Tag Archives: Current Events

R.I.P. Tom Clancy

What to say about the passing of Tom Clancy?

Well, first, he was no Elmore Leonard, whose passing a few weeks ago was a huge loss. Leonard was a great stylist, a keen observer, and a master plotter. His stories were lean and mean until the end, and he had a knack for throwing unexpected events into his novels that you never saw coming, but made perfect sense when you looked at it in context of the story.

(I’m saying this now because I was in the throes of blogging apathy when Leonard died, and never gave him a proper sendoff in this forum.)

One of Clancy's two best novels, IMHO.  The other is Executive Orders.

One of Clancy’s two best novels, IMHO. The other is Executive Orders.

Clancy’s work probably outsold Leonard’s, but then he practically invented the genre of the technothriller. And if he didn’t, one of my Facebook friends commented earlier, then he certainly made it a popular genre and refined it to the n-th degree.

Unlike Leonard, Clancy got a little lazy in his later years. His success enabled him to purchase part ownership of the Baltimore Orioles, and I’m sure that took up much of his time. At one point he went seven years between releasing a novel, and when he did, astute readers noticed that it had been written as a collaboration with another author. All of the novels he has released since then have been in collaboration with one of three other writers. One of those, a title called Search and Destroy, was cancelled by Clancy’s publisher prior to release. I always meant to put on what’s left of my Journalist’s Hat and try to find out why, but never did.

(I picked up on this before the book’s release, and my original post about it, along with the ensuing series on Ghostwriting it inspired, has proven to be one of the top draws to this site.)

Chock the ghostwriters up to “old author’s syndrome”, wherein an aging author reaches the point that ideas are more plentiful than the time to write them, and so they get farmed out to a competent lesser-known writer who can match the spirit and style. This isn’t a new thing – Arthur C. Clarke, Anne McCafferey, and Clive Cussler count among those who have done this, and if you look carefully at the new releases, you’ll see others – even younger successful authors – doing this now.

Like all popular authors, Clancy also succumbed to King’s Bloat – a publisher-inflicted disorder in which editors are too busy and/or scared to edit the work of an author who has become an 800 pound gorilla, and subsequent manuscripts suffer in quality as a result. I loved Executive Orders, but it could have lost some wordage and been even better. The last Clancy novel I tried to read was The Bear and the Dragon, and I felt it was such a mess that I never finished reading it (I can’t say if Clancy’s three ghostwriting collaborators put him into a Word Watchers program to take off some of that weight – I might have to pick up one of the newer ones to see). For me, the best of the pre-bloat Clancy came in The Cardinal of the Kremlin, in which Clancy proved that he could shuck aside a lot of the tech stuff and write what was basically a darn good spy novel.

So the industry that was Tom Clancy has left us, and there’s nobody that I can see on the horizon that could take his place. Perhaps that’s a good thing. And no, I’m not even going to try. I’m still struggling to become the first Joe Clifford Faust.

Handwriting is on the Wall

I have just heard the news that cursive writing will no longer be taught in Ohio schools, making it the third state to abandon the skill (behind Indiana and Hawaii). The keyboard is king now, the thinking goes, making unnecessary a discipline that teaches manual dexterity at the fine motor level. In these modern times we live in, cursive is slowly being traded as a youth-learned skill in favor of manipulation of a joystick.

That’s pretty sad. We’re slowly losing something useful, something that was a rite of passage in our schooling, and something that serves as a unique identifier and perhaps even a mirror of our personality.

I say this in spite of my never having really gotten the hang of cursive. My penmanship was wobbly and inconsistent, and I always had to labor at it. Printing worked better for me, probably since I did an unusual amount of writing as a kid before the cursive lessons started. I was actually faster at printing, and over the years, my printing evolved into it’s own kind of cursive, though it doesn’t look anything like when I try to write in cursive. It’s neither writing nor printing, but it is distinctive.

Quality cursive is a subjective thing anyway. Two of my oldest friends vary widely in the quality of their penmanship. One has a tight, elegant, kind of writing that resembles a city skyline. It’s amazing looking and could be a font. The other writes in broad, palsied, wavy lines that look like Charles Schulz’s lettering in the last few years of his life. Even his printing is sad looking. But both are enormously successful in their respective fields.

What always amazed me was how cursive seemed to cookie cutter the handwriting of girls. Our cursive system turned out millions of girls who wrote with broad, loopy writing, the kind that seemed to encourage the dotting of “i’s” with tiny hearts or flowers. Being a callow youth, I immediately judged girls on this kind of penmanship, and I never dated anyone whose writing looked like that.

In fact, my wife has the most amazing handwriting I’ve ever seen. It took me a couple of years to be able to read it on the first pass. Her letters are long and thin and slant off to the right like a field of wheat bending in a breeze. The loops she pens are gracefully thin and tight, with just enough space inside to distinguish one letter from another. It’s graceful and compact and is as unique as she is.

My children, on the other hand, were educated during the ascendancy of the keyboard, and interestingly enough, they both lean more toward printing than any brand of cursive. Further, what training they did get in cursive managed to generify their penmanship, and their styles of printwriting are remarkably similar. Both have a practiced signature, but it consists mostly of straight lines occasionally interrupted by a loop. But as their father, I can tell them apart.

Perhaps it’s time for cursive to go, given how keyboards now dominate our lives. But that’s not a good thing. It was a good discipline to learn. It gave you a unique marker beyond the fingerprint. From personal experience, I can say that writing by hand gives you a more intimate connection with the words in your head. For most of the novels I’m working on or have planned, I already have opening scenes written by hand (including the soon-to-be-released The Mushroom Shift, which was the first time I wrote a first chapter by hand).

Time and progress leave things behind, and for better or worse cursive is looking more and more like a dinosaur. However, being modern has its price. I can’t imagine Sullivan Ballou’s letter or the train station scene in Casablanca being improved by a laser printed missive in perfect 12-point Times New Roman.

Harry Potter to Enter 21st Century?

I don’t know how long she’s been saying “No”, but J.K. Rowling has gotten a reputation for being something of a luddite when it comes to her novels about a certain boy with a scar on his forehead. Words like “never” were batted about when it came to asking when her Harry Potter series would be released in an eBook format. I’m not sure of her reasoning, unless it was that “the book as a tactile experience you can’t get on an eReader” thing.

Well, that was her decision.

But now, according to this article on thebookseller.com, all of that may be changing.

I’m not sure of the reason for this. The cynic in me tends to think that perhaps the publishers pointed out how much money Ms. Rowling was missing out on (read: how much money they were missing out on – since Rowling is poised to or has already become the first billionaire author, I’m sure money has lost some of its lure).

But another part of me thinks that she looked at the fact that, in light of the Harry Potter theme park to be opening in Florida next month, holding out on eBooks suddenly looked rather silly.

Anyway, if this is true, congrats to J.K. on her change of heart.

WORD WATCH: Distraction Explosives

Commuting in to work this morning, I heard an interesting term.

The announcer said that a hostage situation had been resolved when a SWAT team used “distraction explosives”.

I smiled and “flashbang” spilled out of my lips.

In other words, they used an M84 grenade on the hostage holder. Also known as a Flashbang.

Relax. It’s permanently set to stun (and is also called a “stun grenade), and is considered a nonlethal weapon.

Distraction explosive. Heh.

Battle of the Super Bowl Ads, 2010 Edition

Tiger Woods and the Hugh Grant Maneuver

Here’s a little something I wrote for the blog where I work. I was so pleased with the result that I decided to share it with all of you lucky folks, too. H/T to Dan Sonnier for most of the jokes and the link to the CG.

Just in time for Christmas, America is enjoying a steaming bowl of Schadenfreude — and the unfortunate person getting stuck with the bill is Tiger Woods. I’m going to assume you haven’t been living in a cave or been in a coma and will spare you the details. But you know things are getting bad when the jokes start. And start they have:

  • What’s the difference between a car and a golf ball? Tiger can drive a ball 400 yards.
  • Tiger Woods wasn’t seriously injured in the crash, but he’s still below par.
  • Tiger crashed into a fire hydrant and a tree. He couldn’t decide between a wood and an iron.
  • I don’t know how Elin putts, but it’s clear she can’t seem to hit the driver.
  • Actually, her short game is bad – she can only hit woods.
  • And don’t miss this little bit of Internet spoofery on the subject.

The whole situation has even brought this interesting use for CG graphics to light.

So while Tiger talks of transgressions and generally tries to avoid the subject, you know that someone in the Woods camp, be it a handler or manager, has uttered the three words nobody wants to hear: Public Relations Nightmare.

How does one handle such a situation? Commentator and columnist Larry Kudlow, who has seen his share of bad times, gives the best suggestion I’ve seen, but to me it’s merely a good start. It doesn’t go far enough to staunch the flow of tabloid headlines and begin to rebuild the good will that has fled the Tiger Woods brand.

What would I do if Tiger (or, let’s face it, his proxy) were sitting on the other side of my desk asking for my advice?

I would say, “Tiger needs to perform the Hugh Grant maneuver.”

The what?

It works like this. In 1995, the career of actor Hugh Grant was in full swing and he was dating one of the world’s most desirable women (Elizabeth Hurley) when the LAPD literally caught him with his pants down in the company of a common street prostitute. On the eve of the release of his latest film, his wholesome image was instantly tarnished.

What did Grant do? As part of the promotional tour for the film, he had scheduled an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He kept the appointment and made his appearance before a doubtlessly skeptical audience that wasn’t sure what to expect.

Leno’s first question? “What the hell were you thinking?”

Then Grant, in a clearly embarrassed and contrite manner, dismissed advice he had been given to spin what happened, took his lumps from Leno, and said, “I did a bad thing.”

Just like that he was forgiven because, hey, we’ve all been there in one way or another. While the film Grant was promoting didn’t do well (it may have had something to do with the fact that it was a clunker from the start), his career survived, with performances that often draw comparisons to Cary Grant. And his relationship with Hurley? It lasted another five years before they parted.

So Mr. Publicist? Tell Tiger to stop hiding behind smoke and mirror statements on his web site and behind polysyllabic words like “transgressions.” Call a sin a sin. Book him on Jay Leno and let Jay ask him The Question. And tell him to answer with candor and honesty.

Hugh Grant was just a British actor. Tiger Woods is an American legend. As we showed with Grant, we’re willing to forgive a lot. That goes double for our heroes. But first he needs to come clean.

More on The Hugh Grant Maneuver:

Watch Jay Leno grill Hugh Grant

Read about Grant’s arrest and image rehabilitation

Was That The Way He Was?

The Drudge Report is now linking to a news story about a former employee of post-retirement Walter Cronkite who is currently shopping around a posthumous “nasty tell-all book” about America’s most beloved newsman. Supposedly, the tome paints a picture of a Cronkite much different than the one we had come see as “the most trusted person in America.”

But is the book accurate? Or is it a rough fabrication? Through my professional contacts, I have come up with a copy of the first draft, and even though it could get me in trouble, I am releasing it here, now, so you can judge for yourself. Is this just an attempt at character assassination by a disgruntled former employee? Or was Walter Cronkite really not the person we thought he was?

Election night 1968 hit Cronkite hard. Eleven months before, at the end of the Tet Offensive, he had taken it upon himself to declare that the war in VietNam was now “unwinnable” following this “disaster for the United States.” But the declaration had not ended the war as he had hoped. Worse, his preferred Presidential candidate, Robert F. Kennedy, was now in his grave, Lyndon Johnson had declined to run for a second term of office, and the Democratic party had fielded Vice President Hubert Humphrey against Republican Richard Nixon, with disastrous effect. Nixon was elected in an electoral landslide by a public weary of the war that Cronkite had helped to demonize.

Facing at least four years of Republican rule, Cronkite immediately took to the bottle. “As soon as the election was called,” said Dan Rather, “he reached for the bottom drawer of his desk. We all knew what was coming after that.”

Rather says that he helped his mentor finish off the bottle of “newsman’s courage” (really Wild Turkey) but it wasn’t enough. Cronkite borrowed the keys to his assistant’s souped up Ford Mustang, and they went tearing down the streets of New York City, looking for open bars.

The first place they hit was trying to close for the night, but Cronkite had entrenched himself on a stool next to a trio of Pan Am flight attendants. He wouldn’t move until he was served, and the bartender greased the wheels of his departure by offering him a couple of unopened bottles of vodka.

Cronkite and Rather left the bar, each with a bottle in one hand and a stewardess in the other. “Walt kept trying to get his to chug from the bottle,” Rather said. “He kept telling her he wanted show her ‘how that’s the way it is.'”

The third stewardess drove while Cronkite killed the rest of his bottle in the back seat with his evening’s companion. Rather’s stewardess produced a series of Thai sticks, and the quintet was soon passing those around, too. They hit a couple of after-hours clubs on their rounds, adding a large bottle of Jack Daniels to their cache, using it to wash down the Benzedrine supplied by Cronkite’s escort.

The real trouble didn’t start until one stewardess started having trouble keeping down the meal of eggs and corned beef hash she had eaten when they stopped at an all-night greasy spoon. She leaned out the window of the Mustang and sprayed the Manhattan streets with undigested food while Cronkite, now at the wheel, hit speeds of up to 90 miles an hour.

Looking for something to wipe off her mouth, the stew opened the glove compartment to find the Smith and Wesson .38 Police Special that Cronkite’s assistant, a former NYC cop, kept there. Cronkite immediately had an idea, and sometime around 4:30 a.m., slammed the Ford to a stop near the low-rent end of the theater district and led the others into an alleyway, where he kicked over garbage cans looking for “rats and other Republicans.”

The third stewardess tried to talk Cronkite out of this, but he insisted he was a crack shot with a handgun, claiming that he had learned to shoot from Edward R. Murrow himself. When a suitable target could not be found, he talked his stewardess friend into standing up against a brick wall with the mostly-empty whiskey bottle on her head. A few bleary attempts to aim later, he finally heeded the cries of the third stewardess. “You’re right,” he slurred. “that Jack in there is making the bottle wiggle.” He then gulped the last of the Jack Daniels down before placing the bottle on the head of his volunteer.

From this point on, details of the story get fuzzy. Police reports indicate that three rounds were fired from the revolver. One shot is known to have grazed the length of Cronkite’s outer right leg, and fragments from the bullet’s ricochet on the concrete embedded themselves in the newscaster’s right foot, giving him the limp he would work to conceal for the rest of his life. Another of the shots is alleged to have been fired when Cronkite spotted a “Nixon’s The One!” sign on a passing bus.

The third shot, of course, was the infamous one, wherein Cronkite took boozy aim, squinted hard as the transparent bottle blended in with the brick wall, pulled back the hammer, and gave a sloppy jerk to the trigger.

Fact or fabrication? The decision is yours!

Michael Jackson: Three Questions and Two Observations

I suppose every other blogger in the world is writing something about Michael Jackson right now, and why should I be any different. But I’d like to think that I’m taking a somewhat different approach. Rather than focusing on blah blah blah no matter what you thought he was an influential icon blah blah blah, I’d like to share some thoughts about what kind of impact that his death (note I didn’t say “tragic” or “early” or “unexpected”, as I suspect these all may be disproven in weeks to come) will have on our popular culture from this point forward.

Not that I’m an expert on popular culture. But in this case, I happen to have written a novel (okay, technically two, but in my mind and heart it will always be one) about celebrity and popular culture, and even though nobody read it, I still feel obligated to expound here. So bear with me. Or go top your coffee off, because this should be over quickly.

The Coffee Shop Observation. If you want to know what’s going on in America, where opinion’s at, what the populi is voxing, go into a coffee shop or doughnut shop early in the morning and listen to the bunches of older folks gathered around a table commenting on the previous night’s news. I’d have given up doughnuts long ago had I not discovered that there’s a lively crowd at the mom and pop chain that I stop at once every week or two.

However, this morning there was a crowd of populi at a Starbucks that I rarely go to – but my wife was driving this morning and goes her own way, as the song says, so that’s where I went for this morning’s Frappuccino. It surprised me to see a bunch of boomers in there conversing, but there they were, and as the conversation about Shaq coming to Cleveland petered out, someone said, “How about Michael Jackson?”

Someone else said. “Yeah. All that money sure didn’t help him, huh?”

Then they started in on a more interesting and long-lived subject: Farrah Fawcett.

Mood in America: Outside of Newscasters with ratings to earn and that ever-shrinking base of fans who believed that MJ was pure as the driven snow, MJ interest is tepid at best. “What? He died? He was young, wasn’t he? Hmmm. Now what did the Cavs give up to get Shaq?”

1. The Joke Question. I don’t know about other countries and their cultures, but part of the way Americans deal with tragedy is to laugh at it.

It’s true. I was in a blue collar job earning college money on the day Elvis died, and I remember when I head the news. It was the end of the day and I was sitting with rest of The Crew, as we were called, doing our traditional thing of spending the last 15 minutes of the day eating sunflower seeds and drinking Coke. The announcer on the local radio station came on and breathlessly annonced that the King of Rock and Roll had died. And most of the guys in the crew broke out laughing.

That was an odd, surreal moment. And it was my first close-up look at that cultural phenomenon. There’s something about the American psyche that requires humor to heal (“What kind of wood doesn’t float? Natalie Wood!” “What does NASA stand for? Need Another Seven Astronauts!”).

So my question is, when the jokes begin, will they be a rehash of the ones that surfaced when Jackson was in the middle of the child molestation imbroglio, or will they mine cruel new territory? Part of me doesn’t want to know the answer. Another part of me can’t wait to find out.

And there’s another part of the question: had Jackson not died, would we be getting Farrah jokes? And were she still around, would there have been Ed McMahon jokes? Or weren’t they high profile enough to earn that?1

2. The Elvis Question. Speaking of The King, I’m wondering how much of the remains of Jackson’s fan base will go into hardcore denial once the smoke has been cleared and the remains have been disposed of. Will we start hearing rumors that Michael wanted to get away from it all and start life anew somewhere else? Hey, we know he was no stranger to facial plastic surgery…

Will there be Michael Jackson sightings? Will there be rumors of a surprise comeback in, oh let’s say 2012 because that would give him two-and-a-half to recover, and according to the Mayan calendar the world is supposed to end then anyway2 – it would be an appropriate sign of the apocalypse3.

Note to the Jackson Family: If you know what’s good for you, don’t cremate. Make sure there is something left over for a future DNA test. And whatever you do, make sure that the name of the deceased is spelled correctly on the tombstone.

While I’m on the subject of Elvis. You know how it seems that Presley has put out more stuff dead than he did while he was alive? Look for that to happen with Michael Jackson. The reason is directly related to the next question…

3. The Survivors Question. My final question – or is it actually a third observation – deals with interesting times ahead (in the Chinese sense) for the Jackson family. And no, I’m not talking about the three children Michael leaves behind – although part of me says that, at this particular juncture, they may actually be the three luckiest children on the planet.

I’m talking about Michael’s sibs – LaToyah, Jermain, Marlon, Nip, Bink, Tuck, Hoover, and Frito – whatever their names were. All of them except perhaps Janet. What will happen to them in the wake of Michael’s death?

See, even though he was technically broke, people kept putting money into Michael’s coffers, largely because of his potential income – which was mostly an unrealized income given Michael’s latter-day record of putting together money-making projects and then busting out of them (his London comeback shows were shaping up to be that way big time – apparently MJ had attended only two of the 45 rehearsals that were held up to yesterday). This in mind, it’s sad to note that of all of Jackson’s “potential income”, the most lucrative thing in his possession is probably his ownership of the catalog of Beatles songs.

Anyway, Michael had a steady income from ill-advised investors that made him the big moneymaker in the Jackson family. Because of this position, rumors were always rife that Michael used money as a bludgeon to keep his sibs under his thumb, going so far as to put them on salary so their show-biz aspirations didn’t upstage his own.

Bizarre, if true. So don’t be surprised if the following months bring odd news from the ranks of the Jackson family. And if Bilbo and Frodo suddenly become famous again, then maybe there was something behind all of those weird rumors.

The Self-Proclaimed Title Observation This is just something I want to get off my chest. You might have noticed that not once in this entry have I referred to Jackson as “the King of Pop.” I will never refer to Jackson as the King of Pop. Ever. First of all, it sounds silly to my writer’s ear. It’s attaching an inflated title to something of little or no substance. Think about it. That title is about as substantive as saying that you’re the Shah of Cotton Candy.

Besides, I have no respect for that title because he didn’t earn it.

I’m serious. If you recall, he issued a press release bestowing the title upon himself. Apparently he couldn’t wait for his adoring fans to come up with a title for him like Elvis’ fans did for him. I mean, c’mon. The Beatles never held a press conference declaring themselves to be the Royal Family of Rock and Roll4, right?

In my book, you don’t write titles for yourself (something our elected officials might want to make note of). If someone else wants to dub you something, fine. You thank them, then you don’t mention it yourself. You don’t go giving yourself accolades just because you think somehow you deserve them. We don’t deserve anything in this life. Just this little thing I have with a concept called humility.

One Bonus Prediction. In days to come, Michael Jackson’s death will be revealed to be not all it was initially reported. Shocking or saddening revelations will follow, along with a lot of finger-pointing by various factions. And the press will eat it up, because they’ve got to have something to fill their time with, and they sure ain’t gonna comment on the President’s bumbling. No special insight here on my part. I’m just sayin’.

  1. As I go to post this, one has surfaced on Facebook this morning: “Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett. Two white women in one day!” I call that a twofer.
  2. I don’t know what allegedly gave the Mayans special insight as to when the world will end. Those who say they are “experts” say that it is because the Mayan calendar ends in 2012. Funny, I thought it ended then because that’s when they ran out of room on the rock they carved it in. Hey, my desk calendar ends in December. Does that mean there’s no 2010?
  3. Remember, the world was supposed to end as the calendar flipped from 1999 to 2000 (c.f. Prince) – and 2000 was supposed to be the year Elvis made his back-from-the-dead comeback (because his shows always began with the “Theme from 2001″ – never mind that this was not actually the name of that particular piece of music).
  4. Although John apparently declared that Paul was the Walrus. Or something like that.

Long Time Comin’

After a long, illustrious career that included successfully dodging charges of cable TV theft, road rage, and hacking his ex-wife and a visitor to death with a piece of cutlery, O.J. Simpson no doubt had grown to believe that he was above the law. No doubt that’s why he thought he could get away with forming an impromptu vigilante, um, posse to mete out a little western justice on the dirtbag who wronged him.

Unfortunately for the ex-running back, this was a bridge too far, the straw that broke the camel’s back, one toke over the line… pick your metaphor. Over the weekend, Las Vegas jury threw the book, their chairs, the judge’s gavel, and whatever else was in reach at Simpson.

Now there are whispers that, in spite of extraordinary efforts to insure a fair trial for The Juice (500 potential jurors were screened prior to the trial), that there was perhaps a little payback involved in this trial. Maybe so. But if true I can’t really feel bad about it in light of O.J.’s virtual (not to mention crass, tasteless and utterly cruel) “confession.”

At least in Nevada they were able to find 12 smarter people than there were in Brentwood, California – the ones who turned their back on forensic and scientific evidence to base their verdict on an advertising slogan.

In any event, it gives me great pleasure to present you with this: The October 2008 model of the O.J. Simpson mugshot.

This time it’s for real.

Postscript (10/7/08): If any of you folks out there have business with Mr. Simpson in the future, don’t forget your tape recorder.

Election 2008: By the Numbers

Prompted by my son, I have put up a John McCain yard sign on my Facebook page. I think I would have preferred one that said We’re Screwed ’08, because neither presumptive candidate really has me fired up. For the record, I haven’t been really excited about a Presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan, but we can’t always get what we want, right?

However, I’ve thought it through and have decided that if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need. Now maybe we don’t need John McCain or Barack Obama right now, but I think McCain has more of what we need than the question mark from Illinois.

How did I determine this? By the numbers, of course.

  • 0 - The number of days it took me to figure out that Obama was destined to run for President. Watching the election returns in 2004, I listened to how the media was gushing over a man who had done nothing but turn up and win an election against a Republican carpetbagger – and I turned to my wife and said, “Listen to this. The media is going to have him running for President before long.”
  • 1.6% - The percentage of bills in Senate on which The Junior Senator from Illinois was sponsor that actually passed. Two out of 123, to be exact. One was a relief bill for the Congo Republic, the other designated a “National Summer Learning Day.” Heavy.
  • 2 - The number of years that The Junior Senator from Illinois was The Junior Senator from Illinois before he announced that he was running for President. Must have been his tremendous legislative record that inspired him. Or the Media. But they wouldn’t do that, right?
  • 4 - The number of years I was off in guessing when The Junior Senator from Illinois would run. My wife asked, “You think he’ll run in ’08?” I said, “No, ’08 will be Hillary’s year. Besides, he won’t have enough experience to run after just four years. I look to see him in 2012.” Stupid me.
  • 129 - The number of times in the Illinois Senate that the current Junior Senator from Illinois voted “present” as opposed to “yes” or “no” – seen now as a face saving measure so he could say he did not vote “for” or “against” lightning rod issues like abortion, penalties for concealed weapons, and building strip bars near schools. The Junior Senator’s people are saying that many of these “present” votes were precipitated by badly written laws, or legislation with poison pills in them, preventing him from wanting to vote “for” them – but that being the case, wouldn’t a “no” have sufficed?
  • 146 - The number of days that The Junior Senator from Illinois was The Junior Senator from Illinois before he set up a Presidential Exploratory Committee. Not even six months of Senate experience. Robert Heinlein said that the best choice for President is a someone who doesn’t want the job. Like Bill Clinton before him, The Junior Senator wants the job far too badly to deserve election. It’s a privilege, not a destiny. And a role of service, not an anointing.
  • 80, 75, 72, 72, 70 - The ages of the five oldest Supreme Court justices and the factor that really brought me around to McCain. It’s not just that I shudder at the possibility of Supreme Court Justice Clinton (either one) as a political payback for this year’s nomination blowout. It’s the tendency of Democratic appointees to write laws from the bench as opposed to interpreting the constitution (which is why I favor periodic elections to retain SCOTUS appointees, much like we do with local judges). McCain may have some cranky ideas on who should inherit the next open black robe, but I’d rater take my chances with his choices than more bench legislators.

That’s my analysis. So this year I’m getting out the nose plugs and voting for McCain.

What would excite me about voting for him? Condi Rice as his running mate. Her presence on the ticket would defang both the “woman” thing (if Hillary continues to be a player), and the “black” thing. And there’s one really, really important thing about Rice that I like.

She doesn’t want the job.

Update 7/17/08: Added 1.6 and 2 to the list.

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