Friday, September 07, 2007


A Kind Word About Rudy

My feelings about Rudy Giuliani are fairly well known: Let's just say that he's not in my top two or three preferred candidates in the GOP field.

However, I think he should get credit for speaking some truth about ilegal immigration, even if it won't go down too well with some Republican voters:
"It's not a crime," Giuliani said Friday. "I know that's very hard for people to understand, but it's not a federal crime."

Giuliani's comments came in an interview with CNN Headline News and radio talk-show host Glenn Beck.

"I was U.S. attorney in the Southern district of New York," he said. "So believe me, I know this. In fact, when you throw an immigrant out of the country, it's not a criminal proceeding. It's a civil proceeding."

Illegal immigration shouldn't be a crime, either, Giuliani said: "No, it shouldn't be because the government wouldn't be able to prosecute it. We couldn't prosecute 12 million people. We have only 2 million people in jail right now for all the crimes that are committed in the country, 2.5 million."

He added: "My solution is close the border to illegal immigration."
He's right. Now, it's a reasonable question to ask whether entering the country illegally should be a federal crime, but it's not right now. It would have been easy for Giuliani to demagogue the issue in the way Romney is trying to, but he refused to do so.

Good for him on this one.

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The Politics of Hollywood

Ryan Sager terms Fred Thompson's initial foray into Iowa "unimpressive." Similarly, I wasn't exactly blown away based on what I saw on Jay Leno -- certainly not in comparison to Arnold Schwarzenegger's announcement four years ago that he was jumping into the California recall election.

Yet, ex-DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe admits that he is worried over Thompson's possibilities:
"There's not much there. That's what makes me nervous," said McAuliffe who remembers toiling for Jimmy Carter when he was trounced by Ronald Reagan.

"I'm never underestimating another B-Movie actor."

McAuliffe offered his assessment to ABC News just moments after Thompson entered the fray.

"I am certainly not disrespecting them," Thompson said of his '08 rivals while appearing on Jay Leno's show, "but it's a lot more difficult to get on the 'Tonight Show' than it is to get into a presidential debate."

I am relatively favorably disposed toward Thompson, but there's always something that has bothered me about the Reagan comparison. I couldn't put my finger on it -- until I saw Thompson on Leno.

Check out the Internet Movie Database. Compare the entries on Reagan and Thompson. Reagan may have been a "B-movie" actor, but in more than a few of those B-movies, he was the star. He was the lead character in films such as King's Road, Hellcats of The Navy and, of course, Bedtime For Bonzo.

Thompson, on the other hand, has made a career as a supporting character, never a lead. Yes, his films are considered more A-list than Reagan's -- In The Line of Fire, Die Hard 2, No Way Out, etc. Even in Law & Order, DA Arthur Branch receives just a few minutes of television screen time. He's unable to be a commanding "lead" in the storyline as either the cops investingating the crimes or the ADA actually prosecuting them in court.

His political career has followed the same pattern. It's often said that the reason why more governors become president than senators is that the former has the opportunity to be decisive and make identifiable decisions. Senators, on the other hand, deliberate and have thousands of votes (often seemingly contradictory) that can easily be isolated and make the candidate look like either extreme or indecisive.

There is a cultural sensibility to being a governor that translates into the presidential race -- governors and presidents (and, yes admittedly, mayors) are seen as "lead characters" in politics and governance. Legislators are supporting characters.

And so, Schwarzenegger and Reagan have more in common with each other than Thompson has with either. Both men ended up running for executive positions when they finally jumped into politics (the same office, governor of California). In truth, Schwarzenegger appeared larger than life when he made his announcement on Leno, whereas Thompson -- tall though he is -- looked like another actor flacking his latest project.

Fred Thompson has been a supporting character his entire life -- whether as counsel on the Watergate committee, a senator, a lobbyist and as an actor. Yet, now he is being called upon to launch a campaign to become the biggest "lead" in the political show.

Is that why Thompson didn't come across as the all-conquering hero when he finally hit Iowa on Thursday? Did Iowans turn out expecting a Bruce Willis and instead found a taller version of Charles Grodin?

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Retro Record Moment

It's Chrissie's Birthday! No, not that one. One of the only good things to come out of the God-forsaken state of Ohio, Ms. Hynde of Pretenders fame, turns 56 today. Ms. Hynde was an early guitar hero of mine as a teen (I was 14 when their first album was released). She and Grace Jones were my first celebrity crushes.

Though the original band sadly lost half of the group to drugs after their second album around 1982 (that event, along with the
death of Len Bias when I was an Ohio State student in 1986, probably kept me "straight edge" for life), Chrissie has soldiered on through various incarnations and continues to prove that women rock with the best (and in her case, better) of them.

She became an Ohio ex-pat early in life, but recently announced an entrepreneurial move in her birth state.
VegeTerranean, her new vegan restaurant, will open with an acoustic concert in Akron on September 15. If my car is willing, I'll be there!

Below, my favorite Pretender's song "Message of Love," as performed on Fridays. ABC's Fridays was to then-teenaged Gen-Xers what the original cast of SNL was to boomers.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007


Kanye & 50 Cent Gonna Be Mad...

Osama bin Laden upstages their carefully planned September 11 release strategy -- by dropping his first video in three and a half years (and, given his new dark beard, he may also endorse Just For Men).

This may be it for the leader of the al Qaeda crew: He can hide from U.S. and Coalition forces, but no one gets in the middle of a hip-hop beef and survives.

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iPissed Off?

No, not me.

But you gotta figure that all the folks who camped out for those $599 music/camera/Web/phone 8G devices three months ago can't be too happy that Apple is already slashing the price by $200!

And they're getting rid of the 4G version too.

Well, kids, you haven't been punked -- but you may have been Jobbed.

UPDATE: Steve Jobs' iPhone must be working. He quickly got the message that the early-adopters weren't too happy with this abrupt price cut: Apple is issuing $100 credits to all those people who helped provide the company with free publicity by camping out to be the first to get their iPhone.

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Pigskin Pick'em - NFL Week 1 Picks

It's that time of year again! Time for the weekly Pigskin Pick'em, where the rules are simple:

1. Pick the straight-up winners of all this weeks NFL games (excluding any Thursday games). Picks will be accepted in the comments section of the following websites:
Politics and Pigskins, Ragged Thots, and American Legends. All picks must be posted by 1 pm Eastern Time on Sunday, or by the kickoff of the first NFL Saturday game on weeks when that happens.
2. The winner gets...bragging rights! (you weren't expecting money, were you?)
3. And new for this year: I will be keeping a running tally for the season, so the person who gets the most picks correct for the whole season, including the playoffs, gets...even BIGGER bragging rights! (and still no money)

So to get the ball rolling, here are my picks (in red) for the first week:
Denver Broncos at Buffalo Bills: While the Broncos are not a great road team, it's hard to go against them when they are playing the Bills.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns: New coach in Pittsburgh, so expect a few growing pains. I like the Brownies in an upset.
Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers: Even on a bad day, the Eagles should be able to have the Pack for lunch.
Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans: This one is a toss-up between a team getting worse (Chiefs) and a team that can't get any worse (Texans). If Gary Kubiak is ever going to turn the Texans around, he needs to win here.
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars: This should be a fun game to watch, although my gut tells me the Jags are going in the wrong direction.
Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings aren't that good, and the Falcons want to prove they can win without Vick. This one is all about motivation for the Falcons.
New England Patriots at New York Jets: The Pats come loaded for bear. Gotta lean towards the talent in this one.
Carolina Panthers at St. Louis Rams: This is completely a guess. Either of these teams could win this one.
Miami Dolphins at Washington Redskins: It's going to take a lot more than one game for Cam Cameron to clean up the mess Nick Saban left.
Detroit Lions at Oakland Raiders: Welcome to the NFL Lane Kiffin.
Chicago Bears at San Diego Chargers: The only question is whether Norv Turner will let the Chargers run on auto-pilot. He'll win a lot more games that way.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Seattle Seahawks: The battle of the 1976 expansion teams. As long as Jeff Garcia is healthy, the Bucs should win a lot of games like this one.
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys: Tom Coughlin vs. Wade Phillips? Not exactly Bill Parcells vs. Jimmy Johnson. Take the Boys at home.
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals: Definitely the game of the week. Two hungry teams looking for redemption after disappointing seasons last year. Defense wins big games, and few teams have defenses as strong as the Ravens.
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers: It will take Ken Whisenhunt a while to install his system in Arizona. In addition, the 49ers are a playoff team this year.

Just for anyone curious, I like the Saints tonight vs. the Colts.


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Luciano Pavarotti

The opera is now over, as the fat man has sung and left the building. Famed tenor Luciano Pavarotti has died. Though the musical meanderings in these parts usually lean toward the three-minute ditty of imbecilic and repetitive tonic chords, the traditional arts are not lost on we cyber-Philistines.

Many in the classical community took Pavarotti to task for slumming with the pop crowd from time to time (he could have done better than Bono, I think). The Maestro represented to me, as a Gen-Xer, a time when it was still possible for strains of classical music or higher art to still creep into the most broad popular culture. I thought about this "cultural cross-breeding" last night while watching the Marx Brothers' movie Horse Feathers. In between the manic shenanigans and S.J. Perelman jokes, Harpo would suddenly break into a chamber piece on his instrument, Chico demonstrate his 88 keys ability to a music student, and even Groucho played the acoustic six-string (though he really should have left the singing to Zeppo). How many of us were introduced to Rossini, Stravinsky, or Bach from a Merry Melodies short or Fantasia?

I doubt that we'll see any more opera singers reach the pop-star status of a Pavarotti, our Western culture having become almost totally ravaged by the vultures of cognitive carrion like "modern" hip hop (do black folk even remember that jazz exists?) to the tone-deaf warblers and screechers on what passes for talent shows on the Fox network. With the passing of a Pavarotti, how will successive generations of rabble-rousers that have never stepped foot anywhere near an opera house be introduced to the wares of the Muse? When I was a child, my mother would often remind me that Leontyne Price was my maternal cousin as a way of encouraging my grammar school studies and to not fall prey to the defeatist mentality of so many young black males. Now, many of these black grandmothers are as familiar with the garbage videos on BET as their grandkids.  *Sigh*

On that note, a sampling of Price and Pavarotti

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He's In!

Fred Thompson finally made it official Wednesday afternoon/evening.

So, should we care?

Frankly, I tuned in a bit late on Leno, but I didn't really see anything that "Wow"-ed me, but then again I'm a professional...cynic. Sadly, another two members of the exploratory committee didn't make it to the finish starting line.

Meanwhile, the rest of the GOP field debated in New Hampshire. I thought this headline on the event was rather interesting:

"Republicans, Paul Clash Over Iraq War."

Gee, all this time, I was sure Ron Paul was a Republican too. Guess I somehow got that wrong.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007


You Got to Fight the Right for Your Party

Starring in the new Republican 2008 Campaign horror show is Senator Craig, as "The Thing That Would Not Leave!" The Senator with the Shaky Hands may not be giving up his slot as a solon without a fight, after all.

To Sen. Craig, the following dedication from the Beatles (no, it's not "She Came In Through the Bathroom Window"). The lyrics seem to fit Craig to a "T." Fight that plea and that open closet door with all your might, Senator!

UPDATE: Senator Craig, Bill Clinton feels your pain. (Just be glad he's not feeling on your wife ... )


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Tuesday, September 04, 2007


The Love That Dare Not Take a Wide Stance (Cont'd)

Apparently, RAG's favorite Republican candidate's campaign now has a simmering same-sex scandal of its own.

To tie this all in with another of RAG's favorite pastimes, I always imagined that if Giuliani were an X-Man villain that I would see him crashing through the walls of Prof. Xavier's (or Dr. Paul's) home screaming, "DO YOU know WHO I am? I'M the 9/11 MAYOR, B*TCH!!"

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Truly Alarming News!!!

Curtis, say it ain't so!!!

Someone, for the love of God -- PLEASE -- talk Karol in from the ledge!!!

Guess Fitty ain't "in da club" any mo'.

(Hat tip: Ben Smith)

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"Everyday Normal"...Politician

Pardon the cynicism that occasionally seeps into my viewpoint after having spent about ten years in Washington. However, it's hard to ignore it after seeing Fred Thompson adviser Mary Matalin's performance on Meet The Press this past Sunday.

Matalin used variations of the word "normal" (or phrase "normal person") no less than seven times while responding to various Russert questions on the issues of the moment.

Normal people, when the husband cheats on the wife, the wife does not consider the politics before she gives a response on this. Normal people out there did just what James just referenced, they looked at Mrs. Craig, and I remember looking at Lee Hart and through the years this—these poor suffering families. The first thing normal people thinks are—think are, “What? Is—this is a family tragedy.” The second thing they think is, “Why is everybody in Washington glued to this? And can’t—and don’t you guys have something better to do?” And thirdly, I didn’t listen to the tape, I didn’t watch any of this, but the people that I talked to are not particularly Craig fans, or critics, said, “That sounds like entrapment. Don’t the cops have better things to do than tap dance in bathrooms in the airport?” I’m just telling you the normal person view at the end of all...
I thought it a litle odd: Mary Matalin -- "Miss Normal"? I mean, she was an RNC chief of staff, campaign manager for Bush I's re-election, special adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney -- and married to James Carville (with whom she shared the MTP set on Sunday). Oh, yeah, she's "normal." Indeed, Bob Shrum even called her on it: "Mary, I love you, but you are not actually the ideal spokesman for the average person in America."

Then it occurred to me: Each campaign tries to sum up its particular effort in one or two words. For Hillary Rodham Clinton, it's "experience"; for Barack Obama, it's "change"; for Rudy Giuliani, it's "security"; Mitt Romney can probably be assessed as "competence."

Oh, of course! "Normal" must be the Thompson campaign's "brand" for its big unveiling this week. He wants to be the
"everyday normal" candidate.:

Thompson will announce his White House bid Wednesday night on the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” after skipping a Republican debate in New Hampshire.

“There have been a million debates already and there are going to be a million more,” Harris said. “And people are going to see Fred Thompson out there, mixing it up with the other candidates, mixing it up with the media, engaging the voters. They are going to see months and months and months of that.”

In the meantime, Harris said, “it makes a lot of sense” for Thompson to appear on the Leno show instead of the GOP debate because the candidate will reach “everyday normal Americans who don’t live in the 202 area code.” [Emphasis added.]
"Everyday normal," eh?

In response to Shrum's charge that she was hardly the "average" voter, Matalin said she was doing "school orientation" like a "normal" mom, while the guys on MTP were focusing on politics. Right. It's pretty obvious that Mary was collecting her talking points on how to make sure the right code word was pushed into the ether as actor-politician Thompson unveils his new fall "series": The plot is about a "normal" guy who -- after a few years as an actor playing a district attorney -- decides to run for president. And, yes, like most "normal" actors who run for office, he makes his announcement on a late-night talk show.

And they wonder why we all get so cynical?

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