Monthly Archives: July 2008

Reflections On The Obama “Celebrity” Ad

UPDATE:  Okay THIS is the proper response to the latest McCain ad —

NICELY DONE!  Team Obama should turn this into an ad itself…

************

I agree with all these people (emphases are mine)

The Anonymous Liberal:

It appears that the McCain campaign’s new strategy is to portray Barack Obama as a "celebrity" in the sense of Brittany Spears and Paris Hilton, someone who sells magazines and attracts crowds but isn’t qualified to be president. Indeed, Obama isn’t just a run of the mill celebrity, according to McCain’s latest television ad, he’s "the biggest celebrity in the world."

This strikes me as a bizarre strategy for a number of reasons. First, as a factual matter, Obama clearly isn’t a "celebrity" in the sense that the McCain campaign is implying. He’s not someone who achieved fame outside of politics and then tried to translate that into a political career. In other words, he’s not Ronald Reagan or Arnold Schwarzenegger (someone should ask McCain whether he thinks they were qualified). To the contrary, to the extent Obama is famous now, it is solely a product of what he’s accomplished as a politician. And it’s not as if the American people are going to be fooled on this point. They follow celebrities closely and most of them had never heard of Barack Obama until he began running for president.

But putting all that aside, what makes the McCain campaign think that this particular line of attack is going to work? First, if you’re not really paying close attention to the ad (or if you have the sound off), what you take away is an image of Obama speaking in front of massive adoring crowds waiving American flags. Second, even if you do pay attention to the ad, it seems to me that it doesn’t really help McCain. Negative ads like this are primarily aimed at low information voters, people who haven’t really formed opinions of the candidates. But if you don’t know much about Obama, you’re likely to be struck most by the claim in the ad that he is now "the biggest celebrity in the world." That’s likely to peak people’s curiosity. If I didn’t know much about the guy, I would want to know what it is about him that has made him such a phenomenon. Why is he so beloved by so many people?  How did he go from some guy I’d never heard of to "biggest celebrity in the world"?

And finally, even if this ad works as intended and makes people think of Obama as some sort of vapid celebrity, what exactly does that accomplish? All it will do is set the bar lower for Obama as we move into the major general election events, such as the convention speech and the debates. If people think Obama is Paris Hilton, they’re going to be blown away by his debate performance.

Jurassicpork from Brilliant at Breakfast:

[McCain’s ad is taking a] stupid (not to mention a losing) risk to acknowledge Obama’s growing popularity and to try to portray it as a weakness rather than a strength. Sour grapes make for lousy Koolaid.

James Wolcott at Vanity Fair:

I have watched enough television during incarceration to have a few points to make about the McCain campaign’s new anti-Obama "celebrity" ad.

1) Obama looks so cool, upbeat, and confident in the ad that his smiling, waving, striding presence provides a "lift" that doesn’t simply contradict the admonitory tone of the voiceover text, but visually drowns it out through sheer pow of personality. It’d be like trying to warn teenagers in the fifties about the dangers of rock and roll, then showing concert footage of Elvis at his most charismatic–great way to create converts, guys!

2) Regardless of the racial-sexual subtext being purveyed, referencing Britney Spears and Paris Hilton seems a bit tired and dated, the older generation scolding the younger. Picking on Spears in a political ad seems like poor sportsmanship (she’s hardly done the harm to the culture that Ann Coulter has), and in her wealth, privilege, and lathed blondness, Paris Hilton resembles a younger version of Cindy McCain–there’s an almost daughterly resemblance, an enjoined twirl of ruling class DNA. So using her as an object of derision doesn’t quite gel.

3) The closing profile shot of McCain, head tilted as if basking in the soft heavenly glow of Reagan above, is not only corner and kitschy but reduces the candidate to a postage stamp–this, after portraying Obama as a fully engaged energy packet.

4) America is a country based on celebrity, a country where nearly everybody wants to be a celebrity, an American Idol, and decrying the cult of celebrity is an empty exercise in moralizing. After JFK, Reagan, and Bill Clinton, the candidate as glamour figure is already wired into our collective psyches, and Fred Thompson’s celebrity status didn’t seem to trouble Republicans when he looked like a contender, until they realized his gravitas was indistinguishable from indigestion.

5) The real message of the McCain ad is that they’re envious of Obama’s elan vital, and are reduced to mocking what they covet, Envy makes a person look petty, and a petty, peevish John McCain will be indistinguishable from the Bob Dole of 1996 if he doesn’t "big up." Right now his campaign is making Obama look like the mature one, which may explain why at least one longtime McCain loyalist is barking from the shadows.

Steve Soto says the ad is "a direct slap at the adoring crowds Obama gets."  Indeed.  He adds:

Actually, that’s pretty funny, if not outright envious. But let’s seen how the Obama campaign responds to their opponent belittling the American public in an attempt to get everyone to ignore that McCain’s energy and economic policies don’t add up. I haven’t seen Obama’s national ads (where are they?), but it seems clear that McCain has thrown down the gauntlet and said that Obama is nothing more than a lightweight celebrity, and not a serious candidate. If there was a time for Obama to use a Tier One/Tier Two effort and go right at McCain on real issues and the holes in McCain’s agenda and rhetoric, now’s that time.

And I think Obama did just that:

The Economic Outlook Is GREAT….

…if you’re an oil company.  They’ve enjoyed record profits this quarter:

Profits at oil companies this quarter continued to reflect oil prices that almost doubled in the second quarter from the year earlier.

Exxon Mobil on Thursday reported that second-quarter profit rose 14 percent, to $11.68 billion, the highest-ever profit by an American company. Exxon broke its own record.

The profit of $2.22 a share compared with $10.26 billion, or $1.83 a share, in the quarter a year ago.

I’m Almost Ready To Say “Let Him Go”

I had no problem with letting Nomar go.  I thought he was overrated and more trouble than he was worth.  Same with Pedro.

But Manny?  He’s the backbone of the team.  He rocks. 

On the other hand, he’s such a prick:

On Wednesday, he spoke by telephone with ESPNdeportes.com.

"The Red Sox don’t deserve a player like me," Ramirez said. "During my years here I’ve seen how they have mistreated other great players when they didn’t want them to try to turn the fans against them. The Red Sox did the same with guys like Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez, and now they do the same with me.

Their goal is to paint me as the bad guy. I love Boston fans, but the Red Sox don’t deserve me. I’m not talking about money. Mental peace has no price, and I don’t have peace here."

Boo-fucking-hoo.  Manny, you’re getting paid an unbelievable sum of money to do what most people would give up their first-born to do.  Stop the whining.

The trade deadline is 4:00 p.m. today.  The latest news is that the Red Sox, Marlins, and Pirates are in a three-way talk for a deal that involves Manny:

The Marlins would trade outfielder Jeremy Hermida and a prospect for Ramirez, and the Red Sox then would flip Hermida and prospects to the Pirates for left fielder Jason Bay. Pirates left-handed reliever John Grabow also is in play, possibly headed to the Marlins.

MLB.com says (at 10:59 a.m.) that this deal "appears close"

Bay for Manny isn’t a bad deal….

Player TEAM POS G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB SO SB CS OBP SLG AVG
M Ramirez BOS OF 100 365 66 109 22 1 20 68 193 52 86 1 0 .398 .529 .299
J Bay PIT OF 106 393 72 111 23 2 22 64 204 59 86 7 0 .375 .519 .282

…especially when you factor in the "prick" factor….

Another McCain “Attack” Ad

I understand what they’re trying to do, but I just don’t see how portraying Obama as being popular and loved all over the world actually helps McCain.

Jason Linkins makes the compelling case that McCain is swinging in the wrong direction.

[E]ven beyond the numb-nutted concept behind this ad, look at all the things that are tactically wrong with it. First, it just reinforces Obama’s brand as one with worldwide appeal. Second, it’s, like, McCain’s FOURTH ad that announces that Obama supports a sensible stance against offshore drilling – which isn’t popular in states McCain needs to win, like Florida, and which McCain himself even admits would only have a “psychological” impact on the economy. Third, you don’t even know it’s a McCain ad until he shows up, approving it at the end!

And let’s get a count on how many McCain ideas and policies this ad advances! Uhm…zero. Actually, this might be the most honest feature of this advertisement!

Flashback: Take a look at the memo distributed by the McCain campaign in early March, immediately after John McCain officially secured the Republican nomination.

“It is critical,” the memo explained, “as we prepare to face off with whomever the Democrats select as their nominee, that we all follow John’s lead and run a respectful campaign focused on the issues…. Throughout the primary election we saw John McCain reject the type of politics that degrade our civics, and this will not change.” The memo added that “overheated rhetoric and personal attacks” only serve to “distract” us, and that it was imperative that the campaign hold itself “to the highest standards.”

What happened?  This:

On July 3, news reports said Senator John McCain, worried that he might lose the election before it truly started, opened his doors to disciples of Karl Rove from the 2004 campaign and the Bush White House. Less than a month later, the results are on full display. The candidate who started out talking about high-minded, civil debate has wholeheartedly adopted Mr. Rove’s low-minded and uncivil playbook.

In recent weeks, Mr. McCain has been waving the flag of fear (Senator Barack Obama wants to “lose” in Iraq), and issuing attacks that are sophomoric (suggesting that Mr. Obama is a socialist) and false (the presumptive Democratic nominee turned his back on wounded soldiers).

** UPDATE ** Obama camp’s response:

“On a day when major news organizations across the country are taking Senator McCain to task for a steady stream of false, negative attacks, his campaign has launched yet another," Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said. "Or, as some might say, ‘Oops! He did it again.’  Our dependence on foreign oil is one of the greatest challenges we face. In this election the American people have a real choice — between Obama’s plan to provide tax rebates to American families while creating a renewable energy economy in America that frees us from our dependence on foreign oil, and Senator McCain’s plan to continue the same failed energy policies by handing out nearly $4 billion in tax breaks to oil companies while investing almost nothing in the new energy sources that represent our future."

Obama Hanging In In North Carolina

Candidate July 23-27 June 26-29 Pollster
McCain 47 45 46
Obama 44 41 44
Barr 3 5

2.5

So Obama is still behind by a few points, but within the margin of error (832 LVs, July 23-27, MOE +/- 3.4%)

From Public Policy Polling’s analysis:

Obama leads 53-38 among respondents most concerned with the economy, and 58-32 with those whose top issue is the war.

"The bigger an issue the economy is for voters the better Barack Obama is going to do," said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. "If North Carolina voters choose on immigration or moral and family values, John McCain is going to win a big victory here. But if voters increasingly put the economy foremost when deciding who to vote for, Democrats are going to have the best shot they’ve had in quite a long time."

Obama leads 82-8 among black voters, but trails 57-34 with whites.

For what it’s worth, the PPP poll presumes a 20% turnout of NC African-Americans, which is, to my thinking, probably low.  26% turned out in the 2004 elections, and I suspect that number will be higher this year, given that there is a black candidate.

Professor Obama

I took a look at the final exams in Constitutional Law that Professor Obama gave his students at the University of Chicago Law School, where he was a vistiing lecturer for many years.

I could have so aced them.

But beyond that, what the exams show is an intellect not seen in the White House in many years.

Let Us Not Bicker About Who Killed Who

Wow.  This paragraph is astounding:

In other words, the Adkisson case provides a case study in the secular demonology of the left. We’re seeing the politics of hatred in action. It’s marked by demands for vengeance and modes of discourse seeking to protect the perceived purity of the liberal sensibility. It is irreligious and opportunistic. It is the repudiation of decency. It is the absence of divine soul. With it, we see the Bush adminstration, John McCain, Bill O’Reilly, and Fox News attacked as the manifestation of the Fourth Reich.

He’s talking about the killing in Tennessee the other day, where Jim David Adkisson walked into a Unitarian Church and opened fire, killing two.  Adkisson wanted to commit suicide-by-cop, and chose that church for one reason and one reason only: because it was "liberal" (it welcomed, for example, gays).  Adkisson’s home was later searched and found to have the standard conservative fare — books by O’Reilly, and Michael Savage and so on.  Adkisson hated liberals.

And liberals on the Internet, myself included, have pointed out this fact.

Liberalhuntingpermit_thumbnailBut somehow by making this point, it is the liberals engaging in the politics of hatred, not the man who shot at liberals because they were liberals.  That’s what the above paragraph is trying to say.

No, sir.  The "politics of hatred in action" happened on Sunday in a little church in Tennessee.  Not on the Internets.  Adkisson’s actions were the by-product of an entire market — in books, radio, and television — to demonize liberals.  It’s a market replete with eliminationist rhetoric, like the time Ann Coulter quipped (as a "joke", of course) that "we need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens’ creme brulee"

Or when Limbaugh said (as a "joke", of course):

"I tell people don’t kill all the liberals. Leave enough so we can have two on every campus — living fossils — so we will never forget what these people stood for."

Try as they might to plead that nobody point out the obvious, conservative pundits simply can’t escape the fact that Adkisson, while clearly mentally ill, was a creature of the rightwing hate machine industry.  And it’s not a stretch to lay indirect blame at the feet of those incidiary conservatives who talk (you know, as a joke) about killing, maiming, incarcerating, deporting liberals.  When you start hearing this stuff enough, it’s not surprising when some people stop thinking you’re "joking" (because, after all, it isn’t funny to begin with), and starting thinking it’s serious.

Little Tremble in California

The Nevada Seismological Lab Helicorder webcam (in my righthand column) caught it:

Shutter20080729

UPDATE:  Happened six minutes ago as I write this. 

Data from USGS says it was a 5.8.  Epicenter is 3 km ( 2 mi) SW of Chino Hills, CA, which is an LA suburb.  Happened at 2:42:15 pm. EST, which is 11:42:15 am Pacific Time.

News reports just coming in….

UPDATE:  USGS says epicenter was 47 km (29 miles) ESE (103°) from Los Angeles Civic Center, CA.  It appears to have been 12.3 km (7.6 miles) deep, which is, as earthquales go, pretty shallow.  Could mean some structural damage.

3335119117

Looks like many smaller aftershocks, too….

MSNBC reporting only minor structural damage

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

A nice blog report about the services at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.  As you may know, the gunman interrupted a church performance of "Annie" which (obviously) never reached the final curtain.

Today, the kids sang "Tomorrow".  That’s very Unitarian.

Things I Didn’t Know: Internet Edition

I knew that the Internet is an outgrowth of ARPANET ("ARPA" = Advanced Research Projects Agency, which was a division under the Department of Justice Defense [of course — what was I thinking when I typed "Justice"?]), which was created in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s as a way for the military to get info and data (quietly) from those in the academic world.

What I didn’t know is that there exists a 1963 memo about forming the ARPANET.  You can read it here.  I particularly like the memo is addressed to "Members and Affiliates of the Intergalactic Computer Network".

I also didn’t know that the first ARPA consisted of four nodes ("users" in present day parlance).  Here’s original documentation:

Arpanetwork4nodes

The nodes were at UCLA, Stanford Research Institute, UC Santa Barbara, and University of Utah.

The first login to a remote computer is shown by this, uh, log (yes, the word "login" comes from the fact that connecting to host computers were logged in a written log):

Firstarpanetimplog

A description of the historical event:

The programmers in Westwood (UCLA – Ed.) were to type "log" into their computer, with the SRI computer in Palo Alto filling out the rest of the command, adding "in."

"We set up a telephone connection between us and the guys at SRI," Kleinrock recalled. "We typed the L, and we asked on the phone, ‘Do you see the L?’ ‘Yes, we see the L,’ came the response. We typed the O, and we asked, ‘Do you see the O?’ ‘Yes, we see the O.’ Then we typed the G, and the system crashed!" They immediately rebooted and this time, ARPANET sprung to life. (Source)

I learned all this from an interesting post at Neatorama.

oh, by the way, the first video posted on YouTube was uploaded at 8:27 pm on Saturday April 23rd, 2005. It was of one of the YouTube founders at the San Diego Zoo:

That kid’s a multibillionaire now.

Rules In The Obama Household

From People:

* No whining, arguing or annoying teasing
* Make the bed. "Doesn’t have to look good—just throw the sheet over it," says Mom.
* Keep playroom toy closet clean
* Set your own alarm clock.
* Be considerate of how other people might feel. Put yourself in the place of other people.
* Never think that you’re better than anybody else. Or worse than anybody else.
* If you guys can’t decide nicely what program to watch, then you don’t get to watch anything.
* Lights out at 8:30 (but have a grandmother on standby who likes to bend this rule when Mom and Dad aren’t home)

I find this very ironic, because they are very similar to the rules in my household:

* No whining, arguing or annoying teasing.  Okay, a little teasing is okay.
* Make the bed. "Doesn’t have to look good—just throw the sheet over it," says Me.
* Keep playroom toy closet clean (everything else can be messy)
* Set your own alarm clock.
* Be considerate of how other people might feel. Put yourself in the place of other people.
* Never think that you’re better than anybody else. Or worse than anybody else.
* If you guys can’t decide nicely what program to watch, use TIVO.
* Lights out at 11:30

Election 2008: It’s Over

What?!?

It’s over?!?  How can that be?  Election Day is 100 days away.

But that’s what many are already saying.  Check out this electoral map from Pollster.com:

Electmap

[The actual map at Pollster.com is better — it’s interactive, so you can see the underlying polls on which this map is based]

Now, with 270 electoral votes needed, Obama is already there (barring, of course, a huge gaffe of epic proportions). 

To win, McCain would have to maintain all his "lean McCain" states, win ALL the tossup states (in yellow above), and snag a major "lean Obama" state (like Ohio).  That’s a very tall order.

Experts are starting to way in that this is shaping up to be a blowout.  In an essay titled "The Myth of a Toss-up Election," Alan Abramowitz (Emory), Tom Mann (Brookings) and Larry Sabato (Virginia), jointly declared:

[V]irtually all of the evidence that we have reviewed – historical patterns, structural features of this election cycle, and national and state polls conducted over the last several months – points to a comfortable Obama/Democratic party victory in November. Trumpeting this race as a toss-up, almost certain to produce another nail-biter finish, distorts the evidence and does a disservice to readers and viewers who rely upon such punditry….

It is no exaggeration to say that the political environment this year is one of the worst for a party in the White House in the past sixty years. You have to go all the way back to 1952 to find an election involving the combination of an unpopular president, an unpopular war, and an economy teetering on the brink of recession….[I]f history is any guide, and absent a dramatic change in election fundamentals or an utter collapse of the Obama candidacy, John McCain is likely to suffer the same fate as Adlai Stevenson.

Other political science academics aren’t quite as willing to go that far out on a limb:

Vanderbilt’s John Geer, in turn, is by no means convinced that McCain will lose as badly as Adlai Stevenson in 1952.

"We all know it is a Democratic year. But that does not mean Obama will win. Yes, the odds are in his favor. But there are at least 3 reasons why the election may be close, with either McCain or Obama winning," Geer said.

First, according to Geer, "we live in a post 9-11 world and the public has to be comfortable with a candidate’s ability to deal with foreign policy. Many voters are not yet comfortable….Second, McCain is a good candidate….Third, the last two presidential elections have been very close. Yes, there have been Democratic gains in some quarters and turnout may be up. But turnout was up in 2004 from 2000 and Republicans had made gains right after 9-11 and yet the election remained close."

Robert Y. Shapiro (Columbia) also sees a close election, but he adds that the closeness means the quality of the two campaigns will become all the more crucial: "This is where I see Obama as the likely victor not only in the popular vote but in winning, perhaps by very close margins, in the past blue states he needs to hold on to, and in Ohio and states in the west and possibly a few surprises. This will happen if, as I expect, Obama outcampaigns McCain."

Along similar lines, Michael S. Lewis-Beck, of the University of Iowa, said he and a colleague, Charles Tien of Hunter College, City University of New York, have just written an essay forecasting "that Obama will win, but just by a hair. The reason the contest will be so close is because of what we call ‘ballot box racism.’ We estimate that about 11 or 12 percent of voters who would otherwise vote for Obama will not vote for him because he is black. Our forecasting model, if uncorrected for the race factor, predicts a landslide for Obama. But once the ‘racial cost’ is corrected for, we get a bare Obama majority (about 50.6% of the two-party popular vote)."

Helmut Norpoth of Stony Brook University has an even closer prediction based on his model: a virtual tie, 50.1 percent for Obama, 49.9 percent for McCain.

Interestingly, nobody is predicting a McCain win right now.  Even by a hair.

My personal feeling is that, while I’m happy about this news, it would be bad to get complacent about this.  After all, if people already think it’s a done deal, turnout will be low, and that could tip the scales in some close states.

The Beast Has A Credit Card

Naar611_budget_20080728183631Thank you, David Stockman.

For those of you who don’t remember, Stockman was director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Reagan.  He was among the most enthusiastic converts to what came to be called the “starve the beast” theory of taxation.

The Republican theory is that big government — well, government in general  — is baaad.  There’s no empirical basis for this belief, except to say that government often stands in the way of big business by regulating big business.  It is government, after all, that wouldn’t allow businesses to engage in child labor, pollute our waters, and so on.  So there is a natural friction between government and business.  And Republicans, in the pocket of big business, naturally take anti-government stances.

The "starve the beast" theory of taxation, developed in the early Reagan administration is quite simple: if the government doesn’t get any money, it can’t do things which stand in the way of business.  Therefore, if you lower income taxes, government can’t afford to govern.  It was a cynical way to prevent Democrats from actually improving this country.

it was a nice theory, but it doesn’t work.  Because the government doesn’t need money to govern.  It just simply borrows the money, and runs up huge deficits.

And now we’ve got a record:

President Bush will leave his successor with a record-high budget deficit of $482 billion, according to an administration estimate released Monday.

White House officials blamed the slowing economy and a $150-billion bipartisan stimulus package for the worsening picture for the 2009 fiscal year, but Democrats cited the president’s tax cuts and fiscal management over his eight years in office.

The cynic would say — perhaps correctly — that this is intentional.  Assuming Obama gets to be president, he’s going to have to spend the next several years cleaning up this fiscal nightmare, and won’t be able to get certain things done (like national health insurance, etc.)

Nothing But ‘Net

A terafic milestone, according to Google’s report,

[O]ur systems that process links on the web to find new content hit a milestone: 1 trillion (as in 1,000,000,000,000) unique URLs on the web at once!

How do we find all those pages? We start at a set of well-connected initial pages and follow each of their links to new pages. Then we follow the links on those new pages to even more pages and so on, until we have a huge list of links. In fact, we found even more than 1 trillion individual links, but not all of them lead to unique web pages. Many pages have multiple URLs with exactly the same content or URLs that are auto-generated copies of each other. Even after removing those exact duplicates, we saw a trillion unique URLs, and the number of individual web pages out there is growing by several billion pages per day.

So how many unique pages does the web really contain? We don’t know; we don’t have time to look at them all! 🙂 Strictly speaking, the number of pages out there is infinite — for example, web calendars may have a "next day" link, and we could follow that link forever, each time finding a "new" page. We’re not doing that, obviously, since there would be little benefit to you. But this example shows that the size of the web really depends on your definition of what’s a useful page, and there is no exact answer.

We don’t index every one of those trillion pages — many of them are similar to each other, or represent auto-generated content similar to the calendar example that isn’t very useful to searchers….

The Final Word On The DOJ

Remember this scandal?  Verdict (of a sort) is in:

Former Justice Department counselor Monica M. Goodling and former chief of staff D. Kyle Sampson routinely broke the law by conducting political litmus tests on candidates for jobs as immigration judges and line prosecutors, according to an inspector general’s report released today.

Goodling passed over hundreds of qualified applicants and squashed the promotions of others after deeming candidates insufficiently loyal to the Republican party, said investigators, who interviewed 85 people and received information from 300 other job seekers at Justice. Sampson developed a system to screen immigration judge candidates based on improper political considerations and routinely took recommendations from the White House Office of Political Affairs and Presidential Personnel, the report said.

Goodling regularly asked candidates for career jobs: "What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?" the report said. One former Justice Department official told investigators she had complained that Goodling was asking interviewees for their views on abortion, according to the report.

Taking political or personal factors into account in employment decisions for career positions violates civil service laws and can run afoul of ethics rules. Investigators said today that both Goodling and Sampson had engaged in "misconduct."

The improper personnel moves deprived worthy candidates of promotions and damaged the credibility of the Justice Department, investigators wrote. An experienced counterterrorism prosecutor, for example, was kept from advancing in favor of a more junior lawyer who lacked a background in terrorism.

The procedures imposed on immigration judge candidates caused serious delays in appointing judges at a time when the courts suffered under a heavy workload, the report said.

Of all the Bush adminsitration scandals, and there have been many, this particular scandal will probably be a footnote.  But sadly, it should be remembered more fervently.  We get into very dangerous grounds will the law, and those oblligated to enforce, are politicized.

The final report from the DOJ (PDF format) contains goodies like this:

We interviewed Angela Williamson, who was the Department’s Deputy White House Liaison and reported to Goodling during most of Goodling’s tenure as White House Liaison. Williamson attended numerous interviews conducted by Goodling and told us that Goodling asked the same questions “all the time” and tried to ask the same questions of all candidates. […] After Goodling resigned, Williamson typed from memory the list of questions Goodling asked as a guide for future interviews. Among other questions, the list included the following:

  • Tell us about your political philosophy. There are different groups of conservatives, by way of example: Social Conservative, Fiscal Conservative, Law & Order Republican.
  • [W]hat is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?
  • Aside from the President, give us an example of someone currently or recently in public service who you admire.

We found that this last question often took the form of asking the candidate to identify his or her most admired President, Supreme Court Justice, or legislator. Some candidates were asked to identify a person for all three categories. Williamson told us that sometimes Goodling asked candidates: “Why are you a Republican?”

Several candidates interviewed by Goodling told us they believed that her question about identifying their favorite Supreme Court Justice, President, or legislator was an attempt to determine the candidates’ political beliefs. For example, one candidate reported that after he stated he admired Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Goodling “frowned” and commented, “but she’s pro-choice.”

Shootings at Unitarian Church In Tennessee

You know, it’s both laughable and disturbing that pundits like Michelle Malkin can make their daily bread by referring to liberals as the "unhinged left", accompanyed by such adjectives as "deranged" and so on.

When was the last time a disgruntled liberal started shooting people he disagreed with politically or socially?  Ever???  It just seems to me that even at its most fringiest extreme, the left just doesn’t do eliminatiost rhetoric.  But you find a LOT of that on the right side of the spectrum.

And it’s not just talk.  Yesterday, as posted on The Moderate Voice, there was a shoot-up in a Knoxville church.  Two people were killed; several injured, somce remain in critical condition.

Terrible news this morning. Some man entered our church with a shotgun and started shooting

I was not there this morning as we had friends visiting from out of town. But we seriously considered attending with our friends. This is such a shock to the community here. Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church is such a welcoming community. Though it’s decidedly more liberal than East Tennessee as a whole, we have very good relations with the rest of the community. I don’t understand why anybody would do this. All we know right now is that the suspect was not connected to the church in any way. I have no idea if the man had some sort of political or cultural agenda (TVUUC had just put up a sign welcoming gays to the congregation), or if it’s just some lunatic acting for no reason at all.

This morning we learned the answer to the reason why:

The shotgun-wielding suspect in Sunday’s mass shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church was motivated by a hatred of “the liberal movement,” and he planned to shoot until police shot him, Knoxville Police Chief Sterling P. Owen IV said this morning.

Jim D. Adkisson, 58, of Powell wrote a four-page letter in which he stated his “hatred of the liberal movement,” Owen said. “Liberals in general, as well as gays.”

Atkinson entered the church during a performance of "Annie, Jr."

072807churchillustration_t600

While I can understand that there are bigots out there who dislike gays, I just can’t understand the mentality of someone who would shoot up a children’s musical, in a church, because of their hatred for gays.  Boggles the minds.

UPDATE:  Being closest to a UU member myself (to the extent I am affiliated with any religion), I was touched by rousing defense of the religions, as expressed by Sara at Ornicus:

We are an odd group, we Unitarians.

Conventional wisdom says that we’re soft in all the places our society values toughness. Our refusal to adhere to any dogma must mean that we’re soft in our convictions. Our reflexive open-mindedness is often derided as evidence that we’re soft in the head. Our persistent and gentle insistence on liberal values is evidence of hearts too soft to set boundaries. And all of this together leads to a public image of a mushy gathering of feckless intellectuals that somehow lacks cohesion, backbone, focus, or purpose.

You can only believe this if you don’t know either the history or the modern reality of Unitarian Universalism. The faith’s early founders, Michael Servitus and Francis David, were executed for the radical notion that belief in the Trinity — which excluded Muslims and Jews — should not be a requirement for participation in 16th century public life. Four hundred years later, in the same part of the world, other Unitarians died in concentration camps for having the courage of their humanist convictions. Viola Liuzzo, a 39-year-old mother from Michigan who was killed by the Klan in the days following the Selma march in 1965, was one of ours, too.

And then there are the thousands of us who lived to fight another day — surviving not because we were weak and indecisive, but because we were unshakable in our convictions and unwilling to back down out of sheer cussedness. That Unitarian-bred belief in the nobility of the human spirit was the spiritual foundation on which a plurality of America’s founders found sure footing as their convictions crystallized into revolution against tyranny. It fueled the passionate oratory of Daniel Webster, the wisdom of Ben Franklin, and the incisively clear writings of Tom Paine. It sent Paul Revere out into the cold of an April evening, and set Thomas Jefferson to the task of writing a Declaration. It recklessly bet the church’s entire existence — and the lives of its leaders, who willingly and knowingly committed a capital act of treason — in order to publish the Pentagon Papers.

Unitarianism and Universalism lit the spark of progressive change that drove Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, and Julia Ward Howe to organize for women’s rights. It sent Jane Addams, Dorothea Dix, Albert Schweitzer, and Clara Barton forth to bring health and hope to the poor. It gave voice to poets from Whitman to Plath to cummings, novelists from Dickens to Melville to Vonnegut, and musicians from Bartok to Grieg to Seeger. It fueled the boundless imaginations of Bucky Fuller and Rod Serling and Frank Lloyd Wright. It kept Christopher Reeve alive and breathing and working for his causes. I still hear it crackling hot and fresh every time UU-bred Keith Olbermann goes on one of his trademark rants.

These are not fearful people. Nor do any of them seem to be bedeviled by a lack of conviction. "Mushy" or "feckless" are about the last words I’d use to describe any of them. ("Stupid" isn’t anywhere on the list, either.) When you sign up to become a UU, this is the legacy you take on, and from then on attempt to live up to. It’s not God’s job to make the world a better place. It’s yours. This has never been work for the faint of heart, mind, or spirit — and in this era of conservatism gone crazy, it still isn’t.

I’m thinking about all this tonight as I sift through the incoming news that seven people were shot when 58-year-old Jim Adkisson pulled a shotgun out of a guitar case and opened fire during a kids’ performance at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist church this morning. Two have died; four are in critical condition as I write this.

One of the dead, Greg McKendry, apparently took a shotgun blast full in the chest while trying to shield other members from the line of fire. Three other members of the congregation almost immediately charged the gunman and took him down, breaking his arm in the process. Still other members acted sanely and calmly to quickly get the dozens of children out of the sanctuary, and summon the police.

Those are the Unitarians I know. Smart, tough, fearless, calm in a crisis, committed to right action. It could have been any UU church in America, and they’d have behaved pretty much the same way.

It could have been any UU church in America — and that’s the problem.

***

After 25 years of right-wing eliminationist rhetoric about liberal hunting licenses and scaring us out of our treason and keeping a few of us alive as museum exhibits, it’s natural that some of us would jump to the thought that maybe, at long last, somebody finally decided to grab a shotgun and go bag himself some libruls — and decided (not unreasonably) that down at the local UU church, they’d be as thick on the ground as quail on one of Dick Cheney’s private hunting trips.

Whatever the reasons turn out to be, there are at least two lessons I hope y’all take away from today’s events.

One is that you can bet that the members of this congregation will find a novel way to approach their healing — and in doing so, they’ll set example for the rest of us to watch carefully. If (when) mental illness becomes the issue, they will respond to this man and his family with compassion and justice, because that’s the UU way. And if hate turns out to be part of the story, too, then Knoxville, TN is about to have a dialog on hate crime that will leave nobody in town untouched or uninvolved. That’s the UU way, too.

The other is that this congregation’s cool, brave response shows, once again, that it’s past time to drop that old stereotype, and stop underestimating the courage and intelligence of the religious left in America. We’ve gotten incredibly short shrift over the past few decades — not only from the religious right, which thinks we’re the minions of Satan on earth; but also from fellow progressives, who think that "religious" is a synonym for crazy, dangerous, irrational, and definitely not an asset to the movement.

Secular progressives don’t seem to understand that while politics is all about how we’re going to make the world better, progressive religion tells us why it’s necessary to work for change, and what "better" will look like when we get there. Liberal faith traditions offer the essential metaphors and worldview that everything else derives from — the frames that give our dreams shape and meaning. It has an invaluable role to play in helping our movement set its values and priorities, understand where we are in the larger scheme, and gauge whether we’re succeeding or not.

The conservative movement knew from the get that it would not succeed unless it could offer people this kind of deeper narrative. Providing that was one of the most important things the religious right brought to their party. Progressivism will not defeat it until we can offer another narrative about what America can and should be — and our liberal churches have longer, harder, better experience than anyone at developing and communicating those stories, and building thriving — and on occasions like today, literally bulletproof — communities around them.

And then there’s that long, tough history to draw on. The UUs, along with the Congregationalists and Quakers, have been at the beating heart of American liberalism since before the country was founded. We’ve faced down the ignorant and the arrogant, the terrified and the unreasonable, the cops and the courts and the Congress so many times that it’s not even news any more. Civil disobedience is built into our bones (yes, *sigh,* Thoreau was one of ours, too), and we’ve come to regard it as one of our more important sacraments. These days, it’s not only in our defense of gay rights and our gathering fury about torture, but also in our leadership role in the New Sanctuary Movement defending immigrants from ICE raids.

If the right wing ever does turn its anti-liberal crusade into a shooting war, it’s easy to predict that the country’s UU churches will be among their first targets. What’s less predictable — unless you know the people, the theology, and the history, or took careful note of everything that happened in Tennessee today — is just how surprisingly fierce and fearless that response is likely to be.

Grief and pride taste strange together, but I am full of both for the people of the Tennessee Valley UUC tonight. After all, it could be any UU church in America. That’s the bad news. It’s the good news, too.

Also, local blogger James Protzman adds:

When I talked with my daughter today about this Tennessee shooting, the only word she could find between her tears was the word "ironic." She can’t understand how one of the most peaceful of all spiritual homes could be viciously assaulted by a person who believes liberals are the source of all the world’s problems. She also wondered aloud about all the other deaths that can be laid at the feet of right-wing political hate. Abraham Lincoln. Martin Luther King. John Kennedy. Robert Kennedy. Will it ever stop? she asked.

I hope so, but I fear not.

Maybe the man who committed this crime is indeed insane, which would at least make a modicum of sense. But I suspect he is not. I suspect he is a product of an angry and hate-filled conservative movement headed by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and John McCain, people who joke openly about murder, assassination, and genocide. And I suspect it will get worse before it gets better. Lunatics on the right are already expressing hope that President Obama will be shot within hours after being sworn in. Some are no doubt plotting to bring their hopes to fruition.

Those very same lunatics are also using this tragedy to make their case for fewer restrictions on guns. Preachers, they say, need to face the harsh realities of life in these United States and start packing heat behind their pulpits. Only then, in a perverse echo of mutually assured destruction, will peaceful congregations be safe from their kind.

I can’t help linking all of this madness back to the misguided ego trip taken by Christian churches more than a thousand years ago. Back before they put earthly possessions and power ahead of paradise and peace, evangelical leaders had the chance to be an unequivocal force for good in the world. Today, however, far too many are anything but. It’s deja vu all over again, Crusades on Parade, with so many Christian soldiers armed and ready to kill at the drop of a hint.

This isn’t just another crazy conservative off his meds. This is politics, pure and simple.

Vote For McCain — He’ll Help With Your Groceries

I can’t believe this is their nominee:

By the way, not only will he help you with groceries, but he’ll actually get the mandarin oranges FOR you, as you explain to him (with the patience one would emply for one’s senile grandfather) why bigger jars mean economy-size, and name brands tend to be more expensive than generic brands.

And if that’s not enough, McCain will cause a "clean-up on aisle nine" incident. 

Seriously, if I were the woman in this video, I would just turn to McCain and say, "Look, can you just GO AWAY?"

This is from a few days ago.  Sadly, McCain looks so out of place in a grocery story — like he’s never been in one before.  Not sure that helps the whole "regular guy" image.  But I’m past the point of trying to understand what McCain’s campaign team is thinking.

RIP Randy Pausch

Last year, Carnegie Mellon University ran a series of lectures entitled "The Last Lecture", where professors were asked to think about what matters to them most and give a hypothetical final talk to students.

One of the professors who spoke was Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist.  Unlike the other lecturers in the series, Randy knew it was to be his actual last lecture, because he was facing terminal cancer.

In his moving presentation, "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams," Pausch talked about his lessons learned and gave advice to students on how to achieve their own career and personal goals.  The entire presentation (1:16:27 in length) became an inspiring Internet phenomenon.

From his sudden fame fron the above lecture, Randy became a mini-celebrity.  He lobbied Congress for more federal funding for pancreatic cancer research and appeared on "Oprah" and other TV shows. In what he called "a truly magical experience," he was even invited to appear as an extra in the new "Star Trek" movie.

He also published a book last April, which is still on the bestseller list (#8 last week)

He died today at age 47.

Shut Up And Drive

On July 1, California and Washington joined the list of states (including New York) which ban talking on cell phones while driving.

North Carolina, for local readers of this blog, has no such ban in place unless you are a teenagers under the age of 18 or a school bus driver.  But a unviersal ban is probably likely, in every state nationwide.

There’s a lot of talking-while-driving out there.  In 2007, a survey of 1,200 drivers by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. found that 73 admitted to having talked on the phone while driving.   Last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported about 6 percent of drivers were using hand-held cellphones at any moment, based on observational data.

To date, these bans allow you to talk handsfree on your cell phone while driving, and so there is a rush to get handsfree Bluetooth headphones, or Bluetooth systems that integrate with your car radio.

But is this any safer?

For years, psychologists who study driving and attention have argued that switching to "hands free" is not a real solution to the hazards caused by yakking on the mobile in the car. "The impairments aren’t because your hands aren’t on the wheel. It’s because your mind isn’t the road," says David Strayer, professor of psychology at the University of Utah, whose research has found driving while talking on a cellphone to be as dangerous as driving drunk.

Now neuroscience is showing your mind literally isn’t on the road. The overtaxed driver’s poor brain doesn’t distinguish between a conversation that takes place on an iPhone or a Bluetooth headset. In both cases, the chatting driver is distracted, putting herself, her passengers, other drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians at risk.

Fair enough, but then wouldn’t this apply to drivers who chat away with people in the car with them?

I bring this up because I recently went handfree with my mobile phone.  I don’t even have a headset; it’s all through the radio.  I really haven’t tried it out, but it certainly seems a great deal safer than holding a phone, or even having a headset (which necessarily will block hearing in one ear).

Thoughts?

The Wall Street Journal Jumped The Shark Today

Not that I was ever a fan, but at least it was somewhat respectable.

Until, of course, today’s op-ed entitled — I’m not making this up — What Bush and Batman Have in Common

Apparently, this is what Bush and Batman (at least, the latest incarnation of Batman) have in common:

1)  They are both "vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand".

I haven’t seen the new Batman movie, so I can’t speak to that.  However, of the many reasons I villify and despise Bush, one of them is not because he confronts terrorists on terms they understand.

First of all, I don’t what that means – "only terms they understand".  Sounds machismo bullshit.

But more importantly, he doesn’t confront terrorists.  He left the pursuit for bin Laden to go into Iraq, where there weren’t terrorists to begin with!!!

2)  They both hav to "push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past".

Well, that’s a wishy-washy sentence if I ever heard one.  How does one define "emergency"?  What does "pushing the boundaries" actually mean?

***

In any event, Bush is not Batman.  Not even close.  For starters, when his nation calls, Batman shows up.  He didn’t pull daddy’s strings and spend four year avoiding service by (barely) attending the National Air Guard to avoid combat.

Need I say more?

UPDATE:  The rightwing blogosphere is all over the WSJ op-ed, praising it to high heaven, accompanied by the digital equivalent of fist-pounding-the-air. 

These are the very serious people who take the GWOT very seriously.  By comparing it to comic books and their cinematic offspring.

Is This The Worst Political Ad Ever?

When I first saw this ad, I thought it was a hoax.  I thought it was an ad someone pro-Obama put together, and deceptively issued under the name of an "official" John McCain ad.

Let’s watch the ad together (it’s a 3:00 internet ad) and I’ll go through the litany of what is terrible about it as a piece of campaign propaganda.

Now, for those who didn’t watch, here’s the ten-second summary.  It is 100% clips from the media talking about Obama and just how INCREDIBLE Obama is.  All set to the song "Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You" by Frankie Vallie and the Four Seasons.  Occasionally, words appear in the ad — words like "You’re just too good to be true" imposed above an I-Love-Lucy type heart.

And that goes on for three minutes.

Now some rough stats:

  • Number of times Obama’s picture/video is seen within the ad:  at least a dozen
  • Number of times McCain’s picture/video is seen within the ad:  zero
  • Number of times Obama is mentioned specifically by name:  ten
  • Number of times Obama is mentioned by specific name or reference ("he’s a gift"):  at least 25
  • Number of time McCain is mentioned by specific name or reference: zero
  • Number of times Obama’s name appears visually within the ad:  four
  • Number of times McCain’s name appears visually within the ad:  one (at the end "Paid for by John McCain 2008")

You see where I’m going with this?

The obvious point of the ad is that the media is having a love affair with Barack Obama.  This point is made clear within the first 20 seconds.

Now here’s some of the problems:

(1)  Some of the clips clearly show media personalities being impressed with Obama (a speech he just gave, or just him). 

BUT some of the clips show media personalities complaining about the media love affair with Obama.

Doesn’t this second kind of clip undercut the entire point of the ad?  Even the most obtuse viewer is going to walk away with the impression that certain segments of the media are biased (no news there), and — yes, some in the media WILL be in favor of Obama.  But — as the ad itself shows in places — some of that bias will also be against Obama.

So in the end, what has the ad taught us about media bias and Obama?  It exists!  Both positive AND negative! 

(2)  In the course of trying to make its point about media bias in favor of Obama, the ad seems to rely on the same people (Chris Matthews weighs heavily) and even the same show from the same air date.  This is going to leave the impression, directly or not, that the supposed "bias" can’t be that bad, if all they could find was isolated incidents of it from the same cast of characters.

(3) The biggest error of them all.

The gestalt of the ad, once you get past the media-bias message, is that something really big is happening in politics today.  For the average, not politically-in-tune, viewer, the effect of this ad will enhancedramatically enchance — Obama’s mystique and image.

I mean, imagine the person not terribly interested in politics.  They happen across the above ad.  They see glowing images of Obama, and see him being compared to a "rock star" and "a gift from above".  What is such a person likely to think?

My guess?  "About time!  I think I’ll check out what all the fuss is about this Obama guy!" 

You know who the last presidential candidate was who invoked the whole "rock star" mystique?  John F. Kennedy.  Who is still well-liked.

Plus, the song underscoring it "Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You" is catchy.

(4)  Needless to say at this point, the ad says nothing — NOTHING — about McCain, good or bad.  (It says nothing BAD about Obama either, except that the media likes him, which isn’t necessarily a reflection of Obama or any of his policies). 

But the ad is so heavy-handed, it actually backfires and leaves one to ask: "Well, why doesn’t McCain generate this kind of excitement?"

Well, John?  Why don’t you?

This is a very bad ad, and I think it will go down in history as one of the worst.  How DUMB to mention your opponent’s name IN A POSITIVE LIGHT . . . . AS MANY TIMES AS YOU CAN . . . and FAIL TO MENTION YOUR OWN.  Isn’t that Political Campaigning 101?

It really leads me to ask: "What were the makers of this ad thinking?  Who was their target audience (people who hate the media, who probably aren’t in the Obama camp anyway?)  Seriously, did they focus group this?  Were they thinking at all?!?

Nudity And Food

Yes, they can go together.

But I draw the line at "clothing optional" restaurants.  Just not for me:

The au naturel look is catching on at city restaurants, a Midtown yoga club and even a stand-up comedy joint.

"We’re just more comfortable nude," said John Ordover, who rents city eateries for dinner parties with a strict dress code – no clothes allowed

"We’re not out to shock or put on a public spectacle. We want only to do things that other people do in the way that we are most comfortable doing them. That, for us, is without clothes," he said.

About 50 diners – whose motto is "no hot soup" – regularly turn up for Ordover’s monthly meals held at venues including the Mercantile Grill on Pearl Street and Pete’s Downtown in Brooklyn.

They’re served by regular restaurant staff – forced by city laws to keep their clothes on.

"We’ve never had a restaurant say no to us, and the waiters think nothing of it," said Ordover, 46, who works as a Web marketer when he has his clothes on.

"If you work in a restaurant in New York City, the chances are you’ve seen a lot more shocking things than a room full of naked diners," he added.

The Edwards Affair

Coming from the National Enquirer, one might be attempted to dismiss this out-of-hand.

But they seem to have detailed facts, all of which boil down to this: JOHN EDWARDS WAS CAUGHT LAST NIGHT MEETING WITH A WOMAN NOT HIS WIFE AND THEIR LOVE CHILD!!!

The National Enquirer has pushed this story before, and Edwards has denied it.  The problem with the most recent incarnation is that Edwards was caught (almost) red-handed with the woman in question.

At 9:45 p.m. (PST) Monday,  Edwards appeared at the hotel, and was dropped off at a side entrance. NATIONAL ENQUIRER reporter Alan Butterfield witnessed the ex-senator get out of a BMW driven by a male companion and stroll into the hotel.
 
Said Butterfield: "Edwards was not carrying anything. He walked in alone. He was wearing a blue dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up. He was looking around nervously before he entered the hotel.

"Once inside, he interestingly bypassed the lobby and ducked down a side stairs to go to the bottom floor to catch the elevator up – rather than taking the elevator in the main lobby. He went out of his way not to be seen."
      
Meanwhile, Rielle had reserved rooms 246 and 252 under the name of the friend who had accompanied her from Santa Barbara, Bob McGovern. Rielle was in one room and McGovern was in another with her baby. This allowed her and Edwards to spend time alone, a source revealed.

Edwards went out of the hotel briefly with Rielle, they were observed by the NATIONAL ENQUIRER and then went back to her room, where he stayed until attempting to sneak out of the hotel unseen at 2:40 a.m. (PST). But when he emerged alone from an elevator into the hotel basement he was greeted by several reporters from the NATIONAL ENQUIRER.

Senior NATIONAL ENQUIRER Reporter Alexander Hitchen asked Edwards why he was visiting Rielle and whether he was ready to confirm that he was the father of  her baby.

Shocked to see a reporter, and without saying anything, Edwards ran up the stairs leading from the hotel basement to the lobby. But, spotting a photographer, he doubled back into the basement. As he emerged from the stairwell, reporter Butterfield questioned him about his hookup with Rielle.
    
Edwards did not answer and then ran  into a nearby restroom. He stayed inside for about 15 minutes, refusing to answer questions from the NATIONAL ENQUIRER about what he was doing in the hotel. A group of hotel security men eventually escorted him from the men’s room, while preventing the NATIONAL ENQUIRER reporters from following him out of the hotel.
    
Said reporter Hitchen: "After we confronted him about seeing Rielle, Edwards looked like a deer caught in headlights!
      
"He was clearly surprised that we had caught him at this very late hour inside the hotel.
          
"Some guests up at this late hour watched the spectacle in amusement from a staircase nearby."

Meanwhile, Rielle’s friend McGovern also refused to answer any questions from the NATIONAL ENQUIRER or offer any explanation for her meeting with Edwards.

The Edwards "love child" scandal drew international press attention after the NATIONAL ENQUIRER published a blockbuster investigation about the politician in our Dec. 31, 2007 print edition.
      
We reported that Rielle, a woman linked to Edwards in a cheating scandal earlier last year, was more than six months pregnant – and we reported that she told a close confidante that Edwards was the father of her baby!
          
Edwards denied the affair and that he was the father, and in a bizarre twist, a close friend of his, Andrew Young, said he was the father. Young, 41, was married at the time with three children. The NATIONAL ENQUIRER has learned he still is married.
         
Sources told the NATIONAL ENQUIRER exclusively that Edwards had engineered a massive cover up of the affair and love child scandal and that Young was taking the blame for his good friend. At the time Rielle had been relocated from the New York area to Chapel Hill in Edwards’ home state of North Carolina, where she was living in an upscale gated community down the street from Young. Strangely, Young even had Rielle to his house for dinner with his wife and kids, the NATIONAL ENQUIRER has learned.

Young has been extremely close to Edwards for years and was a key official in his presidential campaign.

Rielle is a self-described filmmaker whose company was hired by a pro-Edwards group called One America Committee. She was paid $114,000 to produce videos for Edwards’ campaign and worked with him on those videos.
            
After our story last December, reporters from other media outlets asked Edwards about the report during a campaign stop in Columbia, S.C.
         
Edwards responded: "The story is false. It’s completely untrue, ridiculous," adding: "Anyone who knows me knows that I have been in love with the same woman for 30-plus years."
      
Rielle issued her own statement, saying in part: "The innuendos and lies that have appeared on the Internet and in the NATIONAL ENQUIRER concerning John Edwards are not true, completely unfounded and ridiculous."
       
But a source told the NATIONAL ENQUIRER: "Now that it seems to have blown wide open, Rielle may get her wish – all she wants is for John to marry her and for them to live happily ever after with their baby. She’s tired of running and living a lie."

That’s pretty detailed information.  Sounds like there’s something there.

If this story has legs, I think we can kiss Edward’s political career goodbye.  Forget about him as VP.

McCain Gaffe Watch

This is getting to be a daily thing.  And these aren’t silly slip-of-the-tongues.  These are things which should give one serious pause.

(1)  LAST NIGHT IN ROCHERSTER NH

Listen closely, here’s what McCain says:

My friends, we have to drill off shore. We have to do it. It’s out there and we can do it. And we can do that. The oil executives say within a couple of years we could be seeing results from it. So why not do it?

Emphasis mine.

Oh, I see.  The OIL EXECUTIVES say it’s going to work (not that they have any, you know, vested interest), so therefore, IT WILL WORK.

Are these the same OIL EXECUTIVES who deny global warming, using the same brand of unbiased independent judgment?

Digby adds:

Just like the energy task force in 2001 hiding away in Fourthbranch Cheney’s office, McCain appeals to oil executives to set his energy policy. We know how that movie played out, right?

Gas prices in July 2000: $1.47/gal.
Gas prices today: $4.055/gal.

Yup.

(2)  McCAIN WITH KATIE COURIC LAST NIGHT:

Katie Couric: Senator McCain, Senator Obama says, while the increased number of US troops contributed to increased security in Iraq, he also credits the Sunni awakening and the Shiite government going after militias. And says that there might have been improved security even without the surge. What’s your response to that?

McCain: I don’t know how you respond to something that is as– such a false depiction of what actually happened. Colonel McFarlane [phonetic] was contacted by one of the major Sunni sheiks. Because of the surge we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others. And it began the Anbar awakening. I mean, that’s just a matter of history. Thanks to General Petraeus, our leadership, and the sacrifice of brave young Americans. I mean, to deny that their sacrifice didn’t make possible the success of the surge in Iraq, I think, does a great disservice to young men and women who are serving and have sacrificed.

Emphasis mine, again.

The surge "began the Anbar awakening"?  As a matter of "history"?

Let’s check the timeline.  Hmmmm– nope.  Sean McFarland, in fact, was contacted by Sunni sheikhs in September 2006, months before the surge troops arrived, months before the President even DECIDED on the surge.

As Ilan Goldenberg puts it, this is a fundamental misunderstanding of Iraq from the candidate who presumes to be a national security expert.

This is not controversial history. It is history that anyone trying out for Commander and Chief must understand when there are 150,000 American troops stationed in Iraq. It is an absolutely essential element to the story of the past two years. YOU CANNOT GET THIS WRONG. Moreover, what is most disturbing is that according to McCain’s inaccurate version of history, military force came first and solved all of our problems. If that is the lesson he takes from the Anbar Awakening, I am afraid it is the lesson he will apply to every other crisis he faces including, for example, Iran.

(There’s a media angle here, too, as CBS apparently deleted this part of the interview from their broadcast. Looks like all that whining about how the media loves Obama is working.)

RELATED:  Even then, conservative idiot Jonah Goldberg thinks that McCain’s strategy of "I was right about the surge; Obama was wrong" is a loser stance:

The tragic Catch-22 for the Arizona senator is that the more the surge succeeds, the more politically advantageous it is for Obama.

Voters don’t care about the surge; they care about the war. Americans want it to be over — and in a way they can be proud of.

Probably so.

Bush’s Off Camera Comment

First, the video:

Bush was speaking at a July 18 fundraiser for Pete Olsen. 

The first moments form the event find him speaking almost incoherently in admitting, for once, that his friends in big business had screwed up:

"There’s no question about it. Wall Street got drunk —that’s one of the reasons I asked you to turn off the TV cameras — it got drunk and now it’s got a hangover. The question is how long will it sober up and not try to do all these fancy financial instruments."

Now, this is getting a little play on the blogosphere, and of course what is controversial is not what Bush said, but the fact that he said it.

He’s basically placing blame for the mortgage crisis on those on Wall Street who create "fancy financial instruments" which hide the value (or lack thereof) of investments.

And he’s right!

What’s telling is that he wanted the cameras OFF when he said that.  Apparently, he didn’t want to piss off his fatcat buddies.  But what does that say about presidential leadership???

Got MILFs

Judy Pike, a dear old friend from from Tufts, turns — and I’m estimating here, based on the fact that she was a senior when I was a freshman — 49 years old today.

Suzanne Evon, an ex-girlfriend and even more endearing current friend, turns 50 this coming weekend.

What happened?  When did we get old?

I mean, I can deal with me getting older, slowing down, having sciatic pains, etc.  My whole life, I’ve been aware that that stuff was going to happen… eventually.  I mean, I can read a play and see a great part for a mid-twenty year old, and say "Oh, wait.  I’m not the right age".  I can do that now.  I used to not be able to.

But my contemporaries getting older?  Turning a half frickin’ century?

Shit, I didn’t see that coming…

I guess, in my mind, 50 is about how old my mom is now.  Which she isn’t but… that’s my mind.  And then everyone else’s age is supposed to fall in accordingly.  It probably doesn’t help that I have teenagers and twenty-somethings in my life who I can relate to (i.e., talk the lingo, or whatever — although realistically I’m probably just a poser to them).

So when I contemplate Que Evon turning 50, something in my head short circuits.

Saving grace is that it doesn’t show in either Que or Judy.  But still… that number… five-zero.  Yikes.

It May Be Cheaper To Ship Your Luggage Than To Travel With It

Seems to work best if you have 2 or more bags:

With airlines charging ever higher fees for the right to lose your luggage, you might find it cheaper — if not safer — to ship your bag than check it. 

Airfarewatchdog put together a handy chart showing how much airlines are charging to check your bag. Most U.S. airlines want you to fork over $15 for your first bag and $25 for the second. If you’re one of those people doesn’t know the meaning of the phrase "travel light," you’re going to pay through the nose if you’ve got more than two bags or a suitcase that weighs more than 50 pounds.

With that in mind, we did a little research to see if a trip to the post office beats a trip to the airport bag drop.

Let’s say you’re headed from Boston to New York with a bag that weighs 35 pounds. If it’s too big to carry on the plane — and at 35 pounds it probably will be — you’ll shell out $15 for the privilege of checking it in. Box up your stuff and haul it to your local post office and you’ll pay $18.98 to ship it via two-day Priority Mail. UPS will charge you $20 to get it there in seven days — so plan ahead — and FedEx two-day will run you $20.88.

So far, snail mailing your luggage doesn’t seem like a bargain.

But the math changes when you throw a second suitcase into the mix. Check two bags and you’re out $40. That’s what you’ll pay to have FedEx throw your luggage around, but you’ll pay $35 using UPS and $34 to let the post office deal with it. The savings really kick in if you’re a clothes’ horse or you bought every souvenir you laid eyes on. Airlines will nail you for up to $140 if you’ve got three pieces of luggage, but the post office will charge you $55. FedEx will get it there (or back) for $60.

U.S. mail is an even bigger bargain if your bags weigh a ton — a 65-pounder costs $24 to ship parcel post, but the airlines will charge $50 and $100 to throw it in the cargo hold. The bottom line? The more stuff you’re packing, the more it makes sense to consider shipping it.

The New McCain Ad Against Obama Is Staggeringly Dishonest On So Many Levels

McCain’s new TV ad, "Pump", blames Obama for rising gas prices.

On its face, it is silly.  Obama has been a one-term senator.  How can one man be responsible for rising gas prices?

Here are some very worthwhile critisicms of the ad:

  • Daily KosBarbinMD:   "John McCain has often said that he would run a respectful campaign, but he never said anything about running an honest one. […] Did he forget that his own campaign said: ‘…allowing new offshore drilling would have no immediate impact on supplies or gas prices.’ Did he forget all that or is he just lying?
  • Drum: "Is the McCain campaign losing it? In an ad today about spiraling gasoline prices, the narrator asks portentously: ‘Who can you thank for rising prices at the pump?’ This is accompanied by [Obama’s picture] and background noise of a crowd chanting ‘Obama! Obama!’ Are they serious? They’re going to try to convince the American public that Barack Obama is responsible for $4 gasoline? Or is this one of those pseudo-ads that never really gets aired anywhere and is released just to see if it can get some press attention from suckers like me? Regardless, this is really lame."
  • Benen: "For McCain, it appears the equation is simple. If abandoning honor and honesty will give him the presidency, then so be it. The truth, McCain has concluded, is for losers. To anyone who cares about reality, the ad doesn’t make a lick of sense. McCain has to hope, desperately, that we’re all idiots. For example, the ad says gas prices are high ‘because some in Washington are still saying no to drilling in America.’ How’s that, exactly? No one is saying no to ‘drilling in America.’ There’s all kinds of drilling in America. There’s drilling in U.S. waters, and on U.S. land. I don’t know of a single U.S. policy maker who wants ‘drilling in America’ to stop. Worse, the ad wants Americans to believe that prices would be lower if there was more ‘drilling in America.’ McCain knows that’s not true, but hopes to fool just enough people, playing them for suckers. It’s shameful."
  • Yglesias: "John McCain’s new ad says that Barack Obama’s refusal to open America’s coastline to drilling is to blame for high gas prices. […] They say nobody ever went wrong underestimating the intelligence of the voting public, but it is staggering that you can’t find any credible people anywhere prepared to argue that McCain’s drilling schemes will bring any short-term relief from high gas prices or that the long-run price reductions would be anything other than tiny. Meanwhile, it’s McCain who has no plan to help bolster alternative fuels and no plan to bolster alternatives to driving."

Lack of honesty aside, the ad simply doesn’t work

Open Left‘s Matt Stoller: "I don’t think McCain’s attack will work on Obama, since it is saying something that Americans fundamentally don’t believe. The ad suggests that prices are rising because of insufficient drilling, and that more drilling will lower prices. That isn’t true, and polling suggests people know it isn’t true. An ad that says something along the lines of ‘this isn’t a total solution, but it’s a start’ would be much more credible as an attack on Obama. […] If you drilled everything there is in the US tomorrow and oil started coming out of the ground tomorrow, gas prices would drop by about three cents."

We Feel Fine

This has to be one of the most interesting uses of the Internet I’ve seen in a long while!!

Maybe I’m attracted to it because of my social psychology background.  As well as my attraction to new art forms.

The website is called "We Feel Fine" and its a psychometric graphical representation of how we, as a human race, feel at this particular moment.

Or, as the website creators say, it is "an exploration of human emotion on a global scale".

How do they determine how we, the human race, feel right now?

Every few minutes, the system searches the world’s newly posted blog entries for occurrences of the phrases "I feel" and "I am feeling". When it finds such a phrase, it records the full sentence, up to the period…

Once saved, the sentence is scanned to see if it includes one of about 5,000 pre-identified "feelings". This list of valid feelings was constructed by hand, but basically consists of adjectives and some adverbs. The full list of valid feelings, along with the total count of each feeling, and the color assigned to each feeling, is here.

If a valid feeling is found, the sentence is said to represent one person who feels that way.

If an image is found in the post, the image is saved along with the sentence, and the image is said to represent one person who feels the feeling expressed in the sentence.

Because a high percentage of all blogs are hosted by one of several large blogging companies (Blogger, MySpace, MSN Spaces, LiveJournal, etc), the URL format of many blog posts can be used to extract the username of the post’s author. Given the author’s username, we can automatically traverse the given blogging site to find that user’s profile page. From the profile page, we can often extract the age, gender, country, state, and city of the blog’s owner. Given the country, state, and city, we can then retrieve the local weather conditions for that city at the time the post was written. We extract and save as much of this information as we can, along with the post.

This process is repeated automatically every ten minutes, generally identifying and saving between 15,000 and 20,000 feelings per day.

And here’s the coolest part…. the entries are searchable by feeling, date, weather, location, blogger’s age, and blogger’s gender to help you answer questions like:

Do Europeans feel sad more often than Americans?

What are the most representative feelings of female New Yorkers in their 20s?

What do people feel like in Baghdad right now?

How many people have felt "obtuse" in Richmond, Virginia this year?

The presentation of the results is both informative and artful, and comes in a variety of forms.  Unfortunately, it is in the style of a graphic applet, so I can’t copy and paste an example.

But I ran the applet to find out how people in Greensboro North Carolina have felt in 2008 (to date).   It’s a bit slow to load and run, but it was worth it.

The overall impression result?

Bad.  15.4% reported feeling this way, which is 3.1 times the normal level.

Here are some random Greensboro "murmers" (lifted blog quotes about feelings) from my search:

I feel like Julia Roberts in Mona Lisa Smile — from July 6, 2008, a 24 year old in Gboro when it was sunny

I feel bad for my mom and dad as they’ve had horrible luck with transportation this year — from June 22, 2008, a 32 year old in Gboro when it was sunny

I feel like Charlie, holding on to the chocolate bar, admiring it, just waiting for the right time to open it up and enjoy. — from June 18, 2008, a 36 year old in Gboro when it was sunny

There are dozens more.

But like I said, getting the results is one thing.  The way the results are represented is… well… art.

UPDATE:  Ahh…. some screenshots I did of my search (click to enlarge)

"Murmers" — A screenshot of scrolling snippets from Greensboro bloggers describing how they "feel" (in 2008) [in the actual site, you can click on the quote and be taken to that person’s site]

Gborofeel1

"Mobs" — Breakdown of feelings from people in Greensboro (in 2008) by adjective

Gborofeel2

"Metrics" — The most representative feelings of people (worldwide) in the past few hours

Metricsrecent

Have fun playing with this!

A Place In Heaven, Guaranteed, Or Your Money Back

Dammit.  WHY didn’t I think of this?

A good business idea.  These guys have been making a lot of money since their website has been featured in the news (Washington Post, etc)

What is it?  Reserve A Spot In Heaven

What do you get?

ProductsideThis basic travel package includes everything needed to transport one individual to Heaven. No more worrying about whether you will get in or not. This kit guarantees that you will.

Includes:

* Heavenly issued certificate of reservation registered in the Book of Light™ (with printed name)

* A First class ticket to Heaven. Why walk those stairs when you can fly?

* The Official Heaven Identification Card (laminated) so you can get around without getting hassled.

* Heaven 101 mini informational guide. Don’t be a victim of culture shock. Get acquainted with the land.

It only costs $12.79.  (For $15.95, they throw in an all access VIP pass (laminated). This pass will grant you access to “VIP exclusive areas” including the Land of Milk and Honey and Thug Mansion, where all the elite get together and kick it.)

And….

For your ememies, there’s a similar website.

You guessed it: Reserve A Spot In Hell

Interesting, the prices are the same ($12.79 and $15.95).

McCain Intent On Reminding Voters That He Is Doddering

The Bad McCain Week express rolls on:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) said “Iraq” when he apparently meant “Afghanistan” on Monday, adding to a string of mixed-up word choices that is giving ammunition to the opposition.

McCain was talking about how we will face a "hard struggle, particularly given the situation on the Iraq/Pakistan border."  (Video here).

Yyyyyeah.

One prob:  Iraq and Pakistan don’t have a border. 

Or maybe, maybe… McCain in his expertise has a super special secret map:

Middleeastmap

A slip of the tongue?  Probably.  But as Drum notes:

"Even we partisans can get a little tired of pointing out John McCain’s constant verbal flubs and, um, moments of confusion. But Jesus. The question was about Afghanistan in the first place, which was an obvious invitation to talk about its ongoing border problems with the tribal areas of Pakistan. So what does McCain do? He deliberately pivots away to mention the nonexistent Iraq/Pakistan border. Does he even know what a map of central Asia looks like? Isn’t this supposed to be his strong suit?"

Just in the past three weeks, McCain has also mistaken "Somalia" for "Sudan," and even football’s Green Bay Packers for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Ironically, the errors have been concentrated in what should be his area of expertise: foreign affairs.

Not good, especially during the same week when Obama is pulling a foreign affairs expertise showcase of stellar proportions.

McCain aides point out that he spends much more time than Obama talking extemporaneously, taking questions from voters and reporters. "Being human and tripping over your tongue occasionally doesn’t mean a thing," a top McCain official said.

But McCain’s mistakes raise a serious, if uncomfortable question: Are the gaffes the result of his age? And what could that mean in the Oval Office?

Voters, thinking about their own relatives, can be expected to scrutinize McCain’s debate performances for signs of slippage.

Every voter has a parent, grandparent or a friend whose mental acuity declined as they grew older. It happens at different times for different people — and there is ample evidence many in their 70s are as sharp and fit as ever.

Oh, good!

There’s "ample evidence" that McCain won’t be wandering around the White House in his boxer shorts, yelling at the squirrels in the front lawn, and repeatedly asking for peanut butter.

He’s got my vote!

UPDATE:  More on Obama’s unprecedented trip:

A veteran of former president Clinton’s administration, someone who understands both politics and foreign policy, described this week’s seven-nation trip as one of the four most important events for Obama between now and Election Day — the others being his selection of a vice presidential running mate, his convention and his debates with McCain.

What struck this person was the boldness of Obama’s decision to spend more than a week abroad in the middle of a campaign. Not, of course, for the reasons Obama outlined, but no less an example of Obama’s self-confidence. "This is a big-league move to directly address a concern that the American people are going to have" about his candidacy, he said.

What is striking is how Obama’s campaign differs from past Democratic campaigns. In earlier years, Democratic candidates couldn’t wait to move off of foreign policy and onto domestic issues, aware that their party more or less owned the domestic debate, while Republicans generally held the high ground on national security. The more time they could spend focusing the contest on domestic issues, the better their chances of winning.

That was true certainly for John F. Kerry against President Bush four years ago, and it’s clear that the polls currently show that national security issues are McCain’s one key area of strength against Obama. Obama’s advisers believe the economy will dominate the fall campaign, but the candidate shows no indication that he will try to avoid engagement with McCain over foreign policy.

The journey Obama began when he left Washington last Thursday is one wholly unique in the annals of presidential politics. Everything smacks of a presidential trip. The credentials issued to the traveling press corps on Sunday in Chicago — reporters will catch up with Obama in Jordan later this week — say "The visit of Senator Obama to the Middle East and Europe," mimicking the language of a presidential sojourn.

Once he is out of Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama will join up with the press and travel on his newly configured campaign charter, a Boeing 757 that carries the words "Change We Can Believe In" along the fuselage and the distinctive Obama logo on the tail. Never has a presidential candidate been overseas with such visibility.

It’s winning admiration from unexpected quarters:

Newt Gingrich, the former Republican House speaker, is watching with some fascination as Obama travels this week. He may disagree with Obama but nonetheless called him "one of the smartest people we’ve ever seen run for president." Obama may have "huge structural challenges on cultural and other issues," he added, "but I think he’s very smart … very formidable."

You’re 40, and Nobody Likes You

But happy birthday anyway, cubicle:

143cubiclestandaloneprod_affiliate8The cubicle celebrates its 40th birthday this month. A party is unlikely.

What’s to celebrate? The cubicle office system is one of the most derided realities of modern work life.

Somehow, the spaces that white-collar worker bees unlovingly refer to as “cubes” have become an icon for all that is confining, uninspiring, soulless and humdrum in our workaday lives.

Warrens. Honeycombs. Cube farms. Even “veal-fattening pens.”

The sarcasm — cynicism — wrapped around those fabric-covered panels is remarkable for a system marketed back in 1968 as the Action Office.

Bad rap?

“This was a wonderful concept,” Joe Schwartz said. He was the marketing director at Herman Miller in Michigan when the furniture company shopped a new office system concept around the country.

Schwartz, now 82, retired and living in Scottsdale, Ariz., spent a fair amount of time in Kansas City back then because Hallmark Cards was one of the first adopters of the Action Office.

The late Robert Propst at Herman Miller gets credit for the design, although some of his ideas were lost in translation, Schwartz said.

The basic idea of movable walls was a beautiful thing for employers and employees. For management, reconfiguring space could be accomplished without costly and messy drywall work. Employees gained storage, some privacy, even shelves.

In the initial design, Schwartz said, workers could have desks at two levels, one for sitting and one for standing.

“Propst had the idea that sitting wasn’t good for you and that people could both sit and stand at work and that would improve their health,” Schwartz said.

The Action Office met with some resistance. Managers wondered if privacy was such a good idea. Cost, as always, was an issue. Desks on two levels?

But the biggest alteration was that the cubicles shrunk in response to demands on office space, Schwartz said.

Still, said Leonard Kruk, co-author of Complete Office Handbook, the cubicle was a great improvement over what came before: row after row of free-standing desks or vast bullpens.

Pat Boone vs. The Apes (The Loser? Comedy)

I can’t tell if Pat Boone is (a) trying to be funny and failing; or (b) being totally serious and failing. 

Anyway, the crooner is on his (white) soapbox about — I am not making this up — "ape rights".  Judge for yourself:

Well, if it weren’t for the close quarters and the sad deterioration of his bones and other body parts, Charles Darwin would be spinning madly in his sarcophagus.

Close quarters?  Darwin is buried in Westminster Abbey in London.  Pretty nice digs from what I hear.  But please, evoking the decaying body of a scientist?  Where are we going with this?

Spinning with hilarious joy, that is.

O.K.  So this must be good news for Darwin, whatever Pat is talking about.

I’ve just read that animal rights activists in several countries are campaigning diligently for apes and chimps to receive virtually all the same legal rights as their supposed human descendants.

Wait a second.  Is Pat suggesting that Darwin was an animal rights advocate?  Where does that come from?

Yeah, yeah, Pat.  Animal rights advocate, evolutionary theorist.  They BOTH have to do with animals, so they’re BOTH the SAME THING.

By the way, I’m just guessing here, but I don’t think anybody is talking about giving legal rights to our simian ancestors.  They are, after all, dead.  I think we’re just talking about LIVING apes, from whom we most assuredly did NOT descend.

Yes, the Great Ape Project International, based in Atlanta, and other devoted simian lovers around the world, have rallied around a case in the European Court of Human Rights in Austria involving a 28-year-old chimp named Matthew Hiasi Pan.

And they’re cheered on by a resolution, adopted just last month by a Spanish parliamentary committee, that would give great apes, such as chimpanzees and gorillas, the right to life, freedom from arbitrary captivity and protection from torture.

Pat is mocking this?  What’s his problem?  Does he think chimpanzees should be arbitrarily killed, captured and tortured?

What kind of a sick fuck is Pat Boone, anyway?

If the Spanish court approves the resolution, as it’s expected to do, Spain will be the first nation to extend human rights to mankind’s closest "genetic relatives." If the European Court in Austria follows suit, it may declare Matthew the chimp a person, and entitled to a legal guardian and funds for upkeep. He already has a lawyer, Eberhart Theuer of Vienna.

Oh, Pat.  Can you read?  Or do you get your info from retarded email spam?

The theory behind GAP is a simple one: great apes differ from us in DNA by only 0.5% difference. The difference between a chimpanzee and us is only 1.23%. Human blood and chimpanzee blood, with compatible blood groups, can be exchanged through transfusion.  We use chimps and other great apes to cure diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosis, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, Crohn’s disease and asthma. Chimpanzees also contain unique advantages in evaluating new Hepatitis B and C vaccines, and treatments for malaria, again because of the similarity in their response to these antigens to humans.

But on a psychological level, the great apes are capable of rudimentary communication skills, feelings, rationality and self-consciousness.  The typical great ape is, to put in bluntly, more "advanced" emotionally and mentally than thousands of mentally-impaired humans.

Even then, nobody is advocating that a chimp be "declared" a person.  That would be stupid.  The whole object is to acknowledge that they should be offered some of the same rights as a mentally-retarded person — like the right to life, freedom from torture and imprisonment, etc.  Is that so silly?

[I can only imagine Pat’s response: "Yeah, but they’re monkeys.  They throw their own shit excrement!"  To which I respond, "Well, I’m sure many mentally retared people would, or do, too."]

And you thought we had problems with illegal aliens?

Get it?  Monkeys?  Dark-skinned illegal aliens?  Making the connection?   It’s okay if you didn’t; Pat just made it for you.

Matthew’s lawyer says he only wants his client to be treated like a human child, to be declared a person, and granted four of about 50 rights enjoyed by Europeans: the right to life, limited freedom of movement, personal safety and the right to claim property. And of course, a legal guardian.

"Four of about 50 rights"?  So in your earlier paragraph when you wrote "I’ve just read that animal rights activists in several countries are campaigning diligently for apes and chimps to receive virtually all the same legal rights as their supposed human descendants", you were lying, Pat?  Pulling something out of your arse there?

Or perhaps you lack basic reading comprehension, like our monkey brethren?

In this country, he’d be lining up for food stamps, health care, a driver’s license, unemployment insurance, registration to vote (Democrat) – and, maybe later, application for citizenship.

Okay.  I think Pat is being tongue-in-cheek about a monkey getting a driver’s license in this country and voting for Obama.  Well, maybe just the driver’s license part.  So, let’s give him a hearty "Har har.  Good reposte, old spot"

But underlying Pat’s sarcasm, he’s STILL making the racist connection between MONKEYS and ILLEGAL ALIENS (not to mention MONKEYS and OBAMA).  Why is nobody calling him on this?

Why not run for public office? According to the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Atlanta’s Emory University, chimps share 98.5 percent of human DNA – roughly the same as some career politicians!

And roughly the same as washed up 1950’s singers who got famous stealing music from monkeys dark-skinned people.  Ain’t that right, Pat?

The same study claims the ape family shares many of the same characteristics as humans, but not capacity for written language or complex emotions, such as guilt or shame. Sounds perfect for some congressional seats, some court benches and chairmanship of some big oil companies.

*rim shot*.  Thanks, ladies and gentleman.  Pat is playing the Sands all week!

Of course, there’s still a bamboo ceiling; he couldn’t run for president if he weren’t born in this country. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been governor of California for two terms, and that’s as far up the food chain as he can go. But some chimps have already been movie and TV stars; over 50 years ago, Cheetah starred with Tarzan, Clint Eastwood co-starred with one, and J. Fred Muggs was a big-hit regular with Dave Garaway on NBC.

Don’t quite get the comparison there, Pat.  Are you saying that Cheetah and J. Fred Muggs are higher up the food chain because they’ve been on TV, compared to Schwarzenegger, who has only been governor?

Are you just trying to show off your vast knowledge of monkeys-in-Hollywood trivia?  And if so, why?

Still, some legal analysts warn of a danger in giving apes equal legal status because an animal’s rights could conflict or even supersede a human’s rights in future court rulings, says USA Today. Richard Cupp, at Pepperdine University’s School of Law, having written extensively on animal vs. human rights, says, "I’d call it a slippery-slope-plus."

I thought I would factcheck Pat’s last paragraph, and found the USA Today article in question.  Here is how the relevant paragraph in USA Today reads, verbatim:

Some legal analysts warn of a danger in giving apes equal legal status because an animal’s rights could conflict or supersede a human’s rights in future court rulings. "I’d call it a slippery slope-plus," says Richard Cupp, associate dean for research at California’s Pepperdine University School of Law, who has written extensively on animal vs. human rights.

Why, Pat’s paragraph is almost word-for-word the same as the USA Today paragraph!  It’s almost as if he’s aping the USA Today article in a monkey-see-monkey-do kind of way.

Or, as we humans call it, plagerism.  Guess old habits (e.g., stealing songs from other people) die hard.

I guess so …next thing you know, the flaky California Supreme Court, already declaring that marriage no longer has to be defined as a covenant between one man and one woman, may quickly grant that status with all its benefits to a man and his chimp, a woman and her ape, or – God forbid – two male gorillas!

Okay.  Evolutionists?  Check.  Illegal immigrants?  Check.  Gays?  Check.  Bestiality?  Check. 

What other rightwing bugaboos can milk off this lame topic?

Landlords and business owners, watch out! You may soon have no right to forbid occupancy or employment to simians, no matter your religious convictions, or even allergies.

Desegregation?  Check.

Many researchers believe the AIDS virus mutated and originated in a certain type of African monkey, so hospitals may have a lot more to worry about than staph infections.

Because… huh?  Ape rights will result in an increase in AIDS?  I realize — well, I think — this is intended to be funny, but one wonders how Pat’s mind works sometimes.

And talk about that "slippery slope" – if primates are ceded human rights, why not cats and dogs? And other pets like hamsters and iguanas and snakes and birds? What if George Clooney’s pet porker sues him for alienation of affection?

*rim shot*   ha ha ha ha… huh?  Pat is not only suggesting that George Clooney fucks a pig, but that George Clooney cheats on the pig he’s been fucking.

Pat, that’s cooooold.

Hey, that great humanitarian Leona Helmsley not only left $12 million to her beloved white Maltese, Trouble, but it now turns out she earmarked virtually her entire estate, between 5 and 8 billion, for a charitable trust dedicated to "the care and welfare of dogs"! And not even she demanded that pooches be declared human and granted the same status as American citizens. Obviously, in her view, that would devalue them.

I’m not comedy writer, but somehow "in her view, that would devalue them" just doesn’t sound like a workable punchline, no matter how lengthy the set-up.

It occurs to me, at the risk of being shouted down by Matthew’s legal supporters, that a novel solution to all this might be: Leave all primates in their natural habitat, where they’ve always flourished, and quit dragging them into the confusion and turmoil of modern society! It didn’t work for Tarzan, and it sure didn’t for Cheetah!

Pssst, Pat!  I think that’s what Matthew’s legal supporters are trying to achieve.  So this whole time, you’ve been having fun at the expense of people with whom you actually agree.

I know this all sounds ridiculous, and it is. As ridiculous as former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s serious suggestion that we ought to look to Europe for some of our legal precedents and judgments.

Liberal judges?  Check.

As if our unique and precious Constitution with its Bill of Rights didn’t provide Americans with the best and highest form of jurisprudence ever devised on this planet, creating the best and freest society in history.

Shhhyuh, dude.  As IF.

Look to Europe?

That’s for the dogs. And now, the apes.

So sayeth Pat Boone, adding "I mean. Come ON!  If pigs could fly!  But that’s a horse of a different color!  Hahahahaha!  I crack myself up sometimes!  Hahahahahah!  Beeeern-a-diiiine…."

In_a_metal_mood_no_more_mr_nice_guy

Pictured above: Pat Boone, Concerned About Monkeys and Illegal Aliens Driving Cars, Mixing with General Population

“The Mediator Of The Head And The Heart”

200511metropolisposterbigIf you consider yourself a science fiction movie fan, and have never heard of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, then you are no science fiction movie fan.

Metropolis is widely-considered the first serious science fiction film (the Georges Méliès’ 1902 short A Trip to the Moon cannot be considered high science fiction), and most science fiction classics, from Blade Runner to Star Wars to The Matrix all are derived, whether they realize it or not, from this 1927 German work.

At the time is was made, Metropolis was the most expensive silent film of the time, costing approximately 7 million Reichsmark (equivalent, by some estimate to about $200 million U.S. dollars) to make.

The movie is a strange mixture of political speculation political parable, apocalyptic fantasy, and religious allegory.

Basically, the film is set in the year 2026, a world marked by extraordinary Gothic skyscrapers of a corporate city-state, known as Metropolis. Set designer Erich Kettlehut’s designs for the city Golden Age science fiction, with a characteristically pre-Nazi German architectural flavor.

The society of Metropolis has been divided into two rigid groups: one of planners or thinkers, who live high above the earth in luxury, and another of workers who live underground toiling to sustain the lives of the privileged. The city is run by Johann ‘Joh’ Fredersen (Alfred Abel).

The beautiful and evangelical figure Maria (Brigitte Helm — who was 17 when the film was made) takes up the cause of the workers. She advises the desperate workers not to start a revolution, and instead wait for the arrival of "The Mediator", who, she says, will unite the two halves of society.

Clock3The son of Joh, Freder (Gustav Fröhlich), becomes infatuated with Maria, and follows her down into the working underworld. In the underworld, he experiences firsthand the toiling lifestyle of the workers, and observes the casual attitude of their employers (he is disgusted after seeing an explosion at the "M-Machine", when the employers bring in new workers to keep the machine running before taking care of the men wounded or killed in the accident). Shocked at the workers’ living conditions, he joins her cause.

Meanwhile Freder’s father, Joh, consults with a scientist named Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge).  Rotwang is an old companion and rival of Joh.  Years ago we learn, they both pursued a woman named Hel.  Joe won over Hel and went on to run Metropolis, while Rotwang languished in anonymity.  Hel, we learn, died while giving birth to Freder.

From Rotwang, Joh learns that the papers found with dead workers are plans of the catacombs and witnesses a speech by Maria. Maria has given the workers hope by preaching about the coming of a "mediator" who would be the "heart" between the "head" (i.e., Joh, the conceiver of the city) and the "hands" (or the people who labor to make it a reality).

Joh also learns that Rotwang has built a femaile robot. Rotwang wants to give the robot the appearance of Hel, his former lover who left him for Joh and died giving birth to Freder. Joh persuades him instead to give the robot Maria’s appearance, as he wants to use the robot to tighten his control over the workers. Rotwang complies out of ulterior motives: he knows of Freder’s and Maria’s love and wants to use the robot to deprive Joh of his son.

MetropolisroboTo complete the transformation of his robot, Rotwang enters the catacombs and captures Maria.  Maria is imprisoned in Rotwang’s house in Metropolis, while the now-transformed robot Maria is first showcast as an exotic dancer in the upper city’s Yoshiwara nightclub, fomenting discord among the rich young men of Metropolis.

Freder catches his father and the mechanical Maria together, is shocked into sickness and hallucinations.

Eventually, Rotwang relents, he wants to back out of the plan. He and Joh fight; Rotwang is knocked unconscious while Maria escapes. She runs to the underground city which is now deserted, except for its children; the workers, in full revolt under the robot’s leadership, are demolishing machinery—some of which controls reservoirs above.

After descending to the worker’s city, the robot Maria encourages the workers into a full-scale rebellion, and they destroy the "Heart Machine", the power station of the city. Neither Freder nor Grot, the foreman of the Heart Machine, can stop them. As the machine is destroyed, the city’s reservoirs overflow, flooding the workers’ underground city and seemingly drowning the children, who were left behind in the riot.

But the children have not drowned.  Freder and Maria have saved them in a heroic rescue, without the workers’ knowledge. (It’s not clear how Freder showed up after his hallucinations; much of this part of the print as been lost — more on that below)

When the workers realize the damage they have done and that their children are lost, they attack the upper city. Under the leadership of Grot, they chase the human Maria, whom they hold responsible for their riot. As they break into the city’s entertainment district, they run into the Yoshiwara crowd and capture the robot Maria, while the human Maria manages to escape. The workers burn the captured (robot) Maria at the stake; Freder, believing this to be the human Maria, despairs.

But then he and the workers realize that the burned Maria is in fact a robot.

Meanwhile, the human Maria is chased by Rotwang along the battlements of the city’s cathedral. Freder chases after Rotwang, resulting in a climactic scene in which Joh watches in terror as his son struggles with Rotwang on the cathedral’s roof. Rotwang falls to his death, and Maria and Freder return to the street, where Freder unites Joh (the "head") and Grot (the "hands"), fulfilling his role as the "Mediator" (the "heart").

That’s it in a nutshell.  Here’s a montage of scenes from the original film, so you can get a sense, if nothing else, of its style.

The appeal of Metropolis comes as a piece of film history, not as a film itself.  Lang’s cut of Metropolis premiered in Berlin at more than three and a half hours; the studio cut it drastically soon after its release (almost in half), and much of the cut material has been thought to be lost for good. Over the years different versions of the film exhibiting varying degrees of quality have circulated (often with new soundtracks), with some versions coming in at less than 90 minutes.  [When discussing the running time of Metropolis – the original or subsequent versions – one must use caution; nobody can agree on what speed the film was intended to be shown at, and that makes a difference]

So the problem, you see, is that there are so many cuts of the film, that even my above plot synopsis may not be accurate… and certainly not complete.  Many of the cuts made over the years are simply baffling: the entire subplot concerning the man Fredersen sends to spy on his son; the scenes explaining the origin of Rotwang’s enmity toward the city’s ruler; and the struggle between the rival geniuses that allows the real Maria to escape from Rotwang’s clutches.

This makes Metropolis an excruciating film to watch.  The half-explained plot twists (in incomplete versions), plus the very non-Hollywood style of story-telling, coupled with religious and iconic imagery, all combine to send the typical viewer into fits of apoplexy, as they wonder aloud "WTF am I watching?!?"  I suspect that even without cuts, the film is pretty inaccessible (but at least, one hopes, there aren’t gaps).

I happen to own four DVDs of the movie.  Why four?

Well, the first one I bought shortly after DVDs came out.  Cost a couple of bucks.  It’s a scratchy, public domain version.

The second one I bought was a "restored" version.  Pretty much the same as my earlier version, but cleaner.  With 1927 orchestrations played by a contemporary orchestra.

The third version I bought was the 1984 "restoration" of Metropolis, a re-edit of the film that was compiled by Giorgio Moroder.   Moroder’s version of the film introduced a new modern rock-and-roll soundtrack for the film. Although it restored a number of previously missing scenes and plot details from the original release, his version of the film runs to only 80 minutes in length.  The 1984 re-edit also attempted to fill in plot gaps by using publicity still photos from the original Lang movie to create montages.  Morodor also used color overlays for different scenes, getting away from the black & white/sepia look.  Here’s a clip:

I can’t say that the I enjoyed the Morodor remake very much.  The pop soundtrack was bizarre.  The whole thing still suffered from being uneven.  But it was, well, interesting.

Finally, the 4th version I bought was a recent re-release by Kino, containing recently discovered footage, a documentary, and some film historians guessing at the plot holes based on archival material (still photos, working scripts, etc.).   It is the most definitive version — the closest to the original — that has been mass-marketed to date.

FYI:  Metropolis was also adapted to a stage musical which took the theme and story of "Metropolis"> It was produced as a contemporary piece, while suggesting much of the mood of the original 1920’s vision of the future.  From what I understand, it was not well-received.

OKAY.  SO WHY AM I TALKING ABOUT METROPOLIS?

Because of the news, which, I confess, I cannot believe I missed a few weeks ago.  Earlier this month, they found what appears to be the full uncut original as intended by Fritz Lang:

A long-lost original cut of the classic sci-fi film Metropolis, with extra scenes, has recently been unearthed and screened for the first time in decades.

Bad journalistic writing here.  If it’s the original, then those scenes aren’t "extra".  Know what I mean?

The original version of the 1927 film by Austrian-born director Fritz Lang was parked for 80 years, first in a private collection and then at the Museum of Cinema in Buenos Aires. That’s where it was re-discovered in April with images that hadn’t been seen since 1927.

"We no longer believed we’d see this. Time and again we had had calls about supposed footage but were disappointed," said Helmut Possmann, head of the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation in Wiesbaden, Germany, which owns the rights to to the film.

Possmann said up to 25 minutes of extra scenes help flesh out secondary characters as well as the plot.

The cinema museum’s director, Paula Felix-Didier, said theirs is the only copy of Lang’s complete film and it is being guarded very carefully.

***

The cinema museum’s director, Paula Felix-Didier, said theirs is the only copy of Lang’s complete film and it is being guarded very carefully.

Metropolis was written by Lang and his actress wife, Thea von Harbou.

The film depicts a 21st-century dystopic world split into a class of underworld workers and an elite who control them.

Soon after its initial release, distributors cut Lang’s masterpiece into a 114-minute version.

According to Felix-Didier, a private collector carried an original version to Argentina in 1928.

In the 1980s, Argentine film fan Fernando Pena heard rumours about a man who used to spend hours screening a version of Metropolis.

It took many years of begging by Pena, but employees at the Buenos Aires museum finally decided to check their archives this year to see whether they had a version of the film. In April, researchers uncovered the reels in the museum’s archive.

In June, Felix-Didier carried a DVD copy of the long version to the Murnau foundation in Germany, where researchers confirmed its authenticity.

As for a cinematic distribution, it’s too soon to say whether the original will be re-issued.

No, I expect it won’t be released theatrically.  Maybe at museums.  But I would like to see that sucker on DVD.

The BBC adds this:

Around 20 to 25 minutes of footage that fleshes out secondary characters and sheds light on the plot would be added to the film pending restoration, Possmann said, but around 5 minutes of the original was probably still missing.

Eh… five minutes?  I’ll live.

[FYI:  What’s my real interest in Metropolis?  I have a confession.  I’ve been working on a stage musical version of this — for grins and giggles — for a number of years.  Employing the discography of The Thompson Twins which, remarkably, fits in stylistically and lyrically with the plot.  Don’t tell anybody.]

That’s Got To Leave A Mark (GOP Response: “We’re Fucked”)

The Prime Minister of Iraq has endorsed U.S. plans for an withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Well, not Bush’s plan. And not McCain’s plan (McCain doesn’t really have one).

Nope, the Bush-backed Iraqi PM supports Senator Obama’s plan:

BERLIN (Reuters) – Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told a German magazine he supported prospective U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s proposal that U.S. troops should leave Iraq within 16 months.

In an interview with Der Spiegel released on Saturday, Maliki said he wanted U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible.

"U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes."

It is the first time he has backed the withdrawal timetable put forward by Obama, who is visiting Afghanistan and us set to go to Iraq as part of a tour of Europe and the Middle East.

Obama has called for a shift away from a "single-minded" focus on Iraq and wants to pull out troops within 16 months, instead adding U.S. soldiers to Afghanistan.

Asked if he supported Obama’s ideas more than those of John McCain, Republican presidential hopeful, Maliki said he did not want to recommend who people should vote for.

"Whoever is thinking about the shorter term is closer to reality. Artificially extending the stay of U.S. troops would cause problems."

And with that, the notion of Obama being "inexperienced" and green about matter of foreign policy disappear.  After all, it was Bush who repeatedly said that when we are asked to leave Iraq, we will (only to backpedal when it looks like we’ve been asked).

Marc Ambinder provides why this is a big deal:

This could be one of those unexpected events that forever changes the way the world perceives an issue. Iraq’s Prime Minister agrees with Obama, and there’s no wiggle room or fudge factor. This puts John McCain in an extremely precarious spot: what’s left to argue? To argue against Maliki would be to predicate that Iraqi sovereignty at this point means nothing. Obviously, our national interests aren’t equivalent to Iraq’s, but… Maliki isn’t listening to the generals on the ground…but the "hasn’t been to Iraq" line doesn’t work here.

So how will the McCain campaign respond?

The problem for McCain is that there is no good response.  He’ll either have to agree that Obama’s plan was right all along, OR explain why Maliki’s opinion about events in his own country don’t matter.

And according to Ambinder, Republicans know McCain is in a tight spot:

(Via e-mail, a prominent Republican strategist who occasionally provides advice to the McCain campaign said, simply, "We’re fucked." No response yet from the McCain campaign, although here’s what McCain said the last time Maliki mentioned withdrawal: "Since we are succeeding, then I am convinced, as I have said before, we can withdraw and withdraw with honor, not according to a set timetable. And I’m confident that is what Prime Minister Maliki is talking about, since he has told me that for many meetings we’ve had.")

Obama’s campaign, however, was quick to issue this statement (from an email):

There are two problems with John McCain’s political attacks on Barack Obama’s foreign policy. First, on the biggest foreign policy questions of the last eight years, Barack Obama has made the right judgment and John McCain has sided with George Bush in making the wrong one. Second, the failure of the McCain-Bush foreign policy has forced John McCain to change his position, and to embrace the very same Obama approaches that he once attacked.

Just this week, Senator McCain has been forced by events to switch to Barack Obama’s position on two fundamental issues: more troops in Afghanistan, and more diplomacy with Iran. On both issues, Obama took stands that weren’t politically popular at the time – opposing the war in Iraq as a diversion from the critical mission in Afghanistan, and standing up for direct diplomacy with Iran – while John McCain lined up with George Bush. Time has proven Obama’s judgment right and McCain wrong.

The next shift appears to be Iraq. For months, Senator McCain has called any plan to redeploy our troops from Iraq “surrender” – even though we’d be leaving Iraq to a sovereign Iraqi government. Now, the Bush Administration is embracing the negotiation of troop withdrawals with the Iraqi government – a position that Senator Obama called for last September, and reiterated on Monday in the New York Times. And now, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki supports Barack Obama’s timeline, telling Der Speigel that, “Barack Obama is right when he talks about 16 months.”

The McCain campaign really has no clue what it is doing.  It’s not thinking.  First, they attacked Obama for having little foreign policy experience.  "I mean, he’s never even been to Iraq and Afghanistan", they cried (while touting McCain’s foreign policy experience he gained as… a POW.  I guess.)

So Obama says he’s going to go to Iraq and Afghanistan.  And then, right away, before you know it, the trip becomes a HUGE media event, stealing whatever thing McCain has got going, and giving Obama all kinds of free media attention.  Now desparate for the spotlight that they all but handed to Obama, the McCain people call the trip a political stunt, but nobody pays attention.

And then this.  Before Obama’s foot steps off the plane, al-Maliki gives an interview which, in one full swoop, gives Obama more foreign policy cred than the Bush Administration (and its McCain successor).

Not a good week for McCain.  He just lost his strong suit: foreign policy.

By the way, a sidenote from the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.  Most reporters got the story from a White House email…. by mistake:

The White House this afternoon accidentally sent to its extensive distribution list a Reuters story headlined "Iraqi PM backs Obama troop exit plan – magazine."

The story relayed how Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told the German magazine Der Spiegel that "he supported prospective U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s proposal that U.S. troops should leave Iraq within 16 months … ‘U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes,’" the prime minister said.

The White House employee had intended to send the article to an internal distribution list, ABC News’ Martha Raddatz reports, but hit the wrong button.

Of course, they would have found out about al-Maliki’s interview in Der Spiegal anyway, but the whole White House error caused it to come out as a concussive grenade, rather than a slow blog-to-MSM hiss.

UPDATE:  The McCain campaign has just released this weak statement in response:

ARLINGTON, VA — Today, McCain 2008 Senior Foreign Policy Advisor Randy Scheunemann issued the following statement:

"The difference between John McCain and Barack Obama is that Barack Obama advocates an unconditional withdrawal that ignores the facts on the ground and the advice of our top military commanders. John McCain believes withdrawal must be based on conditions on the ground. Prime Minister Maliki has repeatedly affirmed the same view, and did so again today. Timing is not as important as whether we leave with victory and honor, which is of no apparent concern to Barack Obama. The fundamental truth remains that Senator McCain was right about the surge and Senator Obama was wrong. We would not be in the position to discuss a responsible withdrawal today if Senator Obama’s views had prevailed."

It kind of dodges the issue at hand, and moves the playing field to an irrelevant place.  The problem for McCain, which he dodges, is that he doesn’t believe in withdrawal at all.  So it’s a little hard to see this as somehow vindicating him.

The EPA Has ADD

News today:

Climate change will pose "substantial" threats to human health in the coming decades, the Environmental Protection Agency said yesterday — issuing its warnings about heat waves, hurricanes and pathogens just days after the agency declined to regulate the pollutants blamed for warming.

That’s reassuring, coming from the federal government.  Unfortunately, the EPA was saying something else only last week:

In a 588-page federal notice, the Environmental Protection Agency made no finding on whether global warming poses a threat to people’s health, reversing an earlier conclusion at the insistence of the White House and officially kicking any decision on a solution to the next president and Congress.

The bottom line, I think, is that the EPA does believe that global change does threaten human health, but they aren’t going to do anything until Bush gets out of office.

Someone Has To Call Out McCain On This

What McCain said yesterday:

"Senator Obama wants to raise taxes; I want to keep them low. [If you’re] somebody who wants higher taxes, I’m not your candidate. Senator Obama is."

What McCain should have said if he wanted to be 100% accurate and the "straight talker" that he supposedly is:

"If you’re somebody making less that $237,040 and wants lower taxes, I’m not your candidate.  Senator Obama is your man."

Because you see  95% of taxpayers will do better under Obama’s plan than McCain’s. See here for details.  Or simply look at this chart, which I’ve posted before, and probably will have to post again many times:

Blog_tpc_obama_mccain_tax_plans

Al Gore, Plagerist, Offers A Convenient Truth

Me, on July 15, 2008, on this very blog, saying how it was possible to remove ourselves from being addicted to oil and gas energy, if we only had the gonads to make such a commitment:

"We put a man on the moon in less than ten years.  When Kennedy proposed doing it in 1960, the materials and technology to put a man on the moon hadn’t been invented yet.  Yet, less than ten years later, there was good ol’ Neil planting the flag on the Sea of Tranquilty."

Al Gore, yesterday:

"Today I challenge our nation to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years….

When President John F. Kennedy challenged our nation to land a man on the moon and bring him back safely in 10 years, many people doubted we could accomplish that goal. But 8 years and 2 months later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the surface of the moon…

I will never forget the inspiration of those minutes… I watched along with hundreds of millions of others around the world as Neil Armstrong took one small step to the surface of the moon and changed the history of the human race."

But in all seriousness, Gore’s proposal is exciting.  He seems to think it is possible to totally remove ourselves from the plague of oil and gas dependency IN TEN YEARS. 

You can read the full transcript here.  Ah, screw it.  I’ll put the whole thing below the fold….

Or watch the video:

He plagerizes my Kennedy reference at 16:40.

UPDATE: The Oil Drum has some thoughts on whether or not Gore’s plan this is realistic:

The short answer is: while 100% is probably unrealistic, it’s not unreasonable to expect to be able to get pretty close to that number (say, in the 50-90% range) in that timeframe, and it is very likely that it makes a LOT of sense economically.

Well, that alone makes it worth it.  Shoot high.

Read the post. It’s a little technical, and it’s a lot to get your head around, but it’s comprehensive and addresses three things:

1) is it technically feasible to build the requisite capacity within 12 years?
2) what will it cost, and what will it mean for power prices?
3) how can the intermittency issue be dealt with?

Greenwald Is Good Today

He’s on a rant about the Justice Department under the Bush Adminsitration — people who seem to think they work for the President and not for the people of the United States:

The core attribute of the Justice Department is independence, not allegiance to the President as "client." The President has his own lawyers in the White House Counsel’s Office. The Attorney General is not and never was one of those lawyers. To the contrary, the Attorney General represents the people of the United States — if he has any "client," that’s who it is — and is often required to take positions and actions adverse to the President. Few things could subvert — and have subverted — the American justice system more than thinking of the President as being the "client" of the Attorney General.

This all used to be so basic. But the belief that the DOJ exists to advance the interests and wishes of the President has become a central premise of how our Government now works. The Justice Department has been transformed into but another cog in the instruments of Government that protect and serve the President. And that transformation isn’t unique to Alberto Gonzales (who, during a CNN interview while Attorney General, actually referred to Bush as "my client"), as The Washington Post‘s Dan Froomkin pointed out yesterday:

Michael Mukasey has President Bush’s back.

Mukasey succeeded toady Alberto Gonzales as attorney general last fall. But the notion that he would restore independence to that post took a big hit yesterday when he refused to turn over to a House committee key documents related to the CIA leak investigation.

This isn’t just ranting for the sake of ranting.  The people who think they work for Bush literally have no idea who they seem to actually work for or what their allegience is to, even though it’s spelled out in their oath. 

Exhibit A from last year — former White House official Sara Taylor actually went before the Senate and testified that she understood that she took an oath when she went to the White House that was "an oath to the President":

That’s quite disconcerting…

Bush’s Legacy

Yes, I too think it is time we should start naming public buildings after our illustrious president.  A good place to start:

A measure seeking to commemorate President Bush’s years in office by slapping his name on a San Francisco sewage plant has qualified for the November ballot.

The measure certified Thursday would rename the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant the George W. Bush Sewage Plant.

Supporters say the idea is to commemorate the mess they claim Bush has left behind by actions such as the war in Iraq.

They’re pretty funny out there in California.

Tuning In

This is usually the time of year when I start to really tune in to the Bosox.  Season being half over and all.

It looks like we’re in first — barely — and that seem largely due to a Tampa Bay impode more than anything else.  (Really?  Tampa Bay?  Why are they even a factor?!?)

Yankees not a serious threat at the moment….

Of course, Papi is out on disability for a while, Youklis and Varitek will probably soon join him on the DL.  And Schilling just is gone.

And, to top it off, Manny is being all grumbly with the front office apparently.  Seriously, I like Manny, but sometimes his attitude…

All this doesn’t bode well for the near future. 

But JD Drew and Mike Lowell are pulling their weight (Drew only has one less homer than Manny); we’ve still got Dice-K and Papelbon on the bench.

So we might survive a rough patch and squeak through…

2008 American League – Standings
EAST W L PCT GB HOME ROAD RS RA DIFF STRK L10 DIV WC POFF
Boston 57 40 .588 36-11 21-29 495 396 +99 Won 2 7-3 61.3 18.6 79.9
Tampa Bay 55 39 .585 .5 36-14 19-25 433 387 +46 Lost 7 3-7 29.7 25.7 55.5
NY Yankees 50 45 .526 6 27-22 23-23 436 412 +24 Lost 1 5-5 6.3 9.1 15.4
Toronto 47 48 .495 9 27-20 20-28 399 376 +23 Won 1 6-4 2.1 2.8 4.9
Baltimore 45 49 .479 10.5 25-17 20-32 441 452 -11 Lost 3 2-8 0.6 1.4 2.0
CENTRAL W L PCT GB HOME ROAD RS RA DIFF STRK L10 DIV WC POFF
Chicago Sox 54 40 .574 32-13 22-27 462 379 +83 Lost 1 5-5 67.8 6.5 74.3
Minnesota 53 42 .558 1.5 32-18 21-24 464 448 +16 Lost 1 6-4 26.8 11.8 38.6
Detroit 48 47 .505 6.5 28-20 20-27 455 449 +6 Won 2 5-5 4.3 2.5 6.8
Kansas City 43 53 .448 12 22-24 21-29 397 458 -61 Lost 1 4-6 0.2 0.1 0.3
Cleveland 41 53 .436 13 26-22 15-31 426 418 +8 Won 4 4-6 0.9 0.4 1.2
WEST W L PCT GB HOME ROAD RS RA DIFF STRK L10 DIV WC POFF
LA Angels 57 38 .600 26-20 31-18 409 388 +21 Won 2 6-4 56.2 7.6 63.8
Oakland 51 44 .537 6 31-24 20-20 410 345 +65 Lost 2 5-5 35.7 10.9 46.5
Texas 50 46 .521 7.5 25-21 25-25 538 559 -21 Won 1 6-4 8.1 2.7 10.8
Seattle 37 58 .389 20 19-27 18-31 374 437 -63 Won 1 4-6 0.1 0.1 0.1

Dear Abby Hijacked: Volume Four

Past installments

From her July 16 column

DEAR ABBY: My 17-year-old niece, "Nicki," was recently diagnosed with an STD. When her mother, my sister-in-law "Cynthia," found out she was horrified. She had ignored several family members — including me — who had tried to warn her that Nicki was sexually active and not taking proper precautions.

Now Nicki’s 14-year-old sister, "Danni," has come to me because she was afraid she was pregnant. I took her to get a pregnancy test done. Thank God, it was negative.

I think Danni should be tested for STDs, and both she and Nicki should be on birth control.

I can’t get this through to my sister-in-law. Cynthia thinks I "don’t understand" because I have sons, and "all I have to do is give them condoms."

Yes, but I have also talked to them about sex, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and prevention, as well as the importance of acting responsibly.

I just want my nieces to be safe. Cynthia is living in a state of denial. How can I protect my nieces? — CONCERNED AUNT IN NEW YORK

Dear Concerned Aunt:  This is nothing to screw around with (no pun intended).  Talk directly to the two kids yourself.  If they have come to you (as Danni has), it sounds like your responsibility is to, at the very least, point them to some literature and educate them.  Make THEM see how important safe sex is.  And offer to buy them protection.

Signed, Dear Abby Hijacked

DEAR ABBY: Is it rude or inconsiderate for a person to knit, crochet or piece a quilt while attending a meeting or other gathering? — CURIOUS IN THE SUNBELT

Dear Curious:  It certainly *can* be.  It depends on the nature of the gathering.  If, for example, the knitter was the subject of an intervention, she should probably put the knitting down and, you know, listen.  It’s also probably not cool in an office setting (i.e., meeting with clients).

But large school board meetings, or church, or something like that?  That’s probably okay.  As long as the person can multi-task (some people can, some people can’t, and some people *say* they can but actually can’t).

Signed, Dear Abby Hijacked

Moon Transits The Earth

At first blush, this may not seem all that amazing — a short filmed sequence of the Earth… with the moon going in front of it.

After all, we live in a time where such a thing can be generated on even the simplest computer.

But keep in mind, this is REAL, and reflects the first time in history of mankind where such an actual moving image was captured.

Recorded a few months ago, you get to eyewitness space history here, on this blog, right now (unless of course, you’ve already seen it on the news or elsewhere on the web).

It comes from the Deep Impact probe.  The Deep Impact spacecraft was the one that smacked a chunk of copper into a comet so that we could see what materials were below the surface. After the impact, the spacecraft kept going (with the mission renamed EPOXI), and it’s being used to do all sorts of interesting observations.

In late May, 2008, it turned its cameras back to Earth and observed us over the course of a several hours. During this time, from EPOXI’s point of view, the Moon passed directly in front of the Earth! The images were put together into this amazing sequence

This is a view that is literally impossible from the ground. Only a spacefaring race gets the privilege of this view from a height.

Take a look at that, folks. It’s us, seen from 50 million kilometers away

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

This is fun.

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog   

A webshow about Dr. Horrible, a very inept supercriminal with dubious superpowers, attempting to be accepted into the Evil League of Evil, while winning the heart of the girl he loves.

And it’s in the style of a Broadway-style musical. starring Neil Patrick Harris, Nathon Fillion from Firefly, and Felicia Day.

Harris is hysterical with great comic timing, and of course, his Broadway musical chops put him in good stead.

Very sweet at times, too.

The first two episodes webisodes are up (click the link above) and also available on iTunes.

Late Night Comedians Can’t Find The Funny In Obama

The New York Times addresses this "problem":

Comedy has been no easier for the phalanx of late-night television hosts who depend on skewering political leaders for a healthy quotient of their nightly monologues. Jay Leno, David Letterman, Conan O’Brien and others have delivered a nightly stream of jokes about the Republican running for president — each one a variant on the same theme: John McCain is old.

But there has been little humor about Mr. Obama: about his age, his speaking ability, his intelligence, his family, his physique. And within a late-night landscape dominated by white hosts, white writers, and overwhelmingly white audiences, there has been almost none about his race.

“We’re doing jokes about people in his orbit, not really about him,” said Mike Sweeney, the head writer for Mr. O’Brien on “Late Night.” The jokes will come, representatives of the late-night shows said, when Mr. Obama does or says something that defines him — in comedy terms.

“We’re carrion birds,” said Jon Stewart, host of “The Daily Show” on the Comedy Central channel. “We’re sitting up there saying ‘Does he seem weak? Is he dehydrated yet? Let’s attack.’ ”

But so far, no true punch lines have landed.

Why? The reason cited by most of those involved in the shows is that a fundamental factor is so far missing in Mr. Obama: There is no comedic “take” on him, nothing easy to turn to for an easy laugh, like allegations of Bill Clinton’s womanizing, or President Bush’s goofy bumbling or Al Gore’s robotic persona.

This is probably true, now that I think of it.

Fortunately, Andy Borowitz got a hold of five jokes from the Obama campaign:

Obama Releases List of Approved Jokes About Himself

Bid to Help Late Night Comics

Saying he is "sympathetic to late night comedians’ struggle to find jokes to make about me," Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill) today issued a list of official campaign-approved Barack Obama jokes.

The five jokes, which Sen. Obama said he is making available to all comedians free of charge, are as follows:

Barack Obama and a kangaroo pull up to a gas station. The gas station attendant takes one look at the kangaroo and says, "You know, we don’t get many kangaroos here." Barack Obama replies, "At these prices, I’m not surprised. That’s why we need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

A traveling salesman knocks on the door of a farmhouse, and much to his surprise, Barack Obama answers the door. The salesman says, "I was expecting the farmer’s daughter." Barack Obama replies, "She’s not here. The farm was foreclosed on because of subprime loans that are making a mockery of the American Dream."

A horse walks into a bar. The bartender says, "Why the long face?" Barack Obama replies, "His jockey just lost his health insurance, which should be the right of all Americans."

Q: What’s black and white and red all over?
Barack Obama: The New Yorker magazine, which should be embarrassed after publishing such a tasteless and offensive cover, which I reject and denounce.

A Christian, a Jew and Barack Obama are in a rowboat in the middle of the ocean. Barack Obama says, "This joke isn’t going to work because there’s no Muslim in this boat."

The Coveted Marie Jon Apostrophe Endorsement

Well, I guess one could say that I am flattered that syndicated columnist Marie Jon Apostrophe reads my blog, or, at least, my posts concerning her columns, even though she does nothing but leave cryptic comments.

It also looks like I may have gotten through to her.  For the first time in months, she’s written a column about Barack Obama that doesn’t mention that he is, you know, black and attended a black church where the pastor was black.  Blackity, black, black, black.

But yesterday’s Marie Jon Apostrophe column is ostensibly about John McCain, and why Marie Jon is going to vote for him.  Shorter version: Well, he’s the better candidate because he’s not Obama.

But let’s dive in:

McCain gets my vote

Nice title.  Catchy.  To the point.  This bodes well.

While some might be undecided on who to vote for this coming Election Day, for others it’s a no-brainer. Although the news media would like us to believe otherwise, there is still an enormous political gap between the Left and the Right.

I admit to being confused already.  I don’t think the news media is trying to make us believe there is no divide between the Left and the Right.  In fact, the media benefits from such a gap, since they can play out the whole "horse race" thing.  So I’m confused.  Perhaps a random out-of-left-field totally irrelevant quote by a 19th century British politician would help clarify.

    "Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it; and this I know, my lords, that where laws end, tyranny begins" — William Pitt

Nope.  No help at all.

The American people must wake up to the the facts. The Democratic Party has moved well to the left of liberalism, and Barack Obama is — by his record — as far left as one can get in the party.

And those are facts, people.

Sorry America, but we can’t afford an Obama presidency. It would be political and social mayhem having a Democrat House, Senate, Supreme Court and Executive branch.

Speaking of things we "can’t afford", we’ve had, in this decade, a Republican House, Senate, and Executive Branch (and a split Supreme Court), and we’ve run up huges deficits and debts.

For many decades the United States would be held under the sway of a very unjust, destructive force.

Ooga booga booga.

Our citizenry would have to deal with the extreme rulings of a Supreme Court gone wild.

As long as its on video.  Nothing like seeing a drunk Ruth Ginsberg showing us her ta-tas.

There would be no more checks and balances.

Little history here, Marie.  The concept of "checks and balances" was intended to mean that the various branches of government act as checks and balances — NOT THE PARTIES within each branch.  In fact, there were no political parties when the concept of "checks and balances" became the framework for the Constitution.

Liberal judges would change our country’s disposition. Even if Americans were roused from their lethargy and subsequently voted in a Republican president and Congress, it would be too late. They would not be able to neutralize the highest court of the land.

Like when that liberal Supreme Court desegregated schools?  Hell, we’re still paying for that.

Once a liberal Supreme Court is installed, all traditional values will be null and void. Everything will change to satisfy the progressives’ mind-set. Nothing would be sacrosanct, from the war against terror to the right to bear arms, late-term abortion and the varied definitions of marriage.

Late-term abortions are sacrosanct to Marie?  And war?  Huh.  Didn’t see that coming.

America needs a Republican president who will appoint judges to the Supreme Court without a litmus test. Only then can liberalism’s hold of our federal benches be defeated. Our country might then be spared from the dictates of a black-robed oligarchy.

Isn’t that a litmus test, Marie?  Making sure no liberals get on the bench?

Senator John McCain is not trying to run as a Ronald Reagan conservative. He is a maverick.

Where have I heard that before?  Oh, right.  From you, Marie.

Yet, even his worst critics understand that our nation would be much better off in the hands of President John McCain than President Barack Obama.

You didn’t seem to think so, Marie.  Here’s what you wrote about McCain a few months ago:

McCain agrees too often with the far left Democrats and allows them to erode conservatism. He has absolutely no compunction in siding with them when he wants to appear as a policy maker. Is it by chance that everything he initiates also has a Democrat’s name attached to it? He will say he is exhorting bipartisanship when in actuality; the maverick enjoys tweaking the nose of the party he probably should have departed a long time ago.

You still think we’re "much better off" in the hands of President John McCain?

Given this dire grim warning, be aware: Democrats will weaken our economy with their tax policies.

Because it’s doing so well now?  In any event, I addressed this in an earlier post today.

A progressive president in the White House will lead to more social and political changes. Many of Obama’s policies would become irreversible. "Change" for the sake of change without collective wisdom is unwise.

Obama claims that he is for change. Indeed, he changes his own political stances with each passing day. Which Barack are Americans voting for? He is so com se comsa. With his gifted, articulate tongue, he speaks disingenuously to perfection.

He also has the junna say qua that I can’t really describe.

Image crafting doesn’t have its risks for Obama. Most Democrats trust that if he is voted into office, anything he says that is contrary to what he stood for during the campaign will be shelved. As soon as he is sworn in as president, he will revert right back to his radical liberalism.

These are facts, people, derived from Marie Jon Apostrophe’s crystal ball about what the future will hold.

Democrats are not grumbling about changes they’ve heard Barack make in his political positions. They understand the game of posturing and pandering to the general electorate. The Rev.Jeremiah Wright had twenty years to mold his protégé.

Okay, can we have, say one example of Obama changing is political position?  And even if you can point to one, how are you and only you apparently able to tell which is his "true" position?

Finally, Marie, you really need to drop this Machurian candidate thing.  Obama and Wright were not that close.

Senator John McCain, however, can prevent this tragic wayward turn. He will not raise taxes or weaken the economy. He will reduce big government spending.

McCain is a promise-keeper whose presidency will ensure that America will win in Iraq. The new democracy will become a rich Arab nation, free from radical Islamic rule. The Iraqi people will always know that America stood behind them.

They will send us ponies and cotton candy.

Contrary to the propaganda of our own press, we are a humane people who want to help uphold Iraqi sovereignty. Our troops have given their lives to save people who once lived in fear of a hideous despot named Saddam Hussein.

Who has been dead for, what, two years?  So, uh….

As a result, we have reaped many as yet-unquantified dividends.

Assuming "we" are stockholders in Halliburton….

Every day that we spend in Iraq, we are protecting our homeland as well as bringing stability to the Middle East. We’ve won many hearts and minds in Iraq. Our troops have been both protectors and ambassadors of goodwill and freedom.

And I’ve addressed this earlier, too.  Seems like our military commander in Iraq — a person who ought to know — doesn’t agree with you there, Marie.

We will need another strategic plan for Afghanistan. America can put their faith in a war hero who has served in the military.

Sadly, that war hero you refer to — McCain — thinks we don’t need another plan for Afghanistan.

John McCain’s family is steeped in a patriotic history and tradition.

Like divorcing your wife after she gets in a debilitating car accident?

They have served their beloved country well. It should come as no surprise that the sons of John and Cindy are military men.

Ah, well.  He’s got my vote.

McCain will be a good steward of our recourses.

Good, because our "recourses", whatever they are, are getting out of hand.

Under his leadership, nuclear power and newly developed oil fields will become realities.

Finally.  After all these years, we’ll finally see nuclear power.

There will be many different energy strategies employed to help our nation back on its feet.

Like?

Gas prices will begin to tumble to meet the needs of the consumers’ pocketbooks as soon as the word is heard that we are taking care of business. There will be no years of waiting to see fuel prices come down. It is the Democrats who have long promoted doing nothing about finding new oil reserves, building nuclear plants and developing the alternative energy sources they claim to adore. Vote them out!

Oh, dear.  Wrong again, Marie.  You need to read my blog more, dear.

McCain is a man thinking about America’s future. On all levels — whether environmental, social or political — he is able to weigh in.

"Elect McCain.  He can form opinions."

McCain has been blessed with the wisdom of that comes with age and experience.

And being white.

There will always be those who vote their party line, no matter how irrational a candidate’s flip-flopping appears to be. Barack Obama has served three years in the Senate (two of them campaigning for President) and was a Chicago street organizer. Has half of America lost their minds? It begs an answer to address his obvious lack of experience and qualifications.

You know who had even less experience than Obama when he ran for President?  Another one-term senator from Illinois.  Abraham Lincoln.

There is no substance there, just words

The sober, sound minds of our country will understand who is best qualified to lead the greatest nation in the world. Let’s pray there are enough of them. Here, there is no doubt. John McCain is for me.

Kind of sounds like there is doubt, Marie.  You haven’t given a single reason what program or policy of McCain’s you actually like.

You know how you mentioned that "there will always be those who will vote their party line", no matter what?

Marie, meet mirror.

Can’t Kill Or Capture Our Way To Victory

Hmmmm:

Barack Obama warned yesterday against the risk of a “creeping militarization” of U.S. foreign policy, saying the State Department should lead U.S. engagement with other countries, with the military playing a supporting role.

“We cannot kill or capture our way to victory” in the long-term campaign against terrorism, Obama said, arguing that military action should be subordinate to political and economic efforts to undermine extremism.

This is the kind of statement that drive the wingnuts on the right insane.  Obama being soft on terrorists blah blah blah  Why, we’re likely to get a wingnut screed along these lines:

[C]an American politicians ever rid themselves of this unreality-based trope? This belief is part and parcel of the same idiocy that lead the State Department to embrace "spa days" for Muslims to “build bridges” with the Arab world and President Bush to open up our aviation schools to more Saudi students to “improve understanding.”

But here’s the thing.  The quote at the top of his post?  I lied.  Barack Obama didn’t say that.  Here is what the article actually said:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates warned yesterday against the risk of a “creeping militarization” of U.S. foreign policy, saying the State Department should lead U.S. engagement with other countries, with the military playing a supporting role.

“We cannot kill or capture our way to victory” in the long-term campaign against terrorism, Gates said, arguing that military action should be subordinate to political and economic efforts to undermine extremism.

Looks like one of the Bush boys is off-message.  But, quite decidedly, correct.

Local Politics: Dem In NC-11 Running Virtually Opposed

Gr2006052501537From Kos:

At one point, the GOP was bursting with enthusiasm about gaining back their long-lost and well-deserved House majority, and high on their target list for this goal were seats like North Carolina’s Republican-leaning 11th District, now represented by freshman Democrat Heath Shuler.

Except that their candidate has now suspended his campaign.

Republican Congressional candidate Carl Mumpower has suspended his campaign to unseat incumbent Heath Shuler, saying he’ll eliminate about 80 percent of formal campaigning until at least half of the Republican leaders in the 15 counties in the 11th Congressional District commit to core party principles.

"I’m not going to be doing any fundraising or advertising—there won’t be any active campaigning for the Republican Party," Mumpower said this morning. "I’ll put things on hold until I get party officials to commit to the principles and to the process of holding elected officials accountable."

"Core party principles".  Apparently, Mumpower was particularly troubled by a recent vote in Congress to override President Bush’s veto of the Farm Bill.  (Even Elizabeth Dole voted to override).

Of course, there may be another reason why Mumpower is suspending his campaign.

He’s only got $906.90 cash on hand.  That can’t be good.

An Uneducated President Is Not A “Plus”

I touched on this yesterday, but it seems to me that the GOP strategy of touting one’s educational ineptitude is really not a good selling point.  It’s kind of like pandering to stupid people:

"Hey, I’m a moron, just like you.  And if I can get in the White House, so can you.  Because I’m a regular Joe, a non-Ivy league school attending beer-drinking bowling lout, just like you.  So a vote for me is a vote for you!"

I think it paid off well for George Bush 43, which is why they’re going back to that playbook.

But of course, we’ve seen the results of George Bush 43, the most unpopular presnit evah!

Anyway, McCain has been playing the "humble idiot" card heavily.

Now, obviously, being able to access your email isn’t an important prerequisite to being Leader of the Free World.  You probably won’t need to do that.  You probably won’t have time to do that.  And you’ll probably be surrounded by tons of staffers who will do that for you anyway.

But that’s not my point.  My point is the being boastful of the fact that you don’t know how to do that.

I hope that people will see that McCain is, in this sense, a worth successor to Bush… a man out of touch with contemporary things…. and that’s a BAD thing!

UPDATE:  Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast:

Because we all know just how important it is to be a "regular guy", right? After all, look around us at the country the regular guy that people wanted to have a beer with is leaving us. But if that’s still the standard of qualification for the presidency, than I say we just cut to the chase and elect this guy:

Barneygumble

A Useful Set of Graphs

Presidents and the economy.

In the graphs, the parties are color-coded by the traditional Republican red and Democratic blue. Individual terms are in a lighter shade, and the party average is the darker shade.

Technical note Unless otherwise noted, the figure shown is average annual growth rate for a president’s term, from the year, quarter, or month of inauguration to the quarter or month of the next inauguration. For two-term presidents, results are the averages of both terms.

The bottom line is that, on average, Democratic administrations post better growth numbers, lower unemployment rates, lower federal deficits, higher stock growth, and more equality.  It helps explain why Americans have a sense that Democrats are better at economic issues than their Republican counterparts.

But here’s the graphic summaries….

GDP

Gdp_2

Strong advantage Dems.  Almost down the line, Dems have done better on this metric that Republicans.  Even the Carter years weren’t that bad.

Employment

Employment_2

Strong advantage Dems.  Like GDP, a clear difference with Democratic all recent Democratic presidents doing better than all recent Republican presidents.

It should be noted that Reagan’s first term, marked by recession, dragged down his average.  His second term had an emplotment growth rate of 2.7%, slightly stronger than Clinton’s 8 year average.

Unemployment

Unemployment

Strong advantage Dems.  With the exception of Reagan, unemployment has gone up under every recent Republican candidate’s watch, and down for almost every Democrat’s watch.  On average, the jobless rate has risen by 1.0 points under the GOP, and fallen by 1.9 points under Dems (–1.3 points if you start in 1949).

Inflation

Inflation

Slight advantage Republican.  Really a mixed bag here, with both parties almost equally split on the zero mark.  On average, Democrats preside over a small increase in inflation, and Republicans over a small decrease.  The Carter and Reagan administrations are clearly outliers, but the basic truth holds: Republicans are slightly better at curbing inflation.

Deficit/Surplus

Fiscalshift_2

Advantage Dems.  This might be a surprise to some, as the label of "tax and spend" Democrats seems to have stuck.  This term "fiscal shift" means the move toward either a deficit or a larger deficit (negative numbers), as opposed to moving toward a surplus or a larger surplus (postive numbers). 

On average, a Republican in the White House has meant a shift of –1.9% of GDP in the government’s budget balance (i.e., towards smaller surpluses or bigger deficits), while a Dem has meant a 1.5% improvement in the budget position (or 1.8%, if you start in 1949, thereby omitting the huge World War II deficit).

This graph, in my view, may not be particularly helpful, as the changes in fiscal shift may come about as the result of tax policies from prior administrations.  So keep that in mind.

Stock Market

Stocks

Slight advantage Dems.  The blue years have an edge on stock returns, with the S&P 500 rising an average of 4.7% a year in real terms (price only, excluding dividends, deflated by the CPI) under Democratic administrations, compared with 2.9% under Republicans. (Starting the clock in 1949 raises the Dem average to 6.9%.).

Of course, the stock market doesn’t go up or down based on who occupies the White House; there are tons of other outside factors.  But again, it’s a correlative phenomenon which might explain the perception — misguided or not — that the stock market does better (albeit slightly) when a Democrat is in charge.

Bond Market

Bonds

Strong advantage Republicans.  Republicans are a lot more bond-friendly. Real total returns—price plus coupon, deflated by the CPI—averaged +4.2% a year under Republicans, vs. –2.1% under Democrats.

Income Distribution

Distribution

Strong advantage Democratic.  A metric that is near and dear to me.  The Gini index is an economic figure which shows the varience in income levels among Americans.  For example, if the Gini index is zero, that means that all Americans are making the same income; nobody is richer or poorer than anybody else. 

This graph notes the changes in the Gini index under each administration.  When the Gini index goes up, that means that the rich get richer while the poor get poorer (i.e., more income inequality) during that adminstration.  When it goes down, that mean that there is less income inequality over the course of that administration.

On average, inequality has risen in Republican administrations, and fallen in Democratic ones.

I say this graph shows a "strong advantage for Democrats", but this of course assumes that having less income inequality is a good thing.  Some might disagree, and argue that our country should have uber-rich and uber-poor.  It all depends on what you want, I guess.

Anyway, food for thought in this election season.

Jesse Helms — Leader Against HIV?

What is Elizabeth Dole smoking?  From the Congressional Record dated July 14, 2008:

SA 5074. Mrs. DOLE submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by her to the bill S. 2731, to authorize appropriations for fiscal years 2009 through 2013 to provide assistance to foreign countries to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and for other purposes; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows: On page 1, line 5, strike ‘’and Henry J. Hyde’’ and insert ‘’, Henry J. Hyde, and Jesse Helms‘’.

That’s right.  Elizabeth Dole wants to change the name of the

"Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008"

to the

"Tom Lantos, Henry J. Hyde and Jesse Helms United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008"

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that Jesse Helms probably would like his name attached to a bill that seeks to rid tuberculosis and malaria.  But HIV/AIDs?  Jesse is rolling in his grave (as are, I suspect, thousands of victims of HIV/AIDs).  Jesse was no fan of AIDS prevention, as Joe My God notes:

Jesse Helms, the man who in 1987 described AIDS prevention literature as "so obscene, so revolting, I may throw up."

Jesse Helms, the man who in 1988 vigorously opposed the Kennedy-Hatch AIDS research bill, saying, "There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy."

Jesse Helms, the man who in 1995 said (in opposition to refunding the Ryan White Act) that the government should spend less on people with AIDS because they got sick due to their "deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct."

Jesse Helms, the man who in 2002 announced that he’d changed his mind about AIDS funding for Africa, but not for American gays, because homosexuality "is the primary cause of the doubling and redoubling of AIDS cases in the United States."

This last bit is true.  Helms did come around (after two decades) to think we should fight AIDS in foreign children who aren’t, you know, teh gay.  Some moral epiphany, huh?

On the other hand, one could argue that putting Helms’ name on an AIDS prevention bill has a ring of justice to it — kind of a posthumous "fuck you" to a man who is too dead to complain. 

What’s next?  The George Wallace Civil Rights Act?

The PZ Myers Brouhaha

UPDATE: A helpful perspective from Heather in the comments….  be sure to check it out

I occasionally read PZ Myer’s blog: Pharyngula.  PZ, a biologist and assistant professor at University of Minnesota, is a very good writer (excuse me, very well writer) known mostly for his eloquent posts debuking creationism and intelligent design theories.  While not usually incidiary, PZ — an unapolgetic atheist — does get snarky from time to time.

On July 8, PZ penned a post regarding an incident that happened at a catholic church at the University of Central Florida.  A student named William Cook attended the mass there, and received the Eucharist.

For the uninitiated, the Eucharist is a small bread wafer blessed by a priest. According to Catholics, the wafer becomes the Body of Christ once blessed and is to be consumed immediately after a minister passes it out to churchgoers.

But Cook didn’t consume the wafer.  He wanted to show it to a friend, who had come to Mass out of curiosity about the Catholic faith.  But Cook got three steps away from the altar, when he was stopped by miffed Catholics who told him to eat the wafer.  Cook stuck it in his mouth, but took it out when he returned to his pew.

What followed was an in-church skuffle, and Cook left… with the unconsumed Eucharist.  This action only made thing worse.

The incident got the attention of William Donahue, President of the Catholic League.  William Donahue is, to many (myself included) the Jerry Falwell of Catholics.  Always looking for something to get outraged about.  You know.

Anyway, that got the attention of PZ Myers, who wrote about the incident, and Donahue’s over-the-top reaction in a post entitled "It’s A Frickin’ Cracker!"  To illustrate his point, he (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) asks his readers to send him an "unused" Eucharist for an experiment he is going to do on it (nothing unsavory, he assured).

As a result of his post, Bill Donahue himself issued a press release calling for the University of Minnesota to fire Myers.  And Myers himself gets death threats.

So, to sum:

1. Poor kid takes home uneaten eucharist to show his friend.
2. Church and catholics go batshit crazy.
3. PZ thinks this is ridiculous and says so, also says he may do some things to a cracker.
4. Church and catholics go batshit crazy.

The parallels have been interesting.  Catholics have been arguing that Myers was demeaning something which they hold sacred, and that is beyond the pale.  The problem, in my view, is this: Where were these Catholics when the Koran was being descrated?  Or the Muhammed cartoons?  Interestingly, many of the people who sent nast emails to Myers suggest that he attack the Koran.

So what’s the message?  We should respect religions, but only if the religion is mine?

The mainstream media has picked up on it.

And a woman who sent a death threat to Myers from her work email (at 1-800-FLOWERS) has been fired, even though (it was later learned) that her husband actually used her account to send the threat.

My take?  Well, what Myers said was simply his opinion: the eucharist is a cracker and not the literal body of Christ.  Some of Myer’s critics insist that it IS the literal body of Christ, and to those people, I suggest that they look up the word "literal" in the dictionary.  But even if you disagree with Myers, it’s just one man’s opinion.  Is the Catholic Church so weak that their panties get in a wad over this?

And as for death threats, is that would Jesus would do?   This is what makes me wonder about religion.  For some people, it’s about their religion and their church.  They seem to have forgotten about the teachings of those they worship.

Sad, really.