GIRARDVILLE, Pa. - Former President Clinton says that Democrats calling for his wife to drop out of the presidential race should "just relax" . . .Story here.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
In a political world where most of the players will say anything except what they really think (commentator Michael Kinsley has archly defined "political gaffe" as doing exactly that), and where having guts and the courage of your beliefs is rare, we can't help liking the irrepressible James Carville.
This morning he uses the Washington Post's Op-Ed page to say why he was right to call Bill Richardson a "Judas."
Posted by Philbrick at 9:14 AM
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Monday, March 24, 2008
The Democrat and Chronicle has come out against two of the people selected as finalists for the Monroe Community College Presidency: businessman Dennis Kessler and attorney and former County Legislature Leader Bill Smith. It says selection of either one as president would be a "political" appointment, rife with Republican political hackery. If so, then the quality of political hacks seems to be on the upswing.
Kessler has a college degree from City University of New York and a law degree from Yale.
Smith has his bachelor's degree from Yale and his law degree from the University of Virginia.
Now, Yale University bears responsibility for George Bush the father and George W. Bush the son, for John Kerry, for Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton and no doubt numerous other undesirables.
Still, if Kessler and Smith are nothing more than Republican hacks, it looks like we're beginning to get some very smart and capable hacks around here, with excellent academic credentials.
Posted by Philbrick at 11:02 PM
We've noted here, here and here instances of journalists resorting to movie-monster imagery in describing the behavior and character of Hillary Clinton.
The latest comes from Maureen Dowd in yesterday's New York Times.
It’s impossible to imagine The Terminator, as a former aide calls her, giving up. Unless every circuit is out, she’ll regenerate enough to claw her way out of the grave, crawl through the Rezko Memorial Lawn and up Obama’s wall, hurl her torso into the house and brutally haunt his dreams.
“It’s like one of those movies where you think you know the end, but then you watch with your fingers over your eyes,” said one leading Democrat.
Posted by Philbrick at 7:37 AM
Sunday, March 23, 2008
The Episcopal Church has appointed Saturday, October 4, as a “Day of Repentance for Slavery.” Her Most Reverend Trendiness, the Episcopal Presiding Bishop, will lead a special service for the occasion.
A quick survey of my new blogging colleagues here on Mustard Street discloses a stunning coincidence. None of us has ever owned slaves. (Lucy looks a lot like Scarlett O'Hara, though.)
Therefore, being without sin in this regard, we’re allowed to cast the first stone.
However, in the spirit of the Christian faith, which some lay members of "main line" churches may still remember even if their clergy don't, I'm inclined to respond to the "Day of Repentance for Slavery" by asking, for the Presiding Bishop and for the trendier-than-thou everywhere, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
For Her Total Hipness the Presiding Bishop, our advice is: by all means free your slaves (including the diocese of San Joaquin), and repent on October 4. You need to.
As for me, my blogging colleagues and I will mark that morning with a big pitcher of Bloody Marys and a toast to the clean, slave-free, life here on Mustard Street. Then, to our very happening, totally au courant, episco pal the Presiding Bishop, we'll lift a glass and say, "Cheers, Baby."
That counts toward loving thy neighbor, doesn't it?
Posted by The Archbishop of Yentaberry at 2:39 PM
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Sunday is Easter, which means that yours truly will be paying one of his shamefully infrequent visits to the little church down at the corner, here on dear old Mustard Street. It's an ultra-orthodox denomination, at least in its fervent embrace of any doctrine, conduct or opinion whatsoever that deviates from anything "traditional." The greater the deviation, the holier its sanctification. Let's just call it The Church of What's Happenin' Now (with a grateful nod to the late Flip Wilson).
In the official teaching of our Happenin' Church, Christ was a socialist who was active in Nazareth's Democratic Party (as we've heard a fellow cynic put it). In many of us this induces misgivings about Easter. We're fine with the crucifixion part, but under the circumstances, that resurrection business seems unwise.
To mark the upcoming Holy Day, we will carry an inspirational message from our new contributor, to be known here as Leroy, The Archbishop of Yentaberry, Primate and spiritual leader of the worldwide Happenin' Communion. The Archbishop will contribute from time to time on matters of religion and society -- as the Spirit moves him!
Posted by Philbrick at 12:19 PM
Thursday, March 20, 2008
First the Spitzer shock, now this:
It's completely true: that if a senior official of a media company, for example, were to take up a gun intending to kill, and if he then shot and killed someone . . . then, in that case, he could be indicted for murder!No such event has occurred; neither does anyone confirm such a violation.
But introducing the concept with a typical Democrat and Chronicle headline technique makes it so much more interesting, doesn't it?
We bet you never thought of anyone as a potential murderer in this way. We had never thought of it either, until the Democrat and Chronicle gave us the idea with a story last week headlined:
"Advisories allege potential violation in defender saga."The story's here. It reported on two "advisory opinions" from the State Committee on Open Government. Of these opinions the paper admits: "Neither expressly confirms a violation."
When you read these "advisory opinions" yourself, you find that they opine precisely this:
That if the Monroe County Legislature had acted in violation of the New York Open Meetings Law in appointing the public defender . . . then, in that case, it would have violated the Open Meetings Law!
The "advisory opinions," by their own admission, were strictly hypothetical, based only on unsupported allegations from -- who else -- Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature. Legislator Calvin Lee said he and his fellow Democratic legislators "are evaluating what to do next." Whatever that may be, the only absolute certainty is what the County Democrats won't be doing next: putting their allegations to the test by bringing legal action to overturn the Legislature's vote to approve the new Public Defender.
They won't do it because they know they can't win.
They can't win because there were no violations.
The County Legislature is permitted to go into executive session -- which means to meet privately, without the public present -- to discuss applicants for an appointment. It's in the state's Open Meetings Law. That's precisely what a committee of the legislature did, at the meeting on February 9 discussed in one of the "advisory opinions."
Also, as we have observed, the Open Meetings Law gives the public the right to attend a meeting, but not the right to disrupt a meeting. The legislature acted both prudently and within its rights by arranging security to prevent disruptions or violence at the meeting where it voted on the Public Defender.
Legislative Democrats understand these points very well. They'll do nothing of substance to overturn the PD appointment. It's not what they want, anyway. They're just looking to eke out a little more political traction from the issue.
They have willing assistance from their fellow-travelers at the Democrat and Chronicle. Only the newspaper's Ahab-like obsession with the public defender issue (we lost count after editorial number 13) would induce it to run such a non-story as "someone says that, if the law was broken, that would be a violation of law." Yet, as the original Captain Ahab learned at his immense cost, plans don't always work as envisioned. Those of us who have followed with amusement the paper's pursuit of its Great White Whale were delighted by the felicity of the story's timing: County Democrats released their "advisory opinions" last Monday -- just hours before the Spitzer scandal broke.
County news routinely appears in the D&C's local section, but even in its issue of last Tuesday, March 11, with the Spitzer scandal dominating the front page, the D&C couldn't resist placing its PD non-story on page 1, if only at the foot.
That was the best consolation prize the paper could offer its disconsolate Democratic partners-in-government. Very likely the D&C had slated the PD non-story for its lead headline last Tuesday morning -- until the Spitzer news broke on Monday afternoon. That, at least, would explain the shrieks of rage and frustration that Republican staffers in the County building heard that afternoon from the Democratic office down the hall, as the Democrats' story for the day -- planned, we surmise, in meticulous collusion with the Democrat and Chronicle -- was elbowed from the headlines by Client Number 9.
Posted by Philbrick at 5:06 PM
With Congressman Tom Reynolds now bowing out, attention turns to who might replace him as Republican nominee for the 26th congressional district.
State Senators tend to have a built-in advantage in these situations because of the size of their districts. In this case an obvious person to look to would be Sen. George Maziarz, whose state senate district covers about 70% of the 26th CD.
Maybe the geography of the thing will do it for Maziarz. However, he has a record and a reputation as an uninspiring, regulation-issue Albany RINO (Republican in name only).
A far better pick for the GOP would be Greece Supervisor John Auberger. While his constituency holds down the far eastern corner of the congressional district, Auberger is one of the very best and brightest in the local political world, with the political skills and sophistication to run a winning campaign and to make the most of the office for his constituents. We can see him rising in the Congressional Republican leadership once he got there
Auberger is widely admired within his own party for ability, smarts and hard work. He is admired, in particular, by those other senior Republicans who themselves are considered among the best and brightest in their party.
The geography of the district would pose a challenge to an Auberger candidacy, but for us in Monroe County he'd be the best possible replacement for Reynolds.
UPDATE -- 3/23/2008
Our first correspondent in the Comments section is right. Senator George Maziarz's district overlaps only with about 20% of the 26th congressional district.
Posted by Philbrick at 1:02 PM
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Your Mustard Street team has been busy researching these items that you can expect to see in the days ahead:
- Does potential indictment loom for a figure of prominence?
- Calling the Bluff of the ACLU and County Legislature Democrats on legal action to challenge the Public Defender's selection.
- From Inside the Monopoly: a look at the finances and business model behind the Democrat and Chronicle -- how it affects what's presented as "news," what's suppressed, how the paper contrives controversies to sell newspapers, and why it has to.
- From the profane to the sacred: We welcome our new, occasional contributor on matters of religion and society, the Archbishop of Yentaberry.
Looking longer-term, in the month or so ahead we'll be ready with what began as an in-depth look at one strange member of the County Legislature, and what has now grown into a look at all of them. Who are these people? Mustard Street is finding out!
Posted by Philbrick at 8:42 AM
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Both the Albany Times-Union and the New York Times have commented that the circumstances of Governor Spitzer's fall are unique in the history of New York.
There is, however, a close historical parallel: the fall of British politician and Member of Parliament John Profumo, nearly 45 years ago.
Profumo, like Spitzer, was a shining star of his generation in his country's political life. Both Spitzer and Profumo came from wealth. Spitzer's education took him through Princeton and Harvard, Profumo's through Harrow and Oxford. Both married accomplished and beautiful women. As Spitzer was thought a potential future President, Profumo was widely considered a future Prime Minister. Both were brought down by liaisons with prostitutes and were forced to resign.
The "Profumo Affair," an episode still almost universally remembered in Britain, became the subject of the 1989 film Scandal. In the role of Profumo, Ian McKellen conveyed a glimpse of what must be the wrenching personal hell of not just a career, but a life, ruined. In a scene near the end, set in the opulent gardens of his country estate, on a perfect day and surrounded by the most potent icons of great wealth, Profumo tends his roses, his eyes brimming with tears.
What the film did not address was the next great issue for John Profumo, and now for Eliot Spitzer: what to do with the rest of your life. Profumo began to work as a volunteer cleaning toilets at Toynbee Hall, a charity based in the East End of London. He worked there the rest of his life, becoming its chief fundraiser and architect of its success and prominence. Through this work he rehabilitated his reputation.
John Profumo died in 2006. His story is told more fully in this obituary in the Daily Telegraph.
This morning Governor Spitzer said, ". . . our greatest glory consists not in never falling but in rising every time we fall."
In the years ahead former Governor Spitzer will have to find his own Toynbee Hall. May he find it. And with it, that redemption as a man that his unlikely counterpart, of years ago and far away, ultimately attained.
Posted by Philbrick at 6:27 PM
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
A regrettable aspect of "Americanism" is the tendency of our culture, going back to our early history, to measure the value of a person by how much money he has, or makes. Too many have a way of dismissing legitimate criticisms of conduct or character by rejoining "But look at all his money." Only in America could a Donald Trump, for example, be accorded actual respect. The fall of Governor Spitzer is the latest reminder of the emptiness of this view.
Eliot Spitzer has lost what his whole family fortune can't buy back: his reputation. Yesterday we compared it to Greek tragedy. This morning we regard it in a Shakespearean dimension:
Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.
Othello Act 3, scene 3, 155–161
Posted by Philbrick at 7:26 AM
Monday, March 10, 2008
Joe Morelle got it right in his radio interview today with Bob Lonsberry. The situation into which Governor Spitzer has placed himself is a Greek tragedy: a figure of heroic proportions undone by his own hubris. For the state that Spitzer leads the tragedy is deeper still.
Eliot Spitzer came to office as the one person in the state who had the right focus, the right qualities as a leader, and at the beginning, the public support, to be a real agent of the meaningful change so long overdue in New York. It's why we supported him, even through his political troubles last year. We recognize that "Troopergate" has been vastly overblown by the Governor's opponents. We like the "steamroller" side of the Governor's personality. It's going to take a steamroller to make the changes New York needs so desperately.
Now Spitzer's credibility and effectiveness as a leader are shot. Shelly Silver is smiling tonight. Spitzer, even if he doesn't resign, is not going to be the person who makes the changes happen. The words "Client Number 9" will appear in the first paragraph of his obituary.
The pressure for his resignation now will come most intensely from the State Democratic Party, for which he's now a liability. Clinging to office after what we learned today only jeopardizes Democratic chances for taking control of the Senate, which appeared an accomplished certainty after the recent special election. Of course, it makes much less difference now whether Democrats take the Senate. The principal benefit of flipping the Senate was to eliminate the Senate as an obstacle to change, and to give Spitzer the upper hand in dealing with the Assembly, in order to win its support for changes in the way things are done in New York.
Lt. Gov. Paterson, as well-regarded as he may be by members of both parties in the capital, seems to be part of the Albany business-as-usual club. If he has any inclination toward reform of Spitzeresque proportions, it's been well concealed so far.
Today New York lost its best chance for meaningful reform in our lifetime.
A Greek tragedy indeed. A New York tragedy as well.
Posted by Philbrick at 10:15 PM
The Democrat and Chronicle on Thursday, March 6, carried a story headlined in the print edition "Brooks, Spitzer Trade Barbs." It reports the County Executive's press conference on Wednesday, where she criticized the Governor's state budget proposals that adversely affect the County, and the Governor's response.
What the paper omits is that Brooks wasn't acting alone. She was part of a bipartisan group of County executives around the state who -- regardless of party -- leveled exactly the same criticisms against the state budget proposal.
As it often does when deceiving its readers, the D&C clothes its conduct with a fig leaf.
In this case, it tried to slide past the larger significance of the story by stating: "Brooks said county executives across the state held news conferences charging that Spitzer balanced his budget by shifting millions of dollars in expenses to county governments."
"Brooks said ..."
Makes it sound like a mere unsubstantiated assertion by Brooks, doesn't it?
But isn't it a newspaper's job to check out what an officeholder tells it? How hard would it have been to fact-check this one?
Unlike the seasoned professionals at the Democrat and Chronicle, we have no journalistic training. Thus handicapped, we gave it a shot anyway. Here's what we found through a simple Google search:
From Long Island's Newsday on March 5 -- the day before the D&C story:
LEVY, SPITZER SPAT OVER STATE BUDGET
"The state's county executives and Gov. Eliot Spitzer's budget office swapped charges yesterday, with the local officials claiming state budget cuts will force them to raise property taxes . . .."
Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, who held a joint morning news conference in Westchester with top officials from Westchester, Rockland and Putnam, said Suffolk is losing $10 million under Spitzer's proposed budget, an amount equal to about 20 percent of Suffolk's general fund tax levy.
"I don't know why they continue to deny that there are significant cuts to the county," said Levy, head of the state county executive association. "We understand these are difficult financial times but the first step in bridging the gap is to understand the counties lost money."
Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy is a Democrat.
So is Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano.
A day after hosting a press conference with other county executives from the region to criticize Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s budget, Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano took his campaign against unfunded state mandates to the state Commission on Property Tax Relief, said the White Plains Journal-News blog on March 5.
The White Plains Journal-News also carried this story on March 5:
"We agree with the governor taxes are too high - that they have to be affected," Spano said. "But they can't be affected if you shift the costs down to the locality and we have to raise property taxes here."
Spano, who was a strong supporter of Spitzer's 2006 gubernatorial campaign, said he remains good friends with the governor but is disappointed with his budget.
In the same story the Journal-News noted:
"[Rockland County Executive C. Scott] Vanderhoef was among a host of county leaders from the metropolitan area -- including Nassau County Executive Steve Levy and Putnam Deputy County Executive John Tully - who gathered at Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano's office yesterday to protest Spitzer's actions and plead for state lawmakers to provide relief."
So there you have stories about four county executives, from the Hudson Valley and Long Island: two Republicans (Vanderhoef and Tully) and two Democrats (Levy and Spano) doing exactly what Maggie Brooks said other county executives were doing, and leveling the same criticisms as Brooks. These reports appeared on the web before the Democrat and Chronicle wrote its article, and were discoverable by the D&C as easily as they were found by us.
The point is not that they were discoverable by the D&C, but that they were, undoubtedly, discovered. But once discovered, the paper never mentioned the facts behind them.
Of course it didn't. Because reporting the full truth would substantiate not merely what Brooks said about other county executives, but also the position she and the other executives are asserting. When County Executives of both parties are on the same page, you're looking at more than just partisan sparring between a governor of one party and a county executive of another. It indicates an issue of merit genuine enough to overcome ordinary partisan divisions.
The Democrat and Chronicle never would concede that to Maggie Brooks. So it deceived its readers through omission.
"Brooks said County Executives across the state criticized the Governor," is the Democrat and Chronicle's way of inducing the reader to think, "Self-serving and unsubstantiated weasel words from a politician."
Reporting it fully -- stating "County Executives across the state, of both parties, criticized the Governor" -- connotes something so different as to change the reader's understanding of the entire story.
We do not make the mistake of thinking that the Democrat and Chronicle has any obligation whatsoever to report truthfully on any subject. It is not a charitable or philanthropic foundation, nor has it a duty to comply with any concept of moral or civic virtue.
The Democrat and Chronicle is a business. Its morals are those of the marketplace; its job to make money by selling advertising and newspapers. Conflict sells newspapers. (Fellow bloggers will know this, if they track their blogs' statistics. Our hits went through the roof during the recent troubles with David Gantt.)
The consistently reliable bias the D&C always will have is the bias toward presenting news as conflict, and where not enough conflict exists, to make it appear to exist, or to instigate it.
If the D&C can't move the product, it won't meet profitability targets. If it doesn't, it might be next on the list of regional papers unloaded by its corporate parent, Gannett Co., Inc.
Posted by Philbrick at 10:13 PM
We checked with our main legal go-to person. The only thing we can say for sure at this point is that if Spitzer is convicted -- not just indicted, but convicted -- on a felony charge, then under New York's Public Officers Law, he immediately loses his office.
Posted by Philbrick at 4:16 PM
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Remember where you read it first, here on Mustard Street.
But here's more, from national coluimnist Andrew Sullivan, on the idea of Ms. Rodham as an iconic movie horror:
THE CLINTONS: A HORROR FILM THAT NEVER ENDS
It’s alive! We thought it might be over but some of us never dared fully believe it. Last week was like one of those moments in a horror movie when the worst terror recedes, the screen goes blank and then reopens on green fields or a lover’s tender embrace. Drained but still naive audiences breathe a collective sigh of relief. The plot twists have all been resolved; the threat is gone; the quiet spreads. And then . . .
Put your own movie analogy in here. Glenn Close in the bathtub in Fatal Attraction – whoosh! she’s back at your throat! – has often occurred to me when covering the Clintons these many years. The Oscars host Jon Stewart compares them to a Terminator: the kind that is splattered into a million tiny droplets of vaporised metal . . . only to pool together spontaneously and charge back at you unfazed.
The Clintons have always had a touch of the zombies about them: unkillable, they move relentlessly forward . . .
Posted by Philbrick at 8:51 PM
Friday, March 7, 2008
Again we ask: Why does the "Hillary-as-monster" theme seem to strike a chord in the imaginations of so many?
We've all heard politicians called crooks, con artists, blowhards, liars and much else, but this is as unique as it is persistent.
Now an Obama aide has had to resign because of this:
Posted by Philbrick at 6:19 PM
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Mustard Street marked its First Birthday two days ago, on March 3!
So busy blogging about the presidential primaries we forgot.
After a full year of high prose . . . of grammatical precision not seen since Monroe High School English class circa 1954 . . . of intellectual clarity so lucid that writers for the Democrat and Chronicle learn nothing from anything we say . . . of a refreshing rejection of false modesty . . .
The world is no better off than it was a year ago.
So we'll just keep slogging on.
Abandon all hope.
Blast from the past, from our first week: Hack in the Saddle Again.
Posted by Philbrick at 8:15 PM
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Monday, March 3, 2008
Last week we opined that Hillary Clinton won't quit the presidential contest no matter what happens in Texas and Ohio.
We commented, "It's never over for the Clintons until they get want they want," observing that this point seems to be not only widely understood, but expressed, independently and by different members of the punditry, with a consistent metaphor we find amusing.
Commentator Andrew Sullivan says:
Whatever happens in this campaign, if it finally puts the Clintons in our rear-view mirror, it will have been worth a great deal. We're not quite there yet, and the moment you feel any sympathy for a Clinton, they will use it to their own ends.
In our recent post we suggested that many conservatives view Mrs. Clinton as the Hannibal Lecter of politics. Sullivan gets close to the idea with his parting comment about how any slack you cut the Clintons, however little, they'll use to their own purposes. It recalls that scene in The Silence of the Lambs, when the doctor in charge of the psychiatric prison rattles off to the Jodie Foster character the rules for interacting with Hannibal the Cannibal:
Do not touch the glass. Do not approach the glass. Pass him nothing but soft paper -- no pencils or pens. No staples or paper clips in his paper. Use the sliding food carrier, no exceptions. If he attempts to pass you anything, do not accept it.
I'm going to show you why we insist on such precautions.
On the afternoon of July 8, 1981, he complained of chest pains and was taken to the dispensary. His mouthpiece and restraints were removed for an EKG. When the nurse leaned over him, he did this to her (holding up a photo). The doctors managed to re-set her jaw, more or less, and save one of her eyes. His pulse never got above eighty-five, even when he ate her tongue.
(You can see the video here.)
A few weeks ago Peggy Noonan had this to say, in the Wall Street Journal:
Deep down journalists think she's a political Rasputin who will not be dispatched. Prince Yusupov served him cupcakes laced with cyanide, emptied a revolver, clubbed him, tied him up and threw him in a frozen river. When he floated to the surface they found he'd tried to claw his way from under the ice. That is how reporters see Hillary.
Salena Zito of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review put it this way:
The first rule of politics is, "Never count out the Clintons." Their political conglomerate, Clinton Inc., is like Glenn Close in that bathtub scene in the movie "Fatal Attraction": It always comes back to life a second or third time.
What is it with Hillary and the monster imagery? And not just run-of-the-mill movie monsters like Alien, or Harry Potter's giant snake, or the Creature from the Black Lagoon, or the thing in Cloverfield (who are never really that scary because you know you're only looking at a triumph of the makeup department, or of computer animation), but the truly scariest monsters of them all: real human beings acting with relentless, remorseless sociopathic depravity.
People recognize something in Hillary Clinton that reminds them, independently, of the same chilling concept.
It's like the movie Halloween and its sequels. Every time the teenaged babysitter thinks she's dispatched the hockey-masked maniac with a knitting needle in the thorax -- up he pops again. He's never caught or killed, and there's always the next movie. It never ends.
Look! -- now we've gone and done it ourselves!
But it's all beside the point, which is that Clinton's not quitting after tomorrow.
When she explains why, notwithstanding what Bill said about Texas and Ohio, we bet her pulse never gets above eighty-five.
Posted by Philbrick at 1:06 PM
Sunday, March 2, 2008
In today's New York Times, Maureen Dowd touches on the point we discussed the other day, regarding Hillary Clinton's claims to more "experience" than Barack Obama.
On a conference call Friday with Hillary’s ever-more-hysterical male strategists, Slate’s John Dickerson asked exactly when she had been tested in a foreign policy crisis. After a silence long enough to knit a sweater in, as the Web site The Hotline put it, Mark Penn cited “her work on the Armed Services Committee.”See the whole piece here.
Posted by Philbrick at 8:28 AM