Thursday, January 31, 2008

Winter's Nap

The other night I watched a DVD of the 1949 Kirk Douglas/Loraine Day comedy My Dear Secretary. Never heard of it? Don't feel bad. This is truly an obscure flick.
This was the first comedy Kirk Douglas ever made and it provides us with a good example of why Douglas was not known for his comic flair.
The DVD says: "A budding young writer goes to work for an erratic, immature playboy." This is supposed to be a screwball comedy but Douglas overplays his role as the playboy (who is also a very successful writer) to such an extent that it becomes painful. Hey, I admit I've never been a Kirk Douglas (or Michael Douglas) fan. Keenan Wynn does take a droll, character turn as Douglas' best friend and Irene Ryan (later of the Beverly Hillbillies and the Broadway musical Pippin) does a great job as Douglas' maid. Written and directed by Charles Martin the movie also features Rudy Vallee as Day's rejected though nonetheless earnest boyfriend.
This is one for a cold, cold winter night when you want to be lulled into hibernation.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Fearless Forecast

Adam Cirucci pedicts: "The whole Katie Holmes/Tom Cruise marriage is gonna backfire on Scientology and in time (as the kid grows up and Tom's star fades) Katie will regain her senses and come out big time against Scientology." Adam also says: "There will be a huge - possibly legally groundbreaking - divorce/custody suit (her dad is a bigtime divorce lawyer BTW) and Katie will write a tell-all book and do talks shows and make this her cause." Adam says that "Scientology in Hollywood and America will be permanently damaged." And Adam promises he will elaborate on all of this later. Well, how about that!

2008 In 2008

In little more than three weeks time this fledgling blog has racked up an additional 1,000 hits. We have now exceeded 2008 visits as we move along in 2008!
Back on January 7 we were all excited about reaching 1,000 hits.
We actually launced this site last November 24 and gave ample credit to our many friends including radio talk show host Dom Giordano who urged us to start a site during an on-air interview. We thank all of you who told us that these opinions and views should be in one place - a place that would also provide a forum for ongoing comment. Your suppost and encouragement has meant so much to us.
We've worked hard to keep this site lively and up-to-date and we've made it easier and easier for you to post your comments. Anyone can now post a comment anonymously. You need not register or identify yourself in any way. The comment board is wide open.
And more and more blogs are linking to ours. Here are just a few of the blogs that now link to us via their blog rolls: BlogNetNews, BlogNetNewsNJ, Dan Gross' Philly Gossip, Phil Goldsmith, Politics Pennsylvania, ShapTalk, The PR Lawyer and Red Jersey. We thank them all and urge you to visit these other wonderful sites.
And do one more thing: Tell everyone else to visit us. Tell your friends and neighbors and co-workers and encourage them to join in the ongoing debate about politics, the media, the current scene, entertainment, the headlines and the popular culture.
With so many big events on the horizon this year we're going to have lots of fun right here. So, don't go away. Come back often!

The Rudy Factor

Rudy Giuliani voters who switched to John McCain proved critical in McCain's latest come-from-behind victory in Florida. In fact, it's safe to say that the Rudy voters who switched to McCain were more important than any Huckabee voters who might have switched to Romney. The reason for this is simple: There were a lot more Rudy voters in Florida to begin with.
Rudy's support today greatly strengthens McCain's bona fides as a mainstream conservative who can reach out to independents and Democrats. Should Huckabee choose to support McCain his endorsement will strengthen McCain in the other direction.
BTW: It's time for Huckabee to find his exit strategy. Huck's "Oh Happy Day!" stance last night in the face of a dismal showing was pitiful. The time has come to say "Huckabye!"

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Martinez For Veep?

With Hillary doing so well among Hispanics look for the McCain camp to seriously consider Florida Senator Mel Martinez for Vice President.
Martinez was critical to McCain's big win in Florida. Putting him on the ticket could guarantee Florida in the general election and peel off Hispanic votes in the southwest and major cities.
No question about it: This guy's star is on the rise.

Gracious Going Forward

John McCain's victory remarks Tuesday night were gracious and modest. A good start.
McCain spoke calmly and deliberately and reached out to all of the other candidates. At the same time he was steadfast - striking familiar themes and evoking the history and purpose of the GOP from the Age of Reagan onward.
To be sure, McCain is not a great orator and not likely to deliver a stemwinder anytime soon. But a quieter voice can be no less determined or convincing.
McCain needs to continue to reach out to all segments of the party, listen closely to those who have been disaffected, broaden his cadre of advisers and staff members, put aside old feuds and grudges and move everyone to focus on the job ahead.
Very quickly, he must begin to operate on two tracks at once: close the deal next Tuesday and build the new coalition that will forge a new majority. Lots of hard, hard work - work that will require care, patience, balance and true leadership.

Fate Delivers Opportunity

Rudy Giuliani will bow out on Wednesday and endorse John McCain for President. The endorsement will probably come in California, perhaps in Simi Valley where the Reagan Library is located.
If Rudy is capable of making this tough choice then the rest of us must bring ourselves to make a choice as well.
It is somewhat easier for Rudy because Rudy and McCain are friendly and Rudy is certainly closer to McCain than he is to Romney. But Rudy wouldn't be doing this if he didn't think it was right.
In his remarks tonight Rudy was a class act and I'm sure he will strike the same tone tomoroow.
No one could have predicted this turn of events even a couple of months ago but this is what makes politics so exciting, so thrilling.
And this too: Who would have thought that the GOP would have its candidate before the Democrats? But now that's exactly what seems to be in the cards. Republicans in recent years have proven very effective at closing ranks when the time comes. Once the party seems to have settled on a candidate the GOP moves to coronate rather that nominate.
In the coming weeks and months it falls to McCain to put the pieces together and shoar up the party. He will also have to coax Romney along, sooner rather than later. No small feat. And, as I've already said, it will be hard for the Washington-insider McCain to present himself as a vehicle for change - but that's exactly what he'll have to do as he heads into the main campaign.
Certainly, his choice of a running mate will be critical.
Politics (the art of the possible) rarely gives us perfect choices.
Now, a strange sort of fate has handed the GOP a remarkable opportunity for a relatively early end to battle and a move toward unity by coalescing once again around an elder party statesman and veteran of party wars - someone who is seasoned focused and ready to lead. Sound familiar?

New Or Old?

Let me get this straight.
Bill and Hillary Clinton (who have spent the last 16 years in Washington) are going to bring about change by turning the clock back to 1992 and resurrecting Clintonism: a patchwork quilt of sixties-style liberalism, stale feminism and classic political doubletalk.
And Barack Obama is promising us change and everything that's new and fresh by trotting out a 75-year-old Senator (who's been in Washington forever) to evoke memories of the early sixties and the vaulted though nonetheless fictitious Age of Camelot.
And 71-year-old Vietnam war hero John McCain (who's been in Washington for 27 years) is going to abandon the ways of Washington to deliver us strong, new leadership by sitting down with the same old band of cranky, egotistical and disagreeable insiders that he's cavorted with ever since he arrived in the nation's capital.
Hey, if this is the choice I'm gonna have to face I just want to understand it and get it straight. I'm capable of making the choice.
I just want to be more than a little bit realistic about it.

Smart, Savvy, Sexy!

Do you like Ann Curry as much as I do?
I could listen to and watch The Today Show news anchor deliver the news no matter how bad the news is. She has a gentle, easy, friendly manner that seems remarkably comforting. But it's also clear that this super-successful newswoman is a highly-focused professional who knows exactly where she's going and how to get there. Yet, she doesn't come with the restless, edgy baggage and relentless cynicism of so many journalists.
And askmen is right to place Curry among its top 99 woman noting: "With a Japanese mother and an American father of French, Scotch-Irish and Amerindian descent, Ann Curry has a cosmopolitan beauty that's hard to pinpoint." Askmen likes Curry's "deep brown eyes and raven black hair, which are nicely balanced by the kind of sunny smile that's almost a prerequisite for any morning TV personality." Yes, she can be sunny and intense at the same time.
Still, Ann Curry is hardly a mere news reader. In the first two weeks following the attacks of September 11, Curry reported live from ground zero every day. When the United States bombed Al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan in November 2001, she reported extensively from the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Arabian Sea, and landed the first exclusive interview with the war's military commander, General Tommy Franks. Curry reported from Baghdad in the weeks leading up to the war in Iraq, and then from the USS Constellation as the war began, interviewing fighter pilots who flew the first wave of bombing runs over Iraq. She also filed reports from inside Iraq, from Qatar, and Kuwait during the first weeks of the war.
Curry has also distinguished herself in global humanitarian reporting. Recently, she traveled three times to Sudan to report on the violence and ethnic cleansing taking place in Darfur and Chad.
Here's a shoutout to Ann: You're living proof that the sexiest beauty is smart 'n savvy, too!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Bravo: Daniel, Julie, Javier!

Looking as beautiful as ever the divine Julie Christie won the Screen Actors Guild Award last night as best actress for her role in Away From Her.
Earlier we identified Julie, Daniel Day-Lewis and Javier Bardem as three of our favorites and all three won in their respective categories. Not only are they each super talents but they all have undeniable star quality. Christie and Day-Lewis can be away from the screen (and out of the spotlight) for years and then come back and blow everyone away with their talent. And Javier fits the same bill.
One of those who was missing from the nomination categories this year was the legendary Andy Griffith. That's sad. Because Andy should have been nominated for his fine performance in Waitress. If you haven't seen Waitress, get the DVD and watch it ASAP.
Of course we are sorry to see James Gandolfini and Alec Baldwin in the lineup of "winners." Neither one deserves such a title. Let us just say that they are grossly unworthy and leave it at that.
BTW: In a classy move, Day-Lewis dedicated his award to the late Heath Ledger.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Deep Breath

According to the Clintons, when the Clintons are in trouble then the whole nation needs help.
So now, it's not just the Clintons who are having problems, its all of us. Every one of us gets frustrated. None of us win all the time. We all get a bit carried away. And every marriage and every partnership has its problems, right? So now, really - we all need to take a deep breath and then get some sleep.
That's what Hillary seemed to be saying on CBS Face The Nation with Bob Schieffer today.
Asked if she thought Bill got a bit "carried away" while campaigning for her, Hillary responded:
I think it's human nature, Bob. I think that the spouses of all three of us have, you know, been passionate and vigorous defenders of each of us and, you know, maybe got a little carried away. But, you know, that comes with a hard-fought election.
It also comes with sleep deprivation which, you know, I think is marking all of us, our families, our supporters. . . So, I'm really glad that he's there with me, and I think everybody just needs to take a deep breath.

Deep breath, deep breath, deep breath . . . Zzzzzzzzzzz........

Two Outa Three

Right here on December 2, I reported:
"The hottest rumor in Washington these days is that Barack Obama will soon pull off a hat trick, picking up a potent triple-endorsement. The way the story goes, Obama will be anointed by Teddy Kennedy, Al Gore and John Kerry . . . "
Well, tomorrow Obama will pick up the second of this powerful trio when he is endorsed by Senator Ted Kennedy. This via The Crypt blog of Politico and confirmed by CNN and ABC News.
Remember, Barack has already won the endorsement of Kerry. All that remains is for Gore to fall into line.
And as I said on December 2: "There is no love lost between Gore and the Clintons."
True, I envisoned a triple endorsement all at one. But these endorsements have taken time to put together and this three-shot approach may actually have a bigger impact.
Again, as I cautined earlier: "even if the endorsements do occur, would they really make any difference? All three of the presumed endorsers lost bids for the presidency."
Still, timing is eveything and these endorsement are news-generators coming off the big Obama win yeasterday. They help to create momentum for Obama.
But never, ever count the Clintons out. Never.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


Barack Obama's victory in the South Carolina Democrat primary can only be described as devastating. It was a crushing triumph: two-to-one; a huge mandate.
In his victory speech Obama never mentioned the Clintons by name but his shots at the Clintons were clear as he declared the election a contest between "the past and the future" and said the real test was not about "how much time you've spent in Washington or your proximity to the White House" but whether you could bring people together and provide real hope for the future. And then Obama added that we must turn away from the politics that tells us that "you can't even admit that a Republican had an idea, even if it was an idea you never believed in."
Even though Obama used a teleprompter to make his remarks, it must be noted that we haven't heard oratory like this in a long time. Quite impressive.
Tomorrow's endorsement of Obama by Caroline Kennedy in a New York Times op-ed (where she says he will be "a President like my father") will add another boost to his campaign.
Be sure of it: This is a helluva fight and - this is one helluva fighter.

Rebate Or Freebie?

Q. When is a rebate not a rebate?
A. When it's paid out to those who never paid in.
The dictionary defines a rebate as "a return of part of the original payment."
So, if you haven't paid an original payment in the first place it can't be returned to you. Right?
Wrong! As part of the planned economic stimulus package, the Democrats in Congress have now insisted on "rebating" federal tax money to 35 million Americans who paid no federal income taxes in the first place.
So, while the dictionary spells it r-e-b-a-t-e, Democrats spell it f-r-e-e-b-i-e!

Nanny State Strikes Again

You are now part of another Joisey revenue raising scheme brought to you compliments of Jon (the "Financial wiz") Corzine.
Starting yesterday, New Jersey launched a 30 day speeding ticket frenzy. The state estimates that nine million dollars will be generated in speeding tickets. One million will go to pay state troopers' overtime. There will be 50 additional state troopers on duty at all times patrolling main intersections and highways including the following: I-295 north and south, 1-95 (Jersey Turnpike) north and south, 1-80 east and west, I-287 north and south, I-78 east and west, 1-195 east and west, 1-280 east and west, Rt. 130 north and south, Garden State Parkway north and south. Five mph above the limit can justify a ticket and we're told that every state trooper is supposed to pull a car over and write a ticket every 10 to 20 minutes. They have issued 30 brand new unmarked Crown Victoria cruisers and are bringing all part timers onto full time. If you work in NJ, NY, DE or CT you probably use one of these highways.
It's up to you how fast you are going when they clock you. We are told that radio station 101.5 FM (New Jersey 105) has confirmed all of this.
Driving Ticket fines increase in NJ: Starting on August 15th, the price of a ticket for violation of NJ Law 39:3-29 (failure to show your driver's license, registration, or insurance card at the time you are stopped) is going from $44.00 to $173.00. Please make sure your vehicles have the proper documents in them. If you jump in the car to run to the store and forget your wallet with your license in it and you are stopped.... Oh well... you just spent $173. And the fine for not having all three documents is $519! The fine for hand held cell phone use while driving will be going up to $180.00.

Pei Wei?

Last night we tried the new Pei Wei Asian Diner.
Pei Wei (pronounced pay way) is a quick serve, lower priced version of its daddy, P. F. Chang's. It's a smaller format property and not really a diner in the traditional sense. Its mix n match Asian specialties include Chang's delicious lettuce wraps and many other specialties adapted from the Chang menu.
You order your food as you enter Pei Wei, get your own drinks (all non-alcoholic), sit at an assigned table and then wait for someone to bring you your dishes. The wait is never very long and the food arrives piping hot and tangy, freshly prepared from an open kitchen. Exceptionally spicy dishes are so labeled on the menu. Pei Wei is informal, friendly and fun. Two people can have a very nice meal for 25 bucks.
Pei Wei just opened in Cherry Hill (its first New Jersey location) and can also be found in nearby Springfield, Delaware County and 20 other states.
In Cherry Hill Pei Wei is part of the massive Garden State Park development which features a host of new restaurants including Cheesecake Factory, Brio Tuscan Grill, and (soon) McCormick & Schmick.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Inky's Picks

Look for the Philadelphia Inquirer to endorse Barack Obama and John McCain in the newspaper's Sunday (1/27) edition.

A Leader Lost

One of America's great leaders isn't running for president this year and he may actually never seek the office.
He governed one of the nation's largest, fastest growing states - a state whose population mirrors that of the nation in many ways. And for eight years he did such a fantastic job that he became a model for other governors throughout the country. He oversaw tremendous prosperity in his state but also held taxes and state spending in check. He was pro business and anti big government but he also put programs in place to help the indigent and those in need.
He remained personable, patient and always considerate of the many diverse communities that inhabit his state. His outreach programs to every sector of the population were exemplary.
He left office with an astounding 65 percent approval rating.
A modest man, he is the first to douse praise heaped upon him and remains easy with a smile that signals a friendly, genuinely likable approach.
Ordinarily, considering his success and accomplishments, he'd be the front runner to lead the GOP into victory in 2008. But his name happens to be Jeb Bush. And that may be the only reason why he's not running for any other office right now.

Bye, Bye Prodi!

Italian Premier Romano Prodi's government has collapsed and Prodi has resigned.
This tenuous, left-of-center government lasted little more than a year and the truth is that Prodi's election itself was a muddled affair. He never enjoyed a wide mandate.
More than a month ago I wrote that: "It seems Italians are beginning to realize that maybe it wasn't such a good idea to chuck Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his right-of-center government last year."
Berlusconi seemed to be the one guy who could hold Italy together. His conservative coalition ruled far longer (and with more success) than any recent government in Italy - a nation which is notoriously - and some might say refreshingly - ungovernable. Burlusconi was a strong, dynamic leader and he led Europe's right turn which later swept France and Germany.
But Italy wanted change, change, change. So Prodi squeaked by and claimed the mantle of leadership without the clear support needed to govern. The whole thing proves that change for the sake of change is not always the prescription for progress.
Be forewarned.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Rocky McCain?

Our favorite columnist Dan Gross at the Philadelphia Daily News is wondering when Sen. John McCain will be in town to run up the Art Museum steps. Gross points out that McCain has now twice used the "Rocky" theme at campaign events. First, McCain entered to the song "Gonna Fly Now," after winning in South Carolina primary and used the song again Tuesday morning at a Pensacola, Fla., event. And Gross also points out that Rocky himself (Sylvester Stallone) has endorsed McCain for President.
Maybe the other GOP candidates should challenge McCain to a race up the steps. Stallone could fire the starter pistol. First one to the top of the steps wins. That's one way to solve the battle for the nomination.

There He Goes Again

Joisey's wacky borrow-and-spend Governor Jon Corzine is at it again.
Now the financial wiz wants to sell sell $2.5 billion more in bonds (ie: borrow) to fund school construction in so-called "poor" school districts. This latest scheme surfaced as part of an ongoing court case on school funding.
Joisey Attorney General Anne Milgram on January 22 wrote the state's top court that Corzine next month would seek a minimum of $2.5 billion of new debt. Her letter was released by Senate Republicans on Wednesday who (understandably) reacted angrily to the prospect of another increase in Joisey's debt, one of the nation's highest. Clearly, Corzine is reneging on his promise to pay down debt.
Sen. Leonard Lance said in a statement: "The words are barely out of his (Corzine's) mouth and the ink isn't even on the paper yet on his 'debt reduction' plan and he intends to borrow an additional $2.5 billion."
The Republican budget officer continued: "Of course the administration does not intend to seek the consent of the voters as the state constitution requires."
The extra school borrowing, if approved, would increase Joisey's outstanding debt to nearly $40 billion, one of the highest debt loads per resident in the nation.
Corzine, who refuses to seriously trim state spending across the board, just can't seem to help himself. It's the same old shell game: Spend, borrow, tax, spend, borrow, tax, spend . . .

Say Anything

Michelle Obama at a campaign stop in our beloved South Carolina: ""The one thing that is clear is that when power is confronted with real change, they will say anything."
And Barack Obama, also in South Carolina: Politicians "don't always say what they mean, or mean what they say. That is what this debate in this party is all about."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Movie Pioneer

Congratulations to Turner Classic Movies for the recent Val Lewton festival and the documentary about Lewton by the great Martin Scorsese. Presented by Scorsese TCM's original documentary looked at the imaginative producer who fashioned a lasting body of beautiful and unsettling films on meager budgets. Among the films shown during the Lewton festival we got a chance to watch the wonderfully-titled I Walked With a Zombie and the eerily mesmerizing Cat People. Lewton is best known for these two and seven other brooding horror films he produced for RKO Pictures in the 1940s. We managed to capture some of the others on tape.
Lewton, originally named Vladimir Ivan Leventon, was born in what is now Yalta, Ukraine. He was a nephew of the actress Alla Nazimova. In 1909, he immigrated with his sister and mother to the USA (where his name was changed to Val Lewton). In Hollywood he earned his chops working for Selznick and then joined RKO. Lewton died of a heart attack at the age of 46 - much too young. But he left a legacy that has inspired other filmmakers.

"Low Life Street Fighters"

Writing at The Nation blog William Greider has this to say about the Bill & Hill Show:
The Clintons play dirty when they feel threatened . . . The recent roughing-up of Barack Obama was in the trademark style of the Clinton years in the White House. High-minded and self-important on the surface, smarmily duplicitous underneath, meanwhile jabbing hard to the groin area. They are a slippery pair and come as a package. The nation is at fair risk of getting them back in the White House for four more years. The thought makes me queasy. . . The one-two style of Clintons, however, is as informative as low-life street fighters. Mr. Bill punches Obama in the kidney and from the rear. When Obama whirls around to strike back, there stands Mrs. Clinton, looking like a prim Sunday School teacher and citing goody-goody lessons she learned from her 135 years in government . . . We are sure to see more of Mr. Bill's intrusions because the former president is pathological about preserving his own place in the spotlight. He can't stand it when he is not the story and, one way or another, he will make himself the story. I used to be sympathetic toward Mrs. Clinton on this point. No longer.

Police State

Politicker NJ via the Newark Star Ledger reports: Gov. Jon Corzine insisted yesterday his office had nothing to do with the arrest of conservative activist Steve Lonegan at a town hall meeting in Cape May County, even though the mayor of Middle Township said local police acted at the direction of the governor's staff. "All I know is they were doing what they were told to do," Mayor F. Nathan Doughty, a Democrat, said. Asked who had told them what to do, he said, "The governor's people." Corzine was adamant in rejecting Doughty's claim about Saturday's arrest at Middle Township High School. Lonegan was arrested moments before the start of the town meeting at which the governor was to explain his plan to increase tolls on the state's major highways.
At this point does anyone really believe anything Corzine says? Anything?
Thank goodness Senator Tom Kean Jr. is on the case. Sen. Kean wants the state Attorney General to investigate the possible violation of Steve Lonegan’s first amendment rights. Lonegan, a former Bogota Mayor was demonstrating against the wacky Corzine plan to hike tolls in Jersey by 800% on all toll roads and add tolls to roads that don't currently have tolls. It's called toll tyranny and it's just another sick spend and borrow scheme.

Bad Investment

Gannett's Courier-Post newspaper has a fine editorial today that takes New Jersey's U. S. Senators and House members to task for this: "Among the 50 states, New Jersey ranks dead last in the amount of money it gets back from the federal government. For every tax dollar New Jerseyans pay to the IRS, the state receives only 61 cents back for highways, federal grants, social programs and other things that benefit New Jerseyans."
And the editorial adds: "Thirty-two states get more than $1 return on every tax dollar they send to Washington . . . Pennsylvania gets $1.07 back for every $1 Pennsylvanians send to Washington. . . Our congressional delegation has failed to get even close to what New Jersey deserves from Washington."
The editorial does not have kind words for New Jersey's Senator Frank Lautenberg, noting that people seem to feel "uneasy about re-electing someone who is 84 to another six-year term in Washington." Surely, you'll find no defense of Lautenberg here.
But in truth the whole (largely Democrat) congressional delegation is to blame for this injustice which dreadfully short-changes New Jersey. The whole damned bunch of 'em oughta be ashamed of themselves!

Always In Threes

Yesterday's untimely and tragic death of Heath Ledger reminds us once again of that old adage that "they always die in threes." Over the past week, in addition to Ledger the entertainment world also lost Brad Renfro (most will remember him as the little boy from the movie, The Client) and Suzanne Pleschette. Suzanne, who was married to Tom Poston, died just shy of having her star placed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and not very long after the death of the man who created the Walk of Fame, Johnny Grant. The husky-voiced Pleschette was a radiant talent and a fine actress who also had a natural knack for comedy.
Suzanne and Tom married in 2001, which was 40 years after they first met. They are shown in the 1959 Broadway play Golden Fleecing. Reviewing the play Brroks Atkinsonson of the New York Times rightly declared Suzanne "stunning . . . with a nice sense of comic adventure."
Suzanne and Tom came from a time when actors earned their mettle on the Broadway stage and then went on to Hollywood. Today, actors often burst forth from Hollywood and remain film stars who sometimes play Broadway (and usually for a limited time only) to give a show a lift. Over the years, something has been lost in this shift.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Fred Exit, Mitt Spark?

Fred Thompson dropped out of the race today. Such high hopes and then a slow, steady slide triggered by a late start and helped along by a semmingly detached, laconic bearing.
My initial impression is that Fred's withdrawl will be a boon to Mitt Romney - a man who does seem to have the brio, stamina and bucks to fight all the way to the end.

Prager Weighs In

From highly respected commentator Dennis Prager writing today at Real Clear Politics:
To the extent that I understand how most Republicans think, it would seem that former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani comes closer to the Republican ideal than any of the other viable Republican candidates. . . when it comes to being strong on both domestic and international issues, it seems that no presently viable Republican candidate matches Rudy Giuliani. . . between Rudy Giuliani (and, for that matter, Mitt Romney) on the one hand and John McCain on the other, there is little question as to who more embodies mainstream conservative and Republican principles. . . In fact, if it is Ronald Reagan that Republicans want, Giuliani is extraordinarily close to that venerated man. Ronald Reagan stood for two great beliefs: that big government is a big problem for a free society and that America must be militarily strong and lead the war against global communism.
Substitute "global jihadism" for "global communism" and you have Rudy Giuliani's twin pillars.

Oscar Missteps

Each year when the Oscar nominees are announced there are glaring omissions and obvious faux-nominations. This year is no exception.
I have no problem with Johnny Depp being nominated for Sweeney Todd (even though he ain't no singer) but I wonder why the movie itself wasn't nominated. And why was the insufferable George Clooney nominated along with his preachy movie, Michael Clayton?
Daniel Day Lewis is probably the world's greatest living actor so there is little doubt that he deserves his nomination for There Will Be Blood. But why was Danzel Washington completely overlooked? Washington starred in two worthy flicks: The Great Debaters and American Gangster. One must also ask why Viggo Mortensen was nominated. And does Ellen Page really warrant a nomination this early in her career? A better bet might have been Julia Roberts for Charlie Wilson's War. Still, I'm glad that Sean Penn missed out on a directing nod for the indulgent Into The Wild. But why wasn't Tim Burton nominated for Sweeney Todd?
"Bravo!" to Havier Bardem for his best supporting actor nomination. Bardem would seem to be the favorite.
And I'm delighted that the superb Julie Christie (pictured) has been nominated for "Away From Her" and am hopeful she will win her second Oscar. Christie remains a dazzling talent and one of the world's great beauties. If you've never seen her Oscar performance in Darling, rent it now and watch it.
Please note: Once again Oscar chooses anti-capitalist, anti-business flicks such as There Will Be Blood and Michael Clayton. And once again the documentary category includes anti-war flicks and Michael Moore's latest regurgitation.
And let's not forget the sad, sad state of movie music. It's so bad that the fairy tale* Enchanted garnered three best song nominations.
*As in "Give me a break. This is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen!"

Johnny's With Rudy

Realguy Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon is a Rudy fan. Damon has been campaigning with Rudy in Florida (along with actor Jon Voight and former FBI Director Louis Freeh). Giving the GOP a badly-needed jolt of glammah, Rudy has been injecting star quality into his campaign appearances. And yesterday Rudy even took a spin in a pace car at Daytona.
Then there's this: Jonathan Martin reports at Politico "McCain made clear today that he's opposed to a national catastrophic insurance fund -- something that [Fla.] Gov. Charlie Crist has pushed for his hurricane-ravaged state. It's a key local issue that Rudy has seized upon in both ads and in his stump speech, and you can be sure he and his campaign will now highlight McCain's opposition. It also may, as the Miami Herald's Beth Reinhard alludes to, dim whatever chance McCain had to score Crist's last-minute endorsement."

Giving Up?

The Associated Press is reported that "Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton is limiting her time in South Carolina even though the presidential primary is just five days away, a recognition of rival Barack Obama's chances of winning the state and a reflection of her own long-term strategy."
According to the AP "Obama is favored to win South Carolina, where turnout among black voters in the Democratic primary is expected to exceed the traditional 50 percent. The former first lady was leaving the bulk of campaigning in the state to her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who is widely popular with black voters."
Well, maybe Bill Clinton is popular with black voters - maybe. And maybe some of that popularity (for both of the Clintons) has worn off.
In fact Dick Polman, writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer thinks it has worn off. Polman says: "There once was a time when blacks instinctively rallied to the Clintons. They liked Bill's style; they liked the fact that he curbed black poverty more than any predecessor, and, during the Lewinsky sex scandal, they likened Ken Starr's pursuit of Bill to the FBI's wiretapping and harassment of King.
"But that was so 10 years ago, back when the Clintons were stuck on defense. Now, they're back on offense, playing for the highest stakes, and their target is a black guy who embodies the black American dream."

Monday, January 21, 2008

Audacious Andy

I've finally finished watching Ric Burns' four-hour 2006 documentary for PBS titled "Andy Warhol, A Documentary Film." It's quite thorough and stunning, with a tremendous amount of focus on the 1960s which probably marked Warhol's high point.
Many people believe that Picasso and Warhol were the two greatest artists of the 20th century with Picasso owning the first half of the century and Warhol prevailing in the second. Andy did have a way of dominating his environment and he was keenly aware of the popular culture. He was also remarkably prolific. His commitment to productivity seemed rooted in his ethnic, working-class background and he was a clever businessman. On top of all that, he always seemed to be ahead of trends. And let's not forget that he possessed undeniable artistic talent. In fact, he was a very successful commercial artist before he even tried his hand at "serious" art.
Warhol was eminently quotable and in this documentary he is quoted as saying that "dying is the most embarrassing thing that can ever happen to you" because you spend your whole life earning a living so that you can be secure and independent and then once you die people have to take care of all your remaining needs for you - such as what to do with your body and your belongings. "I don't understand why people don't just disappear," Andy said.
Well, it certainly would be a helluva lot more convenient. But then again, what would undertakers do for a living?

Why Wait?

Why did Barack Obama wait so long to answer Bill Clinton's sucker punches? Sure, Obama was effective today on Good Morning America but it seemed too little, too late. Why did he wait? The oldest political rule is this: Don't let your opponent's accusations stand. Hit back.
Some questions are worth asking: If Obama hesitates to take on Bubba now, how will he ever confront the international outlaws who want to destroy us? And if Hillary can't control her husband now, how does she intend to control him if she ever gets elected?

China Coverup?

The Australian is reporting that "China has systematically covered up the accidental deaths of at least 10 workers, and perhaps many more, in a rush to construct the futuristic 'bird's nest' stadium in Beijing for the Olympic Games." The newspaper says "The estimates are drawn from dozens of interviews conducted over six months, on condition of anonymity, with employees from the huge building site in a northern district of the capital.
"Witnesses have spoken of seeing workers plummet to their deaths from the perilous heights of the stadium, designed by a consortium including British engineering firm Arup and Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron.
"The bodies were swiftly removed by squads of armed police, and workers ordered not to mention the deaths to anyone or speak of them among themselves. "

Winning By Stopping

Blogging at National Review's The Corner Mark Steyn agrees with radio talker Mark Levin in noting:
A McCain victory in SC has to be good news for Giuliani because the narrative becomes "Stop McCain!" and Rudy's best poised to do that - not just because his numbers in Florida haven't yet collapsed to the same undetectable levels as they have everywhere else, but because Huck and Mitt and Fred will be fairly proven failures at the "Stop McCain" game. So, if stopping him's your priority, then Rudy's the one-stop shop after everyone's stopped shopping around. He'll be the last ABM (Anyone-But-McCain) in with a shot. . . If Rudy wins in Florida, those of us who said he can't recover from sitting out the first month will have to acknowledge that he's a towering genius who cannily foresaw that leaving the early states to be squabbled over by weak and divisive candidates would render their victories irrelevant and leave him to stroll on in the Second Act and take the throne as king on a field of corpses.*
(*I assume there's an internal memo somewhere that lays it out like that.)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Bigger Than Life

I've just finished reading Brian Kellow's wonderful new biography of Ethel Merman, the legendary star of Brodway. This is the third book that I've read on Merman (including her own autobiography with George Eells) and it is the best because it depicts a fuller, more three-dimensional Merman and not just the tough, acerbic broad who belted show tunes, fired managers and occasionally insulted costars.
Say what you will, she had a remarkable work ethic. She also held herself to the same high standards she imposed on everyone else and she could spot a sycophant a mile away.
Here's what Kellow says: " . . . the wised-up, straight-shooting, and sentimental musical heroine she [Merman] represented had passed out of fashion by the time of her death, supplanted by the creations of Sondheim and his musical age of anxiety, and by the bland, cardboard figures of Andrew Lloyd Webber, who exist only as pawns in a mammoth visual spectacle. The great age of personalities had long since faded . . . "
So, the Broadway of great personalities moved on - to be replaced by what? An age of spectacle, anxiety, vulgarity and deformity?

Numbers Game

Kevin McCullough writing at
Lost in the end-of-the day news from the GOP race are two numbers 72 to 76.
Seventy-two is the number of delegates that Romney has quietly assembled in finishing consistently high in all five primaries to date. Seventy-six is the number that all other GOP candidates have COMBINED.
The longer the "also-rans" continue to stay in the race the more distorted the results will continue to appear.

Dogma Or Pragmatism?

On Meet The Press this morning an interesting conversation ensued between authors Peggy Noonan and Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Noonan said the current GOP battle all boils down to a "search for the soul of the Republican Party" and she predicted it would be wrenching, protracted and difficult - not an easy road to victory.
But Goodwin saw a somewhat sunnier scenario and said that the prospect of Democratic victory would unite Republicans of all stripes and force them to close ranks behind someone who showed true leadership qualities. In other words, political pragmatism would prevail once again.
On the same program Tom Brokaw said that what we are witnessing is "the death of dogma." Brokaw explained that in rejecting pure ideology "people want clarity, tone, solutions."
And this seems to make sense when you consider what William Kristol has written over at The Weekly Standard. Viewing the current lineup of candidates for the GOP Kristol says: "the conservative commentariat should take a deep breath, be a bit less judgmental about these individuals--and realize that there is not likely to be a second Reagan. . . So conservatives might think of John McCain as our potential TR, Mike Huckabee as our potential FDR, and Mitt Romney as our potential JFK. Support the one you prefer. But don't work yourself into a frenzy against the others. Let the best man emerge from a challenging primary process."

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Has anyone noticed that both Hillary and McCain have "chipmunk cheeks"? In fact, there is a vague resemblance here - the same cheeky look with the same eyes-up, tentative smile. Is this what we have to look forward to?

Hollywood Defection

Oscar winner and four-time Oscar nominee Jon Voight has defected from Hollywood's lockstep liberal frenzy and endorsed Rudy Giuliani for President.
Voight says that "Rudy has the right strategy, the executive experience and the bold vision to win this race and lead America into the future."
I once met Jon Voight when my family and I were travelling. Voight was staying in the same hotel with a bunch of other actors who were performing nearby. Not all of the actors and entertainers who were staying there were friendly when we approached them. But Voight was different. He chatted with us, posed for pictures and was delighted to hear our reactions to some of his film performances including one of my personal favorites, "Runaway Train".
Currently appearing in "National Treasure: Book of Secrets," Jon Voight has sustained a very successful Hollywood career over the span of five decades. To build and maintain such an impressive filmography over such a long time is no easy accomplishment.
Voight is correct when he says "America is approaching one of its most important elections in history."

The Lingering South

Today, on the birthday of Robert E. Lee, Paul Greenberg has written a beautiful essay at on Lee and the Lingering South.
Here's part of what he says:
If the South is more than a geographic designation, if there is still a South worthy of the name, it is because myth continues to shape her, and Southerners may still be able to imagine what it is to be whole, all of a piece.
When Flannery O'Connor was asked why Southerners seem to have a penchant for writing about freaks, she would say: Because in the South we are still able to recognize a freak when we see one. To do that, one must have some idea of what wholeness would be.

Read the entire essay.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Chill For Phil?

Some people just can't get enough attention.
Dr. Phil tried to snag headlines by coming to the rescue of Britney only to alienate Britney's family and wind up looking like a huckster.
Now, a complaint has been filed against Dr. Phil with the California Board of Psychology.
The complaint reportedly accuses Dr. Phil McGraw of practicing without a license when he visited Britney at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after her meltdown earlier this month, according to
The complaint alleges Dr. Phil practiced clinical psychology without a license and further violated doctor-patient privilege by discussing the pop star's case with the media. Dr. Phil has never been licensed to practice in California, and he is no longer licensed in his home state of Texas.
McGraw failed to complete the conditions imposed as disciplinary sanctions by the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists in 1989.
At that time a former therapy client had filed a complaint against him, claiming their relationship was inappropriate.
McGraw later admitted giving her a job but denied touching her.
Soon after he was officially reprimanded, Dr. Phil closed his private practice

Cash In Pocket

President Bush today called for about $145 billion of tax relief and other incentives to stimulate the economy and ensure continued growth. He didn't outline specific proposals, but said a growth package must include tax incentives for business investment and "direct and rapid" tax relief for individuals.
Everybody who pays income taxes - everybody - should get some relief. That's the only fair way to do it, so let's start printing the rebate checks. And the Congress should have the guts to also completely eliminate the dreaded alternative minimum tax and make the Bush tax cuts permanent.

Crazy 'Bout A Mercury

I've been driving American cars for a long time. I'm proud to count four Mercurys in my family right now and I don’t plan on changing my buying patterns anytime soon. And, regardless of the troubles Ford and GM may currently be having , I'd hold the corporate obituaries. Because these are good, solid, safe, reliable cars produced by innovative companies.
To be honest I've never been able to understand the appeal of Japanese and other foreign cars -- even those which carry a "made in America" label. American brand cars are certainly competitively priced and more often than not an American car has more interior room than its comparable Japanese model. Though I'm hardly an expert, I do not notice a huge difference in the way the vehicles ride. And to me Japanese cars in particular are uninspired when it comes to styling. There doesn't seem to be anything distinctive about them. They seem to lack panache.
And here's the real stickler: the apparent snob appeal of certain foreign cars. What does it say about a person who is so insecure that he or she needs to be defined by a beefy Lexus or a boxy Camry or a strange, little, overpriced Mini Cooper? I look at some of these people and I want to say: "Get over it. It's only a car!"
Not to suggest that cars can't be sexy. But if that's what you want, what's wrong with a new Pontiac G6 or a Ford Mustang? They're better looking than ever and pack lots of vrooom.
But most of us are happy with a trusty family sedan, minivan or SUV. Which brings me back to my Mercurys. They're good cars.
By the way, the only two foreign cars I ever owned (a long time ago) were both lemons: a Volvo and a Mazda. Thankfully, both those brands are now owned by Ford.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Open Letter

It seems the decision of the New York Times to hire the right-leaning William Kristol as a columnist is creating quite a stir among Times staff members and readers. Today, Daniel Finkelstein, The Times of London comment editor has written an Open Letter to Readers of the New York Times. Finkelstein points out that "A quality newspaper should have columns reflecting a wide variety of opinions, even those uncongenial to the majority of its readers. While the bulk of a paper's columnists may reflect the publication's character and view, there must always be space for an alternative opinion."
And that's just a small part of Finkelstein's wonderful letter. Read it here.

Ten Years Ago

That was the headline on the Drudge Report 10 years ago today: January 17, 1997.
And then the story:
The DRUDGE REPORT has learned that reporter Michael Isikoff developed the story of his career, only to have it spiked by top NEWSWEEK suits hours before publication. A young woman, 23, sexually involved with the love of her life, the President of the United States, since she was a 21-year-old intern at the White House. She was a frequent visitor to a small study just off the Oval Office where she claims to have indulged the president's sexual preference. Reports of the relationship spread in White House quarters and she was moved to a job at the Pentagon, where she worked until last month.
Now, James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal recalls: The following day, Drudge named the intern as Monica Lewinsky, and a few days after that, the story was all over the mainstream media. It looked for a while as if President Clinton might not serve out his term. Even his dutiful wife commented on the "Today" show that if true, "that would be a very serious offense." But, insisted Hillary Clinton, it was not true.
Yet, it was true. All true. And the Clintons knew that it was true.
It's just that they weren't ready to tell us the truth. First, they had to create the spectre of a "vast right wing conspiracy" so as to have an enemy; an effective distraction. Then (even though perjury was involved) they had to concoct a way to explain it all - a catchphrase, an excuse, something dismissive, something easy to understand. So, it was decided that the whole thing was "just about sex."
And then just to make sure everything was good and muddled they piled on with a debate about the meaning of various words, including the word "is."
Still, William Jefferson Clinton disgraced himself and the Presidency and he became the only elected American President in our entire history to ever be impeached.
Impeachment. That is one fact of the Clinton Presidency that can never be erased, avoided or explained away.

Truly Scary

Gawker tells us: "You have to watch this video. It shows Tom Cruise, with all the wide-eyed fervor that he brings to the promotion of a movie, making the argument for Scientology, the bizarre 20th-century religion. Making the argument is an understatement. The Hollywood actor, star of movies such as Mission Impossible, is a complete fanatic. 'When you're a Scientologist, and you drive by an accident, you know you have to do something about it, because you know you're the only one who can really help... We are the way to happiness. We can bring peace and unite cultures.' There's much much more. . . if Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah's couch was an 8 on the scale of scary, this is a 10."

Eleven O'Clock

On Broadway they call it the "Eleven O'Clock" number. It's that big, magic, show-stopping, star-making moment that occurs near the end of a musical. It's that big number that saves the show and sends everyone home singing a sweet tune.
Both national political parties are waiting for Eleven O'Clock. They need that Big Moment when they know a star is born. They're thirsting for it.
So far, we've seen some false starts, some almost-stars and some obvious poseurs and understudies. But the time for tryouts is nearing an end. The Big Show needs to open soon.
Who will step forward and belt out the Big Number? Who will reach the rafters with a victory that matters and a message that resonates? Who will make that vital link - not just with the party faithful but with those way up in the third balcony?
The instant when the moment, the person and the message finally come together for each party has proved illusive. The media are anxious, like hyperactive schoolchildren who just devoured a whole bag of Oreos.
But those of us who've seen more than a few these shows are beginning to understand that we've still got some watching and waiting ahead of us.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Votes & Delegates

Race At A Glance - 1/17/08
Total Primary Votes (delegates)
Romney - 442,543 (52)
McCain - 361,257 (15)
Huckabee - 207,300 (22)
Thompson - 50, 923 (6)
Giuliani - 49,190 (1)

Generation Gap

Adam Cirucci sent us these true stories from young people about their frustrations with Internet-challenged geezers:
-I was showing my uncle how to do something in Microsoft Word, so I told him to move the mouse to the file button. He then picked up the mouse off the desk and touched it to the screen.
-When my father first got his new cell phone, he kept giving me a confused look everytime he went to use it. Finally he asked me, "How come I don't hear a dial-tone?"
-Explaining AIM, my 11 year old sister told my dad, he could click on an AIM bot like MovieFone or Shopping Buddy and it would anwser any question heasked. He clicked it and said "Hey. Who are you?" outloud.
-I got on the computer at my Aunt's house over Christmas and the InternetExplorer icon on the desktop was titled "MOM THIS IS THE INTERNET"-
-My mother offered to take me and my sister to the cell phone store so we can "pick out a new ringtone.

Unimpressive "Win"

From the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto:
Hillary Clinton won yesterday's Democratic presidential primary in Michigan. This is not a very impressive accomplishment, seeing as how she beat nobody. In a dispute between Michigan and the national party over the date of the primary, Barack Obama and John Edwards sided with the party and pulled their names off the ballots, leaving only Mrs. Clinton and some negligible candidates, plus the option to vote "uncommitted"--an option of which far more voters availed themselves than Mrs. Clinton would have liked. The Detroit News reports that "[Mrs.] Clinton led Uncommitted 55%-40% with 97% of the vote counted Tuesday night." A 15-point margin of victory would be a landslide against an opponent. Against no one, it is a sign of both weakness and active opposition.

Silence Speaks

You might not find this anywhere in the headlines but
U. S. combat-related casualties in Iraq are down 83% for December '07 vs. December '06.
At the same time, have you noticed that certain quarters have become strangely silent when it comes to the subject of Iraq? In fract, as the new Congress returns it's hard to find Iraq anywhere on the agenda.

Grand Mothering

She slept late but loved big breakfasts, eschewed the outdoors yet adored fall foliage, had little interest in material things but always wore her jewelry.
So begins Aimee Cirucci's beautiful story "Grand Mothering" now appearing in Mothering Magazine. Aimee is a lecturer in communications at Temple University where she is also a graduate degree candidate in the Department of Strategic and Organizational Communications. She's also a very fine freelance editor and writer. Congratulations, Aimee!

Poor Grades

Gov. Jon S. Corzine is receiving poor marks from New Jersey residents who don't particularly like his policies or his style of governing, according to a new Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey poll.
Midway through his four-year term, 40 percent of the poll respondents said they approved of Corzine's job performance, while 44 percent disapproved, the highest negative rating found by the poll since Corzine took office in January 2006.
State residents gave Corzine an overall C-minus grade on issues ranging from cost-cutting, property taxes, government ethics, cost of living, schools and Corzine's level of effort.

Those words are not mine. This is the lead of a Gannett New Jersey story by James W. Prado Roberts. And the story notes that since he took office Corzine has never achieved an approval rating higher than 51 percent. Now, as a professor I can tell you that a grade of C- is not good. Not good at all - especially for a Democrat in a decidedly Democrat state. And 51 percent? Well, that's a failing grade.
But New Jersey's wacky governor never seems to get the message. While the state wallows in red ink he proposes bigger and bigger tax and spend plans, hands out more money and continues to build America's biggest Nanny State. Corzine has just signed a pay-raise bill making New Jersey's judges among the highest paid in the nation. On average judges will get raises of about $20,000 annually. I think the world of judges. But I also think that when a state is billions of dollars in debt some discretion must be shown.
And Corzine also signed into law a bill which brings red light cameras to the state - another Big Brother move. Both pieces of legislation were approved at the 11th hour by a lame duck Democrat legislature. Many of those who provided the margin of victory are leaving office (only to be replaced by more Dems) so they don't care anyway. It was their last "gift" to New Jersey's sucker-taxpayers.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Fresh off a significant victory in the Michigan primary Mitt Romney came alive Tuesday night with rousing, give 'em hell victory remarks that energized the crowd.
Romney seemed refreshingly unleashed. In shirtsleeves and with his hair tousled Romney appeared to speak without any script or notes and delivered his remarks in an animated style that had partisans roaring their approval. Early indications are that Romney carried all age groups and won a victory across broad demographic lines. He easily won the Republican and core conservative vote and prevented John McCain from making any inroads via independent voters. Among those who decided who to for vote in the final day, Romney won handily. Among those who identified the economy as the most important issue Romney also won handily.
Mitt Romney charted fresh, broad Reaganeque themes in his remarks. He used quick, simple powerful sentences and evoked optimism and a can-do spirit at every turn.
His victory in Michigan must be considered significant not just because it keeps Romney's candidacy alive (and indeed, energizes it) but also because it keeps the GOP race wide open and has the potential to change the future course of the Republican Party and the nation itself.
Now this is really getting interesting!

Bravo, Botti!

I've been listening to Italia, the glorious new album by trumpeter Chris Botti. This talented and charismatic musician, composer and performer says his new collection of music is inspired by the sights, sounds, history and romance of Italy. Since Botti is a jazz artist who has crossed all boundaries, Italia includes classical, operatic, spiritual, cinematic and contemporary offerings -- everything from Ave Maria to Nessun Dorma to Deborah's Theme from "Once Upon A Time in America" to Dean Martin singing I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face.
"We try to make every song have a different feel to it but the overall record has a flavor, a thread," The thread is Botti's simple, hauting, pitch-perfect style - something which makes the record distinct. It's mesmerizing. Botti says "I believe the challenge is to make a record that's individual, finds an audience, and creates something that's meaningful to the listener."
Botti, who was born in Oregon is very proud of his Italian roots and actually spent two years in Italy while growing up.
This young man is an extraordinary artist who seems destined to be enriching our lives for a long time to come.


At the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York I sat alongside members of the Kentucky delegation as John McCain addressed the convention.
McCain seemed to say all the right things. He glossed over whatever differences he may have had with "W" and reaped high praise on the President and the accomplishments of his first term.
But Kentucky was having none of it. In fact, two grande dames of the GOP sitting next to me sat on their hands throughout McCain's speech. I asked one of them why they were not responding. "Don't like him," she replied. "Can't trust him." I didn't press the matter since neither one of my blue-haired friends seemed to want to say anything further. As long as McCain was on the podium, they remained disengaged.
I encountered much the same thing on the floor of the GOP Convention in Philadelphia in 2000 where McCain seemed to garner a mixed reception at best.
I realize that John McCain is very popular with independents and even with many Democrats. But McCain has always had a problem with the party faithful. And he's never been popular with Ronald Reagan conservatives.
On the Mark Levin radio program the other day former Senator Rick Santorum pointed out that McCain voted against the Bush tax cuts and gave voice to the conservative view when he said he thought that nominating McCain would "create a 'huge rift' in the Republican Party."
"I think he’s been solid in the war on terror," Santorum added "… but on domestic policy, he’s very, very dangerous for Republicans. There’s nothing worse than having a Democratic Congress and a Republican president who would act like a Democrat in matters that are important to conservatives.”
Still, one might ask: How will the GOP find a way to win if it doesn't reach out to independents and some Democrats? And in the end, isn't that the lesson of Santorum's failed quest for re-election?

French Connection

Our friend Jenice Armstrong at the Philadelphia Daily News points out in her column today that recently divorced French President Nicolas Sarkozy 52, has reportedly married Carla Bruni, 39, his model-turned-singer girlfriend, in a small, private ceremony.
Bruni has an American link since she has dated Donald Trump, among others. Jenice observes that "Carla's not what some [French] voters had in mind as a first lady."
"In America," she adds "those words conjure up a pearl-wearing, law-school grad in the vein of an Elizabeth Edwards or maybe a traditional, stay-at-home Laura Bush-type - not a pop star with a love resume that could give even Angelina Jolie pause. The Italian heiress' past lovers include Mick Jagger . . . Bruni even dated a French publisher, only to dump him for his married son, with whom she had a child who is now 6. She has been quoted as saying, 'Monogamy bores me terribly.'"
Well, looking at Bruni one is tempted to forgive a multitude of sins. Anyway, Jenice wonders if what's happening in France will temper the reaction of Americans to Rudy Giuliani's third wife, Judith, should Giuliani get the nomination. It's a stretch. But at this point anything that might help Rudy is like fine French wine.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Great Feedback

Marlene Panoyan, Director of Communications for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce has informed us that our comments about the passing of Johnny Grant have been placed on the Johnny Grant Memorial Tribute Page, right there alongside comments from Nancy Reagan, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, Chamber of Commerce President Leron Gubler and Congresswoman Diane E. Watson. We are honored.
And so many of you have been adding your opinions (anonymous or otherwise) on various postings here that we just want you to know how much we appreciate your input.
For example, in response to our Daily News op-ed some of our friends have been suggesting additional words and phrases to banish during the new year. Among those suggested are sexy, drill down, celebrate, recharge your batteries and touch point.
Also, two of our former students have written to comment on the blog.
Pat Rose says: "Just wanted to let you know that I am enjoying your blog, especially your commentary on the Presidential candidates. I think this will be one of the more interesting presidential campaigns in recent memory. I think I heard a stat saying that this is the first time since the 1920's that neither a sitting President or Vice President will be running for the Presidency. My hunch is Obama v. McCain."
Pat graduated from Rowan and is now Public Affairs Coordinator for the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.
And Meredith Avakian says she thinks the blog is a "wonderful idea" and is enjoying our ruminations. Meredith graduated from Temple and is now Senior Public Affairs Representative with DuPont.
Pat and Meredith were two of my best students. Meredith has been back to guest lecture at Penn State and Pat says he will soon do the same.

McCain's Big Secret

How does John McCain manage to garner such positive media attention? Jonathan Martin answers this question at the Politico blog:
So much has been written about McCain's relationship with the media that it is hard to say anything fresh. But McCain's way of engaging with journalists is so different from that of other candidates that it is worth dwelling on it for a moment. On a typical campaign trip, time with the candidate — "the principal," in campaignspeak — is severely restricted. Anytime a typical candidate agrees to speak to the press, it's a big deal, and journalists are often competitive about access and proximity. Because candidates speak so infrequently their words take on added importance, and journalists spend much of their time trying to trip candidates up or force them to say something that will make news. For the candidate, a press conference is often a matter of avoiding mistakes, more than a chance to communicate a message to the public. None of this is true with McCain. He engages journalists at every opportunity. He speaks informally and does not labor over his words. He is quick with a joke and likes to make fun of the reporters covering him. He sometimes says that he does not want to talk about a subject, but this is rare, and chances are good that if you ask him again an hour or two later, he will answer your question. More often, he talks about things that other politicians prefer to avoid.
So, there you have it. McCain engages the media. He treats members of the press corps as human beings. He remains accessible. He's conversational; he jokes; he seems real.
Secret unvelied!

Rock Star Reception

From the Bradenton (Fla.) Herald:
Supporters gave Rudy Giuliani a rock-star reception when he made a campaign stop in Manatee County on Saturday in a state crucial to his bid for the Republican nomination for president. . . As the former mayor of New York stepped onto the stage in the ballroom of the Senior Enrichment Center on Ninth Street West, the standing-room-only crowd of about 800 cheered after waiting for more than a hour for him to arrive.
Joyce and John Tevald didn't mind the wait to hear from their choice for the Jan. 29 primary.
"We're familiar with what he's done for New York City," said Joyce Tevald, who moved to Manatee County with her husband from New Jersey about a year ago. "He did a fantastic job cleaning it up." . . . Giuliani, who is concentrating his campaign in Florida, took off his suit jacket and rolled up his sleeves in the overheated room before giving his stump speech.
He spoke about the tax cut plan he recently unveiled, saying the nation's growth economy is based on three fiscal policies: low taxes, responsible government spending and moderate regulations.
"People should be able to keep more of their income," Giuliani said to roaring approval from his supporters. . . . The great turnout for Giuliani had all local Manatee County for Rudy leaders sitting on the stage beaming with pride.
Photo: Brian Blanco, Bradenton Herald

"Back In The Day"

From today's Philadelphia Daily News:
The onset of the new year makes me nostalgic for earlier time: a different time, a simpler time.
Maybe what I really need is to be transported to sometime back in the day.
But when exactly was "back in the day"?
Was it a few months ago? A few years ago? Decades ago? Maybe it was even a century ago. Or maybe it stretches back to the Middle Ages.
I don't know. All I know is that whatever day is back there is different for everyone who's remembering or talking about back in the day.
Back in the day is one of those words or phrases that, after years of increasing use, finally achieved total oversaturation last year - while still managing to communicate almost absolutely nothing. And it's one of those catchalls that should be banished in the new year.

To read the rest of this column and discover more words and phrases that should be banned in the new year click here.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Facts Don't Lie

The following are facts:
The first woman ever elected to both houses of Congress was a Republican.
The landmark Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act of the 1960s were approved by the Congress with the critical support of Republicans. Democrats (who held a wide majority in Congress at the time) simply did not have enough support in their own party to approve these measures. Without Republican support these measures would probably not have been approved.
The first woman to have her name placed in nomination for the presidency by either of the two major parties was a Republican.
The first African-American elected to the United States Senate post-Reconstruction was a Republican.
The first woman ever to serve on the United States Supreme Court was a Republican, appointed by a Republican President.
The first African-American ever to serve as Secretary of State (the highest ranking Cabinet post and fourth in line to the presidency) was appointed by a Republican President.
The first African-American woman ever to serve as Secretary of State was appointed by a Republican President.
According to USA Today, "With little fanfare and not much credit, President George W. Bush has appointed a more diverse set of top advisers than any president in history. In his first term, Bush matched the record that President Clinton set in his first term for appointing women and people of color to the Cabinet, and Bush had a more diverse inner circle at the White House."
The first Hispanic ever to hold one of the powerful "big four" Cabinet posts (US Attorney General) was appointed by a Republican President.
Again, according to USA Today President Bush was the first President whose innermost circle — the people he relies on in a crunch — included women other than his wife.
Of President George W. Bush Donna Brazile has said: ""The president has done more than diversify his Cabinet. President Bush has opened new doors for minorities and women . . . "

King George Reigns

King George (aka George Strait) garnered three nominations for Grammy Awards at the unveiling of the 2008 nominees. He was nominated for 'Male Country Performance', Country Album for 'It Just Comes Natural' and Country Song for 'Give It Away'. The Grammy winners will be announced on the Grammy Awards show broadcast Feb. 10th from the Los Angeles Staples Center on CBS TV (assuming the dreaded writers' strike is settled by then).
King George will be in Philadelphia for a concert at the Wachovia Center on Saturday, February 16 and all his subjects will be there to pay homage to the man who's often been called "the Frank Sinatra of country music." If you haven't purchased your tickets for the Philly gig, forget it. Any appearance by King George completely sells out in a matter of minutes. There are only a few more stops in the tour after Philly: Richmond VA, Lexington KY, Cleveland, Albuquerque NM and Lubbock TX. Find the complete tour schedule here.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Jimmah's Early Trials

It's been said that the older a person gets the longer he or she had to walk to school as a child. Well, it gets worse. Jimmy Carter's got a new book coming out that says he was raised amidst insects and varmints (including rats) and that his mother treated a variety of serious childhood ailments with home remedies.
The New York Post reports: "No matter what kind of hard-luck stories about growing up the presidential candidates can come up with this year, they'll be hard-pressed to match the woeful tales Jimmy Carter can spin.
"In 'A Remarkable Mother,' his upcoming Simon & Schuster memoir about Lillian Carter, Carter says his Georgia home was constantly under siege from armies of insects and rodents, including rats so big they could 'successfully challenge' most cats.
"Worse yet were common ailments like tapeworm, hookworm and lice infestations - with supposed cures just as disgusting. 'I think the most obnoxious medical experience I ever had was when someone convinced Daddy that we children could avoid an outbreak of flu, or some other prevalent illness, by wearing pellets of asafetida, or devil's dung, around our waists,' Carter writes. 'It was a horrible-smelling extract . . . [that kept] bearers of germs at a healthy distance from wearers of the stench.'
"For head lice, 'other than a very short haircut or shaved head, the standard treatment was a concoction of sulfur and kerosene, held in place with a tight stocking cap . . . We didn't have to worry much about red bugs, or chiggers, but Mama made us check for ticks after we'd spent time in the woods and swamps. She knew how to remove them with heat or tweezers . . .'"
Sounds like Jimmah's childhood had all the charm of a Dickens novel. No wonder he turned out to be such a self-righteous sourpuss.

All Hail Chancellor

Philly's lawyers are in Atlantic City this weekend for their annual Bar Leaders' Retreat but earlier this week more than 600 legal luminaries gathered at the Philadelphia Bar Association's Annual Chancellor's Reception to usher in the reign of Chancellor A. Michael Pratt. Chancellor Platt is shown above (on left) with former Chancellor Abe Reich and Chair of the Board Stephanie Resnick.
As always, the reception was held at The Bellevue (aka Park Hyatt at The Bellevue). Food and drink were plentiful and good cheer prevailed throughout the evening.
This event has been held every January for more than 70 years and is a highlight of the social season in Philadelphia. It attracts many of the city's top lawyers, judges and public officials as well as many of those who serve the legal community in one way or the other.
Tradition mandates that all attendees wait in a long line to shake the hand of the new Chancellor and wish him and his new team well. Whatever skirmishes the lawyers may have engaged in during the previous year are forgotten and the new year begins with everyone enjoying food and drink as friends. In the cyber age the event has taken on a new meaning since it gives everyone a chance to meet and chat face-to-face.
For us it is always a welcome opportunity to reconnect with old friends.
BTW: The "A" in A. Michael Pratt stands for Anthony. Go AntNeeee!

"Politician's Waterboard"

This from Kathleen Parker over at Real Clear Politics:
. . . let's get something straight: [Hillary] Clinton wasn't emotional because she cares deeply about the country. She was near tears because she cares deeply about becoming the first woman president.
Thwarted ambition is the politician's waterboard.

Clinton . . . segued into her deeply held conviction that she is the only person who can save this country.
"I couldn't do it if I didn't passionately believe it was the right thing to do. I have so many opportunities from this country, I just don't want to see us fall backwards."
What she meant, of course, was that she doesn't want to see herself fall backward.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Star For Suzanne

Since we've been talking about the Hollywood Walk of Fame let's not forget that Suzanne Pleschette will be getting her star on the Walk on January 31.
Army Archerd reports: "It's no secret Suzanne has been battling cancer and had undergone chemotherapy last year. While her appearances have been very few, she did participate in the tribute to her longtime costar and friend Bob Newhart at the Museum of Television and Radio in Beverly Hills, and as usual, she brought down the house with her down-to-earth bawdy humor."
Suzanne Pleschette has always been talented, funny and beautiful. And her beauty has always been more than skin deep. She's always maintained a great sense of humor about herself. One gets the impression that she's always kept her life in balance as well. I can't imagine why it took Hollywood so long to give her a star on the Walk of Fame but thank goodness she's having her moment.

Heightened Tensions?

Three days ago, right here, I asked if the Clintons would heighten racial tensions once they started going after Obama full force. I warned that no betrayal or hurt is worse than that inflicted by friends.
Now Drudge is leading with this headline: RACE WAR: OBAMA CAMPAIGN, BLACKS OUTRAGED BY CLINTONS and Politico is reporting that "a series of comments from Senator Hillary Clinton, her husband, and her supporters are spurring a racial backlash and adding a divisive edge to the presidential primary as the candidates head south to heavily African-American South Carolina."
In all fairness, this same question has been posed by Donna Brazile and by Juan Williams. It's beginning to gain some traction.

Jolly Johnny Hollywood

Johnny Grant, the irrepressible, famously friendly Honorary Mayor of Hollywood is dead at 84.
If you've ever seen photos of those Hollywood Walk of Fame events where luminaries get their Star on the Walk then you've seen Johnny Grant. Johnny personally inducted more than 500 celebrities into the Walk of Fame.
Johnny Grant led the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and boosted Hollywood during its glory days, through its sad slide in the 60s, 70s and 80s and into its dazzling re-emergence in the 1990s and renaissance in the new century. He never, ever wavered in his love for the entertainment industry and Hollywood. Since 1991 he lived atop the legendary Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
In the LA Times Hollywood Chamber of Commerce President Leron Gubler described Grant as "the bridge between Hollywood's golden past and what's happening today."
Everything about Grant seemed true: from his boyish first name to his jolly manner. Those present at a brief memorial ceremony on the Walk of Fame yesterday said Grant's demeanor was constant, even when he mingled with Hollywood's biggest names. "He never changed. He just added weight," said someone who first met Grant in 1946.
I never met Johnny Grant but I remember seeing him every year in the Hollywood Christmas Parade. To me he epitomized authenticity in the midst of a vast but nonetheless captivating charade. Of course, Ron and Nancy Reagan were among the greats befriended by Grant over the years. Yesterday, Ronald Reagan's uniform from "Brother Rat" was still there in Grant's penthouse apartment along with other treasured Hollywood mementos.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Best Line

Best line at the Wednesday night Fox News GOP debate:
"The Democrats keep talking about change, change, change. But the only kind of change they're interested in is taking the change out of your pockets."
-Rudy Giuliani

Original Hillary

The Associated Press reports: "Sir Edmund Hillary, the unassuming beekeeper who conquered Mount Everest to win renown as one of the 20th century's greatest adventurers, has died, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark announced Friday. He was 88."
I wonder how Hillary Clinton feels about the death of her namesake. Well, maybe her namesake. In other words, sort of her namesake. But actually, probably not her namesake.
You see, like many things involving the Clintons, it's a somewhat complicated story. And it all has to do with the name Hillary.
Hillary (with 2 ls) is a variant of Hilary, a name used by both boys and girls. The name means cheerful. Yes, I did say cheerful. Hillary Rodham Clinton was born Hillary Diane Rodham. Was she named after Sir Edmund Hillary, the man who conquered Mt. Everest? At one point Mrs. William Clinton claimed that her mother named her after the famous explorer. This would account for her name’s distinctive spelling.
But Sir Edmund didn’t climb Everest until 1953, more than five years after Hillary Rodham was born.
Hillary Clinton has a history of nebulous name play. She didn’t adopt the Clinton name until some time after she married William Jefferson Clinton. In the beginning she still called herself Hillary Rodham. Later, it was Hillary Clinton. Still later, it became Hillary Rodham Clinton. Call it evolution.
Anyway, for more on the candidates' names see my op-ed on that subject from the Courier-Post.

No Change

Steven Stark, writing in the Boston Phoenix points out that a year ago the leading candidates for the GOP nomination were Giuliani and McCain.
And Stark feels that little has changed. He believes that the race will come down to Giuliani and McCain. Stark asks: "Will Rudy's 'Wait Until the Big States' strategy work? Here's his answer:
Quite possibly -- we'll know on January 29, when Florida votes. But by the time we get to Florida, Romney and Fred Thompson are likely to be non-factors, and the loser of the South Carolina primary won't be looking great, either. That leaves Giuliani a pretty open field. His problem is that, if McCain is the next-to-last man left, he's a formidable opponent. But a Giuliani victory in Florida, or even in the big states beyond, isn't impossible, particularly if Huckabee can knock off McCain in either Michigan or South Carolina.
And Stark also feels that John Edwards is "finished" and may drop out of the Democrat race. Many people believe that if Edwards left the race it would greatly help Obama since many of the current Edwards voters may be anti-Hillary voters anyway. So, going forward, watch Edwards closely. His decision to stay in or get out could determine the outcome of the Democrat race.

The Wiz

They called him a financial genius.
He conquered Wall Street, bought his way into the exclusive club known as the US Senate and then bullied his way into the NJ Governor's mansion with the promise that he would clean up the financial mess that plagues this endlessly beleaguered state - a sorry kingdom that remains the butt of so many jokes.
But once in office he hemmed and hawed, bobbed and weaved, found himself bedeviled by embarrassments involving former flames and unsavory characters, grew bored and then finally, finally unveiled his secret plan to save the state: monetization.
So here it is: Under the plan proposed by Joisey's wacky Governor Jon Corzine, you will eventually pay $16.59 to drive to Casinoland on the Atlantic City Expressway. The tolls on the Expressway, the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway will keep climbing and climbing and climbing, at least until 2022. But of course the first increase won't take effect until the year after Corzine faces re-election. Ain't that clever?
This is the largest single fee or tax increase of any kind in the history of a state that has been known for setting tax hike records. It includes as much as a 500% driving tax increase and $40 billion in new debt.
So the Wiz of Wall Street has produced his solution: ante up, sucker!
Photo: Americans for Prosperity