Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Final Four

Rudy G. and John Edwards are dropping out. Huckabee is hanging on, probably to help McCain and see if he can get the V.P. nod, but really, we are down to the final four. Mitt may be headed for the knock out blow on Tuesday. 22 states coming up on February 5. and McCain has tremendous momentum coming out of South Carolina and Florida. With Rudy G out, there are a lot of votes up for grabs, but if he endorses McCain, it's probably good night nurse for Romeny. The second Governor of that name in only 40 years to be judged unfit to be President.

Mitt has got to be frustrated. In head on head fights with McCain, I believe that he could win. The muddled field has worked against him. I believe that the only possible race that the Republicans have a chance of winning is Mitt vs. Hillary. I don't think they'd win it, but they'd have a chance. But if the polls are to be believed, things look awfully good for the Senator from Arizona.

How about the Dems ? In a zen moment last night, Hillary flew into Florida to claim victory in a primary she never campaigned in and can get no delegates from. The Democratic National committee says that they won't seat Florida's delegates this year because they scheduled their primary too early in the year. This should set up an old fashioned delegate war at the convention, with a bunch of Clintonites trying to get the Convention to seat the Florida renegades. We used to have fights like this all the time at conventions, it will be like stepping back in time to 1952.

Things look decent enough for Hillary, but she can't possibly predict what the Edward's surrender will do to her. If, as I suspect, the Edwards vote is a pretty hard anti-Clinton vote, it is going to hurt. If, as turned out to be the case in South Carolina, it is a bunch of old White men, it will help her. The most likely scenario is that it will help her in southern states like Georgia and Alabama, and hurt her everywhere else. But no one really knows, and that's why Tuesday will be so interesting. It does not look to me like this thing will be settled for some time. That means that the texas primary (for once) will count for something.

After a lot of soul searching, I have decided to vote for Obama. I do this at great pain. Obama is barely a member of the baby boom generation and I hate for my group to give up the Presidency so fast. I was hoping that we'd be like the Civil War generation and hold onto the office for 32 years, or the WW II generation which managed to hold on for 40 years. We have had only 16 years of mirror image Presidents, one Democrtat and one Republican. The truth of the matter is that out act is pretty well worn out after only 16 years. It has been, like most of us, full of great promise and too little delivery. Clinton was actually impeached. Bush is going to end up in every historian's list of the bottom five Presidents of all time. He is certainly the worst since Hoover and, in my opinion had just as bad a record as Harding.

So why Obama ? It's just time for a fresh start. I think that a race with Hillary in it would be a rerun of the last four campaigns, the same close votes, the same tired issues, the same class warfare. The country needs to go in a new direction, perhaps even march in a new direction.It is a risk voting for Obama, he is probably not ready. But is anyone ever ready to be President ? It is more or less like the guys who ride bulls in the rodeo. You are never really ready, sometimes it's just your turn. Can Obama get nominated ? It is going to be very tough. The Clintons are master politicians and in any close race will get every break. It won't upset me if they win, I thinkj that Hillary is ready for, and certainly up to the job. I just don't particularly want to put the country through all that her campaign and election would entail. Whether it is their fault or not, the wounds of the Clintons and those caused by the Clintons never seem heal. I thiink that it is best to move on.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Me gotta go

Louie, Louie
me gotta go,
Louie, Louie,
me gotta go The Kingsmen

In the spring of 1961,diminutive Louie Welch, a City Councilman from Houston lost the Mayor's race to the honorable and very rhymable Mayor Louis Cutrier.It was my first Mayor's election and I, like all third graders, loved "Mayor Cutrier". It just rolled off of the tounge. It was Louie's third loss in a row, causing my father to dub him "losing Louie". But Losing Louie never gave up, two tears later he came back to defeat Mayor Cutrier and finally get the Downtown Lions Club a Mayor of its own. He grew more and more powerful, holding onto the job for ten years and presiding over phenomenal growth in Houston. He was quite probably the most powerful Mayor in Houston history. But yesterday, in the memorable words of the Kingsmen, " Louie gotta go" and he ascended to that great political heaven, preceeded by many of his contemporaries including Wagner of New York, Daley of Chicago and Yorty of Los Angeles. The last of America's Big city Mayor bosses.

Louie started his political life as a pretty darn liberal Lions Club member, he personally intervened in the 1960 sit-in of the City Cafeteria in Houston, forcing its integration.It was a brave and correct thing to do. Throug his long career, Louie managed to alienate just about anyone in Houston who was not a conservative white male, which for most of his tenure in office, was still a clear majority of Houstonians. When he left office in 1973, the handwriting was on the wall that a candidate appealing only to white conservatives would probably not be mayor of Houston again.

Louie was the first person I ever voted against, in the spring of 1971. I had just turned 18, and it was the first election in Houston where 18 year olds were eligible to vote. My hero, young Fred Hofenienz, lost a close race to Louie after throwing him into an unexpected run off because, in the words of Louie, "all my white friends went hunting". Another one of my political heroes, Leonel Castillo was elected as Controller that year, the first hispanic to win city wide office. Castillo would become a political mentor for myself and my friend Gary Marfin while we were in college.

By 1971, many white Houstonians had finally accepted the fact that Louie was running a racist administration (as every other past administration in Houston had been). The issue had been brought to the forefront in 1969 by a black candidate for Mayor, named Curtis Graves whose campaign slogan "I dig Graves" is one of my all time favorites. Graves had turned Welch Police chief Herman Short ( pronounced by Graves "Hoiman Short") into something of a national lightining rod of the racist cop variety. In so doing he had polarized the races in Houston to an extent not seen before there.
From that point on, for a number of elections, black ballots would come in at 85-95% for their endorsed candidate. Fred Hofeninz beat Dick Gottlieb, a radio and TV guy, known as "the voice of Houston" though Fred carried less than a third of the boxes Dick carried. It was an awesome thing to watch those return roll in.

In my bitterness against Louie Welch I once slandered him on a radio show in which I was a frequent guest. There was an African-american Politician, whose last name now escapes me (his first name was Bennie), who had a show called "Young Generation" that ran on a small R &B station at 6:00 on Sunaday mornings. The premise of the show was that Bennie and "his young co-host, Darvis Pyle" would go to a different high school every week to see what was going on in the "young generation" Bennie (Darvis never uttered a word) would throw out a general question to get the ball rolling and then sit back and listen as the high schoolers, most of whom were avowed communists, tear down the system. It was great fun. On one particular show, which was recorded by Bennie on a hand held dictaphone at my girlfriend's house, I alleged that the Houston airport had been built on land owned by Louie's brother or brother in law, I forget which, and had made Louie rich. Neither Darvis nor Bennie challanged my statement and it went out over the airways at 6:00 a.m. the next Sunady. Since I had no evidence for such an assertion, and had heard it from some guy in my gym class, it is a tribute to the lack of interest in "Young Generation" that I never got sued.

After Louie left the Mayor's office he took over the job that he had already really been doing for years, President of the Houston Chamber of Commerce. As such, he once appeared at a PUC hearing attended by my friend Bennett and spoke forcefully for some unjustified rate increase for HL&P, Houston's light company. To my everlasting delight, Bennett reported to me the next day that someone in the audience had yelled out "we know who's winding your clock Louie." Boy did they ever.

Every dog has his day, and some last longer than others, but there is a special sadness reserved for those who try to come back after their time is long gone. Such was Louie's fate when he attempted to return to City Hall after it had been radicalized by Kathy Whitmire (called "Tootsie" because she looked so much like Dustin Hoffman in his Oscar winning performance). Louie had lead some gay bashing group in an election of some kind that kept gays from getting medical benefits from the city (or some similair issue). He had won a huge victory and took it, not for what it was, proof that the City of Houston was homophnbic, but as a mandate that those homophobes wanted him back as Mayor, which they did not. As the campaign got going Louie appeared on a TV debate and for some reason thought that his microphone was not on before the show when he jokingly announced his four part plan to rid the world of Aids. "Part 1, we shoot all the queers". Well Houston may have been homophobic, but they could not look foolish about it, Louie became person non gratia and went down to an awful defeat.The defeat was punctuated by t-shirts worn by gays in the election which read "Don't shoot Louie !".

Even that was a long time ago. Louie was 89 when he passed on from Lung Cancer yesterday.There are more than a million people in Houston who never saw or heard Louie in his prime. The truth of the matter was that was not very loveable. My friend John Phillips' father was Louie's pharmacist and said that Louie was one of those guys who delighted by blowing into the drug store and telling anyone with ears that "I just got back from Chicago". My friend Trey Fectaeu, whose father was a Louie friend said that in the 1971 election, Louie was called by Vice President Spiro Agnew and assured that "The President and I are watching this one closely". Well maybe he was called and maybe he was not, maybe Dick and Spiro were watching, and maybe they did not really give a damn. Louie was sure they cared, that is what mattered. It helped the little pipsqueak stand a little taller.It is true that a giant has died, but it just shows what used to pass for giants.

me gotta go,

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Toad's wild ride

Legend has it that the great American investor and political godfather Bernard Baruch got out of the stock market prior to the crash in 1929 because he had gotten a stock tip from the young man who was shining his shoes. If shoe shine boys are in the market, Baruch is alleged to have reasoned, it is time to get out. A lot has changed in the last 75 years. A lot has changed in the last 20 years. Many shoe shimne boys are in the market, as well as waitresses, mechanics, barbers, retail workers, anyone who can cobble together an IRA or work with a company with a 401(K).

When I was young, the image os someone heavily in the market ran to guys who looked like that old fellow on the "Chance" and "Community Chest" cards in the game of Monopoly. You remember the guy, flying out of the bird cage with the "get out of jail free card". He looked like the ideal plutocrat, top hat and tie, side whiskers and cane. That's what we thought people in the market looked like.Actually, that's what Bernard Baruch looked like. But the guy in the market now looks like that bald, overweight 40 something guy you see walking toward the Thunder River ride at Six Flags, trying to balance his ice cream cone while keeping up with two kids.The guy in shorts and an ugly, ill fitting T-shirt. The stock investor now is "everyman" and, for political expediency "every woman".

What this means is that when the market is down, the whole country is down.This leads to mass nuerosis among the ill educated (like myself) who check the markets every couple of hours to confirm what they think they already know, that the sky is falling and they are going to end up as old men sleeping in the gutter and begging for spare change during their golden years. On the other hand, when the market is up, the same uneducated live way beyond their means, feeling that the good times will last forever and they will retire to a gold course in Florida or Arizona just as soon as they get bored with their world travels. For most of us, it is a bipolar existence.A wild, wild ride.

Maybe we were better off when only the likes of Baruch invested in the stock market. We all worked as long as we could because usually there were jobs to be had. Then when we got too infirm we moved in on the kids, who damn well owed us room and baoard after all we had suffered for them.It was a time of limited expectations, but virtually no fear of the ups and downs forced by the invisible hand of capitalism.

Much to my shock,with markets crashing right and left, I have made money this week in the market. Now the week is not over, and I still feel that it will not end well. I called my financial advisor who told me the same thing he tells me everytime we talk, that there are market corrections, and after the corrections, the market comes back. I just have to live with a certain amount of pain. That is all well and good if you live forever. If you have a finite life, as I think all of us do, what is a moment that is a "snap shot in time" from the historic perspective, still might be the month that you owe an ungodly amount of tuition to your daughter's college. The fact that every thing will balance out in three years will not help you then. You will be sleeping in a gutter and begging for spare change.

Then there is the possibility that, unlike previous market corrections, this one is not a correction at all, but a melt down which will leave the vast majority of us holding pounds and pounds of worthless paper. The fund that holds my retirement money is not insured by anyone.Worse, few will weep for a Baby Boom generation when it is down and out. We are already considered the worst generation in the history of the country, certainly the most self absorbed. We will be getting our "come uppance" the younger folks will think, and the younger folks might be right.

In the end, that would be one great practical joke on my generation. Like the last scene in "Treasure of Sierra Madre", where the two remaining gold miners can only laugh as they watch the wind blow all their gold away. "Better laugh Curtin" says thew old man, and Curtin throws back his head and laughs. The wild ride is over.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Library at Urinetown

Frank: There's a bum sleeping in the car outside
Estelle: What do they do in there ?
Frank: They do everything, they URINATE in there


Beginning in the 1980s,screams for social justice intersected with our nation's shrinking tax base and the United States of America made the almost unanimous decision to empty its various state mental wards of schizophrenics who could be stabilized with drugs.I say , almost unanimous. There are some people, best exemplified by my senior law partner, who crave order in public spaces more than they do either a tax cut or some type of philisophical freedom of movement for all individuals. This is not a particularly unusual outlook on life, but it is not often voiced for fear of appearing politically incorrect. We have had entire nations run under this premise. Spain did it for about 50 years. Italy and Germany experimented with it, but manged to pervert it to the point where it was intolerable to the majority of the world. The former mayor of New York, Rudy Gullinai, made a name for himself by clearing the Manhattan streets of anything approaching aggressive pan handling, and anyone who does not say that a stay in the Big Apple is better now than it was in 1979 is simply lying to you.

It was these few individuals, like my partner, who spoke up, really whispered, that many believe now that we should have listened to. The question was asked then, what if the escape valve is opened for these unfortunates and they are unabale to effectivly compete in what is really a fairly brutal society ? "You just don't know what is going to happen" they'd muse. but the problem was that you knew exactly what was going to happen and sure enough, it happened.

The fact of the matter is, it is difficult to open the doors for schizophrenics and tell them to "be sure to take your pills" on the way out. Many had no place to go, most had no mony at all, and a even a pork chop could have told you, there was a pretty damn good chance that they were going to stop taking their medication. Which is exactly what happened. Thus, the "homeless" problem was created in this country.It has been going on now for two decades. Oh, we had homless before, but they were much reduced in number since the depression. We had public institutions, including jails and mental wards that took care of them, brutally in many cases, but they were not freezing to death on the streets. as they do now.

At any rate, those homeless who still know enough to come in out of the cold, often try to come in out of the cold. The same public who threw them out in the cold (some because they felt sorry for them, some because they were tired of paying for them) was not particularly crazy about letting them back in. So their has been a real tension in the land over what to do with all of those people freezing to death out on the sidewalks, and worse, bothering me for spare change as I matriculate down the street each day. "What", Scrooge would have proclaimed, "are there no workhouses?". No there are not. So many of the homeless choose to exercise the same rights that other citizens of a town exercises and that is to make use of whichever public facilities are open. That brings us to the library.

Many towns, including my own, have large public libraries, open seven days a week.While most citizens use the libraries to do such things as check out books, there is nothing to prevent a citizen from coming into the library when it opens, finding a comfortable seat, and staying until closing time.Especially if it is 20 degrees outside. Cities and Libraries pass ordinances which they hope will skirt the bounds of constitutionality, but still leave the reading publc somewhat inclined to enter a library to look for a book. Such rules as "no bed rolls", "no sleeping" and "no eating", while perfectly valid rules, are actually aimed at arming librarians with the power to oust their long term guests if need be.One of the problems is that most people don't go to library school because they are particularly good at confronting the schizophrenic. So many libraries today are, in a certain sense, dominated by the homeless.It is with this in mind that I relate the following story.

I am informed that an obnoxious odor was perceived in the 200 section (Dewy Decimal System) at our local downtown library last week. Investigation by the Library cops turned up the fact that hundreds of books, costing thousands of dollars of the citizen's money, had been urinated on.
Now this was no "accident" as my first grade teacher Mrs Harrison once called a suspicious yellow puddle next to the desk of one of my classmates. No, the range and height of the of the spray left no doubt that this was done intentionally, probably by a single urinator. Whether all of this amounted to a political statement, a literary comment, or the work of a mad man, no one was sure. althought there were suspicions.

As the spoiled books were carted off and the shelves disinfected, talk turned to one particular suspect. And, as if by magic, the librarians looked up and saw that very person boldly advancing thorough the door, haggared and wild eyed. "Yes" he screamed, "it was me!" "and I'm back". With this, the lone peeer (peaer?) turned and ran out onto the streets of Austin, only lightly pursued by the the rather disolute clean up squad. Except for a single "incident report" ,the details of this outrage have been kept out of the press and away from the public at large, which , while understandable, seems rather unfair to those wanting to make an informed choice as to which books to check out from that particular section. The perpetrator of his outrage has been "banned" from the library, a slap on the wrist (or penis) leaving him free to urinate in other public places as well as private yards here in Austin.

All of this was inevitable, indeed predicted ,by my senior law partner many years ago when the floodgates were opened. None of these things happen in facist countries where order is revered. None of these things happen in socialist countries where the tax base is enlarged to whatever is needed to take care of this type of issue. No, this problem, urinating on library books, is a particular problem only for representative liberal democracies like ours, who want unlimited personal freedom and the minimum of taxation. It is a peculiarly American problem. It is a problem that is created by ascribing the ultimate amount of personal freedom and dignity to each individual in society, and then turning our backs on those who can not handle that freedom.Think about that the next time you check out a book.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Chess, the musical

"One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble."

Bobby Fischer died yesterday. You'd have to be at least 45 for that to mean anything to you, or a chess historian. In 1972 Bobby Fischer, representing the United States of America beat the Russian Boris Spassky in Iceland to become the Chess champion of the world. People who never had anything other than checkers on their board at home sat in rapt attention as the American wunderkind whipped up on the old Soviet master, ending years of Russian reign in the world of chess.Outside of the 1980 miracle on ice, no other sports victory meant more to America in the cold war.Chess became the hottest sport in the country with chess clubs springing up everywhere. Fischer was the toast of the USA.

The average person watching the Fischer/Spassky match did think that Bobby was a little odd. I recall at the time thinking that he was a lot further up the coconut tree than your average chess player, or even your average chess champion. He had forfeited the second game in the match through some fit of pique he threw about the conditions. Maybe it was too cold. I don't recall. Then he gave a whole bunch of his winnings to a church headed by a nut case named Garner Ted Armstrong. Fischer would later recognize this as a mistake and denounce the church.Within three years, Fischer was stripped of is crown for failing to defend the title. He did not defend the title because the challanger and the Chess Russian of Wales (whoever it was) would not meet all of his demands for the championship series.

Following his loss of the crown, Fischer became even more unstable. His most famous tantrums involved his hatred of Jews. Fischer, who everyone believed was Jewish, and even appeared in some books on famous Jews began a life long spewing of bigotry. Fischer's bitter diatribes were the usual run of the mill anti-semetism, involving his belief that there was a vast, world wide Jewish conspiracy that effected him and everyone else on the planet. Any doubts that Bobby was not a candidate for sailing away on the Good Ship Lollypop were now resolved against him by most people who had thought processes more sophisticated than your average sponge.But this was not the end of Bobby's ravings. He managed to violate U.S. law by playing what can only be described as an "old timers chess match" against Spassky in the 80s. Bobby wished it billed as the World Championship, having refused to admit that he had relinquished the title. Unfortuantely the chess version of the rumble in the jungle was held in Yougoslavia which was going through its opening death throes at the time and was a place that U.S. law prohibited investment, and apparently also board games.

Bobby then started wandering around the world, always just ahead of the U.S. authorities, he was finally detained and held in Japan. He ended up moving back to Iceland, a country which offered him sanctuary when no one else would.Bobby was occsionally heard from again, seldom to his credit. He denounced the U.S. in the wake of 9/11, which he blamed on the Israelis, saying that the U.S. had gotten what it deserved.

Recently, Fischer entered a hospital in Iceland suffering from Kidney issues and , it is reported by the press, "paranoia". He was finally checkmated last night (you had to know that that was coming).He was promptly praised by the President of the International Chess Society as a person with a mind on par with Newton and Einstein. Maybe, but he also had the same delusions as those other geniuses Luther and Wagner and I think that those issues cancelled out his alleged genius.Although we still listen to Wagner and go to Lutheran churches, so maybe there will be an honored place for him after all. Before he recanted, the English poet Auden felt that time pardoned the malignant views of all great writers, from Kipling to Paul Claudel. Certainly we don't think of Thomas Jefferson as that old Virginia slavedriver and sexual abuser, although there is every indication that he was. History may yet be kind to Bobby Fischer

One night in Bangkok makes the hard guys humble,
not much between despair and ecstacy.
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble,
Can't be too careful with your comapny.
I can feel the Devil walking next to me.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Hillary wept

In 1972, Ed Muskie stood on the back of a flat bad truck outside the offices of the Manchester Guardian in New Hampshire and wept real tears (or got snow flurries in his eyes, depending on who you believe). It was the end for Ed Muskie, a man that can't stand up to the Manchester Guardian publisher William Loeb, can't stand up to Breshnev, that's what the Nixon folks said. The next week Muskie was trounced in the Florida primary by George Wallace, despite his best efforts at running a whistlestop train through the state with his pal Rosey "Let the sun shine in" Grier. Ed was not heard of again in that campaign.

Last week Hillary Clinton had an emotional breakthrough that seemed to bring tears to her eyes as she tried to express her reason for running. Unlike big Ed, Hillary's display of vulnerability allowed her to find her voice (albeit cracking and wavering) and lead to an upset victory for her last night over Obama. It has been a long time since I have been so surprised at an election outcome. I thought that I would be typing Obama's nomination notice this morning. Instead, we may have a real horse race, the likes of which we have not seen in Presidential politics since Ronald Reagan took on Gerald Ford. Of course, it is always possible that last night was an aberration, a toe stumping by young Obama, on his way to the White House. Indeed, he chose to deliver a well crafted victory speech to his faitful in place of a true concession speech. And what a speech it was. This guy has more charisma than all of the other candidates combined.Put him in front of the Democratic convention giving an acceptance speech on the last night and people will see a combination of JFK, Jessie Jackson and William Jennings Bryan.

Although I'm not sure about Obama's little catch phrase "yes we can". My wife thinks that it sounds like the motto of the "little engine that could". I recall that it was the slogan of Air Canada in the 70s and 80s. Surely with all the money they have got in that campaign they could have come up with something flashier than a rcycled Canadian commerecial. But these are nit picks.The real issue is whether Edwards is the only thing holding Hillary up. Where would his 17% have gone last night ? I'll tell you where, to Obama, that's where. Hillary is the second choice of no man (except Bill Cinton). I fear that if Edwards drops out we will not seee Hillary garner better than 45% in head to head races with Obama. But then again, I wrote Hillary off last night (as had the Zogsby Poll ,which had her losing 42%-29%). A lot of people who went to bed Monday thinking they were voting for someone else, voted for Hillary, soo, who knows ?

And how abhout the Republicans ? One is tempted to ask, who cares ? Each of those candidates looks like a version of Rosencrantz and/or Guildenstern in this current casting of Hamlet starring Obama and Hillary. So McCain beat Romeny (didn't everybody else ?). I watched more of Mitt last weekend than I had before. I don't see how he can win. He reminds you of the vaugely goodlooking boy from Yale who has come home for a weekend party and no longer fits in with the old gang. The guy who keeps talking about some great physics class he has while you and your date are trying to get loaded. America simply does not, and will not ever, vote for such a candidate.

Everyone on TV tells me that Rudy G pursued the wrong strategy. I am simply not so sure.There is no front runner among the Repubs, and Huckabee, Romeny and MCain have all been knocking each other silly.It may be that the big state strategy of America's favorite double divorcee is about to pay off. I think that South Carolina will be huge. If someone emerges from that one as a clear front runner, than Rudy G. may be a dead duck.But if it's still up in the air ,then cue the secret service folks, we may get a Tom Cat back in the White House even if the Clintons can't make it. Would American accept a triple divorcee running for a second term ?

So with 47 states to go, it's still too early to call this one.It is almost beyond rational hope that the Texas primary in March will still mean anything, but this has been the strangest of seasons.

Friday, January 04, 2008


That's what the people want, say the network and cable talking heads. No reminders of the past, out with the old and in with the new. Like Huckabee and Obama, decisive victors in last night's Iowa Caucasians. And I think that the talking heads may be right. It may be that all that stands between America and an Obama Presidency is five more days and the Granite State of New Hampshire. If Hillary has the goods on him, she better get it out now or this thing could be unstoppable. And that's not so bad.He is a breath of fresh air. Who would you rather go on a road trip with, Clinton or Obama ? It's not even close. Hillary would make you stop and read every historic marker and insist on dropping by to visit old political friends. With Obama, it would be pedal to the metal, drive- through burgers and beer, and a lot of laughs and good discussion. And unlike our last President who would have been fun to take on a road trip, I don't think that he has a lecherous bone in his body. Like most of us, he is scared to death of his wife.

Now Huckabee is different. I mentioned my affection for him yesterday, but I also know that he can't be nominated. The fact that 37% of the I oh way farmers happened to be evangelicals is not going to help him in every state. But what he may have is staying power. If he does not get blown out in New Hampshire, he may cause real problems to Rudy G. among the Bubbas in Florida. Not everyone in Florida is a transplanted New Yorker, beholden to Rudy G. for wiping the Squegee people off the map in Manhattan. Some of them are bible thumping, snuff dipping, NASCAR watching ,sweet tea drinking,snake handling "born agin's". Remember, it was Florida that brought us Anita Bryant. Once the yahoos of Florida hear that Huckabbe is twice born, they will forget some of his more liberal tendencies. My buddy Bennett likens him to Jimmy Carter, and that's a pretty good comparison. Remember how the Evangelical's fell all over Jimmy until they found out that he was a closet liberal ?Bennett believes that the country may have acquired some type of a "Carter curse", akin to the Chicago Cub "curse of the billy goat" where we are saddled with a grinning "dull normal" non-entity as President every 30 years. I don't think so.One Carter was enough for a lifetime.

If I had to guess, I'd say that Huckabee won't be able to handle the stress and will revert to form, making yet another comment about the fact that a certain former Governor of Massachusetts plans on replacing the statue of Miss Liberty in New York harbor with one of the angel Maroni. It's a lot different drumming up votes among Iowa farmers than among those skin flints in up north, weened on the Manchester Guardian. I'd say New Hampshire will be a duel to the death between Romney and the Arizona P.O.W., with Huckabbe a fairly poor fourth. It still looks to me like the way to bet is Mitt or Rudy G. and that's just fine with me. The Republican Party is facing a contest that no political party has faced since the Demos made the 1920 election a referendum on the League of Nations. They have no way to win. Their contenders and moribund and their party is intellectually bankrupt. Either Hillary or Obama could put them out of their misery, and today, even if only for today, it sure feels like it is going to be Obama. Think Bill would make Hillary take the second spot ?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Iowa Caucasions

With many of us not done throwing up from New Years's eve reveling, a new source of nausea commences today. The people in Iowa are making their quadrenial march to the caucas rooms to decide who they think the nominees for President should be. I don't like the Iowa caucas. And it's not just because I think the state of Iowa is unrepresentative of most of the country. The Iowans are usurpers in this process. When I was a kid, the political season had a rythmn to it. In February there was the New Hampshire primary. This was the kickoff event of the year, and always seemed to have an upset in store. Then after New Hampshire was digested, there was a Wisconsin primary. Usually in April. Wisconsin was usually a very progressive state (both for Republicans and Democrats). Between Wisconsin and the next primary ,early in the summer in Oregon, most of the other states had caucases which were controlled completely by party leaders. During this period of time, the nominees were really selected. But the media could not penetrate the workings of the machines because most states remained "uncommitted" or bound to a "favorite son"candidate. Usually a popular governor of a state who was really calling the shots, but wanted to be nominated at the convention for ego sake.

The Oregon primary seemed to always go to a candidate who was trailing and would give said candidate a shot in the arm before the big enchilada primary in California. Then the favorite would usually win in California and pretty much sew up the nomination. But you never knew for sure that the nomination had been clinched, so the conventions still had some suspense. Not a whole lot, but some. The last of these fun conventions took place in 1968.

Beginnning in 1972, because of the disaster that had befallen the Democrats at their convention in 1968, almost every state started to have a primary. This was pushed by the Democrats as a way to "open up the process" but in reality, as a way to nominate Senator George McGovern. Having survived the unbelievable disaster of 1968, it took the Democrats four full years to come up with a plan which would cause an even greater electoral debacle, but they did,as they so often do, and George went down to defeat in 49 states. Long live open government.

I think it was in 1972 when Iowa decided to push their Caucases up before the New Hampshire primary. This was done as a way to boost advertising revenues in the state in January when the John Deere ads are down awhile after Christmas. It worked and we still have the damn thing today. It is an interesting process. Every Corn and pig farmer in the state can personally meet every candidate and get a real feel for who is going to run the country.Every motel room in the state and every small town diner has their biggest sales, and most everyone up there is happy.Except at dinner, when you get, on average, six to eight calls a night from Presidential hopefuls.

This year we have one of the largest fields in history. If the polls are to be believed, and for a caucas, there'so reason why they should be, Mitt Romeny or Mike Huckabee will win on the Republican side, and the three major contenders, Edwards, Clinton and Obama will have a photo finish. If Edwards loses, he's probably out of the race. Same for Huckabee. Too bad, I like those two. There are amazingly naieve politicians, but they seem like such nice guys. The other contenders all look like the usual run of the mill candidates, although one is black, one is Mormon and one is a woman.Isn't that funny, how non-run of the mill politicians can look and act so run of the mill ? That's what American politics does to candidates. Of the contenders tonight, I disagree on the issues most with Edwards and Huckabee. Neither has an Iowa hog's chance at the slaughter house of gaining the nomination, but these guys say what they mean,and appear to mean what they say, and that really ought to count for something.It never has before, but it really should. If they don't win, it will mean that,once again, the most sincere candidates have been crushed by the unconscionable amounts of money feeding into the ad agencies in Des Moines. In other words, the American system will have prevailed.