Wednesday, February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley, RIP (1925-2008)

One of the founders of the modern conservative movement, William F. Buckley, has died at the age of 82. He had a quixotic sense of humor and possesses the intellectual wit and wisdom I can only hope will spread throughout our current state of political discourse.
He'd filed his final column with National Review on Feb. 2.

Tributes to Buckley:
ABC Evening News - Buckly vs. Gore Vidal ("I'll sock you in the goddam face", Aug. 28, 1968; Commentary on the presidency I: Oct. 28, 1968; Commentary on the presidency II: Nov. 5, 1968)
Alfred Regnery, American Spectator - Conservatism's heart and soul
Ann Coulter - RIP, enfant terrible
Charlie Rose video - An appreciation
Chicago Tribune (w/video) - Often imitated, never duplicated
John Judis, The New Republic - He was a rebel, but not a heretic
L.A. Times - The last true conservative
Michael Barone, U.S. News & World Report: Buckley: a history changer
National Review - A celebration
New York Post - Transcendant
Peggy Noon, Wall Street Journal - May we not lose his kind
Rich Lowry, National Review - Buckley's life: a success
Rush Limbaugh - personal account
Slate - Why did William F. Buckley talk like that?
Toronto Globe & Mail - As long as he was alive, the liberals could never win
Wall Street Journal - Buckley transformed American politics
Washington Post - Conservatism loses its most eloquent voice

Obit (Associated Press)
Conservative author Buckley dies at 82
By HILLEL ITALIE, AP National Writer 59 minutes ago
NEW YORK - William F. Buckley Jr. died at work, in his study. Communism had fallen long before. A Republican was in the White House. The word "liberal" had been shunned like an ill-mannered guest.
At the end of his 82 years, much of it spent stoking and riding a right-wing wave as an erudite commentator and conservative herald, all of Buckley's dreams seemingly had come true.
"He founded a magazine, wrote over 50 books, influenced the course of political history, had a son, had two grandchildren and sailed across the Atlantic Ocean three times," said his son, novelist Christopher Buckley. "He really didn't leave any stone unturned."
Buckley was found dead in his study Wednesday morning in Stamford, Conn. His son noted Buckley had died "with his boots on, after a lifetime of riding pretty tall in the saddle."
His assistant said Buckley was found by his cook. The cause of death was unknown, but he had been ill with emphysema, she said.
As an editor, columnist, novelist, debater and host of the TV talk show "Firing Line," Buckley worked at a daunting pace, taking as little as 20 minutes to write a column for his magazine, National Review.
Yet on the platform, he was all handsome, reptilian languor, flexing his imposing vocabulary ever so slowly, accenting each point with an arched brow or rolling tongue and savoring an opponent's discomfort with wide-eyed glee.
"There's no `weltschmerz,' or any sadness that permeates my vision," he told The Associated Press during a 2004 interview at his Park Avenue duplex. "There isn't anything I reasonably hoped for that wasn't achieved."
President Bush called Buckley a great political thinker, wit, author and leader. "He influenced a lot of people, including me," the president said. "He captured the imagination of a lot of people."
But Buckley was also willing to criticize his own and made no secret of his distaste for at least some of Bush's policies. In a 2006 interview with CBS, he called the Iraq war a failure.
"If you had a European prime minister who experienced what we've experienced, it would be expected that he would retire or resign," Buckley said at the time.
Luck was in the very bones of Buckley, blessed with a leading man's looks, an orator's voice, a satirist's wit and an Ivy League scholar's vocabulary. But before he emerged in the 1950s, few imagined conservatives would rise so high, or so enjoy the heights.
For at least a generation, conservatism had meant the pale austerity of Herbert Hoover, the grim isolationism of Sen. Robert Taft, the snarls and innuendoes of Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Democrats were the party of big spenders and "Happy Days Are Here Again." Republicans settled for respectable cloth coats.
Unlike so many of his peers and predecessors on the right, Buckley wasn't a self-made man prescribing thrift, but a multimillionaire's son who enjoyed wine, sailing and banter and assumed his wishes would be granted. Even historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., who labeled Buckley "the scourge of American liberalism," came to appreciate his "wit, his passion for the harpsichord, his human decency, even ... his compulsion to epater the liberals."
Buckley once teased Schlesinger after the historian praised the rise of computers for helping him work more quickly. "Suddenly I was face to face with the flip side of Paradise," Buckley wrote. "That means, doesn't it, that Professor Schlesinger will write more than he would do otherwise?"
Buckley founded the biweekly magazine National Review in 1955, declaring that he proposed to stand "athwart history, yelling `stop' at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who urge it."
Conservatives had been outsiders in both mind and spirit, marginalized by a generation of discredited stands — from opposing Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal to the isolationism that preceded the U.S. entry into World War II. Before Buckley, liberals so dominated intellectual thought that critic Lionel Trilling claimed there were "no conservative or reactionary ideas in general circulation."
"Bill could go to the campus with that arch manner of his. And he was exciting and young and conservative," conservative author and columnist George Will told the AP in 2004. "And all of a sudden, conservatism was sexy."
In the 1950s, "conservatism was barely a presence at all," Will said. "To the extent that it was a political presence, it was a blocking faction in Congress."
The National Review was initially behind history, opposing civil rights legislation and once declaring that "the white community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail."
Buckley also had little use for the music of the counterculture, once calling the Beatles "so unbelievably horrible, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art, that they qualify as crowned heads of antimusic."
The magazine could do little to prevent Barry Goldwater's landslide defeat in 1964, but as conservatives gained influence, so did Buckley and his magazine. The long rise would peak in 1980, when Buckley's good friend Ronald Reagan was elected president.
"Ronnie valued Bill's counsel throughout his political life, and after Ronnie died, Bill and Pat were there for me in so many ways," Reagan's widow, Nancy Reagan, said Wednesday in a statement.
Buckley's wife, the former Patricia Alden Austin Taylor, died in 2007 at age 80. Christopher is their only child. Buckley is also survived by two brothers and three sisters.
Christopher Buckley remembers his father's one losing adventure, albeit one happily lost. William F. Buckley was the Conservative Party's candidate for mayor of New York in 1965, waging a campaign that was in part a lark — he proposed an elevated bikeway on Second Avenue — but that also reflected a deep distaste for the liberal Republicanism of Mayor John V. Lindsay.
"By this time I realized he wasn't just any other dad," Christopher Buckley told the AP. "I was 13 at the time, and there were mock debates in my fifth grade home room class. And there were people playing him, so that was kind of strange.
"And that's when you get the sense that your dad is not just Ozzie and your parents are not Ozzie and Harriet. But he was a great dad, and he was a great man, and that's not a bad epitaph."

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Huckabee, Dems visit Wausau

Former cannon-fodder ... errr, Senate candidate Tim Michels introduces former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Thursday before an audience of about 300 at Stoney Creek Inn just south of Wausau.

Must be an election coming up. All of the "final four" are crawling around Wisconsin these days leading up to our primary on Tuesday (Feb. 19). Three of them will have visited Wausau - Mike Huckabee at a rally at Stoney Creek Inn last Thursday, Barack Hussein Obama at an invite-only meeting with students and some faculty at Northcentral Technical College on Saturday morning (photos), and Hillary Clinton in a public rally either Sunday or Monday.

I attended the Huckabee rally, for which they cleverly closed off most of the banquet hall, to crowd everyone toward one end and make it look more packed than it otherwise would've been. That's politics; I would've done the same thing. I do wish they would've distributed Huckabee signs, though, so folks could wave them in front of the dozen-or-so cameras assembled in the back.

Huckabee was a humorous speaker and came across as a genuinely good guy, even following his obligatory Packer reference with, "See, this is the part of the speech we call 'pandering to the locals.'"

He looked at me! He looked at me! *swoon*

Huckabee signs autographs on his way out the door. (It was about 5:45, and he was due in Green Bay about 8 p.m.)

Huckabee's speech hit all the right notes, of course, and I was impressed with what a smooth speaker he is. Even on debates I've noticed that. His theme Thursday was clever, in that it urged Wisconsin to stand apart from other states as the one that confused the pundits and voted for Huckabee. It was just refreshing to hear someone be candid about their place in the race.

I actually would've liked to hear Obama (I understand he gave a pretty thrilling address at UW-Oshkosh), but I understand why he closed his appearance. If the 17,000 he drew in the People's Republic of Madison was any indication, Wausau, lacking a convention center, never would've had room for those who would've turned out. It would've been a logistical nightmare. When President Bush visited in October 2004, he packed the amphitheater at Marathon Park. Obviously it was too cold for Obama to use that venue, though I bet he could've filled it.

I might attend Hillary's thing, depending on what time it is. (After all, the Daytona 500 is Sunday.) I'll probably end up voting for Hillary; in the primary, anyway.

UPDATE: I'm watching some speeches from candidate visits on Wisconsin Eye right now and thought I'd tack on a link to the channel's campaign videos.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A human without a soul

We can't help how we feel. And sometimes a story will strike us a certain way and we just can't shake it.

I ran across such a story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune the other day that will stay with me for a long time. And it will make me give my 7-month-old son a big bear hug every day.

Demond Reed is dead. Were it by an accident, I would be sad but would move on with my life.

Demond was beaten to death by the woman entrusted to care for him.

Demond was 4.

His father, Tony Reed, a 21-year-old from Chicago, was visiting relatives in Minneapolis. He was pulled over in late January and was arrested on an oustanding felony warrant. So he asked his cousin, Carla Poole, a 37-year-old in Minneapolis who turned out to be a drug addict, to care for Demond for the time being.

He couldn't have imagined that would be the last he would see of his little boy.

Demond's sin? He soiled his pants. Imagine the audacity of a 4-year-old soiling his pants.
A 4-year-old boy. Who was constantly asking questions about the animals in his alphabet book.
Poole's reaction? She ordered her other children, ranging in age from 4 to 11, to hold his arms while she beat him.

Feel free to stop reading anytime. It gets worse.

After Poole saw what she'd done, she laid Demond's body on a bed for two days before calling police, Feb. 6, to tell them he'd gone missing. Then she wrapped his cold body in a black plastic bag and threw him in a cluttered closet. ... Like an old pair of Nikes.

Before doing all of that, she'd ordered her children to make up stories about what had happened to Demond. Eventually, the 11-year-old told police the truth. This truth included her recounting that Demond's face looked like it was "pushed in."

Are you nauseous yet? Wait.

An autopsy revealed multiple bruises over Demond's body, puncture wounds and bite marks on his stomach, broken ribs and an injury associated with an object being forced into his mouth.

Apparently she's undergoing "psychological evaluation," this woman who was of sound enough mind to have four children of her own. The Star Tribune stated there was no evidence she'd ever abused them, though a baby came away burned and with broken bones after being in her care. (Charges were never filed because police couldn't determine which of the adults present committed the act.)

For years, I told everyone who would listen that I was against the death penalty for anything short of DNA proof. That it shifted the nature of our criminal-justice system from "rehabilitation" to "vengeance."

I've changed my mind.

Demond deserves vengeance.

Demond Reed, 4

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Mitt steps aside

Maybe I should stop picking a horse in this race; they keep coming up lame.

After rooting for Fred Thompson to give us more than he did in his brief run (more like an amble) toward the White House, I was forced to pick someone else after he dropped out Jan. 22. That someone was Mitt Romney, the only one left in the race still espousing conservative ideals, and a brilliant businessman to boot.

Today, Mitt quit.

He addressed the CPAC conference in Washington, D.C., (might be a better version here) and almost sounded like he was on the brink of tears in telling them how much they meant to him and how he was stepping aside for the good of his party and the country. Technically, he "suspended" his campaign, which allows him to hold onto his delegates until the convention, leaving himself one last possibility to power-broker.

Otherwise, the only thing standing between John McCain and the Republican nomination is Mike Huckabee ... oh, and Ron Paul.

Thank you, Schmuckabee, for refusing to drop out of the race though you never had a prayer outside the Bible Belt. Thank you for splitting the conservative vote in hopes McCain will pick you as his vice president. How do I know you had a deal, despite your denials? Because McCain released his delegates to you in West Virginia to give you your first win since Iowa.

Thank you, ignorant Americans who voted for McCain because ... why, exactly? Because he was a POW and you consider him a war hero? Bob Dole was a war hero too, and look how that turned out.

Even after McCain admitted that the economy wasn't his "strong suit," even in this time when foreclosures are at a record high and economists are warning us about a looming recession, you idiots STILL voted for McCain over Romney, a man who made a quarter-billion dollars as a venture capitalist and has pulled at least one major company from the brink of financial ruin. Why? "He's a war hero and doesn't want us to lose in Iraq." TELL ME that's not the reason you voted for him.

No one ever mentioned the fact that McCain is 72. But they sure as hell will in the general election. Those Democrats, who would rail to high heaven against such an "age-ist" stance if it were someone on THEIR side, will absolutely abuse McCain's age in the general.

Romney may be the genius I imagine him to be. He apparently is already floating the idea of running in 2012. He'd be a leading candidate either way, as he'd either be going against an incumbent Democrat, or a President McCain who will be 76. In that case, bowing out graciously now would save him some money, and save him from suffering an actual defeat down the line.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Stupor Tuesday 2008

I hope Mike Huckabee isn't counting on a Christmas card from Mitt Romney this year. ... Or any year, for that matter.
It's because of Huckabee's insistence on staying in the race that the anti-McCain vote is being split between him and Romney, thus accounting for McCain's big lead right now.
Not bad for a guy who hadn't won since Iowa and was supposedly out of money. But I suppose, if Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani can still get votes despite dropping out of the race ...

McCain is racking up state after state. And I know it doesn't quite work this way, but if you combined Huckabee's votes with Romney's (as they're both anti-McCain votes), Romney would run away with it.

Bubba has some interesting observations on the presentation of it all. He's right. With all the on-screen graphics, I feel like a sugared-up diabetic with ADD. And if that's not enough information to trip your braker, CNN has panelists breaking the votes down so far, Roland Martin was discussing at length how Hillary Clinton did among white women in Tennessee.

Can't wait for November.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Last man in Iwo Jima photo dies

Last man in iconic Iwo Jima flag-raising photo dies

REDDING, California (AP) -- Raymond Jacobs, believed to be the last surviving member of the group of Marines photographed during the original U.S. flag-raising on Iwo Jima during World War II, has died at age 82.

The iconic image of U.S. Marines raising the flag on Mount Suribachi in February 1945.

Jacobs died January 29 of natural causes at a Redding hospital, his daughter, Nancy Jacobs, told The Associated Press.
Jacobs had spent his later years working to prove that he was the radio operator photographed looking up at an American flag as it was being raised by other Marines on Mount Suribachi on February 23, 1945.
Newspaper accounts from the time show he was on the mountain during the initial raising of a smaller American flag, though he had returned to his unit by the time the more famous AP photograph was taken of a second flag-raising later the same day.
The radioman's face isn't fully visible in the first photograph taken of the first flag-raising by Lou Lowery, a photographer for Leatherneck magazine, leading some veterans to question Jacobs' claim. However, other negatives from the same roll of film show the radioman is Jacobs, said retired Col. Walt Ford, editor of Leatherneck.
"It's clearly a front-on face shot of Ray Jacobs," Ford said.
Annette Amerman, a historian with the Marine Corps History Division, said in an e-mailed statement "there are many that believe" Jacobs was the radioman. "However, there are no official records produced at the time that can prove or refute Mr. Jacobs' location."
Jacobs was honorably discharged in 1946. He was called up during the Korean conflict in 1951 before retiring as a sergeant, his daughter said.
Jacobs retired in 1992 from KTVU-TV in Oakland, where he worked 34 years as a reporter, anchor and news director. E-mail to a friend

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Super Bowl XLII: Giants spoil Pats' perfection party

GLENDALE, Ariz. - It wasn't the "No. 1" that the New England Patriots were expecting.
After a season in which victories became routine for the 18-0 Patriots, a truly outstanding performance by the New York Giants hung a digit in the loss column for the Patriots in the game that mattered the most.

Eli Manning found Plaxico Burress in the corner of the end zone to stake a 17-14 lead with 35 seconds to play, and the Giants' defense harrassed and held Tom Brady on the Patriots' final desperate drive to preserve the win Sunday in Super Bowl XLII.

The Giants' defensive line - LDE Michael Strahan, NT Fred Robbins, DT Justin Tuck, RDE Osi Umenyiora - anchoring a defense that led the league in sacks during the regular season, pressured Brady all evening, sacking him five times.

There were other highlights, of course, but the first one that comes to mind for me is Manning's escape of a sack on their go-ahead scoring drive. Facing a third-and-5 at his own 44 with less than a minute to play, Manning spun out of the grasp of DE Jarvis Green (97) and LB Adalius Thomas (96) before regaining just enough composure to find David Tyree at the Patriots' 23. Tyree went up for it like a jump ball and clinched the ball to his head while fighting off Pats S Rodney Harrison for a clutch grab. Amazing play, reminiscent of Steve McNair's escape during the Tennessee Titans' final near-TD drive against the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV.

Safe to say, Big Blue Interactive will be abuzz for sometime about this one. Patriots Planet ... not so much.

Meanwhile, the 2007 Patriots join the ranks of the 1934 and 1942 Chicago Bears, who went unbeaten until losing in the league championship game. So yes, 1972 Miami Dolphins, you can pop your rancid champagne as the only team to seal the deal.


It makes me wonder about some games that weren't:
* The Super Bowl that wasn't; how the Packers would've fared against New England if they could've gotten it done in the NFC Championship game two weeks ago. It's a sickening recollection of the 1996 NFC Championship game when the Cowboys trounced the Packers and went on to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX.
* And even about the Packers' NFC Wild Card game Jan. 4, 1999, when they got jobbed out of what should've been a Jerry Rice fumble that would've sealed the win and sent them to Atlanta, then possibly Minnesota, then possibly a rematch with Denver in Super Bowl XXXIII.
* And, I suppose, no bitter recollection of missed football opportunities is complete without wondering how the Packers would've fared at Carolina for the 2004 NFC Championship game had the Pack's defense been able to hold Philly on the now-legendary 4th-and-26 ... or if Favre hadn't panicked and thrown up a duck that got picked off in overtime ... or if Ahman Green had scored on 4th-and-goal, or if the Packers had gone for it on 4th-and-1 inside Eagles territory instead of punting ... (hm, guess I'm still not over that one).

Had a good time, though. Bubba and Sara came up from Neenah with Ron and Don, and our friend Joni joined us. Had some Italian beef roasting in the crock pot all day, and washed it down with a big sandwich cookie decorated up as a Super Bowl party favor, which was sugary enough to malnourish an African nation for a month.

No Pro Bowl party next weekend, but hopefully a couple of folks over to watch the Daytona 500 the Sunday after that. Then ... pitchers and catchers report and we embark on baseball season.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Go Pats, I guess

As kickoff for Super Bowl XLII approaches (let's see, it's about 11 p.m. the night before ... pregame should be starting anytime now), I'm having a hard time with this one. Part of me realizes what a great story it'd be for the Giants to knock off the 18-0 Patriots. But a much larger part of me wants to see the Pats seal the deal, if for no other reason than to shut the 1972 Dolphins up once and for all.
But I'm not sure the Dolphins would gracefully bow out of the spotlight. In fact, they might actually get worse.

The '72 Dolphins, the only team in NFL history to finish an entire season undefeated (having gone 17-0), have been anything but gracious victors in the decades since their remarkable achievement. They make a spectacle of themselves everytime a team approaches that hallowed "undefeated" mark, often appearing on the sidelines when a team goes 12-0 or 13-0 and (privately) popping open champagne whenever the last unbeaten team falls. It was cool when they did it on that Monday night in 1985 (Gifford and Namath look so young ... and sober!) when the 12-0 Chicago Bears rolled into Miami to play the Dolphins, but that's because it was in THEIR Orange Bowl.
But lately they've been in the media again, most notably coach Don Shula chirping about how the '07 Pats should have an asterisk because they got caught cheating in the first half of the first game of the season. And Mercury Morris was on Sirius NFL Radio the other day running off at the mouth about how they'll "welcome" the Pats into "the club" if the Pats finish the deal Sunday.

Welcome them into the club? Punk, you'll be lucky if they let you stand in line outside THEIR club! What the Patriots would do by winning the Super Bowl would be SO much more impressive than what the '72 Phish accomplished. In fact, Shula, since you only played a 14-game schedule and were able to keep your team together longer because of the lack of free agency, shouldn't YOUR team be the one with the asterisk?
Besides, the Patriots' only violation was one of semantics. The guy who got caught videotaping the Jets' defensive signals on the sidelines was guilty of just that ... doing it FROM the sideline. Teams are free to do this from the stands or the lux boxes.
And it'd be different if they'd gotten caught in the last game of the season.

Anyway, if the Pats win, the '72 Dolphins would probably just keep cropping up to remind people that they, too, did what the Patriots will have done, even though they would not have. Just go away, Phish, and quit tarnishing your legacy with the rantings of a bitter washed-up jock.

About the game

The Patriots opened as 14-point favorites, but the line has moved to Patriots (-12). If I were going to lay money on this one, it'd be on the Giants to cover because I feel good about their not losing by two touchdowns.
The biggest factor is going to be the matchup between the Giants' secondary and the Patriots' receivers.

When the Pats have the ball
NY can get pressure on QBs, as evidenced by their league-leading 53 sacks this season. And the key is they can do it with their front four, which will not only help them shut down the Patriots' beatable running game (115 ypg/regular season) but also can free up LBs Kawika Mitchell (weakside), Antonio Pierce (middle) and Reggie Torbor (strongside) to drop back into coverage. This will be key if they're to take away Randy Moss (98 rec, 23 TDs) and Wes Welker (112 rec, 8 TDs).
The Giants' DBs were injured late in the season, so depth could be a concern.

When the Giants have the ball
QB Eli Manning has had an oustanding postseason, having thrown 4 TDs and no INTs, with a passer rating of 99.1. He'll be tested against a Pats defense that can shift to accommodate any offensive system.
But the big difference-maker for the Giants could be their running game. Big back Brandon Jacobs (6-4, 256 lbs) and the much quicker Ahmad Bradshaw (200 lbs) would free up a lot of options for Manning if they can get loose on a New England rush defense that was fairly stingy during the regular season (98 ypg).
Plaxico Burress hauled in 11 balls for 154 yards against the Packers in the NFC Championship game, and while I expect Asante Samuel to be stuck to him like a rap sheet to an Eagle fan, we're still talking about a 6-5 wideout vs. a 5-10 corner. Samuel is one of the best in the game, but so is the Packers' Al Harris, whose lunch was summarily eaten - and lunch money subsequently stolen - by Burress two weeks ago.

Prediction (because every jag in the country has to have one)
Giants 21
Patriots 31
* Pats will trail, and won't clinch until late in the game.