Saturday, March 29, 2008


Latest newspaper column:

"We used to say in the White House that if a place is too dangerous, too small or too poor, send the First Lady." –Hillary Clinton

OMINOUS NARRATOR (with heavy drumbeat in the background): Bosnia, 1996.

DRUMBEAT: Boom-Boom-Boom.

NARRATOR: A place of unimaginable violence and cruelty. Gangs of armed thugs roam the land, performing brutal missions of “ethnic cleansing.” The nations of the world stand helplessly by.

DRUMBEAT: Boom-Boom. Boom-boom-boom.

NARRATOR: Only one crack, well trained operative can stop the horror:


(Theme Music)

NARRATOR (more normal now): Yes, the Adeventure Radio Network presents the thrilling adventures of Hillary Rodham Clinton, First Lady. Brought to you by Maid-Rite sandwich shops! Tonight’s Episode: “Assignment Bosnia!” Our story opens in the West Wing of the White House...

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: You wanted to see me, Chief?

SECRETARY OF STATE MADELINE ALBRIGHT: Mrs. Clinton, you don’t have to call me ‘Chief’. Haven’t we known each other long enough that you can call me Madeline?

HRC: Maybe if we’re having a beer, ma’am. But when there’s danger in the air and the bullets are flying, I prefer to keep things official.

MA: Oh. Okay. Well, the President and I would like you to make a goodwill visit to Bosnia.

HRC: Hah! I knew it!

MA: You did?

HRC: Which warlord do you want me to assassinate?

MA: What?!

HRC: Oh, sorry. I meant, ‘terminate with extreme prejudice.”

MA: Mrs. Clinton, are you feeling all right?

HRC: Oh, I get it. You don’t want to give me all the details. Plausible deniability and all that. I assume my contact on the ground will fill me in. Good plan.

MA: Ummm….actually, the travel office will…

HRC: Never mind that. Who else is on the team?

MA: The team? Oh, you mean who’s going with you.

HRC: Right. I assume I’ll have a squad of top operatives. A master of disguise, an explosives expert…

MA: Actually, we’re sending Sinbad.

HRC: The comedian?

MA: Yes And Sheryl Crow.

HRC: The singer? Wow. Who knew that they were deep-cover operatives? That’s brilliant, Madam Secretary! Brilliant! You can count on me! (Sound of door slamming)

MA (muttering): Crazy (bad word).

DRUMBEAT: Boom-Boom. Boom-Boom-Boom.

NARRATOR: 24 hours later….

HRC: Okay, everyone, we need to take our bulletproof vests and sit on them. That protects us from ground fire coming up through the floor.

CHELSEA: Um…mom…

HRC: Oh, Chelsea, my baby. I so wanted to protect you from all of this. But now, even you’re drawn into the endless cycle of killing. Sit on your bulletproof vest, baby.

CHELSEA: Mom, this is the limo to the airport. We’re still in Washington DC.

DRUMBEAT: Boom-boom-boom.

NARRATOR: Later, in the skies above Bosnia….

(SOUND EFFECT: Airplane engines).

HRC: Okay, everyone. We’re going to go in on a HALO jump to take advantage of the dark of the moon….


HRC: A HALO jump. High Altitude, Low Opening. We jump from miles up, free fall toward the target and open our canopies at the last possible second.

CROW: Oh, wow.

SINBAD: Wait a minute! No one told me nothin’ about no parachutes!

CHELSEA, sighing: We’re not using parachutes. We’re going to land at the airport. You’ll have to excuse my mom. She gets like this.

PILOT: This is the flight deck. We’ll be landing at Tuzla airport in two minutes.

HRC: Okay, people. This is it. Lock and load.

CROW: What?

HRC: We don’t know what’s waiting for us down there. Could be a hot LZ.

ARMY MAJOR: Actually, ma’am, we know exactly who’s down there. The acting president of Bosnia and a delegation of schoolchildren.

HRC: My god! They’re using schoolchildren as soldiers now!? Those fiends!

(SOUND EFFECT: Plane wheels touching down)

DRUMBEAT: Boom-Boom-Boomity Boom.

HRC: Snipers! Get your head down! Run for the cars! Sinbad! Sheryl! Cover me!

CROW: What?

CHELSEA: Calm down, Mom! That’s not snipers. That’s that guy with the dramatic kettledrum that follows you around all the time.


MAJOR: Okay, ma’am. It’s time to go.

CHELSEA: Come on, mom. Let’s get this over with.

SINBAD: Sheryl, that woman is strange.

CROW: Hey, let’s just hope she never runs for anything.

SINBAD (laughing) Are you kidding? You’ll see a Black man as the nominee before that woman!

CROW: A Black man!? Sinbad, you so crazy….


NARRATOR: This has been another episode of Hillary Clinton, FIRST LADY! Tune in next week when the First Lady meets…the Yellow Peril!


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Over at Murderati, Ken Bruen pays a moving tribute to absent friends, including the wonderful Barbara Seranella.

Meanwhile, two more wonderful and amazing people, McKenna Jordan and David Thompson of Murder by the Book, make plans to go forward into the future together as husband and wife, and as co-owners of one of the most kick-ass bookstores in existence.

Mazel Tov, y'all. (Hat tip to Bill Crider and Sara Weinman for the news)

It's a hell of a show, life. Somebody oughta sell tickets.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A More Perfect Union

Latest Newspaper Column:

Well, they couldn't find fault in Barack Obama, so they've decided to go after his preacher.

The latest whipped-up media furor involves statements made, not by Obama himself, but by his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Having pored through hours and hours of speeches and sermons, the right wing noise machine has teased out a few gems that are, Bill O'Reilly piously assures us, "offensive," "racist," and "anti-American." Among the statements quoted was this:

"The government gives [African Americans] the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes three-strike laws and wants them to sing 'God Bless America.' No! No No! God damn America for killing innocent people. God damn America for threatening citizens as less than humans. God damn America as long as she tries to act like she is God and supreme."

Of course, this isn't terribly different from the pronouncements of any number of preachers prophesying that America's fall is imminent due to immorality, abortion, homosexuals and feminists. Remember, for example, the Rev. Jerry Falwell a few days after 9/11?

"I really believe," the late Mr. Falwell said, "that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'You helped this happen.'"

Does this mean I agree with Mr. Wright? No. It means that, on some subjects, he's as much an anti-American and a crackpot as Falwell was, especially when Wright starts raving about the government inventing HIV to kill black people and giving African Americans drugs. America's government may have made a massive botch of dealing with HIV and the drug problem, but it's tinfoil-hat stuff to claim they started it.

But here's the thing. After 9/11, it satisfied the Right and their media stooges for President George W. Bush to say he disagreed with Mr. Falwell.

But then, Bush is not a Democrat. It's not enough for a Democrat to disagree. He must deplore. He must disown. He must condemn, not only the statements of a supporter, but the person himself.

To his everlasting credit, Barack Obama refused to play that game.

In one of the most extraordinary statements on race I've ever read, Obama explicitly condemned the worst of Wright's statements, but then went on to say: "As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions -- the good and the bad -- of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

"I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother -- a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe."

I have to say, that last part really spoke to me. If you grow up in the South -- heck, if you grow up anywhere -- you most likely encounter mentors of all kinds who affect you and guide your life in profound ways. And yet, along with what they have to impart about loyalty, and hard work, and honesty, some of them are going to express views that make you cringe. All too often, those views have to do with race.

Part of growing up is learning to take to heart the teachings that you know to be right and leave the rest behind like the impurities skimmed off molten metal before it goes into the mold.

If I were running, and some statements of people I've loved, and who have loved me, came to light, I would disagree with them, yes. But would I disown the people involved? Would I condemn those people personally? No. That would be a betrayal. That would be to turn my back on the good in them and the kindness they've shown to me. That would make me less of a man.

Someone who can acknowledge the failings of someone who's been good to him, while not taking the politically easy but morally cowardly step of turning his back on that person or pretending they never meant anything to him -- that's the kind of character I want to see in a president.