blindly, vote as a marker on your expectations of him.

The challenge is not to vote for the senator and pat him "fare thee well" on the back and off to Washington. It is to stand by Obama for the duration of his fight, to help him bend the will of the dead souls who have made a nest of the people's house.

Can we do that together? Obama says "Yes we can" (to music.)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Dyed-in-the-Wool Red Dies: Milt Wolff

Milt Wolff is the second American veteran of the Spanish Civil War we have had to bury in a very short time.

In August,
Moe Fishman died and only the gods neither of them believed in know if the passing of one led to the passing of the other.

Wolff died about two weeks ago, but we're focusing on him now simply to extend his stay on earth a few days longer, although naturally, he lives on through the impact of his actions and activism.

The Spanish Civil War lasted only three years (1936-39) and Wolff lived for 92 busy ones, but his time with the Abraham Lincoln Brigades as a commander in the crushing defeats of La Republica at Brunete and elsewhere are the reason we know of, and care about, him.

All the elements of a well-deserved legend are there: his fighting on Hill 666 in the Sierra de Pandols, the acquaintance with Ernest Hemingway who called Wolff, "as brave and as good a soldier as any that commanded battalions at Gettysburg."

That last quote was cribbed from an obituary by Douglas Martin at the "New York Times," which will give you some idea of the esteem in which Milt Wolff was held, in spite of his being a dyed-in-wool "Red."

According to that piece, Wolff's was the typical pedigree of a '30s radical. Born in Bensonhurst (Brooklyn) in 1915, he quit high school to join Roosevelt's (Franklin, that is) Civilian Conservation Corps, and lost that gig for complaining about how an injured friend was treated.

He worked in Manhattan's garment district and joined the Young Communist League, which was a very good way of ending up behind a machine gun in Spain, whether you considered yourself a pacifist, as Wolff did, or not.

The bloodshed being what it was, especially for the good guys, Wolff found himself promoted early and often and rose to the rank of commander in the final, agonizing months for the Republican army.

The famed Robert Capa shot a picture of him with Hemingway, which, according to "The Times," was the first time Wolff's mother knew where he was.

Spicing up the account was the fact Wolff had stole "Papa's" mistress, and the famed scribe didn't even mind.

"Activism is the elixir of life," Wolff liked to say.

And it was at least true for him.

In the "Berkeley Daily Planet," Richard Bermack had still more to relate: "To have lunch with him was to take a journey through history. And it wasn't so much his retelling of Spanish Civil War adventures, but his tales of a time when actions had meaning and taking a stand against injustice was clear cut. Wolff radiated a sense of purpose that was contagious."

Call us romantics, but we long for that world and work, in our small way, to make it current by remembering people like Wolff and Fishman.

On top of his life-long work to keep the memory of the Abraham Lincoln Brigadiers alive, Wolff fought the victorious Franco regime until it gave way to Spanish democracy, fought alongside anti-Fascist partisans in Italy during World War II, and took many whacks at the U.S. war in Viet Nam.

He is the author of "Another Hill," "A Member of the Working Class," and "The Premature Antifascist."

A memorial will take place on March 29. For information on that go to

Hasta la vista companyero!

Friday, February 01, 2008

"There's Somethin' Happenin' Here..." (Part II)

Almost every evening, ABC's "Nightline" covers the presidential race.

Journalists love the presidential primaries, because they are real news that most everybody but the deepest cynics (and they're watching, too) are interested in.

An easy sell.

The President of the United States plays are a large role in all our lives and during the quadrennial sweepstakes we think of ourselves as a united country when, let's face it, the rest of the time we're just in the way of each other's ambition.

True, the contests are disparate, held in distinct states. This week Iowa, next week New Hampshire, and after that South Carolina...places that don't generate headlines on most days, but where they are read perpetually.

Somehow out from all of this arises a national consensus and, in recent cycles, a strong counter-consensus that sets the tone for who we are and the battles that will occupy what has been two Americas for quite some time.

Sometimes the result is false representation, a burp at the end of a big meal. Remember the hoopla over the Christian, "values" voters...the big trend for the future?

Off the radar.

That's what today's piece is about. John McCain, a marginalized Rush Limbaugh and a diminished conservative movement.

Sure, highwayscribery's stock in trade is parsing Democratic sentiments and prospects, but McCain's odd surfacing as frontrunner of the GOP is somehow a part of the same thing.

Remember Huckabee? He has the evangelical vote in his pocket and that might be a ticket to the vice presidency...and little else.

highwayscribery has always likened McCain's career to that of the oldest profession, selling his influence to the interest that best advances his interest, passing it off as bipartisanship, and the country be damned.

But conservatives are apoplectic. Ann Coulter said on Fox News she'd vote for Hillary Clinton before the Vietnam vet.

What's going on here?

Simple. The country has turned left.

The bad news, of course, is that's because everyone's scared to death and know full well we've got a class of rich folks deep in number and pockets, and the contrast grates. Foreclosure as a daily story is, well, a bad story. Gas is up and whatever goods it takes gas to transport has gone in the same direction.

Which is to say, everything.

And if you've been purchasing all that pap about Iraq being replaced by the economy as the top concern of voters, think about how this much money, spent in Iraq might effect your economy.

All of this has rendered the fabled conservative forces of these past 20 years as relevant to the mainstream as Jesse Jackson circa 1984; just powerful enough to pull his party apart.

And a party in parts is a party apart.