Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Anyone Can Run

Meet Susie Flynn, our newest candidate for President. O, unimpressed, points out the age requirement, but still, anyone can have a Web site!

How Inconvenient

[Take that, Donna Brazile!] Today the news is all about Al Gore's $2439/mo. power bill. Hard to be Mr. Green when you're spending that kind of green.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Reality Check

On the page, the President discusses progress in Afghanistan and the global war on terror:
In today's Afghanistan, people are free to speak their minds, they're free to begin to realize dreams. In today's Afghanistan there's a NATO Alliance is taking the lead [sic] to help provide security for the people of Afghanistan. In today's Afghanistan, the terrorists who once oppressed the Afghan people and threatened our country are being captured and killed by NATO forces and soldiers and police of a free Afghanistan. Times have changed. Our work is bringing freedom. A free Afghanistan helps make this country more secure.
Meanwhile, on another planet, PZ sends this note from his Afghan Director:
You must ask L. about the airport incident with the 75 year old lady in the wheelchair and the two boxes of high caliber weapons she was trying to smuggle to Dubai.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Reading List

This is a weird one. Usually a memoirist works hard to make him/herself look good. McAuliffe just can't help coming off like the run-amok nutball he probably is. The book provides a fascinating look at how to make $7 million just sitting on the phone for a few hours (I have no illusions that anyone other than McAuliffe can actually do this) and an earnest, if not entirely successful, attempt at humanizing the Clintons. There's also a brief bit about how the Clintons shot down Richardson when he lobbied for the DRC position they wanted McAuliffe to have. Maybe the Clinton/Richardson ticket is just a pipe dream? Just this week, poor Terry was shunned by his own Catholic high school, which reneged on an invitation when they apparently "found out" he was pro-choice.

It Takes a Village

Spent an hour and a half with other Drydenites working on the village campaign. The election is March 20, so we have very little time. Our candidates, Elizabeth Gutchess and Lisa Valentinelli, are smart and credible, so there's some hope that we might gain a majority on the Village Board.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Multiple-Wife Factor

Carrie sends this, which notes that Mitt Romney is (gasp) the product of polygamists. Why, his great-granddad had five wives, putting him two ahead of Rudy Giuliani and Dennis Kucinich, and perhaps on a par with Barack Obama's dad (I kind of lost track as I read the bio). It gives "First Lady" a whole new meaning.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Home Again

Wow, it's just impossible to blog with dial-up. I give Mary Ann all kinds of credit for persevering. Anyway, we're back. Tom Vilsack has been deleted from the right-hand column, as he's dropped out of the race. More to come, no doubt!

Dems in CA to whom I spoke (and I only spoke to Dems) are somewhat shamefacedly optimistic about their governor, who continues to surprise them with compromises and rather left-of-center moves. SAZ thinks Maria is calling the shots.

See our slideshow to find out where we went and what we saw.

LATER: Lara points out that the West-Coast challenged might like a map that better shows our tour. This one shows the route from Cardiff to Tehachapi (south of Bakersfield), and you can spot Capistrano by the shore and Avalon on Santa Catalina Island (we took the southernmost boat route to get there, from Dana Point just north of Capistrano).

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Birthday Bling

From Paul and O--turtles (click on pic to see close up):

And it's a watch!

Moderation in All Things

Thumbs Up After a bruising battle with Maffei last election season, Jim Walsh of Syracuse seems chastened--at least chastened enough to join 16 other Republicans in voting for the House's nonbinding resolution against the "surge." He was the only NY GOP Congressperson to do so. I have always said, if we get rid of all moderate Republicans in NY, we will lose the chance for modest victories like these (however meaningless they might be in the larger scheme of things).

NYSCOSS Budget Analysis

To give y'all something to sink your teeth into while I'm away, I attach the New York State Council of School Superintendents' analysis of the Gov's budget. Overall, they have a positive response to the dollar amount, but as you'll see, there's a lot in it that displeases them.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Arcuri's Five Minutes

Here's our new congressman speaking on the floor of the House on the nonbinding resolution before them.

Down the Mountain

Snow Flake Ventured down from the mountain this morning to drive O to school. Our driveway was safe but narrow as a luge run, and eight-foot plowed piles along some village streets made turning corners exciting. Tomorrow night we'll be in southern CA.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Why Giuliani Won't Survive Vetting

As a pal says, "He married his second cousin! He makes that Mormon look good!"

And Nick reminds me that Big G lost dozens of civil liberties lawsuits on the road to "cleaning up" NYC, and that his career was going rapidly downhill when the planes struck.

Brooks Lauds Hillary

As conservative pundits go, David Brooks is one of my favorites, in that he's always thoughtful and never shrill. I was nonetheless surprised to read his column today, in which he admits misunderstanding and therefore discounting Hillary on Iraq. He suggests strongly that all of us who object to her stance go back and read what she was saying before the war began. Leaving aside whether the quiet endorsement of a conservative helps or further damns HRC's campaign, it's a fascinating read. Since you may not be able to link to it without Times Select, I quote a bit here:
When you look back at Clinton's thinking, you don't see a classic war supporter. You see a person who was trying to seek balance between opposing arguments. You also see a person who deferred to the office of the presidency. You see a person who, as president, would be fox to Bush’s hedgehog: who would see problems in their complexities rather than in their essentials; who would elevate procedural concerns over philosophical ones; who would postpone decision points for as long as possible; and who would make distinctions few heed.

Serious Snow at Last

Roxie checks out the snow. Compare to the view at far right (top). This is mostly due to drifting, but it's still impressive.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Snow Day

Snow Flake 2 I haven't taken the purple ruler outside yet, but it looks like about 18 inches, and it's still snowing. Not too bad, but they announced yesterday that school would be closed today--the first time in 30+ years, according to O's bus driver, that they haven't waited till morning. My guess: The districts have stocked up on snow days they haven't used, so they don't mind predicting incorrectly. A good day to stay inside and work on the taxes.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Candidates' Web Sites

Presidential Seal As a public service (?), I'm going to list all the declared and potential candidates' sites on the right. Both parties. Maybe Ralph Nader as well, since I hear he's planning to run. I'll review them bit by bit in future posts.

LATER: Not as easy as it sounds. I'm omitting anyone who only has an exploratory "join us" site without additional links or a "draft X" site, which means Giuliani, Clark, Gilmore, and McCain aren't quite ready for the list. And Nader has nothing presidential yet.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Dopey Google Game

OK, Dave talked about this one, which is sweeping the blogosphere. You type "[yr first name] needs" in Google search (in quotes) and write down the first ten "needs" on your blog. I used my real name, not KAZ (KAZ got me a lot of needs for female companionship), but here's the result. (I skipped all the ones that were the results of other people's playing the game.)

KAZ needs to give herself some credit.
KAZ needs to be back on the red carpet. (Yes!)
KAZ needs Vee. (Not sure who that might be.)
KAZ needs help. (Often.)
KAZ needs to be notified.
KAZ needs to know how to transport and care for paintball equipment. (!)
KAZ needs to be in the same place as Jason. (I don't know any Jasons.)
KAZ needs to have a list of coaches that did attend the meeting.
KAZ needs to hire an additional bodyguard.
KAZ needs to get the updates of addresses, etc. for website.

Well, not too enlightening, I must say. But it killed five minutes when I could have been doing the dishes.

(No) Snow Place Like Home

OK, boys and girls, I'm posting this map of NY to show y'all that we are NOT currently buried under 11 feet of snow. The major snow is lake-effect, coming off the Great Lakes into sections 4 and 5 on the map. We are safely ensconced in section 3, where we have maybe four inches.
Seriously, though, 11 feet reminds me of snows of yesteryear, when we lived in a basement apartment and SAZ had to shovel a tunnel to get us out, and the plows made hills so tall that we were able to build entire snow cities. But, being a grownup, I'm happy to be watching it on TV rather than in person.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Reality-Based Research

SAZ sent along a review of Undermining Science by Seth Shulman, which looks to be a depressing look at the Bush administration's attitude toward the "reality-based community" of scientists.

We won't be here, but this weekend is the Lab of Ornithology's annual Bird Count. According to NPR, last year's results showed Canada geese as the #1 bird, followed by snow geese and European starlings, which they point out were only introduced here in the 1890s when that nutty Eugene Sheiffelin decided to place in Central Park all the birds ever mentioned by Shakespeare. This is a fun, easy way to support scientific research--all it takes is going out in the backyard and filing your report online at the Bird Count site.

Going West

Sun O and I are planning our trip next Saturday, which so far involves visits with Grandpa Stan and Grandma Jan in Cardiff by the Sea, an overnight drive to see Great-Uncle Norm and Great-Aunt Carol in Tehachapi, and lunch on the way back with Great-Aunt Sandy in Hidden Hills. And with any luck, temps in the high 60s and 70s.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Arnie & Eliot?

Carrie pointed out this Times article, which compares our governor to CA's and suggests that like Arnie, Eliot's gonna have to tone down his act and play nice with the other children.

Amazing how fast the spin has turned; whereas moments ago Shelly Silver and the legislature were self-serving blowhards, today the Gov is a bad-tempered baby.

My prediction: the latest budget ever.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Rookie Has the Right Idea

I know nothing else about him, but newly elected GOP/Conservative Assemblyperson Greg Ball got flak on the floor for calling the legislature dysfunctional and the process just plain bad. I wrote him a note of thanks, because I'm sure he can kiss his career goodbye., if anyone else feels so inclined.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Day One, Nothing Changes, again

Thumbs Down As expected, the NYS legislature voided their own agreement with the governor and chose patronage over competence by handing the comptroller's job to DiNapoli. I can only hope that the electorate is revolted enough to vote the whole corrupt sludge out of office in 2008.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

This Old House

Some readers will remember this house, which some readers lived in circa 1968. Don't think it was worth $279K back then, but perhaps it's improved.


Paul brought this cute little thing home--it's basically a couple of metal blades that work via heat differential to move the heat from the stove through the house. And when it slows down, you can tell that your stove's not pumping out heat and you need another log.

Losing Battles

The Lansing bond went down yesterday, which seems to bode ill for Ithaca's $98 million proposal, although it may just have been a vote of no confidence in the Superintendent, who is widely disliked.

And today, we look forward (not really) to an Assembly vote on the three choices for NYS Comptroller approved by a panel of former Comptrollers and others. The oddsmakers are betting that the Assembly will approve none of them and put one of their own--probably Assemblyman DiNapoli--in place instead. Day One, Nothing Changes, including the pissing contests that characterize our state government.

Dryden Blogosphere

The Cortland Standard has a brief article featuring two of my favorite Dryden bloggers.

We have as short a Spring

Each of us has a handful of people who made us the people we are today. One of mine, I discovered yesterday, is dying of cancer in his early 60s. Nick was my professional mentor and a friend for 27 years. More than that, he was one of those people I always expected to know.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Talk About the Weather

Freezing A few weeks ago, it was the warmest winter on record. Today, it's the coldest day in two years. The peacocks won't come out of the barn. Schools are delayed or closed. What's up with that?

Monday, February 5, 2007

Baseballs Meet Candidates

Paul likes to send me with base balls to be signed for his collection. I failed in every attempt, although the Secret Service did get on me to "put--the pen--down!" when things got pushy in HRC's room. So here's the best I can do.

Pictures from DC

Chairman Dean

Dodd Obama Clark






DC Observation

I was interested to note an air of adrenalized anxiety among the many young politicos I met in DC--something familiar to me from friends in the theater world. You're only as good as your last show, and once it's over, you're scrabbling desperately for your next job. The phrase "period of post-election unemployment" was bandied about, and there was a lot of showing off, horning in, and exchanging numbers. Seems like a bad way to live--unless you're very young.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Happy Superbowl

Football Despite having lived in Chicago, I feel a very slight inclination toward the Colts. O has strep, so for the first time in as long as I can remember, we're forgoing the annual Superbowl bash. We may have a neighbor or two, but that's it. . . .

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Speeches Rated

Bummer, missed a day, due to Washington Hilton's wireless access being N.G. from our hotel room. Without further ado, here are my ratings of the speeches at the DNC Winter Meeting. All opinions are those of the blogger and are given in the order in which the candidates spoke.

Christopher Dodd
Theme music: "Get Ready"
Repeated theme: "Americans are tired and fed up"
Content: B
Delivery: B
Viability/Relevance: C
VP potential: D-

Dodd was the first among most to thank Dean for his 50-state policy, which many of us feel gained us the Congress. He was also the first among many to mention the culture of fear that the Bush administration has perpetrated: "We're not going to take fear for an answer any more in America." He vowed to overturn the torture bill and suggested that debating a nonbinding resolution on Iraq was "meaningless," and that we needed "a real bill, with teeth." This was an old-fashioned speech from a guy who has served his time in the Senate creating good and solid legislation. Why he wants to be President is beyond me.

Barack Obama
Theme music: none
Repeated theme: "We don't have time to be cynical"
Content: D- (missed the point)
Delivery: A-
Viability/Relevance: C
VP potential: D

Certainly the biggest disappointment of the weekend, Obama's speech compared the scene at the DNC to a reality show like "American Idol" or "Survivor," a throwaway line that was repeated in the media too often for comfort. His delivery was slow, measured, and musical, but he talked about--well, nothing. There were next to no applause lines; this was more of a lecture. His point was that all the candidates would have good ideas, that we could look forward to a "vigorous, robust debate," and that the focus should not be on gaffes or attack ads. He also reiterated his theme of hope and optimism, which is nice in theory but difficult to legislate. People gave him a rock-star reception before he spoke but looked puzzled afterward. Overheard: "His 15 minutes are OVER."

Wesley Clark
Theme song: "I Won't Back Down"
Repeated theme: "I grow angry. . ."; "Where's the (equality/justice/balance/fair play)"; "I believe in an America that. . ."
Content: B+
Delivery: C
Viability/Relevance: C
VP potential: B

Sorry, he just doesn't look like a general to me. Nevertheless, he started with a bang, saying that "I wake up and look at the casualty lists" and "for me, it's personal." He went on to assure us that "I speak to you as the only person who's done the things we need to do to succeed." He then had a wonderful series of "where's the beef" structures about equality (example: women who make 77 cents to men's dollar), justice (Abu Graib), balance (poverty), fair play (CEO salaries), and shared sacrifice (tax cuts in wartime). It was a good and personal speech, and we did consider his connections to the Clintons and his potential as VP. But he's never held elective office!

John Edwards
Theme music: "This Is Our Country"
Repeated theme: "It doesn't have to be this way"; "Silence is betrayal"; "Will you stand up?"
Content: A
Delivery: A+
Viability/relevance: C+
VP potential: B-

OMG. This was far and away the best speech of the session. He began with a tribute to Molly Ivins. He continued with "Why are we here?" and answered with a series of vignettes, short scenarios involving human suffering surrounding hunger, jobs, college costs, soldiering, refugees, and sudden illness, each followed by the line, "It doesn't have to be this way." He told us "people need to stand up" and asked, "Will you stand up?" whereupon, of course, everyone did. He mentioned the doublespeak involved in referring to "access to health care" and called for universal health care. He used MLK's construction to say "It is a betrayal for us not to speak up against escalation of this war." He said, "I've got news for you, Mr. President. You're not the decider--the American people are the decider." He made me cry. And he got a huge, huge response. Sadly, we suspect he can't raise the bucks to last through the primaries. He certainly has a message that resonates, and he was the only candidate to require anything of the voters.

Dennis Kucinich
Theme music: "America the Beautiful
Repeated theme: "My wife, Elizabeth. . ."
Content: D-
Delivery: D+
Viability/relevance: D-
VP potential: F

Just a ridiculous speech, although I must say his new wife is quite beautiful. He started with "Can you hear me in the back? Cuz I can hear you," which again was used by the media to ill effect. People talked and moved about throughout the speech. He talked about single payer health care, universal Pre-K, a new WPA program, and a cabinet-level Department of Peace and Nonviolence. After reminding us that he has consistently voted against funding the war, he said, "If we give him the money to continue the war, we the Democrats will have bought the war." He then rambled on about his and Elizabeth's visit to Southern Lebanon and their shock at the damage, trying, I think, to make the point that even though Israel bombed them, the Lebanese still love America(?) He also wants to establish a 9/10 forum to get us back to who we were before 9/11. And that toupee has a life of its own.

Hillary Clinton
Theme song: "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet"
Repeated theme: none
Content: A-
Delivery: C+
Viability/relevance: A
VP potential: F

With a field of candidates this big, you wouldn't expect to see an anointing, but it was hard not to recognize that HRC stood head-and-shoulders above the crowd. Her worker bees were outstanding, handing out over 300 signs to other people's 50 or so (they were supposed to have no more than 100, I believe). Her money potential seems infinite; she may be able to retire the national debt by the time 22 months have elapsed. Although the order of speeches was supposedly chosen by lottery, HRC was last on the better-attended day 1--obviously the best spot. And afterward, it was she that people most wanted to see, so that they had to move her to a bigger room than the other candidates got. Anyway, back to the speech. She used O's hated "I'm in, and I'm in to win" line, and mentioned again that she's "here to start a conversation." Her delivery was better than I've seen, but it was still clunky in spots. I think she needs a speechwriter better able to write for her cadences. She spoke about some things earlier speakers did not--China debt! Katrina! NCLB! She called for "an economic strategy that will rebuild the middle class." As she began to speak about Iraq, people from Code Pink started to shout her down. She continued, unfazed, "If we the Congress don't end this war, in January 2009, I will." But her main message was a pragmatic one: "I know a thing or two about winning campaigns." This was a strong speech that emphasized her personal strengths: an unquestionable understanding of process and policy, and her ability to beat the pants off any opposition.

Joe Biden
Theme song: "Centerfield"
Repeated theme: "I understand"
Content: C+
Delivery: C+
Viability/relevance: C
VP potential: C-

Joe started this way: "How was your week?" People loved it. His week, of course, was pretty horrible, thanks to his predilection for putting his foot in his mouth. So he opened with an apology, again. He continued by revealing that he has a plan to stop the war, involving separating the combatants to give the factions breathing room. In a conversational tone, he remarked that America needs a President with broad, deep experience in world affairs to deal with the "simmering spots in the world." He launched into a list of things that Americans "know we need" but that they "doubt Washington understands," but he assured us that "I understand." He got applause for his references to the historical role of the Democratic party and his desire to make the country "the light of the world again." Too bad so many people feel that he's been in the Senate so long that he's part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Bill Richardson
Theme song: "Lean on Me"
Repeated theme: "The disease is arrogance"
Content: A
Delivery: A
Viability/relevance: A
VP potential: A

I don't know the guy at all, but I plan to learn more. His introduction was by a journalist's wife whose husband he had saved from a Sudanese jail. His first words were about the 7-minute limit on speeches (which everyone ignored, BTW): Re how to fix things in America, "I don't need 7 minutes, I can do it in 4 words: Elect a Democratic President. " He then said of his rivals, "You'd be better than any of [this administration]--as my Vice President." He was funny and charming and very, very presidential. Like Obama, he called on the Dems not to tear each other down. Unlike Obama, that wasn't all he said. He talked about his record in NM: from 48th to 27th in teacher pay, insuring every child under 5, conforming to the Kyoto Treaty. He said, "Our fight for equality [in NM] extends to sexual orientation," which got a standing ovation. He suggested that we need a candidate who can win in every region. He stated that the mission in Iraq was complete and it was time for "our troops to leave with honor." And he finished by saying "Stay loose--we've got a year to go." We're going to recommend him to Josh, who wants to spend the next year in New Hampshire on a campaign. A real grownup, a terrific speaker, and he just brokered a cease-fire in Darfur. What more could you want?

Mike Gravel
Theme song: "Power to the People"
Repeated theme: none
Content: D-
Delivery: F
Viability/relevance: F
VP potential: F

Okay, just as things are looking up, along comes Mikey. He showed his relevance right away by saying, "the Viet--I mean Iraq War." He laughed about his age, saying, "Washington needs adult supervision." He gave a strange lecture on the founding fathers and then said that the fear of opposing a wartime president meant that "political calculations trumped morality," and thus "anyone who voted for the war is not qualified to hold the position of president." He gave a lecture on checks and balances, a lecture on the military-industrial complex, and told us that America was number one in many things, including number of people in prison. Then he launched into what seemed to be the raison d'etre for his speech: a national initiative to allow people to amend laws, empowering "people as lawmakers." This was by far the longest speech in a parade of long speeches, and it sent people into the lobby at an alarming rate. Just embarrassing, not to mention a real downer. The anti-Obama.

Tom Vilsack
Theme song: "I'll Be There"
Repeated theme: "The courage to create change," "We can have an America. . ."
Content: C
Delivery: C
Viability/relevance: C
VP potential: C

From the heartland comes this middle-of-the-road speaker with his middling speech and startling story--"born an outsider," adopted into a family with a mom who was an alcoholic and prescription-drug abuser but who had "the courage to create change." He told a story about meeting a 5-year-old in Seattle who asked him, "Would 100 more troops make a difference? Would 1,000 more make a difference" and who concluded, "I'm frightened every day." None of us who have ever met a 5-year-old believed this story. He discussed the difference between real change and not-real change--giving more money to NCLB is not real, ending it is real. He called the national debt the "birth tax." He remarked that his state, Iowa, was one of only two to reduce the number of uninsured. He said, "Those who voted to support the war. . . can surely vote to end the war," a clear slap at HRC, Dodd, and Biden, and SO anti-Obama.

That does it for the speeches, and I'm tired. Pictures and more commentary to come in the days to follow.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Greetings from DC

We're back from a fabulous and huge meal at Georgia Brown's with Josh Lozman, formerly of Les Roberts's campaign. Earlier, we all sat in on a Rural Caucus, moderated by NY's Denise King, and featuring Howard Dean, DNC Chair. He spoke of the "measured plan" on the part of Congress to "put [the GOP] in a vise," saying that the Bush administration has "harmed our country immeasurably."

The room contained about 50 delegates and guests from places I rarely see--Nebraska! Oklahoma! Southwestern Virginia! Most complimented Dean on the 50-state strategy, which many of us believe gained Dems the Congress, although others in the Party would disagree--some violently. The upshot certainly is that the strategy helps rural areas, which otherwise would be largely ignored as money and personnel are funneled to urban centers with significantly larger voting populations. Our County Chair, Irene Stein, suggested to Dean that he consider establishing "rural" as a designation in delegates, something like "disabled" or "minority." Dean seemed more apt to pass that notion down to the states, some of which (NY is an example) already have family farm & rural caucuses designed to ensure that the state delegation to the national convention reflects rural as well as urban populations.

Tomorrow we hear from (in order of appearance) Harry Reid, Dean again, Chris Dodd, Barack Obama, Wesley Clark (wait a minute--has he declared? does he have a committee?), John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich, and Hillary Clinton in the enormous ballroom downstairs. Josh and Carrie and I, not being delegates, need to get down there about two hours early to ensure our seating. Afterward is a free-for-all, as people try to get into the tiny rooms in which each candidate will meet and greet.

We already clipped a Dodd bag from that campaign--a hotel worker walked by pushing a wagonful, and I told Carrie to nab one. Bad design, dated motto: "Join the DODDsquad!"--a nice copy of the Constitution.

Rumor has it that Barack is ditching out in time to make it to a 12:30 gig at George Mason, which means I may not get to meet him at all. Say it ain't so, Barack. Josh is trying to decide whom to work for in New Hampshire and has narrowed it down to Obama and Richardson, leaning toward the latter (nominated for the Nobel four times, so no lightweight).

More after the events tomorrow.