Omaha

Paul Hammel is the Lincoln Bureau Chief of the Omaha World-Herald. Voters lined up hours before the opening of polling places here in Nebraska, where the big question is whether Barack Obama would be the first Democrat to win an electoral vote from the GOP-dominated state in 44 years. Nebraska, like Maine, has a unique system of awarding electoral votes, awarding one to the highest vote-getter in each of its congressional districts.

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What distinguishes the politician from the political agitator is a lively concern for his own job security. Politicians sometimes say what they believe, but they don't usually say things that might jeopardize their political future. Until recently, Chuck Hagel was a consummate politician, and a successful one at that. He defeated a popular sitting governor in his first Senate race in 1996 and won reelection, in 2002, with 83 percent of the vote.

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What if they had an anti-war movement and nobody came? For three nights at the end of April, a few politically conscious punk-rock bands from around the country passed through New York on a tour called Plea for Peace. Punk has included an element of political consciousness since the Clash strummed about the Troubles in the late 1970s, although in peacetime the good service of punks was to plead for anarchy.

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Roboflop

Despite his pee-pants performance in the Omaha debate against Lloyd Bentsen, it looks as if Dan Quayle, 41, will be president one of these days. Consider the politico-actuarial probabilities. Assuming the Republican lead endures, the junior senator from Indiana will be elected vice president. This alone will give him an even chance of becoming president. Three out of the last five presidents were vice president first. Seven out of the last ten vice presidents have ended up heading a national ticket, and four (five if you presumptively count George Bush) got all the way to the Oval Office.

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Astaire Dancing: The Musical Films by W John Mueller (Knopf, 448 pp., $45) Sinatra: My Father By Nancy Sinatra (Doubleday, 340pp., $50) One mercy of living between 1930 and 1960, if you took notice, was the good fortune of having the show put on by Astaire and Frank Sinatra. Not that their worth erased in 1960, when they started to move toward saloon chairs, golf, and more humdrum ways of passing their tune.  You can still see The Gay Divorcee, “Puttin’ on the Ritz” from Blue Skies, or Silk Stockings; and you can listen to In the Wee Small Hours, Songs for Swingin’ Lovers, or Only the Lonely.

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