Monday, March 31, 2008

80-Year Old Catholic Deacon Arrested for Anti-War T-Shirt

Wear this t-shirt in public, and you could be thrown in jail.

From today's Newsday (article by Sophia Chang):

Among the many milestones in Don Zirkel's life -- serving in the Army, editing The Tablet, the Diocese of Brooklyn's newspaper, and working in the state Division of Human Rights under Gov. Mario Cuomo -- perhaps the most famous will now be his arrest at the food court in Smith Haven Mall.

"Eighty years, and I have never been arrested before for fighting injustice," Zirkel, of Bethpage, said yesterday.

On Saturday, Zirkel, 80, was at an anti-war rally outside the mall in Lake Grove, wearing a white T-shirt splotched with red and emblazoned with a simple message about the fatalities of the Iraq war: "4,000 troops, 1 million Iraqis dead. Enough."

Zirkel said he was at the rally to support the anti-war protesters. "I was an encourager. I was an affirmer," he said.

During the rally, Zirkel and his wife went into the mall's food court for coffee and French fries. After he declined mall security's request to either turn the T-shirt inside out or leave, he said police put him in a wheelchair and escorted him from the mall. Suffolk police charged him with criminal trespassing and resisting arrest. He was released on bail and is due to be arraigned May 22.

Police also said Zirkel was passing out leaflets at the mall, a charge he disputes.

"I'm being punished for six words that spoke the truth. That's insanity. War is insanity," said Zirkel, who said his nephew recently returned from active duty in Iraq.

"I'm wearing the T-shirt again," he added.

Though Zirkel says this is his first brush with the law, he has led a life of what he calls "social action," most notably through his involvement with the Roman Catholic church.

Zirkel said he served in the Army during the Korean War as a corporal and chaplain's assistant, though he was not deployed. After he was discharged, Zirkel attended St. John's University, earning a bachelor's degree in philosophy and theology."
Smith Haven Mall is right down the road from us. I wrote a brief letter to Simon Property Group (SPG), the owners, complaining about the arrest and saying that we would not shop at the mall until they drop charges against Zirkel, issue an official apology to him, and make sure incidents like this do not happen again.

I encourage others to send SPG a message as well. This is not just a local event but affects all of us.

And not just in a theoretical way. "Simon Property Group, Inc. is an S&P 500 company and the largest public U.S. real estate company. . . . It currently owns or has an interest in 380 properties." They own major malls all over the United States.

UPDATE: The official press release from the Suffolk County Police says that Zirkel "upset mall patrons by wearing a shirt with graphic anti-war images. Donald Zirkel, 80, of 150 Sunny Lane, Bethpage, was handing out anti-war pamphlets, and wearing a shirt featuring anti-war slogans and images at the mall around 4:00 p.m."

Where, exactly, are "graphic anti-war images" on that t-shirt?

Also, Smith Haven Mall released a media statement:
Contrary to media reports, there were other circumstances that contributed to the arrest of Mr. Zirkel that extended well beyond his claims, including his insistence on continuing to rally inside Smith Haven Mall by handing out pamphlets and interacting with patrons in the mall’s food court, despite being asked to cease and desist these activities. . . .

In keeping with our Code of Conduct, it is our corporate policy not to allow protests or demonstrations of any kind to take place on mall property regardless of the topic.

While we regret the outcome involving Mr. Zirkel, we also cannot allow the pleasant shopping environment we strive to maintain to be disrupted by allowing protests to take place each time an outside organization wants to use the mall as a vehicle to get their message across.
The legal issue seems to come down to whether or not Zirkel was handing out leaflets in the mall. Both the Suffolk County Police and Smith Haven Mall reports say he was. In the Newsday article, Zirkel disputes the charge. If he was handing out leaflets, the mall has the legal right to prevent him from doing so, though I can't believe the only solution was to have an 80-year old Catholic deacon arrested.

The Smith Haven Mall statement, however, doesn't address the more disturbing issue. Did their security guards try to force Zirkel to turn his t-shirt inside-out? There was nothing vulgar or obscene on the shirt. Wearing a t-shirt is not handing out leaflets. The action seems politically motivated and doesn't have anything to do with maintaining (or forcing) a "pleasant shopping environment."

Sunday, March 30, 2008

When the Zombies Come


I might've had a better chance of surviving if I didn't keep trying to "save my loved ones." But I'd rather take chances against the un-dead than face a wife who discovers that I wouldn't bother looking for her in a Zombie Apocalypse. Especially when said wife went to university on a field hockey scholarship.

Thanks to Caratzas for this very useful website.

Other practical information gleaned from this resource: I can take on 25 five-year olds in a fight. (Possibly related to the Zombie attack?) I kept thinking Children of the Damned, which made it easier to say that I have no moral compunction using one 5-year old as a weapon to hurl against other 5-year olds.

Finally, I discovered that I could name 72 countries in five minutes. That was disappointing. I thought I could easily hit 100. But typing and correctly spelling the names of countries is not the same as saying them out loud. Next time, I have to remember to not waste time on "Papua New Guinea" and stick with things like "Albania," which I forgot. Also, embarrassingly, I didn't do very well in Africa. I've lived with Africans twice in my life and thought I would do well there, but I struggled. On the other hand, I'm very proud of the fact that I remembered the two smallest countries in the world: Vatican City and Tuvalu.

Let's see the Zombies do that!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Blind Willie McTell

Continuing in a blues vein . . . .

I've been travelin' lately down those lost dirt roads of Blind Willie McTell, wandering through overhanging willows and late-afternoon shadows that fall upon the graveyard on the hill, crossing over the tracks and down into the valley, where the wind whispers your name and evening grows hushed and still. After years of circling around the man, hearing rumors and reports, I've been hooked.

Here's a bit of his story from AMG:

Willie Samuel McTell was one of the blues' greatest guitarists, and also one of the finest singers.

McTell was born in Thomson, Georgia, near Augusta, and raised near Statesboro. Willie was probably born blind, although early in his life he could perceive light in one eye. His blindness never became a major impediment, however, and it was said that his sense of hearing and touch were extraordinary. His first instruments were the harmonica and the accordion, but as soon as he was big enough he took up the guitar and showed immediate aptitude on the new instrument. He played a standard six-string acoustic until the mid-'20s, and never entirely abandoned the instrument, but from the beginning of his recording career, he used a 12-string acoustic in the studio almost exclusively. Willie's technique on the 12-string instrument was unique. Unlike virtually every other bluesman who used one, he relied not on its resonances as a rhythm instrument, but, instead, displayed a nimble, elegant slide and finger-picking style that made it sound like more than one guitar at any given moment. He studied at a number of schools for the blind, in Georgia, New York, and Michigan, during the early '20s, and probably picked up some formal musical knowledge. He worked medicine shows, carnivals, and other outdoor venues, and was a popular attraction, owing to his sheer dexterity and a nasal singing voice that could sound either pleasant or mournful, and incorporated some of the characteristics normally associated with White hillbilly singers.

Willie's recording career began in late 1927 with two sessions for Victor records, eight sides including "Statesboro Blues." McTell's earliest sides were superb examples of storytelling in music, coupled with dazzling guitar work. All of McTell's music showed extraordinary power, some of it delightfully raucous ragtime, other examples evoking darker, lonelier sides of the blues, all of it displaying astonishingly rich guitar work.

Blind Willie McTell was one of the giants of the blues, as a guitarist and as a singer and recording artist. Hardly any of his work as passed down to us on record is less than first rate, and this makes most any collection of his music worthwhile. A studious and highly skilled musician whose skills transcended the blues, he was equally adept at ragtime, spirituals, story-songs, hillbilly numbers, and popular tunes, excelling in all of these genres. He could read and write music in braille, which gave him an edge on many of his sighted contemporaries, and was also a brilliant improvisor on the guitar, as is evident from his records. Willie always gave an excellent account of himself, even in his final years of performing and recording.
Here's McTell performing one of his most famous tunes, "Broke Down Engine Blues." Recorded in New York City, September 18, 1933. With Curly Weaver on 2nd guitar.

And here are some other McTell recordings:

"Southern Can Is Mine." Recorded in Atlanta on October 23, 1931, under the name Blind Sammie.

"Georgia Rag" Recorded in Atlanta on October 31, 1931, under the name Georgia Bill. Also with Curly Weaver.

"Searching The Desert For The Blues." Recorded in Atlanta, February 22, 1932.

I can't post on McTell without mentioning Bob Dylan. It was Dylan's 1983 classic, "Blind Willie McTell," that introduced me to the bluesman. In my mind, the song remains Dylan's greatest work in the post-Desire era. Ever the trickster, Dylan initially recorded the tune for his Infidels album, but then, unhappy with the result, he buried it until the 1991 box set, Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3 : Rare And Unreleased. [FYI: That's an amazing collection in itself. Dylan's rare and unreleased material is better than most people's published work.]

"Blind Willie McTell" is one of the most beautiful and haunting songs of of Bob Dylan's career.

Of anyone's career.

"Blind Willie McTell"

Seen the arrow on the doorpost
Saying, "This land is condemned
All the way from New Orleans
To Jerusalem."
I traveled through East Texas
Where many martyrs fell
And I know no one can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell

Well, I heard the hoot owl singing
As they were taking down the tents
The stars above the barren trees
Were his only audience
Them charcoal gypsy maidens
Can strut their feathers well
But nobody can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell

See them big plantations burning
Hear the cracking of the whips
Smell that sweet magnolia blooming
(And) see the ghosts of slavery ships
I can hear them tribes a-moaning
(I can) hear the undertaker's bell
(Yeah), nobody can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell

There's a woman by the river
With some fine young handsome man
He's dressed up like a squire
Bootlegged whiskey in his hand
There's a chain gang on the highway
I can hear them rebels yell
And I know no one can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell

Well, God is in heaven
And we all want what's his
But power and greed and corruptible seed
Seem to be all that there is
I'm gazing out the window
Of the St. James Hotel
And I know no one can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell

And here's Dylan doing McTell's "Broke Down Engine Blues," from World Gone Wrong, Bob's 1993 acoustic album of old blues tunes.

And here are some McTell songs by other folks:

"Statesboro Blues" - Allman Brothers, from their classic live album, At Fillmore East.

"Your Southern Can Is Mine" - White Stripes, from De Stijl.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Blues All 'Round My Head

Blind Willie McTell, bluesman extraordinaire

I've been sick for the last two weeks. The fun included two trips to the doctor and a mind-numbing 6-hour gig at the Emergency Room one beautiful Sunday. (All for very simple issues.)

But that's not why I haven't been blogging.

Basically, I haven't had anything to say. It seems that I've got . . . well . . . the blues.

The War in Iraq reaches another horrific milestone - 4,000 dead American soldiers. (Not to mention hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians.) But nobody really cares or wants to hear about the war:

The War Endures, but Where’s the Media?

Iraq coverage by major American news sources has plummeted, to about one-fifth of what it was last summer, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism.
Meanwhile, the race for the Democratic nomination has devolved into a bitter, ridiculous, and seriously damaging battle. I see no light at the end of the tunnel.

Hello, President "Walnuts" McCain!

Things are so bad, I'm linking to a David Brooks article: "The Long Defeat," from today's New York Behind-the-Times.

Last week, an important Clinton adviser told Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen (also of Politico) that Clinton had no more than a 10 percent chance of getting the nomination. Now, she’s probably down to a 5 percent chance.

Five percent.

Let’s take a look at what she’s going to put her party through for the sake of that 5 percent chance: The Democratic Party is probably going to have to endure another three months of daily sniping. For another three months, we’ll have the Carvilles likening the Obamaites to Judas and former generals accusing Clintonites of McCarthyism. For three months, we’ll have the daily round of résumé padding and sulfurous conference calls. We’ll have campaign aides blurting “blue dress” and only-because-he’s-black references as they let slip their private contempt.

For three more months (maybe more!) the campaign will proceed along in its Verdun-like pattern. There will be a steady rifle fire of character assassination from the underlings, interrupted by the occasional firestorm of artillery when the contest touches upon race, gender or patriotism. The policy debates between the two have been long exhausted, so the only way to get the public really engaged is by poking some raw national wound. . . .

When you step back and think about it, she is amazing. She possesses the audacity of hopelessness.

Why does she go on like this? Does Clinton privately believe that Obama is so incompetent that only she can deliver the policies they both support? Is she simply selfish, and willing to put her party through agony for the sake of her slender chance?

The better answer is that Clinton’s long rear-guard action is the logical extension of her relentlessly political life.

For nearly 20 years, she has been encased in the apparatus of political celebrity. Look at her schedule as first lady and ever since. Think of the thousands of staged events, the tens of thousands of times she has pretended to be delighted to see someone she doesn’t know, the hundreds of thousands times she has recited empty clichés and exhortatory banalities, the millions of photos she has posed for in which she is supposed to appear empathetic or tough, the billions of politically opportune half-truths that have bounced around her head.

No wonder the Clinton campaign feels impersonal. It’s like a machine for the production of politics. It plows ahead from event to event following its own iron logic. The only question is whether Clinton herself can step outside the apparatus long enough to turn it off and withdraw voluntarily or whether she will force the rest of her party to intervene and jam the gears.

So, Bill Richardson endorsed Obama. A few weeks too late.

And James Carville called Richardson "Judas" for betraying the Clintons. Then he refused to apologize.

Thank God! I'm so sick of all these surrogates calling each other names and then having to quit or say they're sorry. If you're going to resort to schoolyard taunting, then buck up and stick by your nasty names for God's sake!
“I was quoted accurately and in context, and I was glad to give the quote and I was glad I gave it,” Mr. Carville said. “I’m not apologizing, I’m not resigning, I’m not doing anything.”
For the record, I think Hillary Clinton is a "monster." And I'm not resigning either. Deal with it.

(Well, at least she and Bill together are some form of monster species.)

Don't even know where to begin with the Jeremiah Wright stuff and Obama. Liam had a good post on it. If everyone in the U.S. was as intelligent and thoughtful as Liam, there wouldn't be a problem for Obama. (Though if everyone were like Liam, we'd have a lot of other problems! We'd all have to root for the Utah Jazz, for one thing. On the other hand, we could finally appoint Nick Cave as Ambassador to Groove-istan.)

But this is the country that re-elected George W. Bush. The country where half the Democrats don't think what Geraldine Ferraro said might be considered racist and insulting. Personally, I think the Wright stuff has probably done in Obama's candidacy. And I don't know why he didn't deal with all of this way ahead of last week. It was a major shit storm waiting to go Level 5 at any moment, yet they seemed surprised. Whatever. I'm a lousy prognosticator, so I hope I'm wrong.

Did I mention that the economy's in the toilet?

Ah . . . But at least I have the Blues. Since I didn't feel like blabbing away on my blog, I spent time creating a new playlist at Finetune: Blues All 'Round My Head.

It's still in progress, but check it out anyway.

And though I've got the blues, my face did brighten when I saw this wonderful poster today and read about the DVD release of The Phantom Empire:
For indigenous American surrealism, it’s hard to beat the Saturday matinee serials of the 1930s, and I’m not sure that “The Phantom Empire,” a 1935 release from the Poverty Row studio Mascot, can be beat at all. Very likely the world’s first singing-cowboy science-fiction adventure, this 12-episode chapterplay, directed by Otto Brower and Breezy Easton, features Gene Autry in his first starring role — as “Gene Autry,” the proprietor of Radio Ranch. This curious institution seems to be at once a working cattle concern and a full-scale broadcasting business from which Gene and his pals (including his longtime sidekick Smiley Burnett) send out a daily program of country-western songs.

Life is sweet at Radio Ranch until a band of “renegade scientists” arrives, looking for the massive radium deposits of the secret underground nation Murania, the gateway to which happens to be located in a canyon behind Gene’s ranch. Before too long, Gene and his two l’il pardners (the child actors Frankie Darro and Betsy King Ross) find themselves caught between the rampaging savants and the legions of Wagnerian Thunder Riders (accompanied by appropriate sound effects) and lumbering mechanical men (whimsical robots built for a production number in MGM’s “Dancing Lady” but cut from the final film) sent forth by Murania’s “She”-like Queen Tika (Dorothy Christy) to prevent her land of peace and plenty from being invaded by rapacious “surface men.” It’s a lot for Gene to handle, particularly since he has to get back to Radio Ranch by 2 p.m. every day for his broadcast, which he carries on as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

It is said that Wallace MacDonald, one of the serial’s five credited writers, came up with the concept while under the influence of nitrous oxide at his dentist’s office. That seems quite possible, given the screenplay’s furious imaginings, which include an interesting kind of television that requires no cameras (but has an inconvenient, floor-level circular screen) and “radium bombs” posed to destroy the entire planet.

Absurdity saves the day!

And now, back to Blind Willie McTell and Lonnie Johnson. . . .

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Gershwin Friday: Dylan Sings "Soon"

Bob Dylan performing "Soon" at a George Gershwin Tribute held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on March 11, 1987.

Maybe not the greatest performance ever, but one that carries a lot of historic weight. At least at this point, it's the only known recording of Dylan performing Gershwin.

Interesting that he chose "Soon," a song that doesn't seem obviously Dylan-esque. I would've thought he'd go with one of those darker, minor-chord pieces in Porgy and Bess.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

When Democrats Are Racists and Reactionaries

Another African-American male given preferential treatment. His very own Waiting Room!

I didn't think it would be possible to be surprised any more by the crap emanating from the Clinton campaign. But I was so angry after watching clips of Geraldine Ferraro's comments last night that I had a hard time getting to sleep.

Folks, this is not good. We are dealing with a level of racism on the part of the Clinton campaign that every Democrat, liberal, or simply intelligent human being should be ashamed of.

In fact, I'm calling you Clinton fans out. I want one of you to explain to me how it's possible for someone to belong to a party that espouses civil rights, justice, and fairness out of one side of its big mouth while trying to nominate a candidate who has consistently engaged in racism and fear-mongering in order to get elected.

And before you start blaming Barack Obama for bringing up race, tell me when Obama has ever mentioned the subject in his campaign when he wasn't responding to the bilge coming from one Clinton surrogate or another. Find a speech. Maybe there is one. But I think you're going to have a hard time.

Ferraro's comments are being directed at the kind of of angry white male (and, obviously, female) that I foolishly thought belonged mostly on the right-wing. But, evidently, the old racist Southern Democrat mentality still exists within other areas of the Democratic Party. In Pennsylvania, perhaps? Could it be that Ferraro and the Clintons know exactly who this kind of spiritual diarrhea appeals to? And that a good number of those people happen to be in the next primary state?

Yes, it could be.

In fact, that's the point. Piss-off people like me, so I'll react; create a big stir in the media, because so many are disgusted with an obvious race-baiting tactic; which lets loose the barely suppressed racist rage of angry white folks who will then blame the smooth-talking black guy for bringing up race. And he probably got into Harvard over some poor, lily white girl who was smarter.

And I fall for it, and the media falls for it, and the Clintons have accomplished their purpose. It doesn't matter who's right or wrong on the question. The only thing that matters is outrage and the inevitable reactionary response.

I know that voice Ferraro used, and I know exactly who she's talking to. I've heard their whispers and their open racist comments around me my whole life. From Texas to New York City to Long Island. They're the guys in Billie's Tavern who say, "Long Island is the last bastion of white people in America." They listen to Ferraro and know exactly where she's coming from. Poor, victimized white people. They're one or two drinks away from donning a white robe and going after one of the few blacks who live around here, or after the Mexican immigrants.

And if you want a Democratic Party that leans on racism and reactionaries, then heed Ferraro's words.

Otherwise, I suggest you contact some of the big-shots in the Democratic Party and tell them: ENOUGH!

Tell them that this is not what the Democratic Party stands for. The ongoing race-baiting and fear-mongering on the part of the Clintons is doing tremendous and probably long-term damage to the the party, not to mention to the country.

Here's info for some major Democrats not yet affiliated with either campaign. If anyone has Al Gore's contact page or email, let me know. And if you think of anyone else in the party who should be contacted, please chime in.

Howard Dean (DNC)

Nancy Pelosi:

Bill Richardson

John Edwards:

UPDATE: Liam found contact info for Al Gore (thanks):

Honorable Al Gore
2100 West End Avenue
Suite 620 Nashville, TN 37203
Fax: 615-327-1323
Phone: 615-327-2227
For press interview requests, email Al Gore’s spokesperson, Kalee Kreider at

Gasp! More African-American men getting preferential treatment. His very own water fountain!

Meanwhile, I'll let Shark Fu (AngryBlackBitch) give you her take on Geraldine Ferraro.

As a side note, AngryBlackBitch was just named one of The World's 50 Most Powerful Blogs by The Guardian. Congratulations!

Dear Geraldine:

This is not an attack.

This is a response.

I woke up at 4 o’clock in the morning thinking about you, Geraldine.

I lay there listening to my sorta-beagles snore and wondered if you really think that Senator Obama is still in this race solely because he is a black man.

I don’t know you, Geraldine, and I don’t assume a person is decent simply because they hold a certain status in the Democratic Party and feminist history. This bitch has never met you, but I sure as shit know what it is like to have someone attribute my success to my being black.

It’s the freakiest mind fuck out there to have someone treat what has been the source of oppression like it is the “it” benefit of 2008.

But you know that, don’t you…Geraldine?

Let’s get real, Geraldine. You don’t give a flying shit whether you offend the hell out of some people as long as your message gets through to the right people. The kind of people who hear a quote like that and are thankful that someone said it…fucking cheer when they hear it then eagerly e-mail it to five friends…and can’t believe you’re catching hell for it.

Those people…

…who you need to fire up and are confident the tried and true fuel of 'gender trumps race' will get it done and bring in some money.

This trifling ass shit has left me unable to imagine a scenario where I cast the vote people risked their lives and died to achieve for me for a candidate who's campaign insults what I stand for and the principles I believe in.

And next time don’t bother with the “and if he was a woman (of any color)” pander, okay?

I haven’t been caught up in that unified sisterhood concept yet, honey...and your verbal malfunction didn’t help with that shit one bit.

I’m not attacking you because you are white.

This is coming at you because you’re wrong…
Still more preferential treatment for African-American males! Why do they get to play with the ropes while the poor white folks only get to watch the fun?!?!?

UPDATE: Geraldine Ferraro resigned from her position on Hillary Clinton's finance committee.

And she still doesn't get it.

Going out with the same lack of grace that got her into this mess to begin with, she once again blamed Obama for her own dumbass, bigoted remarks:
"I am stepping down from your finance committee so I can speak for myself and you can continue to speak for yourself about what is at stake in this campaign," Ferraro wrote. "The Obama campaign is attacking me to hurt you. I won't let that happen."

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Make Me Wanna Holler

I don't know . . . . just something in the air today. Feeling disappointed and angry. The wounded soul needs some Marvin Gaye.

"Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)"
[Marvin Gaye/James Nyx]

Rockets, moon shots
Spend it on the have nots
Money, we make it
'Fore we see it, you take it
Oh, make you wanna holler
The way they do my life
Make me wanna holler
The way they do my life
This ain't livin', This ain't livin'
No, no baby, this ain't livin'

Inflation, no chance
To increase finance
Bills pile up sky high
Send that boy off to die
Make me wanna holler
The way they do my life
Make me wanna holler
The way they do my life

Hang ups, let downs
Bad breaks, set backs
Natural fact is
Oh, honey, I can't pay my taxes
Oh, make me wanna holler
And throw up both my hands
Yeah, it make me wanna holler
And throw up both my hands

Crime is increasing
Trigger-happy policing
Panic is spreading
God know where we're heading

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Obama's Edge in Money and Technology

While reading various Texas newspapers today, I came across major internet ads from Barack Obama in the Houston Chronicle; Dallas Morning News; and Austin-American Statesman.

These are huge ads that take up much of the home page of the newspapers' web sites. They include short campaign videos and important information on how to caucus on Tuesday night. It's a smart, savvy expenditure of money, and another example of the Obama campaign's superior skill in using new technologies.

I can imagine political and media historians of the future writing about the importance of the internet in the 2008 presidential election and Obama's mastery of it, in much the same way that they've written for years now about television's role in the 1960 election and how the younger candidate, John F. Kennedy, understood its impact much better.

I checked other Texas papers from San Antonio, El Paso, and Corpus Christi, but they didn't have the ads. Interestingly, the ad-buy was in areas where Obama has already shown strong support, as opposed to areas where he's probably lagging behind Clinton.

Then, I checked some Ohio papers. The Cincinnati Enquirer also featured the ad, though, obviously, without the Caucus information. Cleveland and Akron newspapers didn't have it.

Adam Nagourney has a story featured on the home page of the New York Times web site, "Obama Spends Heavily to Seek Knockout Blow," which mentions the internet ads:

Mr. Obama has been particularly aggressive in these contests in using Internet tools to identify and turn out supporters, building on tools they have developed throughout the campaign. For example, anyone using the search engine Google to look for Texas caucus locations will see an advertisement from Mr. Obama’s campaign listing the caucus sites, and, after a click, inviting people to sign in with their names and e-mail addresses.

Visitors to the Web sites of The Houston Chronicle and The Cincinnati Enquirer were confronted with a moving advertisement that took up nearly half the screen that showed a video of Mr. Obama and urged voters to sign up and pledge their support to his campaign.

“We are trying to grow the electorate,” said David Plouffe, Mr. Obama’s campaign manager, referring to the Internet effort. “We have had almost 20,000 people come through our ads looking for their early vote location.”
The article's worth reading for several other reasons as well.

UPDATE: Obviously, this wasn't enough of an edge.

McCain's Unusual Strategy to Court the Catholic Vote

In an appeal to Catholic voters across the nation, John McCain flew down to San Antonio, Texas on Wednesday to publicly receive the endorsement of Evangelical mega-church pastor John Hagee. In addition to many other bigoted comments over the years, it turns out that Hagee has a particular soft spot for the "Great Whore," "apostate church," and "false cult system" that is the Roman Catholic Church.

Glenn Greenwald, at

One of this week's hysterical press scandals was that Minister Louis Farrakhan praised Barack Obama's candidacy even though Obama had previously denounced numerous Farrakhan remarks and the Obama campaign did nothing to seek out the Farrakhan praise. Nonetheless, Tim Russert demanded that Obama jump through multiple hoops to prove that he has no connection to -- and, in fact, "rejects" -- the ideas espoused by Farrakhan deemed to be radical and hateful.

Yesterday, though, the equally fringe, radical and hateful (at least) Rev. John Hagee -- a white evangelical who is the pastor of a sprawling "mega-church" in Texas -- enthusiastically endorsed John McCain. Did McCain have to jump through the same hoops which Russert and others set up for Obama and "denounce" Hagee's extremism and "reject" his support? No; quite the opposite. McCain said he was "very honored" to receive this endorsement and, when asked about some of Hagee's more twisted views, responded: "all I can tell you is that I am very proud to have Pastor John Hagee's support."

Enter Bill Donohoe, of the Catholic League, who issued a statement yesterday, entitled "McCain Embraces Bigot" (I guess it takes one to know one):

“There are plenty of staunch evangelical leaders who are pro-Israel, but are not anti-Catholic. John Hagee is not one of them. Indeed, for the past few decades, he has waged an unrelenting war against the Catholic Church. For example, he likes calling it ‘The Great Whore,’ an ‘apostate church,’ the ‘anti-Christ,’ and a ‘false cult system.’ To hear the bigot in his own words, click here. Note: he isn’t talking about the Buddhists.

“In Hagee’s latest book, Jerusalem Countdown, he calls Hitler a Catholic who murdered Jews while the Catholic Church did nothing. ‘The sell-out of Catholicism to Hitler began not with the people but with the Vatican itself,’ he writes. . . .

“Senator Obama has repudiated the endorsement of Louis Farrakhan, another bigot. McCain should follow suit and retract his embrace of Hagee.”

John McCain responded:

“Yesterday, Pastor John Hagee endorsed my candidacy for president in San Antonio, Texas. However, in no way did I intend for his endorsement to suggest that I in turn agree with all of Pastor Hagee’s views, which I obviously do not.”
And, later in the day:
McCain was pressed on the issue Friday morning in Round Rock, Texas. Hagee "supports what I stand for and believe in," McCain said.

"When he endorses me, that does not mean that I endorse everything that he stands for and believes in," McCain said. "I don't have to agree with everyone who endorses my campaign."

He added that he was "proud" of Hagee's spiritual leadership of his congregation at the 17,000-member Cornerstone Church.

The Democratic National Committee, via Executive Director Tom McMahon, then asked:
So which Hagee positions does John McCain endorse? His position that Hurricane Katrina was punishment from God because "New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God and they were recipients of the judgment of God for that." Or his position that "all Muslims have a mandate to kill Christians and Jews." [NPR Fresh Air, 9/18/06] Or his "slave sale" where he announced that participants should "make plans to come and go home with a slave." [San Antonio Express-News 3/7/96]

"As a Catholic, I am personally offended by John McCain's embrace of such a divisive figure. I join many others in the Catholic community calling on Sen. McCain to immediately distance himself from Hagee and denounce his remarks," said DNC Executive Director Tom McMahon. "As an American, I'm also offended by Hagee's denigration of African Americans, Muslims, women, and LGBT Americans. Hagee's hate speech has no place in public discourse and McCain's embrace of this figure raises serious questions about John McCain's character and his willingness to do anything to win."
The Antichrist, by Lucas Cranach the Elder - 1521. The Pope portrayed as the Antichrist.

The group Catholics United also chimed in:
Catholics United has issued a letter to the John McCain campaign asking him to publicly distance himself from Pastor John Hagee's anti-Catholic rhetoric and reject his endorsement.

On Wednesday, Senator John McCain was “honored” to receive the endorsement of the Evangelical pastor John Hagee. Pastor Hagee is well known for his anti-Catholic rhetoric such as past suggestions that the Catholic Church gave Adolf Hitler inspiration and support for the Holocaust.
Later in the day, Donohoe discussed the issue further in an interview with Glenn Greenwald:
"Hagee is far more powerful than Farrakhan is today. . . . Hagee is a major player. There's no end to his money. He has an empire down there." Regarding the intense 2000 media controversy when then-Gov. George Bush spoke at Bob Jones University, Donohue said:
Why were they so exercised about Bob Jones? This is worse. . . . If someone said to me: who is the biggest anti-Catholic bigot in the evangelical community, I would say: hands down, John Hagee.

Donohue was particularly insistent that McCain's behavior would severely harm his standing with Catholic voters -- the group of voters which Karl Rove maintains is the key group for enabling the GOP to win: "This thing seems to be to be blowing up in his face. McCain has stepped in it big time." And Donohue further vowed:

He's not going to get away with this with the Catholic community. . . . We're going to get this out to the Catholic community and Catholic press around the country. . . . We're going to ride this out and see how far he wants to talk about this.
Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee was just disappointed that Hagee hadn't endorsed him:
I don't know how to speak for Pastor Hagee. He's a friend. I was shocked and disappointed by his decision, but you know what, he has one vote and I'm going to believe that there are a whole lot of people in Texas who will vote their own principles and conscience.
And how are some Evangelicals responding to their offended Catholic brothers and sisters? One blog had this to say:
[Hagee] regularly preaches that the Roman Catholics have caused much suffering in the world through the centuries. But who can rightly deny it? Look at the medieval history of Europe for instance, horrible slaughters of Jews and Protestants who would not bend the knee to the Roman Pope. And to this day, many Catholics think that only Catholics go to heaven, no Protestants allowed, so where do you suppose they got that idea?

And is Donohue protesting donations to McCain from gay Log Cabin Republicans? Is he protesting donations from gambling casinos, from liquor distributors, or from atheistic Catholic-haters? I dare say no, so Donohue should stop being so sensitive and self-righteous. But if he wants to not acknowledge the sometimes horrific behavior of the Roman Catholic church throughout church history, nor the many valid reasons that Protestants think Roman Catholicism is not New Testament Christianity, then Donohue will be one of the few who is that myopic to not see it, acknowledge it, and move on.

The Dallas Morning News Religion Blog covered the story: Catholic League doesn't (heart) McCain's cozying with Hagee. Here's the first readers' comment:

Pastor Hagee is totaly right about the Catholic Church..Hagee saying exactley what God said about this group.....In Revelations chapters 2 & 3 you will find that God says he hates this group of chanting, idle worshipping, with Mary and their Saints. Along with other Apostate religions, like the Binny Hinn's of this world and the Laodicean church age, New Age movement, The Morman and Jehovah Witness cults, pagans, etc.None of these groups are teaching the True word of God..Last chapter in Revelations not add too or take away from his (Gods) words...Period! Jesus is the only way and the only answer for Salvation from an eternal, Burning fire of Hell. There is no other way but one and it is through Jesus Chirst, the Son of God, who shed is blood on Calavry for man's sins...Hagee is telling the turth.

Nice, move Senator McCain. You've managed to piss off Catholics, who make up a sizable portion of your possible voter base; fueled ongoing tension between Protestant Evangelicals and Catholics; and made Obama's rejection and denunciation of Farrakhan look even stronger.

At one point, I was concerned about John McCain being the Republican candidate. But the more I watch this man in the primaries, the more I doubt his skills at running a presidential campaign. He ran out of money last summer and still has a hard time raising cash: $12 million last month, with virtually no competition in the race, compared to $30 million from Hillary Clinton and $50 million for Obama. He can't finish off Mike Huckabee. His supposed "straight-talk" often sounds like he simply hasn't thought about what he's saying - a major disadvantage in a presidential race. ("I don't really know much about the economy.") He continues tying himself to a president with a 20% approval rating, and to a war which 2/3 of Americans want to end. He doesn't seem to have learned anything from Hillary Clinton's failed attacks against Barack Obama and seems content to repeat her mistakes.

If Obama can win the nomination, I'm beginning to look forward to an extended campaign against John McCain. Who knows, Obama might even pick up some of the Catholic vote.

UPDATE: Here's video of some of Hagee's charming thoughts on Catholics:

Meanwhile, right-wing Evangelicals and Catholics battle it out over at Hot Air:
That’s the salient thing about these loud-mouthed, Hagee-hating Catholics: They are all over Hagee for his alleged anti-Catholicism, but it seems the main thing that comes through in your posts is a loathing for Hagee and fundamentalists.

Hagee is a brave and decent man: Sliming him hurts his detractors far more than it does Mr. Hagee.

sanantonian on March 1, 2008 at 1:56 AM

Hagee has called the Catholic Church ‘The Great Whore,’ an ‘apostate church,’ the ‘anti-Christ,’ and a ‘false cult system.’ There is nothing “alleged” about his hatred of Catholics. Actually, he is quite open about his disgust and hatred toward Catholics.

There are plently of decent and rightous Protestant ministers who stand up for Israel and Christian values in this country but do not have contempt for Catholics, and work with us to achieve our common goals, and Hagee is not one of them!

irish_infidel on March 1, 2008 at 2:11 AM
The Catholics win that round.

UPDATE 2: Matthew Yglesias, Associate Editor of Atlantic Monthly:
Initially, John McCain had an admirably straight-talking like on John Hagee -- he was proud to be supported by the anti-Catholic, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab, "pro-Israel" Christian leader who hopes to see the Middle East plunged into massive war that will result in the end of the world. Now he's getting flip-floppety . . . .

The issue here has to do with the role of extremists in public life. Barack Obama never sought support from Louis Farrakhan, never appeared on stage with Farrakhan, never pronounced himself proud to be backed by Farrakhan, but was nonetheless asked on national television to specifically disavow the man. People don't want to put a political coalition that includes Farrakhan in office.

McCain and his staff actively sought out Hagee's endorsement, he appeared and campaigned with Hagee, he said he was proud to be backed by Hagee. Hagee is, in short, part of McCain's political strategy. Now he tells us he doesn't agree with Hagee about everything. Well, which things? Are we supposed to believe that McCain's not into the bigotry, or the foreign policy aimed at apocalypse, but just likes Hagee because of their shared opposition to gay marriage? Is McCain going to be courting Osama bin Laden's endorsement? It's reminiscent of McCain's on-again, off-again quest for the support of "agents of intolerance" like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. McCain's trying to wink with one eye to a segment of the electorate, wink with his other eye at his fans in the media, and somehow maintain a reputation for straight talk throughout all this.