Wednesday, February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley, Leading Conservative, Dies at 82 (Update1)

William F. Buckley, Leading Conservative, Dies at 82 (Update1)

Feb. 27 (Bloomberg) -- William F. Buckley Jr., the syndicated columnist and intellectual whose studied mannerisms, verbal flourishes and polemics energized the American conservative movement for a half-century, has died. He was 82.

Buckley died overnight in his study in Stamford, Connecticut, according to the National Review Online. His son, Christopher, told the New York Times that Buckley had suffered from diabetes and emphysema, although the exact cause of death was not yet known. Buckley was found at his desk and might have been working on a column, his son said.

``If he had been given a choice on how to depart this world, I suspect that would have been exactly it: at home, still devoted to the war of ideas,'' said Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of the Web site.

Buckley harnessed a belief in individual liberty, limited government and the defeat of communism into an organized voice of the right in the National Review, the biweekly opinion magazine he founded in 1955. He was also host of the Emmy Award-winning television program ``Firing Line'' for 33 years.

Buckley entered the political arena with the 1951 publication of ``God and Man at Yale,'' his first and best-known book. A rebuke of his alma mater for straying from its Christian roots, the book attacked the faculty as bent on secularism, collectivism and Keynesian economics over individualism and free- market capitalism.

His libertarian ideals were shared by Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, who went on to win the Republican nomination for president over Nelson Rockefeller in 1964, but lost the election to incumbent Lyndon Johnson. A year later, Buckley ran unsuccessfully for mayor of New York on the Conservative Party ticket.

Vision Fulfilled

Much of what Buckley advocated came to pass with the election of Republican Ronald Reagan to two terms as U.S. president, the fall of the Soviet Union and the Republican Party's retaking of Congress in 1994.

Reagan, on the National Review's 30th anniversary, called Buckley a ``clipboard-bearing Galahad, ready to take on any challengers in the critical battle of point and counterpoint. And, with grace and humor and passion, to raise a standard to which patriots and lovers of freedom could repair.''

Buckley's wife, New York socialite Patricia, died in April 2007.

Legion of Followers

While Buckley drew a legion of followers, he remained independent of the movement he helped create. He favored legalizing illicit drugs at a time when the U.S. had declared a ``War on Drugs,'' and in a Feb. 24, 2006, column called for President George W. Bush to acknowledge defeat in the war in Iraq.

In the 1970s, he sided with President Jimmy Carter on his plan to hand the Panama Canal back to Panama. He also lamented opposing the 1964 Civil Rights Act and, in a further criticism of the second President Bush, warned of the foreign-policy entanglements of so-called neoconservatives:

``The neoconservative hubris, which sort of assigns to America some kind of geo-strategic responsibility for maximizing democracy, overstretches the resources of a free country.''

`On the Right'

Born into a wealthy Irish-Catholic family, Buckley acquired an erudite ease with both the spoken and written word. His use of unusual words, coupled with a New England prep-school drawl, came across as haughty to some, while an outward charm and urbane civility underlay his style of pointed public debate.

His column, ``On the Right,'' was syndicated nationally in 1962 and appeared in some 300 newspapers. In 1966, he began ``Firing Line,'' pitting liberals against conservatives, in which he played both host and interlocutor.

When U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy repeatedly refused to appear on the show, Buckley quipped: ``Why does baloney reject the grinder?''

``Firing Line'' guests included Goldwater, author Norman Mailer, former President George H.W. Bush and liberal economist John Kenneth Galbraith.

In his last article posted on the National Review Web site, dated Feb. 2, Buckley indulged in two favorite pastimes: jabbing Democrats and dissecting the use of the English language.

``Presidential candidates no longer even try to sound like the Lincoln-Douglas debates, yet it is not bad occasionally to subject them to such analysis, to learn what it is that is not being said,'' Buckley wrote, reviewing the Jan. 31 debate between Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

``The two performers in the debate struck the observant conservative as intelligent, resourceful and absolutely uninterested in the vector of political force,'' he wrote.

`Aversion to Boredom'

Fluent in French and Spanish, Buckley's taste for the finer things in life extended to classical music and the wine he collected for his Stamford cellar. His greatest passion, sailing, was reflected in his ownership of five boats, four transoceanic trips and multiple races from Newport, Rhode Island, to Bermuda.

Buckley published more than 40 books, including ``McCarthy and His Enemies'' in 1954 and 11 spy novels featuring a James Bond-like protagonist, Blackford Oakes, partly inspired by his own service with the Central Intelligence Agency.

He professed a ``cognate aversion to boredom,'' and learned to fly a plane, descended in a submarine to survey the Titanic's remains and took annual ski trips to Gstaad, Switzerland, and Alta, Utah, where he hit the slopes with Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman.

`Great Elm' to Yale

William Frank Buckley Jr. was born on Nov. 24, 1925, in New York, the sixth of 10 children. His father, a lawyer and oil baron, moved the family to Sharon, Connecticut, in 1923 after being expelled from Mexico City for his support of a revolution against President Alvaro Obregon.

He lived in a large, white-columned home called ``Great Elm'' and spent leisurely summers riding horses and competing in sailing races. With five pianos and one organ in the house, the children grew into ``music addicts,'' Buckley wrote in his 2004 memoir ``Miles Gone By.''

After early schooling in France and England, Buckley was sent in 1938 to St. John's, Beaumont, a Jesuit-run boarding school in Old Windsor, near London. He later wrote that the experience there fostered ``a deep and permanent involvement in Catholic Christianity.''

Buckley entered Yale in 1946 as a second lieutenant after serving two years stateside in the Army infantry. He became chairman of the Yale Daily News, joined the secretive Skull & Bones society and was a star debater. He studied political science, history and economics and graduated with honors.

CIA, National Review

While at Yale he tutored Spanish, landing him a full-time job as an assistant professor after graduating in 1950. In July of that year, he married Vancouver native Patricia Taylor.

Buckley served in the CIA in Mexico for nine months in 1951 before becoming an associate editor at the right-wing American Mercury magazine.

His opposition to unions, international organizations such as the United Nations, and the blurred partisan lines of Eisenhower-era ``progressivism'' helped to spawn the National Review four years later.

``It stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it,'' read the publisher's statement in the first issue on Nov. 19, 1955.

Buckley served as editor-in-chief of the Review for more than three decades, increasing readership from 18,000 in 1956 to 137,000 in 1990 when he stepped down.

He surrounded himself with like-minded writers and editors, including Russell Kirk and James Burnham, as well as Yale mentor Willmoore Kendall and his sister Priscilla, who was managing editor from 1959 to 1985.

Nurturing Talent, Critics

Known for nurturing writing talent regardless of political leaning, Buckley counted among his proteges conservative columnists David Brooks and George Will, liberal writer Garry Wills and early contributors to the magazine Joan Didion and Arlene Croce.

While his detractors came largely from the left, and included author Gore Vidal, Buckley was also criticized by supporters of ``Objectivist'' conservative Ayn Rand and the ultra-right John Birch Society.

Rand, an atheist, was driven out of the conservative movement after her fictional ``Atlas Shrugged'' received a scathing review by Whittaker Chambers, a former communist and a contributor to the magazine. John Birch Society President John McManus, in his 2002 book ``William F. Buckley Jr., Pied Piper for the Establishment,'' said Buckley's focus on defeating communism made him interventionist and pro-government.

`Stay Plastered'

During one of his most notable debates on ABC at the 1968 Democratic National Convention with Vidal, Buckley responded to being called a ``crypto-Nazi'' by saying, ``Now, listen you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I'll sock you in your goddamn face. And you'll stay plastered.''

A year later, both Buckley and Vidal wrote essays for Esquire magazine assailing each other. Vidal's lawsuit over Buckley's ``On Experiencing Gore Vidal'' was thrown out of court. Buckley's suit over Vidal's ``A Distasteful Encounter With William F. Buckley Jr.'' was settled in 1972 with an apology from the magazine and the payment of his legal costs.

When Buckley ran for New York mayor in 1965, his main goal was to derail the candidacy of liberal Republican John Lindsay even if it meant sending votes to Democrat Abraham Beame.

`Demand a Recount'

He wrote his own position papers to address a city plagued by the highest urban unemployment in the country, subway crime and a $256 million budget deficit. His proposals included adding to police ranks, ending school integration and relocating welfare recipients outside the city.

Buckley's presence in the campaign was largely symbolic, reflected in his tongue-in-cheek approach to press conferences and public debates. When asked what he'd do if he won, Buckley gamely replied, ``Demand a recount.''

Buckley contributed articles to most major American literary and news publications, including the Atlantic Monthly, the New Yorker and the New York Times, and was the recipient of 31 honorary degrees.

He served as a delegate to the UN in 1973 and in 1991 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by the first President Bush. For most of his career, he averaged 70 public-speaking engagements a year.

In the late 1980s and early '90s, Buckley played solo harpsichord with six different ensembles, including the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra and Yale Symphony Orchestra.

He continued writing columns for the National Review after handing over his stock to a board of trustees in 2004.

In a March 2006 interview with Charlie Rose, Buckley warned that the conservative movement was suffering from a ``certain sleepiness'' in the absence of a threat such as communism and the Soviet Union. Terrorism, he said, while affecting the ``whole corpus of America,'' was not an enemy that divided Democrats and Republicans.

He also is survived by his grandchildren, Caitlin and Conor.

hudson river virus

Hudson River Virus From Jericho and Big Brother 9 Veto Competition

I hear a lot about Jericho and I'm sure it's a great show. The fans are apparently pretty rabid. Well, tonight on one of MY favorite shows, Big Brother 9, they held a veto competition with a Jericho theme and it was ended with a pretty cryptic message about the Hudson River Virus. It was a pretty cool twist by CBS. Check out how it all went down and see what the Hudson River Virus really is below...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Sam Zell opines (with Jack Welch)
A few takeaways from today's interview on CNBC:
On business- It doesn't make sense for a debate to exist about what you will do with your asset. If you don't understand something find out where the information comes from, and stay agile to be able to adjust.
On the economy- The worries over the economy are unfounded and 2008 will be a "reasonable" year. Housing starts have already bottomed out and the recovery will start this spring.
On the markets- There are all kinds of market opportunities in this environment.
On the election- "I've been working on my wife for the last 12 years, and I'm making some progress...logic can overcome liberalism."

Monday, February 25, 2008

john mclaughlin

John McLaughlin: The Unknown Dissident
TrackThe Unknown Dissident
John McLaughlin and The One Truth Band

CDElectric Dreams (Columbia/Legacy CK 48892)
Buy Track Musicians:
John McLaughlin (guitar), David Sanborn (alto sax),
L. Shankar (violin), Stu Goldberg (keyboards), Fernando Saunders (bass), Tony Smith (drums), Alyrio Lima (percussion)
Composed by John McLaughlin
Recorded: New York, November 1978

Rating: 98/100 (learn more)
"The Unknown Dissident" is one of McLaughlin's most fully realized compositions. The One Truth Band was also one of McLaughlin's most underrated units. It did not have the power of The Mahavishnu Orchestra. But its strong identity was formed by a rhythmic foundation that allowed it to "funk a groove." This tune, however, did not fall into funk territory.

The wobbly bleating of a European ambulance's siren opens the scene. Perhaps it is Northern Ireland in the '70s. Perhaps not. It is definitely some place bad, though. A soulful, plaintive guitar and sax tell a tragic tale of someone who has been fighting for a cause and has lost. Yet there is still hope. The fight has been worth it. This prisoner's struggle, though, is over. His last brave walk is brief and final. It is now left for others to carry on the righteous cause.

McLaughlin and guest David Sanborn have a wonderful rapport. They have recorded together several times. They should do so again.

During McLaughlin's 2007 tour with his new group The Fourth Dimension, "The Unknown Dissident" was played for the first time live. Its message is the same today as it was back then. Unfortunately, it is a message that will still be needed tomorrow. So you need to listen. You really do.


Freeheld' wins Oscar

Cynthia Wade's documentary about the struggles of Lt. Laurel Hester took home the Oscar tonight for Best Documentary Short. "Freeheld" is the story of Hester's final struggles with cancer and her fight against the freeholders of Ocean County, N.J., who almost denied her partner, Stacie Andree, Hester's pension benefits. For a full story, see my related article from a few weeks ago.

Upon accepting the award (which came surprisingly late in the interminable evening), Wade said, "It was Lt. Laurel Hester's dying wish that her fight" would "make a difference for same sex couples." Andree was also present, and the camera cut to her towards the end of the speech.

It's been a long journey, I'm sure, for everyone involved with the film, and while the struggle for equal marriage rights continues, advancements are being made through the courageous actions of people like Hester, Andree and Wade.

The rest of the show had its typical ups-and-downs. One of the better ups was the Best Actress win for Marion Cotillard, who delieverd an electirc performance as Edith Piaf in "La Vie En Rose." Refreshingly, both Cate Blanchett and Julie Christie looked honestly thrilled when the French actress got the nod. Cotillard's speech sounded genuine: "Thank you life, thank you love. It's true that there's angels in this city."

Tilda Swinton's Best Supporting Actress award was somewhat of a suprise. Many thought Blanchett would win it, but Swinton's victory was well deserved for her role in "Michael Clayton."

This year's in memoriam ended with Heath Ledger in his iconic Ennis pose in the hat, leaning against a building, and it reminded me of the sorrow that will be forever associated with this fine young actor's death.

Just past midnight now (must we suffer through mini-docs on the workings of the Academy and tired routines from presenters?), I'll blog more tomorrow about the evening's other highlights and the fashions (few utter disasters with the exception of an inordinate number of unkempt mopheads).

Congratulations to Cynthia Wade, Stacie Andree and Laurel Hester, whereever she might be.