.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Cracker Squire

THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

My Photo
Name:
Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Shipp: Barnes talking like a candidate for governor

Bill Shipp reports that based on a fire-breathing speech Roy Barnes recently delivered to the Georgia delegation in Denver and an interview Shipp had with the former governor,

one might think Barnes is preparing for liftoff as a candidate for governor in 2010.

"Some people have asked me to run," he says. "But, right now, I'm leaning against it."

If your lowly correspondent were a gambling man, I'd say the chance of Barnes running for governor are about one out of five. Some people close to Barnes put the odds nearer to 50-50.

He already has the fire in his belly to make the race, but he probably needs more pushing and pledges of cash.


This is the second time Bill Shipp has written about this possibility in recent months. A 5-21-08 post entitled "Georgia's Dean of Politics and Journalism hopes former Gov. Roy Barnes will come rescue Georgia from chronic incompetence and apathy" has the following quotes from a Shipp column:

Barnes, for the first time in a long time, delivered the traditional Confederate Memorial Day speech at Oakland Cemetery. In olden days, an appearance at this event was a sure sign of revving up to run.

[R]umor has it that Barnes . . . may come roaring back to rescue us from chronic incompetence and apathy. . . . [T]he words "not a moment too soon" come rushing to mind.


Personally, I see the odds considerably higher than one in five, but not as high as fifty-fifty. But regardless, wouldn't it be sweet. How about let's all do our share of pushing and be willing to reach for our checkbooks.

And with Georgia being in play and hopefully 2008 being a blue year for the nation, perhaps business leaders in metro Atlanta and the state business community in general will come to their senses and join in this pushing and urging and also loosen their own pursestrings just as is been done nationally. (With regard to coming to their senses, see my 5-21-08 post entitled "They don't call him the Dean for nothing: Big business, having gotten a legislature it bought & paid for & deserved, better heed the Dean's counsel.")

James Dobson, who said in the primaries that he could never vote for McCain, said the selection of Palin had won him over.

From The New York Times:

Ms. Palin [will] be given the task of appealing to evangelical voters, who have long been unenthusiastic about Mr. McCain. In many ways, the choice of Ms. Palin may prove to have been as much an effort to drive up turnout among the Republican base as it was a move to compete for women.

“We had a solid Republican and evangelical base,” said Charlie Black, a senior adviser to Mr. McCain. “But now it’s going to be very intense.”

James C. Dobson, the influential conservative Christian leader who said in the primaries that he could never vote for Mr. McCain, said the selection of Ms. Palin had won him over. If he went into the voting booth today, Mr. Dobson told the talk radio host Dennis Prager on Friday, “I would pull that lever.”

If Ms. Palin motivates evangelicals to rally behind the Republican ticket as they did for Mr. Bush in 2004, it could prove significant in states like Iowa and Ohio, where Republicans won by slim margins in 2004. It could also have an effect in North Carolina, a solidly Republican state that Mr. Obama is trying to win by appealing to black voters and new residents.

Veep History: A Survey of Modern Running Mates

From The Washington Post:

1952 Eisenhower--Nixon: Dwight Eisenhower picked Nixon, then a U.S. Senator from California, for his youth, West Coast appeal and strong anti-communist record. So began Nixon's long and turbulent life on the national stage.

1960 Kennedy--Johnson: John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were at daggers drawn for the Democratic nomination but once the Massachusetts Senator won it, he bowed to the political reality that only Johnson could bring him the Southern states he needed to be elected president.

1964 Johnson--Humphrey: Lyndon Johnson waited until the last possible minute before naming his former Senate colleague from Minnesota as his running mate. Humphrey's past run for president -- in 1960 -- and his status as a liberal champion in the Senate attracted Johnson to the Minnesotan.

1968 Nixon--Agnew: Widely regarded as the worst vice presidential pick in modern history, Agnew had some appeal to Richard Nixon due to his quick ascent in Maryland politics -- he was the governor of the Old Line State when plucked by Nixon. Agnew eventually resigned amid a federal investigation surrounding his finances.

1976 Carter--Mondale: National Democrats were stunned when little known Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter managed to win the presidential nomination. By picking Mondale, a known and respected presence in Washington, Carter quieted those worries. Mondale also helped cement organized labor behind Carter's candidacy.

1980 Reagan--Bush: Ronald Reagan faced real questions about whether he was too conservative to be elected president. In choosing George H.W. Bush, the epitome of country club/establishment Republicanism, Reagan showed that he was no extremist. Reagan turned to Bush after discussions with Gerald Ford about the possibility of a co-presidency didn't pan out. The pick was in many ways pushed on Reagan by his advisers after what they believed to be a very strong primary performance by Bush.

1988 Bush--Quayle: Looking for a bit of youth and charisma, George H.W. Bush bypassed newly minted Sen. John McCain and instead opted for Quayle, who proceeded to be beaten badly by Sen. Lloyd Bentsen in the vice presidential debate ("I knew John Kennedy") and mis-spell the word "potato."

1992 Clinton--Gore: Bill Clinton's choice of the Tennessee senator turned global prophet is widely regarded as an inspired one by historians. Gore solidified the generational change message of the ticket and Gore redefined the vice presidency as a job worth having.

2000 Bush--Cheney: George W. Bush had been governor of Texas for less than six years when he became his party's nominee. Choosing Cheney, who led the vice presidential search for him, was seen as a brilliant strategic gambit: Cheney's gravitas and decided lack of interest in being president himself helped Bush convince voters he was serious not just about politics but also governing.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

After $4 million in repairs, Jefferson Davis's home was reopened earlier this year. Now all eyes are on Gustav.


Jefferson Davis's Beauvoir in 1901


Beauvoir after Hurricane Katrina

The Wall Street Journal has a great piece entitled [Confederate President] "Jefferson Davis's Refuge In South Rises Again." His Beauvoir house, a national historic landmark on the Gulf of Mexico in Mississippi, was almost destroyed three years ago, when Hurricane Katrina slammed ashore.

McCain campaign is into ambush ads. His campaign buys rights to top search results on key election terms.

From The Wall Street Journal:

So-called ambush ads are typically reserved for Web-savvy marketers such as General Motors and AT&T. The newest believer: a 71-year-old presidential candidate.

Sen. Barack Obama appears to many people to be running a far more tech-wise campaign than his opponent, with his use of text messages to announce his vice-presidential candidate and the creation of his own vibrant social network, My.BarackObama.com.

But Sen. John McCain is in some ways outsmarting Sen. Obama when it comes to Internet marketing. One example: As of Wednesday, a Google search for "Joe Biden" or even just "Biden" resulted in a prominently displayed ad labeled "Joe Biden on Obama" that links to Sen. McCain's site. There, a video begins playing that shows Sen. Biden criticizing Sen. Obama during the Democratic primaries. The move mimics the "ambush" strategy that advertisers often employ: buying a competitor's term so that an ad for the buyer's own product appears when a consumer searches for the other brand.

Sen. McCain was able to pull off that sleight of hand because he outbid his opponent for the search term "Joe Biden." As a result, Sen. McCain's ad takes the top spot alongside search results, while Mr. Obama's ad appears lower in the results.

Sen. McCain's team has been the aggressor in other ways, too. In recent days, it has bought search ads tied to key terms such as "U.S. economy" and "housing crisis," which take visitors to Web sites outlining Sen. McCain's plan on those issues.

Meanwhile, the Obama camp largely has yet to advertise around these terms, missing a key opportunity, according to experts, to communicate his message to undecided voters.

"The big downfall is that Obama's not reaching the undecided voters," says Janel Landis, senior director of search development and strategy at SendTec, a search-marketing firm that has been tracking the candidates' techniques since June. "He's not bidding on issues or his competitor's name."

The Obama campaign says it continually works to optimize its search marketing to maximize effectiveness. "Thanks to our millions of online supporters who frequently visit our Web site and other social-networking sites, unlike other campaigns, BarackObama.com already has extremely high organic search engine rankings, which helps us limit the number of terms where we need to use paid advertising to have a presence," Nick Shapiro, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, said in an email.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee is, in many ways, using the Web to powerful effect. He has raised much more money through the Internet than Sen. McCain and has recruited many more volunteers via that medium. Marketing executives say Sen. Obama has been successful at building his name and campaign through social media like Facebook, YouTube and his own social-networking site.

But Sen. McCain gets bragging rights for his push to try to reach voters on specific issues, particularly through search advertising, says Joshua Stylman, managing partner at Reprise Media, a search marketing firm owned by Interpublic Group. The McCain campaign's search-advertising campaign is vastly bigger than its opponent's. In July, the McCain campaign had 15.1 million sponsored link impressions -- the number of times that an ad is downloaded onto a computer screen -- compared with the 1.2 million for the Obama campaign, according to Nielsen Online.

Sen. Obama, meanwhile, has chosen to focus online ad spending around display ads. The Obama campaign had 416.7 million image-based ad impressions, compared with Sen. McCain's 16.5 million.

Sen. Obama can also claim a huge lead in nonpaid search traffic, which suggests that he has done a good job optimizing its Web pages for search engines. Links to his Web sites often appear higher in the non-paid area of the search results, and he is driving more traffic to his site, Mr. Stylman says. The 3.3 million unique visitors to Sen. Obama's Web site in July was more than double the 1.6 million visitors to Sen. McCain's site, according to Nielsen Online.

Both campaigns have made quantum leaps in using the Web for marketing compared with where the two parties were in 2004. For example, one of the big missed opportunities during the last presidential campaign came when John Kerry didn't buy ads next to blogs criticizing him, Mr. Stylman says. "He missed a wonderful opportunity to say, 'Here is what the other guys are saying about me, and here is my point of view.' "

Even with the battle online, the vast majority of ad spending in the presidential election continues to be in traditional media. Since February 2007, the candidates have spent more than $300 million on TV ads and roughly $7 million on online ads, according to TNS Media Intelligence, which only tracks display ad spending.

Here, too, Sen. McCain's camp has something to crow about this week. New data shows that Sen. McCain's ads that ran during the Olympic broadcast on NBC Universal were more memorable than Mr. Obama's commercials, according to IAG, a Nielsen firm that uses an online panel to track the performance of advertising.

The political ad that Olympic TV watchers were best able to recall included Sen. McCain's attack ad that said Sen. Obama is the "biggest celebrity in the world" but questions if he is ready to "help your family?" The spot went on to promote Sen. McCain's renewable-energy plan.

To come up with its data, IAG looked at about 1,600 surveys of likely voters who watched NBC Olympic broadcast where the political ads aired. IAG uses an online panel of consumers who regularly log into an IAG Web site and answer questions about TV shows and ads they saw in the past 24 hours.

Higher recall of ads is "typically the result of better creative and that is the story here as well," says Alan Gould, IAG's co-chief executive officer.

The attack ad didn't sit well with everyone. About 27% of the people who remembered the celebrity ad said they were less likely to vote for Sen. McCain after seeing it.

Damn. This is not good news for the State of Georgia. Russia was the biggest importer of U.S. chicken meat in 2007.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Amid fraying trade relations between Moscow and Washington, Russia said it would slash U.S. import quotas for chicken and pork, both big export products to the region from the U.S.

After U.S. officials said Russia's war with Georgia had cast doubt on Russia's bid to enter the World Trade Organization, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin Monday called for pulling out of trade deals that Russia had signed when it was expecting quick admission into the trade body.

Then Russian Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev said Wednesday that Moscow plans to reduce quotas for imports of chicken and pork by "not tens but hundreds of thousands of tons."

Russia has helped the American meat industry grow for the past decade. Russia was the biggest importer of U.S. chicken meat in 2007, spending $741.5 million on U.S. imports, according to the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council.

Tiptoeing to the Right on Abortion

In a 7-24-05 post entitled "Gov. Howard Dean on Meet the Press last December: "I have long believed that we ought to make a home for pro-life Democrats," I wrote about how Chairman Dean urged our party to be big enough to accomodate pro-life voters, noting that Dean had said the following in a recent speech:

Democrats need to reach out to voters who oppose abortion rights and promote candidates who share that view, and our party has to change its approach in the debate over abortion.

"I think we need to talk about this issue differently," said Dean. "The Republicans have painted us as a pro-abortion party. I don't know anybody in America who is pro-abortion."

"We do have to have a big tent. I do think we need to welcome pro-life Democrats into this party," said Dean.


And then I shared my own thoughts on the topic in this same 2005 post:

I think it is imperative that we follow Dean's advice if we are to return to our former status as the big tent party. I used to find it inappropriate -- given all of the issues out there -- that being pro-life was a litmus test for the GOP. But now we are close to pro-choice being a litmus test for our party.

As I have written on the blog before, I am pro-choice not because I am a Democrat, but because I think it should be a woman's choice, and definitely not mine unless it happened to be my wife or daughter.

But what if someone has religious convictions different from me; do we not have room in the party for such person?

As we reach out to fellow religious voters, we should quit arguing the legality of abortion, and rather shift the theme to abortion should be "safe, legal and rare."

And just as we want to see fewer abortions, we want our children to learn good values -- at home, in school, at Sunday school and at church with their parents.

Good values, health care, jobs and sex education can reduce the number of abortion procedures, and who can be opposed to that.


I find it refreshing, refreshing and healthy, that finally the Democratic Party is indeed tiptoeing to the right on this topic and being more accomodative as discussed in the following article from The Wall Street Journal:

On the fiery issue of abortion, the Democratic Party has been taking small but notable steps to the right -- continuing to vigorously support abortion rights but adding more support for family-planning and other educational services that would "reduce the need for abortions."

These steps, some begun years ago, are part of the emphasis the party will place in the rest of the campaign on wooing religious voters, many of whom have been unwilling in the past to vote for a Democrat because of the party's long-standing belief that women should be allowed to end their pregnancies at will.

"In 2004, we couldn't get a word in. This time, they reached out to us," says Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life, a six-year-old advocacy organization that sponsored a convention gathering that featured antiabortion Democratic Rep. Lincoln Davis of Tennessee. "The big tent is opening up."

The platform states that the party "strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade," the 1973 Supreme Court decision affirming abortion rights, "and a woman's right to choose a safe and legal abortion." But it asserts that the party "also strongly supports access to comprehensive affordable family planning services and age-appropriate sex education" that "help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions." About 1.2 million abortions are performed each year in the U.S.

"This platform, for the first time, acknowledges and supports a decision to exercise choice in a different direction, to carry a child to term," says Michael Yaki, the national platform director for the Democratic National Committee. "The core value, a woman's right to choose, has not been compromised at all."

Some members of women's groups say they fear the Democrats are retreating just to capture evangelical and Catholic voters who flocked to President George W. Bush during the 2004 election.

"I know people see it as a rollback. I don't think it is. It's the possibility of common ground," said Mr. Wallis, who advises politicians in both parties. "Can the Democrats count votes?....There are millions of votes at stake here."

The catalyst for the shift was the 2004 election, experts say, when Sen. John Kerry, who backed abortion rights, lost the voting among almost every major religious group identified in exit polls, especially white and African-American evangelicals and Latino Catholics.

This "Hail Sarah" pass won't do much to help John McCain get into the end zone. He'll win or lose for other reasons.

Jonathan Alter writes in Newsweek:

Happy birthday, Johnny Mac! You're 72 now, a cancer survivor, and a presidential candidate who has said on many occasions that the most important criteria for picking a vice president is whether he or she could immediately step in if something happened to the president. Your campaign against Barack Obama is based on the simple idea that he is unready to be president. So you've picked a running mate who a year and a half ago was the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, a town of 8,500 people. You've selected a potential leader of the free world who knows little or nothing about the major issues of the day beyond energy. Oh, and she's being probed in her state for lying and abuse of power.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's debut in Dayton on Friday was good political theater. She delivered a pitch-perfect speech (presumably written by McCain's ghost writer, Mark Salter) with a panache that suggests she could be a natural on the national stage. The well-kept secret of her selection let the GOP step on the story of Obama's boffo acceptance speech in Denver. It's not hard to see why she appealed to McCain: her middle-class roots; her older son headed for Iraq with the U.S. Army; her opposition to the earmarked "bridge to nowhere," which is arguably the only domestic issue that gets McCain excited. If camera-ready Palin helps McCain close the gender gap and win in November, she'll be history's hockey mom.

But there's a reason that rookies rarely score hat tricks. It's not her lack of name recognition; America loves a fresh face, especially one that's a cross between a Fox anchor and a character on "Northern Exposure," the old TV show about an Alaska town about the size of Wasilla. The problem is that politics, like all professions, isn't as easy as it looks. Palin's odds of emerging unscathed this fall are slim. In fact, she's been all but set up for failure.

"What is it exactly that the vice president does all day?" Palin offhandedly asked CNBC anchor Larry Kudlow in July. Kudlow explained that the job has become more important in recent years. Palin knows the energy crisis well, even if her claim on "Charlie Rose" that Alaska's untapped resources can significantly ease it is unsupported by the facts. But what does she know about Iranian nukes, health care or the future of entitlement programs? And that's just a few of the 20 or so national issues on which she will be expected to show basic competence. The McCain camp will have to either let her wing it based on a few briefing memos (highly risky) or prevent her from taking questions from reporters (a confession that she's unprepared). Either way, she's going to belly-flop at a time when McCain can least afford it.

Even on energy, Palin has her work cut out for her. First she has to convince McCain to do a 180 and support drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. Her much-repeated sound bite that ANWR is only the size of the Los Angeles airport and thus not environmentally destructive sounds good, but won't do much to counter the argument Obama made in his acceptance speech, which is that drilling is only a "stopgap" measure for achieving energy independence. Palin will benefit from very low expectations in her debate with Joe Biden, but she's going to have to have a photographic memory for new information to avoid getting creamed.

Governors often run for president, but only after many months of prep work on what they might confront in the White House. The last governor chosen for vice president was Spiro Agnew in 1968, and he was the governor of Maryland, which is right over the line from Washington, D.C., not thousands of miles away. Veep candidates with extensive Washington experience like Geraldine Ferraro and Dan Quayle were nonetheless grilled on policy and proved a drag on the ticket when they looked unpresidential.

I covered Ferraro in 1984 for NEWSWEEK. The day Walter Mondale chose her as the first woman candidate for high office was exciting and historic. But the Queens congresswoman was quickly swamped by tough questions (especially from Ted Koppel) about her readiness for the presidency and by ethical queries about her husband, a real-estate developer. A lengthy news conference she held to answer the mounting questions did not go well.

Reporters are already winging their way to Alaska to probe what Alaskans call "Wootengate," the story of the dismissal of former Public Safety commissioner Walt Monegan, who says he was pressured to dismiss state trooper Mike Wooten. Wooten was engaged in a nasty custody fight with his ex-wife, who is Palin's sister. As soon as Palin was selected, the Web was already buzzing with Monegan's claims that Palin is lying about her role in the personnel matter. And the beautifully named Steve Branchflower, the special counsel appointed by the state legislature to probe the mess, has opened a tip line for Alaskans who might know if the governor and possible vice president of the United States abused her power.

Branchflower's investigation won't be completed until after the election, but the facts so far aren't good for the governor. Palin says she had "nothing to do" with the Wooten matter and that she fired Monegan because she wanted to move the department in another direction, but an audiotape of a phone conversation featuring another state official, Frank Bailey, casts doubt on her account. Because the media loves scandal of any kind, especially one involving the potential use of public power to settle private family scores, this story will prove a distraction to the McCain campaign all fall long.

It's hard to know how many women will flock to the GOP ticket because of Palin. She is a far-right conservative who supported Pat Buchanan over George W. Bush in 2000. She thinks global warming is a hoax and backs the teaching of creationism in public schools. Women are not likely to be impressed by her opposition to abortion even in the case of rape and incest. In 1984, Ronald Reagan carried 56 percent of female voters, despite Ferraro's candidacy on the Democratic side. The balance between work and family, always a ticklish issue, will be brought into bold relief by the fact that the Palins' fifth child, Trig, was born with Down syndrome in April. Todd Palin, a commercial fisherman, may shoulder the bulk of the child-rearing duties in their family. But many voters will nonetheless wonder whether Palin should undertake the rigors of the vice presidency (and perhaps the presidency) while caring for a disabled infant. The subject will no doubt arise on "Oprah" and in other venues.

One way or another, an African-American or a woman will hold high office next year for the first time. That's progress. And it's possible that Palin is so talented that she will prove to be the face of the GOP's future. More likely, this "Hail Sarah" pass won't do much to help John McCain get into the end zone. He'll win or lose for other reasons.

Friday, August 29, 2008

This is a Hail Mary & I say this as a fan of S. Patin. McCain: "I need her to help me fight the same old Washington politics of me 1st & country 2nd."


Full quote used above is from The Wall Street Journal.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Nunn says Georgia is in play for Obama & praises Biden as V.P. pick

The Associated Press reports:

Former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn said Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama faces an uphill fight in the state. But Nunn told reporters in a conference call Wednesday the state is in play.

Nunn disputed Georgia Republicans' argument that Obama's pick of Delaware Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate will hurt him in the conservative South.

Nunn said Biden will help Obama with blue and white collar middle-class workers.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It is time for nation-building in America.

Tom Friedman writes in The New York Times:

[T]he first rule of holes is that when you’re in one, stop digging. When you see how much modern infrastructure has been built in China since 2001, under the banner of the Olympics, and you see how much infrastructure has been postponed in America since 2001, under the banner of the war on terrorism, it’s clear that the next seven years need to be devoted to nation-building in America.

We need to finish our business in Iraq and Afghanistan as quickly as possible, which is why it is a travesty that the Iraqi Parliament has gone on vacation while 130,000 U.S. troops are standing guard. We can no longer afford to postpone our nation-building while Iraqis squabble over whether to do theirs.

A lot of people are now advising Barack Obama to get dirty with John McCain. Sure, fight fire with fire. That’s necessary, but it is not sufficient.

Obama got this far because many voters projected onto him that he could be the leader of an American renewal. They know we need nation-building at home now — not in Iraq, not in Afghanistan, not in Georgia, but in America. Obama cannot lose that theme.

He cannot let Republicans make this election about who is tough enough to stand up to Russia or bin Laden. It has to be about who is strong enough, focused enough, creative enough and unifying enough to get Americans to rebuild America. The next president can have all the foreign affairs experience in the world, but it will be useless, utterly useless, if we, as a country, are weak.

Obama is more right than he knows when he proclaims that this is “our” moment, this is “our” time. But it is our time to get back to work on the only home we have, our time for nation-building in America.

The Energy Challenge -- Wind Energy Bumps Into Power Grid’s Limits

From The New York Times:

When the builders of the Maple Ridge Wind farm spent $320 million to put nearly 200 wind turbines in upstate New York, the idea was to get paid for producing electricity. But at times, regional electric lines have been so congested that Maple Ridge has been forced to shut down even with a brisk wind blowing.

That is a symptom of a broad national problem. Expansive dreams about renewable energy, like Al Gore’s hope of replacing all fossil fuels in a decade, are bumping up against the reality of a power grid that cannot handle the new demands.

The dirty secret of clean energy is that while generating it is getting easier, moving it to market is not.

The grid today, according to experts, is a system conceived 100 years ago to let utilities prop each other up, reducing blackouts and sharing power in small regions. It resembles a network of streets, avenues and country roads.

“We need an interstate transmission superhighway system,” said Suedeen G. Kelly, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

While the United States today gets barely 1 percent of its electricity from wind turbines, many experts are starting to think that figure could hit 20 percent.

Achieving that would require moving large amounts of power over long distances, from the windy, lightly populated plains in the middle of the country to the coasts where many people live. Builders are also contemplating immense solar-power stations in the nation’s deserts that would pose the same transmission problems.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

David Brooks on Obama as the 21st-Century Man

David Brooks writes in The New York Times:

I flew into the airport here [in Denver] on Sunday and the pilot could barely land because of the fog of bad advice. Democrats are nervous because Barack Obama’s polling lead has evaporated. And when Democrats are nervous, all the Santa Monica Machiavellis emerge from their fund-raisers offering words of wisdom. And the subtext of the advice being offered this year is that Barack Obama should really be someone else.

Some sages are saying that Obama needs to get specific. He needs to lay out concrete plans and legislative agendas. Apparently, having nominated Obama, they really want a replay of the Dukakis campaign.

Others say he needs to describe his experience in government better, to make Americans comfortable with him as chief executive. Apparently, having nominated Obama, they want him to run as Chris Dodd.

Still others say he needs to be a scrappy class warrior defending the middle class against the depredations of the rich overlords with their multiple homes. Apparently, for these people it wasn’t enough that they got to live through Al Gore’s “people versus the powerful” campaign just once. They want to relive the joy again and again.

And yet there are still others who say Obama needs to get bare-knuckled. He needs to hammer McCain above the belt and below. Apparently, these people have decided that having nominated Obama, the party needs to be led by Michael Moore.

The words fly, the quotes are given, campaign aides are pulled aside. It’s like a Greatest Misses compilation of every Democratic campaign idea ever conceived.

Obama is already an elusive Rorschach test candidate, and now he’s being pulled by his party in a thousand directions. The Democrats are in danger of doing to Obama what they did to their last two nominees: burying authentic individuals under a layer of prefab themes.

Obama’s chief problem in this campaign is that large numbers of voters still don’t know who he is. They are having trouble putting him into one of the categories they use to grasp those they have not met.

And now he has to define himself amid the phantasmagorical vapors of his own party: the ghosts of the Kerry campaign, the overshadowing magic of the Kennedys and the ego-opera that perpetually surrounds the Clintons.

Of course, the Obama campaign has been here before. Just about a year ago, Obama was stagnant in the polls. His supporters were nervous and full of advice. And in the crowning moment of his whole race, Obama shut them out. He turned his back on the universe of geniuses and stayed true to his core identity.

At the core, Obama’s best message has always been this: He is unconnected with the tired old fights that constrict our politics. He is in tune with a new era. He has very little experience but a lot of potential. He does not have big achievements, but he is authentically the sort of person who emerges in a multicultural, globalized age. He is therefore naturally in step with the problems that will confront us in the years to come.

So as I’m trying to measure the effectiveness of this convention, I’ll be jotting down a little minus mark every time I hear a theme that muddies that image. I’ll jot down a minus every time I hear the old class conflict, and the old culture war themes. I’ll jot down a minus when I see the old Bush obsession rearing its head, which is not part of his natural persona. I’ll write a demerit every time I hear the rich played off against the poor, undercutting Obama’s One America dream.

I’ll put a plus down every time a speaker says that McCain is a good man who happens to be out of step with the times. I’ll put a plus down every time a speaker says that a multipolar world demands a softer international touch. I’ll put a plus down when a speaker says the old free market policies worked fine in the 20th century, but no longer seem to be working today. These are arguments that reinforce Obama’s identity as a 21st-century man.

And I have to say, during the first night of the convention, the pluses far outweighed the minuses. In spirit, the night extended Obama’s 2004 convention speech. The overarching theme was intrinsic to the man, unity instead of division, something new instead of conflicts that are old. His sister hit this theme forcefully. Jesse Jackson Jr. made the generational-change argument explicitly, paying tribute to the fights of the past while describing the more subtle challenges of the present. Michelle Obama was short on biographical details, but long on the idealism, which is at the heart of Obama’s appeal.

Obama may yet recover his core focus. Now he has to preserve it against his most terrifying foes: the “experts” in his own party.

Hundreds of Workers Held in Immigration Raid

From The New York Times:

In another large-scale workplace immigration crackdown, federal officials raided a factory [in Laurel, Mississippi] on Monday, detaining at least 350 workers they said were in the country illegally.

As of late Monday afternoon, no criminal charges had been filed, said Barbara Gonzalez, an agency spokeswoman, but she said that dozens of workers had been “identified, fingerprinted, interviewed, photographed and processed for removal from the U.S.”

The raid follows a similar large-scale immigration operation at a meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, in May when nearly 400 workers were detained. That raid was a significant escalation of the Bush administration’s enforcement practices because those detained were not simply deported, as in previous raids, but were imprisoned for months on criminal charges of using false documents.

Edwards on Bill Clinton in 1999: "I think he has shown a remarkable disrespect for the moral dimensions of leadership, for his friends, for his wife."

Ken Rudin writes in the Political Junkie:

Edwards' national finance chair in his two runs for the White House, Fred Baron, says he gave Hunter "assistance" to get her out of North Carolina and into a $3 million mansion in Santa Barbara, Calif., so she could escape the hounding of reporters following her. Baron says he never told John Edwards. Edwards said he had no knowledge of any money paid to Hunter. This defies belief. Assuming Edwards was fearful of the affair's becoming public, wouldn't he wonder how she could just find her way from the Tarheel State to a gated community in wealthy Santa Barbara? And he never talked to Baron about this? Puh-leeze.

As if that weren't surreal enough, this week came the statement by Howard Wolfson, the former communications director for the Hillary Clinton campaign, that had the media done their job and exposed Edwards prior to the Iowa caucuses, Clinton — not Obama — would have won the caucuses and gone on to win the nomination. Aside from the dubiousness of that conclusion — I suspect that most Edwards supporters would have gone to Obama before voting for Clinton — the thought of the Clinton camp calling on the media to expose the sexual shenanigans of a candidate defies belief.

Edwards . . . had this to say about Bill Clinton in 1999: "I think this president has shown a remarkable disrespect for his office, for the moral dimensions of leadership, for his friends, for his wife, for his precious daughter. It is breathtaking to me the level to which that disrespect has risen."
_______________

And from the Associated Press:

Two weeks after a devastating revelation sent her husband into political exile, Elizabeth Edwards isn't getting the steady sympathy usually afforded to a woman scorned.

Instead, she's faced criticism from dedicated Democrats who think she was too willing to keep the affair a secret to help John Edwards' political ambitions, as well as her own.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I love it!!


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Iraqi Army's Rise Boosted Chances for U.S. Troops' Withdrawal



The above charts are from an article in The Wall Street Journal.

For the first time in at least two presidential election cycles, the Republican Party can't assume it has a complete lock on the evangelical vote.


Barack Obama with Rev. Rick Warren

From The Wall Street Journal:

For the first time in at least two presidential election cycles, the Republican Party can't assume it has a complete lock on the evangelical vote, which makes up about a quarter of the electorate. President George W. Bush received 78% of the bloc in his 2004 re-election campaign. Polls show that about a third of these white Protestants are either undecided or planning to vote Democratic or independent this November.

David Poythress will be first Democrat to announce for the 2010 race for governor. I am skeptical this campaign will get legs.

The AJC's Political Insider and InsiderAdvantage Georgia report that David Poythress will announce Monday that he’s a Democratic candidate for governor in 2010.

Poythress formerly served as Georgia’s Secretary of State and as Commissioner of Labor, and most recently as Adjutant General -- the commander of the Georgia National Guard.

Working-class voters want to vote for Obama, but don't feel they know him yet. They want to know that he knows them.

E.J. Dionne, Jr. writes in The Washington Post:

Rep. Mike Doyle, who represents Pittsburgh and some of its suburbs, argued that many of his constituents, particularly working-class voters and union loyalists, want to vote for Obama, but don't feel they know him yet. Their discomfort, he insists, is not about Obama's race -- "These are good people," Doyle said of the voters who keep sending him to Congress -- but a more general sense that Obama represents something very new.

Obama's task, says Doyle, is to raise his constituents' comfort level. He won't do this, he adds, with big rallies (yes, McCain's ads have had some success in discrediting the rally as a political art form) but with relentless smaller-scale campaigning in neighborhoods and union halls.

Over in the Philadelphia suburbs, Rep. Joe Sestak agrees that Obama needs to engage in more down-to-earth campaigning -- "a diner in the morning, a hoagie in the afternoon, a bar at night." But Sestak's advice is directed toward a slightly different end. "It's not so much about whether they know him," he says of his constituents and Obama. "They want to know that he knows them."

In other words, empathy, the gift that Bill Clinton kept on giving, is now an Obama imperative. And some of the Democrats' policy mavens see a link between empathy as a personal attribute and the way a candidate discusses policy -- again, something Clinton understood.

What Obama still lacks, they say, is a compelling narrative about how Americans who now feel economically insecure will find their way toward greater confidence. And he needs a few signature policies to drive home to voters so they can remember them, as Clinton did with health care and job training. McCain not knowing how many houses he owns should help Obama in the empathy battle.

Just in case you are interested . . .

The New York Times has an article entitled "The Year of the Political Blogger Has Arrived" about all the logistical and financial hurdles bloggers must contend to get to their parties’ conventions.

Immigration Authorities’ No-Jail Offer Is Withdrawn -- Only 8 accepted of 457,000 “fugitive aliens” who would have been eligible for the program.

Immigration authorities on Friday ended a trial offer not to jail illegal immigrants who had been ordered to leave the country if they surrendered at government offices. In the three weeks that the federal immigration agency tested the program in a handful of cities, only eight people came forward.

[A]dvocates for immigrants . . . called the program a publicity stunt and predicted that the agency would now stage more of the raids that have forcibly removed record numbers of illegal immigrants over the last few years.

Jim Hayes, who supervises deportation for the agency, said advocacy groups had undermined the program by counseling immigrants not to take part as a protest against immigration laws.

“What the advocates state is that what we don’t like is enforcement of the law itself,” Mr. Hayes said in a telephone news conference. “Congress has mandated enforcement of the law, and that is what we are going to continue to do.”

There are 457,000 “fugitive aliens” who would have been eligible for the program, he said, and about 30,000 in or near the cities in the program, which was promoted largely in the Spanish-language news media.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Whew! Democrats will dodge the John Edwards bullet in Denver. Confirmation that he won't be in attendance.


The Washington Post reports that despite earlier reports of his desire to participate in certain events in Denver, Edwards will not be in Denver next week.

(Gary Hart, whose presidential hopes were ruined amid the discovery of his dalliance with Donna Rice, was greeted with the above button when he re-entered the race in 1988. From the Political Junkie.)

David Brooks is Hoping It’s Biden -- I think Brooks has called it correctly.

David Brooks writes in The New York Times:

Barack Obama has decided upon a vice-presidential running mate. And while I don’t know who it is as I write, for the good of the country, I hope he picked Joe Biden.

Biden’s conversational style is tiresome to some, but it has one outstanding feature. He is direct. No matter who you are, he tells you exactly what he thinks, before he tells it to you a second, third and fourth time.

Presidents need someone who will be relentlessly direct. Obama, who attracts worshippers, not just staff members, needs that more than most.

When Obama talks about postpartisanship, he talks about a grass-roots movement that will arise and sweep away the old ways of Washington. When John McCain talks about it, he describes a meeting of wise old heads who get together to craft compromises. Obama’s vision is more romantic, but McCain’s is more realistic.

When Biden was a young senator, he was mentored by Hubert Humphrey, Mike Mansfield and the like. He was schooled in senatorial procedure in the days when the Senate was less gridlocked. If Obama hopes to pass energy and health care legislation, he’s going to need someone with that kind of legislative knowledge who can bring the battered old senators together, as in days of yore.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tom Friedman on Georgia and Russia: What Did We Expect?

Tom Friedman writes in The New York Times:

If the conflict in Georgia were an Olympic event, the gold medal for brutish stupidity would go to the Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin. The silver medal for bone-headed recklessness would go to Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, and the bronze medal for rank short-sightedness would go to the Clinton and Bush foreign policy teams.

Let’s start with us. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, I was among the group — led by George Kennan, the father of “containment” theory, Senator Sam Nunn and the foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum — that argued against expanding NATO, at that time.

It seemed to us that since we had finally brought down Soviet communism and seen the birth of democracy in Russia the most important thing to do was to help Russian democracy take root and integrate Russia into Europe. Wasn’t that why we fought the cold war — to give young Russians the same chance at freedom and integration with the West as young Czechs, Georgians and Poles? Wasn’t consolidating a democratic Russia more important than bringing the Czech Navy into NATO?

All of this was especially true because, we argued, there was no big problem on the world stage that we could effectively address without Russia — particularly Iran or Iraq. Russia wasn’t about to reinvade Europe. And the Eastern Europeans would be integrated into the West via membership in the European Union.

No, said the Clinton foreign policy team, we’re going to cram NATO expansion down the Russians’ throats, because Moscow is weak and, by the way, they’ll get used to it. Message to Russians: We expect you to behave like Western democrats, but we’re going to treat you like you’re still the Soviet Union. The cold war is over for you, but not for us.

“The Clinton and Bush foreign policy teams acted on the basis of two false premises,” said Mandelbaum. “One was that Russia is innately aggressive and that the end of the cold war could not possibly change this, so we had to expand our military alliance up to its borders. Despite all the pious blather about using NATO to promote democracy, the belief in Russia’s eternal aggressiveness is the only basis on which NATO expansion ever made sense — especially when you consider that the Russians were told they could not join. The other premise was that Russia would always be too weak to endanger any new NATO members, so we would never have to commit troops to defend them. It would cost us nothing. They were wrong on both counts.”

The humiliation that NATO expansion bred in Russia was critical in fueling Putin’s rise after Boris Yeltsin moved on. And America’s addiction to oil helped push up energy prices to a level that gave Putin the power to act on that humiliation. This is crucial backdrop.

Nevertheless, today we must support all diplomatic efforts to roll back the Russian invasion of Georgia. Georgia is a nascent free-market democracy, and we can’t just watch it get crushed. But we also can’t refrain from noting that Saakashvili’s decision to push his troops into Tskhinvali, the heart of Georgia’s semiautonomous pro-Russian enclave of South Ossetia, gave Putin an easy excuse to exercise his iron fist.

As The Washington Post’s longtime Russia watcher Michael Dobbs noted: “On the night of Aug. 7 ..., Saakashvili ordered an artillery barrage against Tskhinvali and sent an armored column to occupy the town. He apparently hoped that Western support would protect Georgia from major Russian retaliation, even though Russian ‘peacekeepers’ were almost certainly killed or wounded in the Georgian assault. It was a huge miscalculation.”

And as The Economist magazine also wrote, “Saakashvili is an impetuous nationalist.” His thrust into South Ossetia “was foolish and possibly criminal. But unlike Putin, he has led his country in a broadly democratic direction, curbed corruption and presided over rapid economic growth that has not relied, as Russia’s mostly does, on high oil and gas prices.”

That is why the gold medal for brutishness goes to Putin. Yes, NATO expansion was foolish. Putin exploited it to choke Russian democracy. But now, petro-power-grabbing has gone to his head — whether it's invading Georgia, bullying Western financiers and oil companies working in Russia, or using Russia’s gas supplies to intimidate its neighbors.

If it persists, this behavior will push every Russian neighbor to seek protection from Moscow and will push the Europeans to redouble their efforts to find alternatives to Russian oil and gas. This won’t happen overnight, but in time it will stretch Russia’s defenses and lead it to become more isolated, more insecure and less wealthy.

For all these reasons, Russia would be wise to reconsider Putin’s Georgia gambit. If it does, we would be wise to reconsider where our NATO/Russia policy is taking us — and whether we really want to spend the 21st century containing Russia the same way we spent much of the 20th containing the Soviet Union.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

David Gergen: McCain showed that he can be a much more formidable and effective campaigner in a joint appearance than hardly anyone imagined.

David Gergen writes on CNN:

Heading into the candidates’ appearances on Saturday night at Saddleback Church, the conventional wisdom in politics was Barack Obama should have a clear upper hand in any joint appearance with John McCain — one the young, eloquent, cool, charismatic dude who can charm birds from the trees, the other the meandering, sometimes bumbling, old fellow who can barely distinguish Sunnis from Shiias.

Well, kiss that myth goodbye.

McCain came roaring out of the gate from the first question and was a commanding figure throughout the night as he spoke directly and often movingly about his past and the country’s future. By contrast, Obama was often searching for words and while far more thoughtful, was also less emotionally connective with his audience.

McCain showed that he can be a much more formidable and effective campaigner in a joint appearance than hardly anyone imagined. The debates this fall are going to be pivotal to the final outcome of the election, and McCain gave a clear wake-up call to the Obama team that he may be much tougher to beat than expected.

[T]he message of the moment is that John McCain is no old fuddy-duddy who isn’t sure where he is going; he was on fire at Saddleback and for the first time, he looks like he could win in November.

Monday, August 18, 2008

House to Rethink Drilling, Pelosi Says

From The New York Times:

Dropping her opposition to a vote on coastal oil exploration, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Saturday that the House would consider expanded offshore drilling as part of broad energy legislation when Congress returns next month.

United States is losing its ability to patrol and safeguard Arctic waters

From The New York Times:

A growing array of military leaders, Arctic experts and lawmakers say the United States is losing its ability to patrol and safeguard Arctic waters even as climate change and high energy prices have triggered a burst of shipping and oil and gas exploration in the thawing region.

In the meantime, a resurgent Russia has been busy expanding its fleet of large oceangoing icebreakers to around 14, launching a large conventional icebreaker in May and, last year, the world’s largest icebreaker, named 50 Years of Victory, the newest of its seven nuclear-powered, pole-hardy ships.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Good move: Democrats Pick Warner As Keynote Speaker

From The Washington Post:

Democratic Party leaders announced yesterday that former Virginia governor Mark R. Warner will deliver the keynote address at their national convention in Denver this month . . .

The choice of Warner appeared to dim chances that the state's current governor, Timothy M. Kaine, would be selected as the Democrats' vice presidential nominee.
_______________

In a 3-21-05 post I wrote about the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner and reviewed the remarks by Gov. Warner who was the keynote speaker. He delivered one powerful message. The part of the post on his remarks follows:

Gov. Warner noted that when he ran for governor of Virginia in 2001, Virginia had not voted Democratic since 1964, and had not had a Democrat governor elected in 10 years.

Warner said the reasons he ran, in addition to cleaning up the mess the Republicans had made in Richmond just as they have made a mess in Atlanta, were to:

• Show it is OK to like country music and be a Democrat;

• Show it is OK to own a gun and be a Democrat; and

• Show it is OK to be a NASCAR fan and be a Democrat.

Warner stressed that we must reject the approach of writing off the South. To return to power, Democrats must be competitive in every state.

Gov. Warner said he believes strongly that to capture the White House:

(1) Democrats must appeal to moderate Republicans and rural America; and

(2) Democrats must be fiscally responsible, and become the party known for being fiscally conservative. For him, being fiscally conservative means someone who pays his bills and meets his commitments.

In connection with being fiscally conservative, Gov. Warner noted that ours is going to be the first generation ever to leave our children worse off than we were, and this is just wrong.

He says that the Republican administration under Bush has told America that it can wage war and cut taxes for the affluent at the same time.

To retake the White House, Warner says Democrats must reach out to folks who have not voted Democratic in years.

He noted that moderate Republicans are an endangered species.

Moderate Republicans don't like:

• The debt that Bush has given us in lieu of the surplus former President Clinton left;

• The mean streak that the GOP is identified with in persons such as Ralph Reed and Rep. Tom DeLay; and

• A party commited to winning at any cost, as typified by Senator Chambliss's attack against former Sen. Max Cleland.

Gov. Warner noted that in days gone by, folks who are now moderate Republicans would have been conservative Democrats. Our challenge is to get these moderate Republicans to vote Democratic.

And we must win back rural America.

The Governor noted that Democrats have been misrepresented on:

• Accepting values and personal responsibilities;

• Having respect for the Second Amendment; and

• Having a litmus test for abortion and guns.

As a party we must do more than just be against things. We must be for things! Things we must be for include:

• A party that is for a strong military and presence in the world.

• A party that is for an aggressive and engaged foreign policy and enlists the cooperation of our allies. (On this point, the Governor noted that in the last presidential we lost a great opportunity in not asking Americans to be willing to be willing to experience some personal sacrifice versus willing to go into debt and still reduce taxes.)

• A party that honors and rewards work.

• A party that is an advocate for innovation.

• A party that is recognized for racial reconciliation across the United States with black, Hispanics and other minorities.

• A party that is for reforming things.

• A party that wants to balance the budget and meet its responsibilities.

• A party that continues to remember the role that faith and religion and values play in our lives.

Gov. Warner concluded by saying he was encouraged at the present, not discouraged. If it can and did happen in Virginia, we can do it in Georgia and other southern states.And more than anything, he noted in closing, the challenge we face is the challenge to once again lead; stand up and lead.

Needless to say, the crowd in unison stood up, and as one who was there and did that, I can tell you, we are ready, ready to stand up and lead. Bring 2006 on Bubba Perdue; bring it on Ralph Reed; bring it on Philistines; bring it on. We are ready, willing and able -- and cannot wait -- to once again lead.

G.O.P. in House at Risk in Northeast

From The New York Times:

Across the increasingly Democratic Northeast, Republicans are in danger of losing half a dozen or more Congressional seats in November, as even districts once considered safe have become vulnerable to well-financed Democrats, according to political analysts and members of both parties.

The Republican Party’s challenges in the nine-state Northeast region are a reflection of what the party faces across the country as it is being forced to defend dozens of Congressional seats that are now considered competitive at a time when the party has limited financial resources, political analysts said.

All told, there are roughly a dozen competitive Congressional races in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Hampshire, nearly all of them in districts now held by Republicans, according to analysts and strategists in both parties.

Downtowns across the U.S. see streetcars in their future -- Plans to revive a transit system that was dismantled in the 1950s

From The New York Times:

At least 40 . . . cities are exploring streetcar plans to spur economic development, ease traffic congestion and draw young professionals and empty-nest baby boomers back from the suburbs . . . .

More than a dozen have existing lines, including New Orleans, which is restoring a system devastated by Hurricane Katrina. And Denver, Houston, Salt Lake City and Charlotte, N.C., have introduced or are planning to introduce streetcars.

“They serve to coalesce a neighborhood,” said Jim Graebner, chairman of the American Public Transportation Association’s streetcar and vintage trolley committee. “That’s very evident in places like San Francisco, which never got rid of its streetcar system.”

Modern streetcars, like those Cincinnati plans to use, cost about $3 million each, run on an overhead electrical wire and carry up to 130 passengers per car on rails that are flush with the pavement. And since streetcars can pick up passengers on either side, they can make shorter stops than buses.

In a Generation, Minorities May Be the U.S. Majority

From The New York Times:

Ethnic and racial minorities will comprise a majority of the nation’s population in a little more than a generation, according to new Census Bureau projections, a transformation that is occurring faster than anticipated just a few years ago.

The census calculates that by 2042, Americans who identify themselves as Hispanic, black, Asian, American Indian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander will together outnumber non-Hispanic whites. Four years ago, officials had projected the shift would come in 2050.

The main reason for the accelerating change is significantly higher birthrates among immigrants. Another factor is the influx of foreigners, rising from about 1.3 million annually today to more than 2 million a year by midcentury, according to projections based on current immigration policies.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Political Insider reports that Democrats are ready to unload on McCain, Reed over Atlanta fund-raiser

From the AJC's Political Insider:

The signs are unmistakable. Democrats are about to unload on Republican presidential candidate John McCain — and the upcoming Atlanta event that Ralph Reed is helping to boost.

Today’s The Hill, a newspaper that covers Congress, notes that McCain has thus far ignored calls to cancel the fund-raiser from “watchdog groups” who note Reed’s former association with imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

An investigation driven by McCain, as chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, uncovered much of the relationship.

But Democrats are no longer much impressed. This paragraph is from the Hill:

“Calling yourself a maverick and claiming credit for fighting corruption while raising money with one of the central figures in the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal is not what most voters have in mind when they think of ‘straight talk,’” said Damien LaVera, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee. “It is, however, one more example of why John McCain is offering more of the same failed Republican leadership.”

Strange and crude goings on within the GOP ranks as they attack Sen. Chambliss and the Gang of 10 proposals.

In an 8-2-08 post entitled "Obama is listening to the Cracker Squire: Signals Support for Wider Offshore Drilling if Part of Comprehensive Energy Policy Aimed at Lower Gas Prices," I wrote:

With this step behind both [the Obama and McCain] campaigns, I predict it is only a matter of time before both campaigns begin to relax their opposition to drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in northeastern Alaska in the Alaska North Slope region.

Well, Cracker Squire -- and even though you say it's a new day and under such new circumstances you are in favor of drilling in the ANWR -- not so fast.

If you are not familiar with the proposals of the "Gang of 10," you owe it to yourself to become familiar with them. They truly represent major compromise on both sides in major areas, and their substance makes it is understandable why Obama had kind words to say about the proposals and indicated a willingness to compromise his position on drilling.

In an attempt to avoid areas too controversial, the Gang of 10 proposals do not include drilling in the ANWR.

But I really was taken back when I read in the AJC's Political Insider that Georgia Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey, who last week criticized the Gang of 10 energy compromise, has joined a bipartisan effort as one of the more than 100 co-sponsors of a House compromise energy plan that would allow drilling offshore, but not in the ANWR.

The Insider reports that:

Asked about the House compromise, Gingrey defended it as a "giant step forward" in ending offshore drilling bans, even if it doesn’t include ANWR. "I am proud to join Republicans and Democrats alike in advancing this debate," he said.

And how’s that different from the “Gang of Ten” in the Senate? Gingrey’s staff didn’t say — except to cite summaries suggesting the House compromise bill is broader.


Sen. Chambliss was exactly on point when he told Neal Boortz, according to the AJC's Political Insider:

"[T]here are people — and I hear you saying the same thing some other talk shows are saying [meaning Rush Limbaugh] — who rather than finding a solution to a crisis that exists in America, you’d rather have a campaign issue for the election."

I was out of town last weekend and did not get to post the article that got Rush Limbaugh, Neal Boortz and others all worked up, but I was going to post it when I returned Sunday night. By that time the conservative wing of the media which prefers to use this topic as a campaign issue media rather than work toward a solution had already picked up on it, and I did not do a post.

It is found in The Wall Street Journal. It begins:

Politics has its puzzling moments. John McCain and most of the GOP experienced one late last week. That was when five of their own set about dismantling the best issue Republicans have in the upcoming election.

It's taken time, but Sen. McCain and his party have finally found -- in energy -- an issue that's working for them. Riding voter discontent over high gas prices, the GOP has made antidrilling Democrats this summer's headlines.

Their enthusiasm has given conservative candidates a boost in tough races. And Mr. McCain has pressured Barack Obama into an energy debate, where the Democrat has struggled to explain shifting and confused policy proposals.

Still, it was probably too much to assume every Republican would work out that their side was winning this issue. And so, last Friday, in stumbled Sens. Lindsey Graham, John Thune, Saxby Chambliss, Bob Corker and Johnny Isakson -- alongside five Senate Democrats. This "Gang of 10" announced a "sweeping" and "bipartisan" energy plan to break Washington's energy "stalemate." What they did was throw every vulnerable Democrat, and Mr. Obama, a life preserver.

That's because the plan is a Democratic giveaway. New production on offshore federal lands is left to state legislatures, and then in only four coastal states. The regulatory hurdles are huge. And the bill bars drilling within 50 miles of the coast -- putting off limits some of the most productive areas. Alaska's oil-rich Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is still a no-go.

The highlight is instead $84 billion in tax credits, subsidies and federal handouts for alternative fuels and renewables. The Gang of 10 intends to pay for all this in part by raising taxes on . . . oil companies! The Sierra Club couldn't have penned it better. And so the Republican Five has potentially given antidrilling Democrats the political cover they need to neutralize energy through November.


I still predict what I wrote in my 8-3-08 post entitled "The Gang of 10 -- A list of the senators who have proposed a much needed bipartisan energy compromise plan:"

As noted in an earlier post, in a move that could signal a possible softening of Obama's position, his campaign on Friday issued a statement praising the bill but stopped short of an endorsement.

Trying to have it both ways, McCain's campaign immediately accused Obama of flip flopping, while at the same time McCain said he would not support the proposal.

You can take this prediction to the bank. McCain will prove to be the ultimate flip flopper on this issue as he, along with more and more senators, signs onto an attempt to solve our energy crisis.


Again I encourage you to become familiar with the Gang of 10 proposals. They truly represent bipartisan compromises on difficult issues.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

U.S. Power Vacuum Gives Adversaries Room to Maneuver

From The Wall Street Journal:

The Kremlin's expanding military push into Georgia is fueling concerns within Washington's national-security establishment of a broader challenge to U.S. power globally during President George W. Bush's waning months in office.

From the Caucasus Mountains to the Middle East and South Asia, U.S. diplomats and strategists say historical U.S. adversaries, such as Moscow and Tehran, appear to be exploiting Washington's impending political transition, and the White House's fixation on Iraq, to pursue international actions that might otherwise spark a more robust response from Washington and its allies.

Even U.S. allies, such as Israel and Pakistan, have shown a desire in recent months to pursue foreign policies independent of the U.S., and possibly against Washington's interests.

U.S. officials worry that the strong Russian response in Georgia reflects a broader purpose than simply repelling the Georgian attack on pro-Russian separatists in South Ossetia. Some administration officials fear that the Russians are hoping to quell the pro-Western movement in Georgia and reassert Russian dominance in the Caucasus. And if Georgia returns to Russia's sphere of influence, officials worry, Ukraine could be next.

The situation could expose U.S. and European impotence in protecting the fledgling allies that emerged from the ruins of the Soviet Union over the past two decades. The Bush administration pressed hard in the run-up to this year's North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in Bucharest to put Georgia and Ukraine on track for NATO membership, but lobbying by then-Russian President Vladimir Putin led some Western European allies -- notably Germany -- to postpone the bids.
_______________

Although Medvedev announced Russia is ending its current military operation against Georgian forces because it has achieved its goals, the Russian president stopped short of saying Russia would withdraw its troops from Georgia. (The Wall Street Journal)

On no, not again: Two for the price of one -- Michelle Obama to speak at convention

I had very mixed reactions in learning that Michelle Obama will be the star attraction on the opening night at the Democratic National Convention in Denver on Aug. 25. (The Washington Post)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The headline reads: "Former Nichols judge critical of DA." The Cracker Squire says: "Judge Fuller, zip it; when will you learn not to comment."

From the AJC:

The former judge in the Brian Nichols' murder trial, Hilton Fuller, said Saturday that prosecutors share the blame with defense attorneys for all the delays and millions of dollars spent in the case.

Howard declined to comment Saturday, citing a gag order on the case.

State lawmakers and others harshly criticized [Judge Fuller's] handling of the case, including his decision to hire four attorneys for Nichols, running expenditures in the case up to $1.8 million.

Fuller suspended the trial indefinitely last year when state money for the case was cut off. He resigned from the case in January after he was quoted in The New Yorker magazine saying, "Everyone in the world knows he [Nichols] did it."

Turkey Edwards: My cheating on Elizabeth in 2006 was oncologically correct.

Maureen Edwards writes in The New York Times:

The creepiest part of [Edwards'] creepy confession was when he stressed to Woodruff that he cheated on Elizabeth in 2006 when her cancer was in remission. His infidelity was oncologically correct.

The president manqué gives Rielle Hunter, formerly Lisa Druck, more than $114,000 to shoot vain little videos for his Web site (even though she’s a neophyte) . . . .

He has an affair with Hunter, while he’s honing his speech on the imperative to “live in a moral, honest, just America.”

It isn’t like we didn’t know that the son of a millworker was a little enraptured by himself, radiating self-love from his smile and his man-in-a-hurry airs and the notorious $800 bill for a pair of haircuts and his two-minute YouTube hair primping to the tune of “I Feel Pretty.”

In the Hunter video titled “Plane Truths,” Edwards is relaxing on his plane, telling the out-of-frame director: “I’ve come to the personal conclusion that I actually want the country to see who I am, who I really am, but I don’t know what the result of that will be. But for me personally, I’d rather be successful or unsuccessful based on who I really am, not based on some plastic Ken doll that you put up in front of audiences.” Ken couldn’t have said it better.

Back in 2002, Edwards sent me a Ken doll dressed in bathing trunks, Rio de Janeiro Ken, with a teasing note, because he didn’t like my reference to him as a Ken doll in a column.

In retrospect, the comparison was not fair — to Ken.

As Program Moves Poor to Suburbs, Tensions Follow -- Section 8 program is designed to encourage low-income tenants to settle in middle-income areas.

From The New York Times:

From the tough streets of Oakland, where so many of Alice Payne’s relatives and friends had been shot to death, the newspaper advertisement for a federally assisted rental property in this Northern California suburb was like a bridge across the River Jordan.

Ms. Payne, a 42-year-old African-American mother of five, moved to Antioch in 2006. With the local real estate market slowing and a housing voucher covering two-thirds of the rent, she found she could afford a large, new home, with a pool, for $2,200 a month.

Under the Section 8 federal housing voucher program, thousands of poor, urban and often African-American residents have left hardscrabble neighborhoods in the nation’s largest cities and resettled in the suburbs.

Law enforcement experts and housing researchers argue that rising crime rates follow Section 8 recipients to their new homes, while other experts discount any direct link. But there is little doubt that cultural shock waves have followed the migration. Social and racial tensions between newcomers and their neighbors have increased, forcing suburban communities like Antioch to re-evaluate their civic identities along with their methods of dealing with the new residents.

The foreclosure crisis gnawing away at overbuilt suburbs has accelerated that migration, and the problems. Antioch is one of many suburbs in the midst of a full-blown mortgage meltdown that has seen property owners seeking out low-income renters to fill vacant homes.

The Section 8 program is designed to encourage low-income tenants to settle in middle-income areas by subsidizing 60 percent of their rent.

Friday, August 08, 2008

All Aboard: Too Many for Amtrak

From The Wall Street Journal:

[M]any Amtrak trains are getting overcrowded, and a backlog of infrastructure problems stands in the way of expanded service.

Amtrak's newfound popularity has made an impression in Congress, where lawmakers view the rail service as an environmentally friendly, energy-efficient approach to reducing gridlock and expanding transportation options.

The House and Senate have passed by veto-proof margins legislation that could increase Amtrak funding by 33% or more in the new fiscal year beginning October. The legislation would also establish a grant program to encourage states to expand rail offerings.

In recent decades, much of the federal support has gone to highway construction and, to a lesser extent, mass-transit systems.

The New Southern Strategy -- Democrats Tap Conservative Candidates in GOP Bastions


From The Wall Street Journal:

This is how shaky Republican fortunes are in 2008: In one of the most conservative corners of the conservative South, Democrats stand a good chance of winning a congressional seat.

This working-class, mostly rural district has been controlled by Republicans since 1964, when Alabama's white electorate began its long turn away from the Democratic Party. In 2004, President George W. Bush won 67% of the district's vote. Today's leading candidate is Bobby Bright, a self-styled "Southern conservative" and sharecropper's son from remote Alabama farm country. In another era, he would have run as a Republican. But he's a Democrat, and early polls strongly suggest he can win.

Spurred by the souring economy and a newfound willingness to embrace conservative candidates, the Democratic Party is running its most competitive campaign across the South in 40 years, fielding potential winners along a rib of states stretching from Louisiana to Virginia, the heart of the Old Confederacy. Sen. Barack Obama's ability to excite African-American voters in certain Southern races could provide an additional boost, too.

The party's rising prospects point toward a once unthinkable goal: a reversal of the "Great Reversal," the switch in political loyalties in the 1960s that made the South a Republican stronghold for a generation. If the current picture holds, Democrats could use the Southern strength to help craft a workable Senate majority and expand their majority in the House of Representatives. At the very least, it widens the field of competitive seats, forcing Republicans to fight fires in once-reliably solid areas.

That Democrats are competitive at all in the South is one of the central narratives of this year's fight for Congress. As recently as July 2006, the year Democrats took control of Congress, a Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll showed Southern voters bucking national sentiment, saying they preferred Republicans over Democrats by 47% to 40%.

But this spring, the party won special elections for House seats in heavily Republican parts of Mississippi and Louisiana. Democrats consistently outnumbered Republicans across the South in this year's presidential primaries. And in the latest Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll, conducted last month, Southern voters said they prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress over a Republican one by a 44% to 40% margin, a reversal of the long-term historical patterns.

In early 2007, both parties expected only 35 to 40 House seats out of 435 to be truly competitive. Now, half a dozen Republican-held House seats across the South, including rural districts in Virginia, North Carolina, Louisiana and South Carolina, are growing more competitive. That makes life tougher for Republicans already facing a 19-seat deficit.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, in an essay published in May in Human Events, the conservative online magazine, warned that his party risks reverting to the "permanent minority status it had from 1930 to 1994."

The Republican gains in the South, which started with the Goldwater campaign in 1964, opened the door to the Nixon, Reagan and Bush presidencies by creating an impregnable voting block out of white conservatives. The reasons for the shift are still debated. Some argue Republicans successfully appealed to whites riled over the Civil Rights movement. Others say Republicans successfully appealed to voters in border Southern states who were disenchanted with the nation's crumbling cities and rising crime rate.

Why the South is moving toward Democrats today is an easier question to answer. One reason: With anxiety high about the economy, more voters are looking to Democrats amid a surge of populist sentiment and an embrace of activist government.

Democrats have also made efforts to recruit candidates who reflect the values of local districts.
Not that long ago, party leaders picked from a list of liberal stalwarts who matched national party sentiments on issues such as gun rights and abortion. Now the focus is finding candidates "who would win," says one senior strategist.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Bush administration rejected a request from Texas's gov. to loosen a federal biofuels mandate that critics say is contributing to soaring food prices.

From The Wall Street Journal:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson on Thursday denied a request to cut by half the amount of ethanol that must be blended into the nation's fuel supply, a victory for the nation's corn growers and ethanol makers.

The EPA chief found that a 2007 law that ramped up ethanol production wasn't posing severe economic harm, brushing aside complaints from Texas Gov. Rick Perry that the diversion of corn to ethanol production was damaging the state's beef, chicken and dairy industries, which use corn as a food staple.

The support for ethanol has frustrated chicken and hog producers, who blame the mandate in part for increasing the costs of feeding their livestock as corn is diverted to make ethanol. Earlier this year, Gov. Perry petitioned the EPA to reduce the requirement by half, from nine billion gallons of renewable fuels mandated for 2008 and 11.1 billion mandated for 2009. By law, the EPA may waive the mandate after determining that it would severely harm the economy or environment in a state or region.

Even if the EPA were to have cut back on ethanol requirements, it might not have had much effect, as gasoline companies are already blending in more ethanol than required, encouraged by new production and the recent fall in corn prices from highs reached after floods in the Midwest earlier this year.
_______________

The New York Times also notes:

The existing target requires not only more ethanol but also new cars and new filling station equipment.

The long-term hope, backed with generous government incentives, is to make motor fuel from cellulosic, or nonfood, sources. Private companies are feverishly pursuing technologies for using wood chips, wheat straw, waste plastic and even municipal garbage to make ethanol and other liquid vehicle fuels. But none of these is commercially practical now.

InsiderAdvantage Georgia has a headline "Obama Campaign Helped Torpedo Vernon Jones" that spokesperson for Obama campaign denies.

InsiderAdvantage Georgia has a story under the byline "The InsiderAdvantage Staff" with the above-noted headline. A spokesperson for Vernon says he knows the allegation involved in the headline is true, while a spokesperson for the Obama campaign denies the story.

For its part, InsiderAdvantage Georgia notes "[o]ur information comes from several sources. We cannot identify one. The other is Rev. Kenneth Walker, who was a top strategist for Jones’ campaign."

Someone is lying, and regardless, I don't like the whole deal. I hope the story is incorrect.

The minority population, most notably Hispanic, is surging in metropolitan areas across the U.S., outpacing growth among whites.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Metropolitan areas across the U.S. continue to get more diverse as minorities, especially Hispanics, increase their share of the population.

Figures that were scheduled to be released Thursday by the Census Bureau show that Hispanics continue to spread beyond traditional gateway cities like Los Angeles and New York into other cities, suburbs and rural America.

The boom in Hispanic population, the majority of which comes from births rather than immigration, continues to be the driving force in U.S. demographics. The Hispanic population increased in 95% of counties with an overall population greater than 10,000.

The white population is declining in about half of U.S. counties. About one in 10 counties is "majority minority," meaning more than half the population identifies itself as something other than non-Hispanic white.

Whites are projected to fall below 50% of the total U.S. population by 2050. Several states, including Texas, California, Hawaii and New Mexico, have already hit that milestone.

Among the black population, the largest growth is among southern cities, as many African-Americans migrate away from northern cities.

(See also The New York Times.)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

G.O.P. Drops in Voting Rolls in Many States

From The New York Times:

Well before Senators Barack Obama and John McCain rose to the top of their parties, a partisan shift was under way at the local and state level. For more than three years starting in 2005, there has been a reduction in the number of voters who register with the Republican Party and a rise among voters who affiliate with Democrats and, almost as often, with no party at all.

While the implications of the changing landscape for Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain are far from clear, voting experts say the registration numbers may signal the beginning of a move away from Republicans that could affect local, state and national politics over several election cycles. Already, there has been a sharp reversal for Republicans in many statehouses and governors’ mansions.

Over the same period, the share of the electorate that registers as independent has grown at a faster rate than Republicans or Democrats in 12 states. The rise has been so significant that in states like Arizona, Colorado and North Carolina, nonpartisan voters essentially constitute a third party.

Yet while an unpopular war, a faltering economy and a president held in low esteem have combined to hurt the Republican Party, Democrats are also benefiting from demographic changes, including the rise in the number of younger voters and the urbanization of suburbs, which has resulted in a different political flavor there, voting and campaign experts said. The party has also been helped by a willingness to run more pragmatic candidates, who have helped make the party more appealing to a broader swath of the electorate.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Once McCain's treasury secretary to be Phil Gramm's "mental recession" continues: Housing Lenders Fear Bigger Wave of Loan Defaults

From The New York Times:

The first wave of Americans to default on their home mortgages appears to be cresting, but a second, far larger one is quickly building.

Homeowners with good credit are falling behind on their payments in growing numbers, even as the problems with mortgages made to people with weak, or subprime, credit are showing their first, tentative signs of leveling off after two years of spiraling defaults.

The percentage of mortgages in arrears in the category of loans one rung above subprime, so-called alternative-A mortgages, quadrupled to 12 percent in April from a year earlier. Delinquencies among prime loans, which account for most of the $12 trillion market, doubled to 2.7 percent in that time.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Gang of 10 -- A list of the senators who have proposed a much needed bipartisan energy compromise plan.

Below are the senators comprising the Gang of 10 who are going to draft legislation that would ease the federal moratorium on offshore oil drilling while ending a tax break for oil companies:

Democrats:

Kent Conrad, N.D.
Mary Landrieu, La.
Blanche Lincoln, Ark.
Mark Pryor, Ark.
Ben Nelson, Neb.

Republicans:

Saxby Chambliss, Ga.
Johnny Isakson, Ga.
Lindsey Graham, S.C.
John Thune, S.D.
Bob Corker, Tenn.

As noted in an earlier post, in a move that could signal a possible softening of Obama's position, his campaign on Friday issued a statement praising the bill but stopped short of an endorsement.

Trying to have it both ways, McCain's campaign immediately accused Obama of flip flopping, while at the same time McCain said he would not support the proposal.

You can take this prediction to the bank. McCain will prove to be the ultimate flip flopper on this issue as he, along with more and more senators, signs onto an attempt to solve our energy crisis.

Shipping Costs Start to Crimp Globalization -- Companies looking to keep prices low will have to move some production closer to consumers.

From The New York Times:

The world economy has become so integrated that shoppers find relatively few T-shirts and sneakers in Wal-Mart and Target carrying a “Made in the U.S.A.” label. But globalization may be losing some of the inexorable economic power it had for much of the past quarter-century, even as it faces fresh challenges as a political ideology.

Cheap oil, the lubricant of quick, inexpensive transportation links across the world, may not return anytime soon, upsetting the logic of diffuse global supply chains that treat geography as a footnote in the pursuit of lower wages. Rising concern about global warming, the reaction against lost jobs in rich countries, worries about food safety and security, and the collapse of world trade talks in Geneva last week also signal that political and environmental concerns may make the calculus of globalization far more complex.

[C]ompanies looking to keep prices low will have to move some production closer to consumers. Globe-spanning supply chains — Brazilian iron ore turned into Chinese steel used to make washing machines shipped to Long Beach, Calif., and then trucked to appliance stores in Chicago — make less sense today than they did a few years ago.

Some electronics companies that left Mexico in recent years for the lower wages in China are now returning to Mexico, because they can lower costs by trucking their output overland to American consumers.

The industries most likely to be affected by the sharp rise in transportation costs are those producing heavy or bulky goods that are particularly expensive to ship relative to their sale price. Steel is an example. China’s steel exports to the United States are now tumbling by more than 20 percent on a year-over-year basis, their worst performance in a decade, while American steel production has been rising after years of decline.

Plants in industries that require relatively less investment in infrastructure, like furniture, footwear and toys, are already showing signs of mobility as shipping costs rise.

Until recently, standard practice in the furniture industry was to ship American timber from ports like Norfolk, Baltimore and Charleston to China, where oak and cherry would be milled into sofas, beds, tables, cabinets and chairs, which were then shipped back to the United States.

But with transportation costs rising, more wood is now going to traditional domestic furniture-making centers in North Carolina and Virginia, where the industry had all but been wiped out.

Soaring transportation costs also have an impact on food, from bananas to salmon. Higher shipping rates could eventually transform some items now found in the typical middle-class pantry into luxuries and further promote the so-called local food movement popular in many American and European cities.

In addition, the sharp increase in transportation costs has implications for the “just-in-time” system pioneered in Japan and later adopted the world over. It is a highly profitable business strategy aimed at reducing warehousing and inventory costs by arranging for raw materials and other supplies to arrive only when needed, and not before.

One likely outcome if transportation rates stay high, economists said, would be a strengthening of the neighborhood effect. Instead of seeking supplies wherever they can be bought most cheaply, regardless of location, and outsourcing the assembly of products all over the world, manufacturers would instead concentrate on performing those activities as close to home as possible.

Fascinating: Immigrants Deported by U.S. Hospitals -- Either do medical repatriations or "we're unable to provide adequate care for our own citizens."

From The New York Times:

Many American hospitals are taking it upon themselves to repatriate seriously injured or ill immigrants because they cannot find nursing homes willing to accept them without insurance. Medicaid does not cover long-term care for illegal immigrants, or for newly arrived legal immigrants, creating a quandary for hospitals, which are obligated by federal regulation to arrange post-hospital care for patients who need it.

American immigration authorities play no role in these private repatriations, carried out by ambulance, air ambulance and commercial plane.

Hospital administrators view these cases as costly, burdensome patient transfers that force them to shoulder responsibility for the dysfunctional immigration and health-care systems. In many cases, they say, the only alternative to repatriations is keeping patients indefinitely in acute-care hospitals.

“What that does for us, it puts a strain on our system, where we’re unable to provide adequate care for our own citizens,” said Alan B. Kelly, vice president of Scottsdale Healthcare in Arizona. “A full bed is a full bed.”

[T]he government does not finance post-hospital care for illegal immigrants, for temporary legal immigrants or for legal residents with less than five years in the United States. (California and New York City are notable exceptions; Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program, spends $20 million a year on long-term care for illegal immigrants, as does the Health and Hospitals Corporation of New York City.)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

You broke my heart cause I couldn't dance, you didn't even want me around -- Chrysler Building sale, like that of Rockefeller Center, broke my heart.


The Chrysler Building as it stood in 1930. I have jogged by the building several times, and ventured into the lobby on several occasions when I thought the time of day might allow security to automatically not run off someone in running clothes (at such times and without fail, they would come up to run me off, and my southern accent explaining my love for this masterpiece would immediately win them over and they would say to please look around to my heart's content). Losing it is like some sovereign wealth fund buying the Washington Monument.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Last month, Abu Dhabi's sovereign wealth fund forked over a reported $800 million for a 90% stake in New York's Chrysler Building. As with the Japanese acquisition of the equally iconic Rockefeller Center in the late 1980s, the Chrysler purchase may not wind up being a success, financially speaking. But if it was an architectural masterpiece -- or just a chunk of New York's heart -- that the oil sheiks were after, they got it.

That New Yorkers have long been in love with the Chrysler Building is not in doubt. . . . Among New York's skyscrapers, the Chrysler is New York in the way that the Twin Towers never were while they stood, notwithstanding their solemn bearing and size. Even the venerable Empire State, storied and iconic, has more mass than grace. And it's a tourist trap.

Not so the Chrysler, where the casual visitor cannot get beyond the lobby (though that alone is worth a trip). Instead, the building tends to be admired from afar, above all for its instantly recognizable top: the eagle-headed gargoyles, which seem ready to take wing from their perches on the 61st floor; the huge triangular windows arranged along the curves of seven concentric setbacks pushing centerward and pointing skyward; the ribbed, stainless-steel crown that sparkles by day and is lit from within at night; and, as befits any skyscraper worthy of the name, the needle-like spire.

Architect William Van Alen's original plan called for a fairly ordinary 56-story tower topped by a glass dome. Owner Walter P. Chrysler had the more ambitious idea of putting up the tallest building in the world. Plans changed first to a 67-story, 808-foot design; then to a 77-story, 925-foot one. The building reached its ultimate height of 1,046 feet in October 1929 only with the addition of the spire, constructed in secret and hoisted into place almost immediately after its nearest skyscraper rival, Wall Street's Bank of Manhattan, had topped out at 927 feet.