Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death: May 2008

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Ice Cream Economics

Gas isn't the only thing going up in price. I was in the grocery store tonight, and I confirmed a trend I've been noticing recently. Ice cream containers are getting smaller. It used to be that you could get a half gallon of ice cream, a full two quarts. A few years ago, they scaled back to less than that, one-and-three-quarters (or 1.75 for all the numeracists in the readership). I didn't notice the actual transition, so I can't say precisely how long they stayed at that level. But they're now going down to cartons that are only one-and-a-half quarts in size. I've been noticing it in Edy's (which is called Dreyer's on the west coast) special limited edition flavors, but tonight I saw that the regular flavors are shrinking, too. It's actually not hard to catch. Edy's packages its ice cream in thick tubes, so they don't have many options in how to hide the shrinking volume. Perhaps valiantly, they seem to have taken the hit in the height. The one-and-a-half quart cartons are simply about three-quarters of an inch shorter. It's recognizable on its own, but if the new size is packaged next to the old size (and I saw a fair amount of that tonight), there's no way you can fail to notice the difference. I also checked to see what was up with Breyer's, and they're doing the same thing. Breyer's cartons are more rectangular, and so they've got a bit more ability to hide the loss of volume. If you look at the carton straight on, there's not really much to notice. But turn the carton to the side, and its considerably thinner from front to back. When it comes down to it, I guess you just can't hide a shrinkage of 15 percent or so. And like Edy's, there were more one-and-a-half quart packages than one-and-three-quarter quarts. Within a month, I predict, the one-and-three-quarter size will have been phased out altogether.

Oh, and no, they're not dropping the price to match the new size. What are you, crazy?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Gas Woes

I haven't really done a lot of complaining about gas prices on the blog, so I guess it's about time. Is anybody else having as much trouble as I am keeping track of what I should be paying to fill my car? There's one place on the way to work that's been the cheapest I've seen for a couple of days. In fact, they're said to be the cheapest in the area on the handy gas map (thanks, Stu!). You need to pay cash to get their lowest price, but this morning (and on the map), their price was $4.04. They've been up and down, though, and last week they were $4.20. The map's out of date already! There's another place that's not far away but that I don't go by terribly often, and they've been consistently a bit below everywhere else (although, I'm fully aware that we're only talking pennies per gallon). The last time I bought gas, they were still below $4.00. So tonight I needed to fill up, and I went by there to see what price they've got now. They were at $4.10 (The map had them at $4.14). I had some cash in my pocket, so I figured that I'd go to the lower place and fill up as much as I could afford. Unfortunately, when I drove by this morning, they were up to $4.16. Anywhere else I saw was over $4.20. I ended up being too fed up and didn't stop anywhere to fill up. That means I'll have to stop somewhere tomorrow on the way to work.

I understand that gas, like all other commodities, has fluctuations, goes up and down. But a 12-cent jump in so many hours? And does that mean every other gas station is going to rise accordingly? (Why, yes, it does). We've got a Volkswagen Jetta, not the largest car out there on the road. But I've got a feeling that tomorrow will be a momentous day. So far I've been able to hold my costs down below $50.00 for a tank of gas. Depending on how close I am to running on fumes, my streak (and it's been a lifelong streak, by the way) may be coming to an end.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

From the You Could See That Coming Dept.

Not that I expected it would, but it didn't take long to get an answer to last night's question: Yes.

Former Bush press flack Scott McClellan made his choice to burn his bridges with the Bush administration, and the Bush administration has seemed to have no problem today burning any bridges they might still have with McClellan. The current press flack Dana Perino, issued a statement this morning:

Scott, we now know, is disgruntled about his experience at the White House. For those of us who fully supported him, before, during and after he was press secretary, we are puzzled. It is sad -- this is not the Scott we knew.

That sort of set a trend. Nobody could recognize the "new" Scott McClellan. Bush was "puzzled," not recognizing his former aide. Karl Rove, on Hannity & Colmes, had two things to say about it:

/First of all, this doesn't sound like Scott. It really doesn't. Not the Scott McClellan I've known for a long time. Second of all, it sounds like somebody else.

Who knows. Maybe all will be forgiven if it turns out this isn't even McClellan after all. It could just all be a case of mistaken identity.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Will the Bushies Shoot the Messenger?

I thought for sure that I'd made some sort of note last November when Scott McClellan came out for air and implicated Bush in the Valerie Plame mess as a teaser for his book due out this spring. I guess maybe it was just a mental note that never made it down into hot pixels. It was undoubtedly a tease to get people talking about the former press secretary's memoir, and it was targeted directly toward drumming up sales in the new year. I recall that there was a lot of talk not to get our hopes up, that although McClellan might make a couple of strong statements, he wasn't really going to bite the hand that fed him for so many years.

Well, in case you haven't noticed, it's spring now, and McClellan's book is on its way to the retail outlets (unless it's already arrived). Apparently he took stock of what it would take to regain his credibility for any future endeavors, and he started chomping on that hand. Politico reports that McClellan's publishers are making the book available to reporters but requesting an embargo until Sunday. It was easy for them to refuse to take part in that deal when they knew they could just go buy a copy from a local bookstore that already had them on sale. While Bush himself doesn't seem get the brunt of McClellan's anger, he's got plenty to pass around elsewhere. He's not at all pleased that he was used as a patsy to get completely false information--particularly on the Plame affair--out to the press and the public. In fact, that may be the crux of the whole problem. Instead of being allowed into the inner sanctum, McClellan was just one more insignificant cog in the machine, his gullibility one more weapon in the arsenal of Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, and whoever else McClellan believes were the powers behind the throne.

There's not really any content here that's terribly surprising in and of itself. What's surprising is that McClellan's saying it at all. Link through for a handful of juicy details, but even more, get ready for the floodgates to open on Bush administration tell-alls by the players of the last eight years who've suddenly realized they'd like to be respected and work again in Washington afer all. What will really be interesting is to see what kind of push back we see from the White House.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Why We Love Mike

In an extremely long (and yet somehow entertaining) live blog on the Libertarian nominating process, David Weigel (via Matt Yglesias) quotes from Mike Gravel's nomination speech:

The American people are smarter than their leaders: They just don't know it yet!

That's at 11:48 in Weigel's entry if you want the context.

Bye-bye, Mike. We'll miss you.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Enjoy Your Memorial Day

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Bye-Bye, Mike!

Alas, the end has arrived for Mike Gravel. He was aiming for the Libertarian nomination for president, but he only lasted until the fourth ballot. After two more ballots, former Republican Congressman Bob Barr won the prize. Gravel has given us much entertainment through the campaign, it will be too bad to see him go.

But meanwhile, now we've got Bob Barr, a known quantity, on a bona fide ticket. But although people have heard of the Libertarians, they rarely vote for them. According to Wikepedia (I know), the Libertarian ticket has only managed to make more than 1 percent a grand total of one time (and that just barely). Barr's promising to make this a real race, but he'll need to be polling 15 percent to wrangle an invitation to any of the debates. Will he be able to have an effect on the race? You don't need a lot to make a difference, I guess. Nader only got about 2.5 percent in 2000, but I suppose it was the right 2.5 percent. Barr's promising to make a strong run, and various Democrats and Republicans are making sounds that they don't like the figure at the top of their tickets (or presumed to be at the top, as the case may be), so will Barr be able to poach some votes there? It'll be worth watching.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Not a Good Time to Be a Republican

So it seems that Karl Rove's plan for Republican ascendancy wasn't quite as foolproof as advertised. We've noted a couple of times that Democrats are winning Congressional races in traditional Republican districts, but now it seems like Republican travails are extending to raising money. If trends continue, McCain is going to have financial problems in the fall, but the most recent manifestation is the reorganization of what was to be a significant joint fundraiser featuring Bush and McCain in Phoenix on Tuesday. This is McCain's back yard, so it probably made sense to think big and book the Phoenix Convention Center. Unfortunately, it seems that they weren't selling enough tickets for a space that size. How many tickets were they able to secure? Nobody's talking, of course, and those kinds of numbers are never made public. But according to Politico, they've moved the event from the convention center to a private home. Now, presumably a number of McCain supporters have large houses--mansions, even--that can hold a lot of people. But how many are anywhere close to the size of a convention center? This is a trend that will bear watching.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Shouldering Her Way Back In

We should be talking about John McCain and, among other things, his definition of transparency, which seems to consist of allowing a small, select group of reporters to review more than a thousand pages of his medical records (taking notes but not copies of anything) in three hours and then tell the rest of the world what they found. No, I'm not overstating. Michael Scherer wrote: "The campaign is billing the event as an unprecedented, transparent look at McCain's medical records since his 2000 diagnosis with type IIa melanoma." Not that it should be a surprise at this point, but that's what straight talk has been reduced to in this campaign.

Yes, we should be talking about this kind of stuff, but Hillary keeps reinserting herself into the limelight, this time by invoking the assassination of a presidential candidate. Oh sure, she's got room to say that talking about Bobby Kennedy's murder after the California primary in June 1968 to remind us that primaries sometimes last that long, and that's a forceful image to reinforce her argument--who can forget the drama of June primaries? I even half believe her on that count, but even the best spin this can take leaves her portrayed as politically tone deaf. The New York Times reports: "Campaign aides were taken aback by the quick reaction to her remarks." Maybe that's true, but if it is, it borders on political malpractice. How clued out are these guys? Of course, it's also inconsistent with what else we know about the candidate and her husband, particularly his legendary political acumen (which has, admittedly appeared to be missing on more than one occasion this political season).

I'm not as worried as some that Hillary will poison the well for Obama in the fall, because I believe that once she and her campaign call it a day and stop trying to threaten and cajole the Democratic party, this will be set aside fairly quickly as focus turns to the fall. But boy, it sure is getting to be annoying waiting for her to take her ball and go home.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

About the King

Just a quick post tonight. I mentioned this last night at Howling Curmudgeons, and I was always going to post it here, too, but it's taken me twenty-four hours. Something's got to let up soon.

Anyway, for those non-comics people in the audience, you may have heard of Jack Kirby anyway. His hands were involved in the creation of Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, The X-Men, the Silver Surfer, Thor (as a comics character), and multitudes of other characters that aren't quite as well known. There's a big new biography of him (and by big I mean "in size" just as much as "in importance"--it's 12.5" by 9.5") by Mark Evanier, who started out his own writing career as Kirby's assistant. It's called Kirby: King of Comics, and Evanier has been out doing the whole book promotion thing. Yesterday he was on Fresh Air, and if you didn't happen to hear it (I stumbled over it myself when I was in the car), you can catch up at this link. You can also read a little bit of the book. By the way, if you're interested in Kirby, Evanier maintains this book is a quick overview. The detailed magnum opus is still to come.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Decemberists About to Break HUGE!

I didn't mention anything about this on Sunday because I thought it was pretty well covered, but if you missed it, a crowd of 75,000 came out in Portland, Oregon, on Sunday to hear Obama speak. The New York Times had the story and a photo, and Ben Smith had a different photo. Pretty major stuff for a politician.

It turns out, though, that all those people weren't there to see Obama at all. It was just a big coincidence, because before Obama took the stage, his support act was the Decemberists! According to NewsBusters (via Atrios, here and here), they're huge rock stars. Rolling Stone said so! Unfortunately, although they may be major rock stars, the Decemberists aren't necessarily the best businesspeople around. Or, at least their promoters aren't. When they were in Chicago last, they played the Vic, which only holds about 1,400, for two nights. They should've been playing it for 50! Or the United Center for three!

Another odd twist to the situation is that Barack Obama may not even know who the Decemberists are. On his Website, he doesn't even announce that the Decemberists will be there. He just lists "Special Guest Performance by: Colin Meloy, Chris Funk, Jenny Conlee, Nate Query, and John Moen." Maybe he doesn't even know they're a group! Or maybe, the Decemberists have become such massive rock stars that the individual members have become household names! I knew I've been overwhelmed while on my deadline, but I had no idea. On a sad note, of course, Chicago will probably never have a chance to see the Decemberists in any venue smaller than Soldier Field. Ah, well. You deserve it, guys!

And if you're interested, you can get a pick of the candidate and the band at the Decemberists' Website. But you'll have to remind me--which ones are the rock stars?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Today's Politics

The news of Ted Kennedy's brain tumor put a pall on much of the election returns tonight, and both Obama and Hillary each gave him a shout out. There's not much to say about the situation, but I sure wouldn't mind if some of the commentators, particularly points out that he's a fighter, so let's give him some room to fight, shall we?

As expected, Hillary won decisively in Kentucky, and also as many expected, she took the opportunity to point out how she can win. Is there really any reason to point out that, no--she can't? She's claiming that she's received more primary votes than any other Democrat in history, although she's ignoring for the moment Barack Obama, who's got more than she does. Although she claims that she wants every vote cast and counted, her assertion that she's got the most votes only work if you don't count some of the ones that went for Obama (you don't have to trust me--Josh Marshall has some details.

In the meantime, of course, Obama has captured more than half of the total pledged delegates. He's in a position to be magnanimous, so he only made the claim that the nomination is "within reach," if having his hands around it can be considered "within reach." To her credit, Hillary was talking much more about lining up behind the Democratic nominee. As long as she's not being divisive, I see no reason why she can't let it play out another couple of weeks. Just a couple of weeks ago, I said that Hillary is in a position to have a career like Teddy Kennedy's, leading Senate Democrats into the 21st century, and it's no less true today than it was then. Now, more than ever, she needs to start demonstrating that leadership. Over the summer and into the fall, as she moves to a supporting role for the Democratic presidential ticket, she'll have the chance to show us what she's really made of.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Catching Up

Not much to talk about tonight. I'm on a killer work deadline at the moment (have been for quite some time and will be for another couple of weeks or so), but that didn't stop me and Mrs. Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk from slipping away for a weekend in Boston with some old friends. We walked and walked and walked, but we were able to mix the historical--seeing Paul Revere's graveyard, eating at the oldest continuously serving restaurant in the country, climbing Beacon Hill, visiting the state house with its statue of "Fighting" Joe Hooker, and enjoying somebody's idea of a joke with its General Hooker entrance (the elite ones no doubt have their own way in)--with contemporary pop culture--going by the Bull & Finch Pub, which served as the inspiration for Cheers (and which is now helpfully named "Cheers" so we're sure to get the connection) and walking past Denny Crane's office building on our way to dinner Saturday night. We probably should've made some sort of effort to locate the building from which Martin Sheen was thrown in The Departed, but you can't have time for everything. We flew Southwest, so that meant going in and out of Providence. On the way back to our plane, we stopped by Plymouth Rock (which is, unfortunately, closed for the season, but we got to see where it lives, anyway) and drove around the Rhode Island School of Design, which is where David met Chris and Tina. (A special tidbit for all the comics readers out there--did you know Walt Simonson was two years ahead of them at RISD? I didn't.)

Consequently, except for Teddy Kennedy's hospitalization in Boston over the weekend, I don't know what's going on. Have I missed anything? Did Obama withdraw to give Hillary the nomination she believes she so richly deserves? Did McCain go on Saturday Night Live to put a spotlight on just how old he is? What should I be watching for?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Mike Wallace Interviews

Mike Wallace turned 90 years old last week. His reputation as a rigorous and uncompromising interviewer on 60 Minutes is legendary, but that's not where he built that reputation. On radio and in the early days of television, he was a jack of all trades, acting, announcing, hosting game shows and morning shows. But he got started building his reputation as an tough interviewer in the '50s with Night Beat, a local show in New York, and then The Mike Wallace Interview on ABC. He'd talk to the various prominent people of the day, such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Margaret Sanger, Salvador Dali, Reinhold Niebuhr, and even Henry Kissinger when he was still at Harvard. A couple of months ago, the University of Texas put a number of these interviews online. They're fascinating, and it's interesting to see how confrontational he's willing to be. Although there are still interviewers willing to ask difficult questions, there aren't very many of them. Take a special look at how much Charlie Rose borrowed from the format.

If these intrigue you, there are more Wallace interviews available from other sources. Not too long ago, I happened upon one he did with Ayn Rand that's not included here. The ones that are here are fascinating enough for the time being that I haven't gone looking too far afield as yet.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sublime or Ridiculous?

Although I don't think the subject has ever come up on this blog, I'm not a particular fan of Bernie Taupin. Of all successful lyricists, he's got to be among the worst. He's cowritten huge songs, but many of them are lyrically awful. Although I understand what he's trying to do in "Your Song," he's amazingly heavy-handed, and my own personal bete noire is the overuse if the word quite--it's in the chorus and in two lines in a row in a later verse. Come on, you're a poet. Use a thesaurus! "Rocket Man" is also among his worst, particularly the second verse. Thus, it was a delight when, earlier this week, Mark Evanier posted a pretty good copy of William Shatner's cover of the song at 1978's Science Fiction Film Awards. Trust me, it's a match made in heaven. The audience deserves special notice for somehow holding straight faces through the whole thing. I'll also follow Evanier's lead and suggest that you follow that clip with one of Chris Elliott covering Shatner's cover. Have fun!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Cynical Days

I'm in a traveling mode this weekend, and this morning at the airport I saw the new Esquire, which features the apparent (if not yet universally acknowledged) Democratic nominee. But it also features a story by Charles Pierce that explores some interesting questions about the national situation this year. There's a lot that a new president needs to set right--authoritarianism, domestic spying, torture--you know the drill. Many of these developments have been accomplished with the at-least-tacit-approval and complicity of the American people. Can the American people, then, simply put these trends behind us and move in a new direction of change? And is that primarily what Obama is promising to deliver? Read about absolution, confession, and penance in this insightful and important piece. No, I don't think it's going to change the election, but it may help us realize what we need this election to accomplish.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Presidential Updates

Is the Prez annoyed that we're having an election without him? I don't know whether it's a plot or all just a big coincidence. On Tuesday, of course, as part of a wide-ranging interview with Politico, he pointed out that he's given up golf in solidarity with the families who have lost loved ones in Iraq. This has been pretty well covered, so I don't really have anything to add, except to also point out VetVoice, which points out that the no-golf sacrifice coincides with the Prez's knee damage. Well, if he's not going to play golf anyway, he may as well spin it as his contribution to the war effort.

But that, apparently wasn't enough. No, today he went to the Knesset to congratulate Israel on it's 60th anniversary and compare Obama to Nazi appeasers. He always knows the right sentiments for any occasion. There's plenty of discussion on the various blogs about that, too, but Joe Biden's response was particularly entertaining.

In a nice surprise, Chris Matthews even provided some must-see TV. Some LA rightwing radio talker was going on and on about Obama being an "appeaser," but Matthews calls him on it and asks him to identify precisely what Neville Chamberlain did that was so wrong. When he can't provide the answer, Matthews won't let it go and starts browbeating him. It's well worth the click through. Don't be surprised if you find yourself actually cheering Matthews on.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Do Cleese and Palin Get Royalties?

Dana Milbank is absolutely vicious in his column today on page 3 of The Washington Post. If you're going to steal, steal from the best, so he uses Monty Python's Dead Parrot Sketch to set the tone for his coverage of Hillary's West Virginia win yesterday. And he doesn't just allude to the sketch, as you might expect from his headline, "This Is an Ex-Candidate," or the caption for the accompanying photo of Hillary getting off a plane: "Hillary Clinton, pining for the Rose Garden." No, he reprints it wholesale, sprinkling it through the column so there's no missing the nuance, no forgetting the details.

As with all good comedy, there's some poignancy, too. He describes her triumphant arrival in Charleston, West Virginia:

A steep descent brings Clinton's plane to Charleston's hilltop airport. After an appropriate wait, she steps from the plane and pretends to wave to a crowd of supporters; in fact, she is waving to 10 photographers underneath the airplane's wing. She pretends to spot an old friend in the crowd, points and gives another wave; in fact, she is waving at an aide she had been talking with on the plane minutes earlier.

On the way into town, she makes an unscheduled stop at an upscale farmers market, but about 30 Clinton supporters, several wearing AFSCME T-shirts and waving Clinton campaign signs, have somehow gotten wind of it. Clinton works the crowd, signing autographs and making small talk ("Is that your dog?"). She makes her way past rows of geraniums and marigolds.

But even among the blooms, Clinton is reminded of her troubles. She stops at Ellen's Homemade Ice Cream and orders a scoop of espresso Oreo and a scoop of butter pecan. "Ooh, that looks good," she says after taking the confection, then pauses. "Now, let's see. Who's got my money?" asks the woman who has lent her campaign $11 million to keep it afloat. She laughs. "Where -- where'd they go, the people with my money?" Finally, two aides arrive to retire Clinton's dessert debt.

As long as she doesn't prolong the agony and throw herself into even larger mud pits, she'll be able to return to her respectable position in Washington, and this will be little more than a bad dream (although, at times, a fairly funny bad dream).

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Hillary Slams West Virginia (But There's Good News, Too)

As everyone pretty much predicted, Hillary took West Virginia by storm, winning the contest by more than 2-1 over Obama. She's trying to spin it as a major victory, and in truth, she may pick up 10, 11, maybe even 12 delegates on Obama. According to The New York Times count (as of this writing), that'll only put her 175 or so behind him. You know, that doesn't sound like such an impregnable number on its surface. But when there are only roughly 325-350 more delegates left to win, 175 is a pretty commanding lead. But when it comes down to it, I guess there's no real reason not to let Hillary bask in the false hope of tonight's victory. For an interesting take on why Hillary's done so well in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, take a look at what Josh Marshall's got to say about Appalachia.

I promised good news in the post (and I've already delivered if you're a Hillaryite, even though that "good news" will ultimately wither away to nothing). The Democrats picked up another House seat--this one in northern Mississippi, one of the most Republican districts in the country. The Prez took 62 percent of the vote to win it four years ago. That's the third special election in normally Republican Congressional districts the Democrats have taken so far this year. If I were a Republican, I'd be getting very, very concerned about what November might bring.

Monday, May 12, 2008

West Virginia: Setting Off the Hillary Rebound?

Surprise! There's no longer any calculus that moves in Hillary's favor, but she refuses to drop out of the race she's almost certain to lose (the almost is in case Obama gets caught in some of the weird weather that's been going around). Of course, it's no surprise at all. She's said that she'll fight all the way to the convention, and although I'm not so certain about that, I'd be very surprised if she left before the last primaries in Montana and South Dakota. But in case you haven't seen it, Obama's surpassed Hillary in superdelegates according to pretty much all measures: Associated Press, ABC News (which was the first to call it), CNN, and MSNBC. She's expected to win big in West Virginia (28 delegates are at stake!), and I'd expect she'd only do marginally less well there if she actually withdrew from the race. For the time being, it's more respectable for Obama to lose West Virginia by a hefty margin to someone who's still in the race than someone who's decided to sit it out. Will we see a Hillary landslide tomorrow? Maybe. Does it matter? No matter how much Hillary might will it to be a significant step forward in her quest, no it doesn't.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Or Did They?

I've always ranked Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love" as one of the all-time great rock songs. As a kid, I loved it before I even knew what it was (and although I knew fairly early on that it was by Cream, I called it by the wrong name for a number of years, until my cousin helpfully set me straight). But lately, it's been getting on my nerves. It provides the soundtrack (and although none of the vocals are featured, it sounds like the authentic Cream version) to a horrible commercial for a hair dye, Touch of Gray. I'm fine if people want to color their hair--what do I care when it comes down to it? People, especially as they're aging, should do whatever helps them feel comfortable (although I'm not as complacent when it starts edging toward major surgery). What bugs me about this commercial is its attitude. The opening line is: "The generation that swore it would never get old . . . didn't." Typical Boomer delusion. Of course they didn't get old. That's why they've got to color all the gray hair they don't have.

I don't know why this particular commercial annoys me so much, because it's not particularly worse than any other commercial out there. I've gotten used to pop songs being coopted by advertising, and it's not like they weren't being used for commerce when they were originally released. But maybe this is just an instance of a particularly beloved song being used for a particularly annoying Boomer trait.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Who's Number Two?

So is Hillary a shoe in for the VP if she wants it? I question whether she does indeed want it, but I think it's a mistake if that's the path Obama chooses to take. Sure, it would be an effective strategy to unite the party after the bruising primaries, but I don't see that Hillary brings much to the table. She's only at the beginning of her second term in the Senate, and as was pointed out during the campaign, she barely has a fraction of the experience she claimed. If she can withdraw from the campaign as a good loser (I probably mistyped--of course she can, but will she be able to resist the temptation to keep fighting a losing battle?) and can set aside future presidential ambitions, she's in a great position to have a long and fruitful career as a Senate leader. Actually, I see her as a potential Teddy Kennedy, but just like Kennedy had to ultimately decide that he wasn't going to keep running for president, so does she. But because she doesn't add that much to the ticket, I don't see how Obama can make such a decision look like it's really his own. It would just look like he's caving, doing what he's expected to do.

But if not Hillary, who? Well, I'm afraid I don't have a lot of good ideas. I talked the other night to someone who thought Bill Richardson was a lock. The timing and--from the Clinton point of view, anyway--suddenness of his Obama endorsement sure makes it look like there was some sort of deal being hatched. But, as we saw during the earlier primaries, Richardson isn't the greatest campaigner, and Obama would benefit from a bulldog in that position. I was talking with some other friends this afternoon, and all of a sudden it became clear to me that Richardson is a much better candidate for secretary of state than VP.

I also discount the various other senators who have been named. There's a long list of unsuccessful senators as presidential candidates (and very few presidents who came directly from the Senate), so a double-senatorial ticket seems unlikely. I particularly frown on talk concerning Jim Webb. He's a strong voice in the Senate, and it would be a shame to lose him there.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Lilac Time

Here's another Chicago-centric post. We're smack in the middle of Lilac Time down in Lombard. The lilacs are in bloom (actually, they're in full bloom, if you believe the Bloom-o-Meter), and you don't find many more lilacs all in one place than they've got in Lilacia Park. We went down to look around a couple of years ago, and the park is beautiful, but if you're interested in going even deeper into the full lilac experience, they've got a couple of weeks worth of activities. Tonight is the Lilac Ball at the Carlisle, but wouldn't you know it, my tux is at the cleaners. They've also got concerts, a pancake breakfast, beer and wine tastings (though not at the pancake breakfast, I presume), and the whole thing wraps up next weekend with the Lilac Parade.

I couldn't find any mention of this online during a quick search, so I can't guarantee that it's still available, but when we were there in a previous Lilac Time, we went to a Dairy Queen a block or so from the park and got lilac-dipped ice cream cones. I can't imagine that if you're Dairy Queen this is the kind of thing you'd stop doing, especially during Lilac Time, but as I said, I can't be sure. Be that as it may, for anyone who believes there is no such thing as too many lilacs, here's your opportunity to test your theory.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Last Weekend for Criminal Hearts

If it's time for the poster again (and it appears that it is), that must mean Criminal Hearts closes in Chicago on Saturday. Here's the blurb from the Web site:

When an agoraphobic wife on Chicago's Gold Coast encounters a female burglar one dark night, how far will she go for friendship? or revenge? In this quirky, comedic mix of Thelma and Louise and The Grifters, it's possible a gun is a girl's best friend.

If you come to the show, not only do you get an evening of theater, but there's pizza from Apart Pizza (which is delicious) and a raffle every night--there are new prizes at every show, but the prize at the end of the run is an autographed Cubs baseball. Come on by if you're in or near the Chicago area. Details can be found at the link above or at Stockyards Theatre Project.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A World of Options

For various reasons, I had occasion to go back and take a look at some of Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin a few days ago. This time I saw something I'd never noticed before. I'm not sure how he pulled it off, but Craig Ferguson's got a small part. He's apparently much older than he claims. If you don't believe me, just go and take your own look. He plays the brave mother in the Odessa steps sequence who stands up to the Cossacks when they shoot down her son. You can see the characters earlier, but he's first obviously recognizable at 2:14 in the clip I link to above. Go watch it yourself, and tell me that it isn't him.

It's easy to get used to how convenient everything is these days. The first time I saw Potemkin I was in college, and it never, ever, ever would've occurred to me then that I'd one day be able to tell people to go watch an 80-some-year-old Russian movie and they could do it immediately. It's just stating the obvious, of course, but YouTube and what it makes available to us is amazing. If you clicked on the above link (which I'll repeat here because it's easier than moving your mouse back up the page), you can see the Odessa steps sequence scored with Shostakovich--not the original score, but not uncommon these days. But what if you always thought that what that scene was missing was Pet Shop Boys? You can scratch that itch here. When you think about it, though, what with the marching, unyielding Cossacks and the murder of innocents, maybe Potemkin needs something harder, something tougher. Something like Led Zeppelin. Here you go. Are all these people too old for you? Would you prefer a score by someone new, happening, now? Ladies and gentleman, Arcade Fire.

Isn't the Internet wonderful?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Results

I was out tonight, returning from some family activities, so I tuned into NPR to see what happened in today's primaries. I heard that Obama had done well in North Carolina--he'd scored a decisive win, he'd won handily, he'd overpowered Hillary--but I never did hear the details. Since it's all coming down to the numbers, that seems like it's just a bit of an oversight. Fortunately, we've got the Internet, and The New York Times didn't have a similar problem providing the results. I have to admit that I'd been worn down and was expecting maybe about half that margin, but 14 or 15 percent is pretty significant at this point, even if Obama had been tipped for even more at one time.

So did it turn out to be pretty much a wash with Indiana, as I was expecting? This is even more surprising to me than North Carolina, but as I'm writing this, shortly before midnight, a winner has not yet been declared. According to the Times again, with 95 percent of the vote in, Hillary's up by about a point and a half. Admittedly, 95 percent is almost all, so I expect Hillary to pull it out, but this was supposed to be a decisive win (and North Carolina was supposed to be an upset). When you add suggestions that Republicans are crossing over in Indiana to vote for Hillary (Limbaugh's already taking credit), Hillary's margin of error may have been provided by people who don't even support her.

No, even if Obama comes out on top in Indiana, I don't expect Hillary will withdraw. Somebody in some part of the coverage I heard passed along the idea that Hillary may be reassessing her chances with superdelegates. I don't see how she can't, but she's also made too big a deal of her decision to keep fighting to back out when her numbers aren't adding up. I'm entertaining the idea that she might withdraw at the end of the state contests in a month. We'll see.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Will Tomorrow Close Out the Nomination?

In a word, no. Obama's not going to blow Clinton away, and Clinton is not going to knock out Obama. Clinton will win Indiana, though not by the margin she once led in the polls, and Obama will win North Carolina, though with a lower margin of victory than he once promised. One of them will gain a little bit on the other (Eric Kleefeld at TPM Election Central predicts that Obama will do a shade better than Clinton, and I don't really have any argument with that). So it'll all be a wash, right?

Of course not. A mathematical wash clearly works for Obama. Clinton has to make up lost ground, so every chance that passes without her making up some amount of ground means that she's got an even steeper climb from here on out. We're not very far from running out of states, and if we run out of states before Clinton catches up with Obama, then I'm not sure what kind of winning game plan she can come up with. To be completely clear, though, I do know what kind of losing game plan she'll come up with--convince already committed Obama delegates to jump ship. Whether she can pull such a stunt off or not (and I'd be shocked if she did), that's a sure way to bring the party together for the fall.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Guam Fails to Break It All Open

You've no doubt heard that Barack Obama won in the Guam caucuses by the barest of margins. Interestingly, I received an e-mail last night from a Hillary supporter goading me (and other recipients) about Obama's margin and suggesting that a Clinton/Obama ticket was still possible. I suppose the appropriate response is to ask about the color of the sky in that e-mailer's world. If Obama doesn't win big enough, he seems to be suggesting, the Democrats will have no choice but to go with the candidate who got even less votes than he did. That seems to be the level of debate in pro-Hillary circles these days. Despite Obama's lead in every quantifiable measure (delegates, popular votes, states), somehow, someone (presumably the superdelegates) will decide that they've got no choice but to nominate Hillary anyway. Why will they have no choice? Silly readers, don't ask foolish questions. On Friday, Timothy Noah had an excellent piece in Slate demanding that any media reports that still want to consider Hillary's candidacy as viable should spell out exactly how that viability will work. He wrote this before Guam, which appears to give Obama and Hillary another two delegates each, but that doesn't undermine the logic, at all.

The only number that matters, however, is 2,025, which is how many delegates a candidate will need to secure the nomination. Obama has 1,488 primary delegates to Clinton's 1,334, according to the Associated Press delegate tracker. Add in superdelegates and Obama has 1,736 to Clinton's 1,602. Obama needs 289 more delegates to win the nomination. Hillary needs 423. There are three ways to win these additional delegates:

1. In the nine Democratic primaries and caucuses that remain, in which about 400 delegates are at stake
2. By winning over still-undecided superdelegates, of whom about 290 remain
3. By persuading the necessary number of superdelegates and/or primary delegates among the 1,736 pledged to Obama to change their allegiances. The former will be difficult to achieve, and the latter, though permitted, will be extremely difficult to achieve

It's numerically impossible for Hillary to get to 2,025 through the remaining primaries and caucuses.

He goes on to put forward various scenarios of Hillary winning the remaining contests by different percentages (which is worth reading, if you're into the science and speculation of the delegate count--a delegate geek, in other words, like me or Don at Article 19), but none of them provide reasonable scenarios that could lead Hillary to the nomination. North Carolina and Indiana will provide more clarity--or not, as the case may be. Regardless of how they turn out, they'll further illuminate just how far removed Hillary is from a legitimate win.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Go Get Comics!

I intended to post this last night to give you a bit more of a head start, but today is Free Comic Book Day. Yeah, it's pretty much just like it sounds. In an attempt to drum up sales and bring new customers, for one day every year, comic book stores fall back on the old standby strategy of giving stuff away.

Click here to find a comic book store near you if you don't already know where one is, and you can check out the choices for free comics here. There are old standbys such as Superman (in a reprint of a great comic, by the way), The X-Men, The Simpsons, and Archie, but if you're interested, take a look at some of the lesser titles that you might not know but look interesting. And don't forget to bring the kids--even if not everything is suited to passing to a ten-year-old, you'll find a lot of titles that are. I haven't actually been out to the store yet myself, today, so I don't know much more about what's available than what I can read on the link above, but there are more than a couple of titles that are intriguing me.

Drop a comment to let us know about your experience.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Another Criminal Hearts Reminder

Stockyards Theatre Project continues to run Criminal Hearts, featuring Lori Howard and Janel Palm, through this weekend and next in Chicago. Either of the links will lead you to information about tickets and location.

This announcement serves two purposes--it reminds you to do something you've been meaning to do anyway, and it allows me to run the (rather striking) graphic again.

And while you're clicking on links anyway, take a look at three-quarters of the cast on WGN Morning News a couple of weeks ago!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Q & A

The title of last night's post was a question. It was a rhetorical question, which I figure everybody recognized, but I was thinking today that it really does have an answer, in case anyone's wondering. It's money.

What Defines Respectability?

A couple of nights ago, I linked to a piece Brenda Kilianski wrote for the Chicago Tribune on former Weatherman Bill Ayers, who's been back in the news lately because of his relationship with Barack Obama. In response to a New York Times blog post by Stanley Fish in defense of Ayers, Matt Yglesias makes a couple of points that are a pretty good reflection of my latest thinking about the issue.

It seems that everyone who's anyone in Illinois political and intellectual circles has had some passing association with Ayers. This, however, doesn't do much to explain why Ayers has managed to acquire this kind of banal-yet-prominent position on the scene. One can easily imagine an alternate universe in which this not-really-repentant ex-terrorist is basically shunned -- bombmaking being a kind of shun-worthy activity.

But then again lots of folks with much more blood on their hands from that same period -- Henry Kissinger and his subordinates -- are even more respectable figures, key members of the national establishment. Donald Rumsfeld has an appointment at Stanford! Lord knows how many aspiring lawyers will learn their trade from John Yoo at Berkeley. If I had my druthers, we'd shun 'em all, but I think that's not in the cards.

There sure are a lot of unsavory individuals on both sides. We not only put up with them, we welcome them. Why is that?