Saturday, November 01, 2008

Mark Steyn: Obama's a better symbol than president

On Tuesday many Americans will vote for the two-dimensional Obama - the image, the idea.

Orange County Register
Friday, October 31, 2008

In Tokyo last week, over 1,000 people signed a new petition asking the Japanese government to permit marriages between human beings and cartoon characters. "I am no longer interested in three dimensions. I would even like to become a resident of the two-dimensional world," explained Taichi Takashita. "Therefore, at the very least, would it be possible to legally authorize marriage with a two-dimensional character?"

Get back to me on that Tuesday night. We'll know by then whether an entire constitutional republic has decided to contract marriage with a two-dimensional character and to attempt to take up residence in the two-dimensional world. For many of his supporters, Barack Obama is an idea. He offers "hope, not fear." "Hope" of what? "Hope" of "change." OK, but "change" to what? Ah, well, there you go again, getting all hung up on three-dimensional reality, when we've moved way beyond that. I don't know which cartoon character Taichi Takashita is eyeing as his betrothed, but up in the sky Obamaman is flying high, fighting for Hope, Change and a kind of Post-Modern American Way.

The two-dimensional idea of President Obama is seductive: To elect a young black man of Kenyan extraction and Indonesian upbringing offers redemption both for America's original sin (slavery) and for the more recent perceived sins of President Bush – his supposed enthusiasm for sticking it to foreigners generally, and the Muslim world in particular. And no, I'm not saying he's Muslim. It's worse than that: He's a pasty-faced European – at least in his view of state power, welfare and taxation.

But, in a sense, he's not anything in particular, so much as everything in general. The media dispatched legions of reporters to hoot and jeer at Sarah Palin's Wasilla without ever wondering: Where would we go to do this to Obama? Where's his "hometown"? Bill Clinton was famously (if not entirely accurately) from "a place called Hope." Barack Obama is from an idea called hope. What's the area code? 1-800-HOPE4CHANGE. The 1-800 candidate offers the hope of electing a younger Morgan Freeman, the cool, reserved, dignified black man who, when he's not literally God walking among us (as in "Bruce Almighty"), is always the conscience of the movie.

You can understand the appeal of such an idea. Even if you're not hung up on white liberal guilt or Bush loathing, there's an urge to get it over with, to say, well, America should have a black president, and the sooner the better – i.e., the sooner we do it, the better it speaks of us. They have a point. I look at the roll call of the dead on 9/11: Arestegui, Bolourchi, Carstanjen, Droz, Elseth, Foti, Gronlund, Hannafin, Iskyan, Kuge, Laychak, Mojica, Nguyen, Ong, Pappalardo, Quigley, Retic, Shuyin, Tarrou, Vamsikrishna, Warchola, Yuguang, Zarba. Black, white, Scandinavian, Balkan, Arab, Asian – in a word, American. The presidential pantheon has a narrower ring: Clinton, Reagan, Nixon, Johnson. Obama has a tedious shtick about how his name sounds odd and he doesn't look like "all those other presidents on the dollar bills". He's not just picking out the drapes for the Oval Office, he's ordering up the new currency and booking the sculptors for Mount Rushmore.

And why not? Obama in the White House, Obama on the dollar bill, Obama on Rushmore would symbolize the possibilities of America more than that narrow list of white-bread protestant presidents to date.

The problem is we're not electing a symbol, a logo, a two-dimensional image. Long before he emerged on the national stage as Barack the Hope-Giver and Bringer of Change, there was a three-dimensional Barack Obama, a real man who lives in the real world. And that's where the problem lies.

The senator and his doting Obots in the media have gone to great lengths to obscure what Barack Obama does when he's not being a symbol: his voting record, his friends, his patrons, his life outside the soft-focus memoirs is deemed nonrelevant to the general hopey-changey vibe. But occasionally we get a glimpse. The offhand aside to Joe the Plumber about "spreading the wealth around" was revealing because it suggests a crude redistributive view of "social justice". Yet the nimble Hope-a-Dope sidestepper brushed it aside, telling a crowd in Raleigh that next John McCain will be "accusing me of being a secret communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten."

But that too is revealing. As John Hood pointed out at National Review, communism is not "sharing." In a free society, the citizen chooses whether to share his Lego, trade it for some Thomas the Tank Engine train tracks, or keep it to himself. From that freedom of action grow mighty Playmobile cities. Communism is compulsion. It's the government confiscating your Elmo to "share" it with someone of its choice. Joe the Plumber is free to spread his own wealth around – hiring employees, buying supplies from local businesses, enjoying surf 'n' turf night at his favorite eatery. But, in Obama's world view, that's not good enough: the state is the best judge of how to spread Joe the Plumber's wealth around.

The Senator is a wealthy man, mainly on the strength of two bestselling books offering his biography in lieu of policy and accomplishments. Many lively members of his Kenyan family occur as supporting characters in his story and provide the vivid color in it. But they too are not merely two-dimensional cartoons. His Aunt Zeituni, a memorable figure in Obama's writing, turned up for real last week, when the dogged James Bone of the London Times tracked her down. She lives in a rundown housing project in Boston.

In his Wednesday night infomercial, Obama declared that his "fundamental belief" was that "I am my brother's keeper." Back in Kenya, his brother lives in a shack on 12 bucks a year. If Barack is his brother's keeper, why couldn't he send him a $10 bill and nearly double the guy's income? The reality is that Barack Obama assumes the government should be his brother's keeper, and his aunt's keeper. Why be surprised by that? For 20 years in Illinois, Obama has marinated in the swamps of the Chicago political machine and the campus radicalism of William Ayers and Rashid Khalidi. In such a world, the redistributive urge is more or less a minimum entry qualification.

The government as wealth-spreader-in-chief was not a slip of the tongue but consistent with Obama's life, friends and votes. The Obamacons – that's to say, conservatives hot for Barack – justify their decision to support a big-spending big-government Democrat with the most liberal voting record in the Senate by "hoping" that he doesn't mean it, by "hoping" that he'll "change" in office. "I sure hope Obama is more open, centrist, sensible," declared reformed conservative Ken Adelman, "than his liberal record indicates."

He's "hoping" that Obama will buck not just Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank and the rest of the gang but also his voting record, his personal address book and his entire adult life. Good luck betting the future on that. The "change" we'll get isn't hard to discern: An expansion of government, an increase in taxes, a greater annexation of the dynamic part of the economy by the sclerotic bureaucracy, a reduction in economic liberty …oh, and a lot more Chicago machine politics.

On Tuesday many Americans will vote for the two-dimensional Obama - the image, the idea, the "hope." But it will be the three-dimensional Obama – the real man with the real record – that America will have to live with.

Friday, October 31, 2008

What a Tax Lawyer Dug Up on 'Dracula'

The Wall Street Journal
October 28, 2008

"There are such things as vampires," says Dr. Van Helsing in Bram Stoker's novel "Dracula." The famous line comes about two-thirds of the way into the story, but it hardly delivers the punch of a staggering revelation. By the time Van Helsing utters it, the book's other characters essentially have figured out the weird truth for themselves.

Ryan Inzana

Readers know even more. Does anybody pick up a copy of "Dracula" these days without first realizing it's about a supernatural bloodsucker from Transylvania? Or were you expecting a spoiler alert?

This is a challenge for a lot of classic books: The stories are so familiar that their twists and turns fail to shock or awe. Yet the publisher W.W. Norton & Co. seems to have found a commercially viable way out of this fix, with a series of annotated volumes that perform the marketing miracle of making the old seem new again. The latest, "The New Annotated Dracula," is out just in time for Halloween.

A novel such as "Dracula" still possesses plenty of well-told pleasures. An early scene in which its iconic antihero climbs out a window and crawls headfirst down a castle wall remains one of the creepiest in English literature. Yet it's the exceedingly rare reader who will scratch his head in bewilderment when Van Helsing breaks out the crucifixes and garlic.

Leslie S. Klinger, the editor of "The New Annotated Dracula," nevertheless manages to enliven the experience of reading about the world's most famous undead white male. Like a movie studio that adds "bonus features" to a DVD, Norton includes extensive commentaries in "The New Annotated Dracula" and even offers what appears to be a genuine literary discovery: The volume describes a previously unknown "alternate ending" to the 1897 text.

"The New Annotated Dracula" probably wouldn't exist but for the success of several predecessors. Annotations aren't exactly an innovation, of course, and many publishers have glossed the plays of Shakespeare and the poetry of "Paradise Lost" for college students. Norton's breakthrough idea was to produce lavish volumes full of illustrations, essays, appendices, and discursive footnotes for general readers.

A decade ago, Robert Weil, an editor at Norton, conceived of "The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition." It brought together Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking-Glass," combining and updating previous annotations by Martin Gardner, a renowned Carroll expert. "Our goal was to publish a beautiful book that would allow adults to relive a classic that they knew as children and to understand it in a new way," says Mr. Weil.

"The Annotated Alice" became a hit whose steady sales make it a back-list superstar for the publisher. Norton has gone on to try the same tack with annotated editions of more than a dozen other titles, such as "The Wizard of Oz," "Huckleberry Finn" and "A Christmas Carol." Forthcoming editions include "The Wind in the Willows," "Peter Pan" and the tales of Edgar Allan Poe.

Norton says its first printing of "The New Annotated Dracula" will number about 50,000 copies -- a healthy run for an oversized, 613-page book. Even so, it's a lightweight compared to "The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes," three volumes totaling more than 2,700 pages, also edited by Mr. Klinger.

By day, Mr. Klinger is a Los Angeles tax attorney with clients in the entertainment industry. By night, he turns his attention to genre literature. When he finished working on the Holmes books, he cast around for a similar project. His wife suggested "Dracula," which made sense because it, too, was a product of late-Victorian Britain whose central character had achieved a legendary status in popular culture -- an inspiration for everything from the movies to the Muppets.

In his book, Mr. Klinger does what annotators do. He defines obscure words and terms. He conveys little-known trivia, such as Stoker's consideration of "The Un-Dead" or "The Dead Un-Dead" as potential titles. And he proposes offbeat interpretations. Is it possible, for instance, that Quincey Morris, one of Van Helsing's vampire hunters, is secretly in league with Dracula? Stoker almost certainly didn't intend it, but a careful probing of the text leaves open this intriguing prospect.

In the vast body of amateur scholarship on Sherlock Holmes, there's a tradition of pretending that Holmes was a real person and that Arthur Conan Doyle was not a writer of fictional stories but an actual biographer. Mr. Klinger takes the same approach with "Dracula," with results that will amuse some and annoy others. "You don't have to buy into my crackpot suggestion," he says. "But the idea is to help the reader have fun."

In researching "Dracula," Mr. Klinger had to perform detective work that would do Holmes proud. Stoker left behind not only his published manuscript, but also extensive drafts and notes that provide glimpses of how his ideas about the novel evolved over several years -- rich source material for any annotator. One of the key texts is a 541-page manuscript that turned up in a Pennsylvania barn some years ago. Few people have laid eyes on it, and Mr. Klinger tried to contact its anonymous owner through Christie's, the auction house.

That effort initially failed, though the private collector ultimately approached Mr. Klinger through an intermediary and invited him to spend two days with the manuscript. Mr. Klinger had to sign a nondisclosure agreement, but this summer he received permission to identify the mysterious owner: Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft.

Mr. Klinger draws extensively from this document, and the greatest payoff comes in the last chapter, when he reveals an ending different from the one Stoker put into print. The lost scene shows up in Mr. Allen's manuscript, but not in the novel as it was finally published. It takes place in Transylvania and involves a massive explosion. Saying more would spoil the surprise.

Mr. Miller writes for National Review.

Plundering the Plumber's Records

By Michelle Malkin
October 30, 2008

[Previously by Michelle Malkin: The Left Declares War On Joe the Plumber]

If Joe the Plumber were Jawad the Suspected Terrorist, civil liberties activists would stampede the halls of Congress on his behalf. Liberal columnists would hyperventilate over the outrageous invasions of his privacy by Ohio state and local employees. The ACLU would demand the Big Brother snoopers' heads. And Democratic leaders would convene immediate hearings and parade him around the Beltway as the new poster boy/victim of unlawful domestic spying.

But because peaceful American citizen Joe urzelbacher is an outspoken enemy of socialism, rather than an enemy of America, the defenders of privacy have responded to his plight with an impenetrable cone of silence.

After the last presidential debate, during which John McCain invoked Joe the Plumber's anti-socialism shot heard 'round the world, several taxpayer-subsidized employees in Ohio immediately rifled through government databases in search of damning information. The Columbus Dispatch identified Helen Jones-Kelley, director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, as one of the dirt-diggers. She also happens to support Barack Obama and contributed the maximum amount to his presidential campaign.

On Wednesday, Jones-Kelley admitted that the records checks on Wurzelbacher that she approved were far more extensive than she first acknowledged. In addition to pawing through his child-support papers, the agency "also checked Wurzelbacher in its computer systems to determine whether he was receiving welfare assistance or owed unemployment compensation taxes."

Jones-Kelley argued that plumbing the plumber's information was no big deal because the agency always checks up on citizens who come into public light. Democratic Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland quickly pooh-poohed the civil liberties infringements and denied any nefarious political motives.

If that doesn't send a chill up your spine, you don't have a spine.

In addition to Jones-Kelley, investigators have uncovered at least three additional suspicious uses of state computer systems to access Wurzelbacher's data. Toledo police records clerk Julie McConnell has been charged with gross misconduct for accessing the Law Enforcement Automated Data System to retrieve Wurzelbacher's address. She reportedly did it as a favor to a reporter. Authorities also say the Cuyahoga County social services office was compromised and an outside contractor with access to the state attorney general's test account similarly searched Wurzelbacher's data. Moreover, his driver's-license and vehicle-registration information were obtained from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

I contacted the ACLU twice this week for comment about this rampant plundering of Joe the Plumber's records. Like the Genesis song goes: No reply at all. (That was the same reply the ACLU gave me two months ago when I asked if they had any reaction to the Chicago gangland tactics of a MoveOn spin-off group that announced it was trolling campaign finance databases and targeting conservative donors with warning letters in a thuggish attempt to depress Republican fundraising.)

For the last seven years, these left-wing privacy champs have lobbied on behalf of foreign enemy combatants. The ACLU fought unsuccessfully to kill the Bush administration's post-9/11 effort to monitor terrorist communications in the United States. The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and USA Today went ballistic over the government's bank surveillance program to trace terrorist financing.

Those same papers fumed earlier this year when State Department contractors illegally sifted through the passport files of Obama (and Hillary Clinton and John McCain). Obama mouthpiece Bill Burton intoned after the passport scandal: "Our government's duty is to protect the private information of the American people, not use it for political purposes."

But when freelance members of the Obama Goon Squad take it upon themselves to do opposition research on The One's citizen critics and rummage through government databases, where are all the privocrats? And how safe will your state tax and IRS records be if Dear Leader is elected?

Welcome to Obama's America.

- Michelle Malkin [email her] is author of Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores. Click here for Peter Brimelow’s review. Click here for Michelle Malkin's website. Michelle Malkin's latest book is Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild.

Michelle Malkin Archive

McCain for President, Part II

By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
Friday, October 31, 2008; A19

Last week I made the open-and-shut case for John McCain: In a dangerous world entering an era of uncontrolled nuclear proliferation, the choice between the most prepared foreign policy candidate in memory vs. a novice with zero experience and the wobbliest one-world instincts is not a close call.

Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain listens as he is introduced at a campaign rally at Everglades Lumber in Miami, Florida October 29, 2008.
(Brian Snyder/Reuters)

But it's all about economics and kitchen-table issues, we are told. Okay. Start with economics.

Neither candidate has particularly deep economic knowledge or finely honed economic instincts. Neither has any clear idea exactly what to do in the current financial meltdown. Hell, neither does anyone else, including the best economic minds in the world, from Henry Paulson to the head of the European Central Bank. Yet they have muddled through with some success.

Both McCain and Barack Obama have assembled fine economic teams that may differ on the details of their plans but have reasonable approaches to managing the crisis. So forget the hype. Neither candidate has an advantage on this issue.

On other domestic issues, McCain is just the kind of moderate conservative that the Washington/media establishment once loved -- the champion of myriad conservative heresies that made him a burr in the side of congressional Republicans and George W. Bush. But now that he is standing in the way of an audacity-of-hope Democratic restoration, erstwhile friends recoil from McCain on the pretense that he has suddenly become right wing.

Self-serving rubbish. McCain is who he always was. Generally speaking, he sees government as a Rooseveltian counterweight (Teddy with a touch of Franklin) to the various malefactors of wealth and power. He wants government to tackle large looming liabilities such as Social Security and Medicare. He wants to free up health insurance by beginning to sever its debilitating connection to employment -- a ruinous accident of history (arising from World War II wage and price controls) that increases the terror of job loss, inhibits labor mobility and saddles American industry with costs that are driving it (see: Detroit) into insolvency. And he supports lower corporate and marginal tax rates to encourage entrepreneurship and job creation.

An eclectic, moderate, generally centrist agenda in a guy almost congenitally given to bipartisanship.

Obama, on the other hand, talks less and less about bipartisanship, his calling card during his earlier messianic stage. He does not need to. If he wins, he will have large Democratic majorities in both houses. And unlike Clinton in 1992, Obama is no centrist.

What will you get?

(1) Card check, meaning the abolition of the secret ballot in the certification of unions in the workplace. Large men will come to your house at night and ask you to sign a card supporting a union. You will sign.

(2) The so-called Fairness Doctrine -- a project of Nancy Pelosi and leading Democratic senators -- a Hugo Chávez-style travesty designed to abolish conservative talk radio.

(3) Judges who go beyond even the constitutional creativity we expect from Democratic appointees. Judges chosen according to Obama's publicly declared criterion: "empathy" for the "poor or African American or gay or disabled or old" -- in a legal system historically predicated on the idea of justice entirely blind to one's station in life.

(4) An unprecedented expansion of government power. Yes, I know. It has already happened. A conservative government has already partially nationalized the mortgage industry, the insurance industry and nine of the largest U.S. banks.

This is all generally swallowed because everyone understands that the current crisis demands extraordinary measures. The difference is that conservatives are instinctively inclined to make such measures temporary. Whereas an Obama-Pelosi-Reid-Barney Frank administration will find irresistible the temptation to use the tools inherited -- $700 billion of largely uncontrolled spending -- as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to radically remake the American economy and social compact.

This is not socialism. This is not the end of the world. It would, however, be a decidedly leftward move on the order of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. The alternative is a McCain administration with a moderate conservative presiding over a divided government and generally inclined to resist a European social-democratic model of economic and social regulation featuring, for example, wealth-redistributing growth-killing marginal tax rates.

The national security choice in this election is no contest. The domestic policy choice is more equivocal because it is ideological. McCain is the quintessential center-right candidate. Yet the quintessential center-right country is poised to reject him. The hunger for anti-Republican catharsis and the blinding promise of Obamian hope are simply too strong. The reckoning comes in the morning.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Win Tugs away 28 years of frustration for Phillies

By Bill Conlin
Philadelphia Daily News
Daily News Sports Columnist
Posted on Thu, Oct. 30, 2008

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 29: 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels #35 of the Philadelphia Phillies celebrates with the MVP trophy after their 4-3 win to win the World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays during the continuation of game five of the 2008 MLB World Series on October 29, 2008 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

TWENTY-EIGHT years vanished in the heartbeat it took for Brad Lidge to deliver one final, unhittable slider to Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz.

Then, 1980 was suddenly 2008 and it was Lidge, not Tug McGraw, leaping joyously into the gelid South Philly air, and waiting for an avalanche of whooping teammates to engulf him. Brad sank to his knees in a spread-eagle prayer, beckoning toward Ruiz, who leaped into his arms.

Willie Wilson then, Tampa Bay Rays pinch-hitter Eric Hinske last night. The fathers then, their sons and daughters now. They bellowed the two decades plus 8 years draught away in a celebration that had built up for so long that the nation had been served by four Presidents serving a total of seven terms.

Ironically, the continuation of the most bizarre Game 5 in World Series history-delayed exactly 46 hours by a malady called Commishis Interruptis-was pushed back to 8:40 p.m. by a costly 30-minute infomercial by Barack Obama, the man the polls say will be elected president in 5 days.

There were no mounted police officers this time, no attack dogs baring their fangs or truncheon-bearing SWAT team members, exploding fireworks glinting off their lowered helmet shields.

As the bullpen gate swung open and the relievers and coaches there began the sprint toward the writhing dog pile of regulars and reserves that every player dreams of joining, a token force of nine officers on motorcycles rimmed the outfield warning track, lights flashing. The crowd was too busy high-fiving, man-hugging, woman-kissing, child-lifting and releasing enough pent-up emotion to light the city for a year to take notice of the subtle police presence.

MVP Cole Hamels came close to being the winning pitcher even though he had thrown his 75th pitch in an arctic monsoon Monday night, gutting his way through a sixth inning where his only weapon was a changeup because the baseball was so slick and his fingers so numb. And the Lords of Baseball prayed for him to allow a run so they could run their little, butt-saving gambit. Cole was still in the lineup until Geoff Jenkins hit for him leading off the bottom of the inning of a game tied 2-2 - no-thanks to some of the most inept and controversial rule-bending and administrative prevarication in the history of the pastime.

And when Jenkins greeted Aussie reliever Grant Balfour with a booming double over Rocco Baldelli in right-center, when Jimmy Rollins sacrificed him to third and when Jayson Werth scored him with a single to center, Hamels was three scoreless innings away from his fifth victory of the postseason.

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 29: Ryan Howard #6 of the Philadelphia Phillies celebrates with the World Series trophy after their 4-3 win to win the WOrld Series against the Tampa Bay Rays during the continuation of game five of the 2008 MLB World Series on October 29, 2008 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Baldelli blew up that story line with a lusty one-out homer off Ryan Madson that retied the score at 3-3, evoking one of history's largest mass oh-nos from 45,940 throats. Bud Selig's decision to pull the plug on a Game 5 that never should have begun in the first place - after permitting the Phillies to play defense on the worst track in postseason history - briefly loomed large.
But Charlie Manuel had a plan for his offense and knew how he would use his bullpen in this endgame to beat all Phillies endgames, this perfect ending to a giddy 11-3 run through the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers and a Tampa Bay Rays team of gifted young stars that shocked the mighty American League East in the regular season, then stunned the Red Sox, defending world champions.

In what could be his final at-bat of the Phillies career he resuscitated with solid 2007-8 seasons, Pat Burrell began the eighth with a double to deep center that just missed leaving the Bank. Defensive caddie Eric Bruntlett pinch-ran and took third on Shane Victorino's bouncer to second after failing to get down a bunt.

History will record that Pedro Feliz, brilliant on defense all year but an offensive disappointment, drove in the winning run with a single to center off soft-tossing submariner Chad Bradford.

Lidge did not have his best stuff. He was pitching with a week's rest, thanks to Bud and the blowout 10-2 win. His drop-dead slider has had nastier bite. His fastball has had more late life. After popping up Rays wunderkind Evan Longoria, who squeezed his bat handle to sawdust in the Series, catcher Dioner Navarro provided the obligatory "uh-oh, oh-no" moment that is a fan's birthright around here. He lined a single to right and pinch-hitter Ben Zobrist waited until pinch-runner Fernando Perez stole second before ripping a sinking liner to right that Werth caught knee-high, hit hard enough to hoist a "bleep" in nearly every throat.

Hinske came up. He was just added to the active roster before Game 4 and the lefthanded power hitter hit the hardest ball of the Series by either team, a mammoth drive that violated the ivy halfway up the brick wall in center, one of the few blemishes on a superb Joe Blanton performance that featured a lusty home run of his own.

Manuel was wonderful in the interview room - folksy, humble, feisty, a little bit country; a little bit rock and roll. He fenced with former detractors from his Cleveland days and was not afraid to puff his chest a little.
Somebody asked Charlie if he was out to prove something to the people in Cleveland.

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 29: Manager Charlie Manuel #41 of the Philadelphia Phillies addresses the fans as he celebrates their 4-3 win to win the World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays during the continuation of game five of the 2008 MLB World Series on October 29, 2008 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Pool/Getty Images)

"I wasn't working on trying to prove anything," he said. "Don't take this in a cocky way . . . I already knew how good I was."

This will be remembered in the land of the Philly-bashers and the believers that no World Series that excludes the Yankees or Red Sox is worth the number of people who will fall asleep trying to watch it. Especially if it includes a small-market upstart like Tampa Bay.

But you will manage to live with the knowledge that this was the least-watched Series in history- no thanks to a pair of epic rain storms here and the actions of a clueless commissioner who should be turned out of office at the next owners' meeting.

You will live with it because these Phillies made 28 years of waiting go away. They turned in their own version of the Tug McGraw-Bob Boone ending.

And now all you need is a player to hold your favorite tabloid newspaper aloft Friday and bellow a paraphrase of McGraw's famed message to New York: "The rest of the country can take this World Series and stick it!"

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The team of 10,000 losses wins a big one

By Bill Lyon
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Posted on Thu, Oct. 30, 2008

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 29: Jimmy Rollins #11 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits a sacrifice bunt to advance Geoff Jenkins to third base in the bottom of the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays during the continuation of game five of the 2008 MLB World Series on October 29, 2008 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

And so at 9:58 in the East, on a cold and brittle autumn night, Brad Lidge, the perfect pitcher in an imperfect game, threw strike three past a Tampa Bay pinch-hitter, and the baseball team that has always been one tantalizing pitch away from heartbreak won the 2008 World Series.

Lidge, the cold-eyed closer, nailed down his 48th save in 48 opportunities, leaped part way to the moon, then sank to his knees and motioned for catcher Carlos Ruiz to hurry to him. Ryan Howard fell on top of both of them, setting off seismographs in four states.

And thus ended one of the most bizarre and controversial games ever played in the World Series, complete with a 46-hour wait between innings, and how fitting that was, for this is Philadelphia, after all, cradle of liberty, acid reflux, angst, anxiety and the sure and certain belief that we are doomed forever to walk along the Boulevard of Busted Dreams.

But not now. Not this time. No, you can go ice skating in Hades now. The Phillies have broken the Hundred Season Drought. The franchise of 10,000 losses is a winner.

The air already smells cleaner. The women are beautiful. Food tastes better. The shroud of dread has been pulled away.

This is a team that took its cue from a good ol' country boy, a baseball lifer with an abiding attachment to, and respect for, the game. Charlie Manuel has spent four years as manager of the Phillies. They call that doing hard time.

He endured cruel slander without complaint. He is a man with rhino hide and the courage of his convictions, a man whose loyalty to his players has been unshakable. There was, he was certain, a title awaiting him.

He was rocked during the postseason by the death of his mother, and last night, asked what she would be doing about now, he replied: "Laughing and giggling and hollering and telling us, and everyone, how good a team I had."

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 29: Carlos Ruiz #51 of the Philadelphia Phillies tags out Jason Bartlett #8 of the Tampa Bay Rays at home plate for the third out in the top of the seventh inning during the continuation of game five of the 2008 MLB World Series on October 29, 2008 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

As soon as Lidge delivered the final pitch, an unhittable slider, Manuel and his coaches embraced in the dugout. They are old, battle-worn warriors, each with the scars that they wear like badges of honor.

"I can take the criticism," Manuel said. "I'm old enough and experienced enough. You know what: Until you win something, a lot of times you're going to be criticized. Yeah, sometimes it's hard to take some personal criticism, but at the same time that's part of being mentally tough, and also it's part of being professional."

Charlie Manuel is more man than the howler monkeys who vilified him.

"The things that go on here," he said of the World Series, "it kind of gets hectic, and you definitely can lose focus. And if you're not careful, you've got to keep things in perspective. To win is hard. To win a World Series is probably harder."

The Phillies have been committing baseball for 126 years, and this is their second championship. Their history is a tortured one.

But Lidge offered exactly the right perspective when he said: "This is our time right now, and I don't give a crap about all the rest."

Yes, the time for haunting is past. What has gone before now shrinks in importance. The vinegar turns to champagne.

Asked if he and the rest of the Phillies fully grasped the magnitude of what they had done for the city, Cole Hamels, the pitching prodigy who was MVP of the World Series, said: "When we come back, when we're all old and retired, and we come back, and they still stand up, giving us a standing ovation like they do to the guys of the 1980 World Series. The fans added to our confidence.

"These fans, they could taste it as much as we could."

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 29: Geoff Jenkins #10 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits a double in the bottom of the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays during the continuation of game five of the 2008 MLB World Series on October 29, 2008 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Well, maybe not that much. Twenty-five years since the last pro championship, after all, and Hamels, who is 24, was not yet born when the 76ers won it all.

But the core of this team is young and brims with exuberance. Surely more titles will yet come. We are, after all, due. All this persistent enduring in the face of so much torment surely must carry a reward.

Last word, fittingly, goes to Charlie Manuel: "When I saw that last out, I kind of looked up, and watching the fans and our players, and I knew it was over. And I said, 'You know what? We just won the World Series.' Like, we're champions. Actually, it was bigger than I actually felt like it was."

Just wait until the parade.

A Full Night's Worth of Drama

By Thomas Boswell
The Washington Post
Thursday, October 30, 2008; E01

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 29: Manager Charloe Manuel of the Philadelphia Phillies celebrates with the World Series trophy in the locker room after their 4-3 win against the Tampa Bay Rays during the continuation of game five of the 2008 MLB World Series on October 29, 2008 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA- Once, 28 years ago, Tug McGraw heaved his glove high in the night sky at old Veterans Stadium to celebrate his final strike to Willie Wilson of Kansas City. On Wednesday night at sparkling Citizens Bank Park, Brad Lidge, perfect all season with 48 straight saves, had an equal, though opposite, outpouring of emotion, dropping to his knees after his last strike to the Rays' Eric Hinske made the Phillies 4-3 winners of this fifth and final World Series game.

Finally, at 9:58 p.m., as a packed house that had stood all night, swathed in red and screaming, paid obeisance, the Phillies piled atop Lidge, the second team since 1883 with "Phillies" on their chests to be the best team in all of baseball.

Three innings of baseball on a freezing, windy night should not produce a Series jewel. But the Phillies and Rays turned a mess into a mini-masterpiece, transforming a suspended game into a tense, 79-minute suspension of disbelief. First Philadelphia, then counterpunching Tampa Bay and finally the victorious Phils delivered clutch hits or improvisational plays.

"When it was over, I kind of laughed. I thought, 'We just won the World Series!' " Phils Manager Charlie Manuel said of the instant when he realized that Pedro Feliz's RBI single in the seventh inning had made a winner of reliever J.C. Romero.

On the field, however, amid his celebrating team, Manuel showed the true animating emotion of this often spurned sports town, which had not won a world title in any pro sport for 25 years, telling the crowd: "This is for Philadelphia. Who's the world champion now?"

For the Rays, a dream ended -- of becoming the first team in any American pro sports league to go from the worst to the very best in just one season. However, as Manager Joe Maddon put it, " 'The mind, once stretched, can never return to its original form.' I like that expression. Our minds have been stretched. Our players will never be satisfied again with less than winning."

Each half-inning of the partial game constituted its own mini-drama as the passionate crowd, waving white towels, wearing red stocking caps and frequently jumping up and down to stay warm, delighted in the torturous ebb and flow.

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 29: Brad Lidge #54 of the Philadelphia Phillies strikes out Eric Hinske of the Tampa Bay Rays for the final out during the continuation of game five of the 2008 MLB World Series on October 29, 2008 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Phillies won 4-3. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

In the most peculiar beginning of any Series night, this evening began in the bottom of the sixth with the score tied, 2-2. The first batter, pinch hitter Geoff Jenkins, crushed a double off the right-center field wall near the 398-foot sign off Grant Balfour, two feet beyond the lunge of right fielder Rocco Baldelli.

After moving to third on a sacrifice bunt, Jenkins scored on a bloop single over a drawn-in infield, the ball popping out of the glove of brilliant defensive second baseman Akinori Iwamura who, for the fifth time in this Series, either made an error or failed to make exactly the kind of gem for which he is known.

The Rays' Baldelli responded with a crash in the top of the seventh, crushing a solo homer to left to tie the score at 3. The play of the night and of this entire Series, however, came later in the inning. After quick Jason Bartlett singled and was bunted to second base, Iwamura slapped an infield single behind second base to Chase Utley, who made a sprinting backhand grab. That should have ended the play.

However, in a moment of inspiration -- or heady pro savvy -- Utley made a pump fake toward first base, almost like a football quarterback's jump pass. Bartlett bit on the deke. There was home plate to be taken. Phils first baseman Ryan Howard made 19 errors this season and is famous for his weak and inaccurate throwing arm. Bartlett would gamble that Howard couldn't throw him out.

But Howard never got the ball. Utley still had it and, almost with a casual three-quarter-speed throw to the plate, which wasn't even perfectly on line, still threw out Bartlett by six feet to end the inning. Derek Jeter, where are you?

That play switched momentum and set a tone for the rest of the brief night. The Phils' 33-home-run man Pat Burrell led off the seventh with a 400-foot double to center field off lefty J.P. Howell. Had the wind not blown the ball to the deepest part of the park, it would have been a homer. Had Burrell run hard every step of the way, he might have had a triple. But he stayed at second and pinch runner Eric Bruntlett had to be moved over to third by a Shane Victorino groundout.

"Twice tonight we moved men over from second to third with a bunt and a ground ball," Manuel said. "We didn't execute in some games, But we did this time and it set up both our runs."

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 29: Catcher Carlos Ruiz #51 and Brad Lidge #54 of the Philadelphia Phillies celebrate after recording the final out of their 4-3 win to win the World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays during the continuation of game five of the 2008 MLB World Series on October 29, 2008 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Thus the stage was set for Feliz, a solid but unspectacular Phil better known for his defense at third base than his bat. His clean single to center field off submariner Chad Bradford scored Bruntlett for the final winning run.

Many will note the wild and relieved celebration at the end of this game as Lidge got the final two outs with the potential tying run at second base. But perhaps what was most remarkable was the number of people on hand for this celebration. All day, skeptics wondered how many fans would, or could, actually attend this game. How many had remembered to keep their ticket stubs, which were sold during the day for $200 to a few thousand dollars.

"We had 44,000 out of the 45,000 fans" from Monday night, Phils President David Montgomery said.

In effect, about 98 percent of Philly fans remembered that valuable stub because there was absolutely no way you could get back in your seat without it. No stub, take a hike, bud. But this is Philly. They know. Perhaps the rain check -- the symbol of patience and returning another day -- is the proper symbol of this long-suffering franchise. No, nothing the easy way -- ever -- for this bunch. That's why they deserved to win the Series so much more than Tampa Bay can even imagine.

Maybe someday Rays fans will know how Phils fans felt on this raw night, but not now, not after 11 years. If this Series had a suspended game at Tropicana Field, perhaps because of a light failure, how many empty seats would there have been, how many mystified angry fans who couldn't get back in? Make a guess. Not just 2 percent.

In Philadelphia, where everything is as old as Ben Franklin and cracked bells, everything is context and history. You don't know where you are until you know where you've been. And the Phils have been to baseball hell and back. Several times.

The Whiz Kids were good, they tell us, but not next to Joe DiMaggio's '50 Yanks. There wasn't much wrong with the '76, '77 and '78 Phils either, nothing one more pitcher and a conscious manager couldn't have cured. The '83 Series wasn't the Phils' fault; the Orioles were due. And '93 was a raw deal. Who loses 15-14? What can you do when the Wild Thing closes and the other guys have Joe Carter?

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 29: Chase Utley #26 of the Philadelphia Phillies fakes a throw to first which allowed him to throw out Jason Bartlett #8 of the Tampa Bay Rays on a ball hit by Akinori Iwamura of the Rays in the top of the seventh inning during the continuation of game five of the 2008 MLB World Series on October 29, 2008 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

So unless you're really old and still raw at the Red Sox for Rube Foster's big Series in '15, that's the whole encyclopedia of Phillies grief. In all the volumes back to 1883, there's only one luminous page, one precious minute -- 11:29 p.m. on Oct. 21, 1980, when the late McGraw hurled his glove higher than anybody ever, cops on horseback circled the Vet, and, if you were there, you thought, "The poor snakebit Phillies are free, thank Bowie almighty, free at last."

But they weren't. Not until now.

It took another generation, another 28 years, for them to bring back memories of "You Gotta Believe" with the kind of backward rallying cry that captures the Phillie fan's familiarity with self-mockery and dark Philly humor. This year's motto: "Why Can't Us?"

If the Phils hadn't grabbed this ring, next year's motto would have been, "Yes, We Can't."

Yo, Adrian, now you can.

Back in '80, all of us in the Vet thought we'd seen the end of something, the burying of a defeatist complex, the beginning of a new generation of Phillies fans who would believe that they rooted for a normal team.

How wrong we were. But how right it now feels, 28 years and eight days later, to see the Phillies add a second title, so well deserved, so long deferred.

Holding All the Cards

[Mark Steyn]
October 29, 2008

On the grubby little racket of his online credit card fraud, Senator Obama merely has to run out the clock now. If it's not exposed before Tuesday, no one is going to have any appetite for investigating it once he's won. So he must be relieved that this off-message headline - "Obama Accepting Untraceable Donations" - only gets as far as Page 2 of The Washington Post. (There is an element of art to these calculations: The Obamatron editors in the media want to be able to cover themselves by saying they raised the story, but the trick is to do so at a time and place that prevents it going anywhere before November 4th.) The reporter, Matthew Mosk, filed a bland and perfunctory on the subject a couple of days ago, but he seems belatedly to have woken up and got some of the key points:

Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign is allowing donors to use largely untraceable prepaid credit cards that could potentially be used to evade limits on how much an individual is legally allowed to give or to mask a contributor's identity, campaign officials confirmed.

"Largely" untraceable? "Potentially" be used? No, they have been used to evade limits. But not a bad start. Here's a glimpse of the scale of the operation:

The Obama campaign has shattered presidential fundraising records, in part by capitalizing on the ease of online giving. Of the $150 million the senator from Illinois raised in September, nearly $100 million came in over the Internet.

So two-thirds of Obama's record haul derives from a website that intentionally disabled all the default security checks that prevent basic fraud like fake addresses and no-name matches. The RNC chief counsel says:

"I think they've made the determination that whatever money they have to refund on the back end doesn't outweigh the benefit of taking all this money upfront..."

Lawyers for the Obama operation said yesterday that their "extensive back-end review" has carefully scrubbed contributions to prevent illegal money from entering the operation's war chest.

Not true. Almost every fraudulent donation sails through, and real money leaves real accounts. To give to Obama his fellow "citizens of the world" don't even have to pretend to be American. As detailed yesterday, Mr A Hitler of Berlin, Germany is only the most obvious fake donor to make a contribution and receive shortly afterwards a Wilkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome email thanking him for joining the active community of community activists:

Dear Adolfe,

Thanks for joining this movement...

Check out the resources below — learn how you can connect with fellow supporters, organize in your neighborhood, build our national grassroots organization, and stay informed with the very latest campaign news.

(In fairness, connecting with fellow supporters, organizing in his neighborhood and building grassroots organizations is not something Herr Hitler needs a lot of help with.)

The Fuhrer is only a non-Obama supporter seeking to expose the obvious fraudulence of his online fundraising operation. If you were actively trying to funnel money to the Obama campaign for real, you'd probably choose a less obvious name to hide behind - Frau E Braun, say.

Which brings us to the case of Mary T Biskup of Manchester, Mo, who discovered there were scores of small online donations made to the Obama campaign in her name, even though she hasn't given him a dime. They added up to $174,800, which is a wee bit over the $2,300 limit. This very generous donation was not billed to her own card, but to someone else's - meaning (as the Post says) "someone appropriated her name".

Ah, but who? And, if just one unwitting front is responsible for 175 grand of the Obama take, how many other Mary T Biskups are there out there?

Here's the bottom line:

Two-thirds of the record-breaking haul Obama raised for the final stretch of the campaign comes from a racket set up to facilitate fake names, phony addresses and untraceable cards. As Bill Dyer asks:

Who ordered the anti-fraud protections turned off?

And as he concludes:

What did the wanna-be president know and when did he know it?

As Victor says below (in another post), this is part of a long pattern of behavior by Obama in which the noble ends of the Messiah's triumph justify any means.

10/29 07:08 AM

Obama’s Chicago Secrets

There's a wealth of information that would help define Obama just waiting — and waiting — for the press to discover.

October 29, 2008 - by Abraham H. Miller

Wealthy New Yorkers are renting homes in Ohio and putting twenty people in them so they can all vote illegally in a critical battleground state. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that story to appear on CNN or anywhere else in the electronic media.

Tony Rezko and Barack Obama

Instead, expect to see, ad nauseam, a store-by-store dissection of the money spent by the Republican National Committee on Sarah Palin’s wardrobe. Of course, we are told this is news because it’s not what you’d expect of a hockey mom.

Hockey moms, soccer moms, or metro-feminists that would turn down a shopping spree at Neiman Marcus just don’t exist. (OK — I once had an angry, feminist graduate student who wore the same gray cords everyday and was not washing her hair so as to conduct an ongoing entomological experiment on how many species of insects she could nurture on her scalp. But the exception proves the rule.)

Chicago blogs are chirping away about Tony Rezko’s meetings with the federal prosecutor. Tony is singing like a songbird. You’d think that the electronic media would be more interested in what Tony might be saying than in how much it cost Sarah Palin to fly her children to state events, something every other Alaskan governor seems to have done.

Tony, you will remember, was Barack Obama’s financial mentor, the guy who subsidized the purchase of Obama’s Hyde Park mansion, and the guy who created the “pay for play” hospital construction scheme that was the end result of legislation Obama sponsored in the Illinois legislature.

Tony was overdrawn $450,000 at a Chicago bank with alleged ties to organized crime. You’d think CNN might send Anderson Cooper to Chicago to investigate why the bank doesn’t have the same kind of check verification technology you encounter at your local supermarket.

And here is another hint for Anderson’s story: What Illinois senator, currently seeking higher office, kept his senatorial campaign funds there and why? Rest assured, it wasn’t because he enjoyed the rush-hour commute across town from his Hyde Park mansion to make deposits.
But maybe CNN and the rest of the electronic media won’t send anyone to Chicago because it is blowing its investigative budget flying reporters to Alaska to explore why anyone would fire a public safety director who refused to dismiss a state trooper who tasered a twelve year old boy — a trooper who was reported to be drunk while on duty, and who allegedly threatened someone’s life. Now, there is a story we all can believe in — “Troopergate.”

Obama gets a pass because nothing is more important to the electronic media than getting Obama elected. Obama gets a pass on Bill Ayers because, at some level, most of the people in the media business can identify with what Ayers did. That’s why they won’t even mention the Weather Underground’s planned bombing of the Fort Dix dance. That’s why the name “Diana Oughton,” the naïve girl who became Ayers’ revolutionary partner and lover and who blew herself up in the Manhattan townhouse bomb factory, is never mentioned in any report on Ayers. This despite Diana’s story being well known, as a result of award-winning journalist Thomas Power’s book, Diana: The Making of a Terrorist.

Let’s face reality: If Bill Ayers had been blowing up black churches and belonged to some neo-Nazi organization, do you think his long-time association with someone who might be the next president would be so cavalierly dismissed? Do you think that Dean Stanley Fish of the University of Illinois would consider penning a letter on behalf of some non-repentant neo-Nazi? Imagine if that neo-Nazi had said: “I did not do enough bombings. I did not kill enough blacks.”

The left is so wrapped up in its own high-minded sophistry that it is incapable of distinguishing between being self-righteous and being politically obscene. There is no difference between fascism and communism. They are two sides of the same totalitarian currency. They lead to the same excesses. Yet, communism is palatable to the point of being chic, while fascism is appropriately despised.

The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was as natural an alliance as one between Britain and the United States. The media’s failure to see Ayers as indistinguishable from the terrorists who bombed the Birmingham Church is a poignant and terrible commentary on where journalism — especially electronic journalism – is today.

Bias exists not only in the obvious such as what we are told and how it is told to us, but also in what we are not told.

As the electronic media plows its resources into examining Sarah Palin’s wardrobe and repeats Democratic talking points as news, more important subjects for real investigative reporters are ignored. What was Obama’s role in Rezko’s pay-for-play scheme? What did Rezko expect in return for the $300,000 subsidy for Obama’s Hyde Park mansion? What is Rezko now telling the federal prosecutor?

Also, is it merely coincidental that Weather Underground leader Bernardine Dohrn (Mrs. William Ayers) worked at the same law firm as Michelle Obama? How far back does the relationship with William Ayers go and how close is it? And does the relationship stem from both seeing America through similar ideological prisms, one based on hate, and the other — as Michelle Obama so clearly articulated — based on shame?

Don’t hold your breath for answers.

Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science and a former head of the Intelligence Studies Section of the International Studies Association.


By Ann Coulter
October 29, 2008

As the case of Ashley Todd reminded us again last week, racial bias crimes are almost always hoaxes. Todd is the Republican volunteer who claimed that a black man in Pittsburgh had pummeled her and carved a "B" into her cheek after spotting the "McCain-Palin" bumper stickers on her car.

A lot of people suspected the case was a hoax from the outset, including Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, who immediately said: "It could be bogus. I'm a little skeptical about this, but our duty ... is to report everything to you."

The claim was bogus, but on MSNBC, instead of citing the Todd case as further proof of the maxim "Never believe claims of racial bias until proved," the hoax hate crime led to somber discussions of -- you guessed it! -- racism in America.

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann histrionically described Todd's hoax as "a narrative straight out of Reconstruction-era, race-based fear-mongering: a black man, 6-foot, 4-inches, attacking, sexually assaulting, fondling, mutilating a young white woman."

His expert pontificator on race was The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson, who said the Pittsburgh hoax was "the blood libel against black men concerning the defilement of the flower of Caucasian womanhood. It's been with us for hundreds of years and, apparently, is still with us."

Robinson was last heard from on the subject of race crimes in his famous April 25, 2006, Post column melodramatically saying of the Duke lacrosse rape case: "It's impossible to avoid thinking of all the black women who were violated by drunken white men in the American South over the centuries. The master-slave relationship, the tradition of droit du seigneur, the use of sexual possession as an instrument of domination -- all this ugliness floods the mind, unbidden, and refuses to leave."

Note to Mr. Robinson: There's a pill you can take for that now. Makes those endless, incessant thoughts of interracial rape just go away. Ask your doctor if this new pill is right for you.

As is now well-known, the alleged gang rape of a black stripper by white lacrosse players never happened. At least Ashley Todd's hoax didn't almost ruin an actual person's life.

Meanwhile, back at Hoax Interpretation Central, Olbermann spent most of October issuing blistering denunciations of John McCain and Sarah Palin based on the claim that someone had yelled "Kill him!" in reference to Obama at a Palin campaign rally.

"There's a fine line between a smear campaign and an incitement to violence," Olbermann lectured. "If Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin have not previously crossed it this week, today even, they most certainly did."

One of Olbermann's many guest-hysterics was Newsweek's Richard Wolffe. Equally excited, Wolffe said it was "no excuse" that McCain and Palin couldn't hear what the crowd was shouting because "what you're seeing here is a very conscious attempt to paint Obama as un-American, as unpatriotic and, yes, cohorting, consorting with what they call, 'domestic terrorists.'"

(Liberals indignantly reject the label "domestic terrorists" for former Weathermen, preferring to call them "future Cabinet members.")

After beating the "Kill him!" story to death for a week, Olbermann delivered one of his comical "Special Comments" about the incident. "You, Sen. McCain," he pompously announced, "are not only a fraud, sir, but you are tacitly inciting lunatics to violence."

Olbermann demanded that McCain cease campaigning: "Suspend your campaign now until you or somebody else gets some control over it. And it ceases to be a clear and present danger to the peace of this nation."

Anything else, Keith? Should I just concede the election now -- or would next week be all right? While I'm up, can I get you a sandwich? How about a hot towel?

As has now been conclusively established, no one ever shouted "Kill him!" at a Palin campaign rally. The Secret Service undertook a full investigation -- listening to tapes of the event, interviewing people who had attended the rally, and interrogating Secret Service and other law enforcement officers who were spread throughout the crowd.

As even an article on the crazy, left-wing, don't-make-any-sudden-moves-around-them Salon site noted: "The Secret Service takes this sort of thing very, very seriously. If it says it doesn't think anyone shouted 'kill him,' it's a good bet that it didn't happen."

While we're on the subject of massive deceptions, Olbermann regularly has Chris Kofinis on his show to talk about the sleaziness of Republican candidates. But why has Olbermann never asked this former communications director of John Edwards' campaign about the hoax Edwards was pulling running for president as a family man with a sick wife while carrying on an extramarital affair?

What were they planning to do if Edwards got the nomination? Claim that Rielle Hunter's baby was fathered by a black man?

Having helped promote massive hoaxes that lasted for weeks in the case of "Kill him!" and years in the case of the Duke lacrosse case, you would think liberals would go easy on the crocodile tears over a 24-hour hoax by an obviously disturbed girl in Pittsburgh.

Today's Tune: Chris Knight - Heart of Stone (Live)

(Click on title to play video)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Getting to the heart of Chris Knight's songs

By Grant Alden
October 1, 2008

This is all about Chris Knight and why you should listen to his new album, the one called Heart Of Stone, and why it may be the best album he's ever made even if nobody much cares at this point. But it's a long story, and it digresses some.

It begins here: After sixteen months in Los Angeles, I flew to Nashville blind and rented an apartment in Tusculum, at the edge of town, from an old man named Guy P. He had lost his wife to cancer, and so he looked for people to talk to, but he warned me that he heard poorly and I should take care not to creep up behind him because he'd think I was Charley, and he might kill me. He was a big man, a powerful man, even in his 70s.

I lived in one of two apartments above a three-car garage in his back yard. He'd built the garage to work on his RVs and his trucks and whatever else kept him sane, and the original apartment had been meant to house his son and his son's new wife, only the boy had a heart attack and a stroke, and the new wife, a nurse, left.

As we got to know each other a little, I heard a few stories, mostly having to do with his capacity for rage – doors he'd splintered at the Veterans' Administration and his attempts at suicide, which included gnawing through an IV. I never complained when he found it necessary to completely disassemble a pickup truck beneath my bedroom one night, swearing at each bolt as it added another bruise to his hands.

Does this make clear that I liked him, though I knew on a bad day he might do me harm? I did. He tried hard to be a good man, and managed best he could by his lights. Another story: He left his wallet at the bank, and a customer followed him until she got his attention and gave it back. So he bought her dinner, insisted on it, even though, as Guy P. put it, she was colored.

He is, in short, exactly the sort of fellow who dwells in Chris Knight's songs: Angry, conflicted, self-destructive, and unexpectedly self-aware.

Guy P.'s rules for his tenants were simple: No loud parties, no wimmin stayin' overnight. Since I knew nobody, this did not seem to be a problem. Later, when his insurance company had reason to look at the place and told him it could house only one tenant, I managed – as we sometimes tell the story, nearly ten years later – to get married ahead of the eviction notice.

A few days after Maggie was born five and a half years ago, I ran into Guy at Lowe's, but we did not speak; rather, I walked the other way, and did not intrude. He was in a wheelchair, having finally yielded both feet to diabetes, as he had yielded his sanity to two tours in Vietnam. That first stint, he said, involved a detachment to the CIA, who employed him as the first man out of the helicopter door – he'd been a paratrooper, a farm boy from Pennsylvania – when rescuing downed pilots in Cambodia, where the U.S. officially was not dropping bombs.

The second song on Knight's new album, "Hell Ain't Half Full," isn't about that. But it could be.

When Guy P. built his son's apartment, he had apparently forgotten to leave room to run the plumbing. Which was only a problem if one forgot that the living room was a step up so as to accommodate all those pipes. Somehow that step made that space, which was the Nashville office of No Depression for some years, not entirely stable.

And that's how I came to hear Chris Knight, see. One of the publicists I trusted, one of the few freelancers who chose clients on merit not money, had sent me a four-song cassette tape of his demos. Part of what came to be called The Trailer Tapes, part of which finally came out, fixed up some by Ray Kennedy, in 2007.

The tape fell on the floor, or the whole stack of them did, and for whatever reason – because it had the right business card on it, I suppose – I put it in, and went back to work. And then my head spun back, for there was this song: "If I Were You", a sharply written morality play, a short story in song form, a gut-wrenching bit of unflinching social commentary. It was and is an amazing piece of work.

If not a blessing, for it is not entirely clear that Chris Knight has written or will write another song that good. Or, maybe, having heard that, we now expect it of him and are less receptive to anything else, and can no longer be surprised by the eloquent bleakness of his vision.

Anyhow, Knight had played at the Bluebird and had come to the attention of Frank Liddell, who signed him to a publishing deal, and then Liddell came to have an A&R job at Decca, so he signed Knight, which might have been a mistake for all parties because Chris Knight is one hell of a songwriter, but surely to goodness nobody ever thought he'd be a country star.

At least nobody paying attention. Which included Liddell, but there they both were in the belly of the beast taking the best shot they could aim.

So Decca sent out this four-song cassette to acquaint writers with Chris Knight, whose songs split the difference between John Prine and Steve Earle, and then, in 1998, released a self-titled album which Liddell co-produced but which somehow didn't include Knight's best song, "If I Were You." It didn't fit, no matter how they recorded it, Liddell told me, and I believed him. Still do. But.

(But...they should have made an album on which that song fit. Only then it would have been too much John Prine and not enough...whatever was selling that season. Ah, well.)

It isn't a bad album, but it has a jaunty, uptempo beat that is clearly at odds with what the songs are saying, and all the guitars say everything's going to be OK while the words make it pretty clear that's not the case.

Apparently they thought Chris Knight could be a country star. They shot a video for the lead single, "It Ain't Easy Being Me". They saddled him with a band of strangers, and one night I drove down Nolensville Road to the old Jack's Guitar Bar to hear that band walk through a bunch of songs that only Chris cared about, and it was clear he was uncomfortable and even more clear that he hadn't learned yet how to work with a band. Especially a band of strangers.

(I note while fact-checking that lists a 1994 album, apparently titled Chris Knight And the Midnight Gypsies, on the SPV label, so maybe he had led a band before, maybe he arrived in Nashville a little less rough around the edges than he seemed the day we had lunch at Brown's Diner.)

Which isn't to say Knight hasn't gotten enough country cuts to make it worth keeping a mailbox: Randy Travis, Blake Shelton, Ty Herndon, Montgomery Gentry, and the Great Divide.


Knight didn't make any more albums for Decca, which folded back into MCA. He made two for Dualtone (the first one has a version of "If I Were You" on it), and has made three more (counting the The Trailer Tapes, which I guess was technically made for or at least paid for by Decca) for Drifter's Church.

They're all here, sprawled on my desk, along with a couple bootlegs of demos that went around Nashville because I wasn't the only one who thought he was somehow special, that his songs could explode at any good moment.

For a long time I thought Chris Knight was my James Talley, immortalized by Peter Guralnick in his irreplaceable Lost Highway. Talley made some albums for Capitol, came to the attention of Jimmy Carter, and played one of Carter's inaugural balls. I always felt like the Talley piece lodged in Lost Highway was a crumb left behind for those of us stubborn enough to follow it, that it was the one place where Talley would be remembered and rediscovered.

And so when we published the first anthology of stories from ND, I insisted (against no complaint) that Knight be there. Because I want him to be remembered.

All of which is a too-long preface, too much explanation for a website when the whole game here is quickly to get you to listen to his new album, to remind you that Heart Of Stone is in the marketplace and that Chris Knight is still worth listening to. Increasingly worth listening to.

Heart Of Stone pairs Knight again with long-ago Georgia Satellite Dan Baird, who produced (or co-produced) both Dualtone albums. I would have bet Knight would ultimately settle into being an acoustic songwriter, closer to John Prine than a rocker like "Copperhead Road"-era Steve Earle, but as with many things, I was wrong.

His songs are still far too grim for country radio, but for the first time he sounds really comfortable singing in front of the kind of rocking country band which is now the norm. (It is, incidentally, a first-cabin band, with Mike McAdam and Baird on guitars, Michael Grande on drums, Keith Christopher on bass and Tammy Rogers on various strings and backup vocals.) You could hear some of these songs on country radio in other hands, played a little faster with happier guitars chiming in.

Slipped in at the ninth track is a song called "Maria", which goes back to those Trailer Tapes. It hasn't changed a bit – hasn't been revisited, rewritten, reimagined – though it's better played, and fits quite comfortably among his current work.

You'll have to slip past the opening track, a perfunctory bit of brunt bragging about the road warrior's life ("Homesick Gypsy," one of the songs you might imagine as Tim McGraw album cut). "Hell Ain't Half Full," a co-write with Gary Nicholson (who produced the last one, Enough Rope), is exactly the kind of scarred emotional territory Knight draws far too well:

Get up in the morning
Fall out of bed
Go down to the basement
Cook up a little meth
All the young folks love it
Coming back for more
Ain't it good to be working
Got your foot in the door.

Well, now. That seems a pretty solid liberal critique, something the Bottle Rockets might have cut a decade ago.

And then the next stanza:

They chased God and Jesus
Out of our schools
And everybody's living
By their own set of rules
Yeah, they're preaching on the corner
Nothing good to say
Better think of something boy
Come the judgment day.

Hard to know what Knight believes, how much of that is simply a very good character study. Either way, it's a fascinating song. A hell of a song. A hellbound train wreck of a song.

One more lyrical fragment, this from the title track:

Well I got drunk with Daddy just the other night
He said he was glad to see I turned out all right
I hear people saying like father like son
I don't think about it much but I worry about it some.

That last line, more than the broken cars and broken hearts which populate all of Knight's albums...that last line...yeah. I live on the other side of Kentucky from Slaughters, where Knight is from, and I'm still and always will be a foreigner in these parts. But that last line, I know that guy. Most of the men I know have spent their whole adult lives trying not to be that guy, one way or another.

Nah, one more stanza, which might serve as my momentary mantra:

Well I used to run from the past
But the world got to spinning so fast
I run from the future now
I run as fast as I can
Trying to be a simple man
I just want to slow down.

Interview: Chris Knight
10.23.2008 -- Written by: C. Eric Banister

Chris Knight recently released his fifth album, Heart of Stone. It is filled with the kind of thought provoking observations of rural life in modern America that Knight has become known for. Dogged since the beginning by comparisons to Steve Earle and John Mellencamp, Knight has carved out a niche of his own with stories of characters doing what they need to do to survive, whether that action is right or wrong. In “Hell Ain’t Half Full” Knight talks of people assembling meth labs in their basement justifying it by the hard economic times. He confronts the greed of our times in “Another Dollar” and longs for a better place in “Go On Home.” The story songs Knight has become known for are still around in “Danville” and “Crooked Road” and they are classic Chris Knight placing you in the shoes of the people he is singing about.

We recently had the opportunity to talk with Knight about songwriting, playing live and what’s next.

Americana Roots: Aside from “Crooked Road,” which you’ve been playing for a while, had you been playing any of the new songs live before you recorded the album?

Chris Knight: Not with the band. I play “Miles To Memphis” and “My Old Cars” occasionally, but not very often.

AR: Do you have a preference of playing the band gigs or the solo shows?

CK: Well, right now I’m likin’ the band shows, but I’ve got a string of acoustic shows coming up. Me and Chris Clark are going out doing those starting next week.

AR: The songs that ended up on the album, did you have all of those written or did you write any in the studio?

CK: No, I had a list of songs. We cut about 15 songs and picked 12. It’s always struck me as kind of strange, making a record before you have the songs done.

AR: A lot of the reviews for this record mention that the content of these songs aren’t maybe as dark as some of your early songs. Do you feel like people, especially critics, tend to forget about the middle albums and focus too much on the first album?

CK: I don’t know. I never thought my first album was dark. I don’t think any of them are that dark. I mean, people that like to read, I write songs like I would write books if I was a novelist. It’s never been something that is that big a deal to me to write a story song with something real happening in it, but everybody got off on all this dark business.

AR: It seems like the people that talk about that pick out a song or two on the album and disregard the rest as far as themes go.

CK: The only ones I can think of are “Framed,” and “Framed” is not really dark. There’s “William” and the rest of them are just songs. Nothing too bad happens in them, I don’t think.

AR: Another theme that seemed to pop out at me was there seemed to be a little more of a spiritual light to a couple of the songs, like “Go On Home” and “Hell Ain’t Half Full.” Is that something that comes from your upbringing or was it a conscious decision to work that in? Even going back to “Saved By Love” from Enough Rope.

CK: Yeah, I guess it goes back to my upbringing. I guess “Hell Ain’t Half Full” and Go On Home”… well, you go back to Pretty Good Guy it’s got “The Lord’s Highway” on it and “Send A Boat.” It’s just easy for me to put a little religion into what I write. It’s part of life. “Hell Ain’t Half Full” is kind of like a sermon put to music. That’s what I think. It’s a preacher just hammering on it. Basically if you went into a Pentecostal church you’d probably hear the same thing. Or a Southern Baptist church, that’s what you’d be hearing. It’s another one of those things I think about, so I put it in a song.

AR: I had read before the album came out that you said that the topics on this album were directed a little more inward…

CK: Yeah, I guess I did, especially on “Go On Home” and “Hell Ain’t Half Full.”

AR: Was that a conscious decision to move away from the story songs a little bit into a more topical area?

CK: Yeah, a little bit. Also, I had been writing some songs and got them together and looked at them and said this is the best 12 songs I’ve got, right here. I went into the studio and recorded them with the same spirit in mind and come out with a cohesive record.

AR: Do you ever run into a problem of people associating you and the characters in a song a little too closely?

CK: It’s not really a problem. Some people tend to believe that I’ve done everything in my songs. I don’t care, let ‘em believe.

AR: I had wondered because, and this is kind of the opposite case, but I’ve heard people that didn’t care for “Home Sick Gypsy” because in it the character says he has a different girl in every town and that didn’t fit with the image that those fans had of you as a person.

CK: That’s the character in the song, that’s the “Homesick Gypsy.” That’s the cliché of being on the road. If you’re going to write a road song, why don’t you write that? Why don’t you write the cliché of the rock star being on the road? And I’ve written lots of road songs.

AR: You co-wrote a couple of the songs with Dan Baird?

CK: Yeah, “Heart of Stone…” and going back to our previous thing, our Daddy didn’t leave us either, like “Heart of Stone.” I ain’t never been in jail, except for five hours one time, so “Maria’s” not true either. The records just a bunch of lies, I guess.

AR: Well, I wouldn’t say lies. When I listen to your stuff I think of the quote by Merle Haggard where he said to him good songwriting is just good reporting. That to me is what you do.

CK: There’s just all kinds of stuff that you write about. You don’t write about every single thing you do or every single thing you think. Sometimes you write about what somebody else thinks, what you think somebody else thinks or what you’ve seen somebody do or heard about somebody doing or something you thought about doing but never did or you think you could do it in the right circumstance. You write about that.

AR: You also co-wrote one of the songs on Dan Baird’s new album (“Well Enough Alone” from Baird’s recently released Dan Baird & Homemade Sin). Did that come out of a writing session or your time in the studio?

CK: It was right before Dan went in to cut his record and right after we wrote “Heart of Stone.” He had a title and we wrote about a verse of it then he told me to take it home and finish it. I went home and wrote two or three more verses to it and a chorus and he liked it, took it in and recorded it.

AR: When you go out on the road solo, do you work up different arrangements for some of the songs?

CK: Yeah, some of them I’ll finger-pick instead of strumming or whatever. It just depends on what I think. Songs like “Devil Behind the Wheel” or “Old Man,” a lot of times I’ll just fingerpick those songs just to break up the monotony. Sometimes I’ll play a song half time. Chris Clarke is going out with me and he’ll be playing mandolin and accordion, acoustic guitar, so I’m looking forward to that.

AR: Does that take a little more time to arrange or…

CK: Naa, we’re not arrangin’ nothing, we’ll just get out there and play. He plays the same stuff full-band, too. He’ll grab his accordion and play, and he plays mandolin on a few songs.

AR: Last year you released Trailer Tapes. Were you surprised at the response you got to that?

CK: Yeah, I guess. I just never thought much about those recordings being that big a deal, myself. But I’m glad people liked them. I can see why they did. I’d be all over something John Prine or Steve Earle did back before they put out an album. Like a live show or something they recorded before their first album; that would be real interesting to me.

AR: Do you think you’ll ever record a live album?

CK: I’ve been thinking about it. Hopefully in a year, year and a half I’ll be going into the studio for a new album, but I’m also thinking about the live thing. I wouldn’t mind to have someone out recording here and there to possibly get some real good full-band stuff, to have some stuff to pick and choose from.

AR: Since you’ve been on your own does it feel easier than when you were on Dualtone?

CK: Yeah, I guess it has. I mean, Dualtone was pretty easy, too. They were pretty laidback and wanted me to go do whatever it was that I wanted to do. Same thing here. We just leased those records to Dualtone so we have those all back. Me and my manager own those records, but after the two records we decided that we could do anything an independent label can do, so we kind of cut out the record company. We cut out the third party ‘cause we had access to everything – publicity, distribution, everything. There was really no reason to go on a smaller label whenever we could do it ourselves.
AR: And you’re still getting cuts by mainstream country artists…

CK: I’m still getting a few. I think the last one I had was Blake Shelton, “It Ain’t Easy Being Me.” There might be some more in the works out there, I don’t know.

AR: What did you think of Blake’s version?

CK: I thought it sounded good. Didn’t sound like a hit, didn’t sound like a radio song, but I liked it, it sounded good.