Ruin and Rebirth in the South

The South is, perhaps, the last romantic place in America, in all the best and worst senses of that word. It is a region where the wail of a freight train whistle is never very far away, and where you can see both lovely, fetid green swamps and nuclear-reactor towers from your train window. It is where a stretch of highway might bring the majestic spectacle of summer lightning illuminating a rolling cloud bank, or a gigantic American flag flying proudly over an auto dealership—or the Chernobyl-like remains of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s old Heritage USA, Christian theme park Read More

Ybor Stories

“There was music in the cafés at night/ And revolution in the air . . .” —Bob Dylan Some may conclude from reading this blog that I believe downtown Tampa to be a soulless, sun-blasted hellhole made up of little besides empty sidewalks, endless parking lots, and sterile glass boxes. Some would be right. But there are many other parts of the Tampa Bay area that have real style and character. My own favorite is Ybor City, which was where Jack and I stayed during our sole- and soul-blistering trip to the Republican National Convention. Despite the name, Ybor is Read More

Party Like It’s 1984

I was struck, attending the Republican and Democratic political conventions, by how woefully inadequate the two southern host cities were to the task. I completely understand the political calculations that spurred these choices—Charlotte and Tampa are both “new” Sun Belt cities in important swing states. But c’mon. Minneapolis and Denver, the 2008 choices, were bad enough. This was ridiculous. Charlotte looks like Stamford, Connecticut, on steroids—a collection of overgrown glass boxes with bizarre roofs that are mostly the result of a fight between two of our greediest banksters, plus a NASCAR museum bigger than many NASCAR racetracks. Its slogan reads: Read More

The Path to Genuine Political Change

President Barack Obama’s speech to the 2012 Democratic Convention was one of the best he has given, and one of the best in recent history. It was an almost word-perfect defense of the liberal idea and American exceptionalism. I just wish he’d meant half of it. The grudging early praise for the speech from the commentariat has been picayune, even silly. President Obama’s speech was not only brilliantly conceived and written, and delivered with impeccable timing, it accomplished something, which is a very rare thing indeed for a speech to do. What the president’s address—what the whole evening of Democratic Read More

President Barack Obama’s speech to the 2012 Democratic Convention was one of the best he has given, and one of the best in recent history. Read More

The Clinton Show

Just as it was for the Republicans, Day Two of the Democratic Party’s convention was a serious work day, one in which speaker after speaker went about making the case for the party, stomping out brushfires, and rebutting the opposition’s lines of assault. All day and far into the night, they rose to rip into the G.O.P. and defend President Obama. The biggest gun, of course, was the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, who was very hoarse and typically apt to ramble, but who nonetheless gave a masterful speech that got better as it went along. Speaking deliberately, blithely exerting Read More

Courting Disappointment in Charlotte

The delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, are absolutely delightful. Taken all together, they make the Republican convention look like a convocation of especially dreary MBAs. Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats here come in all shapes and sizes, colors and ages, professions and faiths. They look like America, only prettier. And last night they were rocking, secure in their candidate and their beliefs, confident of victory in November. They are also some of the most delusional people I have ever met. Last night, as Michelle Obama rocked the house, and one speaker after another scored the Read More

The Republican Claim On Hope

One irreducible fact to come out of the towering slagheap of falsehoods that was the Republican convention is that Mitt Romney can win, and is likely to do so, if Barack Obama and the Democrats do not continue to attack him directly and repeatedly, with everything at their disposal, from the very moment their convention gavels into session today in Charlotte. Even worse, a Romney win could easily usher in a right-wing era more extreme and extended than the one generated by the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. It has become holy writ among some of my friends and Read More

The Imposed Culture

I hate to ever mention the name Donald Trump. But I feel obliged to do so now, following his recent near-descent upon Tampa, Florida, and the Republican National Convention. Like Hurricane Isaac, Trump passed perilously close to Tampa Bay before veering off to parts elsewhere, loosening days of sickly warm, noxious expectorations and ponderous thunderclouds upon us in his passing. In the area to accept some phony award as “Statesman of the Year,” he seized the opportunity to flog his secondhand fixation upon President Obama’s birth records—an obsession that most of the working press realizes is another advertisement for himself, Read More

John McCain’s Roadmap to Eternal War

“The bullshit piled up so fast in Vietnam, you needed wings to stay above it.”—Apocalypse Now We wrote about all of the outrageous lies perpetrated by Republican speakers on the second night of the convention. But none of these prevarications—and none of the speakers on the second night of the convention—not even the smirking nonentity that is Tim Pawlenty, nor the megalomaniacal governor of New Mexico, Susana “The little children vie to touch the hem of my garment” Martinez—approached the wild disingenuousness and genuine menace inherent to Senator John McCain’s address to the convention. Following a serious work night for the Republicans—one in which Read More